News

  • Cyberscope

    When it comes to personal computers, change always comes at a price. That's why it's so difficult deciding whether or not to upgrade your PC's software. A case in point: an upgrade of Microsoft Office, one of the most widely used software products in the world, is due for release throughout the world later this year.Although the new Office XP offers many benefits and improvements, buyers have reasons to be wary.Most of Office XP's improvements lie in its usability. Data-recovery enhancements make it possible to rescue that document you didn't have time to save before your computer crashed. Smart Tag icons that appear over words and numbers present a menu of options (allowing you to, say, correct Word's automatic spellcheck). he new Task Pane, a display panel loaded with commands, makes many jobs easier: in Word it allows you to create programs more easily, and in PowerPoint, the presentation program, it helps in formatting slides by gathering them all in one place. Outlook, the e...
  • A Blessing For China

    China and the Roman Catholic Church: seldom if ever has history produced a more irreconcilable clash of culture and politics. Roman Catholics have been part of China's political life since the early 1600s, when Jesuit Matteo Ricci entranced Emperor Wan Li with gifts of prisms, maps and clocks. But after the 1949 communist victory, Mao Zedong cut his country's ties to Rome. An official, "patriotic" Catholic Church was started, which rejected papal authority. The Vatican's anti-communist envoy was expelled from Beijing and fled to Taiwan.After 1958 official Catholics began ordaining their own bishops without Vatican approval. Vatican loyalists countered by holding underground services of their own, starting a bitter rivalry between the two factions. One of the prickliest issues is whether Beijing or the pope has ultimate authority to ordain bishops, control finances, allow abortions and decide other key church matters. Relations between China and the Vatican hit a low point last year...
  • Fun And Games In Lima

    A Peruvian journalist once described last Sunday's runoff election between Alan Garcia and Alejandro Toledo as "a choice between the gas chamber and the electric chair." However overstated the metaphor, the pronouncement by talk-show host Jaime Bayly two months ago faithfully mirrored the sentiments of many Peruvians as they trooped to the polls. In the final run-up to the balloting--the country's fourth national election in 14 months--anywhere from one fifth to a quarter of Peru's 15 million registered voters were expected to spoil their ballots or leave them unmarked--a silent protest over their meager choices: a former head of state who fled the country to avoid prosecution or a technocrat of dubious personal morals and fickle politics.The real shocker is that either man would be an improvement in Peru. Whatever its final outcome, the election will end the chaos that began with last year's corrupt elections and bring to power a legitimate, democratically elected president. That...
  • 'Captain Of My Soul'

    Timothy McVeigh was pronounced dead at 7:14 a.m. Central Time today. He died quietly, with his eyes open, say media representatives who saw his last moments. The Oklahoma bomber took care to raise himself from his gurney to make eye contact with those there to witness his execution, but he chose not to deliver any final words. Instead, he gave prison warden Harley Lappin a handwritten copy of the 1875 poem "Invictus," by British author William Ernest Henley which hails the human spirit, to pass on to media witnesses.The execution, which also was watched on closed-circuit TV by 232 witnesses in Oklahoma City, drew a wide range of reaction. Some of the responses:"It's a demarcation point. It's a period at the end of a sentence. I needed to know in my heart that I was done with this man.""Unless you've gone through something like this, I don't think you realize there will never be closure.""I anticipated this to be a very difficult thing to do and it was.""His eyes became increasingly...
  • Letters

    Our May 7 story on Vladimir Putin prompted mixed reviews about the Russian leader. "Putin's ideals could be dangerous if it means sacrificing individual freedom," said one reader. "Putin is at least holding Russia together and preventing it from sliding into chaos," dissented another. A few criticized us for an "alarmist" article. "The examples you give of Putin's oppression are nothing like that of the Soviets," one argued. "I'm disappointed to see you resort to distorted truisms." The Return of Soviet Values? Your article on Vladimir Putin was excellent ("Comrade Putin's New Russia," EUROPE, May 7). Whatever one's opinion of Putin, he is at least holding Russia together and preventing it from sliding into dangerous chaos. His only real disastrous mistake is the continued war in Chechnya. In the same issue, your interview with Mikhail Gorbachev was a delight to read ("Gorbachev on His Legacy," INTERVIEW). It was Gorbachev who, in reality, brought freedom to Eastern Europe, German...
  • Is Mccain Off The Range?

