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  • Correspondents' Picks

    Cuisine isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when most people think of Nepal, unless perhaps it’s yak meat on the mountain trails. Nepal is all about the outdoors—mountaineering, trekking, river rafting—where adventurers brave the elements on dried fruit and granola bars. But the country offers a tremendous variety of foods served in restaurants, bakeries and bars that cater to all visitors, especially in the capital, Kathmandu.A trip to Kathmandu should include some time in the Thamel district in the city center. Aside from being next to cultural exhibits like the ancient Durbar Square, Thamel is the base for most visitors. It’s small maze of alleys with shops and hawkers offering trekking tours, winter gear, Tibetan carpets, DVDs, T shirts, trinkets, marijuana, foot massages and hotel rooms. This buzzing little ghetto has some great little places to eat, though an address or phone number won’t help you find most of them:The Katmandu Guest House was the first hotel to open in...
  • 'Voices of the Fallen': Reporting the Story

    For several months, a large team of NEWSWEEK reporters called the families of soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq. Those wives, parents and children showed us a side of the story too seldom told.
  • Egypt: A Referendum to Roll Back Reform

    A half dozen opposition members of Egypt’s Parliament stepped out of the People’s Assembly a little after noon last Tuesday, expecting to join hoards of protesters there. Instead, they were met with an eerily empty street, blocked on both sides by plainclothes police agents manning iron barricades. What was meant to be a show of popular discontent against restrictive legislation passed in the Parliament hours earlier became yet another illustration of how far freedoms have been rolled back in Egypt in recent months. While some of the parliamentarians tried to make the best of the situation by delivering bombastic statements of outrage to the few that made it past security officials, there was no ignoring the pervasive air of defeat.“This is a dark comedy,” said Hamdeen Sabahy, an opposition M.P. in the People’s Assembly and head of the Nasserist Karama Party, as he walked away from the protest. “We are all simply actors in a play of democracy,” he said. “A poorly directed play,”...
  • Unlock Your Unexplored Psychic Powers

    As we travel through life we are all seekers after something larger than ourselves, a truth known to seers, healers and book publishers through the ages. For Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer, a prominent clinical psychologist at Berkeley, her quest began in 1991 with the theft of a rare and valuable harp belonging to her daughter. On the advice of a friend, she sought help from a professional psychic named Harold McCoy, who, with only a street map and a photograph of the harp—he never left his home in Arkansas—told her exactly the address in Oakland where it could be found. For the rest of her life Mayer was obsessed with this feat, as who wouldn't be? So last month, 15 years after the harp was returned, I sent McCoy a picture of a lock—a cast-iron padlock my grandfather had used to lock up his pushcart at night—and a set of New York City street maps. Find the lock, I told him.Mayer's quest took her into a world where the ordinary rules of time and space don't apply—of dowsers like McCoy, who...
  • Grow the Market

    Last year MIT computer guru Nicholas Negroponte started his One Laptop per Child initiative to bring computing to the world's poor. Chipmaker Intel wouldn't participate in the program, opting instead to introduce its own machine for the masses—the Classmate PC. It's a much more luxurious device than Negroponte's—it comes with a one- or two-gigabyte flash hard drive and a WiMAX chip for networking. To persuade schools to buy the $300 PC, Intel will provide training to 10 million teachers over the next five years. (It will also donate 100,000 PCs.) The firm has collaborated with a handful of countries, including Thailand, Turkey and Ireland, to create online educational programs for science and math. "We're growing the market together—that's the concept," says Intel VP John Davies. Intel plans to ship hundreds of thousands of PCs to 30 countries this year.
  • Time To Decide About Kosovo

    Once again the Balkans are on the world docket. Few are paying attention, but the stakes are high: the stability of the region, the reliability of international promises, the credibility of the United Nations. We need to get the right answer.The question, of course, is Kosovo. U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari has drafted his plan for "supervised" independence, severing the southernmost province of the former Yugoslavia from Serbia to join Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia and Montenegro among the tribe of new sovereign states. In Vienna this week he will make a final effort to convince Kosovars and Serbian leaders that it is in their best interests to sign on. The next stop will be the Security Council, which must decide what to do. One temptation will be to call for continued negotiations among the "parties." That would be a disaster for the region, the West and the United Nations. So would any Serbian effort to promote the partition of Kosovo.The case for independence begins with...
  • Stromboli, Italy: Building On The Volcano

