The Clinton Factor
As John Kerry toyed last month with the idea of delaying his official nomination, one voice broke though the babble of advisers and aides: Bill Clinton's. The former president told Kerry not to wait until after the Democrats' convention in Boston--a ploy that was supposed to help the senator spend and raise unlimited cash through August. Clinton's intervention was typical of the advice offered in the regular late-night phone calls between the ex-president and the presidential candidate. Clinton's friends and Kerry's aides tell NEWSWEEK that the former president hopes to tune up the message of a senator who lacks Clinton's political perfect pitch.
While Clinton focuses on Kerry's message, the candidate himself is engrossed in the final shortlist of veep picks. Kerry sources say the choice is narrowing to Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack and former House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt, and that the candidate remains personally uncomfortable with Sen. John Edwards. Some say Kerry could still choose a wild card like Bill Cohen, the GOP senator who became Clinton's Defense secretary.
Brushing off fears among Dems that Clinton might overshadow Kerry, the campaign has embraced the ex-president's book tour. "He'll mention John Kerry's name at every stop, like he's been doing," said one Kerry aide. "It's basically cost-free campaigning for us." Beyond the book tour, campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill envisages Clinton raising funds and rallying the base.
It's a far cry from the pyschodrama of four years ago, when Al Gore wrestled with Clinton's presence and was lampooned by George W. Bush for calling on Clinton's help in the final days of the election. Nostalgia for the Clinton era may have also be working for Kerry--at least according to Hillary. "People are more and more remembering the positive aspects of the 1990s," she told NEWSWEEK. "It can only benefit John Kerry, who is talking about the issues that elected my husband president." Kerry hasn't forgotten what he last week described as Clinton's "terrible mistake." He just prefers to talk about the mistakes of the president he's running against.
The Ugly Elections
With Indonesia's July 5 elections fast approaching, the presidential race is getting downright ugly. Former general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who leads incumbent Megawati Sukarnoputri by about 30 points in the polls, has been the primary target: one recent text-message rumor made its way across the predominantly Muslim nation warning voters that Yudhoyono, a devout Muslim, had converted to Christianity; another claimed that he wants to impose Islamic law in Indonesia--a policy that voters overwhelmingly disapprove. (Neither allegation is true, insists Yudhoyono.) Last week it got worse. Indonesia's national police submitted the cases of 15 suspects in a 1996 attack by military-backed mobs on the headquarters of a leading opposition party to the attorney general's office for prosecution. Yudhoyono wasn't implicated, but the fact that he headed the Jakarta command when the incident occurred prompted his campaign team to denounce the move as an attempt by Megawati to smear the challenger.
That may be so, but other contenders are being tarred, too. Earlier this month several Muslim clerics in East Java issued a decree forbidding Muslims to vote for Megawati, claiming that the idea of a female president was un-Islamic. Another candidate, former armed-forces chief Wiranto, claims that his opponents were behind a recent arrest warrant for his alleged role in war crimes on East Timor in 1999.
All this negative campaigning hardly implies that Indonesia--a country relatively new to the concept of free and fair elections--is headed down the wrong path. Analysts say that voters are unlikely to be swayed by the mudslinging alone. While the politicians are busy getting down and dirty, their constituents will be looking for real answers to the nation's problems.
France: 'Sarko' Strikes Back
When French President Jacques Chirac called on rival Nicolas Sarkozy to run the Ministry of Finance in April, political insiders applauded the sly merits of the "gift." Offer "Sarko" a job wrapped in the prestige of a high cabinet post, and he couldn't refuse. Watch him unwrap the gift to find an unwinnable battle with the unions over privatization. See Sarkozy's presidential ambitions for 2007, declared much to Chirac's annoyance, go down the drain.
So much for Chirac's gift-wrapping. As targeted power outages hit Paris last week, it was Sarkozy who negotiated to get the lights back on. Chirac, on the other hand, was literally in the dark. The outages, which affected the Eiffel Tower, train lines and even the president's home, were orchestrated by France's far-left union, the Confederation Generale du Travail, in response to ongoing parliamentary plans to privatize the country's energy sector. Sarkozy, who has long shown an affinity for the masses, reacted deftly, promising unionists that he would slow the pace of change and allow the electrical workers to retain their civil-service status.
