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  • Norah Jones: Familiar But Not Predictable

    The best-selling female artist of the 21st century—that's quite a title—and quite a lot to live up to. But for singer Norah Jones, who has sold over 30 million albums worldwide, it's not the kind of thing that keeps the 27-year-old up at night. What does keep her up is writing, playing and recording music like she did for her third record, "Not Too Late," her first collection of songs entirely written or co-written by the eight-time Grammy winner.As huge as she is, Jones still keeps her music and her music-making down home: her writing partner/bass player and boyfriend, Lee Alexander, produced the new CD in their home studio. Old friend Jesse Harris, who wrote the massive hit "Don't Know Why" for her 2002 debut, "Come Away With Me," shares in the work again, but this time it's by playing guitar as part of her studio band. Other players on the record are people she's known for years. Any master chef will tell you that you don't mess with a good recipe, and in this case, it's this...
  • The Latest in Battlefield Surgery

    The military has rewritten the book on wartime surgery to combat the wave of injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan. The latest strategies for helping fallen warriors.
  • So You Want To Be A (Grrrl) Rock And Roll Star

    When the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls held a benefit auction Tuesday night at New York City’s Bowery Ballroom, items on the auction block included an electric guitar and guitar lessons, a kid-sized bass autographed by the Beastie Boys (that went for $725) and a designer handbag by Marc Jacobs. Pretty cool stuff for an auction (cool enough to raise $20,000 by the time the night was over). But what really put a big smile on the faces in the crowd was not cool merch but an electrifying performance by a duo called Magnolia. Opening for a line-up that included the indie favorite Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Zora Sicher and Hugo Orozco, both 11-years-old girls, worked through their repertoire of self-penned songs, including “What Cha Gonna Do,” with Orozco playing punk power chords over a steady beat laid down by drummer Sicher (they switched instruments midset—very rock and roll). The girls are veterans of the rock camp, and they are also its hardcore fans. They attended for the first...
  • The Threat From Within

    This may be the first generation in which children live a shorter life span than their parents. If this were caused by a new virus or pathogen, or if some madman was harming our children, there would be a call to action from most parents, an uprising and an uproar. But it's not some external germ or sinister force that's eating our young; it's what our young are eating—too much fat, salt and sugar. And it's not only what they're doing, but also what they're not doing—a lack of regular exercise.So many kids in our country are overweight, they're getting sick and dying prematurely. Overweight kids suffer disproportionately from diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure and other serious health problems. A study last summer in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that being overweight at 18 is associated with an increased risk of premature death in younger and middle-aged women.Since 1970, the percentage of kids who are overweight or obese has risen almost fourfold, from 4.2 percent to 15...
  • Super Bowl: Settling The Score

    A few seconds after Tom Brady’s last-gasp pass died in the arms of an Indianapolis Colts defender, my phone rang. I figured it for the first of many condolence calls to be exchanged between my fellow lifers from section 132 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro.Instead, it was my daughter on the line—ah, the swift and dexterous dialing fingers of youth—and I immediately detected the anxiety in her voice. “Are you all right, dad?” she asked. I thought, “What kind of jerk does she think that I am, that my physical and mental health couldn’t withstand the heartbreak of a New England Patriots defeat?” Then, of course, I realized: exactly the kind of jerk she’s known for the 20 years of her life.So I took a quick inventory and, a little too my surprise, discovered I was, in fact, all right—a little disappointed but not remotely devastated by the defeat. Which by the time I caught up with my buddies seemed to be the consensus. It had been a great game. We were outplayed. All those breaks,...
  • A Brief History Of Sundance Outrages

    Sundance wouldn't be Sundance if someone wasn't getting all hot and bothered about some outrageous, shocking, weird, utterly out-there movie leaping off the screen at the film festival in Park City, Utah. Among the movies getting tongues wagging this year are "Zoo," Robinson Devor's documentary about bestiality, inspired by the true story of a Seattle man who died after having sex with an Arabian stallion; the lurid Southern melodrama "Black Snake Moan," with Christina Ricci as a scantily clad white-trash nymphomaniac who gets chained to a radiator (for her own good, mind you) by Samuel L. Jackson; and another Southern Gothic tale, "Hounddog," which elicited angry protests (even though none of the protestors had seen the movie) because of a scene in which a 12-year-old girl, played by Dakota Fanning, is raped.It was ever thus. Here's a brief timeline of some of the supposedly and actually shocking movies that debuted at Sundance. A few went on to make scandalous waves in the real...
  • Beliefs: When Not All Publicity Is Good Publicity

