What's new in the Economist, the New York Times Magazine, etc.

Summaries of what's in Time, Newsweek, etc.
April 27 2007 3:14 PM

It's Not Easy Being Green

Time on the compromised Green Zone in Baghdad.

Time, May 7

Time, May 7 A piece highlights growing security concerns among inhabitants of Baghdad's Green Zone. Suicide bombings are becoming more frequent outside the city, while a rocket attack near the U.S. embassy last month has raised doubts about the complex's impregnability. After an al-Qaida-linked group claimed one recent attack was an inside job, many Iraqis who have sought protection within the Green Zone "are now considered an unacceptable security risk." "U.S. civilian presence is likely to retreat inward … and even further away from the reality of Iraq's dysfunction." An article details the connection between global warming and the violence in Darfur. The limited arable soil just south of the Sahara has left pastoral Arabs and agrarian Africans "mired in an eternal fight for water, food and shelter." As rainfall in the area continues to taper off, the arid Sahara encroaches into the arable Sahel, intensifying conflict. But herders and farmers have traditionally cooperated over land, potentially posing an avenue toward peace.— P.G.

Economist, April 28
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Economist, April 28 The cover article predicts "the coming wireless revolution." Sensors and microprocessors are being used to monitor bridges and irrigate farmland; some are even being implanted in people "as a means of identification and payment." The market for wireless technology is substantial: "[T]his year around 10 billion microprocessors will be sold, embedded in anything from computers to coffee-makers." If this trend continues, someday "machines will talk to machines without human intervention." A piece on Gordon Brown, the Labor politician who seems poised to succeed Tony Blair as Britain's next prime minister, asks, "[H]ow is he so entitled, yet so unloved?" One reason could be his "dour public personality." Critics also charge that Brown "is suspicious, reluctant to delegate, overcontrolling and contemptuous of competing ideas." None of these factors seems likely to damage his candidacy, but the Economist urges Brown to listen to his detractors: "[U]nless he heeds them, his time as prime minister could well be turbulent and short."— P.F.

The New York Times Magazine.

New York Times Magazine, April 29 The cover article describes the relationship between Charles Hess, a former cop and CIA agent, and serial killer Robert Browne. Hess first wrote Browne in 2002, when Browne was serving a life sentence for the murder of a 13-year-old girl. Over the course of years, Hess gained Browne's trust; he now admits to killing as many as 48 people. "I have to put the horror of it out of my mind," says Hess, who has listened as the murderer provides horrific details of his crimes. "I never missed a night sleep because of something Robert Browne told me." An article profiles Peter Acworth, who started "what is arguably the country's most successful fetish porn company, Kink.com." Acworth was in the process of getting a Ph.D. in finance at Columbia when he decided to found Kink. Acworth and his staff, which includes MBAs, film students, and recent liberal-arts grads, provide evidence that "as pornography becomes a more mainstream product, it becomes an equally mainstream career."— P.F.

New York Magazine.

New York, April 30
A special issue features first-person accounts of "Sex & Love." A recent divorcée shares her experiences: When her friends react to the split with maudlin condolences, offers to help clean house, and advice against "taking on too much," the author writes, "[t]he specifics of my experience vanish into an abstract idea about a woman's leaving a marriage." But instead of domestic collapse, she finds "strange, felicitous side effects," such as "a chance to invent yourself." A writer chronicles her lesbian wedding. Hesitant about the word marriage, the couple decided to have a "party about love" that "expressed the scale of our glee." Despite minor hang-ups in buying a gown and dealing with the author's conservative mother-in-law, "My gay wedding rocked." A piece analyzes the acronym MILF, which sprang into ubiquity in 1999 with the movie American Pie. While flirty moms could be disparaged as bawdy "cougars," the author finds "something disarming about … an image that suggests that motherhood is more than the death of desirability. …"— P.G.

The New Yorker

The New Yorker, April 30 The cover story by Atul Gawande examines a crisis in geriatric care. Researchers argue that "human beings fail the way all complex systems fail: randomly and gradually." Frailty occurs because "eventually, one too many joints are damaged, one too many arteries calcify." With medical advances raising life expectancies, doctors must confront unprecedentedly aged patients with overwhelmingly numerous complaints. Unfortunately, only a small minority of medical students receives geriatric training, and "[m]ost of us in medicine … don't know how to think about decline." An article features the Los Angeles Philharmonic's envelope-pushing approach to orchestral music. Early 20th-century metropolises "felt it their duty to build an ornate concert hall … and present concerts of beloved classics." But after the Los Angeles Philharmonic "subsided into an era of sleepy stasis, its finances in constant crisis," it "decided that it would have to take some risks." The orchestra hired a new managing director who championed an adaptable "community of musicians" and later hosted such youth-attracting events as a fortnight-long minimalism festival.— P.G.

Newsweek.

Newsweek, April 30 The cover article explores the mindset of killers like Virginia Tech gunman Cho Seung-Hui. "While the temptation is to dismiss Cho as crazy and leave it at that," writes the piece, violent criminals are usually formed through an interplay of factors: "the biology of an individual, the psychology that reflects the interaction of innate traits and experiences, and the larger culture."The presence of one factor alone will not create a spree killer, but studies shows that some places, like the United States, which has a "mobile" and "heterogeneous" population, tend to have more violent crime. A related piece recounts the events of the Virginia Tech shooting, tells the stories of both victims and survivors, and tries to uncover more of Cho Seung-Hui's personal life. "Somehow, somewhere, someone planted an evil seed in Cho." It is difficult to know who or when, though: Cho was extremely quiet, had no close friends, and his "dorm room was affectless as he was—no posters or photos, just bare cinder block."— P.F.

The Weekly Standard.

Weekly Standard, April 30 A reporter on the ground in Anbar province finds"glimmers of hope" in Gen. David Petraeus' new security plan: "[W]hile we may not yet be winning the war, our prospects are at least not deteriorating precipitously, as they were last year." For instance, attacks have declined significantly in formerly war-torn Ramadi. A group of Sunni sheikhs previously loyal to al-Qaida have since agreed to cooperate with the Coalition. Meanwhile, whereas Gen. George Casey expected battlefield results to speak for themselves, Petraeus emphasizes "information operations," using the Internet and satellite television to persuade Iraqis to support the Coalition. An article examines tensions between Sen. John McCain and the National Right to Life Committee, despite McCain's solid anti-abortion voting record. The NRLC opposes McCain because the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law requires "blackout periods" on corporate-sponsored advertising before elections. The author argues that McCain's pro-life stance should be more important to NRLC than his opinions on campaign-finance reform.— C.B.

Harper's, May
The cover story recounts author-psychotherapist Gary Greenberg's participation in a psychiatric depression study. With the discovery of the serotonin reuptake inhibitor in the 1950s, depression became "not a psychological or existential condition but a brain disease caused by a … 'chemical imbalance.' " The author finds that his psychiatrist's multiple-choice diagnostic tests "alert you to what it is in yourself that is diseased." Later, his doctor informs him of his improving mental health, leaving him only "discomfited … at my apparent inability to know my own inner state." An article details the progress of the Millennium Villages Project in the impoverished region of Sauri, Kenya, its pilot site. The MVP seeks to "halve the number of people living on less than a dollar a day in sub-Saharan Africa by 2015" through a host of internationally funded initiatives, from seed and fertilizer distribution to Internet access. But the MVP provided no solution to a disagreement over how to distribute a Sauri maize surplus, and such struggles may only grow as the program expands to a continental scale.—P.G.

Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.

Paige Ferrari is a freelance writer and former Slate intern.

Paul Gottschling is a Slate intern.