Stories by Christopher Dickey

  • A Spreading Islamic Fire

    Americans are nothing if not self-assured, especially about their most cherished values. What's wrong with freedom and the pursuit of happiness? So it's all a bit puzzling. Why should America now be the enemy? Is the Islamic fundamentalist threat a kind of clash of civilizations--a permanent struggle that feeds on deep-seated resistance to Western values? So it might seem, at first. Osama bin Laden, who clearly knows what resonates with his legions, likes to cast his struggle in such stark terms. He has claimed that it is "an individual duty" for Muslims to kill Americans, civilian and military, wherever they are found. Counterterrorism officials say bin Laden's grand plan is to drive the United States out of the Muslim world entirely, then replace moderate governments with fundamentalist Islamic states. And ultimately? Well, one bin Laden-inspired cell in Chechnya has posted a global map of Islamist power on the Internet--and it projects a world that in 100 years will be entirely...
  • THE COLD FACTS OF WIRELESS

    Of all the new, new things that came to seem old over the last year, the near hysteria around the "mobile Internet" in Europe was in a class by itself. Techno-gurus and telecom companies proclaimed the coming of a "third generation" of mobile telephones in the next two to four years. They would offer broadband data speeds 100 times faster than current mobile phones. Color screens, streaming video, real-time music downloads and e-commerce ("m-commerce") galore, all in the palm of your hand.A few telecom companies believed their own hype. Others were afraid they'd be left to die in Silicon Gulch if they didn't race down the trail. European banks anxious to invest in European high tech saw mobile communications as the new El Dorado and anted up $110 billion for licenses. Now, to build the all-new infrastructure that 3G phones require, they'll have to invest an additional $90 billion to $110 billion."That is a lot of money," says Lars Godell, a leading analyst at Forrester Research, ...
  • War On Two Fronts

    Bursts of automatic-rifle fire echo up the street; wisps of tear gas float in the air. An ambulance rushes toward the scene, where Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint outside the Palestinian city of Ramallah are using live ammo to force back a rock-throwing mob. Marwan Barghouti stands out in the open, watching from 100 yards away, hands in his pockets, as relaxed as if he were at a family picnic.In fact, he's at a funeral: a procession bearing the corpse of a young Palestinian shot the day before has just ended nearby. Now, older mourners and local politicians, handkerchiefs over their noses because of the tear gas, are paying their respects to the 41-year-old Barghouti. They go to him for advice because he runs a group of Fatah militias, guerrillas the Israelis call Tanzim--the shock troops of the Palestinian uprising in the West Bank. One of the mourners, a gray-haired man cringing at the noise of guns, asks with deference just when the dying might end. "We are at the start of this...
  • Beware Complacency

    Deadlines for Armageddon are nothing new in the Middle East. Someone is always predicting the end of the world brought on by the coming of a messiah, the passing of a dictator, the rise of a sect, the failure of a peace plan. The region is forever about to die of thirst or bathe in blood. The world watches with fear and incomprehension as the crisis comes--and passes. Then life goes on. Complacency settles over the Middle East again as if all those fears were unfounded. Tourists start to drift back to the Pyramids. Regular programming resumes around the world.But nothing in the Middle East is more dangerous than complacency. Enormous problems are put on hold instead of being solved; declared at an end simply because they didn't end the world. In fact they accumulate, they fester, and create the potential for greater problems to come. If we didn't know that before, it's certainly a lesson the last year should teach us about the next one. The peace process between Israelis and...
  • Different Strokes

    Mik Mehas still has the swagger of a ballplayer. At 59, the one-time L.A. Dodger is mostly gray, with hair braided in a pigtail. He no longer wears pinstripes, but the Stars and Stripes are emblazoned all over his shirt, and a bit of embroidery on the butt of his Ty-Cobb-style knickers reads "Bad Boy MM." He doesn't wear spikes anymore, just some grungy New Balance trainers. And he's not chewing tobacco, but his jaw is set as if he were. Everything about this grizzled old jock says hard ball--except that bat in his hands. It's a mallet, and he's swinging it back and forth between his legs, taking aim until, with devastating accuracy, he slams a ball across the field. The crowd cheers. Mehas touches his crotch for luck and gets ready to wind up for another shot.Thirty-five years after an eye injury ended his brief stint as a third baseman with the Dodgers (so brief that we can't find any reference to it on the Web), Mehas is back in the big leagues. But this ain't Dodger Stadium, or...
  • Letter From Jerusalem