    In late October 2006, Alexandra Pelosi turned over to HBO her finished documentary, “Friends of God,” a two-years-in-the-making road-trip tour of the country’s massive evangelical Christian community. Then two major events occurred that utterly transformed her documentary, even though she hadn’t touched a frame of it. First, her self-described “tour guide” throughout the journey, Rev. Ted Haggard, the former president of the 30-million-strong National Association of Evangelicals, resigned in a scandal over his relationship with a male prostitute. Then, a week later, the mid-term election gave Democrats control of both houses of Congress—an outcome that made Pelosi’s mother, Nancy, the country’s first-ever female Speaker of the House. (And a few weeks after that , Pelosi, 36, gave birth to her first child.) Suddenly, her modest one-hour film had become scandalized and politicized. With “Friends of God” premiering on HBO on Thursday, Pelosi spoke with NEWSWEEK’S Devin Gordon about her...
  • Don’T Forget The Artificial Tears

    When our book, “Is it hot in here? Or is it me? The Complete Guide to Menopause” ( Workman ), was released a few weeks ago, “The Today Show” invited us on to talk about the topic and put together a “menopause survival kit.” After the show ran, we got lots of e-mails asking for a list of the contents. While this “kit” is not all-inclusive, these items will help you weather the menopause transition more successfully. Here’s a breakdown of our purchases:Face wipes. Stow these in your purse or desk drawer. They’re great for mopping up after a sweaty hot flash.Water bottle. Drinking some ice water helps many women reduce the severity of hot flashes. Keep it handy.Nightwear made of fabric that wicks away moisture. We have a friend who sleeps in a flannel nightgown and then complains of night sweats. A simple solution is to buy T-shirts or sleepwear made of wicking fabric. That way, you won’t feel so cold and clammy. Look for the same fabric you see in athletic wear.Cream moisturizer....
  • Gender And The Pulpit

    In 1973, Eric Karl Swenson was ordained in the Presbyterian Church and went to work doing what he’d always dreamed of: ministering to a congregation of the Southern Presbyterian Church in Atlanta. More than 20 years later, one dream almost ended when another began. When the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta discovered in 1996 that Swenson had finally fulfilled another lifelong desire—having sex-change surgery to become a woman—it started proceedings to revoke Swenson’s ordination.At the time of her “transition,” Swenson did not resist the church’s questions nor blame its reluctance. “I had been in the closet for 30 years, learning to accept myself,” she says. “It is difficult for me to be angry at others for not accepting.” Married with two daughters before her transition, Swenson described her struggle, years later, in a sermon: “I had spent the better part of four decades wrestling secretly with the unreasonable and incorrigible desire to be female.” After almost three years of...
  • Who Will Oscar Go Home With?

    This Year's Race For Best Picture (Dream On, 'Dreamgirls') Is Anyone's Call, But The Critics Seem To Have The Inside Track.
  • Who Isn't Running For President?

    For the first time in American history, the number of Americans running for president in 2008 will actually be greater than the number of Americans voting for president, electoral experts said today.With politicians throwing their hats in the ring at a torrid pace, by November 2008, one out of every two Americans is expected to be running for the nation’s highest office—an extraordinary figure by any measure.While the negative tone of recent election campaigns has turned off voters in record numbers, the appeal of being the world’s most powerful person has never been greater, causing the two trend lines to cross.In the last week alone, Sens. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Sam Brownback have established exploratory committees, but so have some 40,000 other Americans, according to Carol Foyler, executive director of the Committee on Exploratory Committees. Foyler said that the sharp increase in the number of Americans yearning to be president can be credited to President George W....
  • Escaping From The Shadow Of The 'Wall'

    Next month, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the most-visited monument in Washington, D.C., will be honored with the 25-Year-Award from the American Institute of Architects, as the most significant structure completed a quarter century ago. The memorial’s stunning abstract design radically changed the conventional view of war monuments, and it has had a profound impact on memorial design ever since. Yet when the design was first selected, after a blind competition with more than 1,400 entries, it was considered astonishing—even controversial in some quarters—in part because its designer wasn’t a well-known architect or artist but a 21-year-old Yale undergraduate named Maya Lin. NEWSWEEK’S Cathleen McGuigan caught up with Lin, now 47, in New York, where she’s been working for more than 20 years on projects ranging from art—both outdoor earthworks and gallery installations—to architecture, furniture and books.NEWSWEEK: The Vietnam Memorial catapulted you to fame when you were very young...
  • The Relief Cycle

    Last fall, when the Naples police were mopping up blood from the cobblestones near Piazza Plebiscito after a fatal Camorra shoot-out, the orchestra at the nearby Teatro di San Carlo opera house was preoccupied with another violent scene: the battle in Leonard Bernstein's "Candide." Given the violence outside, those inside the San Carlo had reason to believe it would be a good season; in the house's 270-year history, trouble in the streets has often translated into better attendance. So far, the San Carlo has sold nearly 84 percent of its season tickets for this year--some for as much as €800--making it one of the best-attended seasons in recent memory. "In times like these, this opera house has always been a wonderful escape," says Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi, director of the Teatro di San Carlo. "Naples is a difficult, if not desperate, community to entertain."But escalating violence is not the only reason Naples's opera house is full. Despite budget cuts that have plagued all of Italy...
  • Stop Or They'll Shoot!

