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Power Shot

The Economist says that nuclear energy may be facing a revival. Sort of.

Economist, Sept. 8 An excessively evenhanded cover story cautiously declares the revival of nuclear power. Despite the public’s old anti-nuclear sentiment, “[g]eopolitics, technology, economics and the environment are all changing in nuclear power’s favor.” But the piece cautions that nuclear power’s future is uncertain because its “green virtues do not show up in its costs” and—wait—the public is still wary. And the “nuclear industry needs to persuade people that it is clean, cheap and safe enough to rely on without a government crutch.” So what happened to its revival? The comprehensive technology quarterly contains 18 articles on various aspects of the tech industry. A pair of pieces, one about the stymied progress of cleaning up around Ground Zero and one on U.S. homeland security, quietly mark the upcoming anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.—M.S.

Time, Sept. 17
Time’s cover story goes FAQ-style to bring readers up to speed on Iraq ahead of Gen. David Petraeus’ visit to Congress. The article offers succinct answers to the major questions hovering over Capitol Hill and Iraq (“Did the surge work?”) and implies that the status quo will continue after Petraeus comes and goes. The debate may really be more about U.S. politics than Iraqi security. “It is likely that some of the votes that take place this fall will be as much about the future of Congress as about the future of Iraq.” An overly gushy piece on the school reform movement in New Orleans fails to convince that new charter schools are the first step to revitalizing the city. Hurricane Katrina “opened the path for energetic reformers who want to make New Orleans a laboratory of new ideas for urban schools.” Unfortunately, the idealistic article ignores how students’ tumultuous lives outside of school will affect their performance in the classroom.—C.M.

Harper’s, September 2007 In a report examining the sunnier side of global warming, a writer accompanies a Canadian naval ship headed to the Arctic on a “sovereignty operation” to stake out claims for resource extraction and development. The stakes are high—Russia has already claimed an area of 460,000 square miles with an estimated 10 billion tons of gas and oil—and could get higher if global warming makes the region, and its many natural resources, more accessible. With many nations jockeying for potentially lucrative territories in the Arctic, the writer examines the potential conflicts that may arise in this “last great imperial partition.” An essay examines criticism of the “failing” American education system and the multiple roles that schools are expected to play in society. The writer concludes that asking schools to solve every social problem of the past 50 years is simply impossible: “Perhaps it is time we thought of schools as places where our children might simply learn something—not just for our benefit, not just for the nation’s, but for their own.”— J.M.

New York Times Magazine, Sept. 9 An excellent cover story examines Rudy Giuliani’s 9/11-heavy “civilization struggle” rhetoric. Giuliani, the author argues, has (con)fused policy with personality so that his solution to any problem is essentially the same: “[T]he American president [has] to be someone the rest of the world fear[s], someone a little too rash and belligerent for anyone else’s comfort.” In short, the details don’t matter so long as there’s a Churchill- or Reagan-like figure at the helm—and that just so happens to be how Giuliani’s positioning himself in his presidential bid. An article profiles a new single-issue lobby group: Americans Against Escalation in Iraq. Unlike the rambunctious anti-Vietnam movement “managed from college campuses and coffee houses,” the AAEI is a “multimillion-dollar operation run by media-savvy professionals.” They use the Internet, not the streets, to influence politicians. Can they end the war? Maybe, maybe not, but the author suggests that suited-up AAEI members have a better chance at success than their tie-dye-wearing forebears.— J.L.

Mother Jones, September and October 2007 The cover story is an unsettling piece about the “School of Shock,” otherwise known as the Rotenberg Center, a Massachusetts-based school for kids with severe behavioral problems, including those caused by autism and ADD. Rotenberg uses equally severe tactics such as electrode shocks, white noise helmets, and pinching to keep them in line. Founder Matthew Israel is the mastermind behind one treatment that requires disobedient students to wear a backpack equipped with electrodes attached to their bodies at all hours of the day. When they act up, they receive shocks that increase in intensity. The school bills itself as the last resort for desperate parents whose kids have impossible and often dangerous behavioral problems, and it does summon some support from its client base. But opposition groups have been attempting to shut down its pseudoscientific and tortuous methods for nearly two decades. Amid student deaths and reports of treatment that would make a Dickensian orphan cringe, the question remains: Why haven’t they succeeded?—M.S.