    If a new war began today between Israel and the Palestinians, and many voices on both sides are saying that it did, then it remains for the moment contained.Ramallah, where two Israeli soldiers were brutally lynched this morning, and where Israel started a series of ferociously precise helicopter rocket attacks this afternoon, is about as close to Jerusalem as the Bronx is to Manhattan. It's the city--the borough--just down the road. Yet as the violence escalated in downtown Ramallah today, downtown Jerusalem was calm and went about its business. Traffic flowed and jammed and flowed as ever. Children scampered home from school with backpacks full of books, crowded buses carried people from their offices to their houses. For the moment the only sign of the impending apocalypse down the road was that radios were turned up even louder than usual, and people listened more attentively. Jerusalem is hoping the war won't come. But the city isn't confident that it won't; in the past, war...
  • A Tale Of Money, Lies And Videotape?

    Last week French President Jacques Chirac faced renewed allegations of corruption--from the grave. The daily Le Monde ran excerpts of a videotape made in 1996 by former aide Jean-Claude Mery, who died last year. On the tape, Mery details how he collected and distributed kickbacks from construction companies that won government housing contracts. In one part, he describes how in 1986 he handed 5 million francs to Chirac's chief of staff--with Chirac looking on. At the time, Chirac was not only mayor of Paris, but also prime minister.Chirac denied all the charges, denouncing the "abracadabra history" in which "a dead man is made to talk after a year, and holds forth about events from 14 years ago." He suggested the affair was concocted by his political enemies. The pro-Gaullist newspaper Le Figaro called the accusations "the first stink bombs" in the campaign for presidential elections next year.In fact, the stench from this posthumous confession taints French politicians of every...
  • The Wired Road Ahead

    The engine never made a sound like this before. A kind of a rattle. Or click. Hard to describe, really, but the noise is driving you crazy, and each morning you worry the car's going to conk out before you make it to work. So you take it to your mechanic and--he doesn't hear anything. Quite embarrassed and considerably poorer, you drive home. Next morning, there's that sound again...What to do? The answer may lie in a button soon to be on your dashboard. Press it, and a little black box in your car that's monitoring just about everything happening in the engine, the drive train, and the electrical system transmits data directly to the car company's computers and mechanics.While you drive, they figure out what's wrong. If it's serious, they tell you to pull over. If not, they say can give you an ideahow soon you need service, what needs to be done, and where, and give you directions.That's only one of the many ways your life is about to be changed through the development of what auto...
  • Big Tobacco's Next Legal War

    For cigarette salesman Leslie Thompson, 1993 was an especially good year. A star employee with Northern Brands International (NBI), a tiny, four-person export outfit owned by the tobacco giant RJR Nabisco, Thompson sold an astonishing 8 billion cigarettes that year, reaping about $60 million in profits. Walking the company's halls, Thompson received a standing ovation from executives who'd gotten hefty bonuses as a result of his work. On his wrist he flashed a Rolex, a gift from grateful wholesalers.These days, Thompson's name is no longer greeted with applause in the tobacco industry. He and other former executives are soon to be quizzed by federal prosecutors about the shady side of the cigarette business. NEWSWEEK has learned that a federal grand jury in North Carolina is investigating explosive allegations about links between major cigarette makers and global smuggling operations that move vast quantities of cigarettes across borders without paying any taxes. It's a multibillion...
  • Cbs Tries A Dutch Tv Treat

    John de Mol fires up another Marlboro Light and considers what we might call the Gladiator Paradigm. De Mol is the Dutch producer behind the quasi-reality show "Big Brother," set to debut on CBS this week. Ten strangers are locked in a house for 89 days. Every minute of their waking, sleeping, bitching, loving, nose-picking lives is recorded by 28 cameras and 60 microphones--until, one by one, they're voted off the show by the viewers. Thumbs up, let 'em live. Thumbs down, they're out of the house--the coliseum connection. You get the impression there's nothing de Mol wouldn't consider. "I am 100 percent sure that if we announce a show where we say we'll take 10 people and put them in an airplane and there are nine parachutes and one person is probably going to die and the nine who will live all get $1 million," de Mol says, stubbing out his latest cigarette, "we will get enough contestants for a daily show."Not that he's going to try it. Besides, the formula de Mol has with "Big...
  • Inside The Trade