    Armed & famous," CBS's new reality series about celebrities turned cops in Muncie, Ind., is one of those abominations that get people moaning about the plight of American culture, but if nothing else, the show justifies its existence by giving us scenes where someone can utter the phrase "Officer La Toya Jackson." The seven-episode series is like a cross between "Cops" and "Scooby-Doo," only instead of Shaggy, the team doofus is 4-foot-7 Jason (Wee-Man) Acuña of "Jackass" fame. (WWE wrestler Trish Stratus, Erik Estrada of TV's "CHiPs" and Jack Osbourne, son of Ozzy, round out the show's crack crimefighting unit.) In recent years, the citizens of Minnesota and California have put celebrities in the governor's mansion, so maybe it's not such a leap to give them live ammunition. Still, even the show's executive producer Tom Forman sounds surprised that his idea made it onto network television. "When you condense this show down to one line," Forman says, "it does sound like a joke....
  • A Super Bowl Showdown

    There are undoubtedly some folks waiting for the hypefest in Miami in two weeks under the misapprehension that it is the Super Bowl. But any true football fan knows the Super Bowl was played in Indianapolis Sunday night—when the hometown Colts beat the New England Patriots 38-34 for the AFC Championship.The game may have set a record for clichés available to sportswriters: two heavyweights; got up off the canvas; monkey off the back; a defense that bends and, in this case, finally broke. But none do justice to the magnitude and the brilliance of the Colts’ victory. Indy came back from 18 points down and years of heartbreak to score the winning touchdown with just a minute left in the game. It came on a masterstroke of deception. With a third-and-two at the Patriots’ three-yard line, the NFL’s premiere passer, Peyton Manning, eschewed the air and, instead, handed the ball off to rookie Joseph Addai, who scooted into the end zone.Then Manning retired to the bench, barely able to watch...
  • Woman Waging Peace

    Swanee Hunt's life story is as modestly opulent as a meal of black-eyed peas and corn bread served on fine china. Her father, a self-made oil magnate, preached hard work and frugality yet jetted around the world on a private plane. Swanee was born out of wedlock to a mistress 30 years Hunt's junior, who was "kept" in a modest home near his lavish estate. After the death of Hunt's first wife, Swanee's parents married and she moved into the home of the father she hardly knew. There, she developed the tenet that would determine her life's direction: "Every person is responsible for changing the world."Her engaging new memoir, "Half-Life of a Zealot" ( 393 pages. Duke University Press ), tracks that aspiration from her early role as a preacher's wife to her current position as director of Harvard's Women and Public Policy Program and chair of the Women Waging Peace network. It is an intensely personal book. Hunt, 56, describes a miscarriage, the breakup of her first marriage, her...
  • Fame Junkies

    Troy sawyer first auditioned for "American Idol" in 2002. He drove from his home in Kansas City, Mo., to Detroit, where he performed the country ballad "Tonight I Want to Be Your Man." A producer rejected him, but Sawyer wasn't about to give up. "I saw a lot of gimmicks people used to make it," he says. In 2003, he trekked to Houston to perform "Rockin' Robin." Rejected again. In 2004, he dressed in Pillsbury Doughboy pajamas--"I figured I needed to stick out"--and crooned "Soul Man" in St. Louis. "I was told I had a really good voice, but I should take it more seriously and not dress up," he says. That same year, with money he raised washing cars and selling bubble gum and taffy, he hit Washington, D.C., Las Vegas and San Francisco. No luck. The next two seasons are a bit of a blur, but they included stops in Austin, Denver, Chicago, Las Vegas and, finally last summer, Memphis. In case you've lost count, that's a total of 11 auditions . "I don't have the Justin Timberlake or...
  • Mail Call

    Readers saddened by the death of Gerald Ford recalled the events that shaped his legacy, most notably his historic ascension to the presidency. "Ford may be considered an 'accidental president,' but he was precisely what our country needed at a time of turmoil," one said. "He brought decency back to the White House, and that was no accident." Others continue to be less generous. One described Ford's pardoning of Richard Nixon as "fumbling the most important decision of his presidency." Readers also found parallels in concurrent news events. On a dire note, one observed that Ford's death coincided with the death of the United States' 3,000th service member in Iraq. "Some spent many days mourning the one; some barely acknowledged the many," she wrote. Another hoped that with Saddam Hussein's execution, Iraqis might now be fortunate to "find a leader like Ford to end their long national nightmare."Among the many blessings Gerald Ford enjoyed in life is that he lived long enough to...
  • Send Me To Space

    As she entered her sixth decade, Sara Davidson found that, as she puts it, she "couldn't get arrested." The author of 1978's best-seller "Loose Change," Davidson suddenly found herself single, out of work and an empty nester all at once. She bottomed out--so she wrote a book, "LEAP! What Will We Do With the Rest of Our Lives?. Inspired by her story, NEWSWEEK asked boomers to list the three things they still want to do--no matter what.One of the world's best-selling novelists, with more than 25 top sellers under his belt, King has built a loyal fan base of millions by consistently scaring them. His latest, "Lisey's Story," came out in October last year."I'd like to outlast George W. Bush's second term of office." ...
  • The Man Who Wore His Heart On His Shoes

