Economist, Dec. 9
The cover story acknowledges the import of the "drama playing out in the streets of Ukraine," but says the more pressing issue is what to do about Vladimir Putin. "Far from being a political and economic reformer who runs an admittedly flawed but still recognizable democracy, Mr. Putin has become an obstacle to change who is in charge of an ill-managed autocracy." Although it says there's "not much" the West can do to challenge Putin's governance over his home country, "firm recognition that Mr. Putin is going in the wrong direction is much better than meek acquiescence." ... Another article defends Kofi Annan against calls for his resignation in light of the oil-for-food scandal, saying that until any actual evidence implicates him, "he should be allowed to get on with his job." Who's to blame for the allegations? "Many of Mr. Annan's accusers are not friends of the UN. Wishing the organization ill, they are using him as a means to castigate it."
New Republic, Dec. 20
Franklin Foer reveals the chasm that's developed among neoconservatives, particularly with respect to Iranian foreign policy. "The neoconservative mind has always had two lobes"—one "idealist" and one "realist"—that are at odds with each other, he explains. As such, neither democratizing Iran nor issuing a pre-emptive strike offers neocons an agreeable political solution: "Each policy option that might promote democracy comes at the expense of neocon goals for U.S. security. Each policy that might promote security comes at the expense of their liberal concerns ... The result is the current paralysis, a moment of indecision that exposes limits of neoconservatism." ... Another piece explains what the Ukrainian Supreme Court's decision to order a new election meant for Russians, saying "the message for anti-Putin Russians was less encouraging. The miracle cannot be repeated in Russia, not only because of the cowed Russian media but also because Russia no longer has an independent judiciary."
New York Times Magazine, Dec. 12 The fourth annual "Year in Ideas" issue offers up innovations in business, law, technology, science, fashion, sports, politics, architecture, pop culture, and more. Highlights include a new aircraft called the FanWing, which flies at a slower speed than airplanes and could enable us to jet-set to nearby destinations. It's still working out the kinks, though. "The only real danger is if the fan blades jam and cease spinning—then … 'it drops like a rock.' "… Slate's Amanda Fortini writes on an adjustable high-heeled shoe that allows fashionistas to rise and fall to the height of their choice. … A new, high-tech caller ID helps the memory-impaired by supplying additional information about who's calling: "Tim is calling; he is your oldest son; you talked to him four days ago about the weather and his daughter's piano recital."… Physicians can anticipate several helpful inventions, such as a device allowing oncologists to detect cancer by listening to cell movement and technology enabling pathologists to perform noninvasive virtual autopsies.
The New Yorker, Dec. 13
David Grann attempts to solve the mysterious death of the world's foremost Sherlock Holmes scholar, Richard Lancelyn Green. Last March, Green discovered that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's lost papers, which he believed were supposed to be bequeathed to the British Library, were up for sale at Christie's. Soon after, Green was found dead in his apartment. The circumstances of his death were suspicious—he was garroted, and he had admitted to a friend that he "feared for [his] life." Grann speculates, inconclusively, that suicide was possible. In some ways, suicide would be an apt finale: As Holmes enthusiast John Gibson says, "Don't you see? ... He staged the whole thing. He created the perfect mystery." ... Malcolm Gladwell analyzes the shortcomings of photographic technology like mammography. Unfortunately, "so much of what can be seen on an X-ray falls into a gray area … Some radiologists see something ambiguous and are comfortable calling it normal. Others see something ambiguous and get suspicious." He concludes, however, that "mammograms do not have to be infallible to save lives."
Weekly Standard, Dec. 13 An article about Vladimir Putin's role in the Ukraine's presidential election declares, "Now that Putin's attempt to wield 'soft power' in Ukraine has backfired, there are no good outcomes for Russia." The author says that Bush must attempt the same "dual-track diplomacy that worked so well for Ronald Reagan in dealing with his Kremlin counterparts," and that the United States can learn from the current situation in the Ukraine. "A united Western voice" matters, as does recognizing that "the pull of the West matters. Most Ukrainians want to live in a normal, prosperous, and boring Europe."… The cover story explores the lingering animosity between the families of Alexander Hamilton and of Aaron Burr, describing Burr's descendants'attempts to right his reputation. Burr's relatives coordinated the re-enactment of the infamous Hamilton/Burr duel last July, and "[w]ith the reenactment, the efforts of Burr's defenders seemed at last to pay off, for a few fleeting moments."
Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 13
The mysteries of the Nativity: Time and Newsweek parse out the discrepancies between Matthew's and Luke's accounts of the Nativity, addressing how the actual circumstances of Jesus' birth may differ from contemporary Christian beliefs. "The actual Gospel Nativities are the part of Jesus's biography about which Bible experts have the greatest sense of uncertainty. … Indeed, the Christmas story that Christians know by heart is actually a collection of mysteries," says Time. Such mysteries include whether Mary conceived Jesus by "divine conception," or by an adulterous affair or even rape, and whether Jesus was born in Bethlehem or Nazareth. Newsweek adeptly educates readers about why specifics like Jesus' birthplace matter. "The expectation was that the Messiah—understood in the early first century as a David-like king who would end Roman occupation and rule over a new golden age for Israel and for the whole world—would come from Bethlehem, the village in which David had been born."
Last hope for Ukrainian democracy? Newsweek examines how the Ukrainian Supreme Court's recent decision to order a new election harms Vladimir Putin. "The last thing Putin wants to see is another chunk of the old U.S.S.R. disappear down the maw of the ever-encroaching West." The article adds that President Bush's support of the new election dealt "Putin his worst humiliation in nearly five years as Russia's president." …U.S. News provides some valuable background on the country's democratic uprising, saying "Ukraine's assertive democracy movement isn't quite as spontaneous as it may seem." The article says conflict began brewing four years ago when "the Ukrainian public was shocked by a series of revelations about [President Leonid] Kuchma's governing style," including the possibility that Kuchma was responsible for the brutal murder of a Ukrainian journalist who had opposed the government. Given that resentment has been brewing for so long, "many Ukrainians feel this is their last chance to choose one of two paths for their nation."
Doping dilemma: Major League Baseball's steroid controversy stirs the pages of Newsweek and Time. "Even coming off one of its most thrilling seasons, with record attendance, the sport will not easily weather a scandal of this magnitude," says Newsweek. Time describes in detail the roles of Greg Anderson, Barry Bond's personal trainer, and Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative founder Victor Conte, "charged with supplying the illegal drugs to athletes and with money laundering." Both articles address the need to reform drug-testing standards and mention Sen. John McCain's avowal to enforce them legislatively if MLB doesn't step in. … In other drug news, U.S. News explains why the FDA has encountered so many problems lately, saying "Many scientists believe that FDA's dual role of promoter and regulator of medicines is to blame." Others say that the root of the problem is "philosophical": "The pressure to approve drugs comes from the agency's position that potential for harm must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt."