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  • 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...
  • Mail Call: A Matter of Faith

    Readers of our Nov. 13 cover story on evangelicals drew a line between public and personal morality. "It is deplorable to involve religion in politics," one said. Another noted: "The problem is not God. The problem is ungodly people using the church to pursue their self-centered agendas."As a European agnostic, I find the rise of religiosity in the United States appalling because of its conflict with reason ("An Evangelical Identity Crisis," Nov. 13). I see no distinction between religious beliefs and superstition. Yes, God has given us a compass for life: it is called "reason." Like everything else, reason can be abused, as can religion. A South Dakota judge, for instance, ruling that a girl who has been raped cannot have an abortion is cruel. And doctors have been murdered in the name of pro-life beliefs. Is that Christian? I am appalled equally by the precipitous rise of Islam in Europe. The Muslims have brought with them primitive and cruel traditions, which our governments...
  • Heart

    If you're like many midlife 'women, you're probably more worried about breast cancer than heart disease at this point. Chances are you have more than one friend who is struggling with that devastating illness. But breast cancer, as terrible as it is, pales before the leading killer of women: heart disease. Every year, more women die of heart disease than of all kinds of cancer combined. True, at this point in your life, you probably know more women who have been diagnosed with cancer than heart disease, but that will soon change. Before menopause, your odds of a heart attack or stroke are much lower than those of a man your age. After menopause, the odds shift and the risk gap narrows. Women over 65 are just as likely to die of a heart attack as men of the same age. But here's some hopeful news. Recent research shows that even if you haven't been particularly kind to your heart in the past, starting healthy habits now can make a big difference in the years ahead.Your risk for heart...
  • Eyes

    Whether you wear contact lenses or not, dry eyes may be one of the first changes you notice around menopause. A decade ago many eye doctors dismissed complaints of dry eyes without much thought. But these days doctors are recognizing that dry eyes can lead to bigger problems: chronic inflammation, increased risk of infection, blurred vision, scarring and, in rare cases, corneal damage and vision loss. More commonly, dry eyes interfere with daily life, making it harder for you to read, drive a car (especially at night), work at a computer and even go out into the sunlight.Your eyes may be feeling gritty because you're not producing enough tears, or the tears you have evaporate too quickly. Sometimes this is related to aging, a malfunction of the tear glands or illness. Dry eyes are associated with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjögren's syndrome, diabetes, Parkinson's and thyroid disease. But there's lots of evidence that dry eyes are related to fluctuations in hormones, especially...
  • Bones

    Plenty of women share these challenges, but it's way too early to declare yourself a lost cause. After menopause, women are much more vulnerable to osteoporosis, a thinning of bones that leaves them susceptible to fracture. Estrogen slows bone loss; as levels fall, a woman's bone mass can drop as much as 20 percent in the years around menopause. While there are no guarantees that lifestyle changes will prevent you from getting osteoporosis, you can substantially increase your odds. The truth is that because of genetics, some people who do everything right spend decades fighting an uphill battle against the disease. Others, born with bigger bones and inheriting a slower pace of bone loss, will have far more wiggle room--even if they aren't doing everything right. But few people know for sure which category they're in. Even if you have a bone-mineral-density test, there's much you still won't know about the overall quality of your bones. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain...
  • I Freed Myself When I Embraced My Locks

    When I was a little girl, every day was a bad hair day. In the morning, my grandmother would wash my hair, then straighten it with a hot pressing comb, yanking my naturally thick, kinky hair, and jerking my head in every direction. The heat from the comb was so intense that I would wince before Grandma ran it through my hair. And though she did her best to be careful, the imprint of the comb's teeth was left on my ears, neck and temples. The heavy stench of burnt hair and hair grease filled the kitchen. I hated this ritual so much that I hoped she would forget to do it. And even worse than the physical discomfort that came from straightening my hair was Grandma's commentary: "Lord, your hair is a job to do! Look at this nappy mess! Keep still! Stop moving around!"And so it began, my lifelong obsession with straight hair. In addition to the daily reminders from Grandma, I had the media to help me along in my self-loathing. The models in fashion magazines all had flowing coiffures...
  • The Devil Wears Swastikas

