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When Non Means Nee, and Nej, and …

What’s in store for the EU constitution.

Economist, June 2 A piece discusses the state of the European Union after France and the Netherlands rejected the EU constitution. There is a risk that Denmark, Poland, the Czech Republic, Britain, and Luxembourg will follow the “no” trend. The piece predicts that France will be at the root of further political tensions. President Jacques Chirac is expected to continue his protests against Britain’s rebate on its contribution to the EU budget, and France is also expected to oppose plans for further economic liberalization, prompting a German official to say, “If France pushes its national interests even harder, others will do the same.” Scientist Gregory Cochran, famous for finding the bacterial origins of several elusive diseases and notorious for suggesting that an infection causes homosexuality, is due to release a paper proposing that natural selection has made Ashkenazi Jews more intelligent than the population as a whole. Evidence suggests that the same genes that make the Ashkenazi especially susceptible to certain diseases such as Tay-Sachs and breast cancer are also responsible for their IQs, which are an average of 12 to 15 points above the overall mean of 100.—M.O.

New York Magazine, June 6 With Diane Sawyer and Good Morning America on the precipice of overtaking Katie Couric’s Today in the Nielsens, an article explains how the “former Ice Queen left America’s Sweetheart in a meltdown.” Conventional wisdom attributes Today’s sinking ratings to viewer disillusionment with the once wholesome (now sex-kittenish) Katie Couric. But GMA’s revival is built “on years of tinkering”: “In the end, GMA didn’t creep on Today with one dramatic move, they narrowed the divide with a smart, slow march of small innovation.” A profile recalls the life of late feminist Andrea Dworkin. The article exposes Dworkin as an enigma not only to those on either side of the political spectrum (she considered the feminist-friendly Bill Clinton a rapist), but perhaps even unto herself. Though Dworkin identified as a lesbian, a friend reveals, “In 30-plus years of knowing her, I’ve never heard of a single romance with a woman—not one.” In fact, Dworkin’s longest and most intimate relationship was with companion John Stolenberg, whom she married.—Z.K.

Texas Monthly, June 2005 A piece traces the political ascent of Hubert Vo, the Vietnamese-born resident of Alief, a multiracial district in west Houston. He won a seat in the Texas House by debunking the Democratic Party’s reputation as the party of “gay marriage and abortion” and by emphasizing its focus on minority rights. His victory ended the 22-year reign of Republican incumbent Talmadge Heflin. According to Mustafa Tameez, Vo’s Pakistani-born political consultant, “Immigrant voters got Hubert, and they knew he got them. Whether they came from Vietnam or Mexico, they knew that he understood their lives.” A reporter interviews Boone Pickens, a 77-year-old Dallas businessman with a background in oil speculation, about his recent attempt to purchase water rights from ranchers in Roberts County for what would have been the region’s highest-ever average price. Pickens hopes to sell the majority of his purchase to West Texas. He explains his interest in groundwater by pointing to Texas’s increasing water crisis, which is coming to resemble that of California and Colorado.—M.O.

Chronicle of Higher Education,June 3
An article says students are hurrying to consolidate loans before July 1, when interest rates are expected to increase two percentage points. Not only are interest rates expected to continue increasing over the next several years, but the Bush administration has endorsed new legislation abolishing fixed rates. A piece attempts to explain dark energy, which is what scientists term the repulsive force responsible for accelerating the expansion of the universe. Little has been revealed about the phenomenon since it was discovered in 1998, although the National Research Council cited dark energy as this year’s No. 1 top new development in astronomy. A piece looks at Google’s project to make millions of books available on the company’s search engine. The president-elect of the American Library Association worries about a reduction in research quality if Google’s convenience outweighs its inferior book selection for researchers. The president of the National Library of France foresees an “American cultural hegemony in scholarship” if Europe fails to follow Google’s lead and digitize its own libraries.—M.O.

New York Times Magazine, June 5 In “The Money Issue,” the magazine gang-tackles hedge funds, which have proved themselves both reliable and profitable in the otherwise bearish fallout from the dot-com boom. “They are, right now, at the absolute forefront of the collective financial psyche,” says an article. A profile of AQR Capital Management’s Cliff Asness portrays the hedge-fund maestro as a champion of rationality in an irrational and inefficient market, the kind of man who was “offended” by the Internet frenzy of the late-’90s, and a perfect investment manager for the risk-averse, profit-hungry institutions that have displaced individual investors as core hedge-fund clients. A comic-strip narrative dramatizes the internal struggles of Morgan Stanley since its 1997 merger with Dean Witter. Slate contributor Stephen Metcalf explores the zealous, anachronistic subculture of “gold bugs,” who see sure economic doom in the continued use of paper money untethered to a gold standard.—D.W.W.

