Weekly Review — December 9, 2003, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Saluting the Town, March 1854]

President George W. Bush signed a $400 billion Medicare bill that will provide a prescription-drug benefit to elderly Americans; the bill permits private insurance companies to compete with Medicare, which many think will destroy the program, but bans policies that would cover gaps in the drug benefit on the theory that people with good prescription coverage take too many pills and drive up medical costs.Associated Press, New York TimesThomas Scully, the federal official who runs Medicare, was preparing to take a job in the private sector, probably with a company that will directly benefit from the new bill, which he helped draft.New York TimesA postcard-size dinner menu from the Titanic sold for $49,500; the menu listed salmon, consommé mirrette, sweetbreads, roast chicken, spring lamb, golden plover on toast, and peaches.Scotsman.com, ReutersPresident Bush was thinking about sending a man to the moon, and conservativesGuardian were beginning to complain about his spending habits. One conservative economist said that “the budgetary situation is getting so off track that you simply can’t propose any more tax cuts without looking like an idiot.”Washington PostThe largest known prime number was discovered; the number is 6,320,430 digits long.New ScientistPresident Bush explained in a written statement that he repealed his tariffs on foreign steel, which were ruled illegal by the World Trade Organization, not because Europe and Japan planned to retaliate with damaging tariffs (carefully aimed at states Bush needs to capture in the upcoming election) but because the economic outlook for the steel industry has improved and they are no longer necessary.New York TimesA Kremlin official announced that Russia will not ratify the Kyoto Protocol; the next day another official contradicted that pronouncement, which was followed on the third day by a negation of the denial that President Putin had in fact decided against the global-warming treaty.New York TimesThe National Rifle Association was looking to buy a TV or radio station so that it can say what it likes about political candidates without having to abide by campaign-finance laws.USA TodayThere was a movement afoot to put Ronald Reagan’s face on the dime.Associated PressA Colorado woman was jailed for falsely claiming that her son is a genius.New York TimesPresident Bush signed a law that will make it easier to clear brush.Associated Press

Australia resolved to join the American missile-defense program, a decision that pleased the Pentagon and President Bush but puzzled many Australians who wondered from whose missiles the expensive system was supposed to protect them.Sydney Morning HeraldThe Pentagon decided to permit Yaser Hamdi, an American citizen who has been held as an enemy combatant for two years, to have access to his lawyer, though officials continued to insist that Hamdi has no constitutional right to an attorney.Ft. Worth Star TelegramU.S. forces were using Israeli-style tactics against troublesome Iraqis, surrounding some villages with razor wire and forcing residents to carry identification cards, demolishing homes and buildings associated with attacks on Americans, and imprisoning the relatives of suspected guerrillas.New York TimesL. Paul Bremer, the American proconsul of Iraq, warned that attacks against occupying forces will probably increase.Associated PressIraqis were wondering why their gas lines were so long.New York TimesSecretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld went to Afghanistan to reassure its people that America has not forgotten them, and aBBCUnited States airstrike near Kabul failed to kill its Taliban target (“a known terrorist“) but did kill nine young children who were playing ball inside the wall of their family compound. Their hats and shoes were scattered all over a bloody field.Los Angeles TimesWesley Clark claimed to have a plan to get America out of Iraq but then refused to say what it was.New York TimesThe First Lady was thinking of taking a trip to Afghanistan ?? “I hope I’ll have a chance in the spring,” she said ?? and itNew York Timeswas revealed that George W. Bush’s famous Iraqiturkey was a mere prop.Daily MailPrime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy, currently serving as president of the European Union, declared that Europeans have a duty to support the American war in Iraq, even if it means “a change in international law, which previously held that the sovereignty of a single state was inviolable.” Berlusconi also denied that he is short; “I’m as tall as Aznar,” he said, referring to Prime Minister José María Aznar of Spain. “I’m the average Italian,” he continued. “Right?”New York Times

