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America’s Biggest A**hole

Norman Mailer gets the Rolling Stone treatment.

Economist, June 25 A piece cites China National Offshore Oil Corporation’s bid for Unocal as the latest example of China’s booming overseas expansion. In an effort to assuage nationalist fears, CNOOC has promised to keep Unocal’s jobs and products in the United States. While there is a chance that China will lose this bid, its economic growth shows no sign of slowing, and “the spread of Chinese business around the world is set to continue.” An article covers a recent E.U. summit, which was colored by the general feeling that Europe “is in a mess.” In just a week Tony Blair takes over the EU presidency, and he and Jacques Chirac are in an increasingly bitter disagreement over budget distributions. The constitution was a more fundamental problem: “Unlike rows about the budget, the constitutional rejection raises profound questions about the EU’s legitimacy and underlying purpose.”— M.O.

The New Republic, July 4 Zoë Heller demolishes psychoanalyst Alice Miller’s new book The Body Never Lies: The Lingering Effects of Cruel Parenting. Heller points out that Miller now demands “a complete renunciation of the Fourth Commandment (’Honor thy father and thy mother’).” Countering the book’s contention that “child abuse is the sole cause of all misery,” Heller writes that, due to “Miller’s relentless privatization of global pain” … “now there is not a single despot in world history whose murderous career cannot be traced to a dread moment in his childhood when he was sent to bed without his supper.” Adam Graham-Silverman argues that USAID’s plan to buy and deliver AIDS drugs for African countries (a part of President Bush’s AIDS agenda) is deeply flawed because of its “restrictions on buying cheap, generic drugs” and the distinct possibility of “duplicating existing work or undermining local efforts.”—B.B.

Mother Jones, July/August A piece about the AFL-CIO’s structural crisis applauds the Wobblies and the victories of U.S. labor unions, arguing that unions debating the future of the AFL-CIO aren’t going far enough. Labor must speak “for something bigger than itself” because “the union crisis is but part of a society crisis,” and “the great challenge … is to reclaim society through the linkage of our fates.” The cover package focuses on domestic violence: Congress is set to discuss renewing the Violence Against Women Act, and the Supreme Court will re-examine restraining orders. Individual stories include: a campaign in support of clemency for women who killed their husbands after years of abuse, and domestic violence in the military.—B.B.

Rolling Stone, June 30 and July 14
A paean to Jessica Alba admires her “Booty and Soul.” The article asserts that Alba is not just another pretty face with perfect “34-25-34” proportions. Hoping to model her career after those of Diane Keaton and Goldie Hawn, actresses who have franchised their quirky on-screen personas, Alba longs for the day when practicing her craft doesn’t involve “wearing a fucking bathing suit or chaps.”  With his fellow literary gadflies Sontag, Bellow, Plimpton, and Thompson shuffling off this mortal coil, 82-year-old Norman Mailer comes up for a magazine profile. Pulitzer-winner, ideological suicide bomber, pied-piper of the ‘50s beat scene, and, perhaps, “America’s biggest asshole,” Mailer represents a dying breed of “maverick writers who have a galvanizing place in the cultural life of the nation.” Mailer diagnoses stupidity as “the American Disease” and accuses the current president of being its Typhoid Mary.—Z.K.

Chronicle of Higher Education, June 24
A piece discusses the recent creation of Israeli-studies departments at several American universities. The departments seek to remove Jewish studies from their traditional focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While some scholars hold that Israel “gets more than its share of scholarly attention,” Emory University professor Kenneth Stein argues that “there are lessons to be learned from Israel’s experience that have applications elsewhere.” With the guidance of the New York City Fire Department, Carnegie Mellon graduate student Shanna Tellerman has produced Hazmat Hotzone, a video game that trains firefighters to respond to chemical warfare. Graphics reveal true-to-life clues such as gas color and symptoms presented by victims. Firefighters have reacted enthusiastically to the prototype, and Tellerman is hoping for a grant from the Department of Homeland Security to finish the game and donate it to fire departments nationwide. —M.O.

