Overshadowed by Lebanon, the violence in Iraq has hit new highs. Attacks in the towns of Kufah and Mahmudiyah left more than 100 dead last week, while Baghdad alone saw a 40 percent spike in bombings and shootings. A United Nations report confirmed the "upward trend," stating that nearly 6,000 civilians were killed in May and June, renewing fears that Iraq is descending into civil war.
Baghdad's Central Morgue--which takes in about 80 bodies a day--has meanwhile become a battleground. It's currently under the control of radical Shiite cleric Moq-tada al-Sadr; a NEWSWEEK reporter last week counted more than a dozen militiamen there--some of them dressed in the traditional black of al-Sadr's Mahdi Army. Their job, said one morgue employee who asked not to be named for fear of retribution, is part propaganda: to ensure that no information comes out implicating the Mahdi Army and other Shiite militias in the killings.
This much was clear from NEWSWEEK's visit: the majority of bodies delivered to the morgue are young Sunni men, suggesting the work of Shiite militias like the Mahdi Army. The method of killing has also raised eyebrows. Doctors say that, in recent weeks, many victims arrive at the morgue with their hands and feet bound and their eyes and mouths sealed shut with tape. Apparently they died slowly, with their jugulars or wrists slit. A Sunni doctor who asked not to be named for safety reasons called this "the Khomeini Guards method"--the way in which Iraqi soldiers were executed by Iranian soldiers in the Iran-Iraq war. Given the Mahdi Army's close links with Tehran, morgue employees have little doubt about why Sadrist politicians and officials would want to bury such details. "The Iraqi Shiite government accuses the [Sunni] resistance groups of committing such acts," says the doctor. "But all Iraqis know that [it's] the Mahdi Army."
The Ministry of Health officially denies any Mahdi Army involvement in running the morgue, though several employees cite occasions when the militia members on the premises have ordered them not to refrigerate certain unidentified bodies--those with beards, for instance, because they might be despised Sunni imams. Worse still, they also say that militia members have on occasion taken mobile phones from the clothes of the dead and called their relatives to inform them of the victim's status. When the relatives came to identify the body, militia members followed the relatives from the morgue and subsequently killed them, too.
--Malcolm Beith with bureau reports
China's white-hot economic growth has put the fear of Mao into Beijing's leaders, who worry that the country's bubble could burst. Here's how they've tried to hit the brakes:
Red Rate Hike: This spring, the People's Bank of China raised rates by 27 basis points to 5.85 percent. The CW says that raising interest rates prevents inflation and discourages lending, thereby slowing economic growth.
Thou Shall Not Lend: Beijing ordered banks to reduce lending by raising reserve requirements five times in three years. But new loans went up by 360 billion yuan ($45 billion) in June, bringing the year-to-date total to 2.14 trillion yuan ($268 billion), already 86 percent of the target. Experts say the government may soon hike rates an additional 54 basis points to cool excessive loan growth.
Yuan Way: After the yuan was removed from its peg to the U.S. dollar in July 2005, the currency was revalued by 2.1 percent and has risen approximately1.4 percent against the dollar in the past year. A rise in the yuan, which many argue is grosslyundervalued, could ease inflation and take the heat out of China's scorching export industry.
No Slow: Despite the measures, China's gross domestic product surged by 11 percent in the first half of this year, according to China's National Bureau of Statistics, to 9.14 trillion yuan ($1.15 trillion). Well above the 8 percent that officials predicted, it's the nation's fastest growth rate in a decade.
Islamic banks are booming among Muslim customers, because their services comply with Sharia (Islamic law) injunctions against charging interest or investing in certain industries like gambling, tobacco or alcohol. But they're doing a decent job drawing non-Muslims, too. According to research from Abdul Kadir Barkatullah, an Islamic scholar who advises banks throughout Europe, the Middle East and Asia, about 20 percent of all enquiries into Qur'an-compliant banking come from people who aren't Islamic. HSBC's Islamic-banking division says that 40 percent of its clients in Malaysia are non-Muslims.
So what's the draw? Bankers says it's the ethical values this banking represents. Rules against charging interest appeal to other religious groups. And because Islamic investment portfolios must be carefully tracked to avoid these industries, they are effectively fenced off from conventional accounts, offering customers an added level of detail as to where exactly their money is.
