Barbara Kantrowitz

Stories by Barbara Kantrowitz

  • Dirty Dancing

    Fasting and dancing until the vision is altered and the body weak -- that's a ceremony. But when 27 Native American dancers at last month's Gibson Sun Dance in Idaho fell ill with vomiting, lung disorders and blackouts, tribal leaders ended the three-day rite early. Health officials say the illnesses are a mystery, but members of the Shoshone-Bannock tribe, who hosted the festival, blame pesticides sprayed on reservation land leased to local farmers. Now the Shoshone-Bannock are calling for a ban on pesticides on all U.S. reservations. "We should be role models in keeping the earth clean," says sun-dance chief Robert (Dude) Perry. "We have to start practicing what we preach."
  • A Peek At Lennon's Fbi File

    It's hard to imagine why J. Edgar Hoover's FBI compiled a huge file on John Lennon. According to documents obtained by the ACLU of southern California, reports on the former Beatle included the revelation that Lennon contributed $75,000 to an apparently nonexistent peace group. Was Lennon a national-security threat? Not according to the files. One agent noted: "Lennon and his wife are passe about [sic] United States politics." The files do show that Nixon aide H. R. Haldeman was aware of the surveillance. Maybe Nixon was a fan.
  • Steamed Up

    Last week, when a train roared over Colorado mountain tracks leaving behind 40 blazes over a three-mile area, fire officials were puzzled and alarmed. Investigators quickly tracked down the train, which was being used by a crew filming a Steven Seagal movie tentatively titled "Under Siege II." The train apparently shot out sparks as it ran, igniting the dry Colorado tinder. A Warner Brothers spokesperson blamed faulty equipment, but local officials said the film company will get a bill for at least $40,000. The crew will be back in Colorado in September to begin shooting again -- presumably with better locomotives.
  • New Message

    The Clinton administration may be preoccupied with Cuba, but this week it will send an unmistakable signal to Haiti's military leaders. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and Deputy Secretary of Defense John Deutch plan to fly to Jamaica Tuesday to meet with Caribbean leaders. Their mission: to secure aid for a possible Haiti invasion and a post-invasion peacekeeping force. The administration initially planned to send a low-level delegation, but it settled on Talbott and Deutch to make sure the Haitians get the message. Pentagon officials insist they have enough ships and manpower to invade Haiti in the midst of the Cuban crisis. But officials say they probably won't act until the United Nations gives Haiti's generals a final warning.
  • Plugging Leaks

    Media reports declaring health-care reform all but dead -- apparently based on leaks from senior administration officials -- infuriated White House chief of staff Leon Panetta. At the senior staff meeting on Friday, NEWSWEEK has learned, Panetta ordered that anyone who talks to a reporter log the call with Communications Director Mark Gearan. Deputy chief Harold Ickes chimed in that the leaks were hurtful to the reform effort -- and seemed to come from sources who don't know what's going on.
  • Jump Right In

    EEEEEW! Thanks to the folks at the University of Virginia's Instructional Technology program, you can relive high-school biology class via the Interactive Frog Dissection on-line tutorial. This World-Wide Web document (best viewed using Mosaic software) would be little more than a textbook if not for the QuickTime video snippets, whick demonstrate proper frog-cutting technique, and the "Let's Practice" interactive quiz sessions. "I've had people say that it's the only instructional Web application they've seen yet," says Mable Kinzie, one of the developers. (The Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory has also created a slice 'n' dice Web browser to,for the main menu-where legs are definitely served.
  • Long Distance E-Mail

    One of the most exciting THINGS ABOUT THE INTERNET is that it allows people in remote locations to keep in touch. Consider Coast Guard Cmdr. Mike Powers, who is stationed on the USCGC Polar Sea in the Arctic Ocean. His ship is part of a U.S.-Canadian joint expedition carrying 70 scientists. They hook up to the Internet when the air force's Lincoln Experimental Satellite is in range. The satellite transmits to a Miami computer. Powers says they exchange data with colleagues at home. More important, for a 55-day stint in the middle of nowhere, is the ability to write to family and hear back in day or two.
  • Summer Recess Edition

    Health care put on hold, much to the relief of an anxious CW. But Bill did a lot of other bills through, didn't he? So give him a break and let him stop laboring on the Vineyard. ...
  • Dormitory Delights

