Malcolm Beith

Stories by Malcolm Beith

  • Saddam: The Sequel

    The Bush administration announced last week that it would fund opposition activities inside Iraq, signaling its first move against Saddam Hussein. But Saddam's opponents are looking for more than money--they want better support from U.S. warplanes. "What we need to do is change the rules of engagement for American forces," says Ahmed Chalabi, leader of the Iraqi National Congress, the anti-Saddam coalition. Since the gulf war, U.S. and allied fighters have patrolled the skies over Iraq. But their mission has been limited to enforcing a no-fly zone against Iraqi fighter planes and targeting anti-aircraft installations deemed hostile.Now Chalabi wants the United States to hit Saddam's tanks and artillery on the ground. "Anything that moves could be a target," he says. Would that enable the long-divided opposition groups to get their act together? "Hit a few and see what happens," says Chalabi. For now, though, such a shift in U.S. policy is unlikely. "Iraq is a problem for its own...
  • Filling Dad's Big Shoes

    Sworn in: last Friday Joseph Kabila was sworn in as president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Succeeding his father, who was assassinated just the week before, Kabila guaranteed "the independence, unity and cohesion of the Congolese people."Retired: Kalusha Bwalya, one of Africa's greatest soccer players, hung up his boots last week after a 21-year career. The former Zambian midfielder graced stadiums from Belgium to Mexico to South Korea, where he captained his country's Olympic squad to a historic 4-0 win over Italy on its way to the quarterfinals of the 1988 Summer Games. Bwalya, 37, will be embarking toward coaching excellence, taking the helm of the Mexican club Potros Marte.
  • Talk About Beating Around The Bush

    Much like the U.S. media, the international press has been dissecting President George W. Bush's down-home Texan style this past week. But the criticisms don't necessarily apply to Dubya's potential as a leader. Here's what the papers are saying:Fits Like a Glove:Don't judge a Book by its IQ So maybe his 'linguistic inadequacies' have made him 'the butt of many jokes.' But that doesn't necessarily mean he'll lead badly. 'Some of the best rulers in the world were poorly educated but had sharp minds.' (The Statesman, India)Playing Dumb Gets Results He's 'so stupid it's clever.' While Bush gives the world 'the giggles,' his cabinet can make significant changes without anyone's noticing. (The Sunday Herald, Scotland)Isolationism Could Be a Blessing Does it matter what he's like when the world may not experience much of him firsthand anyway? 'The best scenario is that Bush will simply not display a great deal of interest in foreign policy.' (The Jerusalem Post)
  • Flying Low

    The U.S. Marine Corps V-22 Osprey aircraft program has weathered two fatal crashes in the last year. But will it survive its latest scandal? An anonymous tipster revealed recently that Osprey maintenance records had been doctored in an effort to preserve the $30 billion-plus program.But Pentagon insiders say even this is unlikely to sink the project. A likelier casualty: Marine Corps commandant Gen. James L. Jones's chances of making chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff after the current chairman retires this fall. Jones, who has remained a staunch supporter of the aircraft, may have been tainted by its troubles. While no one believes that he ordered doctored records, sources say powerful senators are pushing investigators to find out why the Marines testing the tilt-rotor aircraft thought the stakes were so high that they had to lie. Said one congressional source: "The issue is the expectations set for this program and who set them."
  • Lots Of Bull

    Bullfighting, Spain's fiesta nacional, is suffering on the horns of the ongoing BSE crisis. Each year some 40,000 bulls are fought and killed, and almost all are butchered ringside. They are then sold for the delectation of local consumers, bringing in an estimated annual revenue of around $14 million. But recently introduced rules require any meat destined for human consumption to be tested for BSE. And if a bull tests positive, the slaughter of the entire herd--even if this means destroying a unique genetic pool that was bred over centuries--would be called for. Bull owners have suggested that for this season the bulls be sent, intact, to the nearest incinerator, as long as the impresarios are compensated by the government. They hope that a test for BSE in live animals will soon be available. If not, animal-rights groups might not be the worst thing that ever happened to Spain's age-old tradition.
  • The President And The Missing Millions