    At lunch in Phoenix late last week, John McCain eagerly retold his favorite episode of "The Sopranos." Tony's guys botch the whacking of a mobster, a former Army commando who turns on them in snowy woods. "I'm Russian!" the character sneers. "I wash my balls with ice water!" He attacks the hit men, then flees, leaving them shivering in their thin leather jackets. At the end of the season, the Russian is still on the loose--and now a deadly threat to the Sopranos. "I love that scene!" McCain said, laughing.As a viewer, McCain was amused by the Russian. As a politician, he is the Russian--on the run in a life-and-death battle with the Family: Republican leaders and President George W. Bush. Inspired by his crusading 2000 campaign, angry at what he thinks were Bush's dirty tactics, adored by the media and egged on by advisers who share his reformist agenda and his love of the limelight, McCain is war-gaming options that include bolting the party--and another run for president, in 2004,...
  • Kids In The Bunker

    For years they've lived "off the grid" in northern Idaho, without telephone, power or water service. But last week the McGuckin family suffered a full-fledged blackout. Jo Ann McGuckin, the mentally ill mother coping with the recent death of her husband, was arrested on charges of child abuse. When officers went to rescue the children, the six kids, 8 to 16, holed up -- reportedly with guns -- while snarling hounds kept the law at bay. The standoff ended after five days when an SUV sped the children to a nearby hospital, plugging them back into society, at least for the moment.
  • Execution Day: Letter From Terre Haute

    It was the one lottery nobody really wanted to win. At a white, ranch-style complex on the outskirts of the U.S. penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., about 40 of us in the national print media pool were gathered at the request of the prison staff. It was 4 a.m. and still dark outside. Inside, a prison spokeswoman held up a white plastic bucket and a roll of carnival-style tickets. She handed everyone in the room one half of a numbered stub and dropped the duplicate in the bucket. The winner's gruesome prize: a front row seat at the execution of Timothy McVeigh.Prison rules stipulated that 10 witnesses from the media would be chosen to watch McVeigh injected with a fatal combination of sodium pentothal, pavulon (a muscle relaxer) and potassium chloride (which stops the heart).The attitude of most of the journalists there was similar: It would be disturbing, but it was part of the job. All along I was eager to be a witness; now I wasn't so sure.The number on my yellow ticket read 082005...
  • Tax Cuts: Who Will Get What

    It was like watching a fatal accident in slow motion. For a few moments everyone was alive, and then--kaboom. In the same way, for just a few moments we had breathing room to provide for Social Security, Medicare and other unmet needs. Now, after 15 years of budget struggles and tears, huge tax cuts could take those opportunities away.The tax-cut document itself is a contemptible piece of consumer fraud. To make it appear to fit the budget, Bushies faked the cost. They ginned up long-term "savings" by providing for every cut to expire in 2011. That would hike taxes back to where they are today.That won't happen, of course. Some cuts will be rescinded, but others will hold. The Bushies have created "facts on ground," which future policy will have to take into account. Long-run deficits may be larger, public services fewer and other taxes higher.Here are a few of the tax changes coming your way:But what about all the yapping in Congress about the need to cut tax rates to encourage...
  • Perspectives

