Malcolm Beith

Stories by Malcolm Beith

  • Aping Motion

    In a lab in North Carolina, an owl monkey thinks about grabbing a piece of fruit. His brain cells send electric messages to his muscles. He lifts his furry arm--and a nearby robot arm simultaneously mimics the movement. With this small gesture, the monkey has proved that primate brainwaves can control complex robotic motion. It's not an isolated accomplishment; scientists hope that this work will one day help paralyzed people operate prosthetic limbs. And it could also deepen our understanding of how the brain works, says Duke University's Miguel Nicolelis, who reported the owl-monkey research in last week's issue of the journal Nature. Several labs are working on chips that may eventually allow patients' brains to control robots through radio transmitters. Nicolelis also says doctors may one day replace injured nerve cells with silicon chips. Those advances could be the first of many to help scientists piece together the symphony in the brain.
  • Surviving A Legend

    Oscar Wilde's wit and flamboyance lived on when he died on Nov. 30, 1900, penniless and disgraced. NEWSWEEK spoke to his grandson, 55-year-old Merlin Holland--who has just published "The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde"--about Wilde's legacy and his infamous aphorisms. ...
  • Speaking Easy

    Died: Thakamile Mankahlana, the popular presidential spokesman for both Nelson Mandela and President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa. The outgoing speaker developed excellent relations with the media during his short but successful career, always willing to engage in off-the-record debates. He died last week at the age of 36.Appointed: Ruud Lubbers, former prime minister of The Netherlands, as the new United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
  • Human Equality

    Australian aboriginal human-rights activist Charles Perkins was seen as his country's counterpart to Martin Luther King, leading a campaign for reconciliation between the races over the last four decades. He led freedom marches and bus rides through racist regions of the country in his quest for equality. Perkins, 64, died last week.When Broadway was still the hottest entertainment around, dancer Gwen Verdon was the sexiest thing on two feet--particularly as the irresistibly devilish Lola in "Damn Yankees." Verdon died last week at the age of 75.From 1955 to 1981, James C. Jones lent a unique perspective to NEWSWEEK's auto-industry coverage. A former Detroit bureau chief, he was 77.
  • Freedom!

    Often referred to as "The Father of the Nation," 63-year-old Scottish politician Donald Dewar helped to shape the future of his country by committing to devolution long before the idea picked up steam in Britain. Elected to the House of Commons in 1966, Dewar remained in Parliament for most of his career, fighting for the Labour Party in its many years in opposition. During the 1980s he helped steer the factioned party back into the political mainstream, and was rewarded when his party finally regained power in 1997. The pinnacle of his career came in 1999, when he became first minister of the first Scottish Parliament in almost 300 years. Dewar died last Wednesday in Edinburgh.
  • A New Spin On An Old Chore

    A recently opened art exhibit is encouraging Berliners to air their dirty laundry. "Weiss 104" ("White 104") features 104 fully functioning washing machines set on a lawn outside Chancellor Gerhard Schroder's offices. The message? "This installation combines the attempt to whitewash history with the symbolism of washing clothes," said Filomeno Fusco, one of two artists who created the exhibit. Dozens of Berliners have stopped by for a free wash. But politicians have avoided it. Why? Says Fusco, "They're afraid of [the] political message."
  • Dog Patchers

    Ambulance drivers are used to dealing with hairy situations, but not like this. Madrid is experimenting with a new emergency service: vet-staffed ambulances to rescue injured animals in the city's streets. With more than 110,000 dogs in a city of 3 million people, animal accidents, most of which are traffic-related, finally became too much for Madrid's authorities to ignore. The new service offers everything a hound about town could ever need to get back on its paws--stretchers, oxygen tanks, cages and muzzles. Now that's universal health care.
  • How Old?

