New Republic, Feb. 4 Jason Zengerle's piece chronicles a black woman's attempts to join the University of Alabama's all-white Greek system. Melody Twilley seemed like an ideal Southern sorority pledge: rich parents, natural beauty, and endless social ambition. But the school's chapters have rejected her, without explanation, for two years running. And only by joining fraternity row, Zengerle explains, can one hope to gain access to the state's political and business power brokers. … Dueling articles ask, "Does the Enron scandal prove we need campaign finance reform?" The first piece says yes. Enron's mammoth campaign donations begat special political favors, and so did its team of lobbyists. But, as the second piece points out, campaign reform wouldn't have any effect on lobbying. Nor would it stop budding lobbyists—usually politicians and their staffers—from closely monitoring their behavior so as not to run afoul of a future client.—B.C.
Economist, Jan. 26 The cover story says America may not be as close to coming out of recession as the latest round of positive economic numbers suggest. Consumers have continued to keep their pocketbooks open like it's still the booming 1990s, and they've been filling them with borrowed money. Sooner or later, Americans will have to wake up to the fact that their growing debts aren't going to disappear so easily. That's when spending drops and the economy takes another dip. … A piece worries that the international community may be bungling Afghanistan's reconstruction. Foreign governments have donated $4.5 billion in aid, but without a strong government infrastructure it's not clear what will be done with the money or who will do it. A more secure way to administer the aid would be through a strong international authority and NGOs on the ground.— J.F.
New York Times Magazine, Jan. 27 The cover story profiles German painter Gerhard Richter. Claimed at various times by Postmodernists, Neo-Expressionists, and Abstractionists, Richter, the author argues, subverts these labels through his "inconstancy, implying that no mode was better than any other." He paints abstracts, pictures copied from newspapers or photographs, even burning candles charged with the religious energy of the old masters. Richter likes to say, "I know nothing, can do nothing, understand nothing, know nothing, nothing."… A dispatch from northern Nigeria takes stock of the region's new hard-line Islamic judicial system. A woman charged with adultery will be stoned in public. A man caught stealing a goat had his hand amputated, and then the government gave him $450 to "start a new life." The irony is that these harsh sentences were enabled by Nigeria's democratic reforms, which loosened the central government's control over the provinces.—B.C.
Newsweek, Jan. 28
Ellis Cose's cover story argues that black CEOs at Time Warner, American Express, and Merrill Lynch reflect a sea change in the meaning of black leadership. The old style: A few people, say, Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton, claimed to speak for all black America. The new style: Blacks with credentials having nothing to do with race are leaders in every field imaginable.... An Enron update worries that the government won't prevent a repeat. Corporate culture is based on fudging numbers, and there's so much money to be made that nobody wants to turn off the spigot. That's why Enron's accounting and law firms let the company get away with murder.... A piece debunks the notion that the dovish Colin Powell and the hawkish Donald Rumsfeld hate each other. Pundits thought they would break over what to do about Iraq, but they compromised instead: Officials have decided on a regime change (Rumsfeld), but they're going to be nice about it (Powell).— J.D.
Time, Jan. 28 Time has a post-Enron survival guide to tell you how to buy stocks and medical insurance and wire your home without getting screwed over in this deregulated world.... A piece predicts trouble between the United States and the international Geneva Convention crowd over the fate of 110 al-Qaida and Taliban prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. According to convention rules, they are POWs, which means they aren't required to cooperate with investigators and should be released when hostilities end. But the United States wants to ply them for information and keep them locked up indefinitely.... An article wonders why the United States is sending troops and expensive equipment to the Philippines to help destroy Abu Sayyef, a relatively unimportant terrorist organization, but at least the buildup shows that the war on terrorism goes on.— J.D.
U.S. News & World Report, Jan. 28 A ton of Olympic coverage.... The cover story explores the irony of a wartime Olympics. Though "Michelle Kwan is not likely to convince Osama Bin Laden that we should all just get along," the cross-cultural efforts of individual athletes—Iranian skiers and Israeli skaters, for instance—at least provide a visible example to the world.... An article predicts a bitter congressional session. The parties had to pretend they liked each other during the war, but now they can start hating again. And in an election year, control of both houses is on the line.... A piece previews the new public school, now that President Bush signed the Leave No Child Behind Act. Accountability is the key. Kids will take more tests. Schools will publish report cards of their own performance. But critics say this won't equal better schools and that more focus testing will just makes students learn uncreatively, by rote.— J.D.
