Melinda Liu

Stories by Melinda Liu

  • Bound to the Tracks

    The Beijing-Lhasa express is midway through its 48-hour, 2,500-mile maiden run, and Ivor Warburton is riding high. Outside the train, the snowcapped Kunlun Mountains gleam above the Gobi Desert in the remote Chinese province of Qinghai. Inside, the British businessman and rail buff is envisioning a deal with the Chinese government to introduce $1,000-a-day luxury-class service on the newly opened line between Qinghai's capital, Golmud, and the legendary Tibetan city of Lhasa. But his workaday plans are swept away by a sense of history in the making. "A train is the most physical manifestation of a country's unification," he philosophizes. "Just think how people regard the golden spike in America."More than a century since the opening of the transcontinental railway in Utah, Warburton's analogy holds true. But in this case what many people see is not so much a golden spike as a nail in Tibet's coffin. Ever since Chinese communist forces marched into Lhasa in 1951, Beijing has spared...
  • Flying High

    Even on her journey of a lifetime, Beijing official Yang Hong felt terrible. As the railway ministry's boss of dining services, she had to ensure that some 800 passengers on the inaugural Beijing-Lhasa train were adequately fed and watered. Her staff brought onboard 100 cases of water and soft drinks, 1,100 pounds of rice, and 3,000 wheat buns (especially for the last meals, when the air was too thin to boil rice.) Now near the highest rail station in the world—Tanggula Pass—Yang had a pounding headache due to the altitude. She rested her head on a dining-car table graced with orchids and carnations. One of her staff reported that, after delivering 500 boxed meals to passengers that morning, his feet had gone numb. All seven chefs were suffering from nausea. Slightly green around the gills, 26-year-old Zhang Weihua breathed in oxygen through tubes in his nostrils connected to a special wall outlet while slicing celery in a cramped kitchen packed with jumbled sacks of zucchini,...
  • Rock Star CEOs

    Even as China’s economy zooms forward at warp speed, Chinese CEOs till tend to be low key and secretive, like the apparatchiks of old. Perhaps remembering the Maoist days when wealth and fame attracted nothing but political headaches (and worse), they show caution, not charisma. And because few speak English, Chinese CEOs are little-known in the West. A new breed of Web entrepreneurs is changing all that.Dubbed “Internet heroes,” these mavericks promote their own personalities as much as the corporations they run. They hog the limelight, glad-handing with the likes of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. At a high-profile Internet forum late last year in Hangzhou, reporters thrust a forest of microphones at Charles Zhang, the stylish boss of Chinese Web portal Sohu.com. Then part of the press horde hived off in pursuit of William Ding, the 34-year-old CEO of highly profitable Netease.com. Shanghai-based Timothy Chen Tianqiao of Shanda Interactive, whose multi-player online games (and sales...
  • Climate Control, Beijing-Style

    The rainy season has come to northern China, and it’s a brave new world out there. Actually the natural rainy season doesn’t start until July. But the season of man-made rain is upon us, and Chinese rainmakers have been busy. Over the past month they've mobilized cloud-seeding aircraft, artillery and rockets to enhance rainfall. "We've ordered technicians to try to make it rain again today, but so far they haven’t reported back on the results," says Zhang Qiang, a businesslike woman who heads the Beijing Weather Modification Office (yes, that’s the official name of a real Chinese government agency). "We did it many times last week to increase the rainfall."Not content with simply making it rain, now China's weather modifiers have taken on another meterological mission: to help guarantee perfect weather when Beijing hosts the Olympic Games in 2008. "In China, we haven’t done this type of thing on a very large scale yet," says Zhang during an interview in a west Beijing compound...
  • Road Rage, Chinese Style

    Finally, I decided to take the test to get a Chinese driver's license. Beijing streets are so crowded, chaotic and polluted that driving is pretty stressful these days, at least compared to the way it used to be. And there’s no place to park. Because of all the mayhem, I’d boycotted the idea of getting a license for years.I used to love driving in China. In 1980, when I arrived in Beijing for my first posting, few Chinese had private cars. The streets were spacious, wide-open thoroughfares that beckoned to those of us with wheels; we would pull over to the curb and park virtually any time, anywhere, even in Tiananmen Square. In those days foreign residents could import cars but weren’t allowed to roam very far while driving them. Beijing to Tianjin—a journey that takes about an hour today—was the furthest we could drive.By the mid-'80s there were loads of Chinese drivers willing to take a foreigner long distances in their vehicles, so long as the price was right. One summer I...
  • War of Wills