    This fall's kiddie fashions redefine getting picked up at school. Vinyl pants and leopard prints prowl adult runways, and stores like Gap Kids are peddling miniature versions of the mature styles. "What Britney Spears wears, that's what [our customer] buys," says a Limited Too spokesman. One school principal, Rochelle Friedman, thinks "the world is making kids grow up too fast." That may be what a girl wants, but parents may have other ideas.
  • Mind The Gap

    While Prince William is off in the jungles of Belize, hundreds of thousands of European students will be hitting the backpack trail, choosing the so-called gap year squashed between high school and university. Advice for fretting parents: avoid the first-aid kit and phone card. Way passe. Here's what today's kids need to do, know and have:1.Post adventures on a Web site. Friends and family can log on and keep up with your pace. 2.Print out pages from lonelyplanet.com. Saves you from lugging around a travel library. 3.Digital camera: e-mail pix home and save on postage (and film). 4.Keep a diary--on a handheld computer. Take a stash of batteries to keep everything juiced.
  • Daljit's New Star Power

    Daljit Dhaliwal, the 37-year-old anchor for British-based ITN's overseas World News program, has a huge cult following in America. Her beauty prompted David Letterman to begin chanting her name every night on his show back in June. There are even bumper stickers in Montana that celebrate her. But in Dhaliwal's home country of Britain, she is a relative unknown. That should change pretty soon though--she recently became one of the featured newscasters on ITN's British 24-hour news channel. ...
  • Dressed To Kilt

    Even highlanders follow fashion. Geoffrey (Tailor) Kiltmakers, based in Scotland, now produces "21st Century Kilts," with pockets for modern necessities like mobile phones. Designer Howie Nicholsby sees the evolution as a means of tapping into the youth market. "[The kilt] is free and fun." His pleated skirts come in various materials--from the traditional wool tartan to PVC. And for male buyers too shy to purchase in person, the kilts are also available online. Robert the Bruce never had it this easy.
  • That Dress

    When "Friends" actress Jennifer Aniston married Brad Pitt in Malibu, California, last month, she called on Lawrence Steele, a young, little-known American designer in Milan, to make her wedding dress. Steele, who had also dressed Aniston for the Oscars, whipped up a sexy pearl-encrusted chiffon halter gown that has catapulted him into the fashion and celebrity spotlight. ...
  • Seal Slaughter

    If seal cubs weren't so cute, there might not be such a fuss over their slaughter. Southern African wildlife groups are outraged over the Namibian government's recent doubling of the annual quota for seal culling along its Atlantic coast. The slaughtering, which began last week, will see 60,000 seal pups and 7,000 bulls killed before the season ends on Nov. 15. The government says the seal population has boomed to a million, and the cash-strapped desert nation must responsibly exploit all its renewable resources. The International Fund for Animal Welfare has charged that the hunt is "cruel and inhumane." The response? Namibia's Fisheries minister sent a local newspaper recipes for seal meat.
  • 21St-Century Royalty

    Grand old mum: On Friday, Britain's Queen Mother celebrated her 100th birthday in style. More than 40,000 well-wishers gathered to view her celebratory wave, seen here as she arrived at London's Buckingham Palace with her grandson Prince Charles.
  • Cyberguilt

    Fed up with a life of crime? Retire to the Web. Members of one of Argentina's most notorious crime gangs are using it to confess their guilt. Their Web site, lasuperbanda.com--to be launched Sept. 1--will contain previously unpublished details of their criminal escapades, thought to include 30 armed raids. But why go public--to reduce their sentences or free their imprisoned members? No, says Dr. Ernesto Vissio, one of the heads of the legal office defending the gang. "The site contains a positive message for youngsters from all those who took a wrong turn, saying crime doesn't pay."
  • Severed Ties?