    The view from Punta la Bronzo Pizzeria on the upper reaches of the volcanic island of Stromboli is stunning. Tiny islands dot the turquoise sea in the distance, and dramatic cliffs tower above a black-sand beach below. The lifestyle is a blend of opulence and simplicity: Stromboli is car-free, the local community is generous to visitors and the food is divine. It's no surprise that wealthy Italians from the president of the republic, Giorgio Napolitano, to the luxe designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana keep summer villas here. Lately, however, the blue skies are hazy and the fresh air is powdered with volcanic ash, thanks to an eruption that began on Feb. 27.The sight of red-hot lava running down the sides of Stromboli should not have come as a surprise to its swank residents. Stromboli is the most active volcano on the planet, says the U.S. Geological Survey. Yet new construction has risen nearly 20 percent in the last decade, mostly multimillion-euro villas tucked into the...
  • Liu: Let 500 Olympic Flowers Bloom

    Preparing for the 2008 Games, Beijing horticulturists are breeding and pruning up a storm—and even shooting flower seeds into space.
  • Automating the Paris Metro

    Even in a country that's long prided itself on its trains, the Paris Métro stands out. It's fast, easy to navigate, clean, inexpensive and, with 16 lines serving 297 stations, remarkably dense—leading many transport experts to consider it the world's premier metro. Since the first few lines entered service at the turn of the 20th century, the Métro has grown into a 218-kilometer network that carries 1.36 billion passengers a year. A train sweeps through the 25 stations of Ligne 1, the city's busiest, every 105 seconds. Paris's Métro authority, the RATP, is apparently not satisfied. Last summer it began an ambitious effort to slice 20 seconds off train headway time and increase rolling speed. It plans to do it by automating the entire line—eliminating drivers and replacing them with computers.Paris is not the first city to install a driverless metro line—30 or so cities, such as Ankara, Copenhagen and Vancouver, already have automated lines, and 20 more are under construction. But...
  • France's Sarko Is Too American

    Rarely has a foreign dignitary—especially a French one—gushed so effusively about what's right with America. When Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy spoke at the headquarters of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Washington last September, he was Mr. Apple Pie—à la mode. He lauded Madonna, Hemingway, Hollywood movies, the New York art scene, American scientific research—even U.S. immigration policies. "Every parent in France dreams of sending his child to an American university," Sarkozy proclaimed in his paean to Yankee Doodledom. Sniping from French elitists is mere "jealousy in the face of your brilliant success," he said. "Nobody in France dares to say the truth: the United States is the greatest economic, military and monetary power in the world."...
  • The Power of Personality

    You are looking at the photographs of a grim refugee camp along the desert border between Darfur and Chad because the movie star Angelina Jolie was there. Her image catches your eye and, indeed, the world's attention.There's no use pretending otherwise. She doesn't. "If I can draw you in a little because I'm familiar, then that's great," she told NEWSWEEK after she came back from her late February visit to the 26,000 residents of Oure Cassoni camp. "Because I know that at the end you're not looking at me, you're looking at them." Well ... "As long as [you] end up looking at them, that's the point."The aid workers on the scene, at the edge of a conflict the U.S. government now calls genocidal, could not agree more. They live month after month in rough conditions amid constant danger as the war spills into their territory. "You can hear it and feel it," says Dr. Ashis Brahma, medical coordinator for the International Rescue Committee in the camp. Skirmishes take place within a couple...
  • Das: India's Love of Bureaucracy

    On Feb. 28, India's ruling congress party-led coalition introduced its latest budget, aiming, according to Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, "to lift the poor" and close the income gap. The new plan, however, is no more likely to succeed than past efforts. The problem is best understood by focusing on two numbers hidden in the document. One represents a promise to hire 200,000 new schoolteachers; the other, to grant 100,000 scholarships. These two figures underscore both what is right and wrong with India today, and why its leaders fail to help their neediest constituents.India as a country is getting richer at a bewildering rate. Somehow this chaotic, billion-person democracy has become one of the world's fastest-growing economies, expanding 8 percent in the past three years and 9.2 percent this year. Since 1980, per capita income has tripled. Some of this progress has trickled down: 1 percent of the poor have crossed the poverty line each year since 1980. That adds up to a total of...
  • Books: When Murder Ruled Chicago

