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Raising the Bar

The Weekly Standard on the return of classic cocktails.

Weekly Standard, Aug. 3 The cover story calls the return of the classic cocktail a “rediscovery of antique knowledge.” High-end restaurants, which have long made their profits on beverages, now see a “serious bar program” as the next step in a culinary revolution. A new generation of bartenders who lived through the 1990s revival of “serious interest in booze” is dedicated to the profession’s venerable history. Many classic mixes are reappearing under trendy new names, and American liquor stores are stocked with “an amazing array of new products.” An editorial argues that President Obama’s health care plan is laden with hidden costs and provisions that the president hoped to ram through Congress before anyone has time to discover them. But an “extraordinary wave of public concern” has slowed its passage long enough for serious examination, and its cost and the prospect of government rationing “are worse than even worst than most of their critics have grasped.”

The New Yorker, Aug. 3 An article examines Amazon’s Kindle and finds it wanting. The screen is “greenish, sickly gray,” making it impossible to read in the dark or in the bright sun. Numerous books aren’t available, and when they are, they’re “closed clumps of code that only one purchaser can own. A copy of a Kindle book dies with its owner.” Kindle newspapers omit illustrations and, on some days, the most important stories. Worst of all, it only supports formats that Amazon controls. A long account of a road trip through Siberia sets the scene in the boundary-less area of northern Russia that has become a metaphor for isolation. It makes up one-twelfth of all the land on Earth. “The land simply stretches on and on; eventually you feel you’re in the farthest, extra, out-of-sight section of the parking lot, where no one in the history of civilization has ever bothered to go.”

New Republic, Aug. 12 The cover story examines foreign policy in the Obama White House and concludes that the president “has, in effect, been his own national security advisor and secretary of state.” Consumed with domestic politics when he took office, Obama seemed ready to outsource international decisions to his strong-minded staff. Instead, he has shown great interest in the process of foreign policy. Despite a “whisper campaign” about his job performance, National Security Adviser Jim Jones works closely with Obama on every decision and shares the president’s love of the process. An article tells the strange story of Leopold Munyakazi, an African professor who fled to the United States only to have NBC executives show up at his new college and charge him with participating in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The charges led to a vicious debate over reinterpreting the genocide, with the late Rwanda expert Alison De Forges coming to Munyakazi’s defense.

New York, Aug. 3 The cover story goes inside Goldman Sachs to determine whether the investment bank is a government-manipulating cabal of nefarious profiteers or just really good at making money. Goldman claims that its economic talent explains its cozy relationship with Washington and that it scrupulously follows laws separating trading and financial consulting. But some clients say they know the company trades against their interests and that “Goldman’s ability to convince the world that it is a ‘client-oriented’ business [is] its most masterful PR coup.” An article tries to reconcile the current, Upper East Side Madonna with the younger Madonna, who was an “elegant key to all feminine mythologies.” Her quest for eternal youth is exhausting and unsettling, but she “seems determined to do something unsettling and new: spin to the center of the dance floor till the end.” A fact sheet dishes on the consulting firm hired to shape up Condé Nast’s famous financial extravagance.

Newsweek, Aug. 3 The cover story, by Slate columnist Daniel Gross, declares the end of the recession but admits that doing so is “celebrating a technicality.” GDP growth doesn’t feed families, and unemployment is likely to continue rising to above 10 percent. It’s impossible to judge whether the government’s risky investment will work, but it’s far too early to call it a failure. Unlike economy-stimulating public works of past recessions, smart-economy projects like alternative energy and green technology will produce slower, if equally invaluable, returns. This “new kind of recovery” will be a long process in which we focus on survival and “accept small, incremental gains.” An article reports the severe effects of sex-offender laws, which increasingly limit offenders to “remote and shrinking slivers of land.” Some are forced into squalid “camps” far from running water or plumbing. Many formerly hard-line activists and politicians are reconsidering their position after witnessing the terrible conditions.