    Lampooned as a lightweight on foreign policy, George W. Bush often touts his ties with Mexico. His family's history with the Mexican political establishment should serve him well. But staffers of President-elect Vicente Fox say they felt snubbed by Bush this spring when he posed for a photo with the wife of the rival PRI candidate. Meanwhile, a photo op with one of Fox's daughters never materialized. A Bush foreign-policy adviser said: "Both Republicans and Democrats dealt with the PRI because it was the [party] in power." Fortunately for Bush, Mexico's reliance on the U.S. economy will ultimately matter more than any family-party squabbles.
  • 'It's In The Cards'

    Richard Blackwood has been called Britain's answer to Will Smith. The 28-year-old rapper--born and raised in south London--is also a comedian, MTV host and Hollywood hopeful. He just released his debut single across Europe. The title of the track is the same as his catchphrase: "Mama, Who da Man?" It's a question he hopes people won't be asking for long.Your song debuted at No. 3 on the British charts. Were you worried about how it would do? ...
  • Uninvited?

    More than 1,000 spiritual leaders have been invited to the United Nations for the Millennium World Peace Summit this month to discuss ways to foster religious tolerance and reduce ancient antipathies. But until last week, the Dalai Lama wasn't among them. Due to Chinese pressure, he has never been allowed inside the United Nations. After a flood of protest letters, the Dalai Lama was asked to give the keynote address on the last day of the conference. But there's a catch: he would still be barred from attending the summit. The speech would take place at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, not the General Assembly. A spokesman for the International Campaign for Tibet says it's unlikely His Holiness will accept the partial invitation.
  • A New Script?

    North Korean foreign Minister Paek Namsun received star treatment at last week's ASEAN meeting in Bangkok. And he came away from the party with an impressive list of favors. Most important, his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was the first such talk with a high-ranking U.S. offi-cial since the Korean War--and the most compelling evidence since the North/South Korean summit in June that Pyongyang was edging out of isolation. "It is important to get past the 50 years of hostility," said Albright.Predictably, progress at the meeting was limited, yielding no confirmation from North Korea about a purported offer by Kim Jong Il to drop its missile program in exchange for satellite launches in another country. North Korean officials like Paek are rarely empowered to be more than functionaries who stick to their tightly worded scripts. Said one South Korean diplomat, "Their basic emotion is still fear."
  • Putin's Peace With The Oligarchs

    Following a crackdown on Russia's freewheeling business tycoons--including the arrest of media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky, whose holdings include the country's only independent TV network--President Vladimir Putin may now be making peace with them. But what are his terms?In June Gusinsky spent four days in jail, and early last week federal agents moved to seize his Moscow home. Then prosecutors suddenly dropped charges of embezzlement against him, declaring the case closed for "lack of evidence"-- raising fears that Gusinsky might tone down print and broadcast criticism of Putin in return. Gusinsky's aide says he "would never strike such a deal." But Gusinsky's NTV station is struggling to reschedule a $211 million debt to Russia's gas monopoly, Gazprom. The partly state-owned Gazprom has offered to swap the debt for shares in the station--a deal that one source close to the Kremlin says may now go ahead, giving Gazprom a "significant" stake in NTV and, perhaps, a say in its...
  • Pleading Guilty

    Staff Sgt. Frank Ronghi of the U.S. Army pleaded guilty last Friday to premeditated murder, sodomy and committing indecent acts with a minor in the Kosovo town of Vitina in January. Ronghi, 36, from Niles, Ohio, had originally claimed that he had found his victim, 11-year-old ethnic Albanian Merita Shabiu, already dead. He offered his guilty plea as part of a bargain under which he would escape the death penalty. Ronghi now faces a sentence of life in prison.
  • Chelsea's Turn

    It isn't just the New York Senate race that's luring Chelsea Clinton away from Stanford this fall--it's a front-row seat to the final months of her father's presidency. Despite her family's efforts to protect her, Chelsea, now 20, has begun to make her own decisions. "She woke up one day and realized, 'I'm missing all this'," says a White House aide. She immersed herself in the Mideast peace talks at Camp David and made a rare appearance while Clinton briefed reporters afterward. Aides say she'll accompany Clinton on foreign travel during the rest of his presidency, including a trip in August to Africa.
  • Sandy Seafood

    No more need for a trip to the seaside for a fresh shrimp cocktail. By next year shellfish aficionados will be enjoying tasty shrimp from the most unlikely of origins--Israel's Negev Desert. Scientists have discovered that the Negev's thermal underground waters, though far less salty than the sea, provide the ideal environment for growing shrimp. The shellfish won't be readily available in their homeland, however--many of Israel's top restaurants won't serve crustaceans, which are not kosher. Instead, most of the shrimp will head across the seas for export. But the crucial question remains: how do they taste? "Consistently good," says Yoram Nitzan, chef at Moul Yam, a stylish Tel Aviv seafood restaurant. "The only problem is--that sea aroma is missing." Try an extra pinch of salt?
  • Look Out, Tiger!

