Other Magazines

Bill Gates: Deaf-Mute

New Republic, May 14 The cover story mounts a controversial defense of literature. People don’t read anymore, which is bad because “[a] humanity without reading, untouched by literature, would resemble a community of deaf-mutes and aphasics, afflicted by tremendous problems of communication due to its crude and rudimentary language.” Bill Gates wants to replace glue, paper, and ink with computers, but “with the disappearance of the book, literature would suffer a serious blow,” even though, the author says, “I cannot prove it.” A piece beats up on the emerging anti-bully movement in schools. In the wake of Columbine, educators have tried to make kids feel less alienated, but meanwhile they have disallowed much of the normal growing up process. In addition, while victims of bullying are coddled, the bullies themselves, who have emotional problems of their own, are marginalized. The editorial urges Americans not to let Bob Kerrey off the hook. True, war is hell, but “Surely not every American soldier in Vietnam returned with the blood of women and children on his hands.”—J.D.

Economist, May 5 An editorial blasts Bush’s likely choice for drug czar, John Walters, whose “basic reaction to the heavy losses sustained so far seems to be merely to increase the size of the attack.” The drug war has filled America’s prisons and forced America into conflicts abroad (Colombia), but getting drugs has never been easier. A piece explains that although Egyptians often worry that they will be on the losing end of globalization, the hookah export industry is taking off. One wholesaler estimates that Egypt ships 200,000 water pipes a year to destinations from all 50 United States to Korea. Hookah makers are importing parts from China and Mexico, and one company in Saudi Arabia is experimenting with Coca-Cola-flavored tobacco. An article describes how scientists, worried about bacteria’s alarming ability to develop resistance to antibiotics, are trying to find ways to make life easier on the germs so they don’t become more virulent. One researcher has found a way to keep bacteria alive while limiting their ability to cause infections.—J.D.

New York Times Magazine, May 6

A special issue about global medicine. The introduction says that the globalization of disease—Ebola can travel from Africa to America in a few hours—has forced researchers all over the world to share ideas and blend diverse cultural perspectives on medical treatment. An article describes how a mysterious Chinese potion made of ground rock and toad venom became the most exciting cancer treatment at Sloane-Kettering hospital in New York. Scientists have no idea why, but the arsenic trioxide in the potion cures a particularly devastating kind of leukemia. A piece explains how an Italian family that has suffered for 200 years from deadly bouts of insomnia helped confirm the prion theory of disease. Prions, deviant proteins that attack the body, are also believed to cause mad cow disease. A piece reports on efforts at the Centers for Disease Control to genetically re-engineer the Latin American kissing bug so it no longer carries the parasite that causes Chagas’ disease. Eradicating Chagas’ would save 50,000 lives a year, but altering the kissing bug’s genetic composition could have ruinous unknown consequences.—J.D. 

Time, May 7
The cover package contests reports that as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam, Bob Kerrey ordered the killing of unarmed civilians in Thanh Phong. Kerrey contends that his forces returned hostile file. His former squad mate, Gerhard Klann, insists the killings were a deliberate execution. A Thanh Phong resident interviewed by Time qualifies the account she gave on 60 Minutes II, saying now that she only “heard” the assault and did not actually witness it. (The New York Times Magazine broke this story last week.) As new evidence indicates that birds descended from dinosaurs, an article speculates on why some dinos had feathers, even though they couldn’t fly: to stay dry, distract predators, or attract mates. (Click here for the U.S. News take on the “the dino-chicken debate.”) An article explains how Medical Students for Choice has successfully lobbied, since 1993, for abortion training at one-third of med schools. Currently, there are only about 2,000 doctors who provide the procedure, and the majority are in their 50s and 60s.—A.F.

Newsweek, May 7 The cover package, “God & the Brain,”says om to neurotheology, the study of the neurobiology of religion and spirituality. Are you educated, rich, and middle-aged? You’re more likely to report a mystical experience. An article titled “Bush’s ‘Power Puff Girls’ ” (nickname courtesy Mary Matalin) takes a different tack than last week’s U.S. News piece on the unprecedented number of women presidential advisers. After crediting Bush’s women advisers with altering White House working hours, Newsweek drops the ball with this facile finale: “You can measure the influence of women in Bush’s White House just by the way the place clears out at dinnertime.”—A.F.

U.S. News & World Report, May 7 The cover package, “Alcohol and the Brain,”explains how new imaging technology is allowing scientists to peer into the brain to see alcohol’s destructive force in action. One prescription drug, Naltrexone, “has shown promise” in easing libation temptation. Citing “layoffs and gloom” in the newspaper industry, an article on the decline of ads in dailies claims this year will be the worst in a decade for print publishers. A piece explains that around the same time the Egyptian pyramids were being built, the city of Caral, in what is now Peru, sprung up, possibly as early as 2627 B.C.—about 500 years earlier than scientists had believed the first cities in the Americas developed.—A.F.

The New Yorker, May 7 A fawning profile of Vice President Dick Cheney likens being in his presence to “being hooked up to an intravenous line that delivers a powerful timed dosage of serotonin re-uptake inhibitors.” Cheney is the consummate Washington insider, getting his way while making everybody else think they got theirs. Preposterously laconic, his charisma lies under the surface, in his knack for attracting powerful people. His foreign policy philosophy is driven by a proto-paranoia about America being in constant peril. A piece says the best case for giving Beijing the 2008 Olympics is how badly all of China seems to want them. Although few Olympic sports link directly to traditional Chinese culture, the country obsesses over its performance in the Games and now has launched an amateurish yet charming PR drive, going so far as to teach cabbies how to say, “I’m attracted to Beijing’s scenery” in English.—J.D.

Mother Jones, May-June 2001 The 25th anniversary issue. A best-of anthology includes a 1977 piece about the Ford Pinto, a 1978 mention of Bill Clinton as an emerging populist, and a 1995 Molly Ivins’ takedown of Rush Limbaugh. A piece laments the increasingly popular practice of cities and states using public subsidies to lure private businesses. Even as the economy grows, companies get sweeter and sweeter deals because they generate bidding wars by playing localities against each other. Philadelphia paid Norwegian shipbuilder Kvaerner ASA $429 million to relocate to the city’s abandoned shipyard, but the company used the public funds to hire contractors from overseas and then announced it was leaving the shipbuilding business altogether. An article questions the effectiveness of for-profit public schools. Many parents love them because they give each student a computer and run longer school days (which helps with day care), but data shows that they don’t significantly improve test scores, and some school districts are locked into expensive contracts that hurt underfunded schools nearby.—J.D.

Weekly Standard, May 7 The cover story warns that political heroes should keep their enemies close but their friends closer. The Ronald Reagan Legacy Project, which aims to have at least one landmark in every U.S. county named for the Gipper, has embarrassed “an unassuming man with no passion for preening” by “trying to plaster his name and his image all over the map.” FDR memorialists similarly tarnished their hero’s reputation by depicting him in his wheelchair, turning a “war leader” into a “victim.” A piece claims President Bush is more pro-Israel than his father or Clinton. In a speech during the Days of Remembrance, Bush explicitly tied the survival of Israel to the Holocaust, which no president has ever done. He also likes Ariel Sharon immensely and has pressured Yasser Arafat to end the violence in the territories, noting that he supports the current Israeli position of peace as a precondition for negotiations.—J.D.