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Boom in Khartoum

The Economist on Sudan’s burgeoning wealth.

Economist, Dec. 9 The cover package argues forcefully that President Bush should reject the Iraq Study Group’s recommendation to withdraw most American troops from Iraq over the next 15 months. An editorial praises many aspects of the Baker-Hamilton report, particularly its frank analysis of what has gone wrong in the war so far—but contends, “Setting an arbitrary deadline of early 2008 for most of the soldiers to depart risks weakening America’s bargaining power, intensifying instead of dampening the fighting and projecting an image of weakness that will embolden enemies everywhere.” A special report on Sudan focuses on its recent prosperity, from oil and the development of its capital into a major center for East African commerce. But the boom is heightening tensions and reigniting violence between the economically developed north and the oil-rich south—a problem that Sudan’s partners and allies are content to ignore, focusing instead on the spoils at hand.—B.W.

New Republic, Dec. 18 The cover piece examines Sen. Sam Brownback’s influence among religious conservatives and speculates about his chances for the presidency. In the 2000 elections, many conservatives chose “pragmatism” over “purity” in nominating George W. Bush. Since then, a perceived lack of success on staple issues like abortion and gay marriage has disappointed his base. Brownback, who entered Congress in 1994 as an anti-government crusader and later converted from evangelical Christianity to Catholicism, may seem like a good alternative to the more moderate Sen. John McCain. “Purity is looking more attractive by the day.” With the Supreme Court considering the role of race in public-school admissions, a piece proposes income-based school integration as a viable alternative. The advantage of desegregation wasn’t that black students could sit next to white students, studies suggest; it was that poor students now sat alongside middle-class students. The author recommends that the court allow racial integration only “as a last resort,” so that “no student has been denied a spot because of race.”— C.B.

New York, Dec. 11 An article salivates over the prospect of a 2008 third-party presidential bid by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg, whose popularity once suffered due to controversial moves such as raising property taxes, banning smoking, and closing firehouses, has become one of New York’s most popular mayors. How did he manage the make-over? “[I]n this age of shameless political kowtowing, his candor and what-the-fuck stubbornness have built him a bedrock of respect,” the author writes. These qualities make the pragmatically career-shifting billionaire not a major-party nominee but a potential third-party candidate in the mold of Ross Perot, sans the dippy conspiracy theories. Priced out of the five boroughs? Longing for that oft-mourned New York City grittiness or the next hot neighborhood? Move to downtown Jersey City, quickly, advises an article. It’s just like SoHo, Tribeca, the Village, or Williamsburg, except for the lack of bars, cafes, 24-hour restaurants, and music spots. But by the time you’re done reading the article, you’ll probably be priced out anyway, the author warns.—Z.K.

Weekly Standard, Dec 11 Fred Barnes advises President Bush to save his legacy with some daring outside-the-box moves. The list includes sacking the generals in charge of Iraq, deterring North Korea from using nukes by promising retaliation if they hit the United States or one of its allies, and putting a stop to our dependency on foreign oil by pursuing energy alternatives. But if Bush’s really wants to secure his legacy and help out his successor, Barnes suggest that his “final gift to the world” ought to be going into Iran and taking out all of their nuclear facilities. He rationalizes the move this way: “The world would be aghast—but also relieved, and without admitting it, enormously grateful.” An article sniffs out an ulterior motive to Pope Benedict’s recent trip to Turkey. Behind the “squishy” photo-ops and diplomatic visits, the pontiff is angling to stem the tide of radical Islam encouraged through “Western hollowness,” by “calling Muslims to share a commitment to peace.”—Z.K.