Science: Caveman DNA It is the holy grail of human paleontology, a window on a crucial moment in our evolution. Last week, scientists at the Max Planck Institute in Germany announced that they would attempt to sequence the Neanderthal genome--the complete DNA of the closest known relative to modern humans, a species that disappeared from the Earth about 30,000 years ago. It is the next best thing to having a living Neanderthal for comparison--and, in theory, if you know all the genes, you could create living Neanderthals.
What would they be like? They seem to have lacked modern humans' capacity for abstract thought; although they spread overland from Africa through the Middle East to Europe, they apparently never crossed a body of water they couldn't see across.
In fact, we will probably learn as much about Homo sapiens from the effort as we will about Neanderthals, says Svante Paabo, a Swedish-born anthropologist. Until now, the closest species with which humans could compare their DNA was the chimpanzee, whose genome is estimated to be 99 percent identical with ours. But that 1 percent still encompasses about 35 million individual chemical changes, accumulated over 5 million to 7 million years. Humans and Neanderthals, though, shared a common ancestor in Africa only about 400,000 years ago, and Paabo estimates that their DNA will be 99.96 percent identical.
Think you'd like to be mates with Capt. Jack Sparrow? Think again. Most real-life pirates of the Caribbean were murderous bandits, and a slew of new books aims to separate historical fact from Hollywood fiction. To start, "If they didn't like you, they killed you and threw you overboard," says Gail Selinger, coauthor of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Pirates." The book includes everything from biographical highlights--like when 17th-century Capt. Francis L'Ollonais hacked out and ate a prisoner's heart--to practical details, such as translations of common pirate-flag symbols. For less gore, younger audiences can check out "Pirateology: The Pirate Hunter's Companion," a fictitious journal chronicling an 18th-century captain's pursuit of "vicious female pirate Arabella Drummond." Pirates weren't exactly heroes. "It was a bit like taking a prison population, putting them on a ship and seeing what happens," says British maritime historian David Cordingly.
What to do when swimming is not enough, and water polo has lost its edge? Try underwater hockey, a game that players claim is as fast and furious as ice hockey, just much lower on oxygen. Since debuting in 1954 (it was called Octopush; that didn't catch on), the submariner sport has finally gained a devoted following in more than 48 nations worldwide. The 2006 Underwater Hockey World Championships in Sheffield, England, in August will be the sport's largest event to date.
How to play? Six players per team face off on the bottom of a 25m pool. Wearing diving masks, snorkels, fins and protective gear, players use a 30cm-long hockey stick, or "pusher," to move a weighted lead puck into the opposing team's 3m-long goal. Knowing when to surface for air (thus the snorkel) and dive is the crux of the game, leading players to dub it the ultimate anaerobic sport. The favorites in the tourney, which will be streamed on the Internet: Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Great Britain and France.
With the world getting fatter, the blame usually falls on supersize fast food and lack of exercise. But a new study from the University of Alabama suggests other important factors. Nowadays we're smoking less, so we eat more. We also sleep less, and lack of sleep sets off hormones that increase your appetite. Antidepressants and other medications promote weight gain. And one set of solutions inevitably leads to another set of problems.
America is truly the land of the lawsuit, and conventional wisdom is that frivolous medical malpractice suits are what's driving up the costs of health care. But is that really the case?
Sue for a Reason: A study from Brigham Young Law School reviewed more than 1,400 malpractice cases and found that 90 percent had resulted in medical injury, which means they weren't frivolous. In 60 percent of the cases, the injury resulted from physician wrongdoing. In a quarter of the cases, patients died.
And Doctors Do Make Mistakes: A classic Harvard study looked at more than 30,000 cases, and found that doctors were injuring one out of 25 patients. Of that, only 4 percent sued.
Pay Days? Juries and trial lawyers have been blamed for handing out big cash to victims. Not true, according to a Rand study that looked at the growth in malpractice awards between 1960 and 1999.
The study concludes: "Real average awards have grown by less than real income over the past 40 years."
Equation: Miami Vice Lovers of the hit TV series "Miami Vice" will be disappointed by the new feature-film version, which is dark, ponderous and way over budget. Tubbs and Crockett just aren't the same in '06.
The Original Show -- 1980s Glam + $150 Million Budget = A Pretentious Snooze