New York Times Magazine, Nov. 26 Five years after No Child Left Behind, a piece gauges progress in fixing public education. President Bush originally pledged to eliminate the achievement gap between white and minority students by 2014, but results have been mixed. Test scores indicate a drop in eighth-grade reading proficiency from 2002 to 2005. Fourth-grade math scores are up, but minority students still fall short of their white counterparts. Academics have tackled the question of causes—one team of child psychologists believes parental communication styles affect language development—while educators look for solutions. One approach, coined by the Knowlege Is Power Program schools, is called "Slant." Teachers train students to "sit up, listen, ask questions, nod and track the speaker with their eyes."… A profile of Tom Stoppard, whose new play Voyage opens Sunday in New York, struggles to penetrate the playwright's inscrutable facade. Stoppard keeps his distance, acknowledging that his "reticence is a form of conceit, not modesty. It has to do with not making myself available."— C.B.
Weekly Standard, Nov. 27 A piece investigates military progress in the Iraqi city of Ramadi. During the U.S. siege of Fallujah, many insurgents fled across the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and holed up in Ramadi. Now the pacification of that increasingly violent city is "both a litmus test for the counterinsurgency effort in Iraq and a laboratory," the author claims. "If we can defeat the insurgent and terrorist forces here, there is no place we cannot defeat them. And from what I found, we are defeating them." He argues that doomsaying by some media outlets doesn't reflect the reality, as many residents refuse to harbor terrorists. Soon the insurgents will "have no one to keep them, and they will withdraw," predicts tribal spokesman Abdul Jabber Hakkam. … A piece argues that Nancy Pelosi's campaign to make Rep. John Murtha House majority leader "exposed divisions between the speaker-designate and caucus that are unlikely to vanish anytime soon." The election of moderate Steny Hoyer over Murtha suggests Democrats may not be as ready for "redeployment" in Iraq as Pelosi had hoped.— C.B.
New Yorker, Nov. 27 Seymour Hersh revisits U.S. military policy toward Iran, with much new information but little overarching argument. According to Hersh, the CIA is skeptical that Iran has made much progress toward nuclear weapons, but the Pentagon and the White House are unconvinced. Dick Cheney's faction intends to keep a military response—most likely a limited bombing campaign—as a real option, even after the midterm elections and Donald Rumsfeld's ouster. It's unclear whether Robert Gates will stand up to him, or whether Democrats in Congress will try to tie the administration's hands on the issue. And it may be Israel that forces our hand in the end: A nuclear Iran is unacceptable to them, and they may pursue military remedies if we do not, Hersh contends. … And the annual cartoon issue contains many second-string "funnies," a "cartoon I.Q. test," and a portfolio of unpublished work by the late illustrator B. Kliban—plus an online comic strip by Chris Ware.— B.W.
New York, Nov. 27
A piece offers a "five-year weather forecast" for the New York region. The weather won't just get harsher—it will also get "weirder." El Niño will keep the next couple of winters mild and the hurricane rate low, the author claims, but the long-term trend is toward nastier weather. Last July's face-melting heat wave was just a preview. Foresters are already adjusting their plantings to accommodate rising temperatures, replacing Central Park's native ash trees with more heat-friendly trees like persimmon, which thrives in southern climes. … A piece profiles New York club boy-turned-convict Michael Alig, who is still riding out his sentence for killing and chopping up his drug dealer in 1996. Alig became known as a hell-on-wheels party personality: "He was sending up the whole aspect of formality and polite society," says Village Voice columnist Michael Musto. Alig came up for parole in October; his parole officer found him "a little bit too fabulous," Alig says.— C.B.
Time, Nov. 27 A cover piece discusses the surprising papacy of Benedict XVI. Initially criticized for lacking the charisma of John Paul II, Benedict was expected to play a relatively passive role. But his recent comments probing the connection between Islam and violence have cast him into the middle of a global debate. He seems more than willing: "The Pope has the intention to say what he thinks," one Vatican diplomat says. "He may adjust his tone, but his direction won't change."… A piece analyzes the fallout over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's recent missteps. After a "pitch-perfect" campaign, Pelosi raised eyebrows by turning "what would otherwise have been an all-but-ignored secret ballot for majority leader into a gang war." Now members of both parties are questioning everything from her political judgment to her ideology. "It was a serious misstep and inexplicable to me," says former Republican leader Dick Armey. "I just hope she does more of it."— C.B.