    This week's long-awaited summit between Hu Jintao and George W. Bush in Washington has sent diplomatic sherpas in both countries into overdrive. One last-minute development was a visit to Beijing last week by Washington's assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Thomas A. Shannon Jr. His was the first-ever China trip by the State Department's point man on Latin America. And his message to Beijing was blunt: tread carefully in America's backyard, where China has lately been cultivating economic and military ties. "We want to ensure that China respects the larger consensus forged [in LatinAmerica]: that democracy is the system that the region wants to have and supports," said spokeswoman Jan Edmonson. Congressman Dan Burton, the Republican chairman of a congressional subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, framed U.S. concerns about Beijing's intentions even more bluntly: "It's extremely important that we don't let a potential enemy of the United States become a...
  • The Most Important Phrase You’ll Never Hear

    The hoopla over Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to Washington next week has begun. Beijing’s pre-game warm-up for Sino-U.S. presidential summits almost always includes buying a few Boeing aircraft (in this case, some 80 737’s), releasing political prisoners (a Tibetan nun, so far), and dispatching Chinese officials and executives to snarf up American goods. Already a 200-person foreign trade delegation—the largest that the mainland has ever sent abroad—is fanning out to more than a dozen U.S. states to sign $15 billion in new deals.The centerpiece of this diplomatic apparatus, however are words—in particular, the carefully engineered catchphrases that distill the hopes, ambitions and national interests of China for world consumption. Among the hundreds of Chinese diplomats, entrepreneurs, sherpas, translators, cooks and security guards that will alight on American’s shores in the next few days, the man who has arguably done more than anyone to articulate China’s dreams to the...
  • China's Panda Politics

    They spend most of their lives asleep. They bite. They're absurdly inept at sex. But in the realm of diplomacy, giant pandas have few rivals. For more than a thousand years, China's rulers have used the coveted beasts to win allies abroad. The 20th century's most celebrated pair, Hsing Hsing and Ling Ling, arrived in Washington after Richard Nixon's visit to China in 1972. Now Beijing is hoping two other furry ambassadors can help resolve one of the world's most intractable conflicts, the 56-year armed standoff between mainland China and Taiwan. When Chinese officials unveiled a pair of cubs early this year, calling them "a gift" to the island, the people of Taiwan went wild. Polls say more than 65 percent of Taiwan's population are in favor of accepting the mainland's offer.But Taiwan's president, Chen Shui-bian, is urging his government to say no. He fears that the pair would be what the press is calling "Trojan pandas." Skeptics see the animals as a perfect symbol for Beijing: no...
  • The Last Word: Li Datong--Loosening Up 'Under Pressure'

    Early last year, New York Times researcher Zhao Yan was detained by Chinese authorities after the paper published an article accurately predicting that Chinese leader Jiang Zemin would retire. His editors said Zhao wasn't involved in the scoop, and recent reports that charges against him had been dropped were greeted with a sigh of relief. But China is hardly embracing the idea of complete media freedom. The country's Internet police have been more active than ever in their efforts to control bloggers. Even Zhao himself has yet to be released. NEWSWEEK's Melinda Liu spoke with Li Datong--whose own hard-hitting weekly, Freezing Point, was suspended in January but allowed to resume publication on March 1, without him at the helm--to get his thoughts on Beijing and the media. Excerpts:LIU: You've been removed as editor. What are you doing now?LI: I've been transferred to work in the News Research Institute of the China Youth Daily (under which Freezing Point is a weekly supplement)....
  • Freezing Point

    These are dark days for the Chinese media. In recent months the number of mainland journalists behind bars has grown to 39, more than any other country. Editors have been sacked or demoted. And the Internet police have been more active than ever in a campaign to restrict sensitive content in the mainland’s proliferating blogs.Against this bleak backdrop, people welcomed last week’s news that court charges against jailed New York Times researcher Zhao Yan have been dropped. More than a year ago, Zhao was detained in what was seen as a gauge of official displeasure at the newspaper, after its Beijing bureau chief published an article citing anonymous sources and predicting—accurately—that Chinese leader Jiang Zemin would retire the following day. The paper denied that Zhao helped dig out the scoop, and his detention sent a chill through the media on the mainland, both Chinese and foreign.As of Thursday, a week since the good news about Zhao, he still hasn’t been released. His friends...
  • Can the Sage Save China?