New York Times Magazine, June 26
Matt Bai suggests that Democratic pundits should watch King of the Hill because it provides “the most subtle and complex portrayal of small-town viewers on television.” He points out that when North Carolina’s Democratic governor, Mike Easley, takes a partisan stance, he imagines he’s addressing Hank, the show’s protagonist; Bai also argues that the show’s characters “resemble many independent voters, open to proposals that challenge their assumptions about the world, as long as those ideas don’t come from someone who seems to disrespect what they believe.” In a piece about the popularity of Moleskine notebooks, Rob Walker writes, “[T]he Moleskine just looks like a thing that holds interesting, and possibly important, jottings and sketches. Even if you’re carrying it to another boring staff meeting to take notes about sales projections, the notebook makes for a fantastic emblem of creative possibility.” The cover focuses on the first generation of children born with HIV to make it to adolescence, thanks to new medications.—B.B.

Boston Review, Summer 2005 In an essay on “universality in language and human rights,” Noam Chomsky plucks at the “thin strands that may connect” genetic and experiential theories on language with a harangue against the United States. His list of human rights abuses includes the Bush administration’s “interrogator-friendly definition of torture,” aid sent by President Carter to El Salvador’s “brutal military junta,” and acts of “terrorism” against Nicaragua. “I mention these few examples,” he writes, “so that we remember that we are not merely engaged in seminars on abstract principles. … We are speaking of ourselves.” A piece investigates the modern sweatshop, which is increasingly prominent in the service sector. Despite a move from cities to suburbs and garment factories to restaurants, immigrant workers are plagued by the same problems: low wages, long hours, and poor work conditions. Jennifer Gordon blames the Fair Labor Standard Act, which has not been changed in more than 50 years, and increasing resistance to immigration after Sept. 11.—M.O.

Legal Affairs, July/August 2005 A piece details an ideologically based method of fighting terrorism. Faced with threats from Islamic extremists, the religiously moderate Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh suggested that clerics engage imprisoned terrorists in debate over whether the Quran encourages jihad. The goal was to “transform al-Qaeda’s martyrs into ambassadors of tolerance, thereby combating terrorism where it counted most—in the hearts and minds of future recruits.” Though unverified, Yemeni officials report that none of the terrorists who “graduated” from the debates have returned to violence. Western officials fear that a similar program would be ineffective in the United States because it is “based on traditions peculiar to Yemen,” and “it would be difficult for an American to have the same kind of credibility with Muslims in the United States.”—M.O.

Entertainment Weekly, June 24 and July 1 There’s a definite theme dashing through the current issue. In “The Must List,”Fantastic Four’s Jessica Alba is peeved about being typecast: “I f—cking hated people thinking of me as exotic—what would they call me?—this exotic, strong-minded, kick-butt action whatever-the-f—.” Jake Gyllenhaal implies that his and Heath Ledger’s characters have love scenes that “break explicit new ground” in the upcoming moving Mountain Men. “No matter how weird people might think it is or how f—ed up they might consider a certain relationship to be,” he says, “if there is love there, then that’s all that matters.” Deadwood’s Paula Malcomson boasts about her immunity to the effects of strong language: “I’m Irish. We split up words to put f— in between them.” Her co-star Molly Parker adds a story about a little old lady who thought she may have been bothered by the abundance of four-letter words on Deadwood, but then concluded, “Oh, what the hell, it’s a great motherf—ing show.”—M.O.

New York, June 27 Hakan Yalincak is a 21-year-old whose fortune has changed rapidly: Last year he raised $7.4 million for his hedge fund and made a $1.25 million gift to NYU, where he was a junior. Now, after trying to cash a counterfeit check for $25 million, he’s in jail and is considered an “economic danger to the community.” Steve Fishman spent time with Hakan’s mother at the Yalincak home near Greenwich, Conn., and he recounts her shifty stories of chronic illness, her son’s innocence, and getting bail money from clergymen. “Jackie was a con artist—and not a very sophisticated one,” Fishman writes. “… [Hakan] is a generational improvement.” Brian Graden, the man behind MTV’s Punk’d and Jackass, has a new project: Logo, the first gay and lesbian-oriented TV network. Graden doesn’t have just homophobia to worry about—he must also create something distinct for a niche market already integrated into the mainstream networks. “The shows seem inclusive to a fault, linked by a warm, celebratory tone rather than the smarty-pants irony you might expect,” writes Adam Sternbergh.—L.W.

