Economist, July 7 A report on hopeful GOP nominee Mitt Romney suggests that the Economist has been swept off its feet by the "tall and handsome" candidate who answers questions "crisply and intelligently." He's not just a pretty face: As the governor of Massachusetts, he turned a $3 billion deficit into a $700 million surplus. He also single-handedly saved the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympics. He's also tackled one of America's "prickliest problems" with his compulsory health-insurance plan. The article even swoons when naming why his candidacy might not succeed: "Mr. Smooth of Massachusetts" could possibly be "too good to be true."… An opinion piece questions the efficacy of the United Nations' millennium development goals, which take aim against poverty, disease, and illiteracy globally. At the halfway point, the Economist says that the program has so far been "half crusade and half charade." The article frets, "Poor countries can blame rich ones for not stumping up enough cash; rich governments can accuse poor ones of failing to deserve more money."— M.S.
Sports Illustrated, July 2 and 8 The "Where Are They Now?" issue features the former minor-league hockey players who portrayed the Hanson brothers in the movie Slap Shot. Now all in their 50s, they still possess the zany meathead charm that made the film such a touchstone. Even today, Slap Shot fans "recite its lines with the fluency, and the passion, of a preacher spouting Scripture." The only thing missing: an interview with the movie's screenwriter, Nancy Dowd, who is only quoted from letters she wrote to a Slap Shot Web site. … A piece investigates drug use in professional cycling: "This drug drenched sport has been dirty for so long that the question is no longer, Who will win the Tour? It is, Can anyone win it clean?" Much of the article centers on a new book that implicates Lance Armstrong in doping activities. Armstrong, of course, denies this: "I agree there are some f -- -- -- rats out there, with all the stuff we've seen. But sometimes, people come along with 12 cylinders."— K.E.
Time, July 16 A cover story on addiction starts out promisingly enough, with the writer confessing that by the time he was in his late 20s, "I'd poured down as much alcohol as normal people consume in a lifetime and plenty of drugs—mostly pot—as well." But the piece gets boring very quickly when it veers from tales of personal addictions to a dry catalog of how scientists are working to cure it. And insights like "[a]lmost anything deeply enjoyable can turn into an addiction, though" aren't exactly groundbreaking. … An article about Facebook tracks the phenomenon of "genuine grownup[s]" with "important and time-consuming job[s]" getting sucked into the social-networking site. The writer has been adjusting to a new world of Facebook relationship politics: "In the world of Facebook, friends don't drift apart. Either someone makes an active break, or the connection and the News Feeds go on forever. Get used to it." To this complaint from their parents, first-generation Facebook users can only smile knowingly and return to scrolling through their new wall posts.—K.E.
Entertainment Weekly, July 13
The cover story charts the Transformers path from forgotten cartoon series to summer blockbuster. Directed by Michael Bay, king of noisy action flicks, and subsidized by GM, Transformers "does double duty" as "a piece of entertainment and the world's most expensive toy commercial." Transformers movies must walk a difficult line between commercial viability and appealing to the devoted fanboys. A 1986 attempt flopped, but this time, some Transformers loyalists say Bay is "wrecking their childhood." … A piece highlights the rising price of casting Tom Cruise. This time, it's in Germany, where government officials refused to allow Cruise's upcoming WWII film Valkyrie to be shot at the Benderlock war memorial. Why the ban on such a moneymaker? The government allegedly objected to Cruise's much-documented evangelizing for Scientology. While they later claimed the rejection had "nothing to do" with Cruise's religion, the verdict stood, and United Artists is seeking alternate filming sites in Germany.—D.S.
New York Times Magazine, July 8
A meditative cover profile of Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni doles out measured praise for the leader as it examines the emerging "wait and see" attitude of Israeli centrists made cynical by the co-failures of the left's "outstretched hand" and the right's "iron fist". Livni, the daughter of rightist Irgun fighters, protégé of Ariel Sharon, and now a leading member of the moderate Kadima party, embodies the shift of Israeli politics toward an isolationist center. … An article combines science and anecdote to explore Williams syndrome, a cognitive deficiency whose sufferers have an overwhelming urge to connect socially but are unable to read the nonverbal cues that underlie human interactions. The tension between "caring and comprehension" in the charmingly awkward "Williamses" of the article reveals the fragile balance of the two traits in the human mind. Some cognitive scientists believe the study of the Williams paradox will perhaps yield the evolutionary keys to human sociability: "a raw yearning to connect" and "fearfulness" of others' reactions.—M.S.