New York Times Magazine, Dec. 10 A piece compares the Iraq conflict to historical civil wars. Stanford professor James D. Fearon studied numerous civil conflicts, most of which “lasted more than 10 years and normally ended with decisive military victory rather than power-sharing agreements.” America’s current strategy, he says, “is highly unlikely to succeed, whether the U.S. stays in Iraq for six more months or six more years.” Another expert sees similarities with Lebanon’s civil war, in which the players kept fighting as long as they felt they could take power. Only when they “realized that none of them would win” did they agree to negotiate. The “Year in Ideas” issue collects notable inventions, discoveries, theories, and trends from 2006. Among the inventions, there’s the invisible spy hover-camera, the unhittable “gyroball” pitching technique, and the beer siphon that fits under your clothes. The list includes new research findings, too: Monet’s paintings may help estimate air quality in turn-of-the-century London; bicycle helmets make you less safe; posters depicting eyes make people feel watched and change their behavior.— C.B.

Time and Newsweek, Dec. 11 The Newsweek cover story predicts that the Bush administration may be reluctant to heed Iraq Study Group recommendations. Bush is notoriously stubborn, and his aides take a “dismissive, even condescending” tone toward the Baker commission. In their minds, the commission “is just one of three ongoing reviews of Iraq policy … and not the most important one at that.” As for James Baker, the former secretary of state has assumed a low profile since the invasion. “I used to get asked why I didn’t want to push on to Baghdad [in the 1991 Gulf War],” Baker likes to say. “I don’t get asked that question much anymore.” Time’s cover piece, meanwhile, speculates that President Bush will listen to the commission’s advice. But given his obstinacy, to call the change a “reversal is a misnomer; it would be more like a personality transplant.” The report isn’t expected to set a timetable for withdrawal but may recommend leveraging the threat of withdrawal in return for Iraqi cooperation. News that Donald Rumsfeld had suggested a “major adjustment” in Iraq strategy before resigning suggests Bush is considering a tactical shift. Of course, circumstances may quickly render any plan obsolete: “What we have produced is a plan for December,” says a commission official. “We have no idea what things are going to look like in February.”

The fallout following former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko’s poisoning has many people eyeing Russia and President Vladimir Putin with suspicion, according to a Newsweek piece. Though British intelligence has identified no connections to Putin, the incident has helped reinforce the country’s reputation as “international bully.” As Hezbollah pushes for Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to resign, a piece reports that Lebanon may be facing another civil war. The Lebanese Army’s commander reportedly fears the government cannot contain protests for long, as many of his Shiite troops would refuse to take on their fellow Shiites in Hezbollah.—C.B.

The New Yorker, Dec. 11 In an essay on Walt Disney, Anthony Lane traces the animator’s life from his Missouri upbringing through the thrilling early animations to his later, less inspired work. A new book on Disney treats the early years of Mickey Mouse like a “head-long thriller,” Lane writes: “There is nothing more inspiring than to be in on the birth of a new art form or a new technology, and Disney was there for both.” Lane defends Disney from critics who charge him with taking too much credit for his company’s films: “It is true that Disney cartoons were not physically sketched by Disney, but you might as well complain that Henry Ford was not to be found underneath a Model T, tightening nuts.” A piece examines how the American version of The Office, expected to be a dud, topped its BBC predecessor. The adaptation has all the same trappings of a Beckett play, yet with its own reality-bending twists: “The British scabrousness and barely suppressed violence is gone, and the Scranton office—brighter and noisier, with more posters, parties, and pep—is Slough on Zoloft.”— C.B. Mother Jones, November and December A sprawling cover piece argues that human beings must adapt to the challenge of global warming. Twelve geological “tipping points,” from Amazon deforestation to the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet, may force climate change to spin out of control. According to the article, to avoid catastrophe, we must reach a “13th tipping point: the shift in human perception from personal denial to personal responsibility.” Americans fall along a spectrum from “naysayers” to “alarmists,” the latter of which will grow with sustained public education, says an expert. But the combination of sensationalist media and “social loafing”—the tendency to slack when one is not accountable—has delayed progress. A piece questions the value of corporate social responsibility. For every conscience-driven business like Ben & Jerry’s or Seventh Generation, there are numerous firms looking to cut costs wherever possible. The author recommends good old Roosevelt-era regulation. This would mean imposing penalties that “put possible global warming liability on the same scale as the fallout from asbestos.”— C.B.