Stories by Malcolm Beith

  • Periscope

    They called him Teflon Tony four years ago, and he still fits the bill. Britain is a mess these days, but somehow Prime Minister Tony Blair heads into the next election looking remarkably strong. The country's problems go far beyond foot-and-mouth, which has sunk the "Cool Britannia" image, threatens Britain's £70 billion-a-year tourism industry, and has made the government's crisis managers look like bumblers. ...
  • Singaporn

    Perhaps Singapore isn't as prudish as its reputation suggests. PalmStories, a California-based service that provides porn stories and pictures for palmtop owners to download, says the little city-state of 4.1 million people makes up a third of its foreign market. PalmStories uses Internet channels that allow users to put porn in their palms without fear of being traced. And stereotypes about the residents of Singapore--where even Cosmopolitan magazine is banned--are now being buried under the mattress. As one Hong Kong Internet analyst says: "Maybe Singaporeans are human after all."
  • Can't Name That Tune?

    Got a ditty creepin' and crawlin' around inside your head and just can't place it? Your troubles will soon be over. A Norwegian company, Fast Search and Transfer, has developed a computer-software program that picks up the notes you hum, whistle or sing, and then finds your tune from a database of 10,000 songs. PERI tested the product, which will soon be available through Internet music sites. The song? The "Mission: Impossible" theme tune. The time it took for a successful result? Five seconds. Worked like a charm for us, but what about those without the gift of perfect pitch? Simply tap a bit of the beat--and your PC will do the rest.Copyright 2001 Newsweek: not for distribution outside of Newsweek Inc.
  • Abortion Battle

    After a brief lull, America's battle over abortion is set to heat up once again. This week the government will release details of international abortion restrictions recently put back in place by President George W. Bush. The policy cuts funding to international family-planning groups that provide or counsel patients on abortion. The restrictions are expected to be virtually identical to those in place during the '80s, with one possible exception. A government source told NEWSWEEK the new regulations would likely include language allowing post-abortion care.That change won't mollify pro-choice advocates. The policy has already claimed its first victim: the London-based International Planned Parenthood Federation has lost more than $5 million in U.S. funding for 2001, says a government source. On Thursday, California Senator Barbara Boxer and New York Congresswoman Nita Lowey are expected to introduce legislation aimed at overturning the policy.
  • Sold, To The Gentleman In The Secret Service

    Always wanted to be...Mr Bond? This week, Christie's of London is holding an auction of 007 memorabilia. With the help of Rupert Allason, an author and expert on the British Secret Service, PERI looked at some of the gadgets, garments and "government" goods on offer:
  • The Shadow Of The Clinton Years

    It was a belated bid to wipe the slate clean. Last week Bill and Hillary Clinton offered to pay for nearly half the $190,000 in gifts they took with them and agreed to pick up a large part of the rent for Bill's high-priced Manhattan office. But one problem won't disappear so easily: lingering questions about the last-minute pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich.This week two congressional committees open hearings into why Clinton decided to circumvent Justice Department guidelines and help Rich. Likely to be star witnesses: former deputy attorney general Eric Holder Jr. and former White House counsel Jack Quinn, the man hired by Rich to lobby Clinton for a pardon. Quinn maintains that he kept Holder and Justice well-informed throughout the process. Holder has so far declined comment, but colleagues say he is furious that Quinn is now trying to portray him as complicit. "They [Rich's lawyers] circumvented the process and now they're trying to pin this on Eric," a source close to...
  • Tel-E-Phones

    Hoping to revive the public telephone, British Telecom has launched Multi.phone, a kiosk offering Internet access. The five-month trial is an attempt to lure Britain's mobile-phone users--nearly half the population--back to the booths. With free unlimited Internet access and simple touch screens, BT hopes to "reinvent the way people use public pay phones." And we thought Superman already did that.
  • Days Of Hope

    Why are Burma's military leaders easing up on their opposition, the National League for Democracy (NLD)? Since the new year, they have ceased press attacks, released 84 activists, and even held talks with NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi-- "the most interesting development since 1990," says one EU spokesman. Some speculate the generals are crumbling under international sanctions and economic decline. One thing is certain: the military and the NLD are weaker than they've been for years. "It's a lose-lose situation," says Aung Zaw, a Burmese exile and magazine editor living in Thailand. And nobody expects a quick resolution to this crisis. But even though Suu Kyi remains under house arrest, the fact that the two sides are talking again is cause enough for hope.
  • A New Anna

    What do Tolstoy and "Titanic" have in common? They cross paths in a new comic-book version of "Anna Karenina" just published in Moscow. Here, Anna is a New Russian with a mobile phone, a cocaine habit and a penchant for fast cars and skimpy lingerie. Her cuckolded husband is an oligarch with yellow-tinted glasses; her lover, Vronsky, looks like Fabio. The comic book follows the basic plotline of the original, though it's about one tenth the page length and strewn with pop-culture references. What's missing? Levin's lengthy ruminations on the meaning of life. But let's face it: no one reads those parts anyway.
  • Dot-Dictionary

    While the Web world fares poorly, its vocabulary seems to be getting richer. Some new dot-bomb phrases: Dot-compost: The assets of a dead dot-com that find new life. e-hole: Cocky twentysomething who thinks he can run his own I-biz. "Kid's a complete e-hole." Fume rate: Beyond "burn rate"; spending cash that you so do not have. Uninstalled: Fired. "Peter? Ahh... he's been uninstalled."
  • Out Of Africa

    Congo's new president, Joseph Kabila, brought his campaign for international legitimacy to Washington last week and won the first round. He held his own in meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell--and even with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, one of Congo's "worst enemies," according to a Congolese diplomat. Kabila made a show of taking international relations seriously, something his father--assassinated last month--never did.Despite Kabila's calls for more U.S. military and diplomatic involvement in Congo's crisis, he and Kagame, whose own troops have been backing rebels in Congo, will most likely have to resolve it alone. A senior U.S. State Department official told NEWSWEEK that the United States is "not taking this one on," but it will try to "herd the parties into carrying out the [Lusaka peace] accords." If Kabila works on reconciliation at home--and if Kagame pulls out Rwanda's troops in the manner he proposed to Powell--peace might break out after all.
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.