Sales Of The Century

WITH TARA PEPPER IN LONDON, KAY ITOI IN TOKYO, DANA THOMAS IN PARIS, BARBIE NADEAU IN ROME AND JOANNA CHEN IN JERUSALEMWould-be vacationers face a dilemma: just when they really need a relaxing getaway, traveling has become more stressful than staying home. Some worry about safety. Others are more concerned about splurging on a vacation during uncertain economic times. Though traffic is down everywhere (the International Air Transport Association reports a 17 percent drop), it's the skittish...

Music: The Next Generation

Rossen Guergov, 20, is struggling with the opening bars of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. Baton in hand, he gestures stiffly to a piano quintet assembled inside a rustic rehearsal room at Tanglewood, the Boston Symphony Orchestra's outdoor venue in western Massachusetts. "Tadada-DAAH!... Tadada-DAAH!" The musicians sound oddly hesitant and out of sync. "Why is this not working?" asks Seiji Ozawa, music director of the BSO, who is paying an impromptu visit to the workshop. "It should come from a...

Joy, Then Tragedy

Sue Shaw was in her Providence, R.I., office early Tuesday morning when she heard the news of the attack on the World Trade Center. Her immediate concern was for her niece, 25-year-old Bethany LaBarre, who worked on the 29th floor of the south tower. When she spoke to LaBarre's mother Claire, she learned from her distraught sister that LaBarre had not yet called home.That same fateful morning, Shaw's nephew on her husband's side, 25-year-old Shawn Nassaney, had departed Boston with his college...

Rumble In The Himalayas

Images of the devastating earthquake that hit Gujarat, India, last January have yet to fade from memory: buildings reduced to rubble, weeping relatives, the occasional dust-and blood-covered survivor miraculously plucked from the wreckage. That magnitude-7.6 quake, with an epicenter near the city of Bhuj, was India's deadliest ever, wiping out more than 20,000 people. Now, a study published last week in the journal Science says Bhuj may be a mere shiver compared with what lies in store for the...

Cyberscope

TRAVEL; Eat, Surf and Be Merry Planning to answer your e-mail while on holiday in New York? That may not be easy. The Internet may have been invented in the United States, but America is one of the least likely places where a traveler might find an Internet cafe. "Every major city in the world has more cybercafes than New York," says Joie Kelly, who runs CyberCafeGuide.com. The numbers seem to bear her out: according to various directories, London has more than 30, Paris 19,...

Momma, I Want To Swing

On a recent sweltering afternoon, about a dozen Japanese housewives, students and office workers gathered inside a tiny church on West 126th Street in Harlem. Staring at lyrics printed on bright yellow sheets of paper, they listened as the pastor explained the gospel song they were about to learn. "This song we call a praise song," said Terrance L. Kennedy, from his seat behind the organ. "We're saying many wonderful things to God and about God." Then he began reading the verses, stressing...

Coming Home To Harlem

It was the type of event Bill Clinton relishes. At his welcome-to-Harlem rally last week, the former president grooved with a group of sax players, reminisced about his boyhood, expounded on the troubles of the downtrodden and indulged in his favorite type of food: fried. He was in Harlem to open his postpresidential office among some of his most loyal supporters. "No, no, no, no, don't mess with Bill!" the crowd chanted, sporting Clinton buttons and waving cardboard fans with his likeness....

Tea And Silk Slippers

Twenty years ago New York had only one Chinatown, in lower Manhattan. Now there are three others. One is in Flushing, Queens, and two are in Brooklyn, which has become a prime destination of Chinese immigrants: a fledgling one in Sheepshead Bay and a thriving one in Sunset Park. Since 1990 Sunset Park's Chinese population has more than tripled to 30,000, now comprising 22 percent of the total population. The streets are lined with Chinese restaurants displaying aquariums full of exotic fish,...

The Revolt Against Right Angles

Crowded inside a white-washed showroom in Chicago, office-furniture professionals are gawking at the cubicle of the future, which is notable mainly for the complete absence of solid walls or right angles. That absence, explains designer Hani Rashid, is the whole point of his curvilinear work tent, which comes draped in white, red and red-and-white polka dot. Called the A3 by Knoll Inc., which makes it, this futuristic office space might also be called the dot-com bubble. For it was designed,...

Letter From America: Apartment Living

New York's tabloids are agog over Gotham's latest grisly murder. Three thugs burst into a man's apartment, beat him brainless with a baseball bat, strangled him, dumped him into a bathtub, drained his blood by slitting his wrists, then sawed him into bits. One of the suspects, it turns out, had strangled a neighbor only a few months before. The motive then, as now: they needed a place to live. Their likely plea? Insanity.Sure, the crimes were horrific, macabre, tragic. But insane? In a town...

