Andrew Romano

Stories by Andrew Romano

  • A 'Fantastic Voyage' Into Your GI Tract

    Gastroenterology has always been high on grossness and low on glamour, but you'd never know from visiting the Manhattan offices of Dr. James Aisenberg. On a recent evening, the lanky physician led a NEWSWEEK reporter into an exam room, lowered the lights and parked at a PC. Tonight's feature presentation: a full-color video of the reporter's empretzeled innards--from gullet to gut to small intestine. Eight hours earlier, he'd swallowed a bullet-size capsule--the PillCam--packed with a tiny blinking camera set to transmit two photos per second to a wearable hard drive. Now Aisenberg was pointing out a "beautiful" shot of the bile duct. "This is the sexiest technology imaginable," he says of the device, which he's used to detect digestive-tract ailments in more than 400 patients. "It's 'Fantastic Voyage'--and it's changed gastroenterology as much as any single breakthrough in the past 10 years."Until now, only Given Imaging--an Israeli start-up--could offer physicians like Aisenberg...
  • Music: The Rise of the 'Yupster'

    Music fans, rejoice: "list season"--that wintry instant when our nation's critics whittle a year of records into tidy top 10s--has come again. According to the album-review aggregators at Metacritic.com, Bob Dylan scored highest in 2001. Tom Waits took '02, '03 was Led Zeppelin's year and Brian Wilson owned '04. So who's winning this round? Some guy named Sufjan Stevens. That's "SOOF-yawn"--in case you haven't heard of him.Stevens's success (and the dinos' decline) neatly sums up a year that saw "indie" rock suddenly selling to scenesters and suits alike. In November '04, Conor Oberst--the genre's poster boy--snagged the top two spots on the singles charts, and Death Cab for Cutie's 2005 record "Plans" debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200. Despite a dip in overall sales, indie labels now claim 27 percent of the music market--their largest share in recent memory. "This year, there's a real consensus around 10 records," says Adam Shore of Vice Recordings. "And they're all this type...
  • Boeing's New Tailwind

    On Dec. 7, 2003, Boeing executives arrived in Dubai for the city's biennial air show--and they were hoping for some good news. After all, the company's profits and stock price were slumping, and with 13 years since the last new-model launch, its product lineup looked stale. But the worst headline was yet to come: by the year-end, Boeing would, for the first time, deliver fewer airplanes than rival Airbus.What a difference a couple of years makes. Boeing returned to Dubai last week on a roll. On Nov. 10 a long-range 777 flew 13,422 miles in one shot, shattering the distance record for commercial flight. The company's stock price had nearly tripled in the past two years. By Thanksgiving, the Dubai show was over--and, boosted by 138 new sales, Boeing's order book had swelled to 801, which will likely top its European adversary's 2005 tally by more than 100 jets.For a time, Airbus looked too tough to beat. It made a bold bet with its A380, a new double-decker "flying cruise ship,"...
  • Personal History: The 11 Moments That Made the Man

    1. Spring 1956: John, 15, catches a radio broadcast of Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel." "When I heard it," he says later, "it was the end for me."2. July 6, 1957: At a local church party, John leads his first band, the Quarry Men, through a ramshackle set. Afterward he meets 15 year-old Paul McCartney, who, primed for the occasion, whips out a guitar and tears through Eddie Cochran's "Twenty Flight Rock." Impressed and threatened, Lennon asks a friend: "What do you think about him joining the band?"3. July 15, 1958: John's mother, Julia, is struck and killed by a passing car. "That's really f---ed everything!" he will remember thinking. "I have no responsibility to anyone now."4. Feb. 11, 1963: In 10 hours of sessions at Abbey Road, the Beatles nail down finished takes of nine songs--four with Lennon lead vocals. At 10 p.m., his throat torn to shreds, John swallows a couple of cough drops, gargles a mouthful of milk, strips to the waist and rips through "Twist and Shout" -...
  • EMPTY TITLE

