What's new in the Economist, Harper's, and the New York Times Magazine.

Summaries of what's in Time, Newsweek, etc.
Jan. 23 2009 6:25 PM

Speeeeech, Speeeeech

Time on Obama's inaugural address.

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Time, Feb. 2 The cover story considers President Obama's inaugural speech—"resolute, suffused with sobriety, reflecting a tough-minded realism at home and abroad"—as an indicator of the strengths he brings to the White House. After a campaign of "speeches [filled] with gaseous oratory," the president's first order of business was to speak to "the nation as a community of mature adults." This bodes well, the author argues, for "the beginning of a whole new era of Obama-inspired and Obama-led citizen involvement." Another article celebrates Obama's ability to "tap into changes in the culture and encourage them." Because "Obama represents a crossing of cultures," he is an embodiment of contemporary America. One indication that the president might add to cultural mixing is that "the kind of social media the Obama campaign used, like Facebook, also help people broaden their spheres and see how they are connected with people who are different from them."

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Economist, Jan. 24 An article argues that President Obama's " 'Yes, We Can' coalition is already fraying at the edges." The author points to Obama's inaction (so far) on the Iraq war, the war on terror, the prison at Guantanamo Bay, and the Israel-Gaza conflict as ways in which the president has already "betrayed" his liberal supporters. The cover story presents two ways to fix global finance: "[B]uy the worst assets at their market value and put them in a bad bank, [and] insure the healthy assets that remain against catastrophe." Governments should do both in order to prevent the world economy from sinking to the depths of the 1930s. After "[h]uge flows of capital into debtor nations like America and Britain pumped up asset markets" and caused the present crisis, a new world financial order must eventually become "smaller, better regulated, more conservative."

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New York Times Magazine, Jan. 25 A feature examines the role Facebook has played in spurring political activism in Egypt, a country marked by "political repression" but also, until recently, apathy among the large under-30 population. The social network is now the third-most-visited Web site in Egypt, with nearly 800,000 Egyptian members. Of those, 70,000 belong to the Facebook group for the "April 6 Youth Movement," which debates contentious issues facing the country, such as "censorship, corruption, joblessness and government incompetence." The group is one of many that mobilize activists in Egypt and promote open discussion. The cover story explores scientists' search for a "full understanding of women's lust." Recent studies include "why women are aroused physiologically by such a wider range of stimuli than men." Though researchers aim to find biological reasons, not social ones, some wonder "whether the insights of science … can ever produce an all-encompassing map of terrain as complex as women's desire."

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Harper's, February 2009 An essay details one scholar's attempts to prove that Leo Tolstoy was murdered. It is widely accepted that the Russian writer died of respiratory failure on Nov. 7, 1910, after fighting with his wife over the terms of his will. But after poring over Tolstoy's diaries and novels for a literary conference at the novelist's former estate, the article's author became suspicious: "Nearly anyone might have slipped henbane into Tolstoy's tea," she writes. Furthermore, "[a]nyone investigating foul play in the death of Tolstoy would find much to mull over in The Kreutzer Sonata," a novella filled with marital strife. The cover story considers the barriers that stand in the way of a better health care system in the United States. Because health care accounts for a large proportion of the economy—nearly one-fifth—many are hesitant to consider the best option: single-payer universal health care.

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The Oxford American, Issue 63 In the 10th annual music issue, a column unearths a little-known DVD of music producer and songwriter Jack Clement's home videos. "In country music, it used to be that the performers' hair was unreal but their songs were down to earth," the author writes. "Now their hair looks more or less natural but their songs are bouffant wigs." The Clement DVD shows country music legends enjoying life's simple pleasures, with footage of Johnny Cash mulling over pigs' ability to see the wind (not true) and Clement hanging out with his cat (and other, more famous friends). An "accidental music critic"explains how he had "a ringside seat at the birth and death of grunge back home in Seattle and helped to fabricate the myth of alt-country (which was blind hope more than myth) as co-founder of the magazine No Depression." The demise of art criticism, he says, made him lose his "really cool job."

Must Read
A personal essay in Harper's chronicles a Marine's lifelong fascination with guns, from his early boyhood war games to two tours of duty in Iraq.

Must Skip
Look elsewhere for this week's news on a recent development in "digital paper," also known as flexible LCD screens. The Economist article on the topic covers more old ground than new.

Best Culture Piece
The New York Times Magazine profiles Yu Hua, a Chinese novelist who has enjoyed commercial and critical success but also controversy for his tough stance on the Cultural Revolution and capitalism in China.

Best Politics Piece
An Esquire essay holds the American people partly accountable for the political missteps of the last eight years, challenging readers to acknowledge their own negligence in upholding democracy.

Quirkiest Celebrity Moments
The Oxford American describes three bizarre and amusing images of Johnny Cash: the singer sporting a pig's nose, wearing shorts that are "shorter than you would expect the Man in Black to be wearing," and "lying on A.P. Carter's grave, smoking."