    Judging the color of a diamond is such subtle work that experts in Antwerp do it only 20 minutes a day. After that, even under powerful lights they have trouble distinguishing the four categories of white that are whiter than "white." Then, some diamonds are yellow or blue, even black. They're studiously classified, too. Such grading and sorting has been central to the trade in the Belgian city for more than 300 years. It's only in the last few months, however, that anyone worried about what British officials call "blood diamonds." They may be any color, in fact. But they carry the invisible stain of Africa's carnage.Such stones account for about 4 percent of the 860 million diamonds polished last year. But precisely because blood diamonds cannot be distinguished from clean ones, the industry faces the task of proving its stones are not tainted. Otherwise, gem-quality diamonds could become as politically and morally unacceptable for many consumers as banned ivory and boycotted furs....
  • Barred, Not Stopped

    Yeah, that's England," says Reza, a 22-year-old political-science student from Afghanistan. He has no passport, and doesn't want his last name to be published. Reza has traveled four months from Kabul, by foot across the border into Pakistan, from there to Iran, from Iran to Turkey. A friend lost a leg to a land mine at that crossing, he says. From Turkey to Greece, Greece to Italy. And now he is near the French village of Sangatte, on the edge of the English Channel. Before him, huge ferries glide across the gray water, and the white cliffs of Dover rise on the edge of the horizon.With Reza on this hill are hundreds of other migrants in a vast hangar where components for the channel tunnel in nearby Calais used to be manufactured. The French Red Cross established a shelter here at the request of local officials, who were overwhelmed by clandestins, or illegal immigrants, camping out in local parks. "For the last two or three years the situation was completely out of control," says...
  • The New People Trade

    Yeah, that's England," says Reza, a 22-year-old political-science student from Afghanistan. He has no passport, no "papers," as they say in Europe, and though he's willing to provide a reporter with his family name and e-mail address, he asks that they not be published. Reza paid smugglers $6,000 to escort him on a four-month journey from Kabul, by foot across the border into Pakistan, and from there to Iran. While crossing from Iran to Turkey, a friend lost a leg to a land mine, he says. Reza pressed on to Greece, then Italy. Now he's near the French village of Sangatte, on the edge of the English Channel. In front of him, huge ferries glide across the gray water, and the white cliffs of Dover, clearly visible in the morning light, rise on the edge of the horizon.There lies the land where Reza plans to begin a new life. Yes, he knows that 58 Chinese died in the airless oven of a tomato truck that was smuggling them to Dover a few days earlier. But still, he plans to make a similar...
  • Where Blood Runs Cold

    Imagine a huge mafia funeral. Some mourners cry from grief, others from fear, others from relief. And soon after the burial, among the closest relatives the talk turns to the Family and its future. So it was at Syrian dictator Hafez Assad's interment last week. His eldest surviving son, Bashar, like a reluctant Michael Corleone in "The Godfather," had suddenly inherited all the responsibilities and dangers attendant on the clan. And Bashar, 34, is a bachelor. Who would he take as a wife? Which family would he join to his?These were more than peripheral concerns for members of the Assad dynasty, and yet they weren't the most immediate issues to be dealt with. (We'll return to the question of an eligible bride later.) First there was the fight over the family inheritance. Hafez Assad had carefully prepared his political will to ensure the dictatorship went to Bashar. But Hafez's brother Rifaat has always thought the presidential palace should be his--he tried to seize power from his...
  • Mini-Mu, Football Star

    Think of him as Muammar Kaddafi, Soccer Dad. Sure, the oil-rich Libyan dictator has been accused of everything from concocting chemical weapons to blowing up an American airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. But that doesn't mean he's not a proud father. And if his boy wants to play soccer, then his boy's going to get the best coaching that money can buy. Want to play in the big leagues? Go for it, son!So it is that Saadi Muammar Kaddafi, a 26-year-old striker of average talent, is surrounded by some of the biggest names in international sports. Among his friends is the convalescing Brazilian superstar Ronaldo, who's given him his shoes for luck. Saadi's been advised by Argentina's troubled demigod, Diego Maradona. Sprinter Ben Johnson, presumably sans steroids, is his personal trainer. And former England coach Terry Venables is in talks with the Libyan national team, on which Saadi plays.Dad seems happy to pay. Johnson gets a reported $120,000 a month. The British press...
  • The Legacy Of An Arab Survivor

