Harper’s, May 2002 The cover piece claims that the integrity of the entire U.S. criminal justice system is at stake in the John Walker Lindh case. His confession, apparently made under duress, is symptomatic of larger problems with police conduct. Investigators wage psychological warfare on detainees, sometimes deceitfully teasing out false confessions from helpless suspects. … An article tells the tragic story of Darius McCollum, a 37-year-old currently imprisoned for impersonating New York City transit employees. Darius is basically the Rain Man of the city’s subway system. He knows every inch of every track and keeps obsessive logs of incidents he observes on trains. Since he was a teen-ager, he’s been masquerading as a number of different transit officials, faithfully and competently carrying out the duties of a full-time employee. Likely afflicted with a mild variant of autism known as Asperger’s syndrome, Darius should be receiving professional help, not sitting in a maximum security prison.— J.F.
Atlantic, May 2002 The cover story is a humanizing—and at times dehumanizing—portrait of Saddam Hussein. The brutal but savvy dictator is not driven so much by insanity or hedonism as by a vain obsession with how posterity will receive him. He’s fixated on Stalin and his favorite movies are rather appropriately The Godfather and The Old Man and the Sea. He once had a copy of the Quran handwritten in his own blood. … An article explains that it’s just a matter of statistics to show that every European is descended from Charlemagne and every person in the world is a relative of Nefertiti. We’re all royalty to some degree, and if we’re lucky enough to have lineages that reproduce, each of us will some day prove to be an ancestor of all mankind.— J.F.
Economist, April 27 The cover story says Jean-Marie Le Pen’s shake-up of the French political system may not be so bad after all, so long as he doesn’t win the May 5 runoff. In a country usually paralyzed by mixed government, Jacques Chirac may finally get the rightist parliament necessary to push through reform. The election may also drive the Socialists further toward the middle—a good thing for France. … A piece condemns Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s hedging on democratic elections. By holding a bogus pre-election referendum on whether to stay in power, he is giving “democracy itself a bad name.”… Everyone knows it pays to be tall, but an article explains that when you hit your growth spurt really matters. (Steven E. Landsburg wrote a similar story last month in Slate.) Men who were tall 16-year-olds get paid more as adults than their colleagues who were short adolescents. The only possible explanation: The shorties who got passed over for sports teams and school clubs just aren’t socially adept grown-ups.— J.F.
New Republic, May 6 The cover piece traces the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal back to several causes, including the church’s silence about sexuality; its narrow moral—as opposed to spiritual—role in American life; and most pernicious of all, the inhumanity of bishops who saw victims “not as children of God, but as potential liabilities.”… A piece says the Bush tax cut is still the Republican’s best weapon, because many Dems can’t afford to oppose it. Republicans won the spin war even on estate tax repeal—the most shameless payoff to the ultra-rich—by convincing voters if the repeal wasn’t made permanent it would create “the largest tax increase in history.”… A piece says Enron hasn’t changed a thing in Washington: Bush is taking the side of business again, supporting companies’ right not to deduct stock options on their financial statements, while deducting them on their tax returns. But even more depressing is that key Democrats are taking big business’ side, too.—K.T.
New York Times Magazine, April 28
The cover story explains how a lawsuit over a suicide at MIT could change the relationship between colleges and parents. Since the late 1960s, colleges dramatically stepped back from their in loco parentis role, and privacy regulations gave students sole control of their academic and health records. But the parents of Elizabeth Shin, who burned herself to death in her dorm two years ago, say MIT should have told them their daughter was in trouble. … A piece describes how a Colombian law meant to protect minors from adult prisons put kids above the law—and turned them into the perfect hired guns. One young sicario, or assassin, killed more than 30 people by the time of his own death at 17. … A piece looks at Erin Brockovich, the brand name. Brockovich is working on another environmental case, but she spends much of her time promoting her book, developing a talk show, and becoming the William Morris agency’s most popular public speaker.—K.T.
Details, May 2002
An article chronicles the return of PCP. A “generational” drug, PCP pops up every 20 years or so to wreak havoc on a new slew of young people. Horrendous side effects make it go out of favor eventually, but it always comes back. This time around PCP is a component, along with embalming fluid, of the cheap and trendy street drug “wet.” You soak joints in it and smoke them, resulting in a tremendous mind-whack of a buzz. One narcotics detective describes the appeal of wet to inner-city kids: “when they want to do something bad … [t]his gives them balls. It’s like liquid courage.” But it can cause psychosis and brain damage. … Slate contributor Hugo Lindgren interviews toothy superstar writer-actor Matt Damon and pronounces him to be—are you sitting down for this?—just a regular guy.— S.G.
Time, April 29
In the cover piece, George Lucas looks forward to the opening of his new Star Wars movie, Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Nobody liked Phantom Menace, but Lucas isn’t fazed. “I can’t make a movie for fans,” he says. From seeing a rough cut of the new movie, Time’s critics think it will get the Star Wars series back on track. … A piece asks whether Bush is actually a menace to the environment—or just a pragmatist. He’s “preternaturally opposed” to regulation, including clean-air laws, and he tends to defer to local interests on questions of land protection. But he still has a chance to turn green, in an upcoming debate on emissions guidelines for old polluting power plants.… A piece asks a heretical question: Have many people who work with children sublimated some level of sexual longing? By punishing pedophiles harshly, will we discourage those who could help children while keeping their desires in check?—K.T. Newsweek, April 29 The cover piece runs down a list of companies that have gotten a boost from clever tech innovations: JetBlue Airways saves a lot by letting its 550 reservation agents work from home; Men’s Wearhouse is designing cash registers to get shopping-phobic men in and out in a hurry; and the company that invented wire-mesh lobster traps is now making security fencing for Kuwait’s border with Iraq. … A piece describes the debate over whether preschool kids should learn to read. Studies show that training in literacy basics can save children from future reading trouble, but some teachers worry accelerated reading means that kids “won’t have any childhood.” Now that Bush has joined the early reading camp, the fight is heating up. … A piece describes the mounting evidence that estrogen replacement therapy does less to protect women’s bones than doctors have assumed. The therapy may even increase the short-term risk of a heart attack.—K.T. The Nation, May 6 The cover story tracks Big Tobacco’s global smuggling operations. The companies have turned huge profits by channeling their cigarettes into places like Colombia through tax-free back doors. Now, Colombia and several European nations are suing the companies for their illegal profiteering, and repercussions could potentially be more severe than the $200 billion-plus settlement with several U.S. states four years ago. … Edward Said argues that Israel’s West Bank incursion isn’t about uprooting terrorism, it’s about “the irreversible conquest of Palestinian land and society.”… A piece chastises the Bush administration for condoning the recent attempted coup in Venezuela, but reminds us that Hugo Chávez is no Salvador Allende. Unlike Allende, who was a true democrat, Chávez is really a despot cloaked in thinly democratic garb.— J.F.
Weekly Standard, April 29 The cover article is a long assessment of all the publicly available evidence about last year’s anthrax bioterrorist. The conclusion: The FBI has no reason to be so single-mindedly focused on a lone deranged American scientist. The anthrax spores weren’t necessarily produced in a U.S. lab, and even if they were, it wouldn’t prove anything. … The editorial deems Colin Powell’s Middle East trip a success because it provided diplomatic cover for Ariel Sharon’s ongoing West Bank operations. Now, the administration should shift its focus to Iraq and try to avoid being sidetracked by Israel again. … An article laughs at a recent letter sent by Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt to the major cable news networks bemoaning the lack of coverage of Democratic Party events.— J.F.