Eighteen Rwandan Hutus were given prison sentences for orchestrating the slaughter of 20,000 Tutsis who were hiding in a church complex during the 1994 genocide, and threeAllAfrica.comRwandan journalists were convicted by an international court in Tanzania for inciting the genocide on the radio and in print.New York TimesA priest was on the run in Congo after killing 64 members of his congregation with a potion he said would give them salvation.ReutersThe United Nations war-crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia sentenced a Bosnian Serb commander to 27 years in prison for his role in the Srebrenica massacre.New York TimesAnother Bosnian Serb, a general, was given 20 years for the siege of Sarajevo.Washington TimesChina warned Taiwan that it was nearing an “abyss of war.”New York TimesIsraeli soldiers killed a young boy and three Hamas members in Ramallah.New York TimesZimbabwe’s government proposed making it easier to seize farms from white people.New York TimesThere was rioting in Freetown, Sierra Leone, after two dwarf comedians were substituted for a pair of Nigerian midgets called Aki and Paw Paw, who didn’t show up for a performance.Associated PressA 200-line fragment by Menander was discovered in the Vatican Library.Agence France-PresseFourteen people were arrested in Brazil and South Africa for selling human organs on the black market.New York TimesIn Albany, Georgia, a hair stylist’s hair burst into flame while she was standing next to a gas pump.Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionSudden oak death was confirmed in four trees in England, andNew ScientistCalifornia banned the sale of the genetically altered “GloFish,” a zebra fish that glows in the dark.Associated PressPhysicists speculated that tiny exploding black holes are raining down on the earth.New Scientist

Share
Single Page

More from Roger D. Hodge:

From the October 2010 issue

Speak, Money

Get access to 169 years of
Harper’s for only $23.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

February 2020

Trumpism After Trump

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“My Gang Is Jesus”

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Cancer Chair

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Birds

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Skinning Tree

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Interpretation of Dreams

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Dearest Lizzie

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Trumpism After Trump·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The city was not beautiful; no one made that claim for it. At the height of summer, people in suits, shellacked by the sun, moved like harassed insects to avoid the concentrated light. There was a civil war–like fracture in America—the president had said so—but little of it showed in the capital. Everyone was polite and smooth in their exchanges. The corridor between Dupont Circle and Georgetown was like the dream of Yugoslav planners: long blocks of uniform earth-toned buildings that made the classical edifices of the Hill seem the residue of ancestors straining for pedigree. Bunting, starched and perfectly ruffled in red-white-and-blue fans, hung everywhere—from air conditioners, from gutters, from statues of dead revolutionaries. Coming from Berlin, where the manual laborers are white, I felt as though I was entering the heart of a caste civilization. Untouchables in hard hats drilled into sidewalks, carried pylons, and ate lunch from metal boxes, while waiters in restaurants complimented old respectable bobbing heads on how well they were progressing with their rib eyes and iceberg wedges.

I had come to Washington to witness either the birth of an ideology or what may turn out to be the passing of a kidney stone through the Republican Party. There was a new movement afoot: National Conservatives, they called themselves, and they were gathering here, at the Ritz-Carlton, at 22nd Street and M. Disparate tribes had posted up for the potlatch: reformacons, blood-and-soilers, curious liberal nationalists, “Austrians,” repentant neocons, evangelical Christians, corporate raiders, cattle ranchers, Silicon Valley dissidents, Buckleyites, Straussians, Orthodox Jews, Catholics, Mormons, Tories, dark-web spiders, tradcons, Lone Conservatives, Fed-Socs, Young Republicans, Reaganites in amber. Most straddled more than one category.

Article
The Cancer Chair·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The second-worst thing about cancer chairs is that they are attached to televisions. Someone somewhere is always at war with silence. It’s impossible to read, so I answer email, or watch some cop drama on my computer, or, if it seems unavoidable, explore the lives of my nurses. A trip to Cozumel with old girlfriends, a costume party with political overtones, an advanced degree on the internet: they’re all the same, these lives, which is to say that the nurses tell me nothing, perhaps because amid the din and pain it’s impossible to say anything of substance, or perhaps because they know that nothing is precisely what we both expect. It’s the very currency of the place. Perhaps they are being excruciatingly candid.

There is a cancer camaraderie I’ve never felt. That I find inimical, in fact. Along with the official optimism that percolates out of pamphlets, the milestone celebrations that seem aimed at children, the lemonade people squeeze out of their tumors. My stoniness has not always served me well. Among the cancer staff, there is special affection for the jocular sufferer, the one who makes light of lousy bowel movements and extols the spiritual tonic of neuropathy. And why not? Spend your waking life in hell, and you too might cherish the soul who’d learned to praise the flames. I can’t do it. I’m not chipper by nature, and just hearing the word cancer makes me feel like I’m wearing a welder’s mask.

