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Extreme Do-Goodery

The New Yorker on why anyone would give a kidney to a stranger.

The New Yorker, July 27 A feature on kidney donors wonders why anyone would give up an organ for a total stranger. “Does it seem crazy, giving something that precious to someone for whom you have no feeling, and whom, if you knew him, you might actually dislike?” The article talks to several donors who connected with their recipients via the Web site MatchingDonors.com. Motivated by altruism but rewarded with the bafflement of friends, family, and doctors, a couple of the donors found themselves unexpectedly emotionally involved with the process. In “Talk of the Town” Jeffrey Toobin argues that the Supreme Court confirmation process “misleads the public about what it is that Justices do.” Before the Senate judiciary committee, Sonia Sotomayor asserted that she would “apply the law” of the Constitution to the cases she heard, but that does not reflect the reality that frequently, “[j]ustices make choices, based largely, though not exclusively, on their political views of the issues involved.”

Newsweek, July 27 In the cover story, Sen. Ted Kennedy writes in support of passing the health care bill. After spending his career fighting for reform, Kennedy, who has a malignant brain tumor, says “the cause of [his] life” can’t wait any longer. “If we don’t get every provision right, we can adjust and improve the program next year or in the years to come. What we can’t afford is to wait another generation.” A feature profiles Chanequa Campbell, a black senior from Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood who was asked to leave Harvard this spring after the university connected her to the shooting of a nonstudent in a dorm. Afterward, “there was a notable lack of support for Campbell from other blacks at Harvard.” Initially, she told media she’d been discriminated against, and “[s]he scoffs at the suggestion that she brought the ‘hood to Harvard.”

Weekly Standard, July 27 As the Obama administration plans to institute universal electronic medical records, a feature examines Britain’s seven-year struggle to introduce similar technology. The U.S. government will spend taxpayer money to institute a system bound to fail, the article argues, in a ploy to give the government increased control over health care spending. “Patients suffering from diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and other chronic conditions will do it the Obama-Biden way or else be excluded from insurance coverage. And decisions about whether this is good medicine or not will be facilitated by the IT system. …” An article touts Israel as “a vibrant, functioning jewel of a nation tucked into the eastern flank of the Mediterranean. Tel Aviv looks more like San Diego or Barcelona than Baghdad or Kabul.” With a strong economy, it’s “the third-hottest spot [after Silicon Valley and Boston] for high-tech venture capital in the world,” claims the president of Motorola in Israel.

National Geographic, August 2009 A feature spotlights “a beauty pageant for camels” in Abu Dhabi, an unusual Bedouin tradition similar to dog shows or horse races in the West. After the nomadic tribes raked in oil money in the 1970s, “[t]hey migrated one last time, from camel-hair tents to glass skyscrapers in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.” Today’s fascination with the camel contest combines the notion of “the nomad as the quintessential Arab, a symbol of freedom,” like the American cowboy, with the status-consciousness of a “gentleman” who “spends his weekends at his stables.” A lengthy piece describes in cinematic detail the challenges facing Venice. This is not yet another article about how Venice is sinking. Instead, it details the city’s rising cost of living, falling number of residents, and love-hate relationship with tourists. “The world steps into the exquisitely carved font of the city, guidebook in hand, fantasies packed along with toothbrush and sturdy shoes. Splash! Out spill the Venetians.”

Harper’s, August 2009 A skeptical feature follows the Child Evangelism Fellowship, a group of Christian missionaries, during its outreach in Connecticut. “Its members swoop down on deprived, often illiterate people and inundate them with foreign notions.” In Bible study groups, missionaries in their teens and 20s break down the concepts of Christianity for young children, whose responses range from fully accepting to apathetic. To the children, “[t]he Bible offered entry into a fairy-tale realm where time is everlasting: the good creatures really do live happily ever after while the bad endure a dark eternity of pain.” A story considers nonunion Toyota’s ability to weather the upheaval in the auto industry. When Toyota opened its first U.S. plant, auto workers “bought into the Toyota philosophy of continuous improvement and respect for people.” Today, less enchanted workers imagine the practice of giving laborers a voice in management decisions “was a ploy to reduce the workforce … and use peer pressure to enforce management’s interests.”