Updated Friday, Dec. 14, 2001, at 11:54 AM
New Republic, Dec. 24 The cover story announces the onset of a health-care crisis. The problem is threefold: First, the recession has cost many jobs. Second, even before the recession hit, insurance premiums were soaring—in 1996, they rose 0.8 percent; last year, they jumped 11 percent. Third, the states have cut back their own programs that benefit uninsured children and the poor because the coffers have run dry. … A piece argues that in Congress, "the endgame this year is all about separation of powers." And even as Democrats applaud their obstructionist senators, the White House has managed to quietly wrest power away from Congress. Under the guise of homeland security, for example, Bush secured "fast track" trade authority and moved to keep disaster spending under his control.—B.C.
Washington Monthly, December 2001 The cover story, by Slate contributor Eric Umansky, explains why the Navy has better weapons than the Army and Air Force. The other services don't do all-or-nothing operational tests on new weaponry until designs have been completed and glitches are difficult to fix. The result is B-2 bombers, the skins of which have to be replaced every time they're exposed to moisture. The Navy, on the other hand, performs tests in combatlike conditions throughout the design process. … A piece predicts a third term for the Washington Senators. Baseball will soon return to the nation's capital not only because it makes economic sense but also because owners hope to use a D.C. team to lobby lawmakers against repealing baseball's antitrust exemption. President Bush is expected to go to bat for D.C. baseball; he co-owned the Texas Rangers with Fred Malek, the Washington insider leading the push for a hometown team.— J.F.
Economist, Dec. 15 The cover story says America will be dependent on Saudi oil for years to come. Until Sept. 11, the conventional wisdom held that, economically speaking, it hardly mattered who controls Middle Eastern reserves since any rational leader (even Saddam Hussein) would see that his nation's oil got to market. But suppose the leader isn't rational and prefers to grow poor sitting on his oil while the West suffers? It's time to start thinking about ways to reduce Western demand. … An article gleans an important lesson from Enron's collapse: Companies shouldn't be allowed to have employee pension plans invested heavily in their own stock. Enron workers, who had 58 percent of their 401(k)'s invested in Enron, lost both their jobs and their retirement savings in the business's implosion. Other companies are worse: Procter & Gamble employees invest 95 percent of their 401(k) assets in company shares.— J.F.
New York Times Magazine, Dec. 16 The cover story assesses the forced marriage of New York's Democratic senators, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer. Same-party senators from the same state tend not to get along; they're often wrestling for attention, money, and party support. But apart from one off-stage blowup—Schumer screamed at Clinton for going public with the pair's demand for $20 billion in disaster relief—they've remained amiable. … A piece questions America's embrace of Uzbekistan, a country whose leaders have a human rights record as deplorable as that of the Taliban. One key difference: The Uzbeks lock up and kill Muslim fundamentalists. … A piece profiles two men, one a Taliban soldier and the other a Northern Alliance fighter, who have traded letters during the war. Sample exchange: "Sometimes I think about living in another part of the world." "I think about it always."— B.C.
Time, Dec. 17
The cover story suggests that America has to send in ground troops if it wants to end the war. Mullah Mohammed Omar escaped when his dwindling Taliban forces fled Kandahar last week, and Osama Bin Laden may or may not be hiding in the caves at Tora Bora. Afghan bounty hunters are zeroing in, but Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld seems to want total control over what happens to Bin Laden and Omar. … A rosy profile of Hamid Karzai, selected interim prime minister of Afghanistan last week, predicts he will keep the country together while doling out $600 million in foreign aid. A Pashtun tribal leader long-exiled in Pakistan, Karzai knows the key people and can speak all local dialects. … An article claims Palestinian suicide bombings last week turned American ambivalence into clear support for Israel. President Bush didn't scold Israel for retaliating violently, and in meetings with Ariel Sharon, he only asked that Yasser Arafat not be killed.— J.D.
Newsweek, Dec. 17
The cover story tells the bizarre story of John Walker Lindh, a California teen-ager who went to Pakistan to study Islam and wound up in Afghanistan, fighting for the Taliban. Nobody can figure out how the kid turned from hip-hop fan to jihadist, but just over half the respondents to a recent poll want him tried for treason. … A piece speculates about recent events at AOL Time Warner, where now-President Dick Parsons will replace retiring CEO Gerald Levin. Insiders say a strained relationship between AOL founder Steve Case and Levin led to his retirement, and Levin chose Parsons over his nearest competitor, Bob Pittman, because Pittman seemed to be angling for the job. … An article explains how science is changing Olympic training for athletes. In the old days, cross-country skiers practiced by cross-country skiing. Now, they kneel on skateboards and pull themselves up ramps with pulleys to better isolate the muscles they will need in competition.— J.D.
