Today, Other Magazines reads the Economist, the New York Times Magazine, Time, Portfolio, Smithsonian, and the Atlantic to find out what’s worth your time today—and what’s not.
Portfolio reports on the changing face of protests in China and suggests that these demonstrations—led by educated, Internet-savvy urbanites outraged by the government’s attempts to seize their property—may lead to revolution. Chinese citizens can often be forced off their property with little warning or compensation, and such seizures have become increasingly common as the Beijing Olympics approach. Says one researcher, “they are asking for more rights for their property, and they’ll wind up asking for democratic management, democratic votes, due process.”—E.G.
Best International Piece
The Economist finds inspiration in the Eastern Europe “color revolutions” of Georgia and Ukraine. (Georgia used the color pink to represent unity and change, while Ukraine used an orange hue.) Though imperfect, their moves toward democracy represent a Western-friendly counterpoint to Russia’s turn to totalitarianism.—J.R.
Best Economics Article
In the Atlantic,James Fallows examines the mounting Chinese holdings in U.S. foreign currency. Fallows explores why the Asian economic juggernaut continues to park its earnings in the falling dollar. The piece also follows the voyage of a dollar spent in an American drug store to its final destination as a U.S. Treasury note held by the Chinese government.—A.J.
Best Business Feature
Portfolio investigates the role of former government agents in the business world, as corporate espionage becomes “almost as sophisticated as government spying.” An estimated several hundred former intelligence operatives now work in the private sector. The agents, many of whom resigned from the CIA after 9/11, apply their old skills to new targets and are compensated handsomely in return.—E.G.
Best Campaign Piece
The Economist cover piece says that of course “change” is the core issue of the U.S. presidential campaign, “with the economy reeling, politics gridlocked, young people dying in Iraq and the Bush administration a global byword for callous incompetence. …” Unfortunately, Americans aren’t sure what change means. Obama the “hope-monger,” the “Bible-wielding” Huckabee, and Clinton the “Comeback Kid” all promise different remedies, and voters can’t seem to make up their minds.—J.R.
The New York Times Magazine takes on Republican Party operative Stephen Marks, who was hired to trash Democrats. Watch him try to rationalize his dirty tricks. “The voter has the right to know the history of any candidate,” he insists. “Negative politics have been going on since the beginnings of our democracy,” he adds.—J.L.
Best Entertainment Piece
Time magazine draws an interesting comparison between the unpredictable nature of this year’s presidential campaign and the return of late-night television sans writers. The piece examines the symbiotic nature of the politicians and late-night hosts and concludes that “TV’s talkers—among others—learned that it’s not always terrible to rip up the script.”—A.J.
Most Unexpected Environmental Piece
Time reports that the introduction of more ergonomic cloth diapers, as well as the consumer trend of buying green, has led to an unexpected surge in sales of cloth diapers. According to the piece, “Cloth converts are a mix of environmentalists, earth mamas, cost conscious parents and those who argue that cloth diapering is healthier.”—A.J.
A New York Times Magazine piece on discarded cell phones notes, “[I]n 2005 there were already more than half a billion old phones sitting in American drawers. That added up to more than $300 million worth of gold, palladium, silver, copper, and platinum.”—J.L.
Best Culture Piece
Four months after thousands of protesters descended upon Jena, La., to decry what they perceived as the unfair punishment of six African-American teenagers, the Atlantic appraises whether the surrounding media frenzy precipitated any real changes. The piece dispels many of the inaccuracies proffered by both sides of the issue in their rush to pass judgment, and discovers that after the cameras left, little in Jena has changed.—A.J.
Best Book Review
The Economist runs a superb review of Gomorrah, Roberto Saviano’s book documenting the globalization of the Naples Mafia. No more stealing stereos off the back of trucks—these gangsters traffic in sweatshop labor, arms deals, and international money laundering.—J.R.
Best Cover Story
In the New York Times Magazine, Harvard professor Steven Pinker agrues that “we are born with a universal moral grammar that forces us to analyze human action in terms of its moral structure.” The “moral sense,” Pinker writes, may very well be “an innate part of human nature.” It’s a fascinating piece, full of cocktail-party fodder.—J.L.
Best Science Article
Smithsonian follows Yale psychologist Laurie Santos, who is researching whether primates possess “the ability to impute thoughts and intentions to another individual,” which is considered “one of the cornerstones of human cognition.” After conducting a number of experiments with rhesus macaques, Santos concludes that the animals can determine the intentions of others if “they correspond to their own perceptions of reality, but they cannot make the leap to the concept of a false belief.”—E.G.
Best Psychology Article
Time magazine reports on a study conducted by Sam Harris, the outspoken atheist and author of The End of Faith, regarding the brain’s reaction to unpalatable statements or lies. According to Harris, the brain perceives false statements in the same way it perceives bad tastes or smells. Harris hopes to expand his research to prove that negative reactions to anti-religious statements are more a matter of biology than of faith.—A.J.
Best Photo Essay
The Atlantic publishes a collection of photographs highlighting the stark conditions at the detention facilities in Guantanamo Bay. While the print edition is accompanied by analysis by Andrew Sullivan, the online version features an expanded collection of photographs and commentary by the photographer himself.—A.J.