Anna Kuchment

Stories by Anna Kuchment

  • Poor Sports

    Republicans got swift revenge against monarchist Prime Minister John Howard last week. Days after Australians rejected the chance to ditch the queen in a referendum, republicans spoiled Howard's plan to open the Olympics. Under Olympic rules, that task falls to the head of state--in this case, Queen Elizabeth II. "The prime minister cannot have it both ways," said Labor Sen. Chris Schacht. Howard has since passed the task to the queen's representative in Australia. But the republicans still aren't satisfied. "Did the prime minister invite the queen to perform the ceremony?" asks Sydney's Lord Mayor Frank Sartor. "If not, why not?"
  • A Scramble For Clues In Bombing

    Though no one took immediate credit for last week's set of explosions in Islamabad, the timing may have been explanation enough. The six nearly simultaneous blasts--at two U.S. Embassy installations and a United Nations office building--went off two days before the initiation of U.N. economic sanctions against the Taliban, the extremist religious group that rules most of Afghanistan. There was one reported injury of a Pakistani national but no deaths. The Taliban had assailed the sanctions, which the U.N. Security Council applied because the group has refused to expel Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden, whom Washington accuses of masterminding last year's deadly explosions at two U.S. embassies in Africa.Taliban leader Mohammed Omar condemned the attack and urged the U.N. and Washington "to find the real causes and pinpoint the enemy." Taking the lead, Pakistani antiterror specialists examined the four shells discharged in the attack and the identification numbers of the assailants'...
  • East Meets West In Ohio

    When Arata Isozaki speaks of east meeting west in his new building for COSI, a science center in Columbus, Ohio, he's speaking strictly in local terms. For his third commission in the United States, the acclaimed Japanese architect wanted to bridge two aspects of the Midwestern city. On the site, in a bend of a river, stood an old Beaux-Arts building, which he incorporated into his design. "That side of the center would be facing east, to the old European side of the city," he says. "The other side would face the newer, Western part of the city." For that side, Isozaki came up with a remarkably innovative form: a dramatic 960-foot- long canoe-shaped structure, wrapped in neat slices of precast concrete.
  • Hungry Hippo

    Love is never easy. Last week Jean Ducuing, a 62-year-old zoo director in Pessac, France, was killed by his favorite pet--a 26-year- old hippopotamus named Komir. Ducuing had taken special care of the hippo, playing with him nearly every day for the past 23 years.But the relationship took a turn for the worse a few weeks ago, when Ducuing purchased a tractor for work around the zoo. "We noticed that every time Jean was on his tractor, Komir would get mad," said Jean-Claude Marchais, a close friend. Feeling spurned, perhaps, the hippo jumped over his electric fence, and chewed his longtime friend to death. Says Marchais, "It was a love story with a bad ending."
  • Straussed Out

    Sleaze has become so pervasive in French politics that a stint in the slammer has started to seem like a natural part of public service. So the shocker last week was not the news that the country's respected Finance minister, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was under investigation for alleged corruption. It was the admirable fact that he quickly resigned to face the law as a private citizen.Two weeks ago the Paris prosecutor's office gave a green light for an investigation of Strauss-Kahn's legal and consulting fees. He faces allegations that he accepted $100,000 for work he never did, and that he knew of false documents that were drawn up to justify the payments. He denies any wrongdoing.His departure showed just how much France's economy has evolved. Supported by a cyclical upturn and the advent of Europe's single currency, Strauss-Kahn helped lead the country from centralized stagnation toward a freer market--and a higher growth rate than Britain's or Germany's. He was, famously, the...
  • Full Expo-Sure

    German officials are fuming over the U.S. decision to drop its plans to build a pavilion at Expo 2000, the world's fair that will be held next summer in Hanover. The problem: lack of funds. "We have a range of important foreign-policy priorities that we're working with Congress to fund," a White House official told NEWSWEEK. "Unfortunately, we couldn't include [Expo 2000] as part of our request."Many Germans see this as part of a larger pattern. "The feeling is that always when it comes to multinational efforts, the U.S. has no money," says Friedbert Pfluger, a Hanover M.P. He's not the only one who's frustrated. William Rollnick, who was tapped two years ago to organize U.S. participation at Expo 2000, worked tirelessly to drum up government support for a pavilion. "No one was interested," he said.
  • Kabila And The North Koreans, Nuclear Dread In So

