New Republic, Dec. 31 A piece chronicles how unions came to rule the auto industry, bringing autoworkers into the middle class and turning Detroit into a "private welfare state." But a system in which car companies provided the same safety nets as governments of Scandinavia proved unsustainable. "It was only a matter of time before the financial burden of running this private welfare state rendered U.S. manufacturers vulnerable to cut-rate competition—whether from across the ocean or below the Mason-Dixon line."… An article finds that the incoming Obama administration has a "work-all-hours, sleep-is-for-wimps, personal-lives-would-be-nice-if-only-there-were-time ethos." This stands in stark contrast to the outgoing administration's insistence on "working smarter, not harder." From Obama's Senate office Chief of Staff Pete Rouse (a "two-cat-no-life workaholic") to senior adviser Valerie Jarrett (who has an "all-hours BlackBerry-cell phone double-fisting habit"), the new team stands out even in a city of workaholics.
National Geographic, December 2008 Tina Rosenberg travels to rural India, where volunteer health workers provide essential services to the poor as part of Comprehensive Rural Health Project, an NGO. Because of a shortage of doctors, these women deliver babies and focus on preventative health care, stressing nutrition and hygiene. "Rural problems are simple," said Raj Arole, the founder of the project. "Safe drinking water, education, and poverty alleviation do more to promote health than diagnostic tests and drugs."… John Updike describes the hold Mars—our next-door neighbor a mere 50 million miles away—has had on mankind for millenniums. Since the advent of the telescope, astronomers have gazed at its surface and wondered if its Earth-like appearance would allow it to support life. Since The War of the Worlds was published in 1898, Mars has "served as a shadowy twin onto which earthly concerns, anxieties and debates were projected."
Newsweek, Jan. 5 Barack Obama tops the magazine's list of the 50 most powerful people of the planet, which includes kings literal (Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, No. 10) and figurative (Shahrukh Khan of Bollywood, No. 40) as well as religious leaders from Ayatollah Khamenei (No. 11) to the Dalai Lama (No. 46). "It is arbitrary, but the choices are well considered, and each, we believe, represents a thread in a new global tapestry," the cover story explains. Still, it is hard to imagine a world in which No. 35 John Lasseter, Pixar's animation guru, wields more clout than the pope and Oprah Winfrey, Nos. 37 and 47. … An article finds that America's 21 Republican governors are not as glum as one might expect, even though Democrats control the White House and Congress. Instead, they are focusing on their states in hopes of securing the party's nomination for president in 2012.
Weekly Standard, Dec. 29 Rather than rehash what went wrong with the Big Three, a writer travels to Motor City to examine the blighted heart of Detroit itself. Guided by a former New York Times and current Detroit News reporter, the author talks with firemen and councilwomen to find out how the city went from "the incubator of the middle class" to "the most murderous city, the poorest city, the most segregated city … [and] the place with the most heart attacks, slowest income growth and fewest sunny days." The town also has more than 60,000 vacant buildings that are prone to catching fire. "I've never seen anything in a non-Third World country like the east side of Detroit," the author writes. … Less than a month before Barack Obama's inauguration, Fred Barnes wastes no time pointing out where he thinks Obama will have problems: transparency, an overabundance of czars, and Democratic congressional leaders.
Wired, January 2009 An article examines the Netherlands' plan to prevent global warming-induced flooding "before anyone's feet are wet." With more than half their territory below sea level, the Dutch want to build their dikes and levees to heights that can withstand the sea levels of 2200. "They're showing the world that to prepare for sea-level rise and other impacts of climate change, you need, paradoxically, not dominion-over-nature bravado but patience, good data, and—above all—the long view."… The cover story argues that early cancer detection will save more lives in the long run than superdrugs developed to kill late-stage cancers. DNA tests and new technology allow doctors to better identify who is at risk for certain types of cancer and regularly screen for them. "This is the potential of early detection: To use data instead of drugs, to reveal a cancer before it reveals itself, and to leave the miracles for the patients who really need them."