    China's official buzzword these days is "harmony." Whether the audience is Chinese or foreign, rich or poor, Beijing's leaders are spreading the message: can't we all just get along? After becoming president in 2003, Hu Jintao made the pursuit of a "harmonious society" his personal mantra. Last week Prime Minister Wen Jiabao echoed the same sentiment before the current session of China's Parliament; the gathering has focused on improving health care and education for the rural poor, who have increasingly been left behind by China's economic boom. Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing has got into the act, too, trying to market the message abroad. "The Chinese nation has always pursued a life in harmony with other nations, despite differences," he said recently. What few of China's top leaders acknowledge out loud, however, is that Hu's slogan actually harks back to a famous--and ancient--Chinese personality: Confucius.After about a century in the political wilderness, the Great Sage, who is...
  • Virtual Heroes

    Earlier this week I was wandering through a flea market in Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan province in China’s Wild West. Among stalls selling (mostly fake) antique porcelain and Tibetan artifacts redolent with the aroma of yak butter, I spotted a small crimson-red cigarette box bearing the image of Lei Feng, a chubby-faced soldier wearing one of those goofy, floppy People’s Liberation Army (PLA) hats.Lei was a big name in the 1970s when Maoist-style egalitarianism was the height of political correctness. Chinese citizens were exhorted to “learn from Lei Feng.” Millions emulated Lei’s generosity and parroted his desire to “make the world more beautiful everyday.” In the early ‘80s, during my first posting in Beijing, I read articles about how Lei’s altruism ran so deep that he’d washed and darned the socks of fellow soldiers in secret, so that his comrades-in-arms wouldn’t know whom to thank. Of course, these days I figured China’s “me generation” had little use for Lei,...
  • Energy and Empire

    With violence and chaos in Iraq growing ever more intense, many Americans have asked me this week about China and the Iraq conflict. Although I'm based in Beijing, I was in Baghdad for the fall of Saddam Hussein, witnessed Washington's "shock and awe" bombing from the receiving end and have reported from inside Iraq yearly since Saddam's fall. Right now, I'm on a national speaking tour in the United States, and the questions are coming from those who've seen at my speech venues the giant posters of the China and Iraq cover stories upon which I've worked.At first blush you might think there's little in common between Beijing and Baghdad—except perhaps the proliferation of Chinese restaurants in the Iraqi capital since Saddam's fall. (At least two in the Green Zone, and another in the red zone where bombings and gunfire eventually made it impossible for customers to enjoy a sit-down meal—but Chinese takeout survived nonetheless).In fact the Iraq conflict—and whether the bloodshed...
  • A 'Single' Church

    Despite a serious illness two years ago, Aloysius Jin seems in fine form. He switches continuously between French and English, and cracks a joke about Prince Charles's succession to the British throne ("He's impatient, he's been waiting so many years"). Jin also speaks German, Italian and Latin--languages he mastered while studying theology in Rome in 1949 and 1950, just as the Chinese Communists were taking power in his homeland. Today, Jin, 89, heads the Archdiocese of Shanghai and is a key figure in China's state-sanctioned Catholic Church. Jin, who says he comes from a long line of Shanghainese Catholics ("maybe 10 generations"), was long considered a pawn of the Chinese government. But now he may be helping to forge a long-awaited rapprochement between Beijing and the Holy See. ...
  • Bystander No More

    Iran's nuclear crisis is testing China's new proactive diplomacy. On Monday the conservative Iranian newspaper Jomhuri-ye Eslami's Web site issued a sharp challenge to Beijing's leaders over their actions in the nuke showdown.Reminding readers of former Chinese Premier Deng Xiaoping's ties to the deposed Shah of Iran, the paper wrote that just hours after “defenseless and innocent people were shot down in a hail of machine-gun fire” during anti-shah unrest in Tehran in 1978, Deng paid a visit. "Not only did he have an official meeting with the shah and announce his full support for the shah's regime, he even went to kiss the hand of the shah's wife.” The shah's fall several months later made the Chinese the world's “biggest diplomatic losers,” the publication said, leading to the blunt warning: “Today China's in the midst of Iran's ‘nuclear revolution' and is about to make the same mistake that it did during the Islamic Revolution.”Iranians are piqued because China voted in favor of...
  • China 2.0

