Malcolm Beith

Don't Blame The Imf

Five presidents in two weeks. Can the latest, Eduardo Duhalde, save Argentina from further collapse? Duhalde launched his rescue effort last Friday by declaring a devaluation of the peso, tentatively setting up a dual exchange system that floats the peso against the dollar for domestic transactions but pegs it for foreign trade.


On Jan. 11, Typhoon "Dawn" will pummel the imaginary island of Parangdo. Rain and wind will destroy houses and roads, plunging the state into anarchy. Nearly 100,000 refugees will flee on boats and land on the South Korean coast.

Fair-Weather Friendship

Before, you could just blame the weather, and the buck stopped there. No longer. Rio de Janeiro weather forecaster Luiz Carlos Austin predicted driving rains for New Year's Eve, just days after downpours killed more than 70 people in the area.

One Night In Bangkok

So much for the Wild, Wild West of the East. A wave of government-imposed morality has swept through Bangkok since last summer, when Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra launched a campaign against "social evils." Go-go bars, street beer stalls and upscale pubs alike were forced to shut their doors by 2 a.m.--just when tourists and expats in the Thai capital usually shift into high gear.

Fruit Of The Loon

The "Naked Cowboy" actually wears cowboy boots and briefs--but he still stops traffic in New York's Times Square. Aspiring country singer, bodybuilder and patriot John Robert Burck performs his brand of artistry in the flesh (standing around nearly naked with a guitar) every day, and was on a 100-day streak of Big Apple appearances--at least, until September 11.

Currency Euro Follies

The Irish like to keep it in the mattress. The Germans stash it in Luxembourg bank accounts. The Spaniards, some say, hide it in the freezer. They call it dinero negro--black money that by any other name might be Deutsche marks, lire or pesatas.

Is Cavallo Cornered?

Argentina made a crucial debt payment last week, avoiding (for now) a plunge into the abyss. But Economy Minister Domingo Cavallo's days may be numbered. He's managed to alienate everyone and his banker.

Heating Up?

It seems we're not alone in the universe, especially when it comes to big problems. Researchers say that Mars, too, may be a victim of global warming. The planet's solid carbon-dioxide polar caps seem to have receded over the past Martian year (687 days).

Murder Spree

In most countries, last week's murder of Marika de Klerk would seem to represent only a random act of violence. For South Africans, it underscored a wider point: with 21,000 annual murder victims, not even a former First Lady is safe.

Old Boy's Club

High hopes for a breakthrough in the 27-year-old Cyprus conflict emerged from last week's meeting between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders, Glafcos Clerides and Rauf Denktas.

War Watch Flying Right

Afghanistan's national airline, Ariana, is back in the air. At least its two surviving planes are. The fleet was largely destroyed by U.S. airstrikes, but the show goes on.

International Cyberscope

TECHNOLOGY Chip Chemistry When it comes to computer chips, smaller means cheaper, faster and better. One day engineers expect to reach the limit on how small they can make chips, and they'll need something new.

Osama's Day In Court

In 1995, while preparing his trial defense for Timothy McVeigh, lead counsel Stephen Jones tried to come up with alternative suspects. Osama bin Laden was one, prompting Jones to joke, "Just imagine how difficult it would be for us if the government went after him."It could happen, if U.S. forces manage to locate him and bring him back alive for criminal prosecution.

Cronyism IsStill King

As if Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri didn't have enough problems. While she was out of the country last month trying to entice wary foreign investors, militant Muslims at home threatened to storm the U.S. Embassy and American economic interests and expel American citizens.

Is There Room For Optimism?

We knew things were bad before Sept. 11--and worse after. The latest U.S. figures for last month showed the sharpest drop in consumer confidence in a decade; in addition, shipments of capital goods sank to the lowest level in 25 years, a dismal decline--or make that "horrendous," as Morgan Stanley economist Stephen Roach put it.


How do accountants respond to crises? Like accountants, obviously. Though unusual, the WTC attack was nothing "extraordinary," the Financial Accounting Standards Board ruled last week.

Viva TheCrusades?

After the pope recently supported measures to "bring those responsible [for Sept. 11] to justice" and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi decreed that the West is "superior to Islam," Italians may have been feeling nervous.

The Running Of The Bulls

By most accounts, the United States was in a recession before Sept. 11. And the news seems only to get worse.U.S. jobless claims have soared to 450,000 from 392,000 just two weeks ago--in part due to massive airline layoffs.

Welcome To Word War I

The "war" against terrorism has become a semantic minefield. President George W. Bush even called it a "crusade," to the consternation of his staff, which quickly issued a retraction lest the boss be seen as declaring war against all Islam.

Is This The Party To Whom I Am Speaking?

Want to flesh out your resume? A job at Rotterdam-based telemarketer Telesales may be just the thing. "Always Wanted to Work in the Nude?" it recently advertised, trying to lure hard-to-find staff. "In an office job like a call center," the Dutch company explains, "it doesn't matter what you're wearing because customers don't see you." This select team will operate under the name Au Nature Telesales.

Magic Cures

Battered by foot-and-mouth disease, Britain's tourism authorities have turned to a magical savior: Harry Potter. The idea is to promote landmarks shown in the upcoming kid-wizard film.