Iraq: A Pyrrhic Victory?
Washington trumpeted an impressive victory last week in the United Nations Security Council that cleared the way for other countries to aid in the reconstruction effort in Iraq. But it's only a symbolic win for the White House. The bulk of the financing for rebuilding Iraq will continue to come from the United States, as will the majority of troops responsible for maintaining security. India continues to insist it cannot contribute troops who are needed in Kashmir, while Pakistan and other Muslim countries remain reluctant to commit without an invitation from the Iraqi Governing Council.
To make matters worse, the one crucial commitment Washington looked to have won is now increasingly suspect. Opposition from the Iraqi Governing Council and Turkish demands are complicating the deployment of some 10,000 Turkish soldiers Ankara had agreed in principle to send. Iraqi leaders fear that Turkish involvement may encourage Iraq's other neighbors to intervene too, and that historically tense relations with Iraq's Kurds could flare out of control. Kurdish council member Massoud Barzani has even threatened to resign if the deployment goes ahead. As a result, says a Western diplomat in Ankara, Washington is considering formulas for Turkish troops that could soothe the IGC's fears. One option: to position them in the western sector of the so-called Sunni Triangle near Baghdad--far from Kurdish areas but the most dangerous region in the country. Other ideas include dispersing the Turks around Iraq instead of giving them a distinct sector to control and reducing the size of the force. Even that worries the Governing Council, which fears that Turkish troops could use any violence against Iraqi Turkomans--some of whom have clashed with Kurds recently--as an excuse to intervene in the north.
Ankara is laying down some stiff conditions of its own. Particularly thorny is a demand that all Turkish troops travel and be supplied by land routes, whose security Turkish forces would be responsible for. (Back to square one: the main road from Turkey into Iraq runs through Kurdish territory, and is one of the Kurds' most strategic assets.) Ankara also insists that it be allowed to pursue Kurdish militants from the separatist PKK group, and wants a refugee camp set up for Kurds fleeing Turkey in the 1990s to be dismantled. It's "deeply worrying," says a top Kurdish official, that Turkey is beginning to "tell us how to run our affairs even at this early stage." Given how unpopular the proposed deployment is both at home and in Iraq, the Turks may yet decide to withdraw their offer, especially if other, less controversial countries step forward to take their place in the Coalition.
--Owen Matthews and Rod Nordland
Deals: A Rival Swoops In to Steal a Siberian Pipeline
For the past decade China has implored Russia to build a pipeline from its Siberian oilfields to the energy-starved People's Republic. So Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov stunned his Chinese hosts in Beijing last month when he announced that the $2.5 billion project had been postponed. Officials kept up a polite face, but the state-run China Daily thundered in an editorial that "certain factions" in Russia were becoming increasingly hostile to the growth of its giant communist neighbor.
Now the real culprit may be clear. China's great Asian rival, Japan, has put $7 billion on the table to persuade Moscow to pipe oil to the Russian Pacific port of Nakhodka, where it could then be transported across the Sea of Japan. That route would also allow Russia to export its crude to other Asian countries, and perhaps even to the United States.
In many ways Russia is leery of China's growing economic might. "We can get immediate dividends from choosing the Chinese route, but we will be tied to one country and find ourselves at the whims of their policy," says Sergei Grigoriyev, of the Russian pipeline operator Transneft, which has lobbied for the Pacific route. Especially given fears that China has designs on Russia's vast but unpopulated East, that might be enough to clinch the deal with the Japanese.
Science: The Steadiest Metal
Turn up the heat, and most materials expand as the space between their atoms widens. A few semirebellious materials defy that particular law of physics and actually shrink. And an even rarer group stays almost exactly the same size--or exhibit "zero thermal expansion," in lab speak. Now, scientists at Michigan State University have found a compound that's the least expansive yet--and conducts electricity to boot. The winning recipe, known as YbGaGe--a dash of ytterbium, gallium and germanium--maintains its composure and size from 175 degrees below zero Celsius to a blistering 125 above. Mercouri Kanatzidis, one of the scientists who discovered the compound's properties, calls it "a unique, special material." It could also be quite useful. Compounds like YbGaGe could be used in space hardware like infrared telescopes and high-precision valves handling liquid oxygen and helium. "Spacecraft go through large temperature swings, and materials that aren't subject to thermal shock are going to be very attractive to designers," says Brad Carpenter, lead scientist for NASA's Physical Sciences Research Division. "This is certainly a step forward." And since such metal compounds are reflective, they could also be used to make longer-lasting space-telescope mirrors. Back on Earth, the compound could potentially be employed as a durable base component for electrical circuitry, says Kanatzidis. Whatever the case, YbGaGe will soon have the chance to prove its mettle.
