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The Next John McCain?

Vanity Fair, July 2002 In an information-packed article, Christopher Hitchens describes the volatile melee that is 21st-century European politics. He identifies three factors contributing to the uneasiness: “state-level corruption, mass immigration and the reaction to it, and the revival of buried national atavism.” The turmoil engendered by this mix threatens to undo the burying of hatchets between France and Germany and the all-round feel-good effects of the euro and the EU itself. A piece outlines the palsied AOL-Time Warner mess. Starting with former CEO Jerry Levin’s abrupt (but deserved) ouster in 2001, the story reveals more and more ugliness at every turn: relationships gone sour, executives bringing home mammoth paydays for crippling the corporation, and endemic bitterness between the two sides of the merged company. AOL and Time Warner, “like a couple trapped in a rotten marriage,” may just spite themselves into total ruin.— S.G.

New Republic, July 1
The cover story touts Vermont Gov. Howard Dean as a John McCain clone for the Democrats in 2004 (Slate’s Chris Suellentrop made the same suggestion in an “Assessment“). It paints Dean as a politically savvy fiscal moderate who has a track record of innovative successes in social policy, like a statewide health-care program for children. Moreover, he’s the only Democrat willing to suggest repealing the Bush tax cut. But Dean may never get a chance to raise his profile because the Dems have scheduled many primaries over a month earlier than during the last election. A piece decimates the conventional wisdom that winning an election hinges on identifying key swing voters. Pollsters simply invent new constituencies whose political preferences match their own—from the beloved “soccer moms” of yesteryear to today’s “office park dads,” “waitress moms,” and “wired workers.”— D.R.

Economist, June 22 The cover story says America’s economy is sputtering. Pointing to the Dow’s and the dollar’s recent dips and rising trade and budget deficits, the piece says that U.S. consumers are “running out of steam” and that the Enron scandal has hurt investors’ trust in American companies. An article on Israel’s construction of a fence along its border with the West Bank reports that the Palestinians see the fence as a ploy to annex Palestinian land into Israel. The fence line deviates from the 1967 borders and puts many Israeli settlements in the West Bank on the Israeli side of the line. A piece asks why the Indonesian government is not cracking down on extremist Islamic groups, given that the country’s Muslims are predominantly moderate and tolerant.— D.R.

Atlantic Monthly, July-August 2002
William Langewiesche’s cover story, the first of three parts, painstakingly examines the psychological and structural territory of the World Trade Center site in the minutes, weeks, and months of recovery and cleanup after Sept. 11. He introduces the principal cast of characters heading the complex efforts to sort out “the Pile,” indicating some of the tense power struggles between the engineering and uniformed services personnel, and describes several nerve-wracking scenes, including: accounts from Port Authority engineers who survived the attacks from their offices inside the towers; and his own participation in the expedition to the bowels of the former North Tower (known as “the final frontier” because of its extreme depth, blackness, and instability) where the chiller plant was housed and where potentially lethal gases threatened another epic disaster to relief workers. A thorough blow-by-blow account of the structural effects of the planes’ impact on the buildings makes for harrowing, sweaty-palm reading.— S.G.
New York Times Magazine, June 23
The cover story about the economics of heroin traces a kilogram of the drug from the poppy plants of Burma to the streets of Baltimore. Today heroin is the commodity of choice to drug dealers because the business remains profitable even in the post-9/11 world where drugs have to be smuggled in small quantities. Drawing parallels to multinational corporations and terrorist organizations, the piece tells how drug traffickers have restructured their operations into nimble, decentralized units to stay afloat in a cutthroat industry. A piece on Abner Louima paints a sympathetic portrait of the torture victim whose credibility is being questioned in the retrial of New York police officer Charles Schwarz. Now that Schwarz’s first conviction has been overturned, his lawyers are saying Louima lied when he testified that there was a second officer in the bathroom where he was tortured.— D.R.
Weekly Standard, June 24
A feature chronicles the conflict between the State Department and the Pentagon over which Iraqi opposition group to support. The State Department favors the Group of Four, a collection of Kurds, Shiites, and Iraqi exiles; Defense backs the Iraqi National Congress, which for years has received American funds aimed at ousting Saddam Hussein. But the INC is under the cloud of its former leader, Ahmad Chalabi, who remains influential in the group and is viewed as putting the personal ahead of the movement. The State vs. Defense disagreement means that much of the money allocated for anti-Saddam activities has not been spent. An article slams Democrats’ pre-Sept.-11 voting record on defense and national security and says they should be called to task for their dovish history.— D.R.

Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report, June 24 Both cover stories work themselves into a froth about new technologies that will surely eradicate Alzheimer’s (Newsweek) and cancer (U.S. News). Doctors once diagnosed Alzheimer’s by asking object recognition questions, but those tests didn’t work until the disease was far advanced. But a new kind of brain scan, positron-emission tomography, offers presymptom detection. Meanwhile, researchers are working on numerous drugs that could stall the onset of the disease. On the cancer front, new technology (the gene chip) revealing cancer cells’ molecular biology will “revolutionize” the disease. Now, doctors have to make wild guesses based on the size, shape, and location of tumors. In the future, they will detect cancer earlier with a simple blood test. They will know what treatments to recommend, so patients who don’t need chemotherapy won’t have to go through it.

A Newsweek article explains how U.S. intelligence successfully tracked Brooklynite Jose Padilla, an al-Qaida operative planning to detonate a radioactive “dirty bomb” in the United States. The triumph came at a price: Interrogators are circumventing civil courts and allegedly using torture to wring information out of terrorist captives. A U.S. News piece says the phoenix-like rise of women CEOs is over. They made a splash along with their tech companies in the late-1990s, but more than their male counterparts, they took the fall when the bottom fell out. The new way to discriminate is not keeping women from reaching the top but leaving them less margin for error once they get there. A Newsweek piece recounts the woes of one woman CEO in particular, Martha Stewart. Reports of her shady financial dealings with an insider-trading, CEO friend (boyfriend?) who was arrested last week have tarnished the spotless image that has always been the foundation of her empire.— J.D. Time, June 24 The Tom Cruise cover profile looks familiar. Sure, he’s a charmer, but he’ll never let you get to really know him. He suffered through the requisite rough childhood (countless moves and dyslexia). He’s a control freak who will work for hours learning a scene for a movie, but he’s also a devoted father whose family takes precedence. He’ll lavish praise on the Church of Scientology, but he won’t dish dirt about its mysterious inner-working or his divorce from Nicole Kidman, the gay rumors, and his romance with Penélope Cruz. An article says a nearby solar system looks eerily like ours. The star 55 Cancri is about the age and size of the sun, and astronomers recently noticed a Jupiter facsimile planet orbiting it. Scientists don’t know for sure if Earth 2 is floating somewhere out there because the glare is really bad.— J.D. The Nation, July 1, 2002
The cover story, “Attack of the Homocons,” critiques gay conservative pundits such as Andrew Sullivan and Camille Paglia. Homocons, despite being a small minority among gays, have become the most visible members of that community because their credibility stretches across a broad range of political constituencies. They’re seen as free-thinking gay people who aren’t wedded to the Democratic line, but the author contends that they subvert the gay rights movement by criticizing everything about gay culture that makes it different from the norm. A feature says that drug companies’ clinical trials in developing nations are unethical and exploitative. Patients are routinely mistreated and do not give informed consent, and, the story alleges, the FDA turns a blind eye to the issue.— D.R.