    If you're a China watcher, you don't just listen to what top Beijing leaders say, but also to how many times they say it. This month President Hu Jintao has embraced a new mantra, stressing "sustainable development," "innovation" and "a resource-saving, environment-friendly society." He uttered those buzzwords in his New Year's address, then at a high-profile science and technology conference, and then again last week during an inspection tour of Fujian province. In a significant departure from his predecessors' focus on no-holds-barred GDP growth, Hu is calling for nothing less than a quantum shift in China's economic-development model, deeming it "an important and urgent strategic task."China has already achieved a quarter century of unprecedented economic growth. Now Beijing is essentially saying that it needs to keep growing in a more responsible way, emphasizing environmental protection, more energy efficiency and cutting-edge technology. Software mavens might call this new...
  • All Aboard

    China is a nation on the move--especially now, at the beginning of the much-awaited Spring Festival vacation. Also known as Chinese New Year, and based on the lunar calendar, this is the longest and most popular holiday of the year. And in China, big means really big. Many of the country's 100 million-plus rural-born migrant workers leave, or even quit, jobs in the city and travel to the countryside to spend the first day of the new lunar year with family.They're on the move already, armies of migrants carrying massive suitcases and cloth bundles--often balanced on shoulder poles--bulging with clothes, toys, electric appliances and other gifts for relatives back home. Hundreds of millions of such family reunions are scheduled for the period from Jan. 14 to Feb. 22, during which time more than 2 billion journeys will be made by rail, road, air and water. Some 700,000 buses will be on the road. Three hundred extra trains are being laid on to help cope with the anticipated 144 million...
  • High-Tech Hunger

    Don't be fooled by Wang Xiaoyun's demure demeanor. The 39-year-old mathematician is an instrument of China's campaign to become a tech power. She is also a legend among Western cryptographers. "Please don't write too much about my research; it's so difficult for journalists to get the technical details right," Wang pleads in rapid-fire English and Shandong dialect. She has a point: let's just say she and two colleagues shocked the cryptography world last year when they exposed a weakness in a key U.S. government encryption code called SHA-1, thought to be virtually unbreakable. Renowned MIT cryptographer Robert Rivest, who helped develop the SHA-1 algorithm, calls the breakthrough "stunning." (The SHA-1 "hash" is used, among other things, in technologies that transmit credit-card numbers over the Internet.)Which explains why experts from Wall Street to Washington, from Downing Street to Delhi, are beginning to pay attention to Chinese scientists like Wang--and the government...
  • Panda Politics

    Once again the rival regimes in Beijing and Taipei are engaged in a war of words, but this time the topic is pandas. Specifically a cute, cuddly, just-can't-resist pair of giant panda cubs which Chinese authorities have offered to Taiwan as a "goodwill gesture." Problem is, Taiwanese authorities are trying hard to resist what some call the mainland's "panda ploy."Taiwan Premier Frank Hsieh said the island was unlikely to accept the creatures because to do so would "compromise our sovereignty." The reasoning goes like this: Pandas are an endangered species, and under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, pandas can only be lent--not given--by China to other countries. Taiwan has no pandas; the animals are native only to mainland China, where 1,590 live in the wild and 190 are being kept in zoos and breeding centers.But the Beijing regime considers Taiwan a renegade province that must be reunited with the mainland--by force if necessary. So China can claim that...
  • What 'Mrs. Anthrax' Told Me

    Shortly before the Iraq war began in March 2003, I didn't believe Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash when she insisted, in an interview, that Saddam Hussein's regime was not developing biological weapons. Dubbed by Washington "Mrs. Anthrax" or "Chemical Sally," Ammash was then Iraq's most powerful woman. She'd been accused by U.S. investigators of heading a program, into the mid-'90s, that involved the attempted weaponization of anthrax, smallpox and botulin toxin.On Monday, her Baghdad lawyer confirmed that Ammash was one of around two dozen Saddam-era officials released from jail without charges. A U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad confirmed a number of so-called "high-value detainees" had been released because "they were not considered to be a security threat, and they were not wanted on charges under Iraqi law. So we no longer had any reason to continue detaining them."Ammash and another woman, Dr. Rihab Rashid Taha, a British-educated biological-weapons expert that American officials...
  • China's Katrina

    Bungling, delay, cover-up. When such missteps follow a major disaster, officials often have to resign. We saw it unfold in the United States after the killer hurricane Katrina. Now we're seeing heads roll in China, following the Nov. 13 chemical plant explosion that killed five people and spilled 100 tons of benzene-like carcinogens into the Songhua River.There are sackings, and then there are sackings. In China, who's getting the axe and how--bureaucratically speaking, that is--holds greater symbolic and political significance than in many other countries. Here, all eyes are focused on the fallout of the massive chemical spill that forced Harbin city's four million residents to go without running water for five days--and that now is slated to float by the Russian city of Khabarovsk this weekend.Much is at stake. Even Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, on an official visit to Paris, referred to the Harbin pollution in a lament over the high number of industrial accidents on the mainland,...
  • Qin Yaqing