South Korea: Risky Ploy
Frustrated by a stubborn Parliament and sinking public support, South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun threw the dice last week, calling for a national referendum on Dec. 15. If he loses the confidence vote, he says he'll step down--prompting even close associates to denounce his rashness as "suicidal." And the prospect of another presidential election in April--at the same time as the next parliamentary polls--has thrown Koreans into a frenzy. More political turmoil is the last thing they want.
There may be method to Roh's madness, though. New polls indicate that he would get up to 60 percent of the vote if the recall were held today. Most Koreans are unhappy with Roh's rule so far, but are more concerned about possible political instability (and less enamored of any potential rivals). Analysts say that could give Roh's party much-needed momentum in the parliamentary elections.
Even so, Roh may have overlooked one factor. North and South Korea will join the United States, China, Russia and Japan to discuss the North Korean nuclear issue, possibly in November. With Roh tied up with a recall vote, it's unlikely South Korea will be able to play an active role. "Because of the president's problems, Seoul's voice could be ignored completely," says Paik Hak Soon of Sejong Institute in Seoul. "The other parties will try to bypass South Korea." Right now, though, retaining his position at the risk of forfeiting his country's seems to be a risk Roh is willing to take.
--B. J. Lee
Arab World: Freeing the Mind
The United Nations Development Program has released its second Arab Human Development Report, this time focusing on the state of knowledge in the 22 member nations of the Arab League. Thanks to factors like authoritarian rule, economic stagnation and an ongoing brain drain, the Arab world's level of learning--once the envy of the rest of the world--has fallen woefully behind. Worse, young Arabs don't have access to the new knowledge they need to catch up. Only 53 newspapers are published per 1,000 Arab citizens, in contrast to 285 in the developed world. There are fewer than 18 computers per 1,000 Arabs, compared with the world's 78.3, and only 1.6 percent have Internet access. The region is no better off with book-learning. Less than one translated book per 1 million citizens was published annually in the Arab world during the early 1980s. Compare that with Spain, which alone averaged 920 per year. More worrying still, even those Arabs who manage to acquire knowledge have limited opportunity at home. R&D spending constitutes less than 0.2 percent of Arab GNP.
The report is not all gloom and doom. Female representation in the governments of Morocco and Qatar has grown since 2001. On the whole, today's --Arabs believe that men are no more entitled to university education than women. (Although when it comes to the job market, most think that men should be given priority in employment.) Artistic creativity continues to flourish. And a noted increase in independent, often Arabic-language broadcast media could well help boost the dissemination of knowledge.
Still, despite advances, there is no instant remedy. Decades had passed before 9/11 forced much of the globe--including the UNDP, which started these Arab-specific reports only last year--to wake up to the region's failings. Solving them may take almost as long.
Music: Mi Salsa Es Su Salsa
The CD sleeve description reads like a recipe for disaster: "A Latin dance party with a twist, featuring salsa from Greece, India, Scotland and beyond." But in its recent release "Salsa Around the World," Putumayo World Music has produced a salsa platter that really grooves. To be sure, its featured bands--Apurimac from Greece, India's Shaan and Salsa Celtica from Scotland, among others--are unlikely to answer the eternal debate among Puerto Rico, Cuba, Los Angeles, Miami and New York over whose salsa is the true one. But the album will get your hips moving. And in salsa's spirit of evolution, the bands add their own azucar and spice. Bagpipes blend with bongos as Salsa Celtica's singers--in their best Highland Spanish--ask whether their love will dance with them in the north of Scotland. (The answer is "si," or as their countrymen might say, "aye.") The ricocheting rhythms of the Japanese ensemble Orquesta de la Luz reaffirm why it was picked to perform alongside the likes of legends Celia Cruz and Tito Puente on past tours, and El Septeto's gently seductive tribute to Cuban son will make your brain think "Buena Vista Social Club," even though you know the band is from Finland. Pick up this album. So what if some of the tunes are a little formulaic? The compilation is still a lovely listen. And at the very least, it proves that those unfortunate non-Latinos walking among us can play salsa, too. The dancing might take a little more practice.
