Periscope

Back in September, 40-year-old Ayman Nour was busy mounting an electoral challenge to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. A liberal with little funding but a flair for the dramatic, Nour had the gumption to belittle Mubarak as an impotent old man afraid of his own people. That, however, may have been the beginning of his undoing. Nour won just 7.6 percent of the vote, and on Nov. 26 he will go on trial for forgery. He also faces an additional 12 charges dealing with alleged election violations, bribery and corruption, including insulting the president.

In the intervening weeks Nour has also become the victim of a deeply personal campaign of slander. He has been depicted as an American stooge by political opponents, and the campaign has even been directed at Ayman's wife, Gameela Ismail, who is now a key adviser in his Ghad Party. (Ismail has also worked as a special correspondent for NEWSWEEK, but went on leave when she began working for her husband and his party.) In recent weeks Nour and Ismail have received a series of anonymous DHL packets. Some contained what appeared to be doctored photographs purporting to be compromising situations. "We will uncover hidden parts of your secret life," read a note, signed with a phony name. "You've gone too far against your masters." Another note implied they should withdraw from politics, or such materials would be disseminated publicly. "They want to exhaust me and break me," says Nour. "I prefer to die standing up than kneeling."

Nour's persecution doesn't speak well of Egypt's democratic development. By contrast, candidates of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood were relatively unbothered during the current parliamentary campaign, and picked up an unprecedented 34 seats out of 444 last week. Some observers say authorities don't mind having the Brotherhood as a visible opposition as a warning of what might happen if truly free elections were held. "The Mubarak regime cannot tolerate liberal opponents," says Saad el din Ibrahim, the Egyptian sociologist and activist who has been jailed three times on political charges. "The strategy of the Mubarak regime is to leaveon the stage only two alternatives: themselves, and the Islamic alternative."

The CIA leak probe became more interesting last week when the legendary Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward was dragged in. Woodward revealed that he had been told about Valerie Plame and her CIA role before Robert Novak, the journalist who kicked off the whole Plame imbroglio, but that in order to protect his source and avoid a subpoena from the grand jury, he had told no one. Woodward has repeatedly emphasized on talk shows and in interviews that when all the facts become known, the Plame affair will be seen as much ado about very little. In private conversations with journalists, Novak has suggested the same.

So who is Woodward's source--and why will his identity take the wind out of the brewing storm? One by one last week, a parade of current and former senior officials, including the CIA's George Tenet and national-security adviser Stephen Hadley, denied being the source. A conspicuous exception was former deputy secretary of State Richard Armitage, who would only give a "no comment." He was one of a handful of top officials who had access to the information. He is an old source and friend of Woodward's, and he fits Novak's description of his source as "not a partisan gunslinger." Woodward has indicated that he knows the identity of Novak's source, which further suggests his source and Novak's were one and the same.

So, Angela Merkel is set to take office. Germany's first woman chancellor. The first East German, too. And she's a reformer to boot. Why, then, is it all such a snore?

Perhaps that's the nature of "grand coalitions." Last week the country's rival political partners--Merkel's Christian Democrats and the Social Democratic Party, now under the baton of fellow "Ossie" Matthias Platzeck--finally hammered out their shared agenda for governing. On the plus side, they have agreed to freeze social benefits and slowly raise the mandatory retirement age from 65 to 67, and the pols are tinkering with once-sacrosanct labor laws. Merkel seems serious about cutting Germany's government deficit, too. But in other respects she appears to have taken some major steps back. Instead of attacking Germany's job-killing wage cartel of unions and employers' associations, she's expanding the reach of union contracts. Instead of freeing up the country's overregulated service sector to create jobs, she aims to re-regulate service professions. Instead of cutting taxes, her new program actually raises them by some 100 billion euros over the next four years. Volkswagen CEO Bernd Pischetsrieder bashed the program as "adding up the bad proposals of both parties." That's a grand coalition of sorts, but not the kind Germany needs.

Five Israeli gay couples who got hitched in Canada asked judges in Israel last week to order authorities to recognize their unions as binding. In a country where religious parties usually wield enough power to make or break ruling coalitions, a liberal decision by the bench could trigger a political backlash from ultra-Orthodox members of Parliament. "We made the decision to marry knowing it would spark a battle in Israel," petitioner Yosi BenAri told NEWSWEEK.

Analysts believe the court, often a trailblazer on liberal issues, will side with the petitioners. But Avraham Ravitz, a rabbi and member of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's coalition, said Parliament would block gay-marriage advances through legislation. "We have a coalition agreement that says when the court makes decisions against religious principles, Parliament will correct them," he says.

