What's new in the New Republic, etc.

Summaries of what's in Time, Newsweek, etc.
May 17 2002 12:52 PM

Historical Shortcomings

New Republic

New Republic, May 27
Hitler's dead, the cover piece declares, and American Jews need to ditch their fatalism and paranoia. Comparing Palestinians to Nazis or the Passover massacre to Kristallnacht is a grotesque fantasy, "a political argument disguised as a historical argument … designed to paralyze thought and to paralyze diplomacy." The editorial says Senate Democrats only oppose a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain because they think it will help them in this fall's elections. Scientists agree the site is safe, but if the Dems convince Nevada otherwise, they can swing that state's close House and Senate races. A piece says Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe gave up plans for a shiny new building, after congressional Democrats blasted him for wanting to spend all the DNC's cash on his "monument" instead of on their 2002 campaigns. But McAuliffe's more modest proposal—renovating the current building—doesn't mean the struggle for funds is over, especially with campaign-finance reform tightening the noose.—K.T.

New York Times Magazine
Atlantic Monthly
Washington Monthly

New York Times Magazine, May 19 The cover piece declares that network news isn't dead. Sept. 11 highlighted the anchor's value at the eye of a national storm: Viewers returned to the networks because they trusted Tom, Peter, and Dan more than the screaming heads on cable. A piece explains why some experts think we should get rid of parole. Forty percent of ex-prisoners go back to prison within three years, most of them not for committing new crimes but for "housekeeping" violations, like skipping appointments with their parole officers. But since there's no proof that these violations actually lead to criminal activity, is it worth the millions of dollars it costs to lock these people up? ... An article explains why celebrity illusionist David Blaine is willing to risk his life, being buried alive for a week or frozen in ice for 63 hours, or standing on a 90-foor pillar for 35 hours before jumping into a pile of cardboard, as he'll do next week. Blaine wants—no, needs—to be loved.—K.T. Atlantic Monthly, June 2002 The cover story chronicles Advanced Cell Technology's failed attempt to save a young boy from a fatal genetic disorder by culling stem cells from the first ever cloned human embryo. The company's ambition far outpaces current therapeutic cloning capabilities and has come under attack from both conservatives, who find the treatment morally repugnant, and scientists, who think ACT's self-promotion is politically damaging.... A piece describes how Lockheed Martin beat out Boeing to win the lucrative Joint Strike Fighter contract. Lockheed's winning plane is itself a revolutionary solution to the problem of vertical takeoff, but the real revolution is in the way the Pentagon has run the JSF project. The cost overrun-induced "defense death spiral" has been evaded by designing one plane for three service branches and actually making contractors responsible for the bottom line.— J.F. Washington Monthly, May 2002
The cover story is one of two major magazine pieces (the other was published last month in the New Republic) to make the case for a McCain presidential run in 2004—as a Democrat. On virtually every issue, McCain lines up with the Dems, and he polls better among Democratic voters than even Tom Daschle or Joseph Lieberman. He'd have a tough time answering to liberal interest groups, but a primary season front-loaded with elections open to non-Democrats could play well for McCain. And oh how the press would swoon! A piece argues that cities thrive when they attract creative people. That means cities should build fewer football stadiums and more theaters and rock concert venues. San Francisco, Austin, and San Diego are ranked the nation's most creative cities. Washington edges out New York for eighth place.— J.F.

Time
Newsweek
U.S. News & World Report

Time, May 20 The cover story gives Spider-Man credit for reinvigorating the late, lamented "national conversation." With a $100 million opening weekend, it proved that the blockbuster movie is the only cultural event capable of uniting an atomized America. The box-office smash provides truly universal water-cooler talk. A companion piece traces the evolution of the superhero. The new Spider-Man and the Superman of the TV show Smallville"have a little bit of the feminine in them" as they ooze angst over typical adolescent crises. A profile of Providence, R.I.'s outlandish mayor Buddy Cianci, who is currently on trial for racketeering and related charges, reports that even though half of poll respondents think he's guilty, 63 percent approve of the job he's doing. Cianci's response to accusations that he extorted a membership out of the posh University Club after several decades of trying to join legitimately: "You think it would take me 25 years to screw them if I wanted to?"— J.D.