Fashion And Design Trends

Whoever knew computer hardware could look so good? With the advent of Palm's ultra-thin handheld organizers has come a bevy of fashionable covers, from Hermes's gold matte alligator skin ($1,525) to the classic Burberry check ($195). According to Sunny Kate, an actress by trade whose eponymous company has begun making the cases, it was a niche just waiting to be filled. "I was on the set one day, and while looking up something on my planner, I stopped and thought, 'Why is this thing that I use...

Looking Back In Dismay

Kaleil Isaza Tuzman has President Bill Clinton in stitches. Halfway through the documentary film "Startup.com," the 28-year-old is seated next to the president at a White House conference on the New Economy, poking light fun at one of the other panelists, a Harvard graduate school dean. Afterward, Isaza Tuzman slips Clinton his business card, and later boasts to co-workers, "I told him that if he moved to New York, he should consider a job with us." Just one month later, in May 2000, Isaza...

Loving Pandas To Death

The first tour buses pull up to China's Wolong Nature Reserve just after lunch. Giddy from the drive past polluted towns and chemical factories, the passengers stagger out into the parking lot and make their way to the four white-tiled souvenir booths. Cigarettes, lighters, backpacks and almost everything else for sale bears the likeness of China's national treasure, the panda. After stocking up on tchotchkes, the tourists move on to the Panda Center to experience the real thing: 43 pandas...

Ethnic Education

As America welcomes its largest influx of immigrants since 1910, it is seeing the rise of an alternative kind of educational institution--the culture school. From California to Connecticut, more and more such programs, also known as cram schools or ethnic-heritage schools, are opening to help preserve children's native culture and language. In some cases they also aim to compensate for shortcomings in the American education system. "There is a real rebirth of interest in these programs now,"...

A Furor Over Abortion Aid

President George W. Bush still calls himself "a uniter, not a divider." But he used his first full workday in office last week to tilt toward his supporters on the religious right. His order banning U.S. aid to international organizations that conduct or "actively promote" abortions was apparently intended as a small gesture, issued during a week devoted to a high-profile plan for education reform. But U.S. pro-choice activists, caught off guard, reacted with anger--and the impact of the Bush...

Europe On A Platter

Udy Law, a real-estate agent from California, didn't intend to travel extravagantly when she toured northern Italy last month with her husband. "We planned to low-budget it," she said, "but with the cheap exchange rate we got to go first class all the way." The couple stayed at four-star hotels in nearly every town they visited; in Verona, they splurged on an 18th-century table and matching bench that cost $2,500. "It's an amazing deal," said Law. "Everything was so cheap in Italy."The...

One Step Ahead

Lately, Scott Halford, a corporate lecturer from Denver who travels more than 100,000 miles a year, has been wowing his fellow fliers. "They just think I'm Mr. Magic," he says via mobile phone from Baltimore, on his way to the airport. Two months ago Halford, 40, began logging on to the travel Web site Trip.com from his Web-enabled mobile phone. The site, which links to an FAA database, gives up-to-the-minute info on a flight's precise location, as well as its estimated arrival or departure...

Coffee, Tea Or Gluten-Free?

Four years ago Boston-based designer Judy Samelson was content--if not exactly happy--to eat regular airplane food. Then, one evening on a flight from Toronto to Winnipeg, Manitoba, she glimpsed something tempting on the tray of the woman sitting next to her. "The rest of us had the standard garbage fare--some hideous chicken in some hideous glop," Samelson recalls. "But this woman had poached salmon and a delicious, fresh-looking salad with a small carafe of balsamic vinaigrette." Samelson's...

Agca At Home

It's a dream!" declared Mehmet Ali Agca. With Pope John Paul II's urging, Italy's president had finally pardoned the prematurely aging Turk for the near-fatal shooting of the pontiff in 1981. A few hours after last week's annuncement, armed guards escorted Agca from Rome to his new home: a maximum-security prison in Istanbul.His troubles are far from over. A variety of unrelated criminal charges are pending in Turkey against the former member of the neofascist Gray Wolves terror network, and...

Hong Kong: Cashing In

In Hong Kong, the name Li Ka-shing has become synonymous with "goldmine." So last week when one of the billionaire businessman's subsidiary companies, tom.com, launched an IPO, thousands of eager investors raced each other to the bank to apply. One branch drew a crowd of 50,000. Hundreds of police officers kept order and blocked off roads. At 23 cents a share, the offering will raise nearly $113 million for the information and entertainment portal. Not a bad turnout considering many had no idea...