    If your college kids' study habits make you wail, their eating habits will kill you -- if they don't kill the noshers first. Pizza and Pop-Tarts are fine in the evening; but all-nighters require whopping doses of sugar and caffeine. Key ingredient: zero preparation time.
  • Crystal Clear 3-D Memory

    AS HARD DRIVES GET MORE and more cramped, digital space is running out. For decades, researchers have hoped that holograms created in the subatomic structure of crystals might hold an answer. Stanford University physicists have demonstrated the first fully digital model of such a device, storing and retrieving the "Mona Lisa." The crystal held only 163 kilobytes of memory comparable to some early home computers but researchers think holographic units could hold a million megabits. Crystals store in three dimensions and could be 10 times faster than today's fastest systems.
  • Where The Techies Are

    CHIPHEADS AREN'T ALWAYS in front of a screen. For some F2F time, try these spots: 321 Mass. Ave., Cambridge, Mass. Industrial decor looks like the inside of a Pentium PC with petri dishes for ashtrays.Locations vary, Cambridge, Mass. Must be willing to do-si-do. E-mail Market St., San Francisco A hangout for "Digital Queers," a group of computer professionals advocating gay rights.52 8th Ave., New York City Hot site for online junkies.1607 San Jacinto, Austin, Texas Order a Shiner Boch, chickenfried steak and pull up an extra bar stool to store diskettes.823 Yale Ave. N, Seattle Ice-breaking games like "Interface" bring in the Aldus, Microsoft crowds.4455 148th Ave. NE, Bellevue, Wash. 8,000-member gym has 5,000 from Microsoft, 500 from Nintendo. 'Nuf said.Provo, Utah Public course (where neighbor Novell owns three holes) is best pickup site for miles.
  • All In A Name

    EARLIER THIS YEAR, THE ANIMOSITY between the nation's largest standardized-test-preparation companies Stanley Kaplan (owned by NEWSWEEK'S parent company, The Washington Post) and The Princeton Review hit a new low. On March 1, TPR secured the address "," tying up an Internet address its competitor would covet. "It's an act of corporate theft," says Kaplan CEO Jonathan Grayer. According to John Katzman, TPR's president, the stunt was "done entirely for fun and to irritate them." It worked, especially when Kaplan execs realized that TPR, was soliciting Kaplan horror stories through this address. Whether the address constitutes trademark infringement and false advertising has become a point of contention between the two companies TPR still owns it. The dispute has been added to arbitration talks over other claims, all of which Kaplan and TPR hope to resolve by year-end.
  • Launch Party

    In the face of near-certain defeat on health-care reform, the White House is planning a high-profile launch of President Clinton's national-service program, AmeriCorps. On Sept. 12, Clinton will lead 1,000 youths on the South Lawn in the service oath -- and 9,000 more will participate in satellite hookups at 16 sites nationwide. Also planned: MTV-style commercials plugging service and AmeriCorps merchandise from T shirts to backpacks. Why the Super Bowl-style hype? National service is one major campaign promise Clinton has kept, and aides complain he hasn't received enough credit.
  • Nothing's On

    Who needs 500 channels when we don't even watch the ones we've got? Here's a sampler of more ultra-niche programming to ignore in the coming year: Ten-minute infomercialsOld footageWesternsSex-related merchandise"Let the fun begin!"Lots of itWar moviesMovie previewsShows about single peopleOriginal, 24-hour, all-talk programmingA service that will update you on everything you missed
  • On A (Bed) Roll

    Who knew that truckers needed anything more than hot coffee and bad chili to keep them happy? Facing a chronic shortage of drivers willing to bunk on the road for weeks at a time, major trucking companies have borrowed a solution from independent drivers: bring the comforts of home along. The latest long-haulers ordered up by big truck lines like J.B. Hunt are basically lumbering living rooms. International's Pro Sleeper has a closet, space for a TV and microwave and a pullout table for a roadtop computer; in case company drops by for a cold drink from the fridge, the seats rotate to form a conversation group. Freightliner's new rigs let six-foot truckers stand up straight and even pace 30 inches of carpet between the driver's seat and bunk. The deluxe cabs cost more, but invite drivers who like sleeping on the job.
  • Garage-Band Programmers

