New York Times Magazine, Aug. 23 The cover story, penned by husband-and-wife team Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, argues that empowering women is key to stamping out global poverty and extremism. When women work, they are more likely than men to spend their paychecks in ways that will benefit their families—on food and education instead of alcohol. “If poor families spent only as much on educating their children as they do on beer and prostitutes, there would be a breakthrough in the prospects of poor countries,” they write. Access to education, iodized salt, microcredit loans, and maternal health care are inexpensive ways that women’s welfare can be improved worldwide. … Dexter Filkins returns to Mirwais Mena School for Girls outside Kandahar, the site of acid attacks against 15 girls and teachers last November. After Filkins’ initial story on the attacks ran in January, he collected more than $25,000 in donations for the injured girls and the school. Much of the money was to be used to send the subject of his January story, 17-year-old Shamsia Hussein, to the United States to repair her facial scars, but threats from the Taliban scared her family into not sending her.
Time, Aug. 31 The cover story scrutinizes the American food industry, which churns out cheap food at a high cost to our health and the environment. Americans are spending less on food than ever before, but the cheapest food tends to be made up of unhealthy calories. Collateral damage is common: Chemical fertilizer used to grow massive quantities of corn for feeding livestock is then flushed into the gulf, creating a massive dead zone that hurts the fishing industry. A shift to sustainable agricultural on a larger scale is crucial to avoid “a future of eroded farmland, hollowed-out countryside, scarier germs, higher health costs—and bland taste.”… In his column, Joe Klein scolds the Republican Party for its “disinformation jihad” regarding health care reform. Republicans largely have spurned discourse informed by facts in order to pander to fear and regain power. “Why are these men so reluctant to be rational in public?” Klein asks of leaders like Mitt Romney, who created a universal health care plan in Massachusetts yet bashes Obamacare.
Economist, Aug. 22 The magazine devotes considerable ink to Afghanistan in the wake of the country’s presidential election. An editorial advocates a new strategy for U.S. efforts there, lest the country become “the biggest blot on the Obama presidency.” The West should use its influence to ensure that Afghanistan’s next government is less corrupt than the current one. … Afghan anger at the West is growing as security continues to deteriorate and an insurrection is possible, an article says. But there are reasons for hope, namely Obama’s renewed commitment to the war and support among most Afghans for the reconstruction effort. … Robert Novak’s obituary bids farewell to the Prince of Darkness and his brand of insider journalism. His columns were known for their scoops, so much that “rival reporters wondered whether there was a law which forced politicians to talk to him. But his unrivalled access was actually the result of a combination of hard work and hardball.”
Texas Monthly, September 2009
An article looks to El Paso dual-language schools to see whether they could be a model for the future of education in Texas, where 16 percent of students are not fluent in English. The dual-language curriculum is intended to produce students with advanced Spanish and English literacy, unlike regular bilingual programs, which aim to move Spanish-speaking kids into English classes as quickly as possible. “Switching between English and Spanish is like breathing for us now,” said one of the school’s graduates. While many conservatives oppose bilingual education, fearing it will lead to two official state languages, something must be done to keep the thousands of non-native English speakers from falling out of the system. … Paul Burka, a Galveston native, returns to the barrier island almost a year after Hurricane Ike and finds the place still reeling. Whether full recovery is possible could hinge on whether the University of Texas Board of Regents decides to reopen UT Medical Branch, the Island’s largest employer.
Mother Jones, September/October The cover story traces how Fiji Water came to signify cool—and beat out Evian as America’s most-imported bottled water. Fiji’s military junta takes the water very seriously: The author was detained by police after sending e-mails from an Internet café about his tour of the bottling plant. Since its inception in the mid-’90s, “the company has positioned itself squarely at the nexus of pop-culture glamour and progressive politics.” Celebrities around the world sip Fiji Water while many Fijians themselves deal with regular typhoid outbreaks thanks to the country’s poor water supplies. When criticized, company executives point out that Fiji Water exports account for 3 percent of the country’s GDP, and without it, “Fiji is kind of screwed.”… A feature tracks the “water miles” imported bottled water travels to its destination, and another story compiles the sins of other bottled-water brands.
Educators and policy buffs should not miss the Texas Monthly piece on how dual-language education has transformed some El Paso schools.
Save a few brain cells and skip the post-mortem on Tinsley and Topper Mortimer’s failed marriage in New York.
Best Politics Piece
Ben McGrath’s profile of Michael Bloomberg in The New Yorker explains why young mayors around the country call New York’s billionaire mayor “Papa Smurf.”
Best Culture Piece
An article in New York on Annie Leibowitz’s financial ruin is a captivating glimpse of the spendthrift behind those iconic portraits.
Best Reason for Police Detention
Sending e-mails about bottled water, as Mother Jones writer Anna Lenzer did while reporting a story on Fiji Water from the island nation.