Malcolm Beith

Stories by Malcolm Beith

  • Down Home With Dubya

    Attention, White House press corps. Vacationing with the president can be fun. Remember Lyndon Johnson's wild parties on his ranch? Or those trips to Maine with Daddy Bush? With Dubya it's a little different. There ain't much to do in Crawford, Texas. Diversions include: eating chicken-fried steak and gravy at the local restaurant. Vegetarians (quiet now, you're in Texas) keep an eye out for those fried jalapenos, the perfect snack in 110-degree heat. Crawford's also a "dry" town. No beer for nine miles. Best to just head for Waco, 25 miles east. Specials for White House staff and the press corps: $2 Margaritas at Gratziano's, a $10 fee for use of Baylor University's gym (including a 52-foot climbing wall) and a $4 tour of the Dr Pepper museum.
  • The Lion King

    Pop quiz. who wrote the song "Wimoweh" (a.k.a. "The Lion Sleeps Tonight")--Pete Seeger, the Kingston Trio or the Tokens? None of the above--or any of the other 150-plus bands who've recorded the song, raking in $15 million in the process. It was written in 1939 by South African Solomon Linda, who died penniless in 1962. But Linda's now due for some well-deserved credit--and royalties. Gallo Records has just released a compilation CD containing the original recording and other versions by popular South African groups. At least some of the profits will go to Linda's three daughters and their families in Soweto.
  • Magic Cures

    Battered by foot-and-mouth disease, Britain's tourism authorities have turned to a magical savior: Harry Potter. The idea is to promote landmarks shown in the upcoming kid-wizard film. Planning a trip to the green isles? Don't miss the 11th-century Alnwick Castle and Gloucester Cathedral, a.k.a. Hogwarts School. Visit the delightfully quaint village of Ottery St. Mary--or in Harry-speak, Ottery St. Catchpole. Or even make a gold withdrawal from Gringotts Bank (The Australian High Commission, in Gringotts's real--and slightly less exciting--incarnation). But can Pottermania erase the memory of all the diseased animals? Officials are optimistic. It's amazing the influence a little boy and his wand can have on us Muggles.
  • Rumsfeld's Rift With Japan

    When U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld proposed shifting military strategy to emphasize the importance of Asia, nobody was happier than the Japanese. But six months later Tokyo is quietly seething: Rumsfeld has yet to ask for its input in the department's strategic review of the region. "We have not been consulted," says Masashi Nishihara of Japan's National Defense Academy. "It is a source of worry." Worrisome enough for senior U.S. Defense officials to visit Tokyo in the coming weeks to smooth ruffled feathers. But not enough for Rumsfeld himself to make an appearance. In a nation that so values self- respect, Tokyo appropriately insists it has not been dissed completely. Says one senior Japanese government official: "It won't be too late to put forward our views."
  • Read The Fine Print

    The Holocaust never happened. So screamed the posters in Berlin. Come again? Oops, PERI forgot to mention the small print, which most Berliners missed, too: THERE ARE STILL MANY PEOPLE WHO MAKE THIS CLAIM. IN 20 YEARS THERE COULD BE EVEN MORE. MAKE A DONATION FOR THE MEMORIAL FOR MURDERED JEWS OF EUROPE. The posters caused outrage and were taken down last week. When it comes to shock advertising, it just goes to show: always read the fine print.
  • Is This The Party To Whom I Am Speaking?

