Stories by Malcolm Beith

  • 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...
  • Calling Slobo

    The Yugoslav government put it plainly last week: Slobodan Milosevic now can be sent to face justice. Slobo and "all of these indicted individuals will go to The Hague," said the deputy prime minister. "There is no doubt about that." But when? Yugoslav officials gave themselves eight days to enforce their own decree; when they do, Slobo's allies could bring down the government. But Washington was threatening to hold back millions in Western aid if Yugoslavia backed down.Is there any wiggle room? One idea circulating in Belgrade: give up other indicted war criminals first. Ratko Mladic, former Bosnian Serb military boss, seems to be worried: he fled Belgrade for a hideout in Bosnia. But he may have to return to treat his kidney ailment. Mladic would be a good catch, but Slobo is still top prize.
  • The Lion King

    Japan's prime minister Junichiro Koizumi is making all the right moves. He's soaring in the polls--his latest disapproval rate was only 6 percent. (Take that, Yoshiro Mori, Koizumi's predecessor, disapproved by 66 percent just last year.) More than a million Japanese citizens have subscribed to Koizumi's weekly e-mail newsletter. Supporters around the country have bought about 600,000 posters of him. And thousands wear his T shirts.This weekend "Koizumi the Lionheart," as he recently proclaimed himself, heads to Washington. A stark contrast from the uncharismatic and unpopular Japanese visitors of the past, he will stride into the White House, head held high. Will Bush plead for support on global warming? Ask for Okinawa military bases to be treated gently? Most important, Bush must decide whether the bold new Japanese prime minister is good for the United States.
  • Reality Bites

    On China's version of "Survivor," airing in July, contestants will battle high altitudes and fatigue in Shangri-La. (Yes, the Chinese claim to have found the tiny Himalayan valley near the border of the provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan.) If other versions of the show are any guide, the lives of China's survivors will be changed forever. But so will Shangri-La.The program will be broadcast by 110 mainland TV stations and 132 Internet news portals. After seeing the show, swarms of tourists are expected to descend on the hitherto unspoiled area. Garbage carelessly tossed aside. Harassed livestock (an endless source of amusement for some tourists). Tacky karaoke bars. The anticipated crush of tourists has also focused the attention of Chinese authorities closer than ever on these remote Tibetan hamlets. Last week the government ordered thousands of monks and nuns to leave one Tibetan monastic community in Sichuan, where they had previously lived undisturbed. Reality TV isn't just bad. It...
  • Next: Supreme Leader?

    As he heads into his first summit meeting in India, Pakistan's leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, decided he needed a boost. So he cast aside his olive green Army uniform last week and donned a black sherwani, or long coat, appointing himself president. Clearly, he needs all the credibility he can get in talks next month with Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. But will a glossy honorific do it?Musharraf, a reformer with a strong desire to bolster Pakistan's economy, enjoys the support of Pakistan's businessmen, who hope a resolution to the Kashmir crisis will boost trade with India and Pakistan's cash crisis. But he does not have the backing of the country's hard-line military Islamic extremists, who have a stake in perpetuating the conflict. So what's he going to tell 'em in Delhi? Titles don't do deals.
  • Ironies

    A little sunlight: When it comes to geopolitics--or tourism--Africa is eclipsed by events almost anywhere else. Curious, then, that many tens of thousands of foreign tourists descended on Zambia, Zimbabwe and other southern African nations last week. Reason? Thursday's solar eclipse.
  • Mario Rules

    Europe's top monopoly cop, (Super) Mario Monti, risks sparking a transatlantic war with his preliminary veto of the merger of General Electric and Honeywell. Most assumed he based the decision on his antimonopolistic inclinations. But American businessmen--and now senior Bushies--believe Monti's gambit marks the beginning of an economic policy war on U.S. business. Sen. Ernest Hollings, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, warned last week that U.S.-European relations would suffer if European antitrust authorities killed the deal. And according to a senior Bush official, Monti aims "to use antitrust policy to extend Europe's social democratic model and protect European business from the U.S. and the world." As American experts see it, this is just the latest in a string of European efforts to trump U.S. antitrust laws and directly regulate U.S. corporations.
  • Perisccope