Books: Ghost Writers?
Who wrote "And Quiet Flows the Don"? The book jacket credits Mikhail Sholokhov, the Russian author who took home the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1965. But ever since the novel hit shelves in 1928, rumors have persisted that Sholokhov didn't write the book himself. In fact, so the story goes, large portions were written by a team of Soviet hacks in order to create a working-class literary idol for the Soviet state. Sholokhov, who had almost no formal education, fit the theory perfectly. Over the years, arguers both for and against the rumors have received boosts of evidence, but nothing ever totally turned the tide. Sholokhov fans seemed to get the upper hand in 1999, when Russian scholars produced a manuscript of at least part of the novel in Sholokhov's own hand.
But the pendulum has swung again. In a new book, Israeli literary historian Zeev Bar-Sella claims that the core of the novel was authored by White Army officer Veniamin Krasnushkin, a little-known literary talent who was shot by communist forces during the Russian civil war. The Soviet secret police confiscated his unfinished manuscript and handed it off to a group of authors who expanded on it. Through analysis of the original text, Bar-Sella convincingly shows that the collective approach left the novel rife with stylistic inconsistencies and competing voices. This evidence could close the book on "And Quiet Flows the Don." Or, given this particular work's past, we could just be in for another round.
Poetry: The Trials of Sylvia Plath
In the four decades since Sylvia Plath gassed herself to death, people have argued about who was to blame. Feminists accused her philandering husband, poet Ted Hughes, of pushing her to the edge. Hughes's defenders portrayed Plath as emotionally unbalanced. But Diane Middlebrook's excellent book, "Her Husband," is one sign that we may have finally come far enough for a balanced appraisal of the Plath-Hughes marriage: "Depression," she writes, "killed Sylvia Plath."
Another sign is the new film "Sylvia," starring Gwyneth Paltrow, which also tries for an evenhanded approach. The surviving family--Hughes died in 1998--isn't so dispassionate. Frieda Hughes, their daughter, is violently opposed to the movie; she recently published a poem attacking the film's conception of her mother as "Their Sylvia Suicide Doll." As guardians of the Plath-Hughes estate--Plath left no will--Frieda and Ted's sister, Olwyn, have kept tight control over Plath's poetry, and the film uses only brief snippets.
In researching her book, Middlebrook minimized involvement with the family, quoting from both poets' work but asking Olwyn only to verify an anecdote. Middlebrook balances scholarship--she is among the first to delve into the documentary trove Hughes sold to Atlanta's Emory University--with analysis of the interplay of the couple's poems. Many refer to specific works by the other, and some have deeply embedded messages, some cutting, some loving, meant only for each other.
"Her Husband" also breaks news. An unsent letter by Hughes suggests that he may not have destroyed Plath's journal written in the weeks before her death. Middlebrook also questions his claim that another journal went missing. "I am so desperately hoping that the 1960-62 journal exists--that if he hid the last one, hehid the next-to-last one, too." At Emory, a tantalizing chest of documents sits locked, on Hughes's order, until 2023. Some mysteries of their marriage remain.
Since Sharon Stone's last film, a Komodo dragon bit her husband's foot, and she had a very public divorce and a brain hemorrhage. After all that--and with a new film, "Cold Creek Manor," to promote--talking to NEWSWEEK's B. J. Sigesmund was all in a day's work.
Let's start with easy stuff before we get...
... To the real tough questions, like how I feel about dating?
You must get that a lot.
Not from anyone who actually wants a date.
Speaking of which--not to kiss up to you at all--you're aging so beautifully.
I've gotten bonier. I get more and more cheekbones, and I just keep getting skinnier. And that's been my good luck. My parents are very young-looking people. They're gorgeous, and they're in their 70s. Have you ever seen my folks? You probably can on the Internet.
What's it like being back on the PR circuit?
I have to say, it feels very different. Before, it was like I spent my life hanging on to a rocket. And now I've mellowed, and I have the ability to say, "I'd like to talk about this, and I'd really rather not talk about that." I also don't feel like if I don't do everything, it will all go away.
Can we get back to your dating life?
I really don't feel like dating, to be honest with you. I'd go for a cup of coffee, and by the time I was halfway through the second cup there'd be paparazzi outside. So that doesn't seem worth it.