Other Magazines

Cruel and Unusual

The Economist on America’s exceptionally harsh sex-offender laws.

Economist, Aug. 8
The cover story calls America’s harsh punishment of sex offenders “unjust and ineffective.” In multiple instances, high-schoolers have been convicted for having consensual sex with their underage sweethearts and forced to enter the public registry for life. Others have been harassed in their homes and even murdered. Though the United States’ harsh laws have little effect—recidivism rates are high and public registries have not reduced rates of offense at all—other countries are now copying a trend that has careened out of control. An article charts the rise of home-schooling in the United States. The number of children who are home-schooled—1.5 million—has doubled in the past decade, and 83 percent of home-schooling families do so for religious or moral reasons. The Internet has helped home-schoolers communicate and share materials, and having Barack Obama in the White House may motivate more conservatives to take their children out of public schools.

New York Times Magazine, Aug. 9 The cover story profiles Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who is currently running for re-election. Numerous members of his administration are openly involved in drug trafficking, and his controversial running mate has led critics to dub it “the warlord ticket.” Seven years into his presidency, Karzai is weary of the job and tired of Western nations pressuring him to remove people—sometime the most honest ones—from his Cabinet. In a move to represent the exasperated Afghan people, he even tried to hold administration officials accountable for past war crimes. They managed to pardon themselves, and Karzai is always left saying, “What can I do?” An article examines the legal battle besieging Philadelphia’s two remaining daily newspapers, the Inquirer and the Daily News, which have $400 million in combined debt and may soon be shuttered. Both papers are now locally owned, and their champions are fighting to keep “quality journalism” in town.

, Aug. 17 An article argues that President Obama’s health care plan is full of fatal paradoxes: The system must change but everyone can keep what they like of the old one; the plan will somehow expand coverage while cutting costs; it’s crucial to get it right but must be passed hastily. The Democrats have obsessed over avoiding Clinton’s health care mistakes but have missed the most crucial one: a plan that’s too riddled with contradictions to make any sense. It’s no wonder they’re having trouble selling it. An article reports that topless sunbathing has fallen out of fashion with the young French women who used to champion it. French newspapers first noticed that topless women were difficult to find on the beaches these days, and surveys have confirmed it: 88 percent of young women in France describe themselves as “modest” or “prudish.” The cover story claims that exercise isn’t the best way to lose weight.

Christianity Today, August 2009 The cover story advocates early marriage for young couples on the grounds that evangelicals “have made much ado about sex but are becoming slow and lax about marriage.” Americans—including evangelicals—are marrying later, and it is “unreasonable” to expect abstinence long past the age people are biologically ready for marriage. Christians have held fast to a conservative view of sexuality, but their ideas about marriage have become a “nebulous hodgepodge of pragmatic norms.” Churches should stop resisting reality and remove punitive barriers—for example, some parents will withhold financial support—to people who want to marry in their early 20s. An editorial argues that America’s much-criticized megachurches are “not so much an aberrant form of church as a large, flashing icon of the American church.” Megachurches attract great numbers and a young demographic because they facilitate spiritual consumerism, but many smaller churches have similar “strategies and programs” and talk about “meeting spiritual needs.”

Rolling Stone, Aug. 20 The cover story, a round table with Paul Krugman, David Gergen, and Michael Moore, assesses the Obama presidency so far. “If health care passes and the economy recovers, then Obama is the new FDR,” Krugman says. “If not, he’s Jimmy Carter.” An article catches up with Blink-182, about to tour for the first time since a bitter public breakup in 2005. After drummer Travis Barker was severely burned in a plane crash last year, the trio began working through their disagreements. “We had two gnarly heart-to-hearts, really opened up and said a lot of things,” bassist Mark Hoppus explains. A four-star review of the Arctic Monkeys’ third release, Humbug, says the band has gotten heavier, taking inspiration from Black Sabbath and Queens of the Stone Age. The lyrics are still full of wry observations of “how people work hard to screw up their lives.”

Must Read
A Time column makes the common-sense observation that Obama’s health care plan can’t survive while championing so many conflicting goals.

Must Skip
A big-name author doesn’t save Newsweek’s stunningly vacuous cover story.

Best Politics Piece
An Economist article presents a thorough overview of the excesses of U.S. sex-offender laws. 

Best Culture Piece
The New York Times Magazine’s story about Philadelphia’s debt-ridden newspapers is a sad read for anyone in a city facing complete newspaper extinction.

Most Overdue Exposé
A New Yorker article finally sheds some light on a monopolistic live music industry that fans has been infuriating fans for years.