    The formula for the perfect putt is out. A team of Scottish and French psychologists has found that -- surprise! -- it's largely a matter of "internal timing." The recipe for a stroke of genius:
  • Poor Plumbing On Downing Street

    It's every government's nightmare: a leaky inner sanctum. Just as Tony Blair was revving up his Labour Party for Britain's next general election, which could come as early as the spring of 2001, he's been sideswiped by a seemingly coordinated campaign to leak damaging, high-level memos.What worries Blair insiders, who fear that the leaker has more documents to pass around, is that the memos fit a disconcerting pattern. They point to Blair's political vulnerabilities and expose a ruling clique seemingly obsessed with presentation over substance. (It didn't help that in Parliament recently Blair tripped over his tongue and declared that his government's watchword was "spin, not substance.") In an April memo, Blair urges his advisers to come up with "eye-catching initiatives" and ended on an unstatesmanlike note: "I should be personally associated with as much of this as possible." In another, Philip Gould, a former adman and political consultant who is close to Blair, warns: "The New...
  • Cracking Down On Corruption

    China's military brass has often seemed immune to charges of corruption. But the state-run Economic Information Daily reported earlier this month that Maj. Gen. Ji Shengde, the former head of military intelligence, is to be indicted for his alleged involvement in a multibillion-dollar smuggling scandal. Ji was investigated for allegedly amassing more than $10 million in bribes and embezzled cash. The official daily also reported that President Jiang Zemin had personally intervened in the case after the People's Liberation Army's anticorruption unit bungled it.The first public signal of Ji's troubles came last February, when he failed to appear at the funeral of his well-known father, communist old-guard official Ji Pengfei. At the time, he was already in detention. Now that his powerful father is dead, he may have few protectors to stick up for him.
  • Who's Working The Most Hours?

    A report by Esselte Worldwide shows that executives at small- and medium-sized businesses in the United States and Europe are working harder than ever. Despite the heavier workload, most of them aren't complaining. Business must be good.
  • Not-So-Public Opinion

    No leader likes abysmal popularity ratings. But not everyone acts to have them suppressed. Facing his lowest ratings since the 1997 handover to China, Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa was accused last week of trying to stifle public-opinion polls conducted by Hong Kong's top university. At a tearful press conference, social scientist Robert Chung Ting-yiu said he had been served notice by his university's head, a Tung appointee, that if he continued wit the polls his resources "would gradually dry up." Tung flatly denied he was behind the move. "I have not asked anyone, nor have I authorized anyone to ask any institution, universities or poll takers, to stop taking polls," he said.The furor capped weeks of a public-relations nightmare for the 67-year-old. Mass protests over his policies, which often seem to cater to the whims of the business elite, have swept the streets this summer. Last month Tung's all-important Housing minister resigned. Now, Chung's accusation has...
  • Fighting Words

    Author Mary Benson, 80, wrote about racial injustice in her native South Africa. Benson penned Nelson Mandela's biography, sharing a close friendship with him. She died last week in London.Governments came and went, but banker Enrico Cuccia reigned for decades as one of the most powerful men in Italy. The chairman of Mediobanca engineered mergers, plotted privatizations, counseled Gianni Agnelli and never once gave an interview. He died last week in his sleep, at 92.
  • Battle In Belgium

    : Lager louts: As 16,000 British soccer fans swarmed Belgium for the European Championship, hooligans clashed with locals and German supporters in violence that resulted in hundreds of arrests. On Saturday England beat Germany 1-0.