    Under the Influence: 'The Squid and the Whale'Winner of the two top prizes at Sundance, Noah Baumbach's "The Squid and the Whale" (Oct. 5) is a no-budget film a clef about egghead divorce. The surprise: it's one of this fall's must-see flicks. Feeling out of the loop? We sum it up."Kramer vs. Kramer" + "Franny & Zooey" x "Royal Tennenbaums"Add a bitter dash of the Kramers to Salinger's stew of smarty-pants New Yorkers. Then serve it up a la Wes Anderson--dry and deadpan."Manhattan" - Woody Allen + 10 years of marriageRemember Allen's 1979 paean to sex and the city? Keep the neurotic literati--ditch the nebbish. Now fast-forward to the mid-80's."Heartburn" / Lucian Freud x director Jim JarmuschSplit "Heartburn" (shot in Baumbach's childhhood home) with Freud's palette (Dad's new digs); filter through J.J.'s grainy lens. Indie rockers Belle and Sebastian x "Portnoy's Complaint"Score the schoolyard scenes with this Scottish's septet's twee, tragicomic nostalgia rock--then factor in...
  • MEDIA: SNAP, SEND--AND SELL

    On Sept. 2, Stephen Bell watched from his U.K. office window as a black Mazda crashed into a cluster of cars parked below. Then he snapped a photo of the wreckage and sent it to Scoopt.com. Soon, Bell's pic was in the local Bristol Evening Post--and he was $44 richer. Meet the new paparazzo: you. "When news happens, the press won't always be there," says Kyle MacRae, who launched Scoopt this summer to solicit and sell shots from the cameraphone-carrying public. Now MacRae's model is spreading to the states: Cell Journalist debuted last week, and former Novell boss Tom Quinn will introduce the eBay-esque Spy Media on Oct. 3. But Scoopt has sold only three photos to date. The reason? Few editors are eager to reward amateur voyeurism, especially when they get plenty of pics free of charge. "People simply want to join our newsgathering process," says the BBC's Pete Clifton. For Quinn, though, it's only a matter of time. "When people find out they can cash in, they'll come to us," he...
  • REAL ESTATE: THE VILLAGE HITS VEGAS

    Vegas has its gondolas. Vegas has its Eiffel Tower. Vegas even has its Celine Dion (blame Canada). But what it doesn't have, says developer Mark Advent, is "a real, organic city center where people can gather." His fix? Build one. And make it just like New York's.Meet "East Village." Set to open in mid-2007, Advent's 44-acre, $225 million retail complex will give gritty lower Manhattan a very Vegas makeover. What to expect: a "Grand Central" market, a "Meatpacking District" nightlife zone, cops on horseback, surly hot-dog vendors and a "Diamond District," where shoppers, promises Advent, can "haggle for deals." Not that you'd find any of these (mostly midtown) attractions in the actual East Village. Says partner Mark Vlassopulos: "It's an hommage."Sin City has bitten into the Big Apple before: the glam New York, New York resort, also an Advent creation, opened in 1997. But lately Vegas has ditched uptown glitz for downtown cool. With seminal punk club CBGB facing an Aug. 31 eviction...
  • PortaPorn Inc.

    If you're looking to spice up your morning commute, how about a little hardcore? Imagine: one mocha chai latte, one copy of the Times--and, provided you own a portable media player, one X-rated rendezvous with Jenna Jameson as "The Masseuse."Not your bag? Well, like it or not, pornographic films are about to elbow their way out of the boudoir and onto the bus. In the next few weeks, Japanese adult-DVD makers H.M.P. and GLAY'z will release eight of their top-selling hardcore titles on Sony's Universal Media Discs--the 2-1/4-inch, plastic-encased "DVDs" designed for exclusive use with their hot new PlayStation Portable device. Teen boys of the world, rejoice: blue movies are going mobile.Sure, it's long been easy to steam up a small screen with skin flicks--the latest DVD viewers are low-priced and only marginally larger than DVDs themselves. And others have already put porn on the PSP. In April, the Playboy Web site posted pics and video tailored to the device, and tech-savvy...
  • BOOKS: DON'T EVER CHANGE