    Judgment time has come for Indonesia's President Abdurrahman Wahid. The committee investigating corruption allegations against him presents its report to Parliament this week. Wahid denies all the accusations, but committee sources say there is evidence that he made false or misleading statements about his connection to the embezzlement of $4.1 million from a state-run pension fund. Wahid has acknowledged inquiring about using the money for humanitarian work, but denies being in cahoots with his masseur, Suwondo, who fled with the cash.Wahid's troubles are not his alone. If Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri and Indonesia's Parliament are seen as going easy on Wahid, leaving him in power, Megawati may lose support from the many who demand an end to corruption. If Wahid is ousted, however, putting Megawati in power, she would face an equally major challenge: facing Wahid's supporters, who have threatened to riot if he's impeached, potentially throwing the country into turmoil....
  • Military Briefs

    Venezuelan soldiers have been receiving ladies' underwear in the mail recently, with pamphlets urging rebellion against President Hugo Chavez. The anonymous sender says that if they don't have the cojones to rebel, they might as well wear panties. Venezuela's generals fear the packages are coming from discontented soldiers, and if they don't catch the culprit soon, it will become less and less clear who wears the pants in this Army.
  • His First Fight

    Secretary of State Colin Powell is already locked in his first tussle with the White House. He is pushing to fill major U.S. ambassadorships with career diplomats, rather than the traditionally appointed big party contributors. Another issue in debate is the post of U.S. special ambassador for war crimes, created in the Clinton years and held by career diplomat David Scheffer. State Department sources say Powell is keen to retain this post but administration hard-liners are balking--saying there is no place for it.
  • PLEASE RETURN TO SENDER

    Was an international arms dealer attempting to buy influence with the new Bush administration? That question, NEWSWEEK has learned, recently prompted Republican Party officials to return $100,000 donated by Utah-based diet company Essante. The company's sole principal is Sonia Falcone, whose husband, Pierre Falcone, was arrested last month by French police on charges of influence peddling, misappropriation of funds and tax fraud.Falcone and Arcadi Gaydamak, a Russian businessman now reported to be living in Israel, stand accused of funneling $1.8 million into the Swiss-bank account of Jean-Christophe Mitterrand, the son of former French president Francois Mitterrand (Mitterrand denies all wrongdoing). Authorities say the money was allegedly a commission for help arranging a $500 million weapons sale to Angola. News of the scandal stunned many residents of the wealthy Arizona suburb where the Falcones had become fixtures on the social scene and large donors to local charities. Last...
  • A DOSE OF REALITY

    One of America's most recent reality-TV hits is "Temptation Island," where unmarried couples are tested by being introduced to sexy singles. Recently, one couple was kicked off the show for not having disclosed that they had a child together. Some other recent reality-TV pitfalls: Netherlands: The groom in the Dutch version of "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire" turned out to be gay. Germany: In "I Marry the Millionaire," the bride and groom admitted that they were already dating. Spain: The cast of "Big Brother" revolted and refused to vote anyone out. Germany: The cast of "Island Duel" (like America's "Survivor") were supposed to subsist on local fare. Instead, it turned out the producers had fed them spaghetti off-camera.
  • Military's In, Economy's Out

    Bill Clinton bowed out last week with an effort to secure U.S.-Israeli relations, as the two nations signed an agreement to phase out U.S. economic aid to Israel while boosting military assistance to $2.4 billion a year by 2008. A contentious issue was the supply of U.S. F-22 fighter planes--Israel wanted the deal to include the jets, but the Pentagon balked. Then Clinton promised F-22s in a letter "to the people of Israel." The Pentagon needn't worry too much about losing its F-22s, though. Clinton's pledge is not binding, it's merely "a recommendation from the president" to his successor, State Department officials pointed out.
  • Virtual Theology