    At the Macworld Expo held each August in Boston, software developers try to dazzle each other with technology that pushes silicon chips to the limit. This year, one of the bigger draws was Jump Raven, a sci-fi game with movie-quality sound and images -- clearly the work of master programmers. The crowds were entranced by mutant villains racing across a futuristic New York City streetscape in a plot that's a cross between the cult-movie classic "Blade Runner" and vintage James Bond flicks. Was it the latest hit from one of the powerhouse developers? Hardly. In fact, a guy from one of the best-known names in the industry stood at the Jump Raven booth for 15 minutes and then hum-bly asked, "How did you do that?" ...
  • X-Phile Alert

    Will mulder and scully go out on their own? Has Deep Throat really kicked the bucket? Aficionados of the Fox TV show "The X-Files" will have to wait until the Sept. 16 premiere of the second season to answer these pressing questions. In the meantime, fans should check out the Usenet newsgroup called, where there's an entertaining set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). Delphi Internet Services, owned by News Corporation, Fox's parent company, also has an "X-Files" forum; users can order merchandise with the show's logo.
  • Try 411

    The infobahn is supposed to make it easier for people to talk to politicians. But an Arizona State University study indicates that a lot of voters still like to do business the old-fashioned way. Earlier this year, the school set up a gopher site with position papers for three Arizona congressmen. But the most useful data, according to records of nearly 7,000 inquiries, were district maps and the congressmen's phone numbers.
  • Eye I.D.

    Forget about the lowtech retinal scanner that unlocked Arnold and Tom's secret headquarters in "True Lies." Kids' stuff. Two scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory have come up with a way to identify people by patterns in the colored part of the eve, the iris. They say these permanent designs differ from individual to individual. The new device collects about 2,000 times as much information as a scan of the retina, a structure on the back of the eve, so it's harder to fool. And users don't have to stare into a visor for their eyes to register they just peer into a screen.
  • An Evolving Technoculture

    Photography has always been as much artifice as art. But software that seamlessly meshes images from unrelated settings has escalatead the debate over the validity of photographic reality. "Metamorphoses: Photography in the Electronic Age" (Aperture, $18.50) is a state-of-the-art look at the evolution of electronically altered images through the eyes of photographers and curators. The pictures range from serene to disturbing. In a series inspired by old family albums, Martina Lopez places stark turn-of-the-century poses in a vivid modern landscape. Pedro Meyer juxtaposes religious symbols (an angel, Jesus) with pictures of everyday Mexican life. Shelly J. Smith creates montages from a wide variety of sources. The overall effect is of a technoculture in transition. Someday, these pictures may seem as primitive as the ghostly prints of a pinhole camera.
  • Renaissance Man

    It's no easy task to do justice to Leonardo Da Vinci, but "Leonardo the Inventor," a CD-ROM from InterActive Electronic Publishing, is an outstanding new entry in the rapidly growing field of multimedia biographies. The screen that introduces the inventions features a cleverly animated Mona Lisa. There are animations of each invention and videos of modem versions of his visionary creations (the helicopter and tank, among others). A multimedia kind of guy himself, Leonardo would have loved it.
  • Apple Bites

    Meet the John C. Dvorak of cyberspace. He's Adam C. Engst, the 26-year-old editor of a free electronic newsletter about "the world of the Macintosh and electronic communication" called TidBITS, one of the most popular publications on the Net. TidBITS's 100,000 readers depend on Engst for the latest news about Apple, Inc., Macintosh hardware upgrades and insider information from industry sources. Engst, who just released issue No. 237 of the weekly newsletter, is the author of three books on the Internet -and he's quick on the draw "My deadline is about an hour before it goes out Monday night." For more info send e-mail to; back issues available at
  • Beware Of Im-Posters

    Most people on the Internet are who they claim to be. But recording-industry sources confirm that music companies pay people to talk up new bands on the Internet and commercial services by posing as ordinary consumers. This can exact swift punishment: one cybersleazoid got repeatedly "flamed" (received hate e-mail) when he was found out.
  • Create Your Own Internet Hype

    Pick one word from each column to form your very own Net Hype Term. Use it liberally in conversation and in magazine articles. Make it into an acronym. Call up customersupport lines and ask about it. Post it on irrelevant Usenet newsgroups. Pretend that you know what it means. Bonus points if Wired magazine writes a gushy article about it. ...
  • Which Way To Neptune?