    In "Retro-Electro: Collecting Technology from Atari to Walkman," U.K. technophile Pepe Tozzo pays homage to more than 200 pioneering gadgets that we've treasured then tossed. It reads like a yearbook (minus the bad hairdos): here, the geeks (JVC's Videosphere television, class of 1970), the hipsters (Bang & Olufsen's Beogram 4000 turntable, class of '72) and the overachievers (Sony's Walkman, class of '70) stand shoulder to shoulder in tribute to the way we were. "As we get older," says Tozzo, "we pine after the items that remind us of our younger years." In 2005, that means Ataris--not antiques. BBC TV now devotes much of its "20th Century Roadshow" to retro-tech gems, and Christie's recently auctioned a cache of rare computer artifacts--for $700,000. Stocked with price info and eBay tips, "Retro-Electro" will help budding collectors rebuild their old rec-room rigs. For the rest of us, it's a welcome blast from the past. Batteries not included.
  • Watergate Revisited: Following Felt's Trail

    Passed over for the FBI directorship and wary of Nixon's imperial ambitions, W. Mark Felt became Deep Throat: the shadowy source whose confirmations and clues drove "Woodstein" to dig where others didn't dare. A look back at the twists and turns of Watergate--and the part that one man played in toppling a president. ^ Watergate events and revelations ^ Felt's ROLE WATERGATE EVENTS AND REVELATIONS: 1970WATERGATE EVENTS AND REVELATIONS: Spring: Navy courier Bob Woodward delivers a package to the West Wing, where he meets FBI Assistant Director W. Mark Felt. Woodward asks for Felt's number; Felt offers up his direct office line.1972WATERGATE EVENTS AND REVELATIONS: May 2: At 9:45 a.m., Felt learns that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover has died. Promoted a year earlier to a top bureau spot, he's next in line--but Nixon appoints outsider L. Patrick Gray instead.FELT'S ROLE: June 17: 2:30 a.m. Five men equipped with bugging devices and cameras are arrested while breaking into DNC HQ at the...
  • BOOKS: CAUGHT ON TAPE

    Pop quiz: how do you take your tunes? Most formats have their fans: purists pick vinyl; kids dig MP3s; the rest of us stick to compact discs. But the audiocassette? With its hiss, its tangles of tape, its side A and side B? That's, like, so 1985.Which is precisely the point--at least for "tapeheads" like rocker Thurston Moore, whose "Mix Tape: The Art of Cassette Culture" just hit stores. "A cassette," he insists, "will bring healing analog tones to the ear." Not sold? Check out the charming mix-tape inlays and track lists that Moore gathered from his famous friends: Kate Spade, Allison Anders, DJ Spooky and more. Ahmet Zappa's mix (choice cut: "Looks That Kill" by Motley Crue) honors "a time when corn dogs filled the guts of many a fine hard-rockin' American teen"; Anders's entry, a gift from a male pal, "pushed [her] from a crush into full-blown love." It's enough to make Steve Jobs miss his Walkman.But despite the recent surge of nostalgia--tapeheads can now drool over 600 pics...
  • PORTRAITS OF THE PAPABILI

    On April 18, 117 cardinals will enter the Sistine Chapel and lock the doors behind them. When they emerge, days later, one will likely wear the vestments of the Vicar of Christ. Nobody--not the pundits, the bookies or even the electors--can say for sure who will succeed John Paul II. But a list of papabili (or "pope-ables") has taken shape: Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, who would defend his predecessor's positions; Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, who would bring his characteristic humility to the Holy See; Austria's Christoph Schonborn, whose bearing is already regal. A look at some of the rest of the men who would be pope:Cardinal Angelo Scola, 63 ...
  • COLLECTING: JUICED OUT

