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Women on Top

The American Prospect on the rise of feminist foreign policy.

American Prospect, July/August 2009 The cover story outlines the challenges facing Obama’s drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske. A former police chief, Kerlikowske hopes to leverage his influence with law enforcement to change the way the United States fights drug use. Instead of waging the decades-long “war on drugs,” Kerlikowske “wants to focus more on using proven public-health methods to treat drug addicts, curb the harm they do to themselves and their communities, and combat drug use in general.” One new effort he’s pushing is federal funding for needle-exchange programs. An article discusses the importance of Hillary Clinton’s feminism in her role as secretary of state. “For years, experts in economics, development, and national security have recognized that the oppression of women leads to economic stagnation and political instability.” But Clinton will face resistance from American conservatives and foreign religious fundamentalists in trying to change the way some world powers treat their female citizens.

New York Times Magazine, July 12 The cover story examines new research on gray whales, particularly a group off the Baja coast referred to as the “Friendlies.” As scientists learn more about the advanced cognitive abilities of these whales, the previously territorial population has become unexpectedly social, swimming up to boats of whale watchers and scientists. The author posits the whales “keep coming back … to give us another chance. To let us, of all species, off the hook” for past wrongs against their species. Slate’s Emily Bazelon interviews Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg about what it means to be a woman on today’s Supreme Court. Ginsburg recalls, “It’s almost like being back in law school in 1956 … Every time you went to answer a question, you were answering for your entire sex.” Ginsburg argues that female justices helped the courts recognize sexual harassment as a civil rights violation sooner than they might have, and she welcomes the prospect of another woman on the bench.

Time, July 20 The cover story wonders what’s next for Sarah Palin. “Cut loose from her obligations to her huge and awesome homeland, her message remains quintessentially Alaskan. Where she comes from—the last American frontier—the past is irrelevant, the rules are suspended, and limitations are for losers.” Palin remains ambiguous about her plans for 2012, but she was very clear in pointing out that she left the governorship because she felt ineffective as long as she was constantly fending off ethics complaints and bad publicity for her family. An article explains why President Obama wants America to “start thinking about community college not as a dumping ground but as one of the best tools the U.S. has to dig itself out of the current economic hole.” Unlike four-year schools, smaller community colleges are flexible enough to adapt their curricula quickly to the demands of local industry, including environmental and technology-related jobs.

Economist, July 11 An article compares California, which “is in a funk,” with Texas, which has weathered the recession relatively well after taking a “hard hit in the last property bust.” Whereas California has been crippled by high taxes, gerrymandering, and “intrusive regulation of business and greenery,” small government has served Texas well. That said, the rising immigrant population in the Lone Star State could lead to a surge in Democrats and a subsequent demand for more government services. An article on the June 28 military coup that forced President Manuel Zelaya out of Honduras observes that “his future now depends on an attempt at mediation by Óscar Arias, the president of Costa Rica.” Zelaya’s prospects of returning to the country will be contingent “on whether Mr Zelaya’s supporters, who include trade unions, teachers and leftist social movements, are able to step up disruption” and “whether or not the de facto government faces effective sanctions.”

Foreign Policy, July/August 2009 A feature predicts the end of macho culture in the Western world. Men have suffered more than 80 percent of U.S. job losses following the collapse of the male-dominated housing and financial industries, and women are becoming better educated than men. Russia and South and East Asia will likely try to prop up macho culture to support their governments and economies, but North America and Western Europe will have to deal with the rise in unemployed, “[s]urly, lonely, and hard-drinking men” even after the recession. “We have no precedent for a world after the death of macho. But we can expect the transition to be wrenching, uneven, and possibly very violent.” The cover story argues that Asia is not yet poised to dominate the world. An aging population, environmental constraints, political instability, “hierarchical culture, centralized bureaucracy, [and] weak private universities” all temper the long-term effects of the region’s economic boom.

Must Read
Foreign Policy
’s feature on the end of macho culture is intriguing for its international scope and the author’s surprisingly bold conviction that a change in gender politics is going to turn the world order upside-down—and soon.

Must Skip
James Wolcott’s column in Vanity Fair makes the painfully pretentious complaint that “the digitization of books, music, and movies” is interfering with his ability to “make snap judgments” about the literary tastes of his fellow subway riders based on their book covers.

Best Politics Piece
The New York Times Magazine profile of British Conservative leader David Cameron offers balance of praise for his relative youth and optimism, and skepticism that his talk of change is just a politician’s public relations spin.

Best Culture Piece
The New York Review of Books’ essay on the forgotten tragedies of the Holocaust offers a fresh perspective on a well-covered subject, with numbers to back up its argument.

Strangest Display of Civic Duty
According to an article on run-down cities in Monocle, the mayor of Braddock, Pa., “has the town’s zip code tattooed on one arm and the dates of murders that have occurred during his term down the other, a constant reminder of the work still to be done.”