    Michael Lesy’s “Murder City” is a creepy book. Fascinating, but creepy. Lesy (“Wisconsin Death Trip”) focuses on Windy City murders in the ’20s, a time and place we all think we know: Capone, Leopold and Loeb, “Chicago”—merely drop the city’s name and people start thinking Tommy guns and bathtub gin. Lesy takes his time getting to the notorious gangsters. Most of the perps and victims are people you’ve never heard of: a man who killed his wife because he wanted to go back into the Army, a man who killed two men for a Packard, lots of spurned lovers. They add up—but to what? Something strangely depressing: by 1924, Chicago had a homicide rate 24 percent higher than the national average, and it was choked by a culture compounded by gangsterism, corruption and rat-a-tat-tat headlines. Lesy dissipates the romance of the roaring ’20s before his book is half over, certainly well before we encounter the women who inspired the winking cynicism of “Chicago.” What sticks with you about that...
  • Higher Math From Medieval Islam

    Ancient, closely held religious secrets; messages encoded on the walls of Middle Eastern shrines; the divine golden ratio—readers of a recent issue of the journal Science must have wondered if they'd mistakenly picked up "The Da Vinci Code" instead. In stretches of intricate tiling on several 500-year-old Islamic buildings, Peter Lu and Paul Steinhardt wrote, they'd spotted a large fragment of a mathematical pattern that was unknown to Western science until the 1970s. Islam gave the world algebra, from the Arabic al-jabr, a term referring to a basic equation. But this pattern is far from basic; it comes from much higher math. "The ridiculous thing is, this pattern has been staring Westerners in the face all this time," says Keith Critchlow, author of the book "Islamic Patterns." "We simply haven't been able to read it." Now that we can, though, it is serving as a startling indication of how accomplished medieval-era Muslims may have been.No one knows what the architects of the...
  • Hollywood's New Moguls Shake Things Up

    Superrich Sidney Kimmel and Sam Nazarian are out to shake things up in Tinseltown. But will the old guard shake them down before they get the chance?
  • Defense Secretary Bob Gates to the Rescue

    The old, macho Bush administration took a certain delight in telling its enemies, at home and abroad, to go to hell. The president seemed to enjoy watching Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld swagger and put reporters down at press conferences in the post-9/11 buildup to the invasion of Iraq. (George W. Bush teasingly called Rumsfeld "Matinee Idol.") Advice from moderates, especially if they had worked in the administration of Bush's father, was generally scorned. And any suggestion from the chattering classes, from the media elites, was likely to push the president in the opposite direction.But that was then, before Iraq turned into a quagmire, the Democrats won control of Congress, Rumsfeld was eased out and Bush began worrying more about his legacy. When The Washington Post exposed wretched conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the Bush team responded as if Texas had been invaded. The behind-the-scenes scramble to rectify the mess at the facility and to take better care of...
  • Zakaria: Right Ideas, Wrong Time

    President Bush has done the right thing in going to Latin America. He's visiting the right countries, and he has sounded the right themes, emphasizing that the United States supports democratic government, open markets and "social justice" (a phrase I have never heard Bush use before, and which must be causing ulcers in some of his right-wing fans). But Bush's new look at the region will not do much good. It's too little, too late.Until Bush's election in 2000, American foreign policy toward Latin America had been on the right track for two decades. Ronald Reagan orchestrated an extraordinary turnaround, supporting human rights, democracy and free trade in several countries. His administration played an important role in ending the dictatorships in Chile and Paraguay, among other places. He proposed new trade policies that would spur growth in the region. And perhaps most important, he began a tradition of support and cooperation for Mexican reform that became standard for later...
  • Phone "Phreakers" Steal Minutes