    Thanks to 'roid rumors, the market for some sluggers' rookie cards is looking sluggish. In 2000, dealer Andy Madec sold a 1985 Mark McGwire for $8,016. Now with Big Mac's rep in a slump, the same card fetches only $600. A look at the Hall of Shame:Barry Bonds 1987 Fleer Rookie Peak: $2,200 Now: $700Jose Canseco 1986 Donruss Rookie Peak: $200 Now: $25Jason Giambi 1991 Topps Traded Peak: $400 Now: $30Mark McGwire 1985 Topps Tiffany (High-Gloss Special-Edition Series) Peak: $10,000 Now: $600Sammy Sosa 1990 Leaf Rookie Peak: $1,200 Now: $200
  • THE MOST DANGEROUS GANG IN AMERICA

    The signs of a new threat in northern Virginia emerged ominously in blood-spattered urban streets and rural scrub. Two summers ago the body of a young woman who had informed against her former gang associates was found on the banks of the Shenandoah River, repeatedly stabbed and her head nearly severed. Last May in Alexandria, gang members armed with machetes hacked away at a member of the South Side Locos, slicing off some of his fingers and leaving others dangling by a shred of skin. Only a week later in Herndon, a member of the 18th Street gang was pumped full of .38-caliber bullets, while his female companion, who tried to flee, was shot in the back. The assailant, according to a witness, had a large tattoo emblazoned on his forehead. It read MS, for Mara Salvatrucha, the gang allegedly responsible for all these attacks.At the nearby headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, agents--many of whom live in these communities--fielded the reports with mounting alarm. But...
  • SNAP JUDGMENT: BOOKS

    Metropolis by Elizabeth GaffneyIn this debut novel, Paris Review editor Gaffney lovingly resurrects Gilded Age New York, following a luckless German immigrant and his gangster-moll girlfriend from the depths of its sewer system to the heights of the Brooklyn Bridges still-unfinished towers. Forget the overreaching jacket copy: Gaffney doesn't have Dickens's touch with character or his gift for comedy. But she compensates with brawny, old-school storytelling, blending fact with fiction to produce a novel as strong and heady as the brew her rakes and roustabouts swill by the pint.Fat Girl by Judith MooreJudith Moore ambushes you on the very first page of this memoir, and in short order has lifted you up and broken your heart with a portrait of the artist as a young pariah. Faced with abandonment, emotional isolation, random disdain and wanton cruelty, Moore comforts herself with food. Life as a fat person--which she describes in unflinchingly stark, yet sometimes lyrical and often...
  • UNDER THE INFLUENCE: BLOC PARTY

    Bloc Party has the British breathless. "Astonishing," says the BBC. "The band of ['05], no contest," says music mag NME. Shocked you've never heard of them? Don't be. Their debut, "Silent Alarm," isn't out here till March 22. The real shocker: it lives up to the hype. So what's the CD sound like? We crack the code.
  • GRADE-GRUBBING: BURSTING THE BUBBLE

    Kyoko Loetscher was crying. The Princeton lecturer had just told her 20 top Japanese students that only seven of them--down from more than half the previous year--would get A's. "This is absurd and unfair," she said. Actually, it's Princeton in the new age of "grade deflation."THE POLICY: In 2003, 65 percent of Princetonians graduated with a B-plus or better. But last April, the faculty voted to limit A-range grades to 35 percent per department.THE BACKLASH: Students received their first "deflated" report cards last week. In Loetscher's class, 95.3 percent was A-territory; 95.2 percent was not. One engineering department slashed its A allotment by 12 percent. Panic set in--mostly about job prospects. Recently, Dean Nancy Malkiel sent letters to 3,000 employers and grad schools, but her efforts have done little to quell fears--perhaps with good reason. "A 3.0 is a 3.0," says alum Alex Rosenfeld, a recruiter for a major investment bank. "That resume is going to end up in the shredder....
  • TOURS: CATCH US AT THE CASBAH