Men’s Vogue, September 2007 A glowing profile reviews Tony Blair’s legacy as a tough interventionist prime minister as he leaves Downing Street: “Having lifted the country in palpable ways, Blair has staked a claim as one of the country’s great 20th-century leaders.” He made “water flow up a mountain” by establishing peace in Northern Ireland, his standout foreign achievement. Now, as he leaves office to become an envoy to the Middle East, he “appears determined to work furiously.” In a humorous, engaging essay, a fortysomething writer relates his experience playing soccer in the just-for-writers version of the World Cup. After receiving the invitation of his dreams, he ignores his body’s stern warnings: “I imagined myself once again in the full flight of my youth on the brilliant green grass of a crowded Swedish stadium, the three lions of England on my chest, hapless Germans and Italians in my wake.” But having athletic aspirations crushed, he discovers, doesn’t get any easier with age.— D.S.

New Republic, Sept. 10 The comprehensive cover story rails against the Republicans’ entrenched economic policy of promoting tax cuts for the rich as a cure-all for any economic problem. Over the last 30 years, the GOP has abandoned its roots and subscribed to the “cult” of supply-side economics and tax cuts, according to the piece. Relying heavily on history and mathematics, it argues that “supply-side economics is not merely an economic program. It’s a totalistic ideology.” While tax cuts don’t usually make for the most exciting material, the article manages to make its high-minded subject matter engaging to the tax code novice. An insightful look at Alaskan Sen. Ted Stevens examines how he earned so much clout in the Senate in spite of his infamous temper and pork-barrel spending. Federal authorities are investigating whether Stevens inappropriately accepted home renovations, but the piece suggests he doesn’t care. He’s so vital to Alaska’s economy that he feels he is on righteous ground, regardless of how poisonous his actions may be to America’s budget.— C.M.

Newsweek, Sept. 10
The fluffy cover story asks whether Fred Thompson is “made of presidential material.” On the plus side, Thompson has a cinematic, Reagan-esque life story: He knocked up his girlfriend when he was in high school, got married young, put himself through law school, became a senator, got a gig on Law & Order, etc. But the received wisdom in Washington is that Thompson doesn’t have the appetite for a long campaign, and he’s had some trouble raising money. There’s little analysis here, but if you’re looking for some basic facts on the presidential wannabe, then this article’s a good place to start. A late-to-the-party article breezes through last week’s bathroom scandal and provides a mini profile of Sgt. David Karsnia, the officer who arrested Larry Craig. Karsnia “is particularly adept at catching cruisers”—he’s made a dozen such arrests since May. He’s a “humble, hardworker” who didn’t “gloat about capturing Craig.”— J.L.

Weekly Standard, Sept. 10 The dense but informative cover story counters the notion that al-Qaida in Iraq is separate from the global al-Qaida network and is somehow less important to the fight against terrorism. Frederick Kagan systematically explores the common ideology that unites AQI with the global al-Qaida: takifirism, “a radical reinterpretation of Islam that discards over a thousand years of Islamic scholarship and cautious tradition.” Iraqis need assistance resisting the takifiris and protection from retaliatory violence, a task that is “dauntingly complex, but not beyond the power of coalition forces to understand and execute.” A column diagnoses the Republican Party’s new default response to scandal: “clean house.” Last week’s debacle with Sen. Larry Craig hit just as the GOP was quietly forcing the retirements of scandal-ridden members like Rep. Rick Renzi, and the party was “instantly united” in the effort to remove Craig from office. After the disastrous results of the Mark Foley scandal, Republicans are “desperate not to have another corruption-driven defeat in 2008.”— D.S.

Texas Monthly, September 2007
The cover story fawns over recently deceased former first lady Lady Bird Johnson and attempts to connect her childhood to her White House experiences. Her love of wildflowers as a young girl evidently influenced the Highway Beautification Act of 1965, while the fact that her “regular playmates were two black girls” recalls her support for the Civil Rights Act of 1967. The profile comes fully fluffed, claiming that Lady Bird “represented the best of Texas womanhood,” while also managing to see her as a “bridge between the less visible roles of the forties and fifties to the era of women’s liberation.” An article debunks the “perverse logic” of U.S. v. Ramos and Compean—the case of two Border Patrol agents who were convicted and jailed for assault and obstruction of justice, while the drug smuggler they were pursuing was granted immunity and allowed to walk free. The writer traces how through a selective choosing of facts, the case became a “cause-célèbre” for Lou Dobbs and the anti-amnesty blogosphere.— J.M.