    Tony Blair brought "babes" to his last election--the 101 women M.P.s elected to Parliament in Labour's landslide victory. But this year they just haven't been as prominent. "Whatever happened to the women in this campaign?" wrote one columnist last week, echoing a national question.Has the Labour Party let its women down in 2001? Sheer numbers would suggest so. It has fielded fewer women--149, compared with 158 in 1997. And because not as many are fighting for winnable seats, fewer are likely to be elected this time around.But the future of parliamentary equality is not as bleak as those stats might suggest. Labour's recent constitutional reforms have given birth to the Welsh Assembly, 40 percent women, and the Scottish Parliament, 38 percent women. Only one in eight M.P.s in Westminster is a woman, but this is because British antidiscrimination laws bar the party from stacking its lists of parliamentary candidates in women's favor. Fair or not, Labour seeks to change that law after...
  • It's All The Rage

    Can't you just get mad anymore? It's not just road rage and air rage any longer; the media race to rage-ify every angry incident it can. Take "yard rage," of which an Illinois man was recently accused. Rage has become the buzzword of our time. A survey: The nonfatal shooting was "an example of PATIENT RAGE, which health care professionals... face too often." (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)"A surfer inflicted SURF RAGE on himself. After missing a big wave... he punched himself in the head for 30 seconds." (The Vancouver Sun)"In a case of apparent SIDEWALK RAGE, Hall, 35, and McDonough, 30, were arrested... for allegedly attacking a neighbor because he greeted McDonough while walking a dog." (Record, Bergen, New Jersey)"How much money has been spent... replacing perfectly functioning hardware which has suffered at the hands of someone with PC RAGE?" (Birmingham Post, U.K.)
  • Blame It On Yourselves

    Who cost the United States its seat on the U.N. Human Rights Commission in the recent secret vote? Theories abound. Was there a European Judas--or three, or five? Is the world tired of being bullied by U.S. strong-arm human-rights tactics? Or did China help bring the Bush administration down to earth? The United States "deserves the defeat" for arrogance and "imposing its human-rights standards on others," Beijing gloated. ...
  • I'll Have The Nuclear Gnocchi

    It seems mama's sauce isn't the only thing that puts the punch in Italian pasta. The German press piqued Italy's pride last week, claiming that much of the durum wheat used in the country's pasta is... radioactively mutated. Rubbish, retorted the Italians. "Those dour Germans are merely jealous of our superior cuisine", said one proud proponent of Italy's back-to- nature Slow Food movement. Noodle envy aside, the Germans happen to be right this time. Radiation is used to develop mutant strains and to improve production and resistance to natural hazards. This form of modification is common, says the International Atomic Energy Agency. And most of what we eat comes from these strains: Japanese pears, American grapefruit and, yes, several types of Italian durum wheat. But experts say that couldn't hurt a fruit fly, let alone humans. So let's all just simmer down and share a bowl of mutant noodles in peace.
  • Hoop Dreams, Chinese Reality

    Last Friday Chinese basketball star Yao Ming's shot at playing in the NBA bounced off the backboard. His club, the state-owned Shanghai Sharks, declared that Yao would not be eligible for the NBA draft in June. Don't blame the U.S.-China political game for this one, though. The Sharks say Yao must stay home for the greater good: to help the growth of Chinese basketball. But inside sources say it had more to do with capitalist greed. The Sharks, they say, are demanding 30 percent of Yao's future earnings and a large portion of his endorsements--an arrangement that his parents, so far, won't accept. "Yao is a slave to the team," says one of his advisers. "He has no individual rights." For now, it's goodbye NBA, hello filial piety.
  • Bring Back The Love