Newsweek, May 20 Like most pieces about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the cover story recounting the siege of Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity expresses the hopelessness and futility of the Middle East crisis. Palestinian gunmen holed up in the church for 39 days, terrorizing the monks and priests. Israeli snipers killed eight people and looted Yasser Arafat's palace across the square. Ultimately the Israeli troops and most of the Palestinian gunmen went home to prepare for the next fight. A piece explains the battle between Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the Armed Services Committee over the future of the military. Rumsfeld wants to break Cold War habits by canceling big, plodding weapons. He was losing to Congress until he became a war hero. An article says plans for super-tall buildings are back on track in Asia, Europe, and even the United States, partly to flip the architectural bird at Bin Laden and partly because developers crave money and fame.— J.D. U.S. News & World Report, May 20 The cover story exposes the fetal alcohol syndrome epidemic in South Africa. Since Dutch explorers instituted the "tot system" of paying for labor with wine in the 17th century, farm workers have suffered from astonishing rates of alcoholism. The practice continued into the 1990s, and now one in 15 children in the winelands is afflicted with FAS, a kind of mental retardation. An article documents the rise of the gambling industry. Twenty years ago, Americans bet $1 billion annually in Atlantic City and Nevada. Now it's $60 billion in 47 states. Gambling advocates argue that casinos are important economically because they employ numerous unskilled workers. A piece, which includes a harrowing catalog of violence against Jews all over the world, asks if the anti-Semitism is an anomaly or a trend. The new anti-Semites come from the left, not the right, and share anti-American and anti-globalization sentiments with radical Islamists. Middle Eastern governments sow hatred of Jews to coddle the fundamentalists who might otherwise topple their regimes.— J.D.

The New Yorker

The New Yorker, May 20 A piece (with companion photographs) envisions Ground Zero's future. A nasty mess of bureaucracies with countless agendas is trying to figure out what to do with the space. One group wants the whole thing devoted to a memorial, but that's just not possible in a crowded city. Those with architectural sensibilities want to restore the street grid that the Trade Center unwieldily interrupted, which is likely to happen. In the end, Ground Zero will probably combine streetscape, a few cultural projects, commercial and retail space, transit infrastructure, and a memorial.... A Shaquille O'Neal profile delights in his childlikeness and his size. O'Neal, the most dominant basketball player in the world, acts like a teen-ager—mooning his friends, play-fighting, collecting cars, flexing his muscles, and proclaiming his greatness.— J.D.

Weekly Standard

Weekly Standard, May 20 The cover article finds a deep-seated ambivalence at the heart of European attitudes toward the United States. Europeans are never quite sure whether they should try to destroy the American hegemon or embrace it and try to steer it to benign ends. The editorial censures the United States for looking the other way while Saudi Arabia doles out hefty rewards to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. The Saudis deny that they do anything of the sort, but press releases on their Washington embassy's Web site boast of distributing $33 million to "deserving Palestinians." A piece explains why the media establishment couldn't understand assassinated Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn. Yes, he was nationalistic and anti-immigration. But that's because he wanted to protect the Netherlands' liberal, tolerant values from an influx of intolerant, socially conservative Muslims. For the media to "acknowledge the existence of the real Fortuyn would be to acknowledge the rift between tolerance and multiculturalism."— J.F.

The Nation

The Nation, May 27 The cover story describes the difficult electoral fight facing liberal hero Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., this November. The Bush administration is sparing neither expense nor effort in its crusade to oust Wellstone. To win the tight race, Wellstone has to tailor his populist message to appeal to Minnesota's growing class of suburbanites. An article tries to figure out why so many major newspapers miscalled last month's coup in Venezuela. The day after, editorial pages everywhere parroted the Bush administration's satisfaction with the ouster of democratically elected President Hugo Chávez. Soon the newspapers were all backpedaling. Unless you want to call it a return to "Cold War journalism," the mistake can only be chalked up to "laziness and ignorance."— J.F.

Jeremy Derfner is a former Slate editorial assistant.

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.

Kate Taylor is the arts reporter at the New York Sun and the editor of an anthology of essays about anorexia, Going Hungry, which will be published next spring.