Weekly Review — December 31, 2012, 12:30 pm

Yearly Review

Civil war in Syria killed more than 40,000 people. Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood became Egypt’s first democratically elected leader, succeeding Hosni Mubarak, who was sentenced to life in prison and falsely declared dead. A blindfolded Egyptian child selected the new Coptic pope. A YouTube trailer for the film Innocence of Muslims, which portrays the Prophet Muhammad as a homosexual womanizer, triggered demonstrations and riots in more than a dozen countries. Islamist militants stormed a U.S. consulate compound in Libya, killing four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. An eight-day conflict between Israel and Hamas killed five Israelis and 162 Palestinians. Twitter announced that it would selectively censor tweets at the request of governments, North Korea named as its Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un and declared it a war crime to use a cell phone during the country’s 100-day mourning period for Kim Jong-Il, Iran’s morality police cracked down on the black-market trade in Barbie dolls, and a Zimbabwean carpenter was arrested for speculating that President Robert Mugabe may not himself have inflated all the balloons at Mugabe’s eighty-eighth birthday party. The members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in prison for a performance in Moscow’s Christ the Savior cathedral in which they called on the Virgin Mary to depose Vladimir Putin, who was elected president of Russia for the third time and went hang-gliding in a white jumpsuit to train Siberian cranes bred in captivity to migrate south. Greece’s parliament agreed to cut 15,000 government jobs and reduce the minimum wage by 22 percent in exchange for $170 billion in bailout funds from the European Union and the I.M.F. Extreme cold in Europe killed more than 500 people, Dutch bedding company Snurk angered Swedish homeless-advocacy groups by selling luxury duvet covers resembling cardboard boxes, and officials in Kyrgyzstan snuffed the country’s Eternal Flame because of an unpaid gas bill. In India, where people were plugging headphones into robots’ crotches in order to have their fortunes told, the minister of power was promoted to home minister during a blackout that left some 670 million people without electricity. Typhoon Bopha killed at least 1,000 people in the southern Philippines, a munitions-depot explosion in Brazzaville killed more than 200 Congolese, and the deadliest prison fire on record killed 359 people in Honduras. Eighty-two Tibetans immolated themselves in protest of Chinese rule, Burmese opposition leader and former political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi accepted the Nobel Peace Prize awarded her in absentia in 1991, and Icelandic musicians protested the country’s ban on Motörhead-brand shiraz. “It is a violation of human rights,” said Sólstafir lead singer Aðalbjörn Tryggvason, “to not be able to buy yourself red wine.”

Five men, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, were arraigned before a military tribunal at Camp Justice in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for orchestrating the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Omar Khadr, the last remaining Westerner to be held captive at Guantánamo, was repatriated to Canada. One World Trade Center became New York City’s tallest building, and the Pentagon disclosed that some remains of 9/11 victims ended up in a Delaware landfill. In Afghanistan, where the number of American military deaths reached 2,000, 41 people were killed amid protests over the burning of Korans by NATO personnel at a Bagram Air Field garbage pit, and Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales was charged with 17 counts of murder in connection with a shooting rampage in two villages. Ten mass shootings took place in the United States, resulting in 151 deaths. Americans wore hoodies to protest the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African American, by neighborhood-watch captain George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida. The estate of William Faulkner sued defense contractor Northrop Grumman, and lexicographers declared omnishambles, meaning “a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterized by a string of blunders and miscalculations,” English word of the year. The United States experienced its hottest month on record. Hurricane Sandy struck the Caribbean and eastern United States, killing 253. Barack Obama was reelected president of the United States and became the first sitting president to announce that he believes gay couples should be able to wed. Maine, Maryland, and Washington became the first states to legalize same-sex marriage by referendum, and voters in Colorado and Washington approved the decriminalization of marijuana for recreational use. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, and the U.S. population surpassed one hundred million times π. 

