Newsweek, Sept. 24 The cover story is part of a package that includes a forward-looking excerpt of Alan Greenspan’s new book. The pieces that accompany the excerpt are informative, but the selection itself isn’t the most appropriate. Instead of publishing the book’s harshly worded critique of George W. Bush’s administration, the piece is a forecast of the global economy through 2030. While Greenspan’s ideas are interesting, he admits that they’re abstract thoughts and could change, particularly if unexpected events steer the economy downward. … A piece on how Iraqis put themselves in peril by helping Americans is old news, but it still manages to illustrate how difficult it is for Iraqis to assist U.S. diplomats and military forces. It tells the well-crafted story of two parents’ efforts to rebuild Iraq and find legal outlets for their children to emigrate. At one point, it half-heartedly tries to call attention to the growing numbers of Iraqi refugees, but it does best when it concentrates on its central characters’ tragic story.—C.M.
The New Yorker, Sept. 24 In the magazine’s Style issue, Oliver Sacks writes about Clive Wearing, a man who suffers from “the most devastating case of amnesia ever recorded.” A brain infection reduced his memory span to mere seconds and rendered him unable to recall much of his past life. But Wearing, once a prominent musician and musicologist, still retains his love for his wife, Deborah, and his musical capabilities. The music allows Wearing to exist in a perpetual present, a world in which the notes bubble up to fill the riverbed of his mind, and thus propels him through a life he cannot remember. … James Surowiecki reports on the controversial mimicry of retailers like H&M and Zara, which imitate the work of high-end designers and sell these copies at a significantly reduced rate. They aren’t counterfeiters, but the practice nonetheless rankles many top designers. Surowiecki argues that the big brands require these copiers: “[F]or the industry to keep growing, customers must like this year’s designs, but they also must become dissatisfied with them, so they’ll buy next year’s.”— E.G.
Weekly Standard, Sept. 24 The cover story rails against the “big-government conservatism” that produced No Child Left Behind. The legislation requires big-government oversight, slows the whole pack to make sure the weakest can keep up, and “makes a fetish of racial classification; it is, indeed, the most explicitly racialist piece of legislation since the fall of Jim Crow.” According to the writer, big-government conservatism emerged out of the pre-Bush days when governorships were the primary force for conservative change. The piece is at times intriguing, but often gets mired in dense policy details. … In an obviously partisan but interesting column, Fred Barnes argues that Gen. David Petraeus’ testimony last week slowed Washington’s race “toward full-blown rejection of America’s intervention in Iraq.” For the Democrats, the testimony was “a wrenching ordeal” because it made their calls for withdrawal appear hasty and ill-informed. The Democrats failed to distinguish themselves while questioning the general, proving, according to Barnes, that the presence of a serious war expert is the “scariest” thing they have to confront.— D.S.
New York Review of Books, Sept. 27
An article on Al Gore’s The Assault on Reason raises the familiar-feeling point that the former vice president “has flourished as a prophetic citizen” now that he’s been “freed finally from the demands of politics and the burden of expectations that has been with him all his life.” Still, the piece ventures interestingly into the grass-roots mania behind DraftGore.com, home to such strange campaign paraphernalia as a Woody Guthrie-style folk song, “Run Al Run!” and a poster that depicts “Gore as a latter-day Zapata.” … A review of Send, an e-mail etiquette manual, explores the angst senders and receivers inject into online communication. Authors Shipley and Schwalbe advise their readers to “consciously insert tone into an email,” cautioning them that “the message written without regard to tone becomes a blank screen onto which the reader projects his own fears, prejudices and anxieties.” Their solution for the toneless e-mail? The exclamation point.—M.S.
Time, Sept. 14 The cover story looks at the changing role spouses are playing in this year’s presidential campaign. Spouses getting involved in their husband’s administration are nothing new, as evidenced by Abigail Adams and Eleanor Roosevelt. But the writer argues that while a spouse’s influence hasn’t changed, the amount of public exposure has. Elizabeth Edwards and Michelle Obama campaigning for their husbands are only the most obvious examples. The article also devotes a significant portion to the next big thing in presidential spousal roles: first husband. … An article focuses on the efforts of some gym teachers to increase childhood exercise by, of all things, purchasing video game equipment. Kids aren’t playing Halo 3 but “exergaming systems”—games like Dance Dance Revolution, where moving your body controls the game. Studies suggest that some exergames may be better than, say, walking on a treadmill, but there is no word on how it performs compared with traditional gym-class aerobic activities, like soccer. It’s an insidious effort, suggests one pro-exergaming social worker: “We are tricking them into exercising.”— J.M.
