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  • One Firefighter's Tale

    Blackened pine and fir needles are falling on our heads. We've been cut off from our escape road, backed into a dead-end road (needles and ash are bouncing off my shirt, off this notebook). The roar of the fire is getting louder, louder. The column twisting, several fires joined, it sounds like a tidal wave is coming our way. The sun is a bloody red, the smoke dark and high. The falling nettles sound like hail on a cold Northwest morning. The wind rips through the canyon, I watch the top of trees swaying violently from the high winds that the fire is creating. It's changing and twisting all around us. The beach and the creek are our last stand; we may be jumping in soon. I hear a chopper, or is that just the roar of the fire rapidly coming upon us? It's changing, rolling, screaming! I feel the heat, I smell the smoke. The sun is free of the tall column, sending dusty rays our way through the haze. It's close now, it's close now!There is a strange calm, coolness in the air amongst...
  • The Interview

    Newsweek's Michael Isikoff sat down with Rep. Condit and his attorney, Abbe Lowell, in Modesto, California on Aug. 24. Excerpts from the interview follow:NEWSWEEK: What message did you not get across in your interview with Connie Chung?GARY CONDIT: There were a couple of areas. First of all, I would like to have been clear how disheartened and heartbroken I am that it's been four months and we haven't been able to find Chandra. I would have liked to have been able to make a statement about that.What kind of statement?I feel very saddened and heartbroken that we have gone four months and that we spent a lot of effort, time, and we haven't been able to come up with any major leads or find out where she's gone. It saddens me that that's occurred that way. The other thing was the Levys-my heart goes out to the Levys. I have a tremendous amount of empathy for them. I don't know exactly how it feels, because I don't think anyone would know that doesn't have a missing child, but I do have...
  • Good News, Bad News At Nintendo

    Bad news for Donkey Kong, good news for Bill G. On Thursday, Nintendo announced that it would push back the U.S. release of its long-awaited GameCube videogame console, from Nov. 5 to Nov. 18. ...
  • Condit Fights Back

    Frustrated and disheartened about his first prime-time television appearance, a weary Rep. Gary Condit complained today that he never got the chance to tell the country how "saddened and heartbroken" he is over the disappearance of missing intern Chandra Levy. But in a 1-hour-and-45-minute interview with NEWSWEEK, his longest with any news organization to date, Condit's expressions of sympathy and regret over Levy's fate evolved into anger and even sarcasm-focused primarily on the news media for turning the case into a "soap-opera scandal to keep their ratings up."Even while one of Condit's senior advisors today acknowledged that the congressman and Levy had been having an intimate affair, Condit again repeatedly refused to publicly confirm the nature of the relationship to NEWSWEEK, insisting that his was a "principled position." Said Condit: "The press is not entitled to know everything about my private life or the private life of any other member of Congress," he said. "You're...
  • Starr Gazing: 'The Poor Man's A-Rod'

    This year's U.S. Open could witness the last gasp of what is, arguably, America's greatest tennis generation. It is not simply that it has produced two great champions in Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. The American tennis "team" over the past decade has also had extraordinary depth, with two other Grand Slam winners in Jim Courier and Michael Chang and a admirable gamer in Todd Martin.Which makes it all the more remarkable that it was on this talented group's watch that men's tennis lost its primacy to the women's game. Talent simply isn't enough to hold sway with American fans any more. And the ladies boast more of everything the men's game lacks: rivalries both bitter and sweet; soap-opera yarns replete with beleaguered teens and bizarre parents; and of course, that essential element for this most provincial of sports nations, lots of Americans dominating the fray.Who could dream up a better cast than the Swiss Miss, Martina Hingis, with a twinkle in her eye and a dagger on her...
  • Spinning Wheels

    Some walked, a few limped. All week, witnesses paraded into a Riverhead, N.Y., courthouse to tell a grand jury about the screeching tires, shattered glass and broken bones that marred the early-morning hours of July 7 at a Southampton, N.Y., nightclub. By the end of next week, the jury is expected to decide whether to indict 30-year-old Elizabeth Grubman, the Manhattan glam girl and celebrity-publicist accused of injuring 16 people when she backed her father's Mercedes SUV into a crowd outside the club. Grubman's lawyer calls the collision "nothing more than an accident," but the Suffolk County District Attorney has charged Grubman with assault, reckless endangerment and leaving the scene of an accident.Because of a legal twist, Grubman may not be the only party hoping the jury decides not to indict. The Grubman family's liability policy, underwritten by the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, covers damages incurred in crashes that are truly "accidents." But the underwriter, like...
  • Coming Distractions