    These are modern times, even for the ancient Hindu celebration of Kumbh Mela. Every 12 years millions flock to Allahabad, India, to bathe in the Ganges, an act believed to lead to salvation. But in anticipation of an expected record 30 million visitors before this year's 44-day celebration ends in February, Kumbh Mela has gone online. Believers send a photo to webdunia.com, where their head is superimposed on a devotee who's actually there. The cyberworshiper then experiences a "virtual dip" via Webcam--soaking up the goodness of the Ganges. So far, the site has been popular but hasn't deterred the masses from choosing the actual over the virtual. Perhaps for some--even in 2001--seeing is still believing.
  • A LOSS OF 'CONSCIENCE'

    Just before Hong Kong's handover to China in 1997, a senior Hong Kong official told NEWSWEEK, "Anson [Chan] is like the canary in the mine shaft. If she goes, we will know things are going badly." Last week Chan flew the coop. The 60-year-old head of Hong Kong's civil service, who was often called the territory's "conscience," announced she was resigning from her post one and a half years ahead of schedule.Was the timing determined by Beijing? China has always been wary of Chan, who was appointed by the reformist former British governor Chris Patten. Her conflicts with her Beijing-appointed boss, Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa, were legendary in Hong Kong's media. In September Beijing summoned and publicly rep-rimanded her for not showing enough support for Tung. Chan denied she was being forced out. "My decision," she said, "is unrelated to my visit to Beijing."
  • Nabbing Nessie

    Swedish journalist Jan Sundberg and his Global Underwater Search Team will launch Operation Clean Sweep--a two-week search in March for the mythical Loch Ness monster. With a large net and two powerful sonar systems, the team hopes to catch Nessie, take a DNA sample and release it unharmed. NEWSWEEK spoke to Sundberg about the mission: ...
  • PAPERBACK RIDER

    Now approaching the platform: the written word. Starting this week, vending machines in London Undergound stations will spit out short stories by classic authors such as Evelyn Waugh and P. G. Wodehouse, for just [Pound sterling]1. But will it catch on? After a trial run, one potential reading rider said: "They're a great idea, if the machine worked. It stole my pound!" It might be a good idea to bring along your own paperback until they smooth out the edges.
  • BLAME GAME

    When President Clinton last week expressed "deep regret that Korean civilians lost their lives" at No Gun Ri in July 1950, he hoped to close the door on the tragic event. But after 15-month parallel U.S. and Korean investigations, Seoul officials were unhappy with the outcome: no U.S. apology, no compensation or acceptance of Korean claims that U.S. soldiers had shot as many as 248 refugees. The Pentagon believes the number was lower, and denies that documents prove commanders had laid down a policy of shooting refugees.Washington's approach to No Gun Ri could damage future U.S.-Korean relations, at a time when, according to one senior U.S. official, North Korea's opening up to South Korea has given rise to "a different kind of anti-Americanism" in the South. But reconciling different views of the event is difficult, with both sides "seeing things through different prisms," said the official. With two unwavering sides to its story, No Gun Ri could remain a military mystery.
  • A New Fight

    Media mogul Ted Turner leaked word last week that he's negotiating to buy a 25 percent stake in NTV, Russia's last independent network. The move would give NTV much-needed cash and strengthen Russia's flailing free-press movement. But it pits Turner against President Vladimir Putin, who has been trying to dismantle Media-Most--the parent company of NTV, run by longtime Putin critic Vladimir Gusinsky (NEWSWEEK's partner in Itogi, a weekly news magazine). When word of the talks hit Moscow last week, NTV's partner and largest creditor, the government-run gas company, tried to kill the deal by filing a round of lawsuits. Despite the controversy, a Turner spokeswoman said negotiations were continuing.
  • LEGAL TROUBLE

    As liberal interest groups prepare to challenge John Ashcroft's appointment as U.S. attorney general, Bush officials fear confirmation could be delayed past Jan. 20, when Janet Reno leaves office. NEWSWEEK has learned that Bush aides are considering a Clinton administration holdover until a new AG is approved. But none of the possible candidates have expressed interest. Now Justice officials, possibly fearing a long leaderless hiatus, are pressing Reno to decide quickly on several sensitive matters. Among them: whether to bring charges against former CIA director John Deutch for allegedly mishandling classified information and Indonesian banker James Riady for allegedly funneling illegal campaign contributions to Clinton.
  • Terrifying Tally

