Dead Man Talking

Summaries of what's in Time, Newsweek, etc.
Dec. 30 1999 3:30 AM

Dead Man Talking

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New York Times Magazine, Jan. 2

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The annual "Lives They Lived" issue memorializes 1999's dead. Sammy (the Bull) Gravano argues that Mario Puzo made Mafia life honorable with The Godfather. Gravano says that he himself borrowed Puzo's lines for his own mob work. ("I'm gonna make you an offer you can't refuse.") A piece celebrates Fred Trump, the Donald's no-nonsense father, who built a real-estate empire in the outer boroughs with hard work and no flash. He lacked his son's imagination and grandiosity. A week before his execution, a death-row inmate remembers his miserable life: "Been unhappy from the time I was born." Others honored include Frank DeVol, the composer of the Brady Bunch theme; stripper Lili St. Cyr; Gorilla Monsoon, the first pro wrestling villain; and Frederick Hart, the traditionalist sculptor the art world stupidly ignored.

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Time, Dec. 31

The exhaustive fin-de-siècle issue elects Albert Einstein "Person of the Century," because he is "a symbol for all scientists" in a century defined by scientific advance. The cover profile hails the German-born "genius among geniuses" for helping to resettle scores of refugees and alerting FDR to the need for atomic weapons research. Stephen Hawking explains that Einstein's theory of special relativity--the speed of light is constant while time and motion are relative--turned centuries of Newtonian physics on its head. President Bill Clinton honors runner-up Franklin Delano Roosevelt for "two decisive victories: first over economic depression and then over fascism." Mohandas Gandhi is also a runner-up. A "Most Important People of the Millennium" section exalts the greatest historical figures of each century, including: 13th-century Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan, 15th-century printing press innovator Johann Gutenberg, 16th-century Queen Elizabeth I of England, and Thomas Edison.

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U.S. News & World Report, Jan. 10

A "Outlook 2000" issue anticipates 21st-century innovations. An article focuses on the race to map the human genome: The National Institutes of Health hopes to finish a genetic sequence by 2003, before a private group of scientists can. Whoever wins will hold the keys to creating personalized medicines and cures for killer diseases such as cancer. A profile of zoologist Betsy Dresser applauds her efforts to create a "21st-century Noah's ark" of endangered species' DNA. Dresser hopes to clone a near-extinct animal. She has already produced the world's first test-tube gorilla.

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The Nation, Jan. 10 and 17

TheNation goes glossy for its "alternative" retrospective of the 20th century. Highlights of a century's correspondence include a 1925 letter to the editor from Adolf Hitler complaining that the magazine wrongly said he served a six-month prison sentence when he actually served 13 months. ... The cover story delivers excerpts from The Nation's archives, focused around two central themes: continuing class struggles and the rise of Americanized capitalism. Among the excerpts from the 1920s is a prediction that Marcus Garvey's Africa for Africans movement would enduringly raise the racial consciousness of black Americans. In a 1960s excerpt James Baldwin argues that "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer." A 1980s editorial predicts: "Things will come flying through the windows of glasnost that Mikhail Gorbachev and the architects of radical reform in the Soviet Union neither foresee nor completely control."

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Weekly Standard, Jan. 10

The cover story crowns Winston Churchill the "Man of the Century." (Note the defiant "man.") "No leader was so clear-eyed about the century's villains." While Franklin Roosevelt was "tragically unwary of the new global menace from the left," Churchill spearheaded the opposition to the "twin scourges" of the century--Nazism and communism. The man who gave the Iron Curtain its name is the true "democratic hero of our age." An article accuses the press of overlooking John McCain's domestic-policy gaffes. McCain's media "cheering section" neglects its favorite candidate's lack of coherence on tax and health-care policy. The mainstream media do not cut George W. any slack. If McCain emerges as the nominee, Democrats will exploit his domestic weaknesses.

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