A Furor Over The Torture Tape

The video is about as grisly as it gets: Russian soldiers shoveling dirt into a ditch filled with dead bodies--all Chechen men. Last Thursday a German TV station aired the video and said some of the bodies bore marks that suggested they had been tortured. Coming in the wake of allegations that Russian soldiers have raped, beaten and killed civilians, the film caused an immediate furor. A Russian spokesman denounced it as the "fraud of the year." This week Alvaro Gil-Robles, the human-rights...

Muji Madness Crosses The Atlantic

Susanna Sirefman, an architectural writer from New York, first discovered Muji when she was studying in London in the early 1990s. Since then, she claims, she can't do any work without the Tokyo-based chain store's products. So twice a year she travels to Europe to stock up. "I buy folders, notebooks, aluminum and plastic cardholders, mirror cases, toothbrush holders, canisters, aluminum boxes, lovely pencils," says Sirefman. "My husband thinks I am crazy."Sirefman is not alone. As the...

Was America Snooping On Europe?

In the bad old days of the cold war, America spied on its enemies in the interest of national security. Now, says a report debated last week by the European Parliament, it is snooping on its friends in the name of economic dominance. According to the report, written by British journalist Duncan Campbell, the United States is using an old network of high-tech listening posts--code-named Echelon--to eavesdrop on leading EU companies. Then it uses that information to help U.S. firms beat foreign...

Finance Fumble

Michio Ochi was brought in last year to overhaul Japan's crippled banking system. But during a recent speech, the head of the Financial Reconstruction Commission suggested that he was willing to help banks circumvent government inspections. "Please inform us of any complaints about the inspection," he told a gathering of bankers. "I will give it the utmost consideration." Last week members of Japan's largest opposition party played the taped remarks for reporters. Ochi stepped down last Friday...

All For Show

Who says Serbia isn't prosecuting war criminals? The republic's 29 district courts have been busy investigating some of the republic's "most wanted": Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Jacques Chirac, Gerhard Schroder and nine other Western leaders. The judges say subpoenas have already been sent to each of the accused "through diplomatic channels," and that indictments will soon be handed down.The government-controlled press has been reporting every detail of the court procedings to an audience of...

A Scramble For Clues In Bombing

Though no one took immediate credit for last week's set of explosions in Islamabad, the timing may have been explanation enough. The six nearly simultaneous blasts--at two U.S. Embassy installations and a United Nations office building--went off two days before the initiation of U.N. economic sanctions against the Taliban, the extremist religious group that rules most of Afghanistan. There was one reported injury of a Pakistani national but no deaths. The Taliban had assailed the sanctions,...

Poor Sports

Republicans got swift revenge against monarchist Prime Minister John Howard last week. Days after Australians rejected the chance to ditch the queen in a referendum, republicans spoiled Howard's plan to open the Olympics. Under Olympic rules, that task falls to the head of state--in this case, Queen Elizabeth II. "The prime minister cannot have it both ways," said Labor Sen. Chris Schacht. Howard has since passed the task to the queen's representative in Australia. But the republicans still...

Full Expo-Sure

German officials are fuming over the U.S. decision to drop its plans to build a pavilion at Expo 2000, the world's fair that will be held next summer in Hanover. The problem: lack of funds. "We have a range of important foreign-policy priorities that we're working with Congress to fund," a White House official told NEWSWEEK. "Unfortunately, we couldn't include [Expo 2000] as part of our request."Many Germans see this as part of a larger pattern. "The feeling is that always when it comes to...

Straussed Out

Sleaze has become so pervasive in French politics that a stint in the slammer has started to seem like a natural part of public service. So the shocker last week was not the news that the country's respected Finance minister, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was under investigation for alleged corruption. It was the admirable fact that he quickly resigned to face the law as a private citizen.Two weeks ago the Paris prosecutor's office gave a green light for an investigation of Strauss-Kahn's legal and...

Hungry Hippo

Love is never easy. Last week Jean Ducuing, a 62-year-old zoo director in Pessac, France, was killed by his favorite pet--a 26-year- old hippopotamus named Komir. Ducuing had taken special care of the hippo, playing with him nearly every day for the past 23 years.But the relationship took a turn for the worse a few weeks ago, when Ducuing purchased a tractor for work around the zoo. "We noticed that every time Jean was on his tractor, Komir would get mad," said Jean-Claude Marchais, a close...

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