Malcolm Beith

Stories by Malcolm Beith

  • Periscope

    AFGHANISTANHow Best To Help?With the Loya Jirga a success and a new government in place, the situation in Afghanistan was looking up. The Bush administration was set to review its "where now?" goals. But the assassination of Vice President Haji Abdul Qadir in early July, threats to President Hamid Karzai's own life and signs that rising violence in the countryside could wreck the international-aid programs have given the picture an ominous new cast. And Karzai's new U.S. bodyguards won't fix the deeper problems. Without cash to run his embryonic Kabul government, without aid to disburse to the regions and without the forces to bring order, he is essentially powerless.All of this has lent newurgency to the policy review. Among the White House options:Extend the mission of the 4,650-strong International Security Assistance Force at least through the elections planned for 2004.Send in a high-level civilian official to coordinate the flow of foreign aid. Karzai's infant government lacks...
  • Periscope

    All sorts of rumors are being peddled these days about anti-Israel boycotts in Europe. Here's a tip: don't believe everything you hear. European activists are certainly upset about the military crackdown in the West Bank, but they're not having much economic impact. According to one tale, Norway is actively aiding consumer protests by marking Israeli imports with a star. The facts are quite different. In early April the boss of one Norwegian supermarket chain threatened to stop selling Israeli products--and the chain's parent company promptly overruled him. Israeli goods remain on the stores' shelves. They are labeled, but not with stars and not by government policy.The 15-nation European Union (Norway is not a member) requires that all Israeli goods be marked as such, even though Israel enjoys preferential trade status with the EU. Imports from anywhere outside the EU are supposed to display their country of origin. The EU's toothless legislature, the European Parliament, voted a...
  • Mideast: The Littlest Bomber

    If the photo was indeed fabricated to bolster a propaganda move by the Israeli Army, as Palestinians charged, it was a sickening example of child exploitation. If dressing up the baby for a photo session of sorts was a "joke," as a member of the child's family reportedly told Sky News, then those responsible deserve the same words of condemnation. Any way one looks at it, the photo allegedly found by the Israeli Army in a house in Hebron last week, which it claims is a genuine image of a Palestinian toddler staring wide-eyed into the camera while dressed in the garb of a suicide bomber (complete with red wires, an explosives belt strapped to his waist and a red Hamas-style bandanna on his forehead) was another shocking sign of how dismal the Mideast situation has become.
  • Transition

    When Esther (Eppie) Lederer, nee Friedman, began her career as advice columnist Ann Landers for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1955, the letter was our primary form of communication. Most Americans stopped writing to friends and family years ago, but people never stopped writing to Landers. "Dear Ann," they would always begin, before revealing their secrets. Quickly building a reputation for sincerity, sarcasm, sympathy and sound advice, Landers became the most widely syndicated columnist in the world, appearing in more than 1,200 newspapers and accumulating an estimated readership of 90 million daily. Landers considered her column a chance to "do good in the world." Her real strength was her own fallibility. In 1975, she wrote the "most difficult" column ever, telling readers of her divorce. She once had to apologize for publishing a favorite meatloaf recipe without a key ingredient. And she and her twin sister, Pauline, feuded after Pauline became "Dear Abby." Says author Anna Quindlen,...
  • Why Jimmy Carter Should Have Visited Elián's Hometown

    There's no doubt that Jimmy Carter's trip to Cuba is historic. He is the first U.S. president, former or serving, to visit the country since Calvin Coolidge in 1928.He was invited by President Fidel Castro to launch his own inspections of Cuban laboratories, in search of bioweapons development. And on Tuesday, in a speech broadcast live on Cuban television, Carter called on Castro to broaden human rights and urged the U.S. Congress to lift the four-decade-old trade embargo on Cuba. But there is one stop Carter will not make on his tour of the island nation. He will not be going to Cardenas.If it weren't for the events of 1999, Cardenas would be just another dusty Cuban town steeped in history. It boasts the oldest statue of Christopher Columbus in the Western Hemisphere. It is where the Cuban flag was first raised in 1850. But most importantly, it is the home of Elian Gonzalez, the sole survivor of a refugee ship wrecked off the coast of Florida in 1999. The tug-of-war between the...
  • First Person Global