Article
“My Gang Is Jesus”·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

When Demétrio Martins was ready to preach, he pushed a joystick that angled the seat of his wheelchair forward, slowly lifting him to a standing position. Restraints held his body upright. His atrophied right arm lay on an armrest, and with his left hand, he put a microphone to his lips. “Proverbs, chapter fourteen, verse twelve,” he said. “ ‘There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is . . .’ ”

The congregation finished: “ ‘Death.’ ”

The Assembly of God True Grapevine was little more than a fluorescent-lit room wedged between a bar and an empty lot in Jacaré, a poor neighborhood on Rio de Janeiro’s north side. A few dozen people sat in the rows of plastic lawn chairs that served as pews, while shuddering wall fans circulated hot air. The congregation was largely female; of the few men in attendance, most wore collared shirts and old leather shoes. Now and then, Martins veered from Portuguese into celestial tongues. People rose from their seats, thrust their hands into the air, and shouted, “Hallelujah!”

Article
The Birds·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On December 7, 2016, a drone departed from an Amazon warehouse in the United Kingdom, ascended to an altitude of four hundred feet, and flew to a nearby farm. There it glided down to the front lawn and released from its clutches a small box containing an Amazon streaming device and a bag of popcorn. This was the first successful flight of Prime Air, Amazon’s drone delivery program. If instituted as a regular service, it would slash the costs of “last-mile delivery,” the shortest and most expensive leg of a package’s journey from warehouse to doorstep. Drones don’t get into fender benders, don’t hit rush-hour traffic, and don’t need humans to accompany them, all of which, Amazon says, could enable it to offer thirty-minute delivery for up to 90 percent of domestic shipments while also reducing carbon emissions. After years of testing, Amazon wrote to the Federal Aviation Administration last summer to ask for permission to conduct limited commercial deliveries with its drones, attaching this diagram to show how the system would work. (Amazon insisted that we note that the diagram is not to scale.) Amazon is not the only company working toward such an automated future—­UPS, FedEx, Uber, and Google’s parent company, Alphabet, have similar programs—­but its plans offer the most detailed vision of what seems to be an impending reality, one in which parce­l-toting drones are a constant presence in the sky, doing much more than just delivering popcorn.

Article
The Skinning Tree·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Every year in Lusk, Wyoming, during the second week of July, locals gather to reenact a day in 1849 when members of a nearby band of Sioux are said to have skinned a white man alive. None of the actors are Native American. The white participants dress up like Indians and redden their skin with body paint made from iron ore.

The town prepares all year, and the performance, The Legend of Rawhide, has a cast and crew of hundreds, almost all local volunteers, including elementary school children. There are six generations of Rawhide actors in one family; three or four generations seems to be the average. The show is performed twice, on Friday and Saturday night.

The plot is based on an event that, as local legend has it, occurred fifteen miles south of Lusk, in Rawhide Buttes. It goes like this: Clyde Pickett is traveling with a wagon train to California. He tells the other Pioneers: “The only good Injun’s a dead Injun.” Clyde loves Kate Farley, and to impress her, he shoots the first Indian he sees, who happens to be an Indian Princess. The Indians approach the Pioneers and ask that the murderer give himself up. Clyde won’t admit he did it. The Indians attack the wagon train and, eventually, Clyde surrenders. The Indians tie Clyde to the Skinning Tree and flay him alive. Later, Kate retrieves her dead lover’s body and the wagon train continues west.

Cost of renting a giant panda from the Chinese government, per day:

$1,500

A recent earthquake in Chile was found to have shifted the city of Concepción ten feet to the west, shortened Earth’s days by 1.26 microseconds, and shifted the planet’s axis by nearly three inches.

A decorated veteran of the American wars in Vietnam and Iraq had his prosthetic limbs repossessed from his home in Mississippi when the VA declined to pay for them.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Jesus Plus Nothing

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

By

At Ivanwald, men learn to be leaders by loving their leaders. “They’re so busy loving us,” a brother once explained to me, “but who’s loving them?” We were. The brothers each paid $400 per month for room and board, but we were also the caretakers of The Cedars, cleaning its gutters, mowing its lawns, whacking weeds and blowing leaves and sanding. And we were called to serve on Tuesday mornings, when The Cedars hosted a regular prayer breakfast typically presided over by Ed Meese, the former attorney general. Each week the breakfast brought together a rotating group of ambassadors, businessmen, and American politicians. Three of Ivanwald’s brothers also attended, wearing crisp shirts starched just for the occasion; one would sit at the table while the other two poured coffee. 

Subscribe Today