    What are North Korean troops doing in Africa's prime uranium-producing region? U.S. intelligence sources are worried about reports that put Pyongyang troops at a uranium mine in Shinkolobwe, about 100 miles northwest of Lubumbashi in Congo. The sources also say that North Koreans are believed to be helping train President Laurent Kabila's ragtag army in Lubumbashi and in the capital, Kinshasa.But what really has Washington worried is what North Korea might be getting in return. Pyongyang's plutonium-production program was blocked by a 1994 deal signed with the United States and Japan. If Pyongyang wanted to circumvent the deal, uranium enrichment would be a logical way to go.So far, there's no conclusive proof that that's what North Korea is up to. And there's a more benign explanation: Pyongyang might have contracted out its military trainers in return for hard currency, something it needs even more desperately. The answer to this mystery lies deep in the Congolese jungle...
  • Coke And The Colonel's Wife

    The U.S. Army insists Col. James Hiett had no idea he might have been sleeping with the enemy. Since last summer, Hiett had been in command of the 200 American military personnel waging a difficult campaign against Colombia's drug traffickers. But according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Brooklyn, N.Y., last week, Hiett's wife, Laurie Anne, 36, was using the mail service at the American Embassy in Bogota to send cocaine to the United States.Court papers say the smuggling was discovered last May, when a Miami customs official found 2.7 pounds of cocaine in a package Mrs. Hiett had sent to someone in New York. Subsequently investigators tracked down six more packages allegedly sent by Laurie Hiett--or at her request--that contained 15.8 pounds of pure cocaine, with a street value of as much as $230,000.Hiett surrendered to federal authorities in Brooklyn last week and was arraigned on a charge of conspiracy to distribute narcotics. After appearing in court, she was...
  • Terror In The Tokyo Skies

    Passengers aboard All Nippon Airways Flight 61 immediately noticed something strange about 28-year-old Yuji Nishizawa: his body was twitching and he wore a pair of dirty cotton gloves. Still, none of the 503 travelers bound from Tokyo to Sapporo imagined what would happen next. Nishizawa pulled out a 20-cm kitchen knife, muscled his way into the cockpit and ordered the pilot, 51-year-old Naoyuki Nagashima, to turn the plane around. "I wanted to soar through the air," Nishizawa reportedly told police. As Flight 61 approached its destination, Nagashima, helped by passengers and crew, wrestled the hijacker to the ground. But in the melee, the veteran pilot was slashed across the throat and shoulder and bled to death. Though another ANA pilot landed the plane safely at Tokyo's Haneda Airport, Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi wasn't smiling. Angered by the murder--the first such death in Japanese history--he demanded to know how the hijacker got a weapon onto the plane. Whatever the answer,...
  • A Little Hard To Swallow

    Coca-Cola officials were out to reassure the public last week when they arrived at a Paris news conference calmly sipping from their trademark red-and-white cans. But that bit of spin quickly backfired. When a group of journalists heckled them, the only response one official could muster was: "I'm thirsty, OK?"The moment capped a week full of missteps by Coca-Cola. The company was trying to quell a widening--and widely exaggerated-- health scare in Europe over the safety of its soft drinks. It started two weeks ago when several dozen Belgian school children became nauseated after drinking Coke from glass bottles that had been filled at a plant in Antwerp. Two days later another group of Belgians complained of digestive problems after drinking from cans dispensed by vending machines in Dunkerque, France. By last Friday Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Spain had all imposed at least partial bans on Coke products, and the company had transformed a conference room in...
  • A Little Help From Our Friends

    It's no secret that a steady stream of international KLA volunteers has been flying into Albania's capital, virtually since the Kosovo crisis began. But NEWSWEEK has learned that hundreds of young ethnic Albanians from Western Europe have also been landing, unnoticed, in Skopje's international airport in Macedonia. Arriving on scheduled flights in groups of up to 100, they are slipped into Albania and on into Kosovo to join KLA forces there.Passengers receive superficial immigration and customs checks, raising suspicion that their arrivals are closely coordinated with Macedonian authorities. The country, which is 30 percent ethnic Albanian, has been careful to avoid stepping into the conflict, for fear of igniting ethnic tensions within its own borders.Most of the Skopje flights are operated by the Macedonian airline Avioimpex and originate in Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland. They are all booked by the same ethnic Albanian travel agents operating out of Western Europe.Both...
  • A Model Musician