    I've lived in the United States for nearly 15 years. But baseball--America's national pastime--always baffled me. Overstuffing yourself with hot dogs, so many games (162 per season) that each seems meaningless individually, depressingly few hits--I just couldn't see what all the fuss was about. Amazingly, all it took to change my view from the stands was a visit to the Dominican Republic. More specifically, all it took was one spring afternoon in the city of Santo Domingo.On one side of a 300-yard stretch of Calle Venezuela, people overflowed from a dozen little open-front mini-markets called colmados. On the other side, eight discotheques stared back. At 4 o'clock in the afternoon, they were already packed. Both the discos and the colmados relentlessly blasted merengue at each other.My friend Jose and I began our afternoon in the colmados. In each store, several televisions blared out the broadcasts in duet with the merengue: A's vs. Mariners, Red Sox vs. Orioles, Braves vs. Mets,...
  • Periscope

    Concerned about "tracking polls" showing that its "favorable" rating with the American public has yet to climb back to pre-9-11 levels, the Saudi Arabian government has launched a multimillion-dollar ad blitz designed to portray the kingdom as a close partner with the United States in the war on terror. "The People of Saudi Arabia... Allies Against Terrorism," reads one ad that features President Bush touting Saudi "cooperation" against Osama bin Laden. "Allies for Peace," proclaims another commercial featuring Saudi kings meeting with U.S. presidents dating back to FDR. The TV and radio ads paper over differences between the Saudis and the Bush administration and avoid sensitive subjects that might not play well with an American audience, such as the Saudis' staunch support for the Palestinians in the Mideast crisis or the 15 Saudis who served as hijackers on 9-11.The ads are the latest phase in a sophisticated image makeover ordered up last year by Adel Al-Jubair, 39, the U.S....
  • And The Counters Are ...

    "In a world full of vote rigging, two men are about to learn a secret that could change the world ..." The voice-over for the latest Oscar contender? Nope, one better. In the countdown to Sunday's Oscar night, one would think Russell Crowe, Harvey Weinstein or even Steven Spielberg would be the most important men in Hollywood. But that award goes to Greg Garrison and Rick Rosas. The two accountants, of PriceWaterhouseCoopers in Los Angeles, are solely responsible for tallying up the Oscar votes.From about six months before Oscar night, they oversee the voting process with the help of a few faithful staff. But when it comes this close to ballot deadline, Rosas and Garrison are on their own. At an undisclosed location, they count the ballots, keeping their secret until the presentation itself. Garrison has been doing the job for years, but Rosas, 37, is a first-timer. NEWSWEEK's Malcolm Beith spoke to him on the telephone. Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: You're the man of the moment.Rick Rosas: Am...
  • PERISCOPE

    EU VS. USPower Diplomacy--Or Just Politics?Talk about disdain. The very public flap between Europe and the United States over Iraq doesn't do justice to the word. When George Bush delivered his "axis of evil" speech to Congress, American diplomats were almost as jarred as the allies--so much so that Secretary of State Colin Powell had to instruct his striped-pants set not to undermine the president by trying to "take the edge off" his words. But then came the European reaction, this minister and that accusing Washington of being "simplistic" or "absolutist." Stateside squeamishness soon turned to annoyance, followed by a deep sense that enough was enough. "There go the whine-and-cheese Europeans--whine, whine, whine about consultations, not asking how can we help," says one senior State Department official, summing up the mood within the administration. With Iraq now preoccupying American policy, the erstwhile transatlantic partners are utterly sidelined. What does Europe think? ...
  • Periscope