The New Yorker, Jan. 28 An article reveals the secret aestheticism of the Taliban. Despite rules against roughly everything fun and interesting, Afghan bigwigs listened to music, grew beautiful gardens, and installed elaborate fixtures in their bathrooms. Most provocative insight: There is a strong homosexual subtext to Pashtun high-style.... A piece identifies the great medical dilemma: Doctors need practice to learn, but they make lots of (lethal) mistakes in the process. Residents usually get around the problem by being less than forthcoming about their lack of experience.... A hilarious Calvin Trillin food essay introduces the Cajun delicacy boudin (rice, pork, liver, and spices wrapped in sausage casing). The real key is the meat-to-rice ratio.— J.D.
Weekly Standard, Jan. 28 The cover story points out that the U.N. Charter expressly forbids pre-emptive self-defense, including future U.S. military campaigns against terrorist groups and the states harboring them. According to the author, that's one piece of international law that ought to be ignored. … For the second time this month, the Standard indicts a popular historian for plagiarism. This time it's Doris Kearns Goodwin, who apparently cribbed several phrases in her 1987 book The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys from other works without giving proper attribution. … A piece chastises the homophobic-phobic press for giving short shrift to the fact that John Walker Lindh's father left his mother for another man. The author suggests that this biographical detail, first reported by the National Enquirer, may help explain why Walker ran off and joined the Taliban.— J.F.
The Nation, Feb. 4 The cover story says the heart of the real Enron scandal is in New York, not Washington. The deep-seated, systemic business corruption that's come to light reveals "the failure of market orthodoxy itself."… With welfare reform on the docket for reauthorization later this year, an article calls for the restoration of the old, pre-reform safety net. The problem with social policy based on job-related benefits like the earned-income tax credit is that it's useless when people are coming off the welfare rolls into an unwelcoming job market. Fighting for welfare restoration was once called "utopian." The real "utopianism," say the authors, was believing the economy would expand indefinitely. … A piece criticizes the media's reluctance to report the number of civilian deaths caused by U.S. bombing in Afghanistan. One University of New Hampshire professor claims Afghanistan's civilian death toll has already exceeded the number of Americans killed on Sept. 11.— J.F.
Washington Monthly, January-February 2002
The cover story says that the biggest liability of a 2004 Tom Daschle White House run could be the senator's wife Linda. She's a high-powered lobbyist for the airline industry. He backed a major airline bailout bill. Though their scrupulous adherence to ethics laws have kept conflict-of-interest issues out of the spotlight for now, the nature of the Daschle-Daschle relationship is bound to raise some pointed questions from partisan Republicans come 2004. … A piece finds that many of America's top-ranked colleges are slacking off when it comes to community service. At least 7 percent of federal work-study subsidies is supposed fund community service work, but at most schools, students are more likely to be working their way through college washing dishes in the cafeteria than tutoring or mentoring. In fact, 174 schools (including MIT) don't even meet minimum service standards.— J.F.
Sports Illustrated, Jan. 21
Alexander Wolff's cover story assesses the fabled Sports Illustrated cover jinx: that athletes or teams appearing on S.I.'s cover lose an important game, blow out a knee, or, in a few cases, even die. So, is it real? The magazine's study—admittedly unscientific—concludes that over S.I.'s 47-year history, cover subjects suffered a "measurable and relatively immediate" disaster 37.2 percent of the time. In 1990, for example, BYU's Ty Detmer graced the cover. In his next game, a 65-14 loss, he separated both shoulders. Two days after figure skater Laurence Owen made the cover in 1961, she and her teammates died in a plane crash. In 1955, horseman Bill Woodward Jr. was shot and killed by his wife in a hunting accident after he posed for the cover. And so it goes. The jinx actually migrated to S.I. from its sister magazine, Time, where disaster befell two cover athletes. It was first described by Walter Winchell.— B.C.