New Republic, Jan. 17 A group of essays focuses on the devastating impact of the tsunami. Leon Wieseltier compares the tragedy to the calamitous 1755 earthquake in Lisbon, Portugal, which ravaged thousands and threw “Europe into a crisis of meaning.” Wieseltier criticizes U.S. reaction to the recent tsunami and wishes it had been a catalyst for more “serious reflection.”… Two academics note that although global warming may have contributed to the tsunami, those who say it’s the sole cause “are either ill-informed or dishonest.” “[G]rowing populations, expanding economies, rapid urbanization, and migrations to coasts and other exposed regions” are the primary cause. Instead of pointing the finger at environmental causes, we need to increase preparedness. … A dispatch from Thailand offers an account of how Thais cope with the tragedy—rather than rely on state aid, they seek support from friends and family.—J.H.P.
Economist, Jan. 17 More on the tsunami—the cover story outlines nations’ attempts to outdo each other’s offers of aid, as countries like Germany pledge $674 million, and Japan offers $500 million. The article suggests that nations are being “unusually generous” because many of their own citizens perished in the disaster, but such contributions may also “reflect a widespread, and largely justified, belief … that their money is more likely to be spent well on relieving natural disasters than on man-made humanitarian crises such as those in Congo and Darfur.”… Another piece predicts Palestinian presidential candidate Mahmoud Abbas will win Sunday’s election and says his efficacy as Palestinian leader will rely on his ability to improve his image: He must convince his people that “talking can achieve more than the intifada did.”—J.H.P.
New York Times Magazine, Jan. 9 An article documents the ways that widespread pirating and counterfeiting in China will change the world’s intellectual property market in the coming decades. Untroubled by intermittent and ineffective patent enforcement, Chinese “reverse engineers” dissect imported products—drugs, electronics, even heavy industrial equipment—to find a way to produce identical, and more cheaply produced, Chinese equivalents. Such “entrepreneurs”’ may ultimately render international copyright protection functionally obsolete. … The magazine profiles “Euroskeptic” Robert Kilroy-Silk, the controversial leading figure in England’s anti-European Union Independence Party. A former MP and daytime talk-show host, Kilroy-Silk won election to the European Parliament in June, the tactical pilot of his party’s kamikaze presence there. In recent weeks, however, he has estranged defenders by suggesting the UKIP is not just a single-issue party—that it might represent the populist future of political Britain.—D.W.W.
The New Yorker, Jan. 10
A medical story finds that about 75 percent of drugs approved by the FDA “have never been subjected to comprehensive pediatric studies.” In a medical culture afraid of liability, “doctors and parents are increasingly concerned about whether children can truly give informed consent.” A dearth of clinical studies, the story finds, has meant both reckless prescriptions that endanger children and a broad reluctance to prescribe drugs that could help them. … An article recounts the short, acrimonious, and ultimately disastrous working relationship between Michael Eisner and Michael Ovitz at Disney in the mid-’90s. Ovitz’s odd tenure—arranged single-handedly by Eisner only to be thoroughly undermined by him 14 months later—ended with a severance package of $140 million that has since become the basis of a lawsuit brought by Disney shareholders. They allege that Eisner was driven by personal caprice rather than sound business judgment in the sudden hiring and humiliating firing of Ovitz, formerly a friend.
Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report, Jan. 10
Global disaster:“It was a wave—it was a monster,”U.S. News declares of last week’s devastating tsunami, which has taken the lives of at least 120,000. What made it so extraordinary, writes Time, was that “it was a truly global event,” that “placed a girdle of death around half the earth,” and which, because of mass tourism and modern technology, became a “uniquely personal event” for the other half. U.S. News highlights the unknowable toll of the disaster, which has displaced 5 million people and washed away entire towns and the regional communities that sustained them. “At some point,” the article says, “people just stopped counting.” Around South Asia, displaced refugees have crowded into improvised camps that have become “instant incubators for disease.” All three magazines document the difficulty of delivering aid: Time says the damage to infrastructure has been “a double blow”—facilitating the spread of disease and impeding the flow of relief. … In Newsweek, Fareed Zakaria writes that the disaster reminds us that our big problems—terrorism, war waged abroad, the spread of weapons of mass destruction—are only abstract difficulties for the people of the developing world, who “have accustomed themselves to tragedy” through experience with drastic poverty, malnutrition, stunted development, and the wild spread of disease.
The many sides of Abbas: In a letter from Gaza, Time describes the upcoming Palestinian presidential election as “the best chance in years to chart a new direction, away from Arafat’s legacy of conflict and misrule toward a more prosperous, peaceful future.” The likely victor, Mahmoud Abbas, has called for an end to violence and represents, to many Palestinians, an opportunity to overcome the enormous economic setbacks of the intifada period. Less hopeful, U.S. News says that Abbas is “no savior,” a weak leader who cannot command the militias he plans to disarm, and whose authority has already been compromised by widespread belief that he is a Western collaborator whose victory is inevitable only because Israel and America have made it so. Newsweek compares Abbas to the late Egyption president Anwar Sadat, both “avuncular deputies of charismatic leaders” facing “internal challenges to their power” and committed to fast, decisive action to cement control.
Kerry speaks:Newsweek delivers an exclusive, impressionistic look at former candidate John Kerry. Asked why he lost, Kerry pointed “to history and, in a somewhat inferential, roundabout way, to his own failure to connect to voters.” Though Kerry didn’t single out any of his aides, the article notes he “did not feel well served by his message makers and speechwriters.” He talks about the election with an air of bracing self-reflection: “I’ve had disappointments and I’ve learned to cope. I’ve lost friends, a marriage; I’ve lost things in my life.”—D.W.W.