Goodbye Kofi, Hello Ki-Moon
What to expect from the new U.N.
Updated Friday, Jan. 5, 2007, at 4:05 PM
Economist, Jan. 6 The Economist uses the retirement of Kofi Annan to take stock of the United Nations. Its lead editorial condemns the lack of action on Darfur and calls for new permanent member countries on the Security Council. However, it says the organization is exceeding some expectations by feeding millions and peacekeeping in Africa. Despite the "dire headlines" powerful members are more likely to cooperate to maintain order in hot spots like Lebanon and to make trade deals for the sake of their interdependent economies. … An article recounts the turbulence in Thailand, after eight bombs simultaneously exploded in Bangkok on New Year's Eve, shutting down the city and injuring dozens. No one knows who did the bombings. The military junta that promised security when it took power in September may be losing popular support, having both failed to stop a violent insurgency in the south of the country and effectively discredit the (popular) policies of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.— A.Z.
Reason, February 2007
A gaggle of prominent libertarians sounds off on the "much-anticipated return of gridlock" in Washington, D.C. Two-party government will mean a "return to a system of partisan checks and balances," stagnant government, and limited presidential power. One writer predicts that both sides will agree to increase education spending, while ignoring underperformance; another counsels that Democrats will be too busy investigating the Bush administration to enact "wealth transfers"; the consensus is summed up by Ryan Sager, who warns, "bipartisanship is just another word for 'terrible idea.' "… Supreme Court decisions and the federal DEA may pose less of a threat to medical marijuana in San Francisco than the local zoning boards. An article contends that a California public that "seems to favor an approach to medical marijuana that combines Communism with imminent death" has started to deny local "dispensaries" the ability to sell pot (and possibly attract riff-raff).— A.Z.
New York Times Magazine, Jan. 7 A piece profiles Dick Pound, head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, who has launched a global crusade against performance-enhancing drugs. Pound, a charismatic idealist whom Lance Armstrong once called a "showboat," plays fast and loose with statistics. When the author challenges his claim that a third of NHL players take performance-enhancing drugs, Pound prevaricates: ''It was pick a number,'' he said. ''So it's 20 percent. Twenty-five percent. Call me a liar."… In the cover piece, Lisa Belkin explores her relationship with her former nanny, Noreen Mulholland, who as a nurse was convicted of assaulting two elderly men. Noreen at first appeared the perfect babysitter—young, loving, energetic. But when Belkin's 5-year-old child told his mother he was "scared of Noreen," the nanny's explanation—"You know, Lisa, kids lie"—disturbed Belkin enough that she severed ties. Visiting the trial five years later, Belkin finds herself convinced of the defendant's guilt.— C.B.
New York, Jan. 8
A college student chronicles her experience taking prescription drugs to battle ADD and depression. An initial prescription of Ritalin at age 16 soon opened up a world of medications from Metadate to Adderall to Ambien. "The stimulants turned me into a tweaked-out whiz kid," she writes. "It was as if I had been nearsighted and now had X-ray vision." After years of medication only aggravated the symptoms, a cognitive behavioral therapist diagnosed her with bipolar disorder. "Five months and $75,000 worth of rehabilitation," she whines, "all for nothing."… A piece profiles New York Stock Exchange CEO John Thain, whose quest to automate trading has resurrected the exchange from a near-fatal slump. An engineer by training, Thain arrived in 2004 with the goal of modernizing the decrepit NYSE, which meant making some jobs obsolete. But Thain's "polite, amiable" sensibility has so far managed to "give the coming technocracy a human face."— C.B.
Newsweek, Jan. 8 Newsweek opens the New Year by looking at the deaths of Gerald Ford, Saddam Hussein, and James Brown. Ford, who arguably had the least impact on history among the three, receives the most ink: "Ford changed the way we live, rescuing the White House from scandal, restoring a measure of confidence in politics and articulating a philosophy of robust executive power." A piece describes how Saddam's execution epitomizes the civil strife that threatens Iraq: "Instead of a study in modern justice, the tyrant's end looked more like the result of a sectarian show trial." And Brown is remembered in a few Web-only pieces as the "Funky Shaman" whose prodigious beats instilled pride in black people and inspired a generation of musicians. David Gates remembers how Brown soothed a concert audience intent on rioting after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. "What was truly scary, though, was how he made a crucial moment in American history vanish for two hours by pulling us into private worlds of passion, pleasure, pain and joy."— M.M.