The cloves Binks finds in his pocket conjure up fond memories

The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) announced the discovery of the Higgs boson, an elementary particle that endows other particles with mass; NASA celebrated the Mars landing of its plutonium-powered rover, Curiosity; and British mathematicians used the Rapunzel Number to solve the Ponytail Shape Equation. The last known veteran of World War I died, as did Neil Armstrong, Ray Bradbury, Dave Brubeck, Gary Carter, Dick Clark, Nora Ephron, Andy Griffith, Levon Helm, Whitney Houston, Daniel Inouye, Etta James, George McGovern, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, Adrienne Rich, David Rakoff, Sally Ride, General “Stormin’ ” Norman Schwarzkopf, Maurice Sendak, Anthony Shadid, Ravi Shankar, Arlen Specter, Arthur “Punch” Sulzberger, Donna Summer, Gore Vidal, Mike Wallace, and Adam Yauch; the creators of the Atomic Fireball, the bar code, the Kwan bob, and the Porsche 911; the world’s tallest woman; two world’s oldest persons; the presidents of Ethiopia, Ghana, and Malawi; and Paddy Roy Bates, monarch of Sealand. Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her diamond jubilee, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were expecting a royal baby, and the Games of the XXX Olympiad were held in London. American swimmer Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympian of all time, and Lionel Messi broke soccer’s record for most goals in a calendar year. The United States Anti-Doping Agency stripped seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong of most of his titles, calling him a “serial cheat who led the most sophisticated, professionalized, and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.” A man with two hearts reportedly survived a hearts attack, and former U.S. vice president Dick Cheney had his heart replaced. Arkansan goose 50 Cent survived being shot seven times. A man named Beezow Doo-Doo Zopittybop-Bop-Bop was arrested, as was a woman who punched and slid down a $30 million painting by Abstract Expressionist Clyfford Still, then urinated on herself. Four Nigerian girls developed a generator powered by urine, and Caraquenians in red trousers called for the return of Matisse’s Odalisque in Red Trousers. A hen in Abilene, Texas, laid an egg inside another egg. Sheep rained from the sky near Melbourne, Australia; Iceland exported over two tons of ram penis to China; and North Korea’s state news agency reported the discovery of a unicorn lair in Pyongyang. A lonely Seoul elephant spoke Korean to his trainers. A Dutchman finished building a life-size replica of Noah’s Ark, and the end of a 5,125-year cycle in the Mayan calendar, an event believed by many to mark the beginning of the apocalypse, passed without perceptible incident on December 21.  “The galactic bridge has been established,” announced spiritual leader Alberto Arribalzaga at a ceremony in Mexico. “At this moment, spirals of light are entering the center of your head.”

Share
Single Page

More from Harper’s Magazine:

Weekly Review October 16, 2019, 8:30 am

Weekly Review

Trump abandoned Kurdish forces in Syria; a police officer in Fort Worth, Texas, shot Atatiana Jefferson; limited edition sneakers that have holy water from the Jordan River in their soles sold out in minutes

Podcast October 9, 2019, 12:08 pm

Conditions of Impeachment

As part of a forum on the Constitution, five lawmakers and legal scholars consider probable cause for using the Fourteenth Amendment

Weekly Review October 8, 2019, 8:30 am

Weekly Review

Trump abandoned support for U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in Syria; climate activists in London lost control of a fire hose they were using to spray fake blood on the headquarters of the British Treasury

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

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

October 2019

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Good Bad Bad Good·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

About fifteen years ago, my roommate and I developed a classification system for TV and movies. Each title was slotted into one of four categories: Good-Good; Bad-Good; Good-Bad; Bad-Bad. The first qualifier was qualitative, while the second represented a high-low binary, the title’s aspiration toward capital-A Art or lack thereof.

Some taxonomies were inarguable. The O.C., a Fox series about California rich kids and their beautiful swimming pools, was delightfully Good-Bad. Paul Haggis’s heavy-handed morality play, Crash, which won the Oscar for Best Picture, was gallingly Bad-Good. The films of Francois Truffaut, Good-Good; the CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men, Bad-Bad.