    Your shoes say a lot about you. The sign was obviously handmade. Lettered with black shoe dye on an old shoebox lid, it stood upright in the window of Joe's shoe-repair shop on the streetcar line just beyond Pittsburgh's north side. I was 12 years old and naively believed the sign was Joe's original idea. I also thought it was the closest shoe dye had ever come to pure wisdom.My first thought about Joe's statement was how it divided the kids whose fathers were working steadily from those whose weren't. Shoes tell that story quite plainly. When I thought of classmates who had good shoes but never cleaned them, that said something about them, too.My dad, being a clergyman, owned black dress shoes, two pairs of them. He shined them often, putting one foot up at a time on the hickory stool in his study and buffing away. He wore moccasins instead of slippers at home and they, too, were spotless, if not shiny.On Sunday mornings, I began to pay attention to the shoes of regular churchgoers...
  • Cosby's Darkest Hours

    I was surprised by a phone call at 5 a.m. from our New York office one morning in 1997. There were reports on the wire services of the death of a young man with the last name of Cosby, and my editors wanted me to find out if he might be related to Bill. I dialed actress-director Debbie Allen. Debbie was a longtime Cosby friend and associate, and of course her sister, Phylicia Rashad, had starred as his wife in both of his family-comedy hits. "Yes, it was him," Allen said in a low voice. My stomach dropped. To complicate matters, I'd made arrangements with Cosby's publicist to visit him on the set of "Cosby" the following week in New York. I assumed everything would be canceled because of the family tragedy, so imagine my surprise when I was told to make the trip. Cosby would be returning to work the very next week.Grief is a very individual thing, and Cosby seemed not to want to grieve alone. In speaking with Cosby's personal assistant before leaving Los Angeles, I was told to be at...
  • Fidel V. Ramos: We Were The First Iraq

    The Philippines has had four leaders in the two decades since the fall of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, but only one who did not disappoint. During his tenure from 1992 to 1998, Fidel Ramos got the economy moving, broke up several powerful monopolies, tempered corruption and contained the communist and Muslim rebels in Mindanao. He left office as his country's most effective modern leader, and one of the region's strongest advocates for greater economic and polity unity. He is in the group of eight "eminent persons" writing a new charter for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which could bring the dynamism of majority voting to a group that has been stymied by consensus rule from intervening with wayward members like Burma. NEWSWEEK's Marites Vitug spoke to Ramos on the eve of this week's ASEAN summit in Cebu, Philippines. Excerpts: ...
  • Baby Boomers: What's Next in Life?

    In this book excerpt, author Sara Davidson describes 'the narrows,' the phase in life where everything gets harder—before it gets easier.
  • Quindlen: Write For Your Life

    Wouldn't all of us love to have a journal, a memoir, a letter, from those we have loved and lost? Shouldn't all of us leave a bit of that behind?
  • Mail Call: Fathers And Sons

    Our Nov. 20 cover story drew criticism of President Bush over Iraq. "Western security is in jeopardy due to one stubborn man. We had better save democracy instead of Bush's presidency," one said. Another agreed: "We can be grateful for any salvaging George H.W. Bush's team can manage."It is a grand irony that Bush I is now coming to salvage the presidency of Bush II ("The Rescue Squad," Nov. 20). Just five years ago, in the afterglow of his September 11 performance, some commentators argued for the coronation of George W. as likely one of the best presidents in American history. Now his stock sinks to the level of one of the worst presidents, if not the very worst. Tragically, he's taken the country's reputation with him. George H.W. Bush and his insiders are working to offset egregious leadership mistakes and a profoundly bad legacy. We can be grateful for any salvaging he and his team can manage if it brings into order the messes of the son and his constellation of disastrous...
  • Newsmakers

    Q&A: MIA FARROWThe eternally ethereal Mia Farrow plays the grandmother in "Arthur and the Invisibles." She spoke with Nicki Gostin.It sure was--the food alone. Let me count the ways: the Camembert, the baguettes, fresh fish, unbelievable wine at lunch, not that I partook. And I love [director] Luc Besson. I'm endlessly fascinated by who he is and the way he expresses himself. I could watch him brush his teeth.No. What a good idea. He's an extremely ethical person and has a profound respect for human beings. We see this reflected in the movie. These two tribes need each other and feel responsible for each other--and this brings me to an issue of the utmost importance: the genocide in Darfur.I think kids have an acute sense of what's right and what's wrong and a sense of outrage.I don't have Brad Pitt, though. Give me Brad Pitt and we can talk.No! What are you talking about?No, it's not like that.I don't know. If I'm lucky enough.14.That's not in my plans, though none of my life...
  • More Political Science

