Today, Other Magazines reads the Economist, the New York Times Magazine, and Time to find out what's worth your time—and what's not.
Slate contributor Fred Kaplan profiles Defense Secretary Robert Gates in the New York Times Magazine. The piece traces Gates' path to his current position and paints him as cautious and extraordinarily loyal, but also points out that he didn't "maneuver through Washington's corridors of power by being a milquetoast." It seems the strain of taking over the messy Iraq situation is wearing even for an old war horse—Gates carries around a keychain counting down the days until the end of Bush's term, and his own public service career.—N.M.
A line in Time concisely sums up the superdelegate-fueled scenario the Democratic race is hurtling toward. "Yes, that's right: the perverse result of all this additional democracy, in which more people than ever before will have had a voice, could be that Democrats have to turn to old-style backroom politics to select a nominee."—C.M.
Best Election Overview
The Economist has a concise account of the disarray of the Democratic presidential nomination race and how McCain beat out Huckabee and Romney to become the Republican Party's front-runner. Obama has the upper hand when it comes to the war ("Try as she may, Mrs Clinton can provide no good excuse for her vote"), but Obama may run into trouble "on March 3rd when the trial for fraud of Antoin Rezko opens."—J.L.
Best International Piece
More bad news in Kenya—the flower industry may take a hit. It may sound slight, but the Economist explains that cut flowers are "the country's third-largest foreign currency-earner," and "some 25% of Europe's cut flowers come from Kenya." As of yet, the farms are hanging on, but "the violence could not have come at a worse time": right before Valentine's Day.—J.L.
Best Science Piece
The New York Times Magazines tackles the question of when fetuses begin to feel pain. While the article starts as a strictly medical examination of the question, it quickly acknowledges the implications for anti-abortion groups who have embraced the studies in an effort to redefine the issue. The piece expands its discussion to include the effects of pain on infants and small children in their lifelong perception of discomfort and stress.—A.J.
The Economist argues that Microsoft's Yahoo bid "highlights its own weakness almost as much as" the ailing Internet giant's. Ultimately, Microsoft-Yahoo would "dominate instant-messaging and web-based email, but neither is lucrative," and the "combination would still trail far behind" Google when it comes to search.—J.L.
Best Food Piece
The New York Times Magazine makes the case for entomophagy, or bug eating. Though author Sam Nejame describes the possibility of ice cream-and-insect combinations, his case seems to rest more on practicality than a Timon-and-Pumba-esque gustatory enthusiasm. Bugs are full of nutrients, relatively pathogen-free, and a sustainable food source: "Cow and pigs are the S.U.V.'s; bugs are the bicycles."—N.M.
Most Useless Trend Watch
Facial hair is back, according to Time magazine. The piece puts forth ridiculous notions such as claims that the New England Patriots were unified by their group decision to grow out their facial hair. Even worse is a quote which equates beards to accessories for women, going so far as to compare them to fake eyelashes.—A.J.
Worst 10-Year Plan
The New York Times Magazine has a short piece on the makers of the wildly successful merchandise stamped "1.20.09"—George Bush's last day in office. But, as the magazine points out, as of Jan. 21, 2009, the "entire stock becomes … dated."—N.M.