    Hafez Assad was never very good at war. Though he built up a huge army, Assad lost the Golan Heights to Israel in 1967 as Syria's Defense minister and failed to win them back in 1973 as the nation's leader. He later saw his entire Air Force wiped out over Lebanon. Assad was no great shakes at peace either. From the '70s on he found himself outflanked as his old partner, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, made a separate deal with Israel that left him stranded, and his hated rival, Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat, paced past him in peace talks. What Assad was very good at was survival. During his 30 years at the top, as his Soviet allies collapsed, Sadat was assassinated and Israeli prime ministers came and went, Assad cunningly managed to consolidate control in Damascus while he waited to get the Golan back. And in doing so he became the key holdout in the protracted Mideast peace process.This year it seemed that, finally, Hafez Assad's time had come. As the clock ticked over into the...
  • 'Neutralizing' The Bad Guys

    When a deranged immigrant took 46 little children and six nursery-school teachers hostage in Wasserbillig, Luxembourg, last week, officials said they would try to "neutralize" him. For nearly 30 hours they negotiated with Tunisian-born Neji Bejaoui, 39, a black belt in karate who had a history of domestic violence and mental illness, according to police. They brought his psychiatrist into the talks. They heard Bejaoui tell how distraught he had been since his own children were taken from him by social workers in 1994. But negotiations seemed to be going nowhere. So a police team disguised as journalists from a Luxembourg television station lured Bejaoui out into the open for an interview he had been requesting. He is said to have been holding a hostage child under one arm, and a grenade in his free hand. The police opened fire, and dropped Bejaoui with two bullets. The child escaped unhurt. "The goal was to neutralize him," Luxembourg's Interior Minister Michel Wolter told NEWSWEEK....
  • The Spectacle Of Cannes

    The dark clouds, the heavy rain, the soggy stars--not the brightest beginning for the 53d Cannes Film Festival last week. And behind the scenes: another tempest. Gilles Jacob, the man who's picked the movies for the competition since 1978, reneged on his decision to resign the programming post this year, and fired Olivier Barrot, a French-television cultural correspondent he'd named to replace him.Messy stuff, even by Cannes standards. But with a record 23 films in competition, 30,000 accredited attendees and a new Riviera complex for the ever-expanding film market (the world's largest), this is the biggest, richest and most varied festival ever to grace the Croisette, as the beachside boulevard is called. Of course, Cannes is still the festival everyone loves to loathe. Listen to all the griping on the terrace of the Hotel Majestic and you'd think the hangovers had begun before the parties. The egos are too big, the critics say, and the films are too little. Blockbusters needn't...
  • Who's Really On Trial?

    Danny Tefileen's family gathered before the massive stones of Jerusalem's Western Wall last week to pray for his deliverance. He and 12 other Iranian Jews are standing trial in the ancient Persian city of Shiraz on charges that they spied for Israel.Iranian authorities have held the alleged spies in jail for 14 months. Last week videotaped interviews with Tefileen and two others confessing to the charges were broadcast on Iranian television. In Israel, virtually no one believes they are guilty. According to friends and relatives, Tefileen and several of the other defendants merely taught Hebrew language and culture. The Israeli government has flatly denied the espionage allegations. The United States and Europe have put Iran on notice that they expect nothing less than a scrupulously fair trial. But the accused may yet be sentenced to death. At the Western Wall, Tefileen's two sisters shook with sobs as they listened to Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau address himself to the Iranian...
  • At Last, A Shot At Justice

    Libyan defendants, Scottish judges, American families of the dead and the first of thousands of witnesses come together in a makeshift Dutch courtroom this week to see if justice can be done--or begin to be done--in the terrorist bombing of Pan American Flight 103 more than 11 years ago. The trial will certainly be long, several months at least, and already there are signs that when it is over, the verdict may be far from clear.Pan Am 103 blew up in the sky over Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec. 21, 1988, killing 189 Americans and 81 others in the plane and on the ground. After combing hundreds of square miles of Scottish countryside and following the evidence across Europe, investigators identified two Libyan suspects, Abdel Basset Ali Mohamed al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhima, who worked for the Libyan airline--and reportedly for Libyan intelligence. The country's strongman, Muammar Kaddafi, was persuaded to hand them over for trial after receiving assurances that his government's...
  • A Long Delay For Justice

