What's new in Vanity Fair, the Economist, The Nation, and more.

Summaries of what's in Time, Newsweek, etc.
June 6 2008 3:22 PM

Prozac on the Battle Field

Time on soldiers' increased use of psychiatric medication.

Time

Time, June 16 The cover story considers the military's increased use of psychiatric drugs "to calm nerves strained by repeated and lengthy tours in Iraq and Afghanistan." Though the growing number of antidepressant and anti-anxiety prescriptions in the military could just reflect the same trend in the general population, it's particularly worrisome because soldiers "are younger and healthier on average than the general population," and they've "been prescreened for mental illnesses before enlisting." Some doctors worry that the drugs are used to keep soldiers in the field to save "money on training and deploying replacements" and stretch "an already taut force even tighter." A piece reveals the origins of CAPTCHA, the online test that asks you to "look at a picture of some wavy, ghostly, distorted letters and type them into a box." It's meant to deter spammers from using software to access e-mail addresses. But computers are getting better at passing the tests all the time, so they "might soon involve identifying animals or listening to a sound file—anything computers aren't good at."

Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair, July 2008 Todd Purdum's buzz-generating article on Bill Clinton's "dubious associates" suggests the 42nd president "has had his head turned by his ability to enjoy his post-presidential status; that the world of rich friends, adoring fans, and borrowed jets in which he travels has skewed his judgment or, at a minimum, created uncomfortable appearances of impropriety." It hints at extramarital indiscretions, like sightings of the former president with attractive women, but notes that "[n]one of these wisps of smoke have produced a public fire." In a column, James Wolcott examines the "Man Crush" to uncover why some journalists "still can't quit McCain." Wolcott notes that the "press and McCain share a bond, a fraternal order forged during the endless bull sessions on the 'Straight Talk Express' bus in 2000, when the candidate and those covering him became buddy-roo, fellow vaudevillians." But all of this crushing might not have a happy ending: "Even Karl Rove has begun sentimentalizing about McCain in print, which you know can't be good. A Machiavellian with a Man Crush weaves a terrible web."

New York Times Magazine
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New York Times Magazine, June 8 In the "Architecture issue," an article profiles the Dutch firm MVRDV, "which brims with schemes for generating space in our overcrowded word." The firm envisions cities that, in the words of a founder, exists "not only in front, behind or next to you, but also above and below … [where] ground-level zero no longer exists but has dissolved into a multiple and simultaneous presence of levels where the town square is replaced by a void or a bundle of connections; where the street is replaced by simultaneous distribution and divisions of routes and is expanded by elevators, ramps and escalators." A piece by A.O. Scott reflects on cityscapes in sci-fi noir films, in which urban environments are both "inferno[s] of cruelty and dehumanization … [and look] like a pretty cool place[s] to live." These speculations about future cities are "at once repellent and seductive" but mirror our feelings about our current cities: "Their crowded streets and cramped habitations induce claustrophobia but also promise new forms of intimacy. The alienation and loneliness that blossom in the midst of crowds are romantic and agonizing in equal measure."

The Nation

The Nation, June 23 The cover story investigates "the most radical privatization agenda in history"—security firm Blackwater's play for increasingly larger shares of U.S. military contracts. Over the past 10 years, the company "has aggressively built [its] empire into a structure paralleling the US national security apparatus." Beyond just protecting corporations' employees in conflict areas, Blackwater has recently formed a new branch that seeks to privatize intelligence gathering in the hopes of bringing " 'CIA-style' services to the open market for Fortune 500 companies." The firm says it offerings include "surveillance and countersurveillance, deployed intelligence collection, and rapid safeguarding of employees or other key assets." An editorial observes that the significance of Obama's win is not "just in the records and barriers it has broken" but the fact that he "assembled a broad coalition of supporters—one that included independents and crossover Republicans—not by running to the center or trying to out-muscle Republicans on national security but by offering a more peaceable alternative."

The Economist

Economist, June 7 An article responds to a pair of pieces in The New Yorker and the New Republic that argued that the ranks of radical Islam are shifting against al-Qaida's killing of civilians in jihad. Such a change may be "too good to be true" because any differences in philosophy "may well be outweighed by the continuing current of anti-Americanism in the Islamic world." And as far as Islamic militant thinkers' discontent over innocent bloodshed, there's "a simple remedy" for al-Qaida: "[K]ill more Westerners and fewer Muslims." In the "Technology Quarterly," a piece reports on the plight of the overly ambitious $100 laptop, the brainchild of a nonprofit that aims to get computers to children in the developing world. Though some now consider the scheme a flop, the concept has spawned a movement in the industry to create cheap laptops for use in the First World. A post-mortem of the Clinton campaign boils down to this: "The Clinton machine was too stuck in the 1990s."                                                               

Must Read
Time's cover story delivers a chilling glimpse into deployed U.S. troops' growing use of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, revealing that their "mental trauma has become so common that the Pentagon may expand the list of 'qualifying wounds' for a Purple Heart … to include posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)."

Must Skip
Todd Purdum's much-discussed Vanity Fair exposé on Bill Clinton fails to, well, expose anything concrete. Though perhaps it's worth a read just to see what provoked this 2,476- word rebuttal.

Best Politics Piece
Newsweek's cover story examines what it takes to get an animal or plant on the endangered species list—and the political motivations on both sides of the battle.

Best Culture Piece
In the New York Times Magazine's "Architecture issue," an article probes the design philosophy of Rotterdam-based architecture and urban planning firm MVRDV, whose "designs are so logical they turn reality on its head."

Most Passive-Aggressive Takedown
A piece in the Economist  autopsies the Clinton campaign and calls Howard Wolfson "one of the least helpful spokesmen this newspaper has ever encountered." (In parentheses, of course.)

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