New Republic, Sept. 4
An editorial notes that 10 years later, despite naysaying from liberals, numerous op-eds, and even administration officials, Bill Clinton’s welfare reform bill really did end welfare as we know it: “Welfare rolls shrank while more single women entered the workforce. Teen pregnancy fell, too. And, while the statistics on income leave room for conflicting interpretation, most experts agree that, on the whole, former welfare recipients are slightly better off than before, even though the economy has slowed in the Bush era.”… Peter Beinart applauds the Democrats’ mundane agenda—raising the minimum wage and contributing more money to alternative energy are big ideas—saying that the party should stick to making the midterms a referendum on Republicans. His simple message? ” ‘We’re not George W. Bush.’ And then shut up.”— Z.K.
Economist, Aug. 26 The cover story argues that newspapers have been too hesitant in their approach to the Internet, in large part because they have long been extremely profitable as print operations. Newspapers’ Web sites are not yet as profitable as their print editions, but that may soon change as companies make a concerted effort to attract more lucrative types of advertising (display ads as opposed to classified ads, for example). … Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has helped reinvigorate Iran as a bellicose power in the region, an article relates. Despite the threat of sanctions, Ahmadinejad’s regime is more confident than ever, partially because of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and partially because of its influence over Hezbollah: “Many Sunni Arabs found themselves praising the Shia Persians for showing mettle that in their own view was deplorably lacking in their own, more pro-American, governments.”— D.S.
New York Times Magazine, Aug. 27 A cover package on children living in New Orleans a year after Hurricane Katrina includes a portfolio of stark black-and-white photographs of kids playing in ruined neighborhoods and living in squalid apartments and cramped FEMA trailers. The accompanying essay doesn’t muster much optimism for their future. Among other catastrophes, the young population of New Orleans has plummeted from 128,000 to an estimated 48,000. … James Traub asks how and whether the international community can disarm Hezbollah. Citing examples from Africa and Eastern Europe—and especially the IRA—he shows that paramilitary groups can sometimes be effectively disarmed. But he warns that Hezbollah’s case depends on its willingness to be politically mainstreamed. And given Hezbollah’s stated goal of destroying Israel, this is a big “if.” Traub concludes, “If we take Hezbollah at its word, disarmament can come only in the wake of apocalyptic triumph.”— B.W.
The New Yorker, Aug. 28 Malcolm Gladwell looks at the pension-funds crisis, writing that the problem stems from the fact that companies that established pension funds in the 1950s have always relied on current workers to fund the pensions of retirees, and that stream of revenue has dried up. GM’s fund, for example, is $40 billion to $50 billion short: “Technology led to great advances in productivity, so that when the bulge of workers hired in the middle of the century retired and began drawing pensions, there was no one replacing them in the workforce.”… Sylvia Nasar and David Gruber discuss the Poincaré conjecture, a kind of Holy Grail of mathematics involving the characteristics of three-dimensional spheres. Now an international battle is raging over who deserves credit for solving the problem. At least one of the candidates, Russian mathematician Grigory Perelman, has taken himself out of the running for the prestigious Fields Medal. Perelman told Nasar and Gruber that “he had retired from the mathematics community and no longer considered himself a professional mathematician.”— D.S.
Related in Slate: Jordan Ellenberg on the Poincaré conjecture.
U.S. News and World Report, Aug. 28 The magazine releases its annual “Best Colleges” issue. The usual suspects (read Ivy League) pack the list of top-10 national universities. (Not surprisingly, none makes the top 10 for economic diversity.) Rutgers’ Newark campus is listed as the most ethnically diverse. Those wanting a quality education with out mortgaging their future should apply to this university, which ranks No. 1 among public universities, or this one, where all students get merit aid. For those who need a year off to find themselves, gain real world experience, or missed their school’s application deadline, the magazine suggests working abroad, interning/volunteering, or skiing in Vermont. … As President Bush’s popularity continues to decline, an article notes he is on a mission to revamp his image. Including Camus on his summer reading list and cutting his usual monthlong vacation to 10 days indicates that Bush “has come to the practical conclusion that polls do matter.” — Z.K. Related in Slate: Read John Dickerson’s take on why Bush is reading Camus here.
Time, Aug. 28
The cover story analyzes Hillary Clinton’s presidential chances, revealing that when Bill campaigns for her it’s difficult to distinguish who’s the candidate, that she’s not the most inspiring political speaker, and that as New York’s junior senator she really does care about what’s going on in Onondaga and Rockland counties. … An article explores why more Westerners are embracing Islam and why some turn to terrorism. Says one expert on Muslim extremism: “Previously—say, 20 years ago—they may have chosen communism or gone to leftist ideologies. Now Islam is the religion of those who fight against imperialism, who are treated unjustly by the arrogant Western societies and so on.”… Another article on religion focuses on the rise of Christianity in China. Although still threatened by repression and brutal crackdowns, one Hong Kong-based missionary observes: “Politically, China hasn’t changed at all … But as far as religion is concerned, it is much, much freer.”— Z.K.