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Summaries of what's in Time, Newsweek, etc.
May 13 2008 2:38 PM

Getting Away From It All

New York on the "suicide tourists" who come to the Big Apple—and never leave.

New York, May 19
A feature asks what makes New York "a perversely attractive place to kill oneself." "Suicide tourists"—out-of-towners who make up 10.8 percent of Manhattan suicides—come to New York City partially because of the same glamour that attracts conventional vacationers. But the city's anonymity could also attract some who want to spare family members from "the trauma of discovery and keep them from having to associate a local site with the person's death." A short piece reports on the Crown Heights Shmira, a volunteer patrol group of Hasidic Jews who seek to protect the community and stand accused of beating a black man. Members of the group, which was founded in 1968, increased their presence after claiming the police had failed to respond to a series of attacks on Jewish men. A column plays the what-if game with Hillary Clinton's shot at the nomination, with 10 thought-experiment scenarios that look back at "the coulda-shoulda-woulda campaign."

New Republic, May 28 The cover story uses political psychology to uncover how racial prejudice could influence an Obama-McCain contest. It argues that the Democratic primaries demonstrated that race still influences voters, "just in a more nuanced" way than in the past: "If 9 to 12 percent of Democratic primary voters in swing states have been reluctant to support [Obama because of his race] … in the general election, 15 to 20 percent of Democrats or Democratic-leaning Independents may not support him for the same reason." A piece considers the "black case" against Obama, alleging that the candidate "is the black person [white people] want the rest of us to be—half-white and loving, or 'racially transcendent,' as the press loves to call him." It asserts that in his famous speech on race, Obama "obscured the true nature of black religious life" when he implied the Rev. Wright-style speeches were commonplace in black churches.

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The New Yorker, May 19 A lengthy piece probes the insular Mississippi legal community to profile the decline of Dickie Scruggs, the legendary anti-tobacco trial lawyer who stands accused of bribing a judge. Scruggs pioneered the two-phase trial process (in which "the first phase would test only the general liability" of the defendant, and the second, if the defendant were found liable, would "determin[e] the damages to be paid to the individual plaintiffs"). The strategy "helped to open the litigation floodgates in Mississippi," which "became a principal battleground in the national political fight over tort reform." An article investigates an experimental post-traumatic stress disorder treatment that uses virtual-reality simulations. The simulations, which re-create the sights, scents, and sounds of combat with a "modified version of Full Spectrum warrior, a popular video game," help patients by disassociating the memory from the response it produces, "so although the memory of the traumatic event remains, the everyday things that can trigger fear and panic … are restored to insignificance."

Seed, May/June 2008 A piece on the economics of meat consumption observes that "for decades," arguments against eating meat were based on "moral grounds such as animal rights, or for religious reasons—arguments that the rest of society was free to ignore." But now, "the idea that meat-eating is purely an individual choice, and the costs affect only the individual, has been blown wide open." The piece suggests that excessive consumption of meat could become akin to "chuffing on Marlboros or driving a gas-guzzling SUV." An essay reflects on astronomers' method of surveying the universe for extraterrestrial life, which is to study Earth to observe how it would appear to alien beings in order to understand what to look for on distant planets. Despite this scientific approach, "it is delusion to pretend any of us look at ourselves, or the stars, dispassionately. … [W]e don't merely seek the familiar—we ache for it."

Weekly Standard, May 19 A piece weighs Sen. Jim Webb's veteran educational-benefit bill against the alternative presented by Sens. Lindsey Graham, Richard Burr, and John McCain. Webb's bill provides for generous compensation, but it could also mean "a higher number will leave the military once they reach the maximum benefit level." The Graham-Burr-McCain bill, the piece concludes, "seems more likely to yield an effective fighting force composed of women and men interested in making a long-term commitment." An essay scrutinizes Trumpet, the newsletter edited and published by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The piece concludes that "the now-infamous YouTube snippets from Wright's sermons are authentic reflections of his core political and theological beliefs" and that it would be impossible for Obama not to have known the extremism of Wright's thoughts. One Trumpet columnist railed against the Fourth of July as "a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages."

Newsweek, May 19 The cover story reveals how the Obama campaign will combat the GOP machine in the general election, noting that "the challenge will be to respond quickly and surely—but without overreacting or inviting an endless cycle of recriminations." One anonymous McCain adviser warns that despite both campaigns' claims that they want to avoid negativity, "It's going to be Swift Boat times five on both sides. … [I]n a close race, I don't see how to shut that down." A piece looks at the Penthouse Media Group's foray into online dating and social networking sites—ranging from the Christian network BigChurch.com to the self-explanatory Bondage.com. Because of the availability of pornography on the Internet, many adult entertainment companies have been forced to diversify their holdings to counteract losses.

Morgan Smith, a former Slate intern, is a law student in Austin, Texas.

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