    "God will judge them--only God." James Oyugi, one of the victims of the 1998 bombing of the American Embassy in Nairobi, reacting to the guilty verdicts handed out by a jury in the federal district court in Manhattan to four men accused of the blast, which killed 224 people and injured thousands"We don't speak of justice, we speak of a measure of justice." Gideon Taylor, executive vice president of the Jewish Claims Conference, taking a guarded view of the German Parliament's decision to allow $4.5 billion in reparations to surviving Nazi slave laborers"We are doing it so that the prisoners don't feel depressed at being behind bars." Winston Spadafora, Interior minister of Panama, explaining the reasoning behind a salsa-music concert held at Panama City's overcrowded Feminine Detention Center"It's no big deal. I just wanted to protest against all the sleaze going on in Brazil's politics." One of several Brazilian protesters who communicated their dissatisfaction with the government...
  • A Giant Find In The Oasis

    The gods of paleontology were smiling down on Joshua Smith that day in 1999 when he entered the wrong coordinates into his Global Positioning System receiver. A graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, Smith had decided over beers with friends one evening that the place he really wanted to do field research was the Bahariya Oasis in Egypt. There, in the 1930s, Bavarian geologist Ernst Stromer had excavated the fossils of four dinosaurs and a whole menagerie of other beasts that lived 95 million years ago. His finds, housed in a Munich museum, were destroyed during Allied bombing in 1944, and no one had excavated the Egyptian site since. Unfortunately for Smith, Stromer hadn't published any maps or photos of his dig, let alone left directions.But when an old manuscript turned up in Cairo, it contained the latitude and longitude of one of Stromer's quarries. Smith and his colleagues were off. Having entered the wrong GPS coordinates, Smith quickly got lost in the desert...
  • Invitation To The Blues

    Robert Burton began his 1621 "Anatomy of Melancholy," that choke-a-horse compendium of lore about what we now call depression, with an address to the reader: "I presume thou wilt be very inquisitive to know what antic or personate actor this is, that so insolently intrudes upon this common theatre to the world's view..." In "The Noonday Demon," a 21st-century analogue to Burton, New Yorker writer Andrew Solomon makes the same assumption, and if he's holding anything back, it's hard to imagine what. In recalling his own incapacitating depressions, Solomon shares about his sexuality (evenhandedly bi), his drug use (energetically recreational), his therapeutic regimen (a dozen pills a day, which have included Zoloft, Paxil, Navane, Effexor, Wellbutrin, Serzone, BuSpar, Zyprexa, Dexedrine, Xanax, Valium, Ambien and Viagra) and its side effects (weight gain, hives, headaches, sweating, impaired memory and sexual function). And then there's the time he was so immobilized he thought he'd...
  • The Angry Prophet Is Dying

    Larry Kramer is dying. Not wilting pitifully onto a milk-covered floor, like the doomed character in Kramer's devastating AIDS play "The Normal Heart." Not grandly bidding farewell to "all this beauty," as a character did in his outrageous novel "Faggots." Larry Kramer, the 65-year-old AIDS activist who became notorious for shouting on "Nightline" and being arrested at the White House, is dying the way he has always exhorted others to die--that is, furiously and uncooperatively.He suffers from end-stage liver disease. Whether this is inflamed by his HIV medications, as Kramer believes, or caused solely by his chronic hepatitis (a common co-infection for people with the virus), as his medical team says, the result is the same: his liver no longer processes toxins from his blood. Instead they collect in his abdomen by the quart, distending his belly to make him look, as his best friend and health-care consultant Rodger McFarlane says, "pregnant with triplets." This accumulation puts...
  • American Beat: Lessons In Little League

    During my career as a top international journalist, I've visited sites of indescribable terror, places of anger and brutality and worlds of psychological torment where one tiny mistake could mean 20 years of self-doubt.Yet nothing prepared me for the horror of Little League baseball.Reports coming out of America's heartland increasingly sound like Beirut in the '70s. Every day, we read about some Little League parent beating up the umpire, beating up an opposing player, beating up another parent or beating up his own kid.Rather than address the central issue-that we're horrible, horrible people-our response has been to pass laws. Some Little Leagues are now requiring parents to attend anger-management classes (apparently, yelling "Kill him, Billy!" is out of vogue), and last month, one tony New York suburb went so far as to pass a law banning negative sideline commentary-even in the form of gentle booing-and arresting parents who can't play nice.Last week, even Dear Abby, that...
  • 'A' Is For...