    Last summer President Bush invited several scientists to the Oval Office to revisit one of his earliest--and most contro-versial--decisions: to fund, but strictly limit, stem-cell research. Bush wanted to explore the impact of his 2001 policy to approve research only on existing stem cells drawn from human embryos. So he asked the scientists about the viability of the 21 approved stem-cell lines. And he quizzed them about possible contamination with mouse cells. One month later, he issued the first veto of his presidency against an expansion of stem-cell research.With a new Democratic-led Congress, Bush is now facing a greater political challenge than he was then. Last week House Democrats voted once again to approve funding for research using stem cells drawn from embryos slated for destruction at fertility clinics. The final vote fell short of a veto-proof majority, and the White House promised to block it again.But this time around, Bush's aides feel far more confident about...
  • A Life In Books: Geraldine Brooks

    She may have won a Pulitzer for her novel "March," but Geraldine Brooks confessed to PERI that her To Read list still includes Thomas Mann's "Buddenbrooks." Yeah, we haven't gotten around to that one, either. A profile of the writer as reader: ...
  • Off To The Graveyard

    And so, an era is over. After more than a decade of delighting English football fans at Manchester United and Spanish aficionados at Real Madrid, David Beckham is coming to America. But is it the right move? Responding to a reported $250 million, five-year deal with the L.A. Galaxy, The Independent of London blared leaving real life for la-la-land.Most football pundits would argue that Beckham has been in La-la Land for some time now. At the very least, he's become too big for his boots. In 1998, Beckham broke a nation's collective heart at the World Cup semifinal when he petulantly kicked Argentina's Diego Simeone. The resulting red card sent England home in tears. (I was in a pub in London, and have never seen so many grown men bawl.) Then there was his wedding to Posh Spice. Deemed 1999's celebrity wedding of the year, it came complete with golden thrones for the bride and groom, as well as a crown for her "majesty." Sponsored by everyone from Gillette to Motorola, Beckham the...
  • When The Body Attacks Itself

    The immune system is what keeps most people's bodies healthy and free of disease, but for as many as 23 million Americans, it is a cause of disease, too. In autoimmune disorders, the system goes haywire, mistaking the body's own tissues for foreign invaders and destroying them. Drugs for these conditions, which include type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and lupus, have been elusive. But on Sunday, scientists are reporting in the journal Nature that they have found a set of 30 genes that go awry in autoimmune disorders—and that could be potential targets for cures. NEWSWEEK's Mary Carmichael spoke with two of the discoverers, Richard Young, a biologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Whitehead Institute, and Alexander Marson, an M.D./Ph.D. student in Young's lab. Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: What do these 30 genes normally do in a healthy person's body?Richard Young: There was a very, very important discovery made about a decade ago, which was that a specialized class of ...
  • Bake It Like a Man

    What do you call a goatee-wearing, bass guitar-playing, power saw-wielding, tattooed guy who spends his days mixing flour and sugar? A baker. But Duff Goldman, head of Baltimore's Charm City Cakes and host of the Food Network's hugely popular “Ace of Cakes” TV show is not your ordinary pastry chef. Instead of flat sheet cakes painted with frosting flowers and cutesy messages, Goldman, 32, uses drills and blowtorches to sculpt fantastical multidimensional creations like a smoking volcano, a three-foot-tall Elvis as well as replicas of Chicago's Wrigley Field and a 1930s Harlem speakeasy. The show's second season, premiering Thursday night, reveals the inner workings of his bakery, where a group of fellow artists and aspiring rock stars raise dessert to precarious new heights. NEWSWEEK's Julie Scelfo spoke with Duff about the show and his passion for pastry. Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: How did you get into cakes?Duff Goldman: My sophomore year in college I went into the nicest restaurant in...
  • Mining the Middle East for Laughs

    Racial profiling and hate crimes are serious stuff ... unless you’re Arab-American comedian Dean Obeidallah. The New Jersey native is the co-creator of Comedy Central’s new online show, “The Watch List,” a six-part series where Americans of Mideast descent riff on everything from their parent’s arranged marriages to why it’s now hip to be Arab. “We’re so racially profiled now I heard a correspondent on CNN say ‘Arabs are the new blacks',” jokes Obeidallah. “And I have to confess, when I heard that, I was excited. We’re cool! White kids in the suburbs, instead of dressing and acting like blacks to be cool, they’ll pretend to be Arab.” His routine is brought to life by a sketch that includes white boys shooting hoops in galabiyas , pimping their rides to look like New York cabs and greeting each other with hot new phrases like “What Up, My Arab?" and "Arab, please.”“The Watch List” is named after a decidedly more serious (and arguably less effective) list kept by Homeland Security....
  • Simon, the Supportive?

