An American Spinmeister Comes To London. Beware.
Conspicuously absent from the U.S. 2008 presidential election campaign is one Bob Shrum, the über-consultant who worked on eight presidential campaigns between 1972 and 2004 before retiring to Cape Cod, Massachusetts. But across the Atlantic, Shrum, 64, is still quietly plying his trade for one of his political best friends, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Since Brown's ascension, Shrum has been working, unpaid, as a speechwriter and political strategist and sees the P.M. "once or twice a week"—a level of access comparable to that of a senior cabinet member.
Yet Downing Street downplays Shrum's role. Its fear is that exposing it will spotlight an unwelcome American influence over British politics and the return of spin to 10 Downing Street. Some prominent Labour figures are also grumbling over what has become known in the United States as the "Shrum curse": none of Shrum's clients ever made it to the White House. "The man is a klutz," fumes one of Tony Blair's closest former advisers, who like most others involved in this catfight insisted on cloaking his aspersions in anonymity. "He has a tin ear for British politics, and it shows." The problem, they say, is that Shrum is trying to transplant his ideological liberalism in a country where pragmatic centrists of the Blair school have won the last three general elections. Equally worrisome to one former senior Blair aide is "the strategic stress on the idea of character, which is a Shrum trademark. The reason Shrum always loses is that [electoral success is] not about character; in the end, it's about policy."
Shrum's role went virtually unnoticed until the Labour Party's conference in late September. At the time, Brown held a commanding position in the polls. For three months he had governed astutely, and was riding so high one set of advisers—including a "cautious" Shrum, according to a Downing Street source—urged him to call a snap election. Then along came Brown's conference speech, with language such as "sometimes people say I'm too serious" and "I will not let you down." London Times commentary editor Daniel Finkelstein, himself a former political speechwriter, heard a voice other than Brown's, Googled the suspect phrases and came up with Shrum as channeled by his client Al Gore at the 2000 Democratic National Convention: "Sometimes people say I'm too serious," and "I will never let you down." The speech was only part of Brown's undoing, but over the next 10 days Labour's poll lead vanished and the opposition Conservative Party got its highest ratings since 1992. The Shrum curse seems stronger than ever.
Nearly 62% of 1.2 million downloaders did not pay for Radiohead's album "In Rainbows," which the rock band released online last month in a "pay what you'd like" experiment.
Last summer, Ichiro Ozawa stunned the world when his Democratic Party of Japan upset the dominant LDP in parliamentary elections. There was talk that Japan might finally become a two-party state with the tough-talking Ozawa its leader. Then, last week, he stunned again, by resigning as DPJ boss—and then, three days later, changing his mind. What happened? Turns out Ozawa was not so tough after all. Having sworn he'd beat the LDP, Ozawa recently entered coalition talks with them. When his lieutenants balked, Ozawa, judging he'd lost their confidence, quit. Ozawa blamed the about-face on miscommunication and mental fatigue. More likely, DPJ hacks couldn't face another bruising leadership battle. The DPJ still has a chance in the next election, since LDP Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda is no more commanding. But many Japanese voters are expected to stay home. Who can blame them?
You Call That Art?
Adoring press coverage and a soaring economy have propelled Russian President Vladimir Putin to something close to a political god. Russian artists are now turning him into a pop-art icon. The Blue Noses, a group of Moscow artists, have created a series of works satirizing the president that includes a triptych of Putin with Jesus and Alexander Pushkin. Moscow painter Sofia Azarkhi's "Inauguration of the Kingdom," portrays a naked Zeus-like Putin riding a green snake into the heavens as angels proffer a crown. "We're seeing a new niche," says Marat Gelman, one of the few Moscow gallery owners to show work critical of Putin. "Russian artists are rediscovering the art of irony."
Not everyone appreciates it. Works by the Blue Noses were detained by Russian Customs agents last month while en route to a Paris exhibition. Russian Culture Minister Alexander Sokolov called it "a shame for Russia." Meantime, Oscar-winning director Nikita Mikhalkov—producer of a biopic of Putin that featured lingering shots of his blue eyes—and sculptor Zurab Tsereteli recently sent Putin a letter, in the name of 65,000 Russian artists, begging him to remain president for a third term. And they did so without a trace of irony.