    The telephone industry has been in an upheaval ever since upstarts began competing with the big telecoms by sending voice calls over the Internet. Now even big firms use so-called voice over Internet protocol. But VoIP is not as secure as the old-fashioned phone lines—as carriers that rely on the Internet are finding out. They are increasingly falling prey to "phreakers," who steal their minutes and resell them on a thriving black market.Of course, anybody with a PC and an Internet connection can talk free of charge to another PC user. For the telecoms, the profit is in using VoIP to deliver calls from one telephone to another. That requires a "gateway" server to connect a carrier's telephone network to the Internet. Phreakers break into these gateways, steal "voice minutes" and sell them to other, usually smaller, telecoms. Many of these firms then sell printed phone cards, operate call centers or run phone boutiques. "It's a great racket," says Justin Newman, CEO of BinFone...
  • China Exports Trouble, Too

    China, the so-called factory of the world, has just produced its newest product—a global stock-market correction. The 9 percent plunge in the Chinese stock market late last month was a shot heard around the world. The hows and whys of this contagion speak volumes to the new and important role China now plays in driving the global economy and shaping trends in world financial markets.There are three key pieces to this puzzle—the first being China's disproportionate impact on the global economy. While a $2.6 trillion Chinese economy amounts to only about 5 percent of overall world output, it makes up a much larger share of the growth in the global economy. In 2006, for example, China's surging economy accounted for about one third the total increase in world GDP. Moreover, during the past four years, China has been responsible for about 50 percent of the cumulative growth in economically sensitive commodities such as oil and a variety of base metals, like aluminum, copper, lead,...
  • The Last Word: Roger Searle

    Roger Searle is going down under—way under. Last week the Durham University geophysics professor and a group of fellow scientists set sail from Tenerife aboard the £40 million research ship RSS James Cook. They are investigating a hypothesis that part of the earth's crust is missing. Halfway between the Canary Islands and the Caribbean lies what one of Searle's colleagues called "an open wound on the surface of the earth." Nearly 100 kilometers of seafloor seems to be, in effect, missing. The scientists will spend several weeks investigating why this area did not develop a normal crust and how it appears to challenge current tectonic-plate theories. With the Atlantic waves crashing around him, Searle spoke to NEWSWEEK's Ginanne Brownell by satellite phone from Tenerife. Excerpts: ...
  • Mail Call: Midlife Blues

    Our Jan. 22 Health for Life special on menopause garnered praise from readers. One who "more than welcomed it" added, "Your exposé is just the tip of the iceberg." A depressed woman shared her remedy: "The answer is not calcium and vitamin D ... it is to stop smoking and drinking.""Europe's Fallen Angels" (Feb. 19) presents a pessimistic picture of the prospects of the EU's new Central European members. An IMF staff paper is cited to suggest that financial markets' favorable view of these countries is ill founded. Your article misrepresents the findings of that paper. Our paper does find that interest rates on new members' euro-denominated sovereign debt are lower than we can explain on the basis of economic, political and financial conditions. However, we do not jump to the conclusion that these low interest rates have a malign basis. True, they may reflect a mistaken view that EU membership carries an implicit guarantee. But we argue that benign influences are at least as likely:...
  • Airbus: Headed for a Breakup

    It's hard to believe that just a few years ago, Airbus was cracking open the champagne to claim victory over U.S. rival Boeing. Talk about celebrating too soon. Over the past year, the company has run through three bosses and its shares have plummeted 30 percent. Following announcements of 10,000 job cuts and several possible factory sell-offs, European unionists responded last week with spectacular strikes. At Airbus headquarters in Toulouse, 15,000 protesters marched, waving banners that asked: is there a pilot on the plane?In fact, the company has been on autopilot for the past six years. Airbus's problems stem from three long-term issues: disastrous management, a politically motivated reluctance to downsize or outsource and a failing gamble on the biggest plane in history. The troubles came to the fore last summer, when the company was forced to admit that its new megajet, the A380, had technical problems and couldn't be delivered on time, costing the company billions.Since then...
  • The Met's Opera Broadcast to Cinemas

    The line for the Metropolitan Opera snakes around the corner. A white-haired society woman clad in velvet rushes in out of the winter rain, passing out-of-towners clutching handmade need a ticket signs. An older man waits with his 6-year-old granddaughter—the third generation to be introduced to live opera with this showing of Mozart's "The Magic Flute."A classic scene outside Lincoln Center? Actually, no; it's a movie theater in Albany, New York, where the Met performance is about to be broadcast live. Similar scenes are occurring simultaneously at more than 100 venues around the world, from specially redesigned Japanese Kabuki theaters to Norway's oldest movie house, 483 kilometers above the Arctic Circle. It's all part of a bold initiative recently launched by the Met's new general manager, Peter Gelb, to popularize opera and perhaps save it from obscurity. He plans to beam six live performances by satellite to remote movie houses. Broadcasts began in December with "The Magic...
  • Mideast: Still Waiting for News of Gilad