Newsweek, Nov. 27 The cover piece examines how families deal with autism. Children diagnosed in the 1980s are now maturing, and the burden—both financial and emotional—has not waned. Caring for an autistic person over a lifetime can cost a family as much as $3.2 million, making the total cost roughly $35 billion nationwide. A bill that would earmark $945 million for autism research over five years passed in the Senate but has been blocked in the House. One advocate, Alison Singer, calls the bill "probably the single most important thing that could happen besides the cure."… A piece considers how the United States is approaching talks with Iran. Iranian diplomats have expressed disappointment with what they consider America's failure to recognize their contributions to the fight in Afghanistan. With nuclear enrichment seemingly on the horizon, Iran has reason to feel cocky. "The Iranians are behaving as if they are already a nuclear power," says one European diplomat.— C.B.
Economist, Nov. 18 The cover package compares the current surge in clean-energy investments to the dot-com boom. With global green investment estimated at $63 million, governments are increasingly subsidizing alternative energy. But the article argues that a global carbon tax would be "a more efficient way to close the price gap between fossil and alternative fuels."… A piece chalks up clean-energy enthusiasm to rising oil prices, energy security concerns, and fears of global warming. Investment spiked after President Bush promised in his State of the Union address to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. But some analysts call it another case of irrational exuberance: "There's too much money chasing too few opportunities," one analyst says. "How is it possible that this many solar companies are going to succeed? They're not."… A piece argues that dialogue with Iran and Syria isn't the panacea for Iraq some Americans seem to think. Iraq's strife is internal, and Iran and Syria don't have enough influence over its Shiite majority to make a difference.— C.B.
New Republic, Nov. 17 In an issue devoted to Iraq, the editors "deeply regret" their early support for the war. There is no reason to expect a morally or strategically satisfying outcome, let alone victory, they write. That said, "America's role in creating this Mesopotamian hell does not diminish our moral obligations. It increases them."… Peter Beinart argues that the United States "has only one card left to play in Iraq: the threat to leave immediately." He proposes offering the Sunnis a greater stake in Iraq's oil wealth and promising the Shiite majority we'll send more U.S. troops if they cooperate. If they don't respond, "leave as fast as we humanly can."… Richard A. Clarke advocates immediate withdrawal. The going arguments for staying—to honor the dead troops or to prevent a spiral of violence—suffer from foggy logic: "Chaos will almost certainly follow any U.S. withdrawal, whether in 2008 or 2012."— C.B.
Mother Jones, November and December A sprawling cover piece argues that human beings must adapt to the challenge of global warming. Twelve geological "tipping points," from Amazon deforestation to the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet, may force climate change to spin out of control. According to the article, to avoid catastrophe, we must reach a "13th tipping point: the shift in human perception from personal denial to personal responsibility." Americans fall along a spectrum from "naysayers" to "alarmists," the latter of which will grow with sustained public education, says an expert. But the combination of sensationalist media and "social loafing"—the tendency to slack when one is not accountable—has delayed progress. … A piece questions the value of corporate social responsibility. For every conscience-driven business like Ben & Jerry's or Seventh Generation, there are numerous firms looking to cut costs wherever possible. The author recommends good old Roosevelt-era regulation. This would mean imposing penalties that "put possible global warming liability on the same scale as the fallout from asbestos."— C.B.
TODAY IN SLATE
Smash and Grab
Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?
Even When They Go to College, the Poor Sometimes Stay Poor
Republicans Want the Government to Listen to the American Public on Ebola. That’s a Horrible Idea.
The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented
Tom Hanks Has a Short Story in The New Yorker. It’s Not Good.
Marvel’s Civil War Is a Far-Right Paranoid Fantasy
It’s also a mess. Can the movies do better?
An All-Female Mission to Mars
As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.