    Anything goes? For more than a decade, Ivy League colleges have been handing out superior grades for less than stellar performances. That's partly America's cult of self-esteem, where criticism is deemed harmful to a student's fragile ego. But mostly it's a response to stressed-out pupils determined to win admission to top Wall Street firms and law schools. So what's the report card on grade inflation? "A failure of honesty," Harvey Mansfield, a political philosophy professor at Harvard, calls it. This spring, he introduced a two-tiered grading system of his own: the "inflated" grade goes on a student's transcript, while a second "realistic" grade goes to the student privately. "Grade inflation is anti-intellectual," says Bradford Wilson, director of the National Association of Scholars. "If the Ivy Leagues don't care about excellence, who will?"
  • Broader Impacts

    A Wireless World: Broadband is going mainstream, with wide-ranging implications.
  • Keeping The Faith

    In the isolated mountain village of Cizhong, perched above the banks of the Mekong River in Yunnan province, a breathtakingly elegant European-style cathedral rises above the countryside, the legacy of Catholic priests who arrived in the region in 1866. A few families still brew red wine from wild grapes, a skill taught to the locals by French priests. Two thirds of the population is Catholic--about 600 people. Cizhong has no official priest in residence. So the congregation eagerly awaits visits by traveling Catholic fathers--and sometimes postpones the observance of holy days, such as Christmas, until one arrives. "Normally we hold our own services, our own baptisms," says a 75-year-old villager named Ho Zhixiang, the senior layperson. "When a Catholic is about to pass away, sometimes people call me to come to their side."That the villagers have kept the faith is not the only remarkable fact about this outpost. They also happen to be ethnic Tibetans, who are usually raised as...
  • Fashion And Design Trends

    Whoever knew computer hardware could look so good? With the advent of Palm's ultra-thin handheld organizers has come a bevy of fashionable covers, from Hermes's gold matte alligator skin ($1,525) to the classic Burberry check ($195). According to Sunny Kate, an actress by trade whose eponymous company has begun making the cases, it was a niche just waiting to be filled. "I was on the set one day, and while looking up something on my planner, I stopped and thought, 'Why is this thing that I use all the time so boring?' " she says. "I wanted to create something that would be functional, sexy and fun." That she has, with covers in faux zebra and leopard skin, Lichtenstein-like comic images and an aloha print called Bikini Girl. Among our favorites from other image-conscious companies: the Louis Vuitton in screaming orange glace leather with a nifty hand strap ($350), the elegant traditional Gucci logo ($135), the water-resistant neoprene PalmGlove by Body Glove ($24.95) and the eye...
  • Putin's Gas-Patch Putsch

    For years Russia's economic reformers dreamed about it. Prime ministers attempted it at their peril. Western investors pleaded for it in vain and last week Vladimir Putin finally pulled it off with remarkable ease. With a deftly orchestrated boardroom shakeup, the Russian president took the first step toward taming his country's most powerful company, the natural-gas monopoly Gazprom. Putin faced no opposition as he replaced powerful Gazprom chief Rem Vyakhirev with a man two decades younger and much less famous. So obscure is Alexei Miller, 39, plucked from a post as deputy minister of Energy, that Moscow news outlets had a hard time finding his picture.The repercussions of Miller's unlikely ascendance go far beyond the corporate intrigue surrounding Gazprom. In modern-day Russia, business is thoroughly entwined with politics. And no Russian business is bigger than Gazprom, which controls one quarter of the world's proven natural-gas reserves and accounts for 8 percent of Russia's...
  • Nepal: Bloodbath In The Palace