    Last month the New York Times took note of the half-dozen pages of bibliography at the end of Norman Mailer's forthcoming "The Castle in the Forest," recalled recent novels similarly equipped and, with a spin of the Rolodex, confected a controversy that must have lasted hours. The gist was that some literary folks liked such bibliographies and others didn't. Defenders pointed out that they might forestall accusations of plagiarism (though that didn't work for Ian McEwan's "Atonement"), but the naysayers got the best lines. "We expect [fiction writers] to do that work," said The New Republic's book critic James Wood, "and I don't see why ... they should praise themselves for it." Nobody said the obvious: that including a bibliography implicitly privileges what's "really true" in a novel over what's "just made up." And without the addition of footnotes, the reader's forced to wonder which is which--the sort of static that disables the willing suspension of disbelief. Separating fact...
  • Sleep

    Lately, I've been having a lot of trouble sleeping no matter how tired I am. Is there a connection between menopause and insomnia?
  • Last Word: Bjorn Ulvaeus

    It's one of the only four-letter words that will automatically elicit a smile from kids and adults alike: ABBA. Although the Swedish four-piece band has neither released a new record in more than two decades nor performed live in 25 years, its global fan base has steadily grown. Its songs have been turned into a hit musical,"Mamma Mia," which has been enjoyed by more than 20 million people and raked in more than $1.6 billion across the globe since it opened in London in 1999. This year there's more to come: a film version produced by Tom Hanks. And for more serious-minded ABBA fans, a Stockholm museum dedicated to the band is in the works. NEWSWEEK's Ginanne Brownell spoke to Bjorn Ulvaeus, one of ABBA's founding fathers, about the band's enduring legacy and the music industry. Shealso peppered him with a few political questions, given that he's now an active member of the Swedish Humanist Association. Excerpts: ...
  • The Capital Of Cool

    The cobblestone streets of Buenos Aires's historic San Telmo district don't sing only with the seductive sounds of tango music anymore. A local band called Los Alamos plays country-roots rock in rowdy beer bars, featuring the mandolin-picking and harmonica-ripping riffs of former New Jersey high-school teacher Jonah Schwartz. "Nobody here even knows what a mandolin is!" marvels Schwartz, 26.An invasion of foreign artists is transforming Buenos Aires into an emerging international capital of cultural cool. Like Prague in the 1990s, Buenos Aires offers chic on the cheap and is attracting scores of musicians, filmmakers, journalists, designers and even sitcom writers from abroad. Hundreds, if not thousands, have spilled in from the United States, England, Spain and beyond, helping to bring the capital out of a period of deep cultural isolation after an economic collapse five years ago. Champagne-fueled fashion shows and gallery openings keep the city's glitterati on a 24/7 social...
  • The Final Hunt

    From his hotel bed in Cairns, Australia, John Stainton stared at the ceiling and waited for sleep to take him. 1 a.m. ... 2 a.m. ... 3 a.m. ... But it never came. His best friend and filmmaking partner of 15 years, Steve Irwin, had been dead for less than a day, the victim of a shocking stingray attack, and Stainton couldn't cry anymore, and he couldn't sleep. So at 5 a.m., he picked up the phone and began calling friends. Not to reminisce, but to ask them to come back to work. The Sept. 4, 2006, accident on the Great Barrier Reef occurred during a break in the production of "Ocean's Deadliest," an Animal Planet documentary that Irwin was to host alongside Philippe Cousteau, grandson of the fabled oceanographer. (Never one to waste a day, Irwin, who was 44, was killed while pitching in on his 8-year-old daughter Bindi's nature show.) Suddenly, "Ocean's Deadliest" had become the Crocodile Hunter's last film, and it wasn't quite finished. Lying in bed, Stainton says, "I realized that...
  • Newsmakers