    When was the last time you came out of the movie theater and said, "Wow, that was really good"--and you weren't talking about the popcorn? It's been a disgraceful summer so far. By my count, I've seen 30 movies since May and I would strongly recommend ... wait, lemme count again ... four. (I'd tell you which four, but since I had to sit through the other 26, you should at least have to guess.)Here's some more bad news: the worst is yet to come. Late August and early September is a cinematic Sahara rivaled only by April, which is all post-Oscar, presummer junk. This time of year, everyone's in transit--returning to school, on family vacation, passing into the hereafter after too many terrible summer movies.There is, however, one redeeming feature about strolling into the local cineplex this weekend. Well, two: the air conditioning is nice. The other is the trailers--those brief, teasing snips that movie studios provide of the (hopefully) really good movies they've got coming out this...
  • Free Speech Under Fire?

    Are the courts undermining the First Amendment? Journalists and some legal scholars have grown increasingly concerned about recent decisions. The latest: The imprisonment of Vanessa Leggett, a 33-year-old writer who has been conducting research for a book about a murder in Texas. When she refused to turn over all of her notes--originals and copies, according to her attorney--to a federal grand jury, she was found in contempt of court on July 20 and imprisoned. Federal prosecutors argue that because Leggett is a nearly unpublished freelance writer, she is not a journalist and therefore not covered by First Amendment's protection of the press. But others have argued in briefs to the court that the prosecutors' definition of a journalist is too narrow.On Aug. 17, a federal appeals court refused to overturn the ruling, saying that even if Leggett is a legitimate journalist, "the journalist privilege is ineffectual against a grand jury subpoena, absent evidence of governmental harassment...
  • Sour Notes

    This week Miami, like beauty, was all in the eyes of the beholder. The organizers of this year's Latin Grammy music-awards show abruptly canceled plans to hold ceremony in Miami next month, citing concerns that the city's Cuban-American exile community would try to disrupt the proceedings on account of the possible presence of nominated artists who work out of Fidel Castro's Cuba. Still fresh in the mind's eye of Latin Grammy chief Michael Greene were both the media circus that engulfed the Elian Gonzalez custody battle last year and the ugly protests on the streets of downtown Miami that marred a groundbreaking 1999 performance by the Havana-based band Los Van Van.Yet even as Greene was announcing the decision to move the Sept. 11 awards show to Los Angeles, hundreds of hip-hop recording artists were converging on Miami Beach's Jackie Gleason Theater on Monday afternoon to celebrate their own genre's premier prizefest, the third annual Source Hip-Hop Music Awards. Miami Beach...
  • West Wing Story: There's No Place Like Waco In August

    "You been working out?" President Bush asked me, grabbing my forearm and giving it a squeeze. "As a matter of fact I have," I responded, surprised that he actually noticed (or did he hear that a lot of us in the press corps had been passing the time in Waco, Texas, working out at the Baylor University gym?). Either way, I was stunned (OK, and flattered). I hadn't had even a lighthearted exchange with the president in weeks. The stereotype of George W. Bush is that he doesn't bother himself with minutiae. But when it comes to personal dynamics, he is very attuned to detail.My tour of duty in Waco, where the press corps is staying while he vacations in nearby Crawford, started this week. He's spoken with reporters while out golfing and on short trips during his monthlong "working vacation." But even traveling on Air Force One is no guarantee reporters will get a chance to speak with the president. He almost never comes back to talk with us on the plane as he did during the campaign....
  • Capitol Letter: Life After Helms

    By Washington standards, Jesse Helms was reclusive. He rarely talked to the media, and he refused as a matter of principle to designate a press secretary. But that doesn't mean the senior senator from North Carolina was reticent. ...
  • L.A. Story

    In Richard Greenberg's 1988 play "Eastern Standard," a Manhattan restaurant patron flags down an attractive waitress by calling out, "Oh, actress!" The server stops dead in her tracks to take his order. Like most smart humor, the joke's zing lies in its veracity: For many, waiting tables is but an obligatory holding pattern before being cleared for a Hollywood landing. Yet those statistically unlikely dreams of stardom-and the dancing sugarplums of fame and fortune that come with it-are hardly limited to those serving up charred ahi tuna with ponzo sauce. Indeed, as recent news events suggest, among those being mesmerized by Hollywood fantasies are the very people whom you think would know better: the journalists charged with covering show business itself.Last Friday, the editor in chief of Variety was suspended by the paper indefinitely, and subsequently removed from his regular gig on CNN. A few weeks earlier, the gossip columnist for The Hollywood Reporter was taken off his job...
  • The Borowitz Report: The Trouble With Travel

