What's new in Newsweek, The New Yorker, and Vanity Fair.

Summaries of what's in Time, Newsweek, etc.
April 7 2009 11:56 AM

In Facebook We Trust

New York on our strange devotion to the social network.

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New York, April 13 The cover story wonders whether Facebook asks for more trust than it deserves. As the company prepares to release new terms of service in response to user uproar about privacy violations, the article reminds readers, "We, the users, are what Facebook is selling." Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg "believes that more information makes a better world, and a more tolerant one." But, the author argues, "It may not be too hyperbolic to talk about a digital self, as a fourth addition to mind, body, and spirit. It's not the kind of thing that one wants to give away." A feature details the accusations against Marc Dreier, a litigator who "in an age of white-collar villains" might be "the single greatest character of them all." Dreier is under house arrest for "inventing $700 million in financial assets out of whole cloth, staging fictional conference calls, and impersonating executives."

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Newsweek, April 13 In the cover story, Jon Meacham explores why "the Christian God … is less of a force in American politics and culture than at any other time in recent memory." A recent survey revealed a decline in those who call themselves Christian, from 86 percent in 1990 to 76 percent today, and an increase in the number of agnostics, atheists, and those who claim no religious affiliation. However, Meacham argues, "while the percentage of Christians may be shrinking, rumors of the death of Christianity are greatly exaggerated. Being less Christian does not necessarily mean that America is post-Christian." A profile of Carol Browner, Obama's czar for energy and climate issues, points to "her ability to grow and negotiate compromises with industry," after she spent the 1990s fighting to bring environmental issues to the fore in Washington. Now, "Browner is trying to bring the cabinet agencies she once squabbled with—Energy, Transportation, EPA and so on—under one tent."

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The New Yorker, April 13 A feature surveys the political landscape in Iran and considers the possibility of a change in the country's relationship with the United States. For now, the Obama administration must keep in mind the upcoming presidential election: "If they appear to bend too much, [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad could argue that he has suc­cessfully stood up to the United States, strengthening him at the polls." Ahmadinejad's religious nationalism led many Iranians to believe his "ascendance represented the invinci­bility of clerical rule and the demise of the reformers," though he has styled himself a populist. A profile of comedian Katt Williams portrays "a virtuoso ranter and pleader." Williams made a name for himself when he "learned to use physical comedy … and an outlandish persona … to make sure that audiences remembered him." However, outrageous behavior offstage—including arriving at a South Carolina hotel wearing a bathrobe—has given some the impression that he is "a comedian gone crazy."

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Weekly Standard, April 13 A feature notes the Obama Cabinet's uniform stance against further regulating abortion. The unanimous view is at odds with the times, "when we've just concluded that every other detail of our economic lives has, since about the time of the surrender of the American embassy in Tehran, been underregulated," and with the multiple perspectives held on the subject by the public. Because of "the honor code that motivates" this view, the author compares it to honor killings in other societies. The attitude toward abortion, he argues, engenders "honor of a comparatively new variety, tied not to 'patriarchy' and the traditional family, but to an interesting cocktail of feminism and upper-middle-class respectability." An article lauds Rep. Mark Kirk as the Republican Party's "best hope in Illinois." Kirk combines likeability with socially moderate views and an "ability to get things done."

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Vanity Fair, May 2009 Mark Bowden's profile of Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. finds the publisher of the New York Times and chairman of the New York Times Co. board "scrambling to keep up with interest payments on hundreds of millions in debt" in order to maintain "the flagship of serious newspaper journalism in America." While many associates proclaim their affection for him as a person, few tout Sulzberger's business sense. As heir to the family business, the publisher "chose to be defined by his name, and his father," instead of breaking with tradition to solidify the Times Co.'s future standing. James Wolcott berates the Washington political and media establishment for clinging to old ideologies and talking points. "With Barack Obama as president and the super-happening Michelle Obama as First Lady, you would think a new tone, a new tune, a kicky new jazzitude, would have entered Washington discourse, but it remains a landlocked island unto itself, held captive by its tribal fevers."

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