    Want to flesh out your resume? A job at Rotterdam-based telemarketer Telesales may be just the thing. "Always Wanted to Work in the Nude?" it recently advertised, trying to lure hard-to-find staff. "In an office job like a call center," the Dutch company explains, "it doesn't matter what you're wearing because customers don't see you." This select team will operate under the name Au Nature Telesales. Not to worry. Applicants don't have to interview naked. "We are not a sex-line center. And we have no erotic demands at all," insists co-owner Robert van Sligter. "We [just] want everybody in our office to feel pleasant and free."
  • Internal Affairs

    So, Bubba has his $12 million book deal. Should bookstores stack it under fiction or nonfiction? Clinton once said: "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is," but now insists the book will be "setting the record straight." Still, maybe best to simply stack it under biography.Elsewhere, the American Bar Association backed a rule prohibiting lawyers from having sex with clients. No word as to whether a similar law will be considered by politicians.Copyright 2001 Newsweek: not for distribution outside of Newsweek Inc.
  • You Can't Be Too Clean

    We Brits still abide by the five-second rule. If food has been lying on the floor less than that, go ahead and eat it--regardless of surface conditions. Which explains the shocked faces clustered around my barbecue in Brooklyn the other day. The "chef," another Brit, had just flipped a hot dog off the ground and back onto the grill. "It'll cook off the germs," he said nonchalantly. I understood perfectly. But not my American guests. They are clean freaks, almost one and all.To outsiders, America's mania for hygiene is quite extraordinary. When I moved to New York a year ago, I was astonished at what I would occasionally see on the subway: commuters carrying MoistWipes (tiny hand towels laced with antimicrobial detergents) to clean off the residue left on seats and poles by previous riders. Some even refused to touch the poles, instead hugging them with their jackets or some other makeshift bacterial body condom. I'd regarded such people as aliens--until one day last summer when I...
  • Better Halves

    She soared into power in January, vowing to stamp out corruption. Now Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo faces a tough choice. Her husband, Miguel, is accused of taking bribes of $2.5 million to court his wife into influencing a major telecom deal. She's unlikely to boot Miguel out of the house yet. He denies the charges; his "conscience is clear," and he has "nothing to hide." And one less headache for the president--the Senate has decided to back off. But Gloria, beware. Miguel has listed bringing you to power as his greatest achievement. If he's not careful, his next greatest could be bringing you down.
  • God's Puppet

    If God usually speaks through a medium, why shouldn't the rest of us? Doug Nearpass, an evangelical Christian and spare-time ventriloquist from New Jersey, uses his dummy, DigDag, to preach the Lord's word. At the sixth annual convention of "Christian ventriloquists" in Illinois, PERI sat down with DigDag and his straight man. ...
  • Spaceballs

    Gen. Michael Ryan, the U.S. Air Force chief of staff, last week stressed the need for space-based weapons to defend the 250 American satellites in space. But don't expect to see any X-Wing fighters. The United States and Russia have already tested Earth-based lasers designed to blind the censors on enemy spy satellites. Other gizmos include mini-rockets (untested) to destroy enemy satellites by smashing into them (U.S. version) or exploding nearby (Russian model). But the first weapon in space--a giant laser in orbit to zap approaching warheads or satellites--is light-years away. Earliest test flight of even an experimental version? Around 2012. As any "Star Wars" aficionado well knows, it takes a long time to build a Death Star.
  • Free Nelson's Chicken!

    South Africa was engulfed by a raging war last week. Well, more of a food fight, actually. On Tuesday Nelson's Chicken & Gravy Land in Cape Town closed because of the ire of the Nelson Mandela camp. The cartoon logo, claimed African National Congress officials, bore an uncanny resemblance to the former president. And the dishes--just plain, deep-fried abuse of the good man's name. Sample platters: Nelson's Freedom Meal and the three-piece Peace Meal. The restaurant changed its moniker, but PERI liked its menu. Future samplings, perhaps: Gandhi Goulash, Big MacClintons, Archbishop Tutu Tacos or even Arafat-free Buffalo wings?
  • Body Snatchers

    We've all heard of kidnapping. But corpse-napping? A gang in Ho Chi Minh City goes around dressed as policemen or hospital workers, snatching the recently deceased from hospitals. Then comes the ransom note to the bereaved family. Want to give your dear departed a proper Vietnamese burial? That'll be $1,000, please. R.I.P.? Not in Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Neck And Neck--But Way Behind