    Libyan defendants, Scottish judges, families of the dead and the first of thousands of witnesses come together in a makeshift Dutch courtroom this week to see if justice can be done--or begin to be done--in the terrorist bombing of Pan American Flight 103 more than 11 years ago. The trial will certainly be long, several months at least, and already there are signs that when it is over, the verdict may be far from clear.Pan Am 103 blew up in the sky over Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec. 21, 1988, killing all 259 people aboard and 11 on the ground. After combing hundreds of square miles of Scottish countryside and following the evidence across Europe, investigators identified two Libyan suspects, Abdel Basset Ali Mohamed al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhima, who worked for the Libyan airline--and reportedly for Libyan intelligence. The country's strongman, Muammar Kaddafi, was persuaded to hand them over for trial after receiving assurances that his government's alleged support for the...
  • France Takes Off

    When 27-year-old Michel Meyer learned last Friday morning that the Internet company he founded in 1995 was flirting with a $1 billion capitalization on the French stock market, he decided it was time to pop the champagne corks. He'd been to Silicon Valley in the early 1990s. He knew this kind of thing could happen there. But in France such high-speed success was unheard of until recently, and for all practical purposes, so was the Web. Meyer had set up a chat site called The Virtual Baguette. He wanted to build it into a French-language portal called Multimania. But very few financiers would listen. "When we came back five years ago and said what we were going to do," he recalled with a broad smile, "everybody said, 'Well, good luck, guys'."Well, good luck --and hard work--have paid off. But not just for Meyer. France has experienced such a turnaround in its fortunes over the past two years that the whole country seems to be caught up in the excitement. You could see it in the faint...
  • All The News All The Time

    There's no question about the biggest winner in last week's Iranian elections: the Iranian press. It's wild. It's irreverent. It's brutal and amusing, and unabashedly partisan. It's constantly under pressure, its editors are sued and jailed, it's being shut down all the time--and it just keeps going.In a nation where political parties are only beginning to take shape, Iran's newspapers have become the signposts guiding people through the fields of candidates. In Tehran alone, there are at least 35 newspapers published every day, all pushing their own line, whether liberal or conservative, reformist or radical. "We're a hero-making factory," says Hamidreza Jalaei Pour, editor of the reformist Asr-Azadegan (Time of the Free). "And we are free. Really, we are free. But--" he reflects a moment--"we are unsettled."In another country, in fact, outspoken editors like Jalaei Pour might consider themselves downright persecuted. When religious conservatives allied to Supreme Leader Ali...
  • The Reform Vote

    Iranians, especially young Iranians, voted for change last week. At a polling station reserved for women in working-class South Tehran, 18-year-old Mitra Allaverdi picked "new faces" for Iran's Parliament. "I think all the men elected before did not do good things for us," she said. Downtown near the old American Embassy (still called "the nest of spies"), graduate student Ramazan Ali said proudly, "I'm shaping my future with my own hands." Across town at the Jalili Mosque, 19-year-old Somaya Arabi said, "God willing, these elections will stop the country from being ruined. If only the politicians will keep their promises."In Iran, as elsewhere, that's an enormous "if." The ultraconservative mullahs who have dominated the Islamic revolution will not easily be overturned. Led by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, officially the "Supreme Leader," they may not have the numbers of popular supporters they once had, but they've still got the guns, the courts and the secret police in their hands. The...
  • Ali Fallahian: The Most Feared Mullah in Iran

    Ali Fallahian, perhaps the most feared mullah in Iran, was laughing with a fat man's gusto. He sat on a carpet among his supporters in his Isfahan campaign headquarters, confident he would win a seat in Iran's parliament once results were tabulated from last Friday's elections. From 1989 to 1997, this portly cleric was Iran's minister of intelligence. French and German investigators allege that during that time he was behind the savage murder of the Islamic regime's political opponents abroad. American investigators say his intelligence operation may have been linked to the 1996 bombing of the Khobar apartments in Saudi Arabia, which cost 19 Americans their lives. And inside Iran, Fallahian's top deputy and dozens of subordinates were arrested last year for the murder of four intellectuals in the winter of 1998-1999, after Fallahian left office. The Tehran press claims another 60 to 80 people were killed by Fallahian's people while he was still in power. Speaking through a...
  • Peace Race