    As Beijing's economy and global influence continue to grow, so does the relationship between China and the United States. When George W. Bush visited China recently, he asked for greater currency reforms, intellectual-property protection and political freedom. He left with a reported $4 billion Boeing deal to sell aircraft to China, but few Chinese concessions. Now all eyes are turning to the inaugural East Asian Summit in early December, during which representatives from 16 Asia-Pacific countries will discuss the establishment of an East Asian Community modeled after the European Union--but U.S. officials were not invited. NEWSWEEK's Melinda Liu spoke with Qin Yaqing, vice dean of China Foreign Affairs University and a leading scholar involved in the East Asian Community concept. Excerpts: ...
  • The Not-So-Great Wall of China

    Nobody in Zhang Rong's village in coastal China knows much about the danger of a bird-flu pandemic. The 37-year-old farmer has enough to worry about. A nearby business park wants to take over her mushroom farm. Neighbors are dying of untreated cancers that some believe came from eating pesticide-tainted produce. One tenth of the family's annual income is spent on medical expenses, including sending Zhang's two kids to a public hospital when they get sick. Much of that cash goes into so-called red envelopes--bribes--for doctors who otherwise prescribe expensive medicines in retaliation for not getting a "gift." Few of the 4,000 villagers have medical insurance. "The government doesn't pay for a thing," she gripes. Ask about bird flu and Zhang tosses out a chilling wish: "I hope bird flu ravages China--to prove to the leadership what's wrong with health care in the countryside."Zhang may be closer to getting her apocalyptic wish. Bird-flu jitters are spreading worldwide, as the tempo...
  • The Flimsy Wall of China

    There's hardly a better spawning ground for a bird-flu pandemic. If the virus makes the leap to human-to-human transmission, the odds are strong that it will happen in China. The place is home to 1.3 billion humans--three quarters of them still living on the farm--and more than 10 times that number of chickens, ducks and other domestic poultry. Those farmers keep 70 percent of the world's pigs, which can be walking petri dishes for mutating strains of flu. To top it all off, the public-health system is in ruins.Doctors in China could head off a pandemic--in theory, that is. Epidemiologists say the secret would be to spot the mutated disease before it infects more than 20 people, within three weeks of exposure. If those patients are quickly isolated and treated with antiviral drugs, "there's more than a 90 percent chance of stamping out that strain of the virus," says Dr. Julie Hall of the World Health Organization in Beijing. If things get past that point, the contagion has probably...
  • Line of Defense

    In the '90s, the Chongqing Special Steelworks was touted as a modern state-run enterprise, with fat profits and grand plans to expand. In fact, its managers were cooking the books to feign profitability. They couldn't pay back loans--or, eventually, the workers' salaries. After the company declared bankruptcy in July, its 15,000 workers began protesting. Some hung white banners--and a 1970s Chairman Mao portrait--out in public, demanding new jobs. On Oct. 7, more than 4,000 workers and relatives converged near the plant, blocking traffic. When more than 100 police pulled up, a melee erupted. Cops and unidentified civilians waded into the crowd swinging electric cattle prods. "Three protesters died, and more than 30 were wounded," one jittery eyewitness told NEWSWEEK last week, requesting anonymity because he feared for his safety. Another began weeping when she recalled the bloodshed, motioning at dozens of Chinese riot police who continued to mill about the protest site last week,...
  • Big Brother Is Talking

    Like many Chinese twenty-somethings, Lu Ruchao loves to surf the Internet. He often visits a local chat room to sample the neighborhood buzz. One day, Lu noticed that Netizens were complaining that local police often drove down the main street of Suquian with sirens blaring, disturbing half the city. Lu, himself a policeman, jumped into the e-fray. He tapped out a defense of the police, arguing that a cop car sounding its siren is responding to an emergency and shouldn't be criticized. But Lu isn't just any cop. He's one of China's estimated 30,000 to 40,000 e-police who collectively serve as an Orwellian Big Brother for the country's nearly 100 million Internet users. "We have to face knives and guns while on duty every day," Lu explained later to the Chinese publication Southern Weekend. "How can they criticize us?"Beijing's Web commissars have made a quantum leap in their efforts to tame the Internet. Much has been written already about Chinese censors' ability to monitor Net...
  • NORTH KOREA HOLD 'EM