    Zellweger's back with another British accent, as author Beatrix Potter in "Miss Potter." The actress spoke to Ramin Setoodeh.A little bit. But I don't want to talk about it. Otherwise, I'm going to talk about my weight every single day for the rest of my life.I was aware of a couple of her stories. I read Peter Rabbit and I remember Jeremy Fisher. But I have a Norwegian mother, so there was more Hans Christian Andersen.Oh, good god--that's an exaggeration. I've written children's short stories, poetry and prose. But they're for me. They're on different computers that I've closed because they've gotten different viruses.My computer got the "love" virus when I went over to make the first "Bridget Jones" and I had the beginning of two books on that. I did without a computer for five years.Lucky me.Oh, that's funny, isn't it? Maybe I bring out the boring in him. We're saving the nude scene for the "Miss Potter" sequel.I called the sources close to the sources and they say it's not true...
  • To Your Health: Another Piece of the Puzzle

    To paraphrase Winston Churchill, Alzheimer’s disease is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Thousands of researchers in labs around the world are hard at work every day trying to unlock its secrets. But how does one begin to unravel the cause of a disease that arises from the interplay of dozens of genes plus a number of environmental factors? To date, 900 scientific papers have identified 350 candidate genes that may be involved in late-onset Alzheimer’s, the form of the disease that accounts for roughly 95 percent of cases. Yet researchers have reached a consensus on only one of them—the APO E4 gene variant. That’s why a paper appearing Sunday in the online version of the journal Nature Genetics is drawing attention. In it, an international team of 41 scientists has provided strong evidence for the involvement of another gene, called SORL1. The new gene appears to confer only a modest degree of susceptibility for Alzheimer’s, but simply knowing that it is involved in...
  • Hollywood Confidential

    Leonardo DiCaprio was a “Romper Room” reject. Helen Mirren was a rotten schoolteacher. Penelope Cruz kept running to the bathroom between takes to cry while making her first English-speaking movie. Forest Whitaker nodded off while filming a crucial scene in “Bird” and didn’t realize he was on a movie set when he awoke. Cate Blanchett says she would like to have been Gregory Peck. And Brad Pitt once had a job chauffeuring strippers to bachelor parties.These and other celebrity confessions were part of NEWSWEEK’s Oscar Roundtable on Saturday, which for the first time in its 10-year history was held before a live audience, at the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. (The full report of the Roundtable will be in the Jan. 29 issue of NEWSWEEK, which hits newsstands Jan. 22 and will be available online the same day.) In a lively conversation both humorous and touching, the six stars—all of whom hope to make the cut when Academy Award nominations are announced Jan. 23...
  • New Alzheimer's Gene Discovered

    Researchers have linked a new gene to late-onset Alzheimer's, the most common form of the disease. What the discovery means.
  • James Cameron Back in Action

    It has been 10 years since "Titanic" grossed $1.8 billion worldwide and earned a record 11 Oscars. Writer-Director James Cameron hasn't made a feature film since. Last week, he announced that he will begin shooting "Avatar," a $195 million action-adventure film set on a distant planet, shot in digital 3-D, using a camera he developed. He spoke with NEWSWEEK's Sean Smith.NEWSWEEK: Why has it taken so long for you to direct another feature film?James Cameron: Well, there's not a quick answer. I've done 70 ocean expeditions in the last 10 years, and I love that world. I've been living out a kind of childhood dream of doing real exploration. But I always knew that I would come back to feature filmmaking. We're announcing "Avatar" right now, but I've been working on it for a year and half.A year and a half?! I can't believe you kept that quiet.[ Laughs ] I can't either. We've got, like, a hundred people working it full time. But they're pretty dedicated. They believe in this thing. It's...
  • Still 'Alright'