    More than three decades after banning Western music from Libya, Muammar Kaddafi has agreed to let the casbah rock. And an American band will do the honors. Next week in Tripoli, California's The Heavenly States (Amazon.com sales rank: 160,938) will launch a six-day tour to spread its buoyant, Bush-baiting pop from the Roman ruins at Leptis Magna to the streets of Benghazi. The last Yanks to light up the Libyan stage? USO mainstays Anita Bryant and Les Brown. In 1963. "We're totally into the idea of rattling these cages," says violinist Genevieve Gagon. To get the gigs--including a tsunami relief show at the British Consulate--Gagon and her cohorts spent the last year clearing hurdles: a stonewalling State Department, cagey local bureaucrats and, most alarming, Libya's lack of rock-ready drum sets (solution: hire a courier to cart a kit the 1,000 miles from Cairo). "It's about mountaineering," says manager Eugene Bari, who remortgaged his house to pay for the tour. "The higher and...
  • CHARITY AND CHAOS

    The American Seahawk chopper descends toward a one-lane road near the ruined village of Lam No. Before the skids have even touched the pavement, a mob rushes toward the craft in hopes of grabbing food, drinks and medicine. The throng is mostly children. Navy airmen and an accompanying NEWSWEEK correspondent aboard the chopper offload bundles of wheat, protein biscuits and strawberry yogurt as rotor blades whirl overhead. In less than two minutes, the helicopter is again aloft. "They're all so hungry," shouts 22-year-old Nathan Minear, an aviation warfare systems operator from Washington state, as the chopper roars away.Minear's mission--in the disputed Indonesian province of Aceh--is purely humanitarian. But the mammoth international relief effort, including the largest American military deployment in Southeast Asia since Vietnam, entails far more complex tasks than airlifting food to displaced people. The tsunami took its worst toll in Aceh: more than 100,000 dead, more than 500...
  • DEATH FROM THE DEEP

    They are the stealthiest of natural disasters, hiding the energy of a hydrogen bomb in a barely noticeable swell that races across the ocean at the speed of an airliner. And great tsunamis are as unpredictable as they are rare. A look at how the most powerful seismic event in 40 years spawned killer swells across the width of the Indian Ocean -- and how a warning system could have saved ten of thousands of lives.
  • SWING STATE WATCH

    Polls show the Bush-Kerry race is still a nail-biter, but whoever wins will need a majority on Capitol Hill to get anything done. A look at eight tight Senate matches and three key presidential hot spots.How the Tossup States Are Swinging ...
  • SWING STATE WATCH

    Both camps say Kerry had the most to gain from the debates--and did. But with two weeks to go, the race is still neck-and-neck. Forget everything that's happened so far. Only the last lap matters now.SPOTLIGHT: IOWALocal polls: Kerry needs to keep Iowa from slipping into W's column: if Fla. goes Red, he'll likely require this state's 7 electors to reach 270. Gov. Tom Vilsack is a key ally, but Bush can count on incumbent Sen. Chuck Grassley for support. ...
  • SWING STATE WATCH

    Thanks to his Miami win, Kerry hit St. Louis with a slim battleground lead. Now, with post debate polls pending, it's clear that W's strong second round staunched the bleeding. Tempe, here we come.SPOTLIGHT: NEW MEXICOLocal polls: In '00, Gore won here by 366 votes, one of the smallest spreads in U.S. history. Expect another photo finish: Kerry's first debate performance has poll-vaulted him into a tie with W. ...
  • SWING STATE WATCH