    The handshake's the thing. This week President Bill Clinton will bring together the Syrian foreign minister and the prime minister of Israel and, if all goes according to plan, they'll extend their hands for a historic photo op. "The president is very good at smashing two guys together," as one State Department official puts it.Securing a peace deal with Damascus has become a matter of urgency for Israel. The risk is not that war will break out, but that conditions within Syria may soon make it hard to find anyone with whom Israel can cut a deal. At 69, President Hafez Assad reportedly is suffering from heart disease, diabetes and other ailments. The wolves are circling. His younger brother Rifaat Assad, who has spent most of the last 15 years in exile after a bid to seize power, has been floating rumors that he is still the best man to take over. But Assad wants his son Bashar to inherit his mantle. In October Bashar's backers attacked a beachfront mansion and small port in Western...
  • It's Time To Let In Some Light

    Neil Kinnock, the former leader of Britain's Labour Party, was mulling over some of the accusations leveled against him since he was named vice president of the European Commission last summer. "I'm going 'to liquidate people.' I'm going to--what else have they said?--Oh, I'm 'conducting a blitzkrieg.' I'm a mixture of Stalin, Hitler and Thatcher with a little bit of Blair." That's pretty serious name-calling from a bunch of gray-suited bureaucrats. But that's just a sample of the acrimony in Brussels these days as the European Commission is reorganized, the European Union's whole way of doing business is rethought and a lot of time-servers are starting to think that their time is running out.Nobody ever claimed that the job would be easy. Reform has been tried, and failed, more times than any commissioner remembers. Yet despite bitter complaints by a lot of vested interests, some major changes now seem inevitable. Suddenly, at least at the top, "clarity," "simplicity" and ...
  • Tremor Terror

    The mattress was shaking at 2 in the morning, and for a second it felt like the Magic Fingers in a '60s motel room. Except the walls were shaking too. And the ceiling. The Ciragan Palace, one of Turkey's most luxurious hotels, was rocking and rolling. Then everything went still.The tremor last week was a small one, about 4.4 on the Richter scale, and nobody was hurt. But it reminded everyone in Istanbul of last August, when a quake registering 7.4 reduced buildings in the cities of Izmit and Yalova to rubble and dust. More than 17,000 people died.Turkey's Tourism Ministry now estimates that the country has drawn 30 percent fewer foreign vacationers this year than last, because of both the quake and political turmoil. Istanbul alone has lost more than $100 million in tourist revenues. Now the government is launching a $40 million promotional campaign in 32 countries to lure vacationers back. To help draw them, hotels are cutting prices. The popular "holiday villages" have dropped...
  • Telecom's Restless Giants

    What makes the revolution in telecommunications so hard to grasp--let alone predict--is the fact that it's not one, but many revolutions. There's the Internet explosion, of which you've heard (perhaps too) much. There's the mobile-phone uprising, which has just about won the day in Europe and is fast gaining strength in the United States. There are also less obvious revolutions in almost every technical aspect of communications, as copper wire gives way to optical fiber and circuit switches cede ground to packet routers. Flinging themselves into various frays around the world are echelons upon echelons of acronyms and abbreviations, each representing a new technology and its backers. They aim to change the way your coffee pot gets turned on in the morning; whether you see, or virtually see, your boss at work; even the diagnosis of that headache you've had all afternoon and the way you buy a ticket to the movies tonight. We not only communicate through machines, but with them; and...
  • While The Sun Shines

    The government of France is on vacation just now, scattered to the beaches of the Atlantic, the hills of Tuscany, the islands of the Indian Ocean. And the government sets the tone for everyone else. About 80 percent of Parisians abandon the capital in August. Four million cars more than normal hit the road the first weekend of the month. So deserted is the city that parking places have been discovered in the Latin Quarter.Of course a few people, like us, are still working. But we promise not to let that cloud our judgment. We have seen the future in France, and it is vacation--whether we want it or not.The French, who already work 41 fewer days on average than Americans, are about to take more time off. In the high-pressure global economy, this sounds like suicidal sloth. But is the French economy in the dumps? Au contraire: growth is up and unemployment is finally falling. What's going on? Well, maybe the best way to understand this--and it takes some explaining, so please, have a...