    Millionaire balloonist Steve Fossett aborted a trip to a 7-Eleven convenience store near his home last night, stating that the journey was "too risky" to continue.Fosset had attempted to travel to the store, located less than one mile from his residence, in a 1998 Honda Prelude with a V-6 engine and power windows. But halfway into his journey, he noticed that the car appeared to be low on gas."I saw that little gas tank thingy light up and I was like, 'Oh boy'," Fossett said at a recent press conference. "I realized that the whole trip had become really dangerous."At that point, Fossett had to decide whether to continue or abandon his journey. Reluctantly, he decided that the chances of running out of gas had rendered the trip too risky."This was the biggest disappointment in my life," a crestfallen Fossett told reporters.Fossett said he planned to reschedule the trip-in which he had hoped to pick up a 20-ounce coffee and a bacon-and-egg sandwich-as soon as he refueled the Prelude...
  • Down Home With Dubya

    Attention, White House press corps. Vacationing with the president can be fun. Remember Lyndon Johnson's wild parties on his ranch? Or those trips to Maine with Daddy Bush? With Dubya it's a little different. There ain't much to do in Crawford, Texas. Diversions include: eating chicken-fried steak and gravy at the local restaurant. Vegetarians (quiet now, you're in Texas) keep an eye out for those fried jalapenos, the perfect snack in 110-degree heat. Crawford's also a "dry" town. No beer for nine miles. Best to just head for Waco, 25 miles east. Specials for White House staff and the press corps: $2 Margaritas at Gratziano's, a $10 fee for use of Baylor University's gym (including a 52-foot climbing wall) and a $4 tour of the Dr Pepper museum.
  • The Lion King

    Pop quiz. who wrote the song "Wimoweh" (a.k.a. "The Lion Sleeps Tonight")--Pete Seeger, the Kingston Trio or the Tokens? None of the above--or any of the other 150-plus bands who've recorded the song, raking in $15 million in the process. It was written in 1939 by South African Solomon Linda, who died penniless in 1962. But Linda's now due for some well-deserved credit--and royalties. Gallo Records has just released a compilation CD containing the original recording and other versions by popular South African groups. At least some of the profits will go to Linda's three daughters and their families in Soweto.
  • Bush Draws A Stem Cell Line

    The president called the meeting for 5:45 p.m., the last of the day, because he expected it to run long. It did. His main guest was Dr. Leon Kass, a bioethicist widely respected in conservative intellectual circles--and deeply critical of mankind's yen to manipulate its genetic and reproductive fate. It was July 9--a month before George W. Bush would address the nation on the divisive and emotional issue of stem-cell research. Throughout June, Karl Rove and other White House aides had been floating the outlines of a compromise they'd designed. Now Bush needed to roadtest it for himself. So he had lots of questions for the professorial Kass, and for Dr. Daniel Callahan, a fellow ethicist Kass had brought along."Were frozen, early-stage embryos human life?" the president asked. If they were, Bush well knew, there was no escaping the pledge he'd made--repeatedly--as he curried favor with the religious right early in the 2000 campaign. His vow: to oppose funding for research on stem...
  • Magic Cures

    Battered by foot-and-mouth disease, Britain's tourism authorities have turned to a magical savior: Harry Potter. The idea is to promote landmarks shown in the upcoming kid-wizard film. Planning a trip to the green isles? Don't miss the 11th-century Alnwick Castle and Gloucester Cathedral, a.k.a. Hogwarts School. Visit the delightfully quaint village of Ottery St. Mary--or in Harry-speak, Ottery St. Catchpole. Or even make a gold withdrawal from Gringotts Bank (The Australian High Commission, in Gringotts's real--and slightly less exciting--incarnation). But can Pottermania erase the memory of all the diseased animals? Officials are optimistic. It's amazing the influence a little boy and his wand can have on us Muggles.
  • Writing The Book Of Bill