    It has been almost nine months since Palestinian militants crept across the Gaza border and snatched Gilad Schalit, a 19-year-old corporal in the Israeli military. In the aftermath of the kidnapping, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert responded forcefully, sending in tanks and bombing key ministries. But after months of war, Schalit is still missing, and authorities haven't received a sign of life from the soldier in almost six months. Still, news that Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah had agreed to form a national-unity government raised hopes of a breakthrough in the negotiations. As Schalit's family awaited further developments, NEWSWEEK's Kevin Peraino spoke with the soldier's father, Noam, at his home in the northern Israeli village of Hila. Excerpts: ...
  • Oberdorfer: How the White House Learned to Live With Kim Jong Il

    At 10:36 a.m. last Oct. 9, the first nuclear blast ever to shake the Korean peninsula created an artificial earthquake near P'unggye in the remote northeastern corner of North Korea. As nuclear detonations go, it was smaller than expected—less than 1 kiloton, the equivalent of 1,000 tons (2 million pounds) of TNT. However, that would be enough, according to U.S. expert Siegfried Hecker, former chief of the U.S. nuclear laboratory at Los Alamos, to kill instantly many thousands of people if it exploded in a major city.North Korea hailed the blast as a historic event that had been conducted entirely with "indigenous wisdom and technology." Following an unexplained delay of 11 days, it began holding mass celebrations of the country's nuclear status. Signs were erected on Pyongyang street corners declaring LET US MAKE SHINE FOREVER OUR BECOMING A NUCLEAR POWER, A HISTORIC INCIDENT IN THE 5,000 YEARS OF OUR PEOPLE'S HISTORY.The widespread belief, which I shared at the time, was that...
  • Bush's Body Language in Latin America

    What can a staged grip-and-grin picture tell you about international relations?  A lot, says Peter Andersen, author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Body Language" (Alpha) and professor of communications at San Diego State University. "The body language of world leaders is reflective of their attitudes either toward the individual or toward the country or the culture," he explains. The president suffers poor approval ratings in the region, and anti-Bush demonstrations have been common during the trip. So it’s not surprising that some of  the photo ops from the five-nation Latin American tour reflect tension, Andersen says. "Bush's body language in many of the images from this trip is that of someone who's either very reluctant or somewhat inept, and that confirms the image that a lot of people in those countries and around the world have already developed of him." NEWSWEEK's Susanna Schrobsdorff asked Andersen to review photos from the trip to Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala...
  • United Nations: A New Way to Fight Famine?

    Famines generally follow a grim script: first the rains fail, then aid agencies issue dire warnings, and finally the United Nations scrambles to raise money and send food aid as journalists write stories of horror and tragedy. In the worst cases, real alarms don't go off until the starving appear on television screens. Even when peasants are spared death, they often lose everything they own—including animals and seeds.Does it have to unfold like this? The World Food Programme is trying a radical new idea: famine insurance. In this approach, a country secures an insurance policy against a catastrophic drought. If the rains come, the insurance company keeps its premium. But if rains fail and disaster is sure to strike, the international insurer pays out well before people go hungry. Richard Wilcox, director of business planning for the U.N. World Food Programme, hatched the idea in a pilot program for Ethiopia last fall. Now he's planning to enlarge the experiment. He spoke to...
  • America's Greenest Buildings

    The green movement is so much more than a referendum on what kind of car we drive—or don't. In a post-McMansion age, our homes, offices and community facilities have become a reflection of our newly green values, whether that just means replacing incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent, or redoing our entire living spaces with solar panels, compost heaps and hemp wallpaper.Each year the American Institute of Architects singles out the nation's Top Ten Green Projects, based on the incorporation of so-called sustainable design concepts. Is the project energy-efficient? Does it employ natural light and conserve water? Is the building designed to promote community interaction? In short, how does what we build have an impact on the world around us? Here, we spotlight four of 2006's winners.A headquarters building is more than a roof over the head of the CEO; it's a three-dimensional billboard advertising corporate values to the world. Which is why software companies build "campuses" to...
  • Fashion Business: Reviving Lacroix

