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A Dicey Situation

Time on how the recession is killing Las Vegas.

Time, Aug. 24 The cover story surveys how the recession has devastated Las Vegas. The once-booming city is now dotted with unfinished hotels and visited by travelers paying deeply discounted rates. Casino owners lost financing for the multibillion-dollar projects, residents are abandoning the mortgages of their now-valueless homes, and strippers are taking online classes to compete with the thousands of unemployed women flooding into town. It adds up to huge trouble for the Nevada government, which depends almost completely on the city for tax revenue. An article observes that as the majority of job losses have come in male-dominated industries, men’s unemployment could produce significant cultural effects. While there are no historical instances of men handing an economy over to women, there do exist plenty of examples in which “women do all the arduous work while men sit around smoking and pontificating in coffeehouses and barbershops.”

Economist, Aug. 15 The cover story charts the “astonishing” recovery of Asian economies, which grew an average of 10 percent in the second quarter of this year. Asian countries entered the recession with “far healthier government finances” than wealthy Western nations, and their stimulus packages were bigger and worked faster. The piece warns that they should remain cautious to prevent credit inflation and price bubbles. One way to do that is to let their currencies rise against the U.S. dollar. An article predicts that America’s rejection of the land line will end up costing more than just telecom companies: Rising prices will hurt businesses that require land lines, and the absence of a telephone “grid” will complicate the work of emergency services. Plus, “cell-phone onlys” complicate polling, as they’re almost twice as expensive to reach. Regulators will eventually have to decide if bailing out telecom companies is necessary to keep public services that depend on their telephone lines flowing.

New York Times Magazine, Aug. 16 The cover story chronicles the making of The Beatles: Rock Band, which Apple Corps, the band’s proprietary company, believes will bring the Beatles experience to the 21st century. The two remaining Beatles played a “watchdog” role in the production, which required reconciling historical accuracy with what makes for a rewarding gaming experience. In the end, everyone settled for a streamlined, “mythologized” version of the Beatles’ career that omitted disastrous performances and band fights. An article interviews several women arrested for attempted suicide bombings in Iraq. Sixty women carried out suicide bombings in the country in 2007-08—so many that police have been compelled to develop a nuanced understanding of the phenomenon. They insist the women and their motivations are too disparate to compare, but some patterns exist: “Many have lost close male relatives. Many … live in isolated communities dominated by extremists, where radical understandings of Islam are the norm.”

The Nation, Aug. 31 The cover story follows a feud between the Service Employees International Union and Unite Here, a smaller union that claims SEIU poached between 105,000 and 150,000 of its members. As leaders of Unite and HERE began clashing a few years into their organizations’ merger, SEIU began targeting its members in Los Angeles and Detroit with leaflets and robocalls. In retaliation, Unite Here blanketed Bay Area factories with literature. Several top labor figures are calling for a cease-fire for the sake of the broader labor movement. An article argues that public spaces are intentional artistic creations and are more than just places that forbid cars. Public spaces should be imaginative and suggestive—people should be inspired to use them in certain ways without being forced to do so. Removing the traffic is the easy part; envisioning something to replace it with is where the art begins.

GQ, August 2009 A profile of Quentin Tarantino discovers all of the forms his new film, Inglourious Basterds, could have taken instead of being made into a movie: a novel, a 12-episode miniseries. The script has generated numerous rumors over the many years he’s been working on it—some said it had run more than 600 pages, others that it was tearing his life apart. Tarantino says it all came easy once he decided to make it a film. A profile of Channing Tatum visits the actor’s family in rural Alabama, where there is “much angst” over what to wear to his upcoming wedding in Malibu, Calif. Someone demands to know if Tatum voted for Obama, and the family reacts with horror when he says he did. He’d better not tell anyone, they warn. “I don’t care,” Tatum replies. “If they don’t like me because I voted for Obama, then fuck them. I like horses and I like Obama. Nothin’ wrong with that.”

Must Read
Texas Monthly
’s retelling of an undercover investigation into dogfighting is magazine narrative at its best.

Must Skip
The Nation
’s cover story on a difficult-to-grasp feud between two unions probably won’t make much sense unless you’re in one of them.

Best Politics Piece
’s profile of Warren Hern gets a rare look inside the conscience of a late-term abortionist.

Best Culture Piece
If you read one piece on Mad Men, make it Vanity Fair’s vivid dispatch from the show’s detail-obsessed set.

Least Annoying Celebrity Profile
’s profile of Channing Tatum eschews ponderous fawning for sympathetic but unsparing observation.