    I was bored out of my gourd by the coverage of Bill Clinton's record-setting contract for his memoirs, due in 2003. Here's the most compelling (or repelling) public figure in the world today, and all we heard was publishing-industry twaddle about celebrity sales projections and royalty structures. Even that was wrong; it turns out he's getting $12 million-plus, not the $10 million widely reported. And most of the analysts forgot that, unlike the ailing Ronald Reagan or the pope, Clinton can hawk the hell out of his book on everything from "Oprah" to "Good Morning Bangladesh." Knowing Clinton, he'll probably do the 6 a.m. early news in Topeka, too.But the marketing begs the big unanswered question, which is, how will he avoid the dreaded Curse of the Deadly Presidential Memoir? I actually pulled a dozen or so of them out of the library when I needed a few winks. They weren't all quite as bad as I remember. Reagan admits in "An American Life" that he was "frightened and started to...
  • The Truth About Spf

    With an ever-growing array of sunscreen products, it's easy to get confused about what to buy. Some basics: SPF (sun protection factor) ratings apply to a band of ultraviolet light called UVB, the key culprit in skin cancer. SPF 15 (the lowest number recommended by doctors) blocks all but 1/15, or about 93 percent, of UVB. (SPF 2 blocks just 50 percent; SPF 30, about 97 percent.) Don't assume that SPF 60 will protect you twice as long as 30. Unlike the vast variation between SPF 5 and 15, the difference between 30 and numbers above is so minimal that the FDA may eliminate the higher ratings and call the entire category "30-plus."Another band of light called UVA seems to play a role in skin cancer, too. So many products promise "broad spectrum" protection. But with no UVA ratings (at least for now--they may soon be required), there's no way to tell what you're getting. You can, however, look for specific ingredients that block UVA, like zinc oxide, avobenzone and titanium dioxide....
  • And Along Came A Spider

    The prostitutes' bodies are thrown on Iran's roadsides, or more often in open sewers. They are wrapped in their long, black chadors, the cloth knotted top and bottom to form a makeshift body bag. In every case, the killer has used a scarf to strangle his victim. Iran's newspapers call the cases "the Spider Killings," because the victims appear to be drawn like flies into the murderer's web. Their swaddled corpses resemble trapped insects awaiting their doom. It has been a year since the first bodies were discovered--in Mashhad, Iran's holiest city. To date, there have been 21.Who is this Spider? One suspect recently confessed to 16 of the murders. But the mystery--and the horror--extend far beyond the individual killer or killers. Many hard-line supporters of the regime have publicly cheered the murder spree, which last month claimed two new victims in Tehran, as a moral cleanup campaign. "Who is to be judged?" demanded the conservative newspaper Jomhuri Islami. "Those who look to...
  • Death By Conformity

    He blends with the salarymen who frequent the Imperial Hotel's lobby bar during cocktail hour in Tokyo. Three years ago he was one of them: a proud, confident corporate warrior who fancied himself a descendant of Japan's stoic samurai. Then the country's economic downturn slammed his company hard, and in late 1998 he became "spiritually weakened" by an anxiety he couldn't comprehend.At first he couldn't sleep. Then he grew physically weak each time the train neared the station nearest his office. On several occasions he rode to the end of the line and called in sick. "At one point," the fiftyish company man told NEWSWEEK, speaking on condition that he not be identified, "I went to buy a rope, then put it in the trunk of my car to be prepared for the day when I would hang myself."Fortunately, that day hasn't come. A doctor at the high-tech multinational where he works finally told him what he needed to hear--that his depression was curable--and over the next year provided him with...
  • Speaking Of War

    Five-time Oscar winner Francis Ford Coppola met author David Halberstam for the first time at a recent screening of "Apocalypse Now Redux." Halberstam won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of Vietnam in 1964, and he's been examining the fallout from that war ever since, most recently in the forthcoming "War in a Time of Peace," a look at the Washington players who controlled foreign policy from the gulf war to Kosovo. The two men sat down recently with NEWSWEEK's Malcolm Jones, and discussed filmmaking, Vietnam and history. ...
  • Rumsfeld's Rift With Japan

    When U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld proposed shifting military strategy to emphasize the importance of Asia, nobody was happier than the Japanese. But six months later Tokyo is quietly seething: Rumsfeld has yet to ask for its input in the department's strategic review of the region. "We have not been consulted," says Masashi Nishihara of Japan's National Defense Academy. "It is a source of worry." Worrisome enough for senior U.S. Defense officials to visit Tokyo in the coming weeks to smooth ruffled feathers. But not enough for Rumsfeld himself to make an appearance. In a nation that so values self- respect, Tokyo appropriately insists it has not been dissed completely. Says one senior Japanese government official: "It won't be too late to put forward our views."
  • Flying High