    Before we start talking about Lily Allen, let us just point out that we are not, in fact, a year behind the curve on this one. Yes, the music on the brash Brit's MySpace page launched her into Internet stardom at the end of 2005, which was followed by her first U.K. single in April 2006 and then genuine stardom. We are aware that her debut album, released across the pond last July, went platinum and the inevitable Lily Allen backlash has already since come and gone . Her album has been available Stateside for months via (illegal) free downloads and (legal) pricey imports. So it almost comes as a surprise that "Alright, Still" will finally be officially released in the U.S. on Jan. 30. We’ve already had it on repeat for months. Maybe for the American release EMI Music should have retitled it "Still Alright."Because, let’s face it, that's what it is: even after the buzz and backlash, the 21-year-old's sing-songy ska-pop hip-hop confection is as fresh and beguiling as it was the first...
  • A Birdhouse In Your Soul

    Every November I open the nesting box after the bluebirds have left for the winter. I gingerly peek inside, like a landlord surveying the damage left by irresponsible tenants, and sigh. And as I scrub out the mess, I imagine a cartoon version of my bluebirds on a Mexican beach wearing sunglasses and sipping tiny margaritas, not a care in the world.I clean the box, hoping that next spring our bluebirds will come back to raise yet another brood. Around March, the pair returns to our snow-covered yard in the high mountains of Colorado. All summer, the brilliant-blue male and subtle-colored female perch on our swing set,rooftop or the railing of our deck. To us, their soft calls and chirps have come to mean summer.My two young children watch the birds snatch grubs from the flower bed, dive-bomb after flying insects or sway in the wind on sagebrush twigs. The birds take turns sitting on the eggs and, before long, it’s time for the chicks to flop out of the box to spend a few days beneath...
  • Game On

    For independent videogame makers like Jonathan Blow, getting noticed in a market dominated by giants like Sony and Nintendo isn’t easy. So when he was chosen as a finalist in Utah’s Slamdance Guerrilla Gamemaker Competition for his game, Braid—which took nearly two years to develop—he was thrilled. It was a chance for his work to be seen and to enjoy the company of other indie gamemakers, and he promptly laid out about $1,400 in hotel and plane reservations for the festival, set to begin Jan. 18.Last week, however, he withdrew his game from consideration after a fellow finalist’s game was axed for its subject matter. Since then, five other finalists have followed suit, one sponsor has dropped out and now, with half of the 14 finalists out of consideration, the festival appears imperiled.At its heart, this is a dispute over the limits of artistic expression and the boundaries of good taste. The protests are a reaction to a decision last week by festival president Peter Baxter, who...
  • The NFL Coaching Game

    There was so much to talk about following the NFL’s first wild playoff weekend: Tony Romo’s chokehold, Jeff Garcia’s redemption, the post-season wobbles of the Manning brothers, and Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork’s at-once brawny and brainy play. Yet the incessant chatter has been focused on coaches. Nick Saban has left, Bobby Petrino is coming. What did Bill Belichick have to say, along with his quick hug, to his former acolyte Eric Mangini? What could Tony Dungy possibly say, along with his long hug, to best pal Herman Edwards, after his offense was a no-show in Indy? Will Bill Parcells stick with the Cowboys? Why would the Giants ever let “Screamin’” Tom Coughlin stay around for another season?I don’t exactly know when our obsession turned from the men on the field to the men on the sidelines. Perhaps it happened as baby boomers, with their overarching influence, aged, and, with their aching bodies, could no longer muster playing fantasies. But there is no doubt that the...
  • Stepping Out of Line?

    During the making of “Stomp the Yard,” the new movie set in the world of black fraternities and their traditional style of step-dancing, producer Will Packer made authenticity his top priority. “I was on the set every day screaming about how everything had to be real,” Packer says. “I went and put up all my old pictures, paddles and paraphernalia so that everybody could get a feel for this.” As a 13-year member of Alpha Phi Alpha, Packer wanted to share his passion for the country’s oldest African-American fraternity with the cast and crew by draping the set with the symbols of his experience. “I kept saying, it has to be right, because if it isn’t, people within these organizations will know.” Yet, of all the places Packer displayed Alpha Phi Alpha’s symbols during the production of “Stomp the Yard,” there’s one place from which the symbols are now conspicuously missing—the film’s final cut.Prior to the film’s release, Packer and business partner Rob Hardy, who pledged with Packer...
  • To Your Health: The Perils Of Posing