    The massacre was the stuff of tabloid headlines: SON SLAUGHTERS FAMILY IN SPAT OVER GIRLFRIEND. Except in this case, it was nearly impossible to exaggerate the grisly crime. The setting was the fabled city of Katmandu, and the killer was Crown Prince Dipendra, heir to the throne of the world's only Hindu kingdom. In a land where astrologers are commonly thought to be able to divine the future, the explanations offered for the multiple murders were not simple. There was talk of star-crossed love--that on the night of the killings, the crown prince feuded with his mother over his choice for a bride. But there were also murmurs about drug use, international intrigue and a royal succession that had been prophesied many years ago.What was known with any confidence was this: on Friday evening the crown prince had joined his parents and other close family for dinner inside the vast royal compound in central Katmandu. Large Friday dinners, often over banquets of rice, lentils, wild boar and...
  • A New Atlantic Charter

    Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld spoke recently of pulling U.S. troops out of the Balkans. Secretary of State Colin Powell, touring Africa, told reporters that the Bush administration is looking for opportunities to "back off" some of America's overseas commitments, adding: "The president wants that." Such talk makes Gen. Wesley Clark nervous. As the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO during the war in Kosovo, and author of a newly published memoir, "Waging Modern War," Clark has been a forceful advocate of humanitarian interventionism and American engagement in the world, especially Europe. Last week he spoke with NEWSWEEK's Michael Meyer. Excerpts: ...
  • Sold!

    Carl Statham isn't sticking to the script. In a sputtering economy, consumers are supposed to rein in their spending, particularly on big-ticket items. Yet even with the faltering stock market and headlines about mass layoffs, Statham and his wife, Gloria, recently moved into a new $1 million home near Chicago--complete with an indoor driving range and putting green to lower his 12 handicap. It's not that the Stathams are immune from the ups and downs of the economy. They own an auto dealership, and sales have softened as shoppers downshift to buying cars based more on need than want. But as Statham lines up a practice drive in his 6,000-square-foot home, he seems confident that his new house is a better bet than Tiger Woods's sinking a six-inch putt. "A home is the safest investment to make right now,'' he says.Statham's unshakable faith in real estate goes a long way to explaining one of the most surprising aspects of the current economic slowdown: the remarkable strength of the...
  • Mail Call

    Responding to our cover story on Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and the roots of evil, some readers said the convicted man should be put to death. "Die he certainly must," declared one, "if there is to be closure in this chapter of our history." But others expressed concern about capital punishment. "How is sitting down in a room and watching a man die any better than killing 168 people with a van full of explosives?" asked one. Another argued, "By executing McVeigh, the government is playing right into his hands and will make him a martyr." Reflected another: "To be against the death penalty does not mean murderers don't deserve to die. It means we are not God."Indefensible Behavior Thank you for your concise analysis of "The Roots of Evil" (NATIONAL AFFAIRS, May 21). It should be emphasized that the psychological cocktail of narcissism, lack of empathy and the tendency to dehumanize others for one's own purposes does not have to manifest itself in sensational crimes to...
  • Can He Find A Cure?

    There was a time in the early '80s when AIDS was killing people with brutal efficiency, and no one knew what caused it. Was it swine-flu virus? The inhalants that gay men were using to heighten sexual pleasure? There was no telling who would be stricken next, or what it would take to stop the new scourge. But as soon as researchers identified the AIDS virus in 1984, the ultimate solution seemed obvious. Science would vanquish AIDS just as it had polio, measles and smallpox: by immunizing people against it. In announcing the isolation of HIV, federal health officials famously predicted that a vaccine would enter clinical trials within two years and reach the market within three. Seventeen years later experts still agree that a vaccine is our best hope of ending the pandemic. They also agree that we'll be lucky to have even a crude one on the market by 2007. At current rates, an additional 50 million to 100 million people will have contracted the virus by then--most of them in...
  • Letter From America: Culture Clash

