Comparison Shopping In The Euro Zone

Finally, one can travel through Europe without the fuss of converting currencies and needing a calculator to work out price differences between countries. But the introduction of the euro brings a new problem: Europeans can now see those price differences in black and white. Even after his fifth pint of Guinness, a Finnish drinker can see that the euro5.30 he's paying is daylight robbery compared to the Irishman's 3.81 euro. And why should that same Dubliner pay 125 euro to look sharp in a pair...

The Trail: Al Qaeda, Phone Home

What's in a number? A lot, say FBI investigators who have linked three of Osama bin Laden's deadliest attacks, including September 11, to a single telephone number in Yemen.The Feds first stumbled on the number shortly after the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in East Africa. A bin Laden operative, who backed out of the mission, was arrested and interrogated by the FBI. He admitted that he had been given a contact number in case anything went wrong. That information led investigators to a bomb...

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. Can it work? And can Duhalde expect any real help from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which many blame for Argentina's mess?Dual exchange systems have...

Have You Seen The Little Piggies?

Biotech rivals bickered over a momentous milestone last week: the first cloned pigs genetically engineered to keep their organs from being rejected by human transplant recipients. Immerge BioTherapeutics Inc. had scheduled a Jan. 3 announcement of the event, which came on Sept. 21, but PPL Therapeutics stole its thunder by announcing a day earlier that its own litter of swine came into the world on Christmas Day.In both cases, researchers "knocked out" the pig gene that sticks sugar molecules...

Teamwork

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. What to do?Huge refugee camps will have to be set up, troops and relief goods sent to the scene, and facilities for U.S. troops based in South Korea will have to be mobilized. At least that's the scenario sketched out by the Multinational Planning Augmentation Team...

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. His warning failed to deter the millions of revelers--or the clear skies--from hitting Copacabana beach, and Rio's Mayor Cesar Maya wants Austin charged with "sounding a false alarm"--which could result in a six-month jail term. But unlike the...

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. Night owls have decried the move as ill conceived, saying it will cost everyone from the government to bar...

Bush Walks, Putin Shrugs

President George W. Bush announced last week that the United States would withdraw from the anti-ballistic missile treaty in six months, but he emerged unscathed politically. With the war on terror, "Who's going to complain?" said a former Clinton official. Even former general Vladimir Belous, a veteran of the Soviet Union's elite nuclear strike forces and long-time opponent of U.S. missile defense plans, seemed unfazed. "This is the best thing that could have happened," he said. Although he...

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. He returned home to Cincinnati to "let NYC heal." Just one week later, though, he was back on the "job" in Times Square. PERI's Gretel...

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. But come the new year, they're all history. And the proceeds of Europe's vast underground economy have to go public by being converted into euros. So, how do Europe's savvy double-dealers avoid the consequent scrutiny of the taxman? PERI counts the...

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. A catalog: The public: At his daughter's wedding in July, demonstrators changed "Hijo de puta" (loosely translated as "s.o.b.") and pelted the newlyweds' car with eggs. The IMF: Cavallo told all and sundry that the IMF would come up with a $1.3 billion bailout--without confirming...

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). The more they evaporate, the more the atmosphere warms. Scientists say that if the trend continues, the Martian atmosphere would be warmer, with stronger winds--and even more dust. Experts don't know what made the caps dissolve in the first...

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. Mrs. de Klerk, 64, had lived alone in a luxury seaside apartment near Cape Town since her marriage to former president F. W. de Klerk fell apart in 1998. Last week authorities found her there--strangled, with the blade of a serrated knife in her back. It appears...

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. Denktas, 77, invited his old pal Clerides, 82, to dinner at his home. The Greek Cypriot leader agreed--a courageous gesture, involving a drive through the Turkish checkpoint and into the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Over a Turkish menu (at Clerides's request) and a sweet dessert, the two talked...

New Power For The President

The world has certainly changed. Not because the war in Afghanistan is all but over and the forces of terror are on the run, although that may be part of it. More important is President George W. Bush's other victory, a battle Bill Clinton lost miserably. That is in the war for free trade. Coupled with China's accession to the World Trade Organization this week, it makes the struggle against anti-globalists look well and truly won.China gambled on globalization by joining the WTO. Chinese...

Arrum With A Modern View

The crowd at the bar might belong to any of London's new-wave nightspots. But this is ArRum, an Islamic club that recently opened in London's hip Clerkenwell district. The name is taken from a verse in the Quran that promotes diversity. Instead of merely giving its visitors (who are mostly Muslim) an escape from the rat race, ArRum seeks to provide a place "where Muslims can bring their non-Muslim friends to give them an informal and less insular insight into how Muslims live their daily...

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. A 50-seat flight bound for Herat took off from Kabul on Thursday. And soon, Ariana hopes to resume international travel to neighboring Iran and Tajikistan.U.S. authorities believe a secret mountain bunker in Virginia may have been an intended target of Al Qaeda. It was used by the Federal Reserve Board as a nerve center for...

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. Recently carbon nanotubes have emerged as the most promising alternative. One of these cylinders is only a billionth of a meter in diameter, roughly the size of a DNA molecule, and it conducts electricity like a tiny metal wire. Twist it just so, and it acts like a semiconductor--the...

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. But would anyone represent bin Laden? "It might be a career-breaker," says attorney Jack Litman. "A lawyer who took that...

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. Instead of striking new deals, jittery foreign businesses began dusting off evacuation plans.It gets worse. The Indonesian Supreme Court issued a surprise ruling overturning last year's corruption conviction of...

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. Now come the latest employment numbers, showing 200,000 layoffs last month--the largest one-month decline since February 1991.Some experts are nonetheless cautiously...

Nuances

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. That's a big issue for the bean-counting set: an "extraordinary item" would have required the bookkeepers to consign all Sept. 11-related costs to one line on the balance sheet. Such an approach, the rulemakers feared, could lead to suspicious dumping of costs. Companies could simply use the attacks as convenient...

Changing Roles: Has Dubya Become A Diplomat?

He was the missile-slinging cowboy, a "cartoon oilman belching out carbon fumes," as London's Guardian put it. But since Sept. 11 George W. Bush has grown. The boy president has come to be seen as a man--indeed, a statesman. Adjectives PERI never thought we'd see: Eloquent. Bush, "solemnly and with a dignity worthy of admiration, explained to his people the nature of the war it faces." (El Mercurio, Chile) A "bold" and "heroic" speech. (The Times, London)Diplomatic. He's shown a...

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. Then last week the U.S. Embassy in Rome warned that "symbols of American capitalism" in Italy might be imminent terrorist targets. The Italian police force stepped up its readiness