    The world was horrified last year when British general practitioner Dr. Harold Shipman was found guilty of killing 15 patients, and sentenced to life in prison. Last week the terror took on new proportions, as Britain's Department of Health reported he may have been responsible for as many as 236 deaths. He's already regarded as one of Britain's most prolific murderers; the tally would make him the world's biggest serial killer. The estimates have sparked outrage from the victims' relatives, who are now pressing for an apology from Shipman. And Britain's High Court is now carrying out an investigation into all deaths of his patients who died under "suspicious circumstances." Shipman, known as "Dr. Death," won't necessarily be safe behind bars either--if evidence of these other murders is brought to light, he may well face another trial.
  • AMAZING GRACE

    Ballerina Tanaquil Le Clercq enthralled both audiences and George Balanchine in the '40s and '50s. She became his fourth wife and inspired him to create numerous ballets for her. Paralyzed by polio at the height of her career, she went on to teach and write books. She died last week at 71.William P. Rogers, 87, was attorney general under Dwight Eisenhower and secretary of State for Richard Nixon. He later headed an investigation of the Challenger explosion.Jose Greco, who brought flamenco dancing to America's attention, died last week at 82. Born in Italy, he moved at the age of 9 to Brooklyn, where he began to master the art that propelled him to star roles in "Carmen" and his best-known work, "El Cortijo."
  • THE RETURN OF EUROPHORIA?

    Remember the eurocrisis? Last autumn it looked like the single European currency, which had drifted steadily downward from its January 1999 launch, was set for a freefall. But now that America's go-go economy is starting to flag, making the dollar appear less invincible, the little currency that could is stealthily inching back up. Last week, after debuting in Greece, the euro reached 95 cents, the highest level since July.So the worst it over, right? "Actually, the best is over," argues Steven Englander, currency economist with Citibank in London. After all, the euro is still hostage to what goes on across the Atlantic. And with Fed Chairman Alan Green- span dropping his bombshell of a rate cut last week to fend off recession, Englander and other pundits think the United States may look bleak for only a couple of quarters. With the European economy poised for a slowdown of its own, it probably won't be long before market players start betting on the dollar again.
  • E-Griculture

    Two British farms have set up plots online. Somerset Farm Direct lets you pick the tastiest lamb from a photo gallery. Details of the chosen one are posted -- what it was fed, even its date of slaughter. Or try www.myveggiepatch.com, where 495 [pound sterling] will buy a vegetable patch for a year -- with weekly photos of growth, and delivery of the greens. The choice is yours: pay from 91 [pound sterling] to silence your lamb, or stare at your monitor and watch the grass grow -- but with a much clearer conscience.
  • Let There Be Light

    A room with a view: Light burst into the recently restored Reading Room in the British Museum in London last week as the highly anticipated new glass dome was opened to the public
  • Majority Rules

    Joseph Estrada never pretended to be a saint. Last week, two years after the former movie star was elected president of the Philippines, his Senate impeachment trial began. The high-living Estrada, 63, was accused of taking nearly $11 million in payoffs and kickbacks, some of which he allegedly spent on a gaudy mansion for one of his mistresses. A check for $2.8 million, thought to have been deposited by Estrada under an alias, was brought in as trial evidence, but he maintains his innocence. And with a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate needed to convict him, the good times could roll again.
  • The End For An Odd Couple

    We should have known they'd be star-crossed lovers. For years Prime Minister Tony Blair and Tory dowager Margaret Thatcher were fiscally conservative soulmates. But last week, on the 10th anniversary of her fall from power, they broke up bitterly. Thatcher accused Blair of "monumental folly" for his decision to support the creation of a military rapid-reaction force by the 15 EU nations. The proposition has also been blasted by other Conservative Party critics, who claim that it will undermine the influence of NATO in Europe--an allegation dismissed by both Blair and U.S. officials. After so many years of agreement, Blair has apparently decided that Thatcher's intransigence on European issues has caused her to outlive her usefulness. "We are in a new era," he said last week, announcing that "the time of Margaret Thatcher" is over.
  • Breathe Freely

