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Kosher Wars

The New York TimesMagazine examines the battle over food and religion.

New York Times Magazine, Oct. 12 In the “Food” issue, an article examines the debate over kosher meat that “harks back to longstanding Jewish questions about the purpose of religious observance.” The “ethical-kashrut movement,” which emphasizes social justice and the humane treatment of animals, is growing in Reform and Conservative communities, spurred in part by revelations of horrifying killing and labor practices in large-scale kosher operations. But some Orthodox rabbis oppose reform because “it grafts trendy values and ideas onto a practice whose real purpose is mysterious and unknowable.” A piece on tipping weighs the custom against fixed service charges. Tipping proponents say that instituting a fixed gratuity can actually reduce waiters’ salaries because, unlike a traditional tip, it’s fully taxed, and states don’t legally restrict its redistribution to other restaurant workers.

New York Review of Books, Oct. 23
A piece by Peter Galbraith rejects claims that victory is near in Iraq. The White House touts reduced sectarian violence as proof that Iraq has “turned a corner.” But declining violence, though “a welcome development … is not the same as success.” Moreover, the U.S. invaded Iraq not to end sectarian strife but to establish a “unified, democratic, and stable Iraq” while Washington’s current approach to the war “has put the United States on the side of undemocratic Iraqis who are Iran’s allies.” An essay traces the parallels between James Baldwin and Barack Obama. In their writings, both men discuss a similar disconnect from their fathers: They each suggest “the father was more black than the son” and “sought to make clear their fathers’ pasts were not their own pasts.” Obama further mirrors Baldwin in his attraction to religion and his belief that traditional racial politics inadequately address the legacy of racism. But most striking is how, in speeches and essays, both men seem intent on “remaking the world against all the odds in their own likeness.”

Time, Oct. 20 In the cover package on race and the election, a piece features a Missouri county that, for half a century, has gone to every winning presidential candidate. “There’s still time … for doubts to resurface, for suspicions to harden,” but many of the bellwether voters in this rural county prefer Obama. Their sentiments echo what polls already show: “[A] sour and deteriorating economy is helping Obama close the deal with white America.” Another piece calls the Obama campaign “the anti-O.J. trial” for African-Americans. It’s “a 24-hour ongoing drama about a black man cast not as a problem but, potentially, as the solution.” The author predicts that “an Obama defeat would be met with resignation more than rage” because, though it would be “hugely disappointing” for the black community, “it would also be more of the same.”

Economist, Oct. 11 The cover story notes that the “unprecedented coordinated interest-rate cut … by the world’s main central banks” offers the “first glimmers of a comprehensive global answer” for current economic woes. Any solution to the problem “has to be both more systemic and more global than before.” But “even in the best of circumstances, the consequences of the biggest asset and credit bubble in history will linger.” An article reveals that, though Obama’s Chicago roots are “a principal part of the McCain campaign’s effort to bring Mr Obama down,” the city itself “remains the centre of efforts to lift him up.” Many Illinoisans—especially Chicagoans—enthusiastically support the Democratic candidate “while being well aware that his local record does not quite square with his national image.” A piece details the scandals plaguing competitive sumo wrestling: “match-fixing, widespread pot-smoking,” and this month’s trial of three wrestlers accused of beating a teenage trainee to death.

Portfolio, October 2008 An article wonders whether the government should “reregulate” the flagging airline industry. Reregulation would create “some form of congestion pricing, a tougher set of bankruptcy laws for airlines,” and an “improved air traffic control system.” Sure, prices would increase, but passengers would “get better, more predictable service … and airlines that operated intelligently would actually make some money.” A piece dissects the Obama campaign’s much-discussed restriction on lobbyists’ contributions and concludes it’s still easy for K Street dollars to enter the candidate’s coffers. Under the ban, spouses of lobbyists, state lobbyists, “partners at law firms that engage in lobbying,” and “C.E.O’s, chairs, and officers of corporations” can all still donate. There are also “few restrictions on donations to political conventions,” so both the DNC and RNC “were paid for by a slew of direct corporate donors.”

Must Read
The New York Times Magazine article on the denominational clash over competing interpretations of kosher law analyzes the tension between humane food production and strict adherence to religious tradition.

Must Skip
Time’s cover package on race and the election seems a reprise of what’s already been extensively covered on the topic since the beginning of the primaries.

Best Politics Piece
A New Yorker essay considers how, in the current campaign season, “words” have become the “new Republican hate word.”

Best Culture Piece
A New Yorkfeature traces the increasingly aggressive evolution of branded entertainment.

Pithiest Source
In the New Republic’s cover story on Sarah Palin, a woman who sat on the Wasilla City Council with her says, “Sarah is intimidated, in my personal opinion, by people who are intelligent.”