    For 20 years, the name Christian Lacroix has stood for two things in fashion: complicated clothes and capital losses. But that's about to change. Three American brothers who bought Lacroix from the French luxury group Moët Hennessey-Louis Vuitton (LVMH) two years ago are using their no-nonsense business acumen to reinvent the label. They have pulled the disparate lines into one, cohesive ready-to-wear collection and planned a major expansion into the United States, setting the company on a course to become profitable—for the first time—within two years. "This [restructuring] is what I've always wanted to do," Lacroix says in his immense new showroom in western Paris. "I was on my hands and knees begging my successive presidents at LVMH. It's a complete relief. It's as if I were reborn."And what a grand entrance he's making. Last week Helen Mirren picked up her Oscar for best actress wearing a Lacroix made-to-order gold lace couture confection. "It held me like two angel hands," she...
  • Mail Call: Wreaking Havoc

    Our Jan. 15 cover story on bioinvading species led readers to share their views. Wrote one, "Aliens invade habitats already destroyed by man." Another agreed: "The most successful bioinvader? Us humans!" ...
  • Art: David Lynch's Ways of Seeing

    David Lynch is standing in the basement gallery of the Cartier Foundation in Paris, sipping a big cappuccino as he oversees the installation of "The Air is on Fire," a retrospective of his work (through May 27). The 61-year-old film director and artist is dressed in a crisp white shirt, black trousers and a long black smocklike coat that gives him the air of a mad scientist. His hair is tousled and wiry and a mix of metal tones, like much of his art. As he talks about having so much of his work on show—35 paintings, more than 150 photographs, dozens of drawings and film projections—a water pipe suddenly bursts in the ceiling, flooding the gallery. Visitors dive for cover and workers scramble for buckets. Yet Lynch remains calm, drinking his coffee. "Rain is supposed to be good luck," he says, looking at the water pouring from the ceiling. "And this is, in a way, rain."That distorted view of life—turning what most might consider awful into something romantic and positive—pervades...
  • Q&A: Private-Equity Barbarians

    The so-called barbarians—private-equity firms with their eyes on big targets—are no longer at the gates. They're knocking them down. Last month, Blackstone bought out New York real-estate group Equity Office for $39 billion in the biggest private-equity deal in history. Soon after, KKR and Texas Pacific Group shattered that record with a $45 billion takeover of Texas energy firm TXU. Recent aggressive deals have prompted outcries—last week British union leaders branded private-equity firms "immoral asset strippers." To get a sense of the industry's future, NEWSWEEK's Emily Flynn Vencat spoke to David Rubenstein, a founding partner of the Carlyle Group, one of the elite private-equity firms. Excerpts: ...
  • Europe's New Young Generation of Losers

    The continent's boomers are retiring, leaving a bitter legacy for the generation that comes next, which increasingly feels locked out of the European dream.
  • Global Warming: No Easy Fix

    Global warming isn't the only debate that may be over. Governments and policymakers around the world also seem to have settled on a solution. "A responsible approach to solving this crisis," Al Gore said recently at New York University's Law School, would be "to authorize the trading of emissions ... globally." Emissions trading, also called carbon trading, is being expanded in the European Union and Japan. And in many places where it's yet to take hold, like Sacramento, Sydney and Beijing, politicians are embracing it. Nicholas Stern, former chief economist of the World Bank and Europe's foremost political expert on global warming, predicts that the value of carbon credits in circulation, now about $28 billion, will climb to $40 billion by 2010.This should be great news for the environment, but many experts have their doubts. The notion that emissions trading is going to make a significant dent in global warming is deeply flawed, they say. Current emissions-trading schemes have...
  • Iraq: Silence of the Sadrists