    Tell me," a successful French chef asked me yesterday, "Is it true that Americans eat at least one meal a day in their cars?"I am in Paris this month, taking a respite from my crazy Los Angeles life, but here we are talking about America. I responded as best I could. We like our drive-throughs, yes, but not quite (I hope) once a day. We're an automobile culture, I explained. To us, cars symbolize freedom and vitality. And we're always in a hurry to see and do things. Eating in the car just seems natural.Our chef still seemed troubled. The French often zero in on this particular American habit when trying to figure us out. It's bewildering why anyone would choose to drive and eat at the same time, when both of those things are so pleasurable by themselves. It seems almost decadent to them, and vaguely unhygienic."But would it not be possible," he said after a moment, "to stop the car, get out, eat and then get back in the car and continue driving?""I guess so," I said.He nodded. "Yes...
  • Surviving Sleepovers

    A few weeks ago Charlotte, Phoebe and James Huth--who give their ages as 4 3/4, 7 3/4 and 10 3/4, respectively--were model hosts of a sleepover. Four friends arrived at their Newton, Mass., home at 4 p.m. and quickly proceeded to swing, dress up, gobble pizza and watch a movie. Tiring? Not at all. The children had no problem staying up an hour and a half past their usual 9 p.m. weekend bedtime. They woke up at 6:30, ate flapjacks and were picked up just before 9. The whole Huth family spent Sunday recovering. Sleepovers, says James, are "really just a good time to hang out with your friends in mass numbers. They're better than play dates because they last longer."Overnight visits have always been a rite of passage. "They're very beneficial to help children progress along the spectrum of normal independence," says Barton D. Schmitt, director of the Sleep Disorders Clinic at The Children's Hospital in Denver. But these days, parents who send their young children off to someone else's...
  • Cyberscope

    The Internet has become a traveler's best friend. Book flights, research destinations and, most of all, find bargains. If you're planning a summer vacation, you shouldn't leave home without first checking out these really useful Web sites.For picking a destination, we like the travel channel at About.com (home.about.com/travel). The site uses destination experts, or "guides," to help moderate the dozens of forums and discussion boards. The big commercial travel Web sites, expedia.com and travelocity.com, are still the best places for comparing fares and buying tickets.There are also a number of smaller, quirky Web destinations that provide unique services. Check out webflyer.com for deals using your frequent-flier miles. Drivers can use freetrip.com to map their road itineraries and calculate the average price of gas for each leg. And, before you board, airsafe.com can help you overcome your fear of flying. ...
  • Time To Deliver

    The lights go down, saxophones shriek and James Brown screams: "Wo! I feel good!" So begins "Feelgood," Alistair Beaton's lacerating stage satire of British politics circa 2001. It's about a prime minister--D.L., he's called--obsessed with presentation and keeping his job. D.L. (for "Divine Leader") is aided by a spin doctor so malevolent that he arranges the murder of a journalist who has uncovered a genetically modified foods scandal that could destroy D.L., his government and his party, New Labour. "Feelgood" spares no one. D.L. is a craven phony. He's surrounded by an unprincipled praetorian guard. Even D.L.'s cherished "Third Way," his political middle course between hard-edged capitalism and softheaded socialism, is mercilessly ridiculed. It gets worse.There's the scary suggestion that the electorate sees through D.L.'s charade. "People are getting hacked off," says the journalist Liz to the spin doctor. "They're beginning to notice."All fiction, of course. In the real world,...
  • The Death Penalty Debate Intensifies

    The federal government's first execution in 38 years comes at a time when DNA and other evidence has exonerated enough death row inmates to shake public confidence in the system.Timothy McVeigh--an unrepentant, confessed mass murderer whose guilt was utterly clear--deserved the death penalty if anyone ever did, and an overwhelming majority of Americans favored his execution. But according to a recent Gallup poll, support for capital punishment as an institution has slipped from a peak of 80 percent in 1994 to 65 percent this year, in part, no doubt, because falling crime rates have eased public fears. When pollsters specify life imprisonment without parole as the alternative, support for the death penalty drops to 52 percent. Most respondents do not believe that the death penalty deters murders-which is "the only reason to be for it," President Bush said last year. "I don't think you should support the death penalty to seek revenge," he added.Bush's comments may have dismayed those...

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