    Wim Duisenberg, head of the European Central Bank, and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi may be more than 5,000 miles apart as the crow flies. But in the race for a dubious distinction, "Minister for the Destruction of the World Economy," they're neck and neck.Alan Greenspan has cut U.S. interest rates six times since January. Last week the Bank of England again shaved rates by a quarter percent. But Duisenberg stayed put. Again. He's offered up only one measly cut this year, despite prodding from other central bankers--and plenty of evidence of Europe's stalling economy (story in europe section). His fears about inflation are understandable, but shouldn't a global recession trouble him more?Koizumi has bigger problems. After he was elected on a reform agenda, Tokyo's stock market plummeted last week to its lowest point in 16 years--a suggestion that everyone thinks he will fail. And now Koizumi might have to renege on a promise. He has vowed not to bail out ailing banks,...
  • Change That Tune

    Several Canadian women's groups want to change their national anthem. No more "true patriot love in all thy sons command," they protest. How about "all of us" or "all our hearts" instead? PERI surveys some recent calls for anthemic change around the world.Britain: Women refused to sing "that men should brothers be." Do they expect the National Health Service to pay for the sex-change ops, then?Russia: No words at all? Russians want the old Soviet lyrics instead of having to hum.Brazil: "If the mighty sword of justice is drawn forth, you will see your children... neither fear to fight, nor flee from death itself." Too warlike and aggressive for us, cry the sun- and samba-loving people.Australia: "Our home is girt by the sea"? Please. Change the whole anthem before "we all go to sleep singing it," they protest Down Under.
  • Gotta Love The Golden Oldies

    Showbiz used to ditch its starlets at the first sign of a wrinkle. But this is 2001. Madonna blows them away at 43. Sigourney Weaver, 51, just posed braless on the cover of a U.S. men's mag. And according to one TV producer, 60-year-old Faye Dunaway "still knows how to work it." Now 94-year-old Brazilian actress Dercy Goncalves is proving she's not over the hill yet either... by posing nude in Penthouse. The magazine is protesting society's treatment of the elderly. PERI's not so sure this will help.
  • Cyberscope; Do-Good Hackers

    For as long as there have been computer networks, there have been hackers ready to break into them and cause trouble. So it is surprising that the biggest story to emerge from this year's Def Con hackers' convention (yes, even hackers have conventions) is that members of one of the most notorious hack collectives are doing something constructive. High-minded, even.The challenge: governments of China, Cuba and some Islamic countries block Web sites that carry information or ideas that these governments prefer to keep from their citizens. (China, for instance, has blocked CNN.com.) The hackers' response: software that lets users get around government-installed "firewalls" and gain access to the forbidden sites. This may be the first instance of world-class hacking for human rights.Before you conclude that the hackers have somehow grown up, bear in mind that the program is called Peekabooty and that the authors are a "special operations group" of the Cult of the Dead Cow, a group best...
  • Flying Right

    Kevin Carlyon, the high priest of British White Witches, made the news last week when he criticized Warner Brothers after seeing a TV promo for the upcoming Harry Potter film. According to Carlyon, Harry can't even fly right. PERI caught up with him to find out which way is the witch way:Yes. In the 16th and 17th centuries, witches were always portrayed flying with the brush at the front. The other big glitch is that you never see male witches riding a broomstick. It's a [female] fertility symbol, hence the brush at the front.Some sources have actually said that we cursed them. We have not wished any harm on anybody connected with the company. What we have done is placed a "binding spell," to slow down the sale of box-office tickets.They haven't made a comment. It's been said that they're fearful that the world's witches have been brushed up the wrong way.It's very similar to getting on a motorbike. You put the stick between your legs with the brush raised up.We believe in a force,...
  • Men... Who Needs 'Em

    Scientists at Australia's Monash University have found a way to fertilize female eggs without sperm, using cells from skin or muscles instead. But opposition is mounting. "It's cloning," say protesters. Several lesbian groups are pleased as punch, but most men aren't. "[This] says, 'We can throw you on the scrapheap'," complains Cam Primavera of Fathers for Equality. But project director Dr. Orly Lacham-Kaplan insists the aim is only to help men with defective sperm to father children. She maintains that "the natural way is much better--easier and safe." And a lot more fun, too.
  • Her Personality's The Pits!