The Nation, June 13 An article reports on the arrest of two U.S. soldiers by Colombian police on charges of supplying arms to a paramilitary organization. A State Department spokesman denied that the United States is trying to equip Colombian paramilitaries but refused “to say whether the arms are part of the unprecedented $3.3 billion in military aid the United States began sending in 2000 as part of Plan Colombia.” The soldiers are back in the United States, and the government is investigating. The magazine reprints Tony Kushner’s eulogy for Arthur Miller. Kushner calls Miller “a great voice, one of the principal voices, raised in opposition, calling for resistance, offering scrutiny and lamentation—in other words, he was politically progressive, as politically progressive is best defined in these dark times.” Kushner asks the next generation of playwrights to pay back their debt to Miller by attaining in their works “a deeper judgment, the judgment that pulls a person beyond his expected reach.”—Z.K.

Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report, June 6 Syria: With elections ongoing in Lebanon, Time focuses on the legacy of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, whose assassination in February helped speed Syria’s departure from Lebanon. Syria’s Bashar Assad told Hariri—who wanted Syria out of Lebanon, and was planning to run for office again—“I will break Lebanon over your head.” The piece notes that Hariri’s 35-year-old son, Saad, a Georgetown grad “who makes no secret that he would rather be scuba diving or riding his Harley,” is the leading contender in the elections. Newsweek focuses on Assad himself, calling him an enigma and saying that “his representatives practically beg for Syria to be better understood and for warmer ties to Washington,” even though “U.S. officials have repeatedly accused his regime of giving safe passage, sanctuary and material aid to Iraq’s insurgents.” Reporting that a few weeks ago Assad’s men cracked down on a group of human-rights activists, the article claims that Syria is ripe for a demonstration of “people power.”

Health:Newsweek’s cover story begins with the cautionary tale of Kathy Peck, a punk rocker who suffered severe hearing loss after playing loud shows in the early ‘80s with her band, the Contractions. It goes on to warn, “If they don’t take steps to protect their hearing, the iPod Generation faces the same fate as the Woodstock Generation. Or worse.” Noting that most insurance companies don’t pay for hearing aids, the piece trumpets the merits of new (but expensive) inventions that help reverse hearing-loss. For example, scientists have just figured out how to grow cochlear hair cells in mice. “This is new stuff,” an expert says, “with the calm that often masks excitement in scientific circles.” Claiming that physical inactivity is an epidemic that doesn’t get much attention, Time’s cover focuses on physical fitness but points out that new research shows that it’s OK to be obese as long as you work out and eat healthy.

Odds and  ends: A year ago, the police chief and the mayor of Bradford, Ark., were called up to Iraq by the National Guard. Although Mayor Paul Bunn talked up the war before his departure, since returning he has lashed out against the inefficient use of U.S. resources in Iraq and said, “Let’s trust the President—about as far as we can throw him.” Time reports that he no longer stands by the Republican Party and bemoans the lack of infrastructural resources in Bradford. Police Chief Josh Chambliss doesn’t bash the war, but he does articulates a similar frustration with the lack of resources at home. U.S. News features a story about border-patrol agents who receive kickbacks “from supervisors who rented rooms to them and from hotels anxious to get their business.” Although whistle-blowers exposed the scheme two years ago, a new report from the Office of Special Counsel is highly critical of the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department’s investigation into the charges.—B.B.

The New Yorker, June 6
After examining the heated competitions among aspiring valedictorians (in recent years, a slew of disappointed kids have started suing their school boards because the standards are unclear or can be gamed), Margaret Talbot notes that “it seems faintly ridiculous to honor too large a group.” Referencing Reese Witherspoon’s character from Election, she concludes, “Maybe the honor should go to the student who is not necessarily the smartest but the most adept at running a peculiarly American kind of academic marathon, one that requires prodigious energy, tactical savvy, and a Tracy Flick-like determination.” And in a profile of Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president tells Jon Lee Anderson, “I don’t feel like the President or anything else—I don’t care about the Presidency or being President.” A brother, recounting Karzai crying at the image of a suffering child, claims he’s surprised Karzai became a politician. Commenting on Karzai’s closeness to American ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad (recently nominated to be the ambassador to Iraq), an American adviser says, “[They] spend more time together than most husbands and wives; they eat dinner together almost every night. Karzai doesn’t just consult him for decisions—he also gets emotional support from him.”—B.B.

Weekly Standard, June 6 Noting that the BBC hired hecklers to confront a Tory leader during Britain’s recent elections, a piece states, “Despite occasional mild griping on this page about lapses at the New York Times or Newsweek or the Washington Post, these publications are, truthfully, paragons of fair play and professionalism when compared with the BBC.” It goes on to analyze the BBC’s coverage of a newly issued report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a British think tank. Other news agencies (like Reuters) surmised that overall the report favored Bush’s intervention in Iraq, but the BBC suggested that “it concludes that if Iraq were to become a failed state or revert to dictatorship, it would be a ‘strategic nightmare’ for the West.” Analyzing how John McCain’s role in last week’s filibuster compromise will affect his 2008 presidential aspirations, Matthew Continetti quotes a Republican strategist: “John McCain has just delivered more conservative judges than George W. Bush, the Christian right, and Tom DeLay. So let’s have that debate.”—B.B.