    The polls are uneven, but both campaigns agree: Bush leads by a few points. Expect that to change after Thursday's face-off. Kerry will up the heat; W will up the charm. And the winner could take all.SPOTLIGHT: MINNESOTALocal polls: A bastion of progressive politics, Minn. hasn't gone Red since '72. But Kerry's early edge has vanished, and now the race is too close to call. ...
  • Budget Airlines: It's Been A Bumpy Ride

    Braniff: Known for aiming to fly anywhere with a landing strip, Braniff was the first (but not the last) major U.S. airline to go bankrupt in the wake of deregulation in '78. Braniff never recovered, but its influence persists: the latest discount carriers all place a premium on style.Southwest: The original. Founded in '71 by two quirky Texans, Southwest (think wisecracking attendants and ticketless travel) soared in the de-regulated market.Laker Airways and Skytrain: On Sept. 26, 1977, Laker Airways launched Skytrain--the first no-frills round-trip transatlantic service. Offering nothing but transportation, Skytrain got you from New York to London and back for $236 ($400 less than the going rate). Breakfast was $1.25 extra. Laker soon went belly-up.People Express: Of all the postderegulation upstarts, it flew the highest--and crashed the hardest. Founded by Donald Burr in '80, PE offered regional flights for the price of an intercity bus ticket. But its unprecedented growth led...
  • Swing State Watch

    Some polls have Bush pulling away; others show the race tightening up. But campaign insiders give him a 3- to 5- point edge. With W taking to the trail in key Blue States, the ball is in Kerry's court.SPOTLIGHT: NEVADA ...
  • Swing State Watch

    It's smaller than you'd think. Coming off a clockwork convention, Bush last week shook Kerry's support in crucial Blue States and gained ground in the Southwest. But W still doesn't stand for "wrapped up."SPOTLIGHT: WISCONSIN ...
  • SEATTLE SUPERBUS

    Jim Boon is a hybrid kind of guy. He drives a Toyota hybrid to work, a Honda hybrid on weekends and, as a manager for Seattle public transit he recently placed the world's largest order for hybrid electric buses.Now, with the biggest hybrid-bus fleet in the world, Seattle has become the main testing ground for a technology that claims it can drastically cut air pollution and fuel consumption. In the 1990s, demo fleets of 35 buses or fewer started cropping up in cities such as Tempe, Ariz. Sixteen of these early hybrids still service Genoa, Italy, where drivers switch from diesel to electric power when passing the city's downtown architectural treasures. But no city has gone as far as Seattle, which last year bought 235 GM hybrid buses at $645,000 a pop. When the final one rolls out this December, the region's bus system will be 15 percent hybrid.But why Seattle, and why now? The Pacific Northwest has long been a hotbed of both Green politics and cutting-edge technology. Fourteen...
  • The Sounds of Fall

    Fall is here and life is good. Switch on the TV: No more reruns. Visit the local multiplex: No more "Catwoman." Soon enough, record shops will start stocking stuff that's actually worth paying for. To guide you through the racks, NEWSWEEK takes a sneak-peek at this season's most-anticipated CDs. Don't panic--there's still time to free up space on your iPod.R.E.M., 'Around the Sun' (Warner Brothers)Popular music rarely benefits from a pinch of politics. Bob Dylan got better in 1965 when he dumped his Woody Guthrie act; three decades later, Bruce Springsteen revived the role for "The Ghost of Tom Joad"--for the worse. Undeterred by these lessons from Rock History 101, R.E.M. has spiced the songs on "Around the Sun" (Oct. 5) with a heavy dose of liberal outrage. "It will shock some people," lead singer and lyricist Michael Stipe has said. Since founding drummer Bill Berry retired in 1997, R.E.M.'s output has been patchy at best: "Up" (1998) tried too hard for artiness; "Reveal" (2001)...
  • SWING STATE WATCH

    Kerry's the windsurfer, but it was Bush who emerged last week with the breeze at his back. Where did they go when the balloons dropped? Hint: it's not Disneyland. Welcome to the homestretch.