Periscope

Letter From the Editor

Much is at stake in this week's midterm elections in the United States, not least control of the Congress and perhaps the fate of the U.S. deployment in Iraq. One thing that's also up for grabs is the soul of America's vastly powerful evangelical movement . As Religion Editor Lisa Miller writes in this week's cover story, this is hardly the monolithic group of obscurantists that one might imagine: in fact, the tension between pushing hot-button political issues and supporting a more tolerant Christian charity is coming to a head. And the ironies don't end there. As Kishore Mahbubani notes, once-devout Asia may now be the world's bastion of secularism, while Europe, according to Eric Kaufmann , is growing ever more religious. God apparently does work in mysterious ways.

Nisid Hajari, Managing Editor

Georgia: It Can't Get Much Worse

Russia and Georgia are at it again. Earlier this year it was the wine wars. Moscow refused to buy any more of its neighbor's most savory export, slamming poor Georgia's treasury. Then came the recent flap over alleged Russian spies. When the government in Tbilisi arrested a few, the Kremlin severed trade ties, closed its borders and began expelling ethnic Georgians across Russia. Last week brought a new source of discord: energy. Moscow announced it would triple the price of gas sold to Tbilisi. "It will be a long, cold winter," says Georgia's ambassador to the United Nations, Irakli Alasania, with a shrug.

The shrug says it all. For all the Sturm und Drang , the mutterings of crisis and dark rumors of war, the good news in this bad relationship is that it can't get much worse--and that may be good enough. Georgia's Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli told NEWSWEEK how he sent his foreign minister to Moscow last week in an effort to reduce tensions. "Surprise, surprise," he said. "Moscow instead decided to put on a show of strength and charged us the highest price of all--$230 per metric ton," twice what Armenia and Ukraine pay. So this is good news? Yes, the prime minister explained, "Russia has given its last warning. There are no more steps it can take to punish us."

The warning, Nogaideli and his U.N. ambassador are quick to say, chiefly concerns Georgia's determination to join NATO. Yet short of an invasion--which will not happen--what's the Kremlin going to do? Having played its energy card, it has few weapons of persuasion left. Georgia will be forced even faster to diversify its economy, says Alasania. As for fuel, Tbilisi is lining up alternative supplies through Azerbaijan and Turkey. As Georgia sees it, today's hardships will only strengthen the foundations of its future independence within the former Soviet sphere. Call it the price of freedom.

--Michael Meyer and Anna Nemtsova

Good News, Bad News

GOOD NEWS: The on-again, off-again six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear-weapons program are now ... on again. Kim Jong Il's regime came back to the table after facing U.N. sanctions. Analysts are encouraged that U.S. Secretary of State Condi Rice is managing U.S. policy toward the North.

BAD NEWS: As Bruce Klingner of the Eurasia Group notes, there are even more contentious issues now than there were when the talks collapsed, chiefly the financial sanctions Washington has slapped on Pyongyang. Chances of a breakthrough seem remote.

Web: Friendly Takeover

Tapping into the closed Japanese market can be as difficult as learning the language. A decade ago, Rupert Murdoch's attempt, with media mogul Masayoshi Son's local Internet powerhouse Softbank, to buy broadcaster TV Asahi was so widely viewed as a foreign incursion that Murdoch sold his shares within a year.

A source close to his Internet subsidiary, MySpace--the world's most popular online social network--says that the News Corp. chief will join with Softbank to roll out MySpace Japan. They will likely announce the 50-50 joint venture this week. (A MySpace spokesperson declined to comment.) Subscribers will be able to surf in Japanese while linking up with the site's 75 million, mostly English-speaking users.

But unlike the U.K., France and Germany, which MySpace entered earlier this year, Japan already has a social-networking site--the invite-only Mixi, with 5 million members. MySpace Japan will be open to anyone. But analysts say that Mixi's exclusivity fuels user loyalty--which will create an uphill battle for Murdoch's venture. "Users will have to migrate en masse to make it worthwhile," says Hiroshi Kamide, a KBC Securities analyst.