    With summer (and airy blouses) finally here, deodorant-and soap makers Dove recently surveyed 1,000 British gals to see how they sport their armpit hair, sending the results to psychologist Malcolm Hatfield to determine the ladies' personality types. Sound ridiculous? " [Armpits] have high emotional value," says the doc. peri presents the five 'pit and personality types--matched with Dove's celebrity examples:PERFECTLY PLUCKEDHair-free, for the "professional who likes to be in control." ...
  • Who Gets To Keep The Phone?

    Mobile-phone text messaging has gotten out of hand. A storm is brewing in Malaysia after a senior Muslim cleric declared it acceptable for a husband to divorce his wife simply by sending a text message saying I DIVORCE YOU three times. Critics say it's a pretty loose interpretation of Shariah--which allows Muslim men to divorce their wives by stating these words three times and then repeating them in court. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad agrees, calling this abuse of mobile phones "irresponsible" and "dangerous." Even the fundamentalist opposition group Parti Islam Se-Malaysia is outraged. "We must never forget that Allah entrusted marriage to both husband and wife," it declared last week. Surely that's better than handing matrimonial power over to the local telephone companies.
  • Party' S Over, Time To Get To Work

    Beijing's bid for the 2008 Summer Olympics was a success, but the world won't stop watching now. Especially if China keeps its pledge to "give the media complete freedom"--just one of the many promises China will have to keep to stay squeaky clean.From now on, no crushing the Falun Gong or Tibetan "opposition." And no invasions of Taiwan. But Beijing faces other, less obvious challenges. First, it must deal with its rapidly increasing traffic problem, and follow through on its proposed plans: five new subway lines, 228km of new roads and a magnetic-levitation train to the Great Wall are all to be built by 2008.Pollution is another dark cloud over the city. Beijing has vowed that its water and air quality will meet World Health Organization standards by 2008. Among other measures, many factories must be altered or destroyed and businesses will have to switch from coal to gas. And what about sanitation? Beijing has already embarked on a "Toilet Revolution," a plan to build 64 "four...
  • Porky Profit

    Remember Warren Buffett's announcement to investors in his annual report earlier this year? The so-called Oracle of Omaha declared he was entering such "cutting-edge industries as brick, carpet, insulation and paint." Now Merrill Lynch has gone one step further, suggesting an emerging market in... hog waste. It has many functions (from fertilizing to energy-producing), and according to the company's research, the sector's growth rate is projected to reach 79.8 percent for 2001. If it keeps that pace up, the $450 million hogriculture industry will leap to nearly $3 trillion by 2016. Obviously somebody forgot to tell the pigs about the economic downturn.
  • Moi The Miser

    Kenyan president Daniel arap Moi has a skewed take on the AIDS crisis. Last month he declared that HIV-positive Kenyans who knowingly infect others should be executed. Then last week, after announcing that Kenya would import 300 million condoms--at a cost of $12.5 million--Moi complained: "I am embarrassed that I am spending millions importing those things," and suggested his people instead abstain from sex for two years. Reality check, please. "Abstinence might be easier for him," says prominent local AIDS activist Gitura Mwaura. "We've never seen his wife in public, so as far as we can tell he doesn't have one." Sadly, many Kenyans will choose neither option. One Nairobi taxi driver echoed an all-too-common sentiment: "[Sex with a condom] is like eating a sweet with a wrapper; you cannot do that. You have to have sex, [and] those who will die will die."
  • Dining Out

    A dog's dinner: Dog owners may want to walk their pup down to the swanky Bluebird Cafe in London this summer. While humans eat top-notch grub, so can their pets--ordering the likes of Pooch's penne with chopped bacon ([Pound sterling]5.75) and the Mutt's milkshake ([Pound sterling]1.85). The Brits have always loved their animals. This proves they also know how to make every dog happy.
  • Setting Sail Again Soon?

