Economist, March 30 The cover story credits buoyant home prices with saving the economy from a deep recession. Last year, while stock prices fell precipitously, home prices rose 9 percent, keeping American pockets brimming with spending money. … An article says that the gap is narrowing between Hong Kong and Shanghai in the competition to be China's financial center. China's entry into the WTO has turned Shanghai into a new gateway to the West. Once relations with Taiwan are normalized, Shanghai will become the island nation's first port of call on the mainland. … A piece says Bush has revealed himself to be a closet McCainiac. He's fallen in love with "national greatness" and backed an increase in national service. And Bush's "axis of evil" rhetoric parrots the "rogue-state rollback" foreign-policy platform on which John McCain ran in 2000.— J.F.
Harper's, April 2002 The cover essay claims that our sensory-engorged culture has numbed us to the distinction between reality and fabrication. It is the "tapestry of virtuality" amid which we live that has allowed us to absorb the unabsorbably horrific events of Sept. 11. … A piece laments what is perhaps the worst ecological tragedy of the 20th century, the disappearance of the Aral Sea in Central Asia. Once the fourth-largest lake in the world, the Aral will have completely dried up by 2010. Poisoned by over industrialization and sucked dry by water-hungry cotton farms, the Aral ecocide is "but a dress rehearsal for the global ecological catastrophe" of global warming.— J.F.
New York Times Magazine, March 31 In the cover article, author Michael Pollan buys a steer to see first-hand how the beef industry gets a calf from 80 to 1,200 pounds in 14 months. Corn makes cattle gain weight much faster than a grass diet, so corn-fed beef is cheap—until you consider the costs to the environment and our health. … A piece describes how a former middle manager's prison memoir made him a literary celebrity. The memoir distorts his crime, making a brutal murder look like self-defense, but the book-tour circuit doesn't care. … A piece explains how a T-shirt, donated to a thrift shop on Manhattan's Upper East Side, was purchased for $1.20 in Uganda. Many African countries have opened their doors to used clothing in the last 10 years, and the flood means that now few will buy domestic.—K.T. Time and U.S. News & World Report, April 1 Both Easter-pegged cover stories report on the pederasty and coverup scandals in the Catholic Church and wonder if the institution can "save itself" (Time)/"be saved" (U.S. News). Using many of the same sources, the articles urge the church to publicly disclose accusations of impropriety and get civil authorities involved. Despite a growing lay movement for liberalization, Vatican authorities and many American bishops (notably Edward Egan of New York, who is involved in the furor around Connecticut's coverup allegations) are loath to give up power. Time suggests that the current zero-tolerance atmosphere raises concerns about due process for priests, some of whom may be innocent of charges against them. U.S. News stresses that the modern seminary deals honestly with the molestation problem (screening new applicants and counseling priests in training about the celibate lifestyle), but Time argues that we won't know how prevalent child abuse is in today's church for years because young boys are reluctant to admit the truth right away.
An investigative piece in Time accuses the Bush administration of selling political access to energy companies, linking specific RNC donations to policy recommendations made by Vice President Cheney's energy task force. For example, an American Gas Association representative gave $250,000, and the task force later proposed incentives to build 38,000 miles of pipeline. … A pro-racial profiling article in U.S. News argues that U.S. airports should not be wasting time running security checks on grandmothers and large families. Israel profiles its passengers, and air travel there is safe. And the current practice of random checks introduces the blunt law of averages into what should be a more sensitive process. … A U.S. News piece reports on research that debunks the "six degrees of separation" theory. The scientist who came up with it in the 1960s ran methodologically questionable experiments.—J.D.
Newsweek, April 1 Instead of asking on Easter if the Catholic Church can survive, the cover story asks on Passover if Israel can survive. Few people anywhere see an end to Middle East violence. Anti-Semitism is on the rise all over the world, and especially in Europe, leaving Israel increasingly friendless. And even if peace were possible, conflict within Israel (between Israeli Arabs and Jews or the orthodox and secular, for example) could explode.—J.D.
Weekly Standard, April 1 A pair of articles critiques Dick Cheney's grand tour of the Middle East. The cover story deems the trip a small disaster. Cheney went to persuade Arab leaders of America's case against Iraq, but it was the Arab leaders who dominated the discussion. They directed Cheney's focus toward the Palestinian question and demanded that Arafat's virtual house arrest be lifted so that he can meet the vice president in Cairo and then attend the Arab League summit in Beirut. What Cheney should have done is make clear that Iraq, not the peace process, is America's top priority. … Another article says the Arab League summit is likely to be "a nasty slap in the face" for America. By regionalizing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and inviting other Arab states' input on the peace process, America has undermined its position in the Middle East. … A piece says that, despite loud NIMBY grumbles from Nevada's senators, Yucca Mountain is the best place to store America's nuclear waste.— J.F.
The Nation, April 8 The cover article calls for a litmus test for the 2004 Democratic presidential candidates: no "Enron Democrats." That is to say, no candidates with strong ties to big business or big banks, no candidates who defended lax accounting standards, and no candidates who backed the deregulatory measures that made Enron possible. So, progressives should forget about Daschle, Biden, and Lieberman. … New York Times Magazine"Ethicist"Randy Cohen muses on the relationship between ethics and politics. He concludes that since how we act depends a great deal on how those around us act, personal ethics are based not only on individual rectitude but also on the creation of a civil and just society. … Eric Alterman lays the smackdown on Andrew Sullivan's blog: "Andrewsullivan.com sets a standard for narcissistic egocentricity that makes Henry Kissinger look like St. Francis of Assisi."— J.F.
The New Yorker, April 1 A Hendrick Hertzberg "Talk of the Town" piece calls celibacy "either a sham or a suppression of one's humanity" and looks forward to the eventual suspension of the doctrine.... A Nicholas Lemann article takes a crack at identifying the long-term consequences of Sept. 11, arguing that it has empowered the administration's hawks to develop a new foreign policy doctrine of American supremacy. The United States sets the rules—no terrorism, no weapons of mass destruction—and if countries run afoul of them, the United States gets to replace the regime. ... A profile of spring break at South Padre Island takes a jaundiced view of the collegiate ritual. The author compares the "pop-cultural moment" to an implanted breast: It provides for an utterly contrived rebellion.—J.D.