—Owen Matthews and Anna Nemtsova
Will a new Clinton presidency be bad for stocks? A study of the Dow Jones Industrial Average index shows that it generally jumps in election years, particularly when Republicans win, but underperforms when Democrats take the White House. But that doesn't mean a Hillary Clinton victory will depress stocks, says study author Paul Ashworth. Futures indicators and current stock-market gains now show no strong link between a Democratic president and a bear market.
Weapons Of Indigestion
No matter how nasty you are, you've still got to eat. That's the premise of the new British book "The Axis of Evil Cookbook" by Gill Partington. Focusing on recipes from America's favorite baddies—Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Libya, Syria and Cuba—each chapter gives an overview of the country's history and a few intriguing (if sometimes well-documented) tidbits about its dictator: Saddam Hussein, hiding in his spider hole, could apparently throw down a family-size bag of Doritos in 10 minutes. North Korea's Kim Jong Il supposedly demands that olives on his pizza be uniformly distributed. Fidel Castro makes his own foie gras p?t?. Some of the recipes are standard in ethnic restaurants worldwide. But Iranian tongue with mushroom (peel off the skin after stewing; slice thinly), Iraqi Tongue of Judges (just lamb or beef sausages with eggplant) and Syrian sheep-kidney toast are all off the beaten menu. Could whirled peas really be the answer to international peace?
Changing the Face of Modern War
A London exhibition shows how far reconstructive surgery has come—and what that means for soldiers.
They are gruesome images: black-and-white photographs of men missing jaws, noses, cheekbones and eyes. The photos in "Faces of Battle," a new exhibition at London's National Army Museum, show the disfigured men on the front lines not just of World War I's greatest battles but also of the brand-new field called reconstructive surgery— without whose developments many soldiers injured in Afghanistan and Iraq could not return to daily life.
More than 2 million British and Commonwealth soldiers were injured during World War I because the trenches dug to protect them from powerful new weapons couldn't always shield their heads from sniper fire and shrapnel. Harold Gillies, a New Zealand-born surgeon posted in France, realized that horribly injured men would need years of care and argued for a special ward that would treat radical facial injuries. "Faces of Battle" chronicles the techniques that he and his staff pioneered, including the use of bone and cartilage to reconstruct faces.
Cosmetic surgery for today's soldiers can be a messy business, and it's often impossible to restore the faces of the badly disfigured. But "Faces of Battle" shows just how far surgical reconstructions have come.
The women presidents of South America have elicited praise for helping spread female leadership from Western Europe. But a World Economic Forum report on the "global gender gap" last week shows that countries that rank above parts of Europe in female "political empowerment" include South Asia, a longtime leader, Croatia, South Africa and El Salvador. And countries without high empowerment rankings have skyrocketing "educational attainment" rankings, suggesting more female presidents could be just around the corner.
— Adam B. Kushner
Mariane Pearl, the wife of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, resolved to hold onto her sense of hope in the aftermath of her husband's murder by terrorists in 2002. She wrote a stirring memoir, "A Mighty Heart," later made into a film starring Angelina Jolie. Now she's back with "In Search of Hope," which features 12 profiles (originally written for Glamour magazine) of profoundly optimistic women—from a Moroccan cleaning lady in Paris to the president of Liberia. She spoke with NEWSWEEK's Tony Dokoupil:
Why did you start this project?
I wanted to show people that there is hope out there. It comes from the actions of individuals like the women in this book. You have suicide bombers who are ready to lose their lives to destroy, but there are also people who are ready to lose their lives to build. Finding those people—that was my quest. It was personal and professional.
What made it personal?
For my son's sake, I really needed to answer the question: Can we spread hope the way others spread fear? What are our assets to do that? To me, it's these people.
Why did you choose only women to profile?
Because women get it.