Time, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, June 27 CIA: In his first interview since becoming CIA head, Porter Goss assures Time, “I have an excellent idea of where [Osama bin Laden] is.” He’s hard to capture however, because, “When you go to the very difficult question of dealing with sanctuaries in sovereign states, you’re dealing with a problem of our sense of international obligation, fair play.” Goss also claims that the Iraqi insurgency is “very close” to petering out. But a Newsweek piece about the insurgents’ tactics claims, “No one in U.S. intelligence seems ready to say the fight is hopeless. But no one is sounding very optimistic, either.” The article discusses a classified CIA study: “One of the paper’s main points is that America’s Iraqi troubles will not end with the insurgency. In effect, Iraq is producing a new corps of master terrorists with an incandescent hatred for the United States.”

Wal-Mart:Time’s cover package on China notes, “By itself, Wal-Mart is China’s sixth largest export market—just behind Germany—buying some $18 billion worth of goods last year.” Pointing out that Wal-Mart started producing most of its goods in other East Asian countries about 20 years ago, it argues, “Wal-Mart’s China trade may indeed be eliminating factory jobs—but in South Korea, not South Carolina.” The piece notes that many young Chinese people like working for Wal-Mart  because it emphasizes strict quality requirements and disapproves of bribes and nepotism. A U.S. News article about the rivalry between Wal-Mart and Target takes stock of Wal-Mart’s troubles: “the largest class action lawsuit ever, a discrimination case on behalf of its 1.6 million female employees; the union-funded campaign against the company’s labor practices,” and “the activism that has blocked the opening of new stores.” The company will soon branch out into more upscale products like “stylish apparel, home fashion, and electronics”—and cheap organic food. (Read Daniel Gross in Slate on Wal-Mart going upscale.)

Science:U.S. News reports on a supposed “revolution” in archaeology—since the looting of Iraqi artifacts, archaeologists are more aware that they have a responsibility to make sites more secure and to involve those who live nearby. For example, archaeologist David Freidel “braves poisonous snakes, flesh-boring flies, arsonists, murderous thieves, and machete-armed, hostage-taking mobs” in Guatemala. And he helps “protect ruins from overcrowding, poverty, and greed by, for example, putting out forest fires and creating jobs for locals.” Newsweek’s cover evaluates the latest in paleontology. It focuses on a duck-billed hadrosaur found four years ago in Montana by Nate Murphy, a man who has no college degree but learned about dinosaurs from his grandmother, a famous paleontologist. “It’s hard to imagine a lawyer in his spare time making a discovery in, say, molecular genetics,” writes Jerry Adler, “but dinosaur paleontology remains closer in spirit to the scientific world of Darwin than of Crick and Watson.”—B.B.

Weekly Standard, June 27 Duncan Currie profiles the Coalition for a Fair and Independent Judiciary, an alliance of progressive interest groups dedicated to keeping conservative justices off the Supreme Court. Coalition leaders exercise considerable influence among Senate Democrats and expect a majority vote to block a long list of potential nominees. Nan Aron, coalition member and head of Alliance for Justice, “views any anti-Roe nominee to the federal bench as constituting an ‘extraordinary circumstance.’ “ The Canadian Supreme Court recently overturned Quebec’s 30-year prohibition of private medicine. Writing that “The decision isn’t simply a surprise, it’s an earthquake—as if a Soviet court had ruled that not only could a Russian entrepreneur open a chain of restaurants, but he could issue stock to finance the scheme,” David Gratzer urges American legislators who are lured by the temptation of socialized medicine to consider this ruling, as well as a recent survey in which 80 percent of Canadians labeled their health care system “in crisis.”—M.O.

The New Yorker, June 27
Hanna Rosin profiles Patrick Henry College, a Christian institution that draws 85 percent of its students from home-school families. Minister Michael Farris founded Patrick Henry five years ago in response to requests from congressmen seeking home-schooled students for their staff. Farris refers to his school as the “Evangelical Ivy League” and has made it his mission to “train a new generation of Christian politicians.” David Remnick describes boxer Mike Tyson’s latest, and likely his last, fight. The 15,000 people who paid to watch Tyson lose to unknown Kevin McBride were not there for the sport: “Tyson was everyone’s freak show, a grotesque and guilty entertainment at once violent, unpredictable, haunted, thrilling,” Remnick writes. After a career replete with reckless fighting and even more reckless spending, Tyson admitted, “I don’t have it in me anymore. I can’t even kill the bugs in my house.”—M.O.