    Viagra's made men awfully frisky. How are women to keep up? PERI test drove a few new female bliss enhancers, rating them from zero hearts to five: Woman Power: Spray it like a breath freshener. But is a numb, seemingly frozen tongue really sexy?Lie back and think Antarctica: (One Heart) Dream Cream Apply the tingly, but increasingly irritating topical and "repeat if desired."O, O, Ow! squeals PERI: (Two Hearts) Niagara Blue water-based beverage promises to make you "warm and ready"--a useful trait in chilly Sweden, where the elixir was born.Swedes do it best: (Four Hearts)
  • Can You Top This One?

    Sorry says it best. But only if you really mean it. Everyone from popes to presidents is offering up apologies these days, some gritting their teeth or mumble-mouthing more than others. From sorrys that never were to the sorriest sorrys we're ever to see, PERI ranks the contrition competition, 0 to 10: ...
  • Handicapping The Videogame Wars

    Videogames are not kids' stuff. A major "battle of the boxes" is shaping up among three giants of the electronics industry, and the prefight buzz is loud. Last October Sony released its redoubtable PlayStation 2. This fall, two challengers come out--Nintendo's GameCube and Microsoft's Xbox. PERI handicaps the bout:
  • Gifts For Gold

    Bejing's not the only city pulling out all the stops for Olympic victory. U.S. Olympic Committee employees have been promised bonuses if the U.S. team wins 20 gold medals at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games. The official spin? "We want employees to feel like they have some pride in what the athletes achieve," says USOC spokesman Mike Moran, adding that the committee is "not any different from a company that puts out a product." Aren't the Olympics supposed to be an amateur competition? Maybe it's time to dispense with that fiction, as Moran and Team U.S.A. have so clearly done. The USOC helps athletes by supplying training facilities, sports medicine, rental cars and college tuition, among other things. Athletes even get bonuses for winning medals! At this rate, committees should reward doctors who manage to concoct the best medal-winning (and least detectable) drug.
  • Back To The Future

    Just last month, news magazine Itogi was the topical, free-speaking voice of a new Russia. Then came a hostile boardroom takeover by a state-owned company, and a total turnover of the staff. Suddenly Itogi, no longer affiliated with NEWSWEEK, is looking like a distant cousin of the old Soviet rag, Pravda. No Putin-criticisms, nothing on Chechnya. News from inside the Kremlin? No way, comrade. Itogi's first "foreign" news section featured a Soviet-style editors' attack on Star Wars 2001, and its science news was no less recherche: how to clone Lenin. "A second coming is possible," readers were assured, for the Great Leader's DNA is in "good shape." Winds of change may be blowing in the new Russia, but surely the stale blast from Itogi won't be welcome everywhere.
  • Pop Goes The Answer

    Teens have always been far more interested in the likes of Britney Spears than, say, learning about the intricacies of quantum physics. So how to get 'em excited about learning? Just throw a little pop culture into the mix, as did British graduate student Carl Hepburn. His Web site, britneyspears.ac/lasers.htm, lets teens follow her Guide to Semiconductor Physics, reading about the fundamentals of photonic physics whilst examining pictures of the pop princess. They can even study a diagram that explains valence bands and conductor bands--all in relation to Britney's much-admired upper body. Kids (not to mention some pervy profs) are flocking; Hepburn reports 2 million hits since the site launched. PERI approves and offers a suggestion or two. How about a Brad Pitt history site? Or macroeconomics featuring Pamela Anderson? Financial wiz she's not, but it would beat listening to Alan Greenspan.
  • When Life Bowls You A Googly...