Economist, Sept. 15 The nuanced cover editorial offers a gloomy prognosis for the war in Iraq but, nevertheless, concludes that American forces should stay. The magazine was not impressed by Gen. David Patraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker’s testimony this week, as “the spin General Petraeus put on the military achievements of the surge exaggerated the gains.” The writers make their distaste for the situation abundantly clear but argue, “America owes something to Iraq’s people” for having self-interestedly invaded their country. The war may already be the complete failure that the Democrats are calling it, but at the moment we have no way of being completely certain.”… An article criticizes the relaxed U.S. reaction to the overthrow of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Sharif was an “appalling” leader but “represents something without which democracy cannot thrive—a real political movement with popular support.” His successor has shown no evidence that he’s interested in returning to democracy. American spokespeople called the developments “an internal matter,” but they’re wrong: “Whether Pakistan moves back to democracy, or is condemned to authoritarianism, is of great interest to America, and the rest of the world.”—D.S.
Atlantic, October 2007
A superb cover story on Bill Clinton’s philanthropic endeavors artfully describes how the former president is trying to change the face of philanthropy for years to come. The piece outlines the business model of the Clinton Foundation’s Climate Initiative and its efforts to curb harmful emissions by focusing on profit margins and market economics. Clinton and his partner Ira Magaziner, who spearheaded Clinton’s failed universal health-care proposal in 1993, are convinced that inviting the private sector into the energy market is the only way to make energy-efficient products available enough to change consumers’ behavior. If this article is any indication, Clinton has certainly convinced the press that his brand of philanthropy has revolutionary potential. … The magazine adds more fodder to the mainstream media’s canon of Facebook.com articles with an above-average piece. This iteration analyzes Facebook’s not-so-recent decision to allow third-party developers to design applications for the social networking site. The piece’s rational thesis is that Facebook’s “walled-garden” approach may succeed because users are so overwhelmed by the vast infinity the Internet has to offer outside of the site’s confines.—C.M.
New York, Sept. 17 An enterprising New Yorker tells the hilarious, fascinating story of creating a tiny farm in his 800-square-foot Brooklyn back yard. To put to the test the arguments of the “locavore” movement—that people should eat only what’s grown within a few miles of their home—he planned to live exclusively off the farm for one month. But he’s hardly begun before the forces of nature interfere: withering plants, cannibalistic rabbits, a psychotic egg-eating chicken, and, finally, a tornado. He loves the taste of the homegrown food, but after spending $11,000 and severing a finger, he concludes that it’s “miserable, soul-crushing work.”… An article profiles a brash man: New York Post Editor Col Allan, an Australian whom one friend says “can drink just about anybody I know, with the exception of Christopher Hitchens, under many tables.” Amid a flurry of Post scandals that include favor-trading and strip-club visits, Allan remains as defiant and offensive as his paper’s bold headlines. He hates the hyprocrisy of his detractors and knows “what a glass house looks like.”— D.S.
New York Times Magazine, Sept. 16
A comprehensive cover story looks at the “flip-flop rhythm of science” through the lens of hormone replacement therapy. It was initially thought to prevent heart attacks and osteoporosis in women, but a later study concluded that it led to a higher risk of stroke, blood clots, and breast cancer. The writer warns that any of a number of clinical biases, statistical variations, and the public’s tendency to quickly jump to conclusions makes studying chronic diseases an inexact art at best, an impossible endeavor at worst. The conclusion is, like all good advice, common sense: “[R]emain skeptical.” … A fascinating profile of Russian/Israeli diamond mogul Lev Leviev investigates the intersection of religion and business in the life of “the man who broke De Beers international diamond cartel.” The world’s 210th richest man spends his time expanding his business empire, leveraging his estimated $4 billion to $8 billion fortune to advance his fundamentalist Chabad brand of Judaism through schools and community-building. He also takes potshots at Warren Buffet when he can: “A lot of very rich men wait too long to give their money away.”—J.M.
National Review, Sept. 24 In a fat, six-part editorial, the magazine’s editors reconstruct the strategic and moral case for staying and winning in Iraq. “This war can still be won, but only if we have the nerve and patience to see it through.”… An article on the recent disrobing of Sen. Larry Craig muses over the secret life of the undercover cop who busted him. “What a job! Did he, I wonder, go to work every morning (if that is when he set out for work) with a song in his heart? Did he tell his wife the nature of his current posting, and in what detail?”… An essay explains and forgives the Mother Teresa’s crisis of faith, revealed in recently released private correspondences in which the Catholic nun described her inability to feel the presence of God. “They are not really signs of doubt, although at times they feel like that. They are in fact signs of Christian adulthood. …”—G.H.