What's new in Time, Rolling Stone, and The Nation.

Summaries of what's in Time, Newsweek, etc.
July 31 2009 5:18 PM

Fierce Urgency

The Economist tells Obama it's time to lead.

Economist, Aug. 1
The cover story argues that President Obama "must come down from his cloud and start leading." Sagging poll numbers and stalled proposals show that Americans and Congress alike are growing weary of the president's "vague statements" and heavy spending. Obama has given congressional Democrats too much control and failed to substantially negotiate with Republicans. He has handled foreign policy well, but "if his schemes at home come to naught, then his credibility abroad will wither." An article examines the "chilling effect" of torture on American and British intelligence. Obama has attempted to move on, but "the past casts a long shadow." Increased scrutiny in both countries has caused intelligence officials to worry about sharing information with one another for fear that their secrets will come out in legal probes. This new sensitivity reveals "the extent to which torture and other forms of harsh interrogation cloud the legitimate work of counter-terrorism."

Time, Aug. 10
The cover story describes President Obama's frustration with trying to clearly explain health care. "This has been the most difficult test for me so far in public life," he confesses. He has gotten this far because he has delayed dealing with the controversial decisions of who should pay for reform and how much the government should be involved. In the next three months, he will need "fresh legislative moves" for the cornerstone of his agenda to succeed. An article reports on phase two of the resistance in Iran: boycotts of products advertised on state television, orchestrated attempts to trip Tehran's electrical grid, and impromptu protest chants that disperse before they can be stopped. Some companies have cut back advertising, stores have dropped unpopular brands, and a state company may lose $1 million a day in an upcoming text-message boycott.

New York Times Magazine, Aug. 2
The cover story wonders why Americans have stopped cooking. Julia Child, whose life is depicted in the upcoming film Julie and Julia, took the fear out of gourmet cooking, and the current explosion of cable cooking shows keeps interest in creative cuisine boiling. Why do we love to watch others cook but not to do it ourselves? Obesity rates are inversely proportional to time spent on food preparation, and anthropologists have begun to believe that cooking is a main behavior that distinguishes us from animals. Virginia Heffernan dissects "Your Dad Asks Computer Questions," a cartoon based on clueless Internet queries from real dads. What kinds of men "get" the Web? Some prefer more controlled communication; others stay away out of hammy deference to their "savvy" children. But when "older people" try out a computer and find something they like to do, they typically don't need a bit of help.

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Rolling Stone, Aug. 6
The cover story relives the final days of Michael Jackson, in which the pop star devoted all his energy to plotting his grand comeback. "We've got to put on the greatest show on Earth," he told his manager and assured his friend Deepak Chopra that this time it was "for real." With $270 million in debt and his creditors constantly on the verge of disclosure, Jackson needed the money that London's O2 arena had offered. His road back to physical fitness was arduous, but by the last dress rehearsal before his death, the director says "he was ready to do that show." A profile of Rob Thomas focuses on his harsh Southern upbringing: a crazy alcoholic mother, relatives who hired serial killers, and the ever-presence of drugs. His detractors dismiss him as "the rock star next door," but until his new album Cradlesong, he'd kept most of his personal life quiet.

The Nation, Aug. 17
The cover story sizes up the political and financial crisis that has made California a "failed state." The meltdown has been brewing for decades and cannot be chalked up to partisan leaders. Endless overlapping veto power has created a vacuum of leadership in which no one can assert any real authority. But there's general agreement on what to do: End gerrymandering and term limits, consider open primaries, and overhaul the state's cap on property tax. Recalling his own arrest in a similarly tense situation, Eric Alterman criticizes Henry Louis Gates Jr. for "racializing" the context of his now-infamous arrest two weeks ago. Gates, President Obama, and the media immediately assumed the officer had racial motivations, even though he had led classes on avoiding racial profiling. The misguided discussion of the incident has ensured that "this is not the 'teachable moment' for which liberals and civil rights groups are so understandably eager."

Must Read
The Weekly Standard's cover story on classic cocktails is packed with rich history and handy bar tips.

Must Skip
Time's cover story on health care sums up the situation but adds nothing that you haven't already read. Check out its interview with President Obama instead.

Best Politics Piece
A detailed Economist article explains how the after-effects of torture policies are hampering British and American intelligence.

Best Culture Piece
The New York Times Magazine's cover story on cooking makes a persuasive case for spending more time in the kitchen.

Roast of the Week
A dark essay in the New Republicspears British Prime Minister Gordon Brown: "He did not know what to tear up and what to plant. He had no instinct for the seasons."

David Sessions is a former Slate intern. He is currently a blogger at Politics Daily.