    Al Qaeda's Supporting ActsWas September 11 supposed to be only one of a series of carefully timed Qaeda attacks on American targets? That theory is gaining currency among investigators in the wake of law-enforcement crackdowns around the world. The latest: Italian authorities last week arrested five alleged Moroccan terrorists, who possessed a map of the Rome water system, another map pinpointing the location of the American Embassy and a quantity of an industrial chemical related to cyanide. (Qaeda recruits were trained to use cyanide to gas buildings; the chemical seized in Rome, however, was harmless.) Some U.S. officials now think that the abortive Rome attack could be the latest in a series of plots that Osama bin Laden set in motion early last year as supporting acts for 9-11.Several foreign governments have foiled Qaeda attempts since last September. And many of these raids have turned up evidence of bin Laden's plans. Within days of the 9-11 attacks, France, Holland, Belgium...
  • Periscope

    On Sept. 21, 2001, Scotland Yard's antiterrorist branch raided the London home of flight instructor Lotfi Raissi. They immediately saw the Algerian's framed pilot's certificate on the wall, and grinned. One of them said: "This is our man." They hauled him in. ...
  • Periscope

    Former Taliban foreign minister Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil surrendered last week, and was quickly handed over to American forces. U.S. officials hope that Muttawakil will provide a wealth of information about the Taliban's dealings with Osama bin Laden and his foreign legion of "Afghan Arab" fighters.U.S. officials also are optimistic that top Qaeda leaders were killed by a CIA Hellfire missile last week. According to intelligence sources, the missile was fired after a camera aboard a CIA Predator spotted a suspected Qaeda gathering high up in the mountains near Afghanistan's eastern border with Pakistan. The video pictures from the drone showed a small group of men in robes apparently behaving deferentially to one of their number, who was noticeably taller than the others. Afghan leaders suggested that the men killed by the remote-controlled missile were only minor Qaeda fighters. But U.S. officials say they "can't rule out" the possibility that the six-foot-plus bin Laden himself was...
  • The End Of The World

    Behold, the end of the world is nigh! Or at least, Pat Buchanan seems to think so. In his latest book, "Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization," the former U.S. presidential candidate and eternal evangelist draws on global population data and immigration figures to predict... the death of the West! Doom sells, too. The book is among Amazon's top 10 best sellers. PERI offers a sampling of bold predictions: ...
  • Recession Watch: Out Of Ammo?

    In the past year, Alan Greenspan, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, has cut interest rates 11 times, from 6.5 percent to 1.75 percent--yet the latest numbers from 2001 are looking just about as bad as ever. Inflation is not the problem: the consumer price index rose only 1.6 percent last year (and actually fell by 0.2 percent in December), its smallest rise since 1998. But that only reflected how deeply the U.S. economy has sunk into the doldrums. Business inventories declined for the 10th consecutive month in November, and industrial output fell 7.2 percent in the fourth quarter--3.9 percent for the whole year. Worse off was the manufacturing sector. It reported a decline of 0.1 percent in December, capping its worst year since 1982.Analysts predict that Greenspan will slash rates again in late January. Will it work this time? The Business Cycle Dating Committee, which officially determines when recessions start and finish, will decide whether an upturn did take place, and...
  • Nigeria: Shelled By The Sharia

    It only takes one to tango. At least, according to one of Nigeria's strictest Sharia courts. In October 2000, 35-year-old Safiya Hussaini was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery after she gave birth to a daughter out of wedlock. The man she alleges raped her (but did not necessarily father the child) denied everything and was acquitted of all charges. Is this justice? Europe's politicians don't think so. Last week 77 members of the European Parliament petitioned to stop such barbaric death sentences, and Hussaini also launched her own appeal. Her execution has now been postponed until March to allow prosecutors time to respond to lawyers' assertions that she was not properly defended, she was never legally married and her daughter was conceived before Islamic law was imposed in the region. The girl could even be the child of Hussaini's ex-husband. Under Sharia, adultery is "proved" if a woman conceives out of wedlock--unless by a former husband.
  • Juggling 'Nuclear' Trade Bombs