    High-stakes diplomacy is not unlike "Celebrity Poker." In both there is a big stage, a rapt audience and swift reversals of fortune. And in diplomacy as in poker, the best players can sense when their opponents are bluffing, wavering--or holding a winning hand. That certainly seemed to be the game that Wu Dawei, China's chief negotiator, was playing last week during the six-party talks in Beijing over North Korea's nuclear-arms program.For two years the Americans were thought to control most of the chips. The Chinese hosts often fretted about American intransigence--Washington's blunt willingness to walk away if it did not get what it wanted. But this time a subtle shift in psychology occurred at the table. When Wu presented a draft accord on Sept. 16--the fifth the Chinese team had painstakingly drawn up--the U.S. reaction was typical: we can't accept this. The draft alluded to the delivery of a civilian light-water nuclear reactor as one of the rewards Pyongyang would get if it...
  • The Empire Strikes Back

    After George W. Bush greets visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao on the White House South Lawn this week, they'll sit down to discuss many things--trade cooperation and energy needs among them. But one thing they probably won't talk about is the end of the Sino-U.S. post-9/11 honeymoon. Four years ago, American and Chinese officials joined hands in the war against terrorism, and Beijing stood by stoically as American GIs and air bases proliferated in Central Asia. But now, even as both sides profess that the bilateral relationship is healthier than ever, Beijing is pushing back against American influence in Asia, both political and military. "The U.S. used the excuse of counterterrorism to get into Central Asia, and then it tried to lead the entire region," says Gao Heng, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing who is familiar with official thinking. "But now it's high time for the Americans to leave."Beijing is asserting itself chiefly by using multilateral...
  • THE TROUBLES OF A TRIAL

    He's as shameless as ever. The Arab news channel Al Arabiya aired a video clip of Saddam Hussein last week confidently asserting his rights before an Iraqi Special Tribunal judge. "Is this how the law works?" the jailed ex-dictator demanded. "The defendant doesn't see his lawyer until he is in court? And doesn't know there is a hearing until he gets there?" He said it indignantly, as if he had no memory of the thousands of Iraqis who were tortured and summarily killed during his reign. And yet the tribunal's biggest responsibility is to make sure this defendant gets an impeccably fair trial. The proceedings will have little point unless they show that the new government is nothing like the old one.The final verdict is practically a foregone conclusion. What can't be predicted is how the country will react. U.S. and Iraqi officials want the former leader's trial to be cathartic--a healing event for Iraq's people--and there's no doubt that most Iraqis are eager to see him face justice...
  • 'Help Me! I'm a Hostage.'

    Tipped off to "suspicious activity" around a house in the restive, Sunni-dominated Ghazaliya area of Baghdad, Iraqi soldiers from the army's Second Battalion, First Armored Brigade decided to mount a cordon-and-search operation Wednesday morning. They had no idea the routine raid would morph into a sensational hostage rescue, brigade commander Brig. Gen. Jaleel Khalaf Shewi tells NEWSWEEK.When a squad of soldiers knocked on the door, an Iraqi man answered--and panicked when he saw the soldiers' uniforms, according to Jaleel. Warily, some soldiers took up positions around the house while others entered the building. Inside, they saw several Iraqis--and an older man with a shaved head lying prone, his body entirely covered with a blanket."Who's this?" asked one soldier. "He's my father, and he's sick," answered one of the Iraqi men, according to Jaleel's account. But when the soldier pulled back the blanket, he saw that the older man, clad in a dun-colored traditional Arab robe called...
  • GAMES AND GRIEVANCES

    Wang Qishan may have imagined that he had foreseen every possible pitfall for the 2008 Olympics--but that was before the World Snooker Tournament came to town. As Beijing's mayor, he was shocked and embarrassed for his city by the boorish-ness of spectators at this year's China Open, the first world-championship snooker round ever held in the country. Snooker audiences are supposed to sit quietly and respect the players' concentration. Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell the crowd in Beijing. Cameras flashed. People jabbered on mobile phones. One memorable match was disrupted by loud snores. "It was a circus," one top player complained later. The horrified Wang called the risk of such an ill-bred display at the 2008 Games "a problem Beijing cannot afford to ignore."The torch won't reach the city until Aug. 8, 2008, but pre-event jitters are rising already. Slobs in the stands are the least of Beijing's fears. What really unnerves China's leaders is the thought of mass unrest on...