    The U.S. Federal Reserve took another step to fight off a recession last week, slashing rates by a quarter point. This brings total cuts this year to an astounding 2.75 percent--the steepest in 19 years. Americans were once again relieved that a recession has been staved off. But the biggest winners may well be European and Asian exporters.Since last year, European and Asian export business has dwindled severely. The United States absorbs a quarter of the world's exports, and until last summer was the engine of global growth. So when Americans stopped buying, the rest of the world started struggling. Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan's decision to lower interest rates only minimally has given Asian and European exporters the hope for a rebound they needed.Of course, there are no guarantees that the United States has overcome a recession. The smaller-than-expected interest-rate adjustment was a careful attempt to thread the monetary needle, and can be interpreted three ways....
  • Overexposed?

    Television often hits politicians where it hurts. And President Fernando de la Rua of Argentina is no exception. Twice a week, a presidential impersonator stars in "Big Brother-in-Law," Argentina's TV spoof of the global reality hit "Big Brother." But now the president's men have devised a plan to make TV their friend--and to prove their boss isn't doing such a bad job. De la Rua aides have announced plans to install a video camera inside the presidential palace, broadcasting his movements on a state-run TV channel in condensed bulletins shown throughout the day. But de la Rua's team doesn't seem to have thought through the consequences. The overexposure could backfire on the president, known for his far-from-exciting hobbies--such as cultivating bonsai trees and following the weather--and his lack of flair in front of the lens. And what about the night-cam views? His less tolerant critics may even take those images as further proof that de la Rua really is dozing off on the job.
  • Talking Time's Over

    Negotiations with the Muslim extremist group Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines have gone on long enough, with little result. Twenty hostages--including three Americans--have been abducted since May 27, though some have been released. Abu Sayyaf even claims to have decapitated one American captive. The final straw? It would appear so. The government in Manila is now casting aside failed talks--and bringing on the big guns. "I will rain bullets on you," pledged President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo last month. And this wasn't hyperbole. The first Philippine counter-terrorist unit, the Light Reaction Company (LRC), just completed a 16-week camp set up by the U.S. military in central Philippines. Their training included hostage-rescue exercises in urban and jungle settings, sustaining protracted run-and-shoot battles and mastering state-of-the-art equipment that the U.S. Army will leave behind. Later this month the LRC is expected to take on the Abu Sayyaf and expectations are high. "They are...
  • Will Kim Win?

    When International Olympic Committee delegates convene in Moscow next week, they face two huge decisions: whether to entrust the 2008 Games to Beijing, and even more critical, who should succeed Juan Antonio Samaranch as the IOC's president.Since the Salt Lake City bribery scandal, the IOC has pushed hard for reforms. So it is to the surprise of many that South Korea's Kim Un Yong-- hardly a reformist--has emerged as a serious contender for Samaranch's throne. Kim was the most prominent Olympic leader implicated in the Salt Lake City scandal.But he is nonetheless a front-runner, having capitalized on his support for Third World athletic programs and benefited from a backlash against the United States (which, in the eyes of many IOC delegates, provoked the Salt Lake City scandal, then used its financial clout to force unwelcome changes on them). And Kim has pledged to reverse a new ban on delegate visits to cities bidding for the Olympics, thus reinstituting a valued perk.That makes...
  • Baby Boozers

    Belgians love beer. So much that a group called Limburgse Biervrienden, or Limburg Beer Friends, has proposed serving low-alcohol (2.5 percent) suds... in elementary schools. It's healthier than sugary sodas and lemonade, they claim. The group pitched the idea to about 30 schools, and two agreed to a trial pour at lunch-time. Ages: 6 to 12. Let's see how their grades hold up.