No G-Word Spoken Here

Summaries of what's in Time, Newsweek, etc.
Aug. 17 2001 8:30 PM

No G-Word Spoken Here

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Atlantic Monthly, September 2001
A chilling article on how the Clinton administration did nothing to stop genocide in Rwanda. The author relies on newly declassified documents and scores of interviews to show how an administration immediately aware of the brutality, if not scope of the killings, chose to evacuate Americans and leave the scene. Modest but potentially crucial measures (e.g., jamming radio signals) were avoided for fear of setting a precedent of intervention. With Americans out of harm's way, Clinton officials were so intent on staying out of the conflict that they consciously avoided "the g-word" (genocide), afraid it could obligate them to act. An article urges top colleges to abandon early decision programs, saying they work against the majority of students.—D.N.

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New Republic, Aug. 20 and 27 An article suggests the Bush tax cut may backfire sooner than expected. Senate Democrats plan to use their control over the calendar to hold up popular programs until the coffers have been emptied, forcing Bush to explain why there's no money left.... An article seethes at Robert Johnson. The CEO of Black Entertainment Television rescued Bush's tax cut with his delusional claim that the estate tax was racist. Trotted out by the White House to advise on Social Security, he's again in a position to play the race card against the poor.... The editors say Ariel Sharon deserves the moral high ground for his response to last week's suicide bombings. As the world waited for a violent retaliation, Israeli vengeance targeted buildings rather than people.— D.N.

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New York Times Magazine, Aug. 19 The cover story explains why some parents raise "megafamilies"—broods of 10, 15, even 20 kids that usually combine a few biological offspring with lots of overseas adoptees. The practical arrangements are daunting—bunk beds, bulk shopping—but the psychological costs are even bigger: The adopted might struggle to fit in and the biological can resent the loss of parental attention. Still, the families work, and these altruistic parents seem happiest of all. A piece argues that EPA head Christie Todd Whitman can help the White House shed its anti-environment stigma. But the Bushies haven't figured that out yet. Instead they use her, in the words of Colin Powell, as a "wind dummy," a mannequin the Army drops out of a plane to see which way the breeze is blowing. Whitman tells the author, "I didn't say I wanted the job; I said I took it."—B.C.

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Brill's Content, Fall 2001 A new layout as the mag goes from 10-times-a-year to quarterly. A piece on Sidney and Jacqueline Blumenthal's suit against Matt Drudge, who in 1997 called Sidney a wife beater, concludes that the legal safeguards against defamation are painfully inadequate. Legal action ended up humiliating the couple further: They faced invasive subpoenas and lengthy depositions as Drudge's lawyers tried to back up the unsubstantiated story. Ultimately, the Blumenthals found their private lives public, their savings depleted, and their chances uncertain. They dropped the suit and were even forced to pay Drudge's legal fees. An article speculates TNT ditched plans for a newsroom drama to appease corporate cousin CNN. Breaking News had a commitment for 12 episodes, before network executives spiked the series, which would have examined the ethical dilemmas reporters face at a cable news network.— D.N.

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Time, Aug. 20
This special issue profiles 18 leading doctors and scientists. David Sidransky is developing a DNA-based cancer screen that catches the disease earlier and more accurately (current technology is only 70 percent accurate). Elizabeth Spelke revolutionized our understanding of infant brains (we thought babies were stupid) by showing that 3-month-olds understand basic physical laws of the universe. A piece congratulates Bush for his "wonderfully adroit" handling of stem cells. He appeared presidential because he took the issue seriously, and his compromise addressed the concerns of both the pro-life right and the scientific community. It may also prevent a lot of bloodletting in Congress, where stem cells were becoming an extremely poisonous topic. (Newsweek, on the other hand, criticizes Bush's policy. It allows funding for research only on the roughly 60 existing stem-cell lines, but they can "go stale" or "crash," and even if all the lines survive, there aren't enough for all the researchers who want to work with them.)—J.D.

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Newsweek, Aug. 20 The cover story warns of a skin cancer epidemic. Melanoma, the most deadly (but least common) form of the disease, strikes twice as often now as it did 30 years ago. If caught early, the cure rate is 95 percent, but awareness is woeful: Only half of respondents in a recent survey even knew what melanoma was. A piece describes the dilemma baseball team owners in Japan face: Do they protect the league by preventing star players from coming to America or rake in the cash major-league clubs are willing to pay?—J.D.

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U.S. News & World Report, Aug. 20 This special issue profiles real-life heroes for our cynical age. Helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson intervened at My Lai to save the lives of Vietnamese civilians. American-educated Professor Muhammad Yunus returned to his native Bangladesh to found a bank that gives poor women small loans to start their own businesses. Betty Ford revolutionized the role of first lady by publicizing her battles with breast cancer and alcoholism, thereby raising awareness of both issues. A piece looks at Bush's push to fix relations with Mexico. His experience in Texas helps him understand the key issues (immigration and drug enforcement), and he thinks Latinos are vital to Republican electoral strategy in 2004. But GOPers in Congress will fight attempts to liberalize immigration policy.—J.D.

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The New Yorker, Aug. 20 and 27 The music issue. An article anoints Shawn Corey Carter (Jay-Z) the king of corporate rap. Carter soared by conflating "Biggie's eloquent thug and Puffy's smooth executive." His playful bragging about money and women has reaffirmed the anti-asceticism of modern rap. A profile of British singer-songwriter Polly Jean Harvey says she is "one of the first white performers since John Lennon and Mick Jagger to think of the blues as a truly living art." But after critics mistook her for a "melancholic feminist," she returned with a flamboyant new look to show that she wasn't to be labeled. The success of Radiohead, a smart import from Britain, is considered a good omen for the direction of pop music. In the 1997 album OK Computer, Radiohead had written the perfect theme music for agitated misfits. But the writer says a meticulous creative effort—and not their outsider status—has been the key to their enduring popularity.—D.N.

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Weekly Standard, Aug. 20 and 27 The lead editorial says Bush's stem-cell decision was "morally and intellectually serious," but ultimately flawed. By agreeing to fund research on existing stem-cell lines, the president missed an opportunity to give a moral ultimatum. Still, the editors argue, Bush can make things right by continuing to emphasize the moral cost of destroying embryos. The cover story on Karl Rove dubs him "The Impresario" of the White House. A political strategist by trade, Rove now has a hand in everything from personnel to foreign policy, not to mention strategizing who runs for what office. But the article speculates this hyperactivity makes him a fat (and not wholly sympathetic) target for Democrats and the press.—D.N.