Other Magazines

Do Big Macs Build Democracy?

New Republic, July 9 and 16; Economist, June 30

The New Republic cover story argues that trade alone won’t bring democracy to China. Even as China prepares to enter the World Trade Organization, its middle class is an unlikely force for democracy; its peasant class remains politically unorganized; and its human rights record has gotten worse. Yet to hear Bill Clinton and President Bush tell it, selling “Big Macs to Beijing” will make China freer. “Democracy is a political choice, an act of will,” the author writes. “Someone, not something, must create it.” On the other hand, the Economist sees economics as a major force for political change in China. An article and editorial wonder how much longer the country’s Communist Party can last in its current form. As its 80th birthday approaches, the party “is suffering crises of faith, identity, and legitimacy” in the face of a rapidly evolving economy.

The New Republic  suggests that a recent William F. Buckley column that appeared in National Review Online looks suspiciously like another column by a different author that appeared in the same online magazine. Both Buckley and Michael Fumento (the other author, whose column appeared several days before) wrote about the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, “employing the same arguments in the same sequence, often using the same language.”  The Economist suggests that the Internet’s greatest impact has been on old, not new companies. Though they arrived online late in the game, blue chips like GE and Siemens have been transformed by the Net’s cost-cutting advantages in areas like B2B exchange and e-procurement.—B.C. and J.F.

New York Times Magazine, July 1

The cover story chronicles the harrowing struggle to save two young children afflicted with the deadly genetic disorder Fanconi anemia, which results in bone-marrow failure. The children’s best chance of survival was a bone-marrow transplant from a perfectly matched sibling donor, which neither had. The parents of both children tried to conceive an ideally matched donor baby by using a genetic screening technique in combination with in-vitro fertilization, but only one family succeeded in carrying the donor baby to term. An article about Hernando de Soto (Peruvian economist, not Spanish conquistador) explains his simple plan to invigorate Third World economies: back up de facto property ownership with legitimate titles. Eighty percent of people in developing nations don’t have formal documentation of their assets and therefore can’t use their property as collateral for loans. Across the globe, this amounts to $9 trillion of “dead capital” that is effectively out of circulation.— J.F.

Weekly Standard, July 2 and 9

The summer fiction issue. A piece argues that the United States shouldn’t abandon its policy of sustaining an Army capable of winning two simultaneous regional wars. Current downsizing efforts parallel Britain’s post-World War I decision to cut combat units and instead rely on new technologies, which never materialized. Ending the two-wars strategy, the author writes, would be a “recipe for failure to deter aggression, for unpreparedness for war, and for the collapse of America’s armed forces.” An article explains that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not about land but is “a struggle over the assignment of historical guilt”—an argument with little room for compromise. The author contrasts Israel’s “Lockean nationalism” with Palestinian “19th-century blood and soil nationalism” and calls on the United States to stand with Israel.—J.F.

The Nation, July 9 The cover story condemns the new world order as a system of “global apartheid.” The authors argue that today’s international political economy is one in which a dominant Western minority assumes that “it is ‘natural’ for different population groups to have different expectations of life.” This entrenched double standard underlies the West’s slow response to the African AIDS disaster. An article exposes the internal contradictions in the marriage movement. The “feel-good rhetoric” of those hoping to strengthen the marital institution contradicts their heterosexist, anti-singles agenda, and the movement’s “devotion to the fairy-tale family threatens the well-being of most real families.” An essay by Salman Rushdie tells of his decadelong relationship with the band U2, including their collaboration on the song “The Ground Beneath Her Feet” (based on Rushdie’s book) and a night spent pogoing with Van Morrison in Bono’s living room.—J.F.

Time, July 2

The cover package on protecting your online privacy includes these tips: Give your browser a pseudonym so sites won’t have a record of your name and e-mail address; don’t download files from those you don’t trust; don’t accept cookies; and create a firewall with a virus protection program. …  An article on who’s winning the war over the patients’ bill of rights: President Bush or Sen. Ted Kennedy. Kennedy’s bill, which allows patients to sue HMOs for up to $5 million in both state and federal court, has more support, but Trent Lott and Company are trying to water it down with amendments. The Bush-backed bill puts a $500,00 cap on damages and allows suits only in federal court. An article blames everything from sinus infections to brain damage on a toxic household mold.— A. F.

Newsweek, July 2 The cover story, “I Killed My Children,”profiles Houston mother Andrea Yates, who is accused of killing her five children and who may be suffering from postpartum psychosis. About 200 children are killed by their mothers every year in the United States. Despite rising gas prices, a slowing economy, and environmental issues, SUV sales are up 5.6 percent this year. Says Syracuse University professor Robert Thompson: “SUVs are the classic mirror to look at the contradictions of baby boomers.” An article examines how MTV’s The Real World spawned the rise of reality TV. The Real World, now in its 10th season, goes back to the site of its first, New York City. A peek at what’s in store for July 3: “The first episode breaks out in a mini race war when one of the white cast members tells two of his African-American housemates that his uncle in Ohio won’t hire black people because ‘they tend to be slower.’ ” — A.F.

U.S. News & World Report, July 2 The cover package on the anger of the 1970s: The boomers were graduating from college (“having saved the world”), and then had to prepare “to go forth, start families, get fat, and become [their] parents.” Russia, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan agreed to halt sturgeon fishing in the Caspian Sea for the rest of the year in response to a U.N. threat to ban caviar exports if the threatened fish were not protected. An article wonders if the “slumhood” that is Coney Island can bounce back with the help of a minor league baseball team, a new stadium, and a renovated subway stop. Other improvements on the horizon could include a 150-room hotel and a Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Fame. — A.F.

The New Yorker, July 2

A piece profiles Fred Soper, the “General Patton of entomology.” Soper’s goal was to rid the world of malaria-carrying mosquitoes; the pesticide DDT was his weapon of choice. With militarylike precision, Soper stopped outbreaks on three continents and saved thousands (if not millions) of lives during and after World War II. But when Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring appeared and DDT fell out of favor, his support crumbled. If Soper had succeeded, the author speculates, we might view DDT “in the same heroic light as penicillin and the polio vaccine.” An article evaluates President Bush’s education bill. Bush got the federal accountability standards he was looking for from the House, but under the scrutiny of the Senate, the bill became watered down. Now, as it winds it way through conference committee, Bush has the chance to shape the bill even further—while no one’s watching.—B.C.

Harper’s, July 2001

An article profiles a plastic surgeon who has visions beyond liposuction and nose jobs—he wants to give humans wings. His thinking for this cosmetic-only addition: Plastic surgeons should not limit themselves to restoring (or augmenting) the conventional but should explore new possibilities. “We have always altered ourselves for beauty or for power,” he says, how are wings any different? Don’t fear the wait list: The article doesn’t mention any interested candidates for the surgery. A piece examines the Folkways Records collection, an acoustic archive in the Smithsonian that seeks to capture every known sound and boasts such recordings as the clack of keys on a manual typewriter and the hiss of a steam locomotive, all in an effort to protect any sound from extinction.— M.C.