The New Yorker, Jan. 8 Malcolm Gladwell draws on the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, Watergate, and efforts to decode Nazi propaganda to shed light on the Enron corruption case. Deep Throats, whistle-blowers, and nosey journalists can help solve puzzles, he argues, but only experts who know tax code and can spot fraud could have solved the page turner that was Enron. "Mysteries demand experience and insight. Woodward and Bernstein would never have broken the Enron story."… Milan Kundera explores how a European's perspective on art and history is informed by his or her national identity. "The large nations resist the Goethean idea of world literature because their own literature seems to them sufficiently rich that they need take no interest in what people write elsewhere." Kundera laments the tendency of more powerful countries to lump together artistic contributions from Eastern European nations, such as his Czech homeland, into a single canon. The smaller countries view their homegrown literature as an expression of personal history, he finds.— M.M.
The Nation, Jan. 8 and 15
The cover piece examines the rise of antiwar sentiment in the military. Nearly 1,000 uniformed Americans have signed an appeal for redress asking Congress "to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq." While signatories are protected from reprisal under the Military Whistleblower Protection Act, some soldiers fear less overt forms of punishment, such as denial of promotion. But, unlike the dissenting GI movement during Vietnam, the appeal takes a nonconfrontational tone: "This is not about resistance," says a lawyer who advised the appeal organizers. "This is about working inside the democratic process."… A piece praises Kofi Annan's "quiet authority and palpable decency" as U.N. secretary general. Bill Clinton supported Annan's appointment, hoping to avoid a combative bureaucrat with "big ideas and a big mouth." "They were right about the big mouth," the author contends, "wrong on the big ideas."— C.B.
Weekly Standard, Jan. 8 The cover piece examines the partisan divide over American foreign policy, calling Republicans the "power party" and Democrats the "peace party." The two sides displayed remarkable solidarity from World War II through the Vietnam War, the piece contends. But withdrawal from Vietnam and President Reagan's reelection spurred disagreement, and by 1985, 60 percent of Democrats thought Reagan was spending "too much" on defense. The Iraq war has reinvigorated partisanship: A 2003 Pew poll on the question of military strength revealed "the largest partisan gap the organization had ever measured." One's view of American power correlates with the notion of whether America is "generally fair and decent," the author notes. … A piece urges President Bush to scrap Social Security reform and push health savings accounts instead. The plan would put consumers in charge of how their money is spent, the author argues. And best of all, it wouldn't require the approval of Democrats.— C.B.
New Republic, Jan. 1-15 The cover piece examines the challenges facing Mitt Romney as he prepares a run for the presidency. Romney may have more difficulty defending Mormonism to Americans than John F. Kennedy did with Catholicism. While Kennedy swayed skeptics by declaring the separation of church and state "absolute," Romney's reliance on Christian conservatives means he can't distance himself from religion. Also, educating Americans about Mormon theology is less likely to ease their concerns than exacerbate them. Joseph Smith's teachings place the United States "at the focal point of sacred history" and make American politics a stage for the "ultimate divine drama," with the "Garden of Eden … located in Jackson County, Missouri."… In a travel piece, Tom Bissell visits Estonia and finds "what appear[s] to be paradise." While other former Soviet states take awkward half-steps toward democracy and capitalism, Estonia has embraced reform. "[T]his country is about proving that Estonia is not Russia," says a Canadian-born ethnic Estonian.— C.B.
Time, Dec. 25 and Jan. 1
Time names "You" its Person of the Year. YouTube founders Steve Chen and Chad Hurley get a full profile, which calls them "premoguls." The pair dismissed as "too narrow" the original idea for the site—a "video version of HOTorNOT.com"—but maintained the DIY interface. The third founder, Stanford grad student Jawed Karim, finds himself excluded from the company's foundation narrative, and YouTube's rise has produced tensions: "Chad and I are pretty modest, and Jawed has tried to seize every opportunity to take credit," Chen says, while Karim insists the product required "the equal efforts of all three of us."… A roundtable of best-selling authors and journalists discusses what went wrong in Iraq. Lawrence Wright speculates that U.S. intelligence erred in failing to hire more native Arabic speakers: "[The FBI sends agents] off to class for nine weeks, and at the end of that time they can order breakfast in Arabic. But they cannot interrogate a suspect. They don't know anything about the culture."— C.B.
Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.
Avi Zenilman is a former Slate intern.