With MySpace's U.S. growth inevitably slowing, Asia's big populations and growing markets beckon. The same source says Murdoch's MySpace move into China (an even trickier country for a site that promotes user-generated content, given issues surrounding government censorship) will likely come next year.

--Brad Stone

Israel: Hate on Parade

Jerusalem police are girding for potential conflict. The city's annual Gay Pride Parade, scheduled for Friday, is drawing unusually violent protests from Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox community. Demonstrators already doused an Israeli officer with gasoline during a preparade riot last week. A police official told news- week that the department had raised its alert status to "high," and was preparing for the possibility of knife attacks and razor blades hidden in fruit to be thrown at marchers.

Israelis pride themselves on the nation's diversity. Yet the parade controversy is a stark reminder of the Jewish state's simmering internal animosities. And the ill will isn't just one-sided. A poll released last week by Israel's Gesher organization revealed that 37 percent of those questioned said the most "hated" group in Israel is the ultra-Orthodox, the state's fastest-growing settler community. Meanwhile, local authorities are preparing for the worst. The police plan to deploy some 8,000 troops on Friday--roughly as many patrolmen as expected marchers.

--Joanna Chen and Kevin Peraino

Movies: With the Chicks

It was in 2003, during the heated run-up to the war in Iraq, when Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines remarked that she was ashamed President Bush came from Texas. You see that moment in "Shut Up & Sing," a startlingly intimate documentary by Barbara ("Harlan County") Kopple and Cecilia Peck. "Shut Up & Sing" makes us flies on the wall as it follows the media furor. We're backstage with their manager, Simon Renshaw. We're in the conference room with the damage-control rep sent by their "very concerned" sponsor Lipton Tea. We're with their families as band members Emily Robison and her sister, Martie Maguire, raise their kids, compose their music, deal with the bans by Cumulus Media and Clear Channel. In the midst of death threats and canceled concert dates, they forge on, creating their rousingly defiant album "Taking the Long Way" with producer Rick Rubin. Masterfully edited, the film combines footage the band made for its Web site and footage shot by Kopple and Peck over the last two years. The filmmakers are clearly in awe of the Chicks' fighting spirit. If you think Maines's original Bush remark was disrespectful, wait till you hear what she calls him here. Maines is not ready to make nice, and neither is this riveting documentary.

--David Ansen

Membership in the World Association for Infant Mental Health has doubled in a decade to 44 affiliate organizations around the globe, and graduate programs and journals for infant therapists are also on the rise. But is tot psychology really necessary?

The CW holds that most disorders appear in adulthood.

Fact: Brain research shows that disorders begin early in life and intervention during infancy is good preventative medicine. Toilet training problems may not be an illness, but a slew of disorders were recently added to a diagnostic manual for babies, including separation anxiety, social anxiety, food aversions and anorexia.

Fashion: Subzero Sizing

The average American woman is nine kilos heavier than 40 years ago. But "sizes have been creeping up [1.3cm] at a time so women can fit into smaller sizes and feel good about it," says Jim Lovejoy of the SizeUSA survey. Now clothiers are even introducing a "subzero" category of negative sizes--not for anor-exics, as one might think, but to give skinny gals clothes that actually fit.

Reality Check

Think America is cleaner than Europe? 64 percent of staph strains in the United States are antibiotic-resistant, and staph infections kill 13,000 people each year in U.S. hospitals. Europeans, with their "search and destroy" approach involving protective gloves, masks and gowns when treating infected patients, have it under control. Consider the Netherlands, where a mere 1 percent of strains are antibiotic-resistant.

Rod Stewart

The singer has a new album called "Still the Same ... Great Rock Classics of All Time." He spoke with Nicki Gostin.

I am lazy. I've admitted that since 1971. I made my name as an interpreter of songs and I get great pleasure from it.

I don't think people buy my records because I've got good hair! People love my voice--although it is a very good head of hair.

Yeah, one. I'd been nominated 15 times. I was actually enjoying not winning.

My friend Long John Baldry, who died last year, gave it to me. He was a wonderfully funny homosexual.

I don't mind. I've got very effeminate ways, and my hair was like Dusty Springfield's.

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