    Last year, U.S. trade Representative Robert Zoellick warned the European Union that if it imposed sanctions in the ongoing EU-U.S. tax dispute, it would be the equivalent of detonating a "nuclear bomb" on their relationship. So, when the World Trade Organization made a landmark ruling last week that long-disputed U.S. corporate tax breaks were an illegal subsidy, it seemingly gave the EU the right to detonate that bomb. If the United States refuses to dismantle its subsidies, EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy can impose $4 billion in retaliatory tariffs against U.S. exports. ...
  • Al Qaeda: Puzzle Pieces

    Investigators looking into Al Qaeda's global network now appear to be making breakthroughs. U.S. officials confirm that key leads have come from one Osama bin Laden aide in U.S. custody: Ibn Al-Shaykh al-Libi, who reportedly ran Al Qaeda's Khalden training camp in Afghanistan. Information he gave U.S. interrogators helped authorities in Yemen foil a planned attack on the American Embassy there. Unconfirmed reports say al-Libi also provided the inside dope on trainees at the Khalden camp, including indicted shoe-bomber Richard Reid, who has pleaded not guilty to all charges. ...
  • Welcome Back, Mr. Pretzeldent

    All it took was a pretzel. After he choked on one and fainted early last week, President George W. Bush gave the world its first chance to laugh at him since September 11. He even joined in the fun, handing out pretzels labeled with chew slowly warnings to journalists on Air Force One. Some of the world's better reactions to Pretzel-gate: ...
  • Fashion Victims Of War

    Ooh, that Hamid. he's such a dish. At Milan's menswear fashion show last week, the buzz was all Afghanistan--not guns but the buttery-smooth look of the war-torn country's new president, Hamid Karzai. The man does know how to dress--single-breasted suits supported with black no-collar shirts, flowing robes and fur hats, the hippest mix and match of exotic fabrics and colors. Small wonder Gucci design guru Tom Ford called him "the chicest man on the planet today."Does this mean a return to 2001's trendy camo duds? Probably not. When terror took hold, last year's ammo belts and combat boots were suddenly deemed inappropriate--so Sept. 10. And they'll likely remain that way. After all, the motif for Ford's Milan show was a "return to elegance." Karzai's the future, darlings. "Terrorist chic" is way passe.
  • Osama Bin Baggins?

    "The Fellowship Of The Ring," we hoped, would provide an escape from the reality of the war on terror. So why do journalists insist on drawing allusions between the fantastical tale and modern-day political realities? The Times of London's Bronwen Maddox recently described the mountain ranges of Middle-earth as "greener than the Hindu Kush or the Pamirs but equally daunting." But at least her allegory of "figures with long beards [sitting] in a circle arguing about the fate of their country" was more subtle than that of London Evening Standard writer Alexander Walker. "People in 'Lord of the Rings' have more hair than they do in Afghanistan," he wrote. ...
  • Very Unclear On Nuclear

    Lexicographers, take note. Despite a Yale degree, the "leader of the free world" still pronounces nuclear "nuke-yu-ler." Which poses a question: when President George W. Bush told Russian President Vladimir Putin that he would slash nuclear warheads from 6,000 to about 1,700, did Putin actually know what Bush was talking about? Judging from last week's diplomatic contretemps, he apparently did not. Instead of eliminating two thirds of its warheads, Washington announced that it would be putting many of them in storage. Moscow is incensed. Putin has not spoken out, but he has to be perplexed over his "best friend" George's behavior. No wonder Moscow demands a treaty in black and white--with the correct spelling.
  • Lords Of The Lochs

    The Cayman Islands, the Cote d'Azur, Beverly Hills... Scotland? The past two years have seen the frosty northern nation rise to new ranks as a celebrity hot spot. Bonnie Prince William set the trend by attending St. Andrews University. Then came the pop glitterati: Madonna and Guy Ritchie chose 13th-century Skibo Castle for their wedding--specifically for its isolation and to keep prying paparazzi at bay. Skibo hit the headlines again when Ashley Judd chose it for her marriage to Scottish racer Dario Franchitti in December. ...
  • New Names For The Enemies List?