    Early in the latest U.S. and Iraqi attempt to bring peace to Baghdad, one high-ranking Iraqi official included Moqtada al-Sadr in his prayers. "Allah, lo yehdih, lo yedahdih," he prayed, a pun that roughly translates as "Allah, show him the way, or kick him aside." As far as the official, who would only speak anonymously, is concerned, his prayer has been answered. Sadr has all but disappeared from the Iraqi scene the past three weeks, and Sadr's Mahdi Army has been notably quiet, too. Officially, the Iraqi government is attributing that to the new Baghdad security plan, part of a surge of forces that will eventually include 21,500 new American troops. But this official says what's really happening is the taming of Moqtada.The U.S. military announced plans to set up a base inside Shia-dominated Sadr City only late last week. Most U.S. reinforcements are still en route. Yet despite an upsurge in suicide bombings by Sunni extremists, mostly aimed at Shia civilians, the number of...
  • Zakaria: The Sky Isn't Falling in China

    For some years economists and analysts have been wondering what it would take to scare financial markets. Wars, coups, soaring commodity prices, increased energy costs, unwinding housing markets—nothing seemed to do it. Last week we got one answer: China. The sharp plunge in the Shanghai stock market caused jitters around the world. But while the reaction pointed to the increased importance of China in global economics, it also highlighted the confusion and misunderstanding that surround the Middle Kingdom.When a market has gone up 150 percent since 2006, as Shanghai's had, one doesn't need to search for grand explanations to recognize that it's bound to retreat at some point. More important, there is little linking the Shanghai stock market with the overall Chinese economy. It simply doesn't play the role that the stock market does in the United States or Britain. Most Chinese companies raise money through banks, not equities. Indeed, for the past 10 years, Chinese stocks have gone...
  • Sontag's Last Stands

    Before she died in 2004, Susan Sontag mapped out what would be her last book of essays. (Not her last book—as always, she just wanted to get back to fiction.) Some planned pieces never got written, and she didn't have a title. But her editors have put together something close to that collection: 16 essays and speeches written in Sontag's last years. "At the Same Time" is an ideal title: these pieces glide from literature into politics into photography into esthetics—sometimes in the same piece. These are her old preoccupations, which she kept making new. Her 1976 "On Photography" connects directly to "Photography: A Little Summa," a pithy set of observations from 2003. But it also connects to "Regarding the Torture of Others," a 2004 essay about Abu Ghraib and its digital-camera images—which in turn connects to her 2003 book "Regarding the Pain of Others," about visual images of pain and atrocity from lynchings through 9/11. Sontag's thought was all of a piece, driven by both her...
  • Books: 'Cat in the Hat' Explained at Last

    If you were to approach 10 people on the street and ask each one to recite from any narrative poem, the odds are that maybe one of them could get off a few lines of “Hiawatha” or “The Raven.” But if you were to suggest that they could include the works of Theodore Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss, the chances are that everyone born after 1950, or with children born after that date, could get off not just a few lines but perhaps whole book-length poems. He is, without doubt, the best-known American narrative poet of the last half of the 20th century. And not just best known: he’s one of the best.In “The Annotated Cat: Under the Hats of Seuss and His Cats,” Philip Nel gives us a better grip on just why Dr. Seuss has so thoroughly captured the imaginations of several generations of readers—and the imaginations of their parents (when I was reading to my children, I would “lose” other favorites night after night just to have another go at “Fox in Sox” or “Green Eggs and Ham” or, best of all, ...
  • Whose Art? A Debate Erupts Over Antiquities

    In 1972, New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art paid a record-smashing $1 million for an ancient Greek vase known as the Euphronios Krater. It was worth every penny. The krater—a 12-gallon pot for mixing wine and water—was one of only two dozen surviving examples by the great painter Euphronios, and it even had his signature. Thomas Hoving, then the Met's director, was so smitten by its classic beauty he called it "positively the finest work of art I've ever seen." (Take that, Michelangelo.) But the 2,500-year-old krater did have one major flaw. It was stolen—dug up by looters from an Etruscan tomb near Rome and smuggled out of Italy just months before it was sold, an inconvenient truth the Met finally copped to last year. When the museum debuts its lavish new Greek and Roman galleries next month, its most notable antiquity will be left in a side gallery. Next year the Met is sending it back to Italy for good.The true provenance of the krater wasn't exactly a surprise. The American...
  • India: Calling For Help

