Tracy McNicoll

Stories by Tracy McNicoll

  • Rage In The Streets

    Just as night fell and the Ramadan fast was set to break last Tuesday, murder shattered Antwerp's fragile calm. A deranged white neighbor shot Mohamed Achrak, 27, as the popular young teacher stood outside his parents' home. As word spread, stunned kids on the streets of Borgerhout, an immigrant-heavy enclave of the Belgian city, summoned others on mobile phones and headed for its main drag. Soon they were smashing car windows and shopfronts, dodging tear-gas canisters and hurling stones at police. By late the next day, 160 were in jail. But it's the arrest that came last Thursday that municipal officials and police say is the important one. To hear them tell it, Dyab Abou Jahjah, an Arab leader, had been waiting for just such an incident. He swooped in to rally the young crowds and, according to police, incited them to riot.The violence came as a shock to many in Belgium's tight-knit Muslim communities, and older and more established members quickly condemned it. But last week's...
  • Hooked On Hookahs

    It's midnight in Paris, and the crowd is growing outside the Left Bank's Paradis de l'Orient cafe. "A half hour to get in?" complains one would-be patron. A cafe employee shrugs apologetically. Sounds of clapping and singing--and the smell of fruity smoke--waft into the street. Some decide to leave, but others choose to wait it out. The big attraction? The chance to smoke a bubbling Middle Eastern hookah pipe--and the glamour of being on the cusp of a trend.Of course, the water pipes known as hookahs, narghiles, sheeshas or hubble-bubbles have been around for centuries. But the smoking experience that was once the domain of old men in Middle Eastern cafes is now attracting new and younger audiences all over the world. Cafes from Kiev to San Diego are offering hookahs to their patrons; Paris alone has more than 50 sheesha cafes with evocative names like the Bagdad Cafe and Salon Egyptien.As more and more Westerners suck down tobacco laced with molasses and fruit flavors, some Arabs...
  • Sniper Hunt

    Could the sniper terrorizing greater Washington be a military cadet from France? While French law-enforcement authorities have alerted American counterparts to their concerns about a missing 25-year-old trainee officer, evidence linking him to the shootings is thin. The missing second lieutenant, whose Slavic-sounding name has been withheld at his family's request, was due back from a hiking trip in Canada and the United States by September 2. However, his family has not heard from him for more than seven weeks and he has not returned for his second year of training at the Ecole Militaire Interarmes of Coetqidan, an elite officer training school in Brittany. His last credit-card transaction took place in the United States last August.French authorities alerted Interpol about the cadet over the weekend. Meanwhile, local newspapers have seized on the speculation under headlines like, "A GOOD SHOT FROM COETQIDAN HAS DISAPPEARED" and "ON THE TRAIL OF A DESERTER."The missing man has...
  • West Meets East

    It's midnight in Paris, and the crowd is growing outside the Left Bank's Paradis de l'Orient cafe. "A half hour to get in?" complains one would-be patron.A cafe employee shrugs apologetically. Sounds of clapping and singing--and the smell of fruity smoke--waft into the street. Some decide to leave, but others choose to wait it out. The big attraction? The chance to smoke a bubbling Mideastern hookah pipe--and the glamour of being on the cusp of a trend.Of course, the water pipes known as hookah, narghiles, sheeshas or hubble-bubbles have been around for centuries. But the smoking experience that was once the domain of old men in Middle Eastern cafes--and sometimes women in the bathhouses known as hammams--is now attracting new and younger audiences in both East and West. Cafes from Kiev to San Diego are offering hookahs to their patrons; Paris alone has more than 50 sheesha cafes with evocative names like the Bagdad Cafe and Salon Egyptien.And as more Westerners indulge in smoking...
  • The French: Not Just Blowing Smoke

    A Sunday evening. The regular patter of French television commercials is broken by silence as a white-on-black message accosts 15 million unsuspecting viewers: "Traces of cyanide, mercury, acetone, and ammonia have been discovered in a widely consumed product." Within hours 1 million viewers call the toll-free number offered for more information. Those who got through were politely informed that "the product... is cigarettes."This new campaign, launched by the French government, was inspired by the highly successful campaign of the American anti-tobacco group The Truth, whose on-air antics have included lining the doorsteps of tobacco companies with long trails of body bags. The French ads represent a paradigm shift for anti-tobacco ads in the traditionally smoke-loving nation. Previous campaigns were well conceived and humorous, claims French media analyst Claude Dognin, but he believes this one will leave a deeper impact. "The smokers were really frightened this time," he says....