    In the war on terror, President George W. Bush repeated last week, other nations are "with us or against us." But not everybody is heeding the warning. Belarus and Iran appear to have moved further into the "against" column. ...
  • Globalization: Going Strong

    Who has integrated best into the global economy? The A.T. Kearney/Foreign Policy Magazine Globalization Index report for 2000 amounts to a sort of quiz on interaction with the world, with points awarded for global engagement in technology, politics, personal contact and economics. Among its key findings: ...
  • Teamwork

    On Jan. 11, Typhoon "Dawn" will pummel the imaginary island of Parangdo. Rain and wind will destroy houses and roads, plunging the state into anarchy. Nearly 100,000 refugees will flee on boats and land on the South Korean coast. What to do? ...
  • Have You Seen The Little Piggies?

    Biotech rivals bickered over a momentous milestone last week: the first cloned pigs genetically engineered to keep their organs from being rejected by human transplant recipients. Immerge BioTherapeutics Inc. had scheduled a Jan. 3 announcement of the event, which came on Sept. 21, but PPL Therapeutics stole its thunder by announcing a day earlier that its own litter of swine came into the world on Christmas Day.In both cases, researchers "knocked out" the pig gene that sticks sugar molecules onto the surface of organs; the human immune system attaches to those sugars, recognizes the organ as foreign and rejects it. PPL's five little piggies and Immerge's original seven (four survive) could therefore be important first steps in breeding swine to be organ donors, especially for pancreatic islet cells, hearts, kidneys and lungs. But Randall Prather, the University of Missouri biologist who cloned the pigs for Immerge, thinks gene knockouts will find even wider use. Eliminating a cow's...
  • Don't Blame The Imf

    Five presidents in two weeks. Can the latest, Eduardo Duhalde, save Argentina from further collapse? Duhalde launched his rescue effort last Friday by declaring a devaluation of the peso, tentatively setting up a dual exchange system that floats the peso against the dollar for domestic transactions but pegs it for foreign trade. Can it work? And can Duhalde expect any real help from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which many blame for Argentina's mess? ...
  • The Trail: Al Qaeda, Phone Home

    What's in a number? A lot, say FBI investigators who have linked three of Osama bin Laden's deadliest attacks, including September 11, to a single telephone number in Yemen. ...
  • Comparison Shopping In The Euro Zone

    Finally, one can travel through Europe without the fuss of converting currencies and needing a calculator to work out price differences between countries. But the introduction of the euro brings a new problem: Europeans can now see those price differences in black and white. Even after his fifth pint of Guinness, a Finnish drinker can see that the euro5.30 he's paying is daylight robbery compared to the Irishman's 3.81 euro. And why should that same Dubliner pay 125 euro to look sharp in a pair of Armani jeans when a Parisian pays only 100 euro? Of course, local goods will cost less, and quality will vary. And some proprietors have simply jacked up the old prices to create nice round euro numbers. But in any case, it's now easier to compare prices, and consequently to become jealous of one's neighbors. An overview of the injustices: ...
  • Fair-Weather Friendship

    Before, you could just blame the weather, and the buck stopped there. No longer. Rio de Janeiro weather forecaster Luiz Carlos Austin predicted driving rains for New Year's Eve, just days after downpours killed more than 70 people in the area. His warning failed to deter the millions of revelers--or the clear skies--from hitting Copacabana beach, and Rio's Mayor Cesar Maya wants Austin charged with "sounding a false alarm"--which could result in a six-month jail term. But unlike the stereotypical inmate who blames his lawyer for his incarceration, Austin would be able to point his finger elsewhere. He could just blame the weather.
  • Fruit Of The Loon

    The "Naked Cowboy" actually wears cowboy boots and briefs--but he still stops traffic in New York's Times Square. Aspiring country singer, bodybuilder and patriot John Robert Burck performs his brand of artistry in the flesh (standing around nearly naked with a guitar) every day, and was on a 100-day streak of Big Apple appearances--at least, until September 11. He returned home to Cincinnati to "let NYC heal." Just one week later, though, he was back on the "job" in Times Square. PERI's Gretel C. Kovach caught up with the nearly nude dude: ...