    Being able to dial a toll-free number in an emergency is something most of the world takes for granted. The United States has had 911 since 1968 and Britain has had 999 since 1937. India, however, has had one number to dial for police, another for fire and a different number for each hospital. Change, however, is starting to come—from the private sector rather than the government. Since August 2005, a nonprofit private company has begun rolling out an emergency phone system in Andhra Pradesh. So far 25 million are covered. The firm, Emergency Management Research Institute (EMRI), in Hyderabad, plans to cover the entire state's population of 76 million by May 2007. "We want to roll out EMRI to the rest of India," says Venkat Changavalli, EMRI's CEO.The task of creating an emergency-management service that is toll-free and can be dialed from a fixed line or cell phone fell to Changavalli a few years ago through an act of charity. Ramalinga Raju, founder and chairman of the Hyderabad...
  • Leaving Lebanon Behind

    At the Berlin Film Festival last month, Joseph Cedar looked more like a bashful schoolboy than a director to rival Robert De Niro and Steven Soderbergh. So it was especially surprising when the Israeli filmmaker beat out those two veterans for the festival's best-director prize for his latest movie, "Beaufort," about the abrupt Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, after 18 years of occupation. Set in a concrete maze of bunkers and trenches atop a mountain outpost, the film follows a group of soldiers battling not so much the enemy as their own fears for survival. In a stroke of precipitous timing, the film—which opens in Israel this week and globally later this year—was completed just five weeks before the second Lebanon war broke out in July 2006, plunging Israel and its northern neighbor into a fresh round of fighting.Cedar's award is one of the highest honors ever bestowed on an Israeli director. Until recently, film was not considered a high priority by the country's...
  • Ansen: 'Zodiac' Is a Haunting, Riveting Film

    Obsession craves resolution the way a hunter craves his prey. But what happens to the obsessed when there is no resolution? David Fincher's fascinating, uncompromising "Zodiac" is about four men who became obsessed with capturing the legendary Bay Area serial killer known as the Zodiac. The case started in 1968 when two teenagers out on a date were shot in their car in Vallejo, Calif. The girl was killed; the boy survived. The killer, who taunted his pursuers with letters to local newspapers written in code, struck again on the Fourth of July, 1969, when he stabbed a couple picnicking by a lake in Napa County. His third strike came in San Francisco, where he shot a cabdriver in the back of the head and narrowly escaped capture.Anyone who followed the story or who read Robert Graysmith's two best-selling books about the Zodiac knows that almost four decades later, the case has not been solved. That fact alone places Fincher's movie outside convention. Hollywood movies crave...
  • Is the German Boom a Mirage?

    Here's an interesting fact from supposedly sclerotic Europe. The German economy outperformed the United States in 2006, with real GDP up 3.7 percent for the year—the strongest growth in six years, more than twice the 1.7 percent rate of 2005 and a huge improvement from the average 0.2 percent between 2002 and 2004.German economic activity, it's said, is acting as a "locomotive" for growth across Europe. Real GDP in the euro zone grew 3.3 percent last year. Three million new jobs were created. Unemployment fell a full point to 7.4 percent. After decades of sub-par performance, many economists and politicians have begun talking of a "renaissance" in Europe, with worldwide benefits ranging from higher global investment returns to rising tax revenue and lower costs for social welfare and unemployment insurance.The reality is very different. These optimistic forecasts have little chance of coming to pass. Reason? The surge in 2006 German economic growth did not come from an improvement...
  • Russia's Cold-War Bluster

    Stolid, ramrod-stiff Sergei Ivanov is generally not one to inspire rapturous applause. Yet that's just what Russia's former Defense minister did last month when he appeared before Parliament to announce a $189 billion program to rebuild Russian military might. There would be "revolutionary" new intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarines and aircraft carriers, an early-warning radar system and a mysterious "fifth generation" fighter plane. Was it any coincidence that, days later, the commander of Russia's Strategic Missile Forces, Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, threatened that some of those new missiles could be "retargeted" at Poland and the Czech Republic? That would be the payback if they agree to host an antiballistic-missile system that the United States aims to deploy in Europe.If there's a whiff of cold war in the geopolitical air these days, it clearly has something to do with Moscow's cherished ambition to restore Russia's standing as a great power. And that, in turn, requires...
  • Dickey: Kelly and Copycat Terror Fears

    The alleged plot to behead New York's police commissioner and bomb NYPD headquarters, however implausible, suggests the dangers of copycat terrorism.