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Brits for Barack

The Economist endorses Obama.

The Economist, Nov. 1 The magazine endorses Barack Obama for president, lamenting that John McCain has “too often seemed the victim of political sorcery.” While worries remain over the thinness of Obama’s résumé and his reported leftism, the magazine finds Obama more fit to deal with the daunting challenges facing America. “In terms of painting a brighter future for America and the world, Mr Obama has produced the more compelling and detailed portrait. He has campaigned with more style, intelligence and discipline than his opponent. Whether he can fulfil his immense potential remains to be seen. But Mr Obama deserves the presidency.” Seniors already make up 35 percent of voters, but their clout as a voting block will only grow in coming years as baby boomers grow longer in the tooth. “Grey voters,” who had been firmly in their peer John McCain’s camp, have shifted increasingly to Obama.

Time, Nov. 10 A columnist frets over “the Urkel effect” in this election, arguing that it may keep America from voting for a Columbia- and Harvard-educated “giant-eared” nerd. Comedian John Hodgman, however, maintains that the country’s “lack of desire to drink even a malty Belgian beer with Obama will actually help him,” as America has tired of jocks over the last eight years. While our society may be “ready to accept a black President,” he writes, “it still clings to a treasured stereotype: that all black people are cool and all nerds are white.” A dispatch from Ohio’s Hamilton County, the kind of place where “they hunt Democrats with dogs for sport,” finds that it could swing blue this year. While the state went for Clinton in the primary, Obama performed best in Hamilton, which is one-quarter African-American.

New York Times Magazine, Nov. 1 The cover story profiles Lauren Zalaznick, the quirky television executive responsible for expanding Bravo’s stable of reality shows since 2004. Zalaznick has taken the basic reality TV formula of “terrible if you’re living it, great if you’re watching it” and tried to craft shows that attract a hip niche audience. “Instead of eating insects, navigating obstacle courses or flaunting their physical charms to woo lonely rich guys, the contestants on Bravo compete, with just as much zeal, to show their good taste and talent in high-status fields like food, fashion and design.” An article chronicles one Treasury official’s attempt to neutralize Iran by compelling the world’s banking sector to cut them off. Officials have touted the program as “the most direct and aggressive stuff we’ve got going.” But the undertaking is complicated by states like Dubai, one of Iran’s biggest trading partners.

Portfolio, November A profile looks at Dov Charney, the hands-on founder and CEO of American Apparel. The country’s largest clothing manufacturer is known for hiring immigrants and offering generous employee perks, including health insurance, an in-house health clinic, subsidized meals, and English classes. Charney’s legacy may ultimately be his support for immigrant rights. But for now, he’s most famous for his alleged sexual harassment of models and other females in his general vicinity. “Mention him and people make a sound of distaste and then ask if he is really an exhibitionist-pornographer-compulsive masturbator.” An article examines “Kosher king” Aaron Rubashkin, whose family-owned Iowa meatpacking plant was raided by the feds in May for allegedly hiring illegal immigrants and using child labor. Rubashkin maintains he never hired children. Instead, he says, the company’s problems were “rooted in a kind of naive, family-butcher-shop mentality.”

Harper’s, November Ken Silverstein finds that many of the rumors about Obama are circulated by “freelance” smear artists who harness the viral power of the Internet and do the Republican Party’s dirty work pro bono. “G.O.P. surrogates and operatives can sift through a vast quantity of viral takedowns, forwarding along the ones most likely to energize the party faithful and generate fears about Obama among the broader electorate.” Letters from the late David Foster Wallace to Yale students in a nonfiction writing class are published for the first time. When asked whether he had ever not written something out of concern for the subject’s feelings, Wallace responds that a writer’s primary allegiance must be to the reader, keeping in mind that “life is short, and hard, and it seems like a good policy to inflict the absolute minimum pain/humiliation on other people as we schlep through the day.”

Must Read
Susan Dominus’ look at Lauren Zalaznick in the New York Times Magazine demystifies the changes seen in Bravo’s hip reality television lineup over the last four years.

Must Skip
Responding to the accusation that John McCain’s campaign lacks a coherent theme, a piece in the Weekly Standard argues that McCain himself is the theme.

Best Politics Piece
Margaret Talbot’s piece in TheNew Yorker on teenage sex in red and blue states explains the almost jubilant reaction among evangelicals to Bristol Palin’s pregnancy.

Best Culture Piece
A profile of the three child stars of the musical Billy Elliot lays out the challenges of life as a Broadway prodigy. Their parents, unlike so many parents with overscheduled, talented children, emerge as sympathetic characters.

Late to the Party
David von Drehle’s Time piece on how Obama and McCain would lead seems helpful only to America’s five remaining undecided voters. (And, as David Sedaris asked in the Oct. 27 issue of The New Yorker, who are they, anyway?)