    You're leaving the Delacorte Theater in Central Park after seeing the new production of Chekhov's "The Seagull," and suddenly you see something eerie under the dark, looming trees. Lanterns are glowing, flashlights are shining and there's a cot here, a lawn chair there--it's a bunch of people camping out for the night. They want to be first in line for tomorrow's tickets, dispensed only on the day of each performance. What they're waiting for is no humdrum restaging of a classic. "Seagull" has flown into the park in a witty new adaptation by Tom Stoppard. It's directed by Mike Nichols. And it stars Meryl Streep in her first stage role in 17 years. No wonder it's the hottest ticket in heat-struck New York. But is it worth spending the night on the hard, damp ground? Da. Absolutely.Though his plays are full of Russian gloom, Chekhov himself called "The Seagull" a comedy. He didn't mean it was a knee-slapper. This is a saga about a household of unhappy people on a Russian country...
  • Did The President Go Far Enough?

    To scientists who had, for weeks, hoped against hope that President George W. Bush would allow federal money to support research on embryonic stem cells, the only good thing about his decision was that it wasn't worse. Bush announced that he would permit government funding--in practical terms, grants by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to scientists at universities and hospitals--for experiments only on existing stem-cell lines. "Bush exceeded the very low expectations scientists had for him," says Dr. Joseph J. Fins of New York's Weill Cornell Medical Center. "It's certainly better than an outright embargo." But not by much, concluded many stem-cell biologists. Restricting NIH support to experiments on cells that are already growing in labs "is going to delay substantially the progress we have to bring [stem-cell] therapies to the bedside," says stem-cell pioneer John Gearhart of Johns Hopkins University. By so limiting the research, agrees Dr. Michael Soules, president of...
  • Periscope

    President George W. Bush's talk of "a new relationship" with Russia in which the cold-war standoff gives way to "a new strategic paradigm." Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is in Moscow this week, in fact, for talks tying U.S. missile defenses to deep cuts in nuclear weapons. But NEWSWEEK has learned that, behind the scenes, the administration is embarking on a 10-year, multibillion-dollar program to modernize capabilities to make nuclear weapons.The force behind the program--formally titled "The Recapitalization Initiative"--is retired Air Force Gen. John Gordon, former No. 2 at the CIA who now runs the National Nuclear Security Administration. Last spring he warned Congress that so much of the nuclear complex was decrepit that "we're faced with... a crisis in the facilities." At a briefing for the president and top officials, Bush expressed dismay at the state of the plants--but aides held that a formal proposal to upgrade the facilities would generate fresh controversy about...
  • Read The Fine Print

    The Holocaust never happened. So screamed the posters in Berlin. Come again? Oops, PERI forgot to mention the small print, which most Berliners missed, too: THERE ARE STILL MANY PEOPLE WHO MAKE THIS CLAIM. IN 20 YEARS THERE COULD BE EVEN MORE. MAKE A DONATION FOR THE MEMORIAL FOR MURDERED JEWS OF EUROPE. The posters caused outrage and were taken down last week. When it comes to shock advertising, it just goes to show: always read the fine print.
  • Sex, Lies And Celebrities

    For years, Jimmy Lai published a best-selling newspaper and magazine in Hong Kong. His mix of no-holds-barred criticism of Beijing and raw tabloid style continually astonished Hong Kong readers. After the Tiananmen Square massacre, he cursed Prime Minister Li Peng in print, infuriating the Chinese leadership. Two years ago his Apple Daily paid a man to pose with prostitutes after his wife supposedly committed suicide because of his extramarital affairs. (The story was a hoax.) And earlier this year, his Next magazine held a mock "ugliest female official" contest and awarded the top prize to Hong Kong Secretary of Security Regina Ip. Now, four years after Hong Kong's handover to Beijing, Lai has taken his sensationalistic journalism to Taiwan. The first printing of the Taiwan version of Next sold 275,000 copies in one hour. But many of the island's celebrities are up in arms over Lai's salacious style. In an interview with NEWSWEEK's Mahlon Meyer during a brief return to Hong Kong,...