U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 17
The cover story says that the war saved Donald Rumsfeld. Before Sept. 11, he was the besieged secretary of defense trying to apply corporate ideals of efficiency to a military that wanted nothing to do with them. Now he is the straight-shooting spokesman for war who keeps his subordinates in line without micromanaging. … A piece reports from U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla., where the war in Afghanistan is being run in real time. The generals on the ground make sure events go as planned, but Gen. Tommy Franks and his staff strategize from the Sunshine State with PowerPoint presentations, e-mail, video feeds, and satellite links. … An article applauds the military for finally instituting some psychiatric safeguards for its troops. VA hospitals are the largest supplier of mental health counseling in the country because the stoic culture of warfare encourages the suppression of feelings. But now soldiers do all sort of touchy-feely exercises, such as visualizing and re-enacting the discovery of, say, disembodied limbs.— J.D.
The New Yorker, Dec. 17
A rehabilitation of Keynesian economic theory tells Americans to brace themselves for hard times. Forecasters predicting a big recovery next year are still drunk from the speculative bender of the 1990s. Plunging confidence could create a "liquidity trap," in which nobody spends even though there is ample money in the economy. ... A piece meditates on the horrific AIDS crisis in India, where at least 4 million are infected with HIV. An Indian drug company, Cipla, has violated patents and is selling drugs cheap, but they won't help; the country is too poor to use them effectively, and the real problem is the social stigma that hinders education and prevention. ... An article says Stanley Kaplan killed the SAT. The test-prep guru proved that high scores depended not on innate intelligence but on hard work. The SAT's failure as a true aptitude test has led colleges to consider abandoning it.—J.D.
Out, December 2001
The annual "Out 100" issue, celebrating the year's greatest gay success stories, offers few surprises. Among the honorees: Michael Wilke, the founder of the Commercial Closet, "the world's largest collection of gay advertising"; movie director Cheryl Dunye; Scott Evertz, who became the first openly gay appointee by a Republican president when he was named national AIDS czar last spring; National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Lorri Jean, who "dissed the gay political establishment for kissing up to President Bush"; and New York fireman Tom Ryan, the head of FireFLAG, a group for gay and lesbian firefighters and paramedics. The year's straight allies include Steven Spielberg, who resigned from the Boy Scouts of America's national advisory board to protest their discriminatory policies against gays. In the hall of shame: Who else but the Revs. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.—J.T.
Weekly Standard, Dec. 17 The cover story details John Ashcroft's post-Sept. 11 mobilization of the Justice Department. Ashcroft claims to have borrowed his central anti-terrorism strategy from Robert F. Kennedy, who fought organized crime by employing obscure statutes to detain suspected mobsters. … The editorial disparages the critics of Bush's military tribunals order. Opponents of the plan have claimed that it represents a perversion of military jurisprudence. Ironically, these civil libertarians are caught defending a system of "normal military justice" they've long railed against. In actuality, there's no reason to believe the tribunals for suspected terrorists will be any different from a standard court martial. … A piece fulminates against the "crybaby left," which complains that its dissenting views are being suppressed by American intolerance. In fact, on campuses across the country, it's patriotic, pro-war views that have been stifled.— J.F.
The Nation, Dec. 24 The cover story describes the utter hopelessness of the conflict in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. … A piece credits the Bush administration for having conducted what, for the most part, has been a just war. The United States may have relied on dubious weapons and tactics, but in the final moral calculus that's offset by the rapidity with which the war aims were carried out and the beneficial side effect of liberating the Afghan people. Waging war against Iraq, however, cannot be morally justified. … An essay says the war on terrorism shouldn't be made into a metaphysical crusade against evil. Nor should it be about making the world safe for modernity. Just because Bin Laden despises modernity doesn't mean intellectuals need to rush to its defense. Rather, they should be challenging the myth of modernity's benevolence.— J.F.
June Thomas is a Slate culture critic. Follow her on Twitter.
Jeremy Derfner is a former Slate editorial assistant.
Bryan Curtis, Slate's "Middlebrow" columnist, writes for Grantland, Texas Monthly, and Newsweek. Follow him on Twitter.
In addition to being the co-founder of the Atlas Obscura, Joshua Foer is the author of Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, which grew out of a story he wrote for Slate.