    The snail-paced tea drinker's game of cricket wilts the will to live. That's the word from David Frith, author of a new book on the sport, who finds that the suicide rate among professional British cricketers is 70 percent higher than for the average British male. It's not drizzly, depressing English weather that's to blame, either. The stats are actually worse in sunny New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. So why? Games are slow. They can drag on for days. Tours often last for months. "Cricket wraps itself around people," says Frith. "They vanish from ordinary lives for the whole of their careers." Sounds like crawling into a hole and pulling the earth in after--which, tragically, is just what some do.
  • What Women Really Want: Guns?

    War. what is it good for? Absolutely nothing--except maybe fashion. Escalating Middle East violence and recent East-West standoffs seem to be bringing military chic to new heights of popularity--and creativity. Catwalks have been crawling with combat and camouflage since the new year, and Courtney Love and her machine gun recently gave women's glamour mag Jane an image more suited to Jane's Defence Weekly. Not to be outdone, Miss Israel, 18-year-old Ilanit Levy, revealed her new gear two weeks ago: a diamond-studded bulletproof jacket that she'll wear over her evening gown in May's Miss Universe pageant. Levy wants "people in Israel to continue to go out" despite the violence. "But be careful," she warns. And now? A new bra designed by former Beverly Hills security expert Paxton Quigley--featuring a gun holster. The chest is a good place to conceal a weapon, says Quigley (just ask any James Bond aficionado). What's next... grenade earrings?
  • Myth-And-Mouth Disease

    Britain's tourist industry has been hit hard by foot-and-mouth disease. But fears could well be rooted in wild misunderstandings. Peri stomps on some common foot-and-mouth myths: Myth: No trespassing! The countryside is barred to visitors. Reality: Most restrictions apply only to certain footpaths. And barely 20 percent of attractions are affected.About 1,500 farms have been hit by the disease out of 160,000.Please! The disease is rare indeed inhumans. At most, you get something like the flu.Sure, there's the danger of flavorless British cuisine. But not FMD.Xenophobic Brits may wish. Straw soaked with disinfectant may be laid across the entrances to farms. But no spraying.Good one! But the value-added tax, at 17.5 percent, is just as unpleasant.A recent survey claims that three out of five motorists in Britain think so. Actually, it means beware of cattle on the road.
  • The U.S.-China Hacker Conflict

    There is no room for diplomacy in cyberspace. On Thursday the FBI warned that Chinese hackers may be preparing an organized, full-fledged assault on U.S. Web sites in early May. Tensions in cyberspace escalated shortly after the spy-plane incident and have yet to subside. But Chinese hacking is nothing new. After the United States "mistakenly" bombed China's embassy in Belgrade in 1999, the White House Web site was defaced to show Bill Clinton, then president, sporting a Hitleresque mustache. This time, however, China's "hacktivists" are retaliating for provocations in cyberspace. At least 65 Chinese Web sites have been vandalized by U.S. hackers--many usingracial slurs--since the spy-plane controversy began, says attrition.org, which monitors such Web activity. you f---ing communist bastards listen to me... the U.S.A. will own you with one push of a button, screamed the diatribe on a local-government site last week. No one in China is safe--even the China Wild Bird Federation has...
  • No More U.S. 'Ambiguity' In East Asia

    If it sounded like Dubya was speaking off the cuff, he was. The United States will do "whatever it takes" to defend Taiwan, President Bush said last week--dropping 30 years of calculated "strategic ambiguity" about its intentions in any conflict between the two Chinas. But it was only the timing of the president's remarks that surprised. In fact, his administration has indeed changed policy. ...
  • Oh, That Unsinkable Dollar!