    During this week’s premiere of “American Idol,” viewers cringed as Simon, Randy and Paula doled out harsh criticisms to many of the less-than-worthy contestants. And as contestants cried, screamed and argued with the judges over their cruel remarks, viewers may have asked themselves if the insults had gone too far. Dr. Jennifer Crocker, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan who focuses on self-esteem issues, says it may have seemed cruel, but at least it was honest. In an interview with NEWSWEEK, she says that in reality, Simon’s harsh advice may actually have been more compassionate than unconditionally positive reinforcement. Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: Many people are saying that this season’s premiere was crueler than previous seasons. What did you think about the first episode of Season 6?Dr. Jennifer Crocker: If I were in the contestants’ shoes I would have felt the criticisms were harsh. They didn’t feel very compassionate, but another interpretation you could make...
  • Books: In Literature, Size Matters

    I wish Vikram Chandra all the best. But I am not going to finish his novel, “Sacred Games.” I read more than 100 pages, enough to know that he is a good writer. He has done just what early reviews of his 928-page novel say he’s done: mixed the techniques of a literary novel with the plot of a police procedural. The only problem is, I don’t care. Oh, I care a little bit. Just not enough to make myself read another 800 pages.Book reviewers, if they’re being paid and if they’re being the least bit fair, finish the books they review. But this creates a strange, maybe unnatural, situation: the very people paid to be objective about a book are also duty bound to finish it, and believe it or not, this warps a lot of peoples’ judgment. Let’s say you read a 900-page novel and you don’t absolutely hate it. You even sort of like it. Are you going to say that? Apparently not, judging by most reviews I read. Most reviewers get invested in the books they review, one way or the other. So the books...
  • ‘Dying Isn’t Hard, Parking Is’

    I was among the legion that visited Art Buchwald at the Washington hospice he called home for several months last year, and where he expected to die. He had chosen at age 80 to forego dialysis and accept his fate. Except death didn’t come. His weakened kidneys rallied and so did his spirits.He turned the sunny day room where he held court into a European salon reminiscent of the era when he wrote from Paris for the New York Herald Tribune. All sorts of people came by to pay their respects. And Art loved it. He sat back in a reclining chair, enjoying the accolades, his leg—that had been amputated below the knee—propped up on a pillow. “Dying isn’t hard, parking is,” he would tell visitors.Art was having such a good time that some of the professionals at the hospice worried he wasn’t taking the business of dying seriously enough. Art wasn’t religious, but he thought of himself as a cultural Jew and spent time with a rabbi, planning his funeral service. He thought that was enough, but...
  • Smashing Your 'Idols'

    Since “American Idol” has helped make this country into a place where we bare our souls, no matter the price, here’s my confession: last night’s season premiere was the first time I’d ever watched an entire episode of it. I've caught glimpses of the show—usually the last minute or two, clipped by my TiVo before a new episode of “24”—but that’s all. I’ve only been NEWSWEEK’s television critic for six weeks now, so prior to last night, “American Idol” was someone else’s job. And if I didn’t have to watch a reality show where people sing painful versions of Top 40 pop songs and worn-out Broadway numbers, then I’d pass, thanks. But now duty calls. Plus, my editors thought it would be fun to read what the show looks like through the eyes of a complete newbie, like a bargain-basement Alexis de Tocqueville planted on a couch and handed a remote. So now that I’ve finally had my first true “Idol” experience, I find myself plagued by one nagging question: what in God’s name is wrong with...
  • The Gender Gap in Cancer Death Rates

    A new report details a historic drop in cancer death rates. But in recent years, the decline for women has been half that for men. What's behind the gender gap?
  • The NFL's Final Four

    Could Sunday’s Final Four have worked out any better for the NFL? First we get Chicago vs. New Orleans: the league’s historic heartland pitted against a Cinderella story for the ages, the perennial Aints turned into America’s team. That’s followed by the league’s premier rivalry: the Colts vs. the Patriots, Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady. Will Manning finally break through to the next level? Will Belichick’s boys take a giant step toward a fourth title that would, arguably, establish the Pats as the greatest NFL champions ever?Here’s a look at how we got here and what lies ahead.The WinnersIndianapolis: There were plenty of improbable scenarios last weekend, but none more than the Colts dominating the Ravens without Peyton Manning leading his team to a single touchdown. Indeed, had you described to me Manning’s shaky performances the first two weeks of the playoffs—five interceptions and a couple more that should have been picked by Baltimore—I would have guaranteed you that Indy...
  • To Your Health: Cancer: A Fresh Diagnosis

    On Wednesday, after decades of grim news, the American Cancer Society reported the steepest decline in United States cancer deaths in the 70 years since nationwide data has been compiled. In 2004, there were 3,014 fewer cancer-related deaths than in 2003—which was the first year the society had ever recorded a drop in cancer deaths. The back-to-back decreases have specialists hoping that they may at last be gaining the upper hand in their long battle against the disease."Our work over the years is finally paying off," says Ahmedin Jemal, Ph.D., a specialist in cancer occurrence and the lead author of the report. He pointed to medical advances, early detection and antitobacco campaigns as key factors in the progress made.But the report also underscores a stark disparity between men and women when it comes to surviving cancer. Death rates are falling about twice as fast for men as for women. Between 1990 and 2003, mortality rates for men fell by 16.3 percent; the comparable figure for...
  • Silly Prizes, Major Fun

    The Hollywood Foreign Press Association really is the most ridiculous little club in Hollywood. If you had any doubts, they should have been put to rest last night at the Golden Globes when the organization's president, Philip Berk, took the podium. A correspondent for FilmInk (Australia) and Galaxie (Malaysia), Berk, who looked like he'd borrowed his glasses from Martin Scorsese, rattled on wildly about Meryl Streep, Clint Eastwood and Jack Nicholson, before offering a quote I can't find on Google today.The rest of the show was equally wobbly. Why, for example, is the award for best actress in a TV comedy presented after the award for best TV comedy? Still, no matter how dubious the distinction (only 80 or so journalists pick the winners), the show is still tons more entertaining than the Oscars. Here's our rundown:Acceptance speechesThe Good: Meryl Streep. Maybe she's nominated for every award because she's also the best at accepting them. That's all. Runner-up: Sacha Baron Cohen,...
  • Evil or Just Plain Crazy?

    Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, riding high after being re-elected to a six-year term in office, set his sights on an even higher goal today, as he demanded membership in the Axis of Evil.Chavez, who made headlines at the United Nations last year by comparing President George W. Bush to Satan, has made no secret of the fact that he would like to join the exclusive club of the world’s most infamous evildoers, including North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.But when the Venezuelan president recently received the news that former Axis of Evil member Saddam Hussein had been hanged, “He realized that this was his time,” an aide to the Venezuelan leader said.“I want Saddam’s slot,” Chavez said at a press conference in Caracas today. “I’ve earned it.”But “not so fast,” said Kim Jong Il, who heard of Chavez’s demand while appearing at an Axis of Evil charity golf tournament in Scottsdale, Ariz.While the North Korean leader said that he is “a big fan of...
  • 'Heart Burn'

    The modern-day Woodstock, Burning Man is an annual festival of music, art and “radical self-expression” on the harsh salt flats of the Black Rock desert in northern Nevada. But what started as a small, impromptu art event on a San Francisco beach in 1986 has grown into a weeklong event that draws 40,000 people, who, this year, are expected to pay nearly $300 each to attend. It’s enough to make a Burner, as devotees are called, wonder if it hasn’t all gotten too big to keep it real.So when one of the cofounders of Burning Man, John Law, filed a federal lawsuit last week in an effort to make the festival's name and trademark public, some Burners cheered—elated by the idea of Burning Man as a populist entity. That's because the Burning Man festival, despite its counterculture image, is actually operated by a real corporation—two, in fact: Black Rock City LLC and Paper Man LLC, which was formed in 1997 between Law and the two other original owners to control the name and service mark, ...
  • Is Male Menopause Real?

    You're a guy in your late 50s. You've just awakened and are looking at yourself in the bathroom mirror--as you do every morning. Only today you notice for the first time what must have been there for a while: the love handles, the once bulging pecs that now sort of sag. It gets you thinking. You realize that for some time you haven't had as much energy as you used to, you don't have as much interest in sex, there are times when you feel down and discouraged, and your friends tell you that you're more irritable than you used to be. Is this just aging? Is it simply the inevitable price of your nutritionally rich and exercise-poor lifestyle? Or is it a medical condition--one for which there might be a treatment?Are you entering "male menopause"? You've heard the phrase, but is there really such a thing?Like women, men experience a drop in the levels of sex hormones as they age. But in men, the pace of these changes is quite different. In women, levels of the main female sex hormone,...
  • Family: Sleeping With Dino

    Which sounds cooler: "pass the popcorn" or "pass the pterodactyl egg"? If your kids are begging you to take them to the hit family film "Night at the Museum," you can do them one better--an after-dark museum adventure of their own. Natural-history museums across the country offer sleepover events, which allow kids to be like the film's bumbling security guard, exploring exhibits armed with flashlights and their imaginations. The American Museum of Natural History in New York City has been so inundated with interest that its sleepovers are sold out until April. At its events, which are scheduled through June, kids camp out under the giant blue whale in the Hall of Ocean Life (ages 8-12, $79 per person; amnh.org ). Chicago's Field Museum offers its Dozin' With the Dinos event on Jan. 12, where participants will hear stories from night watchmen (ages 6-12, $47 per person; fieldmuseum.org ). Dinosaur enthusiasts will thrill at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County's year...
  • Hot Flashes and Hormones

    Hormone therapy is an appropriate choice for some, but not all, women. On the benefit side, hormone therapy relieves hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness, and it may improve sleep, mood and concentration. It also preserves bone density and protects against fractures. But there also are risks, including higher rates of breast cancer, stroke, blood clots in the legs and lungs and, for older women, coronary heart disease. What questions do you and your doctor need to answer to make an informed decision about hormone therapy? And if you choose hormone therapy, how can you minimize the risks? Here are the key elements of that conversation.Moderate to severe symptoms, which affect about one in five newly menopausal women, are the only compelling reason to take hormone therapy. If you're bothered by vaginal dryness only, consider low-dose vaginal estrogen rather than pills or patches.Mounting evidence indicates that a woman's age and time since menopause (on average at the age of...
  • Cancer

