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John McCain, Flip-Flopper?

The alternating worldviews of the maverick senator.

New Republic, Oct. 15 A cover piece profiles Sen. John McCain, the hawkish “maverick” whose strongest suit, the author argues, has been a willingness to change his mind. The shadow of Vietnam long colored McCain’s realist foreign-policy views. But the success of the first Gulf War, plus the massacre of Srebrenica, pushed him toward neoconservatism. But his belief in Ahmad Chalabi, WMD, and the Iraqi people’s thirst for liberation hurt his credibility. “Was I too enamored with the INC?” he asks. “I would say yes.” Now, McCain’s success as a 2008 presidential candidate may depend, again, on his willingness to admit he was wrong. Andrew Sullivan argues that former Rep. Mark Foley’s “virtual pederasty” reveals much about Republican views of homosexuality: “There is something deeply sick about a Republican elite that is comfortable around gay people, dependent on gay people, staffed by gay people—and yet also rests on brutal exploitation of homophobia to win elections at the base.”— C.B.

Economist, Oct. 7 The cover features a package of articles on the global “talent shortage.” Corporate demand for intelligent and highly skilled workers, especially scientists and engineers, is outstripping supply. The problem will be magnified in Western countries—aging populations mean large numbers of the most-skilled workers will retire in coming years—unless the United States and Europe make serious strides in reforming education. A special report on “the cold war in Asia” outlines the strained relationships among Japan, South Korea, and China—and their shared problem of North Korea. China’s ascendancy is shifting the balance of economic and military power away from Japan and its U.S. backing, and South Korea and China are both alienated by Japan’s continuing efforts to sweep its WWII crimes under the rug. “Serious consequences” could result if new Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe makes moves to aggressively rearm Japan after a possible North Korean nuclear test.— B.W.

New York Times Magazine, Oct. 8 A recent spike in elephant attacks on humans in Africa and Southeast Asia can be traced to psychological damage from decades of poaching, a cover story suggests. Scientists have long ascribed pachyderm aggression to high testosterone levels and competition over resources. But now psychologists point to “a kind of species-wide trauma” with many of the same symptoms as post-traumatic stress in humans: “abnormal startle response, unpredictable asocial behavior, inattentive mothering and hyperagression.” Rehab centers now use “passive control” therapy to heal dysfunctional elephants. “She’s as sweet as can be,” says the founder of Elephant Sanctuary about one formerly violent animal. “You’d never know that this elephant killed anybody.” A piece profiles Brian Schweitzer, Montana’s pro-gun, fiscally conservative Democratic governor. Democrats see Schweitzer as a model for replacing the “disheartening wall of red blocks” with a “blue bridge from Alberta to Mexico.”— C.B.

New York, Oct. 9 A profile of Arianna Huffington reveals her metamorphosis from Manhattan ” ‘It’ girl” to the wife of a millionaire Republican politician, from liberal gubernatorial candidate to wildy successful blogging entrepreneur. Where’s the continutity? “Huffington has continually argued for, and modeled, a (depending on one’s perspective) disarming or maddening archetype of female power that draws little distinction between personal relationships and professional ones,” the author writes. NYU law professor Burt Neuborne was lauded by the Jewish community for representing Holocaust survivors in their lawsuit against Swiss banks, at least until he submitted a bill for $ 4.7 million—outraging many who thought his work was pro bono. What’s really driving the dispute is not a misunderstanding over legal fees but “the eternal philosophical divide between idealists, who believe the Holocaust is not something anyone should be profiting from, and the market-based realists, who argue that justice has a price and it ought to be paid,” says the author.— Z.K.

The New Yorker, Oct. 9 A piece examines the history of obstetrics and its progression from craft to industry. Weaving in and out of one mother’s narrative about resorting to a C-section, the author details the numerous methods that have reduced the chances of death among full-term babies. The discovery in 1933 that two-thirds of maternal deaths were preventable led doctors to standardize childbirth. Anesthesia and labor-inducing drugs became common. Fetal heart-rate monitors gained currency. But it was the Apgar score—a simple measurement of a child’s responsiveness immediately after birth—that pushed obstetrics into the realm of “evidence-based medicine.” An article profiles Richard McNair, murderer, robber, and perennial fugitive. McNair has slipped out of handcuffs using lip balm, escaped a maximum-security prison through an air duct, and talked his way out of an interrogation. “I promise you I’m not no damn prison escapee,” he tells an officer in a video clip that has made the rounds via YouTube. “You’da done run by now,” the cop replies, and they laugh.— C.B.  

Weekly Standard, Oct. 9 William Kristol chastises congressional Democrats for committing themselves to the “kinder and gentler treatment of terrorists.” The party’s refusal to support last week’s detainee legislation is damning, according to Kristol: “The most important front in the confrontation with terror sponsoring, WMD-seeking Islamic jihadism in the next two years may well be Iran.” An article warns that Russia—“now flush with oil wealth and intent on flexing its muscles in the international arena” —is looking to regain its imperial glory days. Sponsoring breakaway referendums and infiltrating the military in its former republics are signs that “Moscow is up to no good on this one,” says one intelligence officer from an ex-Soviet territory. An article examines Keith Elison, poised to become the first Muslim in Congress, and uncovers not only some normal skeletons—unpaid taxes and parking tickets—but a longer and more involved history with the Nation of Islam than Elison has fessed up to.—Z.K.

Time, Oct. 9 Chimp and human DNA may be even more similar than scientists once believed, the cover story reports. Of the human genome’s 3 billion base pairs, only 1.23 percent differ from the chimp genome. But it’s not just genes that determine differences between species: The random mutation of “dark matter” within and surrounding the genes also drives evolution. Meanwhile, two teams of scientists are independently mapping the Neanderthal genome. “We will eventually be able to pinpoint every difference between every animal on the planet,” says one scientist. A piece claims that the GOP may not face the disastrous election season pollsters predict. For starters, Republicans are funneling three times as much cash into key states as Democrats are. They’ve also learned the lesson of Election Day 2000, when, some leaders believe, many Republicans stayed home because volunteers weren’t knocking on enough doors. RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman isn’t fazed: “We’ve been preparing for the toughest election in at least a decade.”—C.B.

Newsweek, Oct. 9 An excerpt from Bob Woodward’s new book, State of Denial, depicts Donald Rumsfeld as an aggressive micromanager who refuses to confront the realities of Iraq. When retired Gen. Jay Garner told Rumsfeld there was “still time to rectify” the mismanagement of Iraq’s army, Rumsfeld reportedly replied, “I don’t think there is anything we can do, because we are where we are.” Woodward also reveals that then-Chief of Staff Andy Card suggested replacing Rumsfeld with former Secretary of State James A. Baker, but Bush decided not to sack Rummy. “That didn’t mean he didn’t want to,” Card said A piece profiles Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq caught between the U.S. presence and their own battle with Turkey and Iran. Despite having staged more than 250 attacks on Turkey, a guerrilla leader named Blacksnake denies being a terrorist: “The U.S. has seen us through the eyes of our enemies. We want you to see us as friends.”—C.B.