    While most international currencies have been buffeted about by the world's choppy economic waters, the unsinkable U.S. dollar has just kept on sailing. Oddly enough, finance ministers at the annual IMF-World Bank meeting in Washington this week are likely to view that as something of an embarrassment. Reason: the buck's buoyancy is a reproach to stagnant Japan, slower-growing Europe and troubled developing countries like Turkey and Argentina. Having failed to reform their economies, they've missed the boat to high-speed growth... or any growth at all, in many cases. ...
  • Killing Time

    In a bold new economy experiment last week, AOL's London staff surrendered their watches, and promised not to peek at wall clocks; computer timekeepers and mobile phones were covered over for the day. The company, always up to the minute in trends, was trying to discover if people work more efficiently when time is not of the essence. "People were a little anxious for the first hour," said one employee. But the day turned out to be "a lot calmer" than usual. "Incredibly chilled," according to another. But was the staff more efficient? Report cards will be handed out this week by the experiment's creator, Averil Leimon. In this instance, only time will tell.
  • Will The Real Jesus Please Stand Up?

    Photographer Renee Cox recently portrayed Jesus in "Yo Mama's Last Supper," nude as the day both she and the Man were born. Andres Serrano suggested that Jesus was just like the rest of us. So he immersed a crucified carpenter in urine--and dubbed it "Piss Christ," echoing St. Augustine's observations that humans "are born among feces and urine." Warner Sallman's generic 1941 portrait appealed to white Christians--but not necessarily to the millions of believers of color. Another middle-aged white guy? Give us a break!Apart from the digital Christ, only the Shroud of Turin (middle, right), purports to be a true depiction. But is it real? DNA tests have proved useless; carbon dating suggests it's a fake. Yet the image remains.Let's see how well the new Jesus, tan and troubled, is received.
  • Under The Desk, Kids!

    The end of the Cold War doesn't mean the 1950s "duck and cover" drills are out of style. In the post-Columbine era, U.S. schools are adopting similar precautionary measures--not against Russian nukes, though. Today's threat is gun-toting teens. Police Sgt. Loring Draper conducts drills and training sessions for teachers, police and students at schools across the country. One school principal, echoing a common sentiment, expects the exercises to become as "routine as a fire drill." How it works: Blanks are fired. A hostages are taken. The kids duck and cover, and the cops move in. Children are even told to ham it up: "They're screaming, 'Help me!' " says Draper. Ugh! If this is to become as routine as fire drills, the United States had better take a long look in the mirror.
  • East Meets West

    Sports can soothe even the stormiest of tiffs between the United States and China; in the 1970s table tennis opened the doors for the then President Nixon. Basketball probably won't throw missile-defense disputes off the radar, but who knows? Last week, the Chinese Army basketball team agreed to let 7-foot-1 Wang Zhi Zhi play for the Dallas Mavericks. Was this a new detente? Perhaps. But it was also part of a pitch for Beijing's bid for the 2008 Olympics. Rather than patting himself on the back for becoming the NBA's first Asian, Wang acknowledged the real goal as he proudly held up a Mavericks jersey emblazoned with BEIJING 2008. Also scoring a political dunk was Mavericks assistant coach Donn Nelson, who vowed to fully support the Chinese bid. Needless to say, Dallas is hot to host the 2012 Olympics. So while Washington and Beijing speak of each other as "strategic competitors" these two cities are working together to pass each other the torch.
  • Gangsta Rap, Taiwan Style

    For years, Taiwan's Justice Ministry has tried to rid the legislature of gangsters (some lawmakers estimate that one third of Parliament has links to organized crime). A bill barring legislators with criminal backgrounds stalled pathetically, and last week the debate hit a new low--literally. When opposition legislator Diane Lee-Ching-an accused Lo Fu-chu--a reputed triad leader--of criminal connections, he slapped her. Then he slammed her head into a lectern and punched her in the face. For good measure, he threw a cup of hot tea at her. He issued an apology the next day to "all women" of Taiwan, offering to leave the legislature for three months. That's hardly going to cut it. Lo and Co. are very friendly with some powerful supporters of the current government. If Justice wants to give the mafia the boot, it'll have to bring in some heavyweights of its own.
  • Reality Tv?

    TV isn't real life. But couldn't shows try to present life in all its multi-ethnic diversity? PERI looked at some of the most popular English-language shows. Our ratings, from zero to a perfect 10: ...