    Let's start with the basics. Menopause doesn't cause cancer. It doesn't even increase your risk of getting cancer. But the levels of hormones in your body (what your body produces naturally, as well as what you take via pills, creams, gels, rings and patches) have a complicated relationship to your chances of getting certain cancers. Over the course of your life, hormones appear to be protective against some kinds of cancer while increasing your risk of developing others. ...
  • The Basics

    Remember when you were 13 and your girlfriends shared their complaints of menstrual aches and pains with you? Around that time, you probably realized that not everyone's periods were the same. Some got on a regular schedule pretty quickly, while others were so erratic they never knew when their "friend" was going to surprise them. Others were constantly popping aspirin for cramps, while a few were really troubled by PMS, making them difficult to live with for about a week each month. In some respects, menopause is back to the future: many of the same experiences, with a lot of individual variation.As the name implies, natural menopause starts without your intervention; that's why it's sometimes called "spontaneous." You might detect subtle hints of what's coming 10 years or more before your periods stop. Your periods may become shorter and come closer together as the follicles (egg sacs) in your ovaries produce less progesterone. (This shortens the period of time when the uterine...
  • Diet

    Probably a little of both. Whether you've been a health nut or a couch potato, you're going to find menopause a challenge. Your metabolism slows down as you get older, so you will gain weight if you don't cut calories and increase your level of exercise. No wonder women add an average of a pound a year during perimenopause. Many women find the extra weight is landing in places that are new for them, like the tummy. Part of the explanation is that after menopause, women tend to accumulate fat where men do--in the neck, chin and abdominal areas--perhaps because of shifting hormone levels. Your genes also help determine where fat accumulates on your body, as does your activity level. Even if you haven't gained weight, flabbiness could come from lack of exercise. As we get older, we tend to be more sedentary, which means less muscle and more fat. Changes in skin tone that come with the loss of estrogen can also make your abdominal area seem looser and flabbier.You can improve much of...
  • Hot Flashes

    More than three quarters of American women suffer from hot flashes during the menopause transition. This means, of course, that a lucky minority of women don't. Our question is: who are these women, and where are they hiding? Everyone we know has experienced the unwelcome sensation of sudden heat more than once, and often in an embarrassing situation: in the middle of a conversation, during an introduction to someone new, rushing to meet a deadline. The heat spreads from your torso to your face. Some women appear flushed; many experience rapid heartbeat and a rush of anxiety. This can happen a few times a day or almost every hour. There's no rule. You may feel as if you're on fire, but your internal body temperature doesn't change. What does heat up is the temperature of your skin, and it can rise as much as seven degrees, although between one and four degrees is more typical. Generally, you'll cool down in a few minutes, although some women have individual hot flashes that last as...
  • Spycraft as Thespianage

    Moral ambiguity is the none-too-subtle point of two new movies about the creation of Pax Americana after World War II. In "The Good German," an antihero war correspondent (played by George Clooney) is caught up in a tangle of lies as the Americans cover up the war crimes of a Nazi rocket scientist. In "The Good Shepherd," a once pure Yale boy loses his soul by becoming a spymaster for the CIA. Both movies aim to evoke the dark trade-offs of empire building. They seek to capture the existential gloom of true believers who must do wicked things in a righteous cause. They may even make you nostalgic for an era when U.S. intelligence officers seemed to know what they were doing.But for all their faithful attention to period detail, the two films miss an essential point. The early days of the cold war--at least for those Ivy Leaguers who held top jobs at State and CIA--were not dire with dread and anguish. For many of those Ivy League spies, the time was heady, even giddy. The work was a...
  • Mail Call

    Many readers of our year-end issue on the potentially historic campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were eager for change in the presidency. "Can we fast-forward two years? You ask if America is ready for our first black or female president. I am an American. I am ready for either one." But others were wary of having the race begin so early. "I don't want to see them on the campaign trail yet. How about just rolling up their sleeves and governing for a year?" one wrote. And many scolded us for using Clinton's first name and Obama's last on the cover and in the article. "As a highly educated attorney, former First Lady, author and senator, hasn't Clinton earned equal respect by now?" one asked. Citing other possible contenders, including Al Gore and Michael Bloomberg, several echoed this reader's comment: "Let's hope voters will welcome intelligence back to the White House regardless of race, gender or even political affiliation!"Thanks for your article on two possible 2008...
  • Mood

    While you might think everyone gets a little irritable (OK, bitchy) during menopause, research proves that menopause doesn't cause a major mood problem in most midlife women. While women are twice as likely to suffer from depression as men, you're more likely to be diagnosed with depression before the age of 44 than when you're older. In fact, here's a surprise: the majority of women between 45 and 55 describe these years as the best of their lives.But there's no denying that some of us are in for a bumpy ride, even clinical depression, maybe for the first time in our lives. Some women's moods are much more sensitive to hormonal changes than others, and they have a particularly rough time during perimenopause, when zig-zagging hormones are the rule. Hot flashes, night sweats and insomnia have been known to leave more than a few women moody and depressed. Side effects of medications or an undiagnosed thyroid problem could be the culprits. Or maybe the stresses that many of us are...