    The dispatcher's name is Rita, and she speaks in the dulest tones of deepest Brooklyn. But the hacks in Voyager's "Planetary Taxi" are ready to whisk passengers to the farthest reaches of the solar system. This Macintosh CD-ROM is an astronomy lesson cleverly disguised as an interplanetary quiz show. Drivers pick up fares who ask to go to the planet with, say, water and ice (Earth) or the highest gravity (Jupiter). For players who don't know Io from Europa, there's an easy-to-use on-screen reference panel. "Planetary Taxi" is also a great introduction to electronic modeling; planets close to the sun whiz by, but it's a long haul to Neptune. It is most likely to appeal to kids in the fourth grade and up (as well as stargazing adults). One caveat: "Planetary Taxi" works best with a fast CD-ROM drive. Otherwise, you'll feel like you're stuck in a cosmic traffic jam.
  • Face 2 Face In Realtime

    Ever wonder what a hacker looks like? There will be at least several hundred gathered in New York City this weekend for a 48-hour convention called H.O.P.E., Hackers On Planet Earth. "This is the first time something of this magnitude has happened in the U.S.," says co-organizer Emmanuel Goldstein. Round-the-clock events include: a keynote address by a former CIA agent, panel discussions on topics like whether hackers threaten Net security and how-to sessions on hacking Unix workstations. There will also be a committee to "crack" the New York City subway card. Goldstein says, "By the end of the conference we'll know if it's a good system or not." Walk-in registration costs $25; send e-mail to
  • Home Is Where the Money Is

    IT COULD BE THE PLOT OF A HIGH-tech horror movie. The company that brought you MS-DOS, arguably the world's most awkward operating system, now wants to invade the home. Anyone who has spent time trying to untangle MS-DOS (a.k.a. messy doss) probably won't expect much from Microsoft's new Home line. The surprise is that while Microsoft still has a lot to learn about marketing to the average consumer, the company has made a decent start. Here's a sampling: ...
  • Dissent On The Hard Drive

    The no-frills brick building in downtown Hackensack, N.J., is an unlikely setting for an attack on censorship around the world. But entrepreneur Howard Jonas thought it was the perfect place to start an electronic bulletin board that puts banned books on line. The building is actually the home of Jonas's company, IDT, which provides discount telephone service. Since he already has plenty of computers and telephone lines, Jonas says, it wasn't hard to set up the Digital Freedom Net, which uses the Internet, the international computer network, to circulate material outlawed in the authors' home countries. ...
  • Multimedia's Latest Hits

    GAMES NOW AVAILABLE FOR 3DO'S Multiplayer are part of a virtual tidal wave of interactive games that have come out in the last year for both videogame players and personal computers. Some are just for fun, but many belong to the fast-growing ""edutainment'' category -- they're meant to have some educational value. The array of choices can be dizzying, starting with the hardware. In terms of price, the Multiplayer ($499) falls between most videogame players (generally under $200) and multimedia personal computers (more than $1,000). If you just want to have a little fun zapping bad guys, the game boxes are fine. Some game developers have also come out with children's programs that have a little more content. Many of these are in fact video-game versions of popular computer games, such as the Carmen Sandiego series, a geography game. ...
  • Computers as Mind Readers

    THE MARRIAGE OF MAN (OR WOMAN) and machine is one of the most intriguing images in science fiction. From the Bionic Woman to RoboCop, these creatures are blessed with bodies that just won't quit and brains at the top of the evolutionary scale. You ain't seen nothing yet. To some futurists, the most alluring possibility is what science fiction calls ""wetware,'' the linking of the human brain and computers. The word ""wet'' refers to the brain; it's a play on hardware (computer equipment) and software (computer programs). In this vision, humans would be connected directly to the machines. The computer could literally read your brain waves, your thoughts -- all your thoughts, mundane and majestic. Need a phone number for a friend named Joe? There it is on the screen, called up from your private database, which also lists Joe's other vital stats. That novel in your head? It's all typed out for you on the screen, right down to that embarrassing little fantasy you'd prefer no one knew...