    Garlic lovers may have a better chance at getting dates in the future. Scientists in northern Italy have discovered a solution to the perennial problem of garlic breath: the herb could lose its allicina, the substance responsible for the offending odor, without losing its taste. If the new herb is successful, we might appreciate the ability to eat garlic-laden foods while trying to impress, but lamentably, baking garlic bread would never be the same.
  • Winning Ugly

    Last week Japanese politics got ozomashii--ugly. Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori staved off a parliamentiary no-confidence motion as Liberal Democratic Party rebels abandoned support for an opposition bid to oust him. But victory wasn't sweet. According to the Japanese media, LDP Secretary-General Hiromu Nonaka allegedly promised future posts and threatened disloyal colleagues with expulsion, and pro-Mori fixers were offering up to $1 million to secure key votes. Then, only days after the vote, Nonaka said the public still lacks confidence in the prime minister. Observers think Mori's days are numbered--he's only hanging on until the LDP finds a strong leader to replace him. Until then, Japanese politics, like those in Florida, could well remain ugly.
  • I Aid The Walrus...

    Walruses in the Moscow Zoo have infected tusks. If untreated, the condition could be lethal. In April Peter Kertesz will head to Russia to help. PERI checked in:I'm one of the few tusk dentists in the world, but I've worked with everything from aardvarks to elephants to gorillas to zebras. This will be my first time with walruses, though.Walruses fracture their tusks on the concrete floor of their cages. We'll be removing both tusks from 10 walruses. It's a complicated operation because they're so big. But walruses are very nice animals.
  • Bacon-Free

    Many of Britain's Muslims want Winnie the Pooh's partner Piglet removed from paraphernalia and clothing at baby-gear chain Mothercare, as Islam deems pigs unclean. "I do not want my children playing with him," said one shopper. But stores probably won't make the cut. "Piglet is an integral part of Winnie's friends. How could we possibly dump him?" said Mothercare. Not even religion can break up this friendship.
  • A Matter Of Execution

    Germany and the United States are battling over an issue of life and death. Early this year German brothers Karl and Walter LaGrand were executed in Arizona for a 1982 murder without being granted the right to foreign legal representation. Last week in The Hague, World Court hearings began on the fairness of their trial. German government lawyer Gerhard Westdickenberg told the court that foreigners run the risk of being executed without "proper" help, adding that at present 24 Germans are in U.S. jails without having been advised of their consular rights. As for the LaGrand brothers, Arizona Attorney General Janet Napolitano admits the state denied them their legal rights.While U.S. officials acknowledge the mistake, they claim Germany has a bigger agenda than justice. James Thessin, the lawyer leading the U.S. delegation, thinks the German government's lawsuit is a ruse to "litigate the law itself." It's a valid point. Most European nations find the death penalty barbaric--the...
  • Fire In The Mountain

    The underground cable-car catastrophe that shook the Austrian Alps on Oct. 11 and claimed 155 lives is still a mystery. Investigators have determined that the fire started at the rear end of the train, and there is speculation that it was triggered by hydraulic fluid ignited by a hot brake or a spark from a shorted wire. Critics have attacked cable-car operators as well as Austria's fire regulations, which are considerably weaker than neighboring Switzerland's. The cable car's doors could not open from inside, there weren't enough fire extinguishers on-board, and the tunnel had neither emergency lighting nor a sprinkler system. The Austrian cable-car industry has denied charges of neglecting safety standards to keep costs down, but authorities are already revising regulations. Operators at another Austrian resort added emergency hammers and breathing gear to driver compartments last week.
  • To Boldly Go Out Of Service

    After a 14-year endurance run, Russia's Mir space station has had its last days in the sun. Moscow decided last week that it would not "play Russian roulette," as one official put it, with the rickety, rusting orbiter. Stripped of its crew and salvageable equipment, the 140-ton station will be sent into a controlled dive in late February. It will break into thousands of fragments, and most of them will burn up on re-entry. Chunks weighing as much as 1,700 pounds are expected to splash down harmlessly in the South Pacific. But getting satellites back to earth is a risky business. When NASA brought down its Skylab station in 1979, it aimed for the South Atlantic--and hit western Australia.