    Once a fringe activity, yoga is now as mainstream as mocha lattes, and with good reason. Numerous studies have shown that the practice can enhance strength, balance and flexibility. Yoga helps reduce stress and may even help lower high blood pressure.But to reap the benefits, you have to do it right—as all too many people are now discovering. Do it wrong, and you could end up as one of the growing number of casualties. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were more than 5,000 yoga-related injuries in 2005 that resulted in visits to doctors' offices, clinics and emergency rooms—up from 3,700 in 2004. Those numbers are largely a function of more people, especially aging boomers, taking up yoga. The cost of treating these injuries in 2005 came to nearly $90 million.As holiday excesses yield to New Year's resolutions to diet and exercise, it's a good time to review some basics that can help ensure a safe yoga practice. NEWSWEEK's Anne Underwood spoke with Dr....
  • Bring On The Golden Parachute

    One week after paying its former CEO, Bob Nardelli, a severance package worth $210 million, Home Depot raised eyebrows in the business community again today by paying an incompetent sales clerk $12 million "to go away forever."In an official statement released to Wall Street analysts this morning, Home Depot said that it was paying the former salesclerk, Lucas Rekson, 24, the unprecedented sum on the condition that "he never shows up to work again."The $12 million severance package for Rekson of the company's Torrance, Calif., store is believed to be the largest of its kind ever for a low-level, incompetent employee, industry experts said.During his two-month tenure as a salesclerk at Home Depot, Rekson made his mark by repeatedly spilling boxes of nails on the floor and accidentally banging into customers with large pieces of lumber.In defense of Rekson's gargantuan severance package, company spokesman Carol Foyler offered this rationale: "If it means that Lucas will never work for...
  • Oprah Goes to School

    Two thousand and six was the year Africa went Hollywood: Madonna, Clooney, Brangelina. And now, in 2007, the most exclusive spot on the continent will undoubtedly be in the town of Henly-on-Klip, about 40 miles outside Johannesburg. Set on 22 lush acres and spread over 28 buildings, the complex features oversize rooms done in tasteful beiges and browns with splashes of color, 200-thread-count sheets, a yoga studio, a beauty salon, indoor and outdoor theaters, hundreds of pieces of original tribal art and sidewalks speckled with colorful tiles. Julia Roberts, John Travolta, Stevie Wonder, Nelson Mandela and the reigning African Queen herself--Angelina Jolie--are expected to attend the grand opening this week. By now, you're probably wondering how much a spread like this goes for per night. Actually, it's free. There's only one catch--you have to be a 12- or 13-year-old African girl to get in. As spectacular as this place sounds, it's not a resort. It's a school: the Oprah Winfrey...
  • Mail Call

    How to Leave IraqReaders praised Fareed Zakaria for his Nov. 6 story on the way out of Iraq. One suggested, "Bush should appoint him his political adviser." Another recommended a "change of regime in America." Most others congratulated Zakaria or thanked him for his views "as the only way out." ...
  • A King of Comedy Reclaims His Crown

    From Lil' Kim and Snoop Dogg to Denzel and Whoopi, America's black celebrities are intriguing far beyond the red carpet—sometimes vulnerable, sometimes inspiring, but more than anything else, human. In her new book, 'Off the Record,' NEWSWEEK reporter Allison Samuels looks behind-the-scenes at these boldfaced names of Hollywood, hip-hop and sports. In the following excerpt, she recounts her experience talking to Eddie Murphy right before his career rebounded with “The Nutty Professor.”Back in the high-flying eighties, Eddie Murphy was without doubt the brightest star burning in Hollywood and  beyond. Known as the leader of a Hollywood elite posse called the Black Packers, which included Robert Townsend, Arsenio Hall, and Keenan Ivory Wayans, Murphy had a cutting-edge,  dead-on take on African-American humor that pushed the comedy show Saturday Night Live to new  heights. Even in the face of the dominant stardom of John Belushi and Chevy Chase, Murphy held his own and shined in silly...