They're easy to make from online kits, and shadowy conspirators are deploying them at a record rate to harm unsuspecting individuals. IEDs in Iraq? Guess again. They're identity-stealing software programs known as keyloggers, and according to the cybersecurity-research firm VeriSign iDefense Security Intelligence Services, the number in circulation is on pace to hit a high of 6,191 this year, a 65 percent increase from 2004.

Unlike other popular identity-theft techniques like "phishing," which entails constructing a bogus Web site and hoping people will send confidential information to it, keyloggers install themselves onto computers without users' knowledge. They then silently record each keystroke as the user types in passwords, account numbers and other personal data. Armed with this info, hackers can withdraw from bank accounts and run up credit-card charges. Insurance-company studies show that the average keylogging attack costs its victim nearly $4,000. Worse still, one keylogger can infect millions of machines at a time, and even top antispyware tools can't assure total protection.

Joe Payne, vice president of Reston, Virginia-based iDefense, calls identity theft the biggest issue facing e-commerce, and notes that keylogging in particular is a crime of opportunity. "It's so easy to create [keyloggers]," he says, "and there's very little risk of being caught." According to Payne, the fact that keylogging code is freely available tempts many people who wouldn't otherwise engage in criminal schemes. By the end of the decade, biometric security measures could put the keyloggers out of business. Until then, the best protection is an up-to-date firewall--and perhaps a prayer.

Keira Knightley tackles Elizabeth Bennet in a new remake of "Pride and Prejudice." She spoke to NEWSWEEK's Nicki Gostin.

Terrified. I've been obsessed by the book since I was about 7. My mum bought me all the Austen books on tape, and I used to listen to them on a loop.

She can be so f---ing annoying sometimes that you just want to kick her up the arse, but you also go, "Oh, I love you because you're funny and intelligent--everything I want to be."

I'm incredibly proud of that heritage. We've done some f---ing disgusting things to people, but at least we've got some good books.

Not straight A's. Got a B in maths. But I was very driven--bit too driven.

I remember asking for one when I was 5 or 6: "This is completely ridiculous! Why won't you give me an agent?!" Total little brat. I was diagnosed with dyslexia when I was about 6. My mum said to me, "If you come to me with a book in your hand and a smile on your face--and you read every single day through your summer holidays--I'll get you an agent." That's what happened.

He may never make the best-dressed lists, but Pope Benedict XVI is nothing short of a religious-fashion icon, riding in the Popemobile with red Prada loafers under his cassock and Gucci shades. But his penchant for designerwear and a move to ditch the papal tailors who have dressed popes for more than 200 years are causing new wrinkles in the Vatican.

Benedict has favored his tailor from his days as cardinal, Alessandro Cattaneo, and the 20-year- old religious-fashion house of Raniero Mancinelli, which has provided the pope with dazzling new vestments (some with shimmering, sequinlike details). At risk of losing the papal-dress contract are the Annibale Gammarelli tailors, who have made papalwear since 1792. But they blundered when Benedict had to make his debut blessing in a cassock that was too short, ending just above his ankles. Subsequent celebratory vestments made by Gammarelli are reported to have made the pope uncomfortable.

The Vatican won't comment on papal attire, and Gammarelli denies it is getting the ax: "We are still in contact with the Holy Father. Perhaps there was only an occasional gift by some friend of the pontiff," the tailor says.

Because they age better than politicians, writers are likely to be remembered longer. Our era's Henry Adams is Marjorie Williams, The Washington Post and Vanity Fair essayist who died at 47 last January. Williams's posthumous collection, "The Woman at the Washington Zoo," combines peerless political anthropology with heartbreaking insight into the complexities of family life and her own struggle with cancer. This is not a sympathy vote: these pieces were brilliant before she got sick. "Scenes From a Marriage," about the tangled relationship between Bill Clinton and Al Gore, tells you more about their administration than a dozen biographies. "The Wife" (about scary Barbara Bush) and "The Art of the Fake Apology" do the same for the Bushes. A previously unpublished piece, "The Alchemist," assesses her own mother: "You could eat at her table every night and never once taste the thing that you were really hungry for." "The Halloween of My Dreams," about dressing her daughter on the last Halloween of Williams's life, says as much about facing death as anything I've ever read. And in writing about Mary McGrory, Williams summed up her own gift: "There was no divining the difference between Mary's talent and her ease at being indelibly herself."

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