If Sarko keeps his word--and negotiates a draw with the union--it would be a big win for a government that has struggled to impose reforms. Come the fall, it might also give Sarko the extra juice to seize power of the coalition that elected Chirac. Any more gifts, Monsieur President?
Russia: Back to the Future
In Moscow these days, religious difference is nothing to celebrate. Protestants complain that they can't get permission to build churches, which forces them to worship in apartments and, in some instances, even forests. Roman Catholics, heavily reliant on foreign clergy because of a ban on Soviet-era seminaries across Russia, report that some longtime priests can now get only one-month visas. And last week a Moscow court banned the Jehovah's Witnesses from practicing in the city, judging the group a threat to society. The ruling hit Moscow's 11,000 members hard. They will now have to either practice in secret, leave town or, worse, forsake their faith. But it's equally ominous for the nation's other religious minorities. "This is dangerous for Russia, dangerous for everybody," says Vasily Kalin, a Jehovah's Witness leader. Religious-freedom advocates fear that the Russian government wants to make the nation--where the 80 million-strong Russian Orthodox Church is the dominant faith--a one-church state. The Jehovah's Witness decision, they argue, may serve as an excuse for bureaucrats outside the capital to crack down on non-Orthodox across the country. Thirteen years after the fall of the Soviet Union, it seems that the old tradition of worshiping in secret may reclaim its place in Russia's future.
Hello, Phone Worms
We're all used to viruses' infecting our PCs. Now we might have to worry about their infiltrating our mobile phones, too. Last week the first known phone worm hit mobiles around the globe. Fortunately, the worm is harmless--it claims to be a security file, and if the user installs it, the file simply displays the word "Caribe" on the screen. The worm was written by underground Czech and Slovakian virus programmers in order to prove how vulnerable our phones are, experts say. But more-dangerous worms are bound to follow soon--for instance, a virus that could leap on its own from computers to phones, or one that could trig-ger every Nokia phone to simultaneously call the fire department. "In theory this is possible," says Denis Zenkin, a spokesman at Kaspersky Labs in Moscow. "But thank God, we haven't seen one yet."
The question is whether we're prepared for the day we do. Companies like Kaspersky now offer virus protection for phones, similar to products that have long been used on personal computers. And mobile phones are tougher targets than PCs, as there are fewer opportunities to contaminate them. But as virus writers get more creative, that's bound to change--which means it may still pay to keep that old rotary phone handy.
Health: Fertility Forecast
It's a question almost every woman worries about: how long will that biological clock keep ticking? Thanks to new research, women can now find out how many fertile years they have ahead of them. As a woman ages, the number of eggs remaining in her ovaries declines from several million at birth to about 1,000 at the onset of menopause--causing the ovaries to shrink. A simple transvaginal ultrasound is all it takes to measure the ovaries and predict a woman's reproductive life span.
The discovery should come as a welcome relief to the growing number of women who put off having a child into their late 30s and 40s. The timing of menopause varies widely among women--it typically occurs between the ages of 42 and 58. Since fertility declines for 10 years before menopause, a woman in her early 30s doesn't know whether she has a decade or more fertile years left or she's already running short of time. "We now have the potential to be able to tell a woman how fast her biological clock is ticking," says Hamish Wallace, head researcher at the University of Edinburgh's Department of Reproductive Sciences, who developed the test.
The scan is already available at select clinics in Britain and the United States, and is likely to hit the mainstream market in a matter of months.
A Secret 'Garden'
Although seldom in the spotlight, Tel Aviv's "Electricity Garden"--a shady residential area frequented by male prostitutes and their gay clientele--takes center stage in Ruthie Shatz and Adi Barash's new documentary, "Gan" ("The Garden"). The film follows two gay teenagers--Nino, a Palestinian illegal immigrant, and Dudu, an Arab-Israeli--who live on the streets, meet with clients, get beaten up by police and execute drug deals.