Article
Long Shot·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Ihave had many names, but as a sniper I went by Azad, which means “free” or “freedom” in Kurdish. I had been fighting for sixteen months in Kurdish territory in northern Syria when in April 2015 I was asked to leave my position on the eastern front, close to the Turkish border, and join an advance on our southwestern one. Eight months earlier, we had been down to our last few hundred yards, and, outnumbered five to one, had made a last stand in Kobanî. In January, after more than four months of fighting street-to-street and room-by-room, we recaptured the town and reversed what was, until then, an unstoppable jihadi tide. In the battles since, we had pushed ­ISIS far enough in every direction that crossing our territory was no longer a short dash through the streets but a five-hour drive across open country. As we set out to the north, I could make out the snowy peaks in southern Turkey where they say Noah once beached his ark. Below them, rolling toward us, were the wide, grassy valleys and pine forests of Mesopotamia, the land between the Euphrates and the Tigris where our people have lived for twelve thousand years.

The story of my people is filled with bitter ironies. The Kurds are one of the world’s oldest peoples and, as pioneers of agriculture, were once among its most advanced. Though the rest of the world now largely overlooks that it was Kurds who were among the first to create a civilization, the evidence is there. In 1995, German archaeologists began excavating a temple at Göbekli Tepe in northern Kurdistan. They found a structure flanked by stone pillars carved with bulls, foxes, and cranes, which they dated to around 10,000 bce. At the end of the last Ice Age, and seven thousand years before the erection of Stonehenge or the pyramids at Giza, my ancestors were living together as shamans, artists, farmers, and engineers.

Article
Constitution in Crisis·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

America’s Constitution was once celebrated as a radical and successful blueprint for democratic governance, a model for fledgling republics across the world. But decades of political gridlock, electoral corruption, and dysfunction in our system of government have forced scholars, activists, and citizens to question the document’s ability to address the thorniest issues of modern ­political life.

Does the path out of our current era of stalemate, minority rule, and executive abuse require amending the Constitution? Do we need a new constitutional convention to rewrite the document and update it for the twenty-­first century? Should we abolish it entirely?

This spring, Harper’s Magazine invited five lawmakers and scholars to New York University’s law school to consider the constitutional crisis of the twenty-­first century. The event was moderated by Rosa Brooks, a law professor at Georgetown and the author of How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales from the Pentagon.

Article
Life after Life·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

For time ylost, this know ye,
By no way may recovered be.
—Chaucer

I spent thirty-eight years in prison and have been a free man for just under two. After killing a man named Thomas Allen Fellowes in a drunken, drugged-up fistfight in 1980, when I was nineteen years old, I was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Former California governor Jerry Brown commuted my sentence and I was released in 2017, five days before Christmas. The law in California, like in most states, grants the governor the right to alter sentences. After many years of advocating for the reformation of the prison system into one that encourages rehabilitation, I had my life restored to me.

Article
Power of Attorney·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In a Walmart parking lot in Portsmouth, Virginia, in 2015, a white police officer named Stephen Rankin shot and killed an unarmed, eighteen-­year-­old black man named William Chapman. “This is my second one,” he told a bystander seconds after firing the fatal shots, seemingly in reference to an incident four years earlier, when he had shot and killed another unarmed man, an immigrant from Kazakhstan. Rankin, a Navy veteran, had been arresting Chapman for shoplifting when, he claimed, Chapman charged him in a manner so threatening that he feared for his life, leaving him no option but to shoot to kill—­the standard and almost invariably successful defense for officers when called to account for shooting civilians. Rankin had faced no charges for his earlier killing, but this time, something unexpected happened: Rankin was indicted on a charge of first-­degree murder by Portsmouth’s newly elected chief prosecutor, thirty-­one-year-­old Stephanie Morales. Furthermore, she announced that she would try the case herself, the first time she had ever prosecuted a homicide. “No one could remember us having an actual prosecution for the killing of an unarmed person by the police,” Morales told me. “I got a lot of feedback, a lot of people saying, ‘You shouldn’t try this case. If you don’t win, it may affect your reelection. Let someone else do it.’ ”

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 federal judge authored a 69-page ruling preventing New York City from enforcing zoning laws pertaining to adult bookstores and strip clubs.

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

HARPER’S FINEST

Happiness Is a Worn Gun

By

“Nowadays, most states let just about anybody who wants a concealed-handgun permit have one; in seventeen states, you don’t even have to be a resident. Nobody knows exactly how many Americans carry guns, because not all states release their numbers, and even if they did, not all permit holders carry all the time. But it’s safe to assume that as many as 6 million Americans are walking around with firearms under their clothes.”

Subscribe Today