Virginia Quarterly Review, Summer Issue
New York Times photographer Ashley Gilbertson's piece about his experience in Iraq is most rewarding for the photographs that accompany it. His writing brims with bromides ("I had a craving that only Iraq could satisfy." "Fear turns into a fact of life in Iraq."), and his psychological revelations are, well, less than revelatory: "I have grown to accept that Americans will not stop dying because I take their pictures." But many of Gilbertson's photographs featured in the essay—an abandoned, rotting corpse; the disembodied dentures of a murdered woman—are profoundly heartbreaking. … A scathing opinion piece tells off the critics at Poetry magazine in no uncertain terms: "[T]heir work tends toward the arrogant, masturbatory, spiteful, bombastic, and mean-spirited hatchet job." In true inside-baseball fashion, the article attacks New York Times Book Review writer David Orr, who criticized New Yorker writer Dana Goodyear for an article she wrote criticizing Poetry. A criticism of a criticism of a criticism seems a little tired at this point.—K.E.
The cover story argues that original Transformers fanboys were loath to trust their precious childhood cartoon to Hollywood pyromaniac Michael Bay, who produced the insufferably self-righteous Pearl Harbor and the flop The Island. To the Transformers purists, hero Optimus Prime was originally something of an "Allfather at a time when flesh-and-blood role models were increasingly few and far between." But more frightening than the prospect of Bay mishandling a previous generation's toys is the impact the movie may have on today's youths: The U.S. government has been all too eager to provide Bay with tanks, advice, and uniformed extras "on the cheap" for Transformers, which just so happens to "put the American military in the middle of an alien civil war" that begins with an attack on the Middle East. … A geeky futuristic narrative imagines a (supposedly) not-too-distant future where powerful mobile devices and microchips in everyday objects create a hybrid virtual/real world. Biometric IDs? Sure. But cell phones multitasking as "mental safety sensors" and "hi-def projectors"? Sounds like the iPhone got someone's overactive imagination all worked up.—A.B
The New Yorker, July 9 An action-packed article on opium eradication in Afghanistan explores the lucrative—and recently forged—partnership between the Taliban and Afghan drug lords. Though the Taliban outlawed opium production during its reign, promoting it today gives it the opportunity to earn money, gain the allegiance of impoverished opium farmers, and give the finger to U.S.-led opium-eradication efforts. Contractors paid to enforce the counternarcotics efforts are frustrated. "Good thing I'm not an idealist," one says. "I'm just here for the money."… A feature on meteorites examines our endless attraction to the otherworldly. The piece centers on a purported meteorite that crashed through a home in New Jersey. After inciting a local media frenzy, the meteorite was ultimately found to be (spoiler alert!) faux. A Rutgers scientist's quote is the highlight of the piece: "It sure looked like a meteorite, and it sure fooled me, that sneaky little devil. Well, if you keep on studying these objects, over time you'll see far fewer meteorites than meteor wrongs."— K.E.
Weekly Standard, July 9
A by-the-numbers article assesses Nicolas Sarkozy's first few weeks in the French presidency. A "doer" who "means business," he stripped the proposed EU constitution "of everything grandly 'constitutional' " in favor of a "leaner treaty" that focuses on practicalities, like eliminating the unanimity requirement for decisions on security. Sarkozy's predecessors dictatorially ran France's foreign affairs solo, but the magnanimous Sarkozy consulted with representatives from the Socialist Party before heading to the EU summit. Anyone familiar with European politics will find the article too basic, but neophytes may appreciate the writer's quick summation of French goings-on. … Another article explains why Rudy Giuliani gets standing ovations at Christian universities. The former New York mayor supports gay rights, stem-cell research, and a woman's right to choose, but religious and social conservatives "greet [him] warmly." Why? He's tough on terrorism, and conservatives think he'll be viable in the general election. After watching the Bush-led right wing take a beating, it seems that pragmatic Republicans are doing some compromising.— J.L.