Welcome in neither Israel nor the occupied territories, the boys live a transient lifestyle. Yet they praise their no man's land for its "freedom." That freedom is relative, of course: though gay Arabs are reviled in Israel as "security threats," they are often forced into spying on Palestinians because many will do anything to avoid being outed. Though derided by Palestinian officials as "collaborators," they are similarly pressured into spying for Palestinian security forces. Israeli activist Shaul Gonen described their plight to the BBC: "Nobody wants to help them, everybody wants to use them... It is indescribable how bad life is for these people."
Indescribable, perhaps, but the documentary does a convincing job of portraying the netherworld these youngsters inhabit."Someone has to speak for them," says Shatz. "These kids have nobody." The Tel Aviv district attorney's office has now received a copy of the film, and Shatz is proud to announce that the government will be having a screening. "Maybe now it will reach someone's conscience," she says.
ART: Spice It Up With Sound
An art exhibit that appeals to your ears as well as your eyes? That's the gist of a new show called "Shhh..." at London's Victoria & Albert Museum. The curators invited 10 artists and musicians to provide an audio accompaniment to the permanent collection of sculpture, furniture and fashion. When museumgoers enter each room, infrared sensors trigger the matching track on their MP3 players--providing a creative new audio tour. In the Raphael gallery, the melodic voice of the Cocteau Twins' Elizabeth Fraser echoes in one's headset, accentuating the cavernous heights of the chapel-like room. In the Victorian bathroom, David Byrne of Talking Heads fame went for a more literal approach, flushing toilets and playing with the faucets. And as one waltzes through the gilded, ostentatious Norfolk House Music Room, British rapper Roots Manuva serves up a political message, railing against privilege with lyrics about the "young waiting for their inheritance checks." Even if some of the recordings are just distracting--in the Chinese Room, for instance, a 6-year-old girl describes her favorite pieces while the listener searches in vain for them among all the ornamental boxes, sculptures and vases--the show is a hit, offering a fresh, mood-altering take on an old museum's familiar collection.
MUSIC: Bilingual Brillliance
It should come as no surprise that most of Lila Downs's albums carry bilingual titles. Born to a Scottish-American cinematographer and a Mexican singer, Downs divided her childhood between southern Mexico, Los Angeles and Minneapolis. Her fourth album, "One Blood" (Una Sangre), mirrors that life, mixing up blues guitar licks and hip-hop vocals in Spanish and English while also creating distinctive renditions of Mexican folk standards like "La Bamba."
Blessed with a three-octave range, 36-year-old Downs is an artist who wears her feminist politics on her sleeve. On "One Blood" she sings about the Irish-born labor organizer Mary Harris (Mother) Jones, a murdered Mexican human-rights lawyer named Digna Ochoa and the morally ambiguous historical figure of La Malinche, the much-reviled indigenous mistress of the 16th-century Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes, whom Downs sees as a victim. But Downs has a fun side, too, evident on songs like "Viborita," a pulsating, African-flavored number about a sea serpent. Aside from a rather plodding rendition of "La Cucaracha," the album is a vibrant, eclectic and sometimes haunting collection that could be Downs's ticket out of the "world music" ghetto where she has spent most of her career.
Q&A: LARS ULRICH
Lars Ulrich of Metallica has been assaulting drums for more than two decades. This summer a new documentary called "Metallica: Some Kind of Monster" follows his legendary heavy-metal band over the tumultuous past few years. NEWSWEEK's Charles Ferro talked to 41-year-old Ulrich in his hometown of Copenhagen, where the band kicked off its European tour:
You guys bare your souls in the movie. Don't you feel a bit naked?
Sure. [But] I'm Danish, so I like being naked.
Are you satisfied with the way music-distribution technology has developed since the Napster lawsuits?
I think it's exciting. We've been doing a thing for the past couple of months to make our concerts available the next day online. Five minutes ago I was listening to music on my iPod.
Where's home--Denmark or America?
I dunno, man, I still struggle with that. Home is where my family is, and that can be anywhere. Home is [where] you seek sanctuary. Home is driving my kids to school. Home is making music with those guys. It's more of an attitude.
You're married with two kids. How has this changed you?
When you turn the 40 corner, you start to think in different terms--what your kids mean, what the future means--[you have] different perceptions of mortality. My eyes are more open than they used to be. I'm learning to be more in the moment and extract more out of it.