    Four years ago Nina Kotova was an up-and-coming model, sashaying down runways in Fendi furs and pouting for the pages of French Glamour and Cosmo. But when a British management company offered her the chance to play a debut solo recital in London's Wigmore Hall, she promptly abandoned the catwalk. She hasn't looked back since. Last summer the Moscow-born cellist joined the prestigious roster of Columbia Artists Management. She recently signed an exclusive recording deal with Philips Classics for a CD due out next fall. And in October, she's scheduled to make her Carnegie Hall debut.Kotova hasn't always been so lucky. Her father, virtuoso double-bassist Ivan Kotov, died unexpectedly when she was 15. Four years later she left behind the prestigious Moscow Conservatory, and her mother, to study abroad. She traveled first to Cologne and then to the United States, where she won a scholarship to Yale University. Short of money and hoping to earn enough for a new cello (she'd had to return...
  • Murder And Mystery At Yosemite

    For four weeks police, family and volunteers have combed the rugged terrain in and near California's Yosemite National Park looking for three missing women: Carole Sund, a 42-year-old mother of four from Eureka, California, her cheerleader daughter Julie, 15, and a 16-year-old Argentine exchange student named Silvina Pelossa. Last week a passerby found their red car, a 1999 Pontiac Grand Prix, charred an ugly yellow-brown from a fire. Inside the trunk were two bodies burned beyond recognition. (The FBI is searching for the third.) Sund's mother and father had offered $250,000 for information leading to the women's safe return.The FBI is shifting its manhunt to gold country west of Yosemite where the car was found, a three-hour drive from the Cedar Lodge in El Portal, where authorities had believed the women disappeared. The FBI now thinks that the killer knows that area well enough to hide the car off a spur road where locals dump old refrigerators, cars and washing machines.Several...
  • Chez Benito

    TO ESCAPE THE ILL WINDS OF war, Benito Mussolini and his mistress often relaxed aboard their 120-foot yacht, the Chryseis. If they could find comfort there, the ship's current owners are betting that a new generation of work-weary warriors will, too. Pat and Bonnie Hicks of Texas are renovating the two-masted schooner and turning it into a floating bed-and-breakfast due to open in March. They're restoring such historical details as the hull, masts and compass stand, and updating the boat's amenities to include private baths with whirlpool tubs, a sauna and massage therapy. But won't Americans feel haunted by the ghost of their former enemy? Apparently not. The Hickses claim they're nearly booked for '99 and sold out for New Year's Eve 2000. hip)
  • A New Giant

    EVEN IN THE MEGABUCKS world of mobile telephony, this one is big. Vodafone, Britain's largest and most successful cellular-phone company, is paying more than $60 billion for AirTouch, a leading U.S. concern. That trumps a bid by rival Bell Atlantic and makes the deal one of the biggest in corporate history. The new outfit will be the only truly global wireless operator--with coverage on five continents--and gives it the scale to challenge the giants among the fixed-line operators such as AT&T. The pool of potential customers is vast. Vodafone's chief executive, Chris Gent, has reportedly forecast that every other person in the developed world will soon have a mobile phone.
  • Still Concerned

    WHEN ISRAELI AUTHORITIES recently expelled members of the Denver, Colorado-based cult Concerned Christians their dragnets missed at least two key players. NEWSWEEK has learned that Gary and Sheryl Schmidt remain in the country, and Denver police believe that two other cult members are with them. The Schmidts are believed to be the only members who still hold property--they own a ranch in Colorado. Now at least one cult family has been seen at the ranch, and cult experts believe the members may eventually congregate there. Israeli authorities had no comment on their investigation.
  • Itic-Itis

    When the the Guangdong International Trust & Investment Corporation (GITIC) filed for bankruptcy early this month, it shook international confidence in the ""ITIC'' sector--corporations that serve as foreign-investment arms of local governments. The decision to let GITIC go under was as political as it was financial. NEWSWEEK has learned that the Guangdong provincial authorities had accumulated what one source called a ""slush fund'' to bail out GITIC, and the day before its collapse a high-level delegation was in Beijing arguing for its survival. ""The decision was made to send a strong message to the market,'' said one informed observer--especially to lenders who threw unsecured loans at ITICs.
  • Here Comes The Euro

    Not so fast. For now, the euro exists only electronically--that is, European consumers can make payments in euros by writing checks, charging their credit cards or making bank transfers. Starting this week European stock and bond trades will be conducted entirely in euros, as will bank transactions and much business-to-business activity. Euro notes and coins will go into circulation on Jan. 1, 2002. Francs, lire, Deutsche marks and other member states' local currencies will be museum relics by July 1, 2002.Two reasons: peace and power. Since the end of World War II, when Europe started its long march to the single market, the Continent has turned from one of the world's bloodiest parcels of real estate into one of its most peaceful. Euroland's champions also hope that monetary union will lead to new geopolitical and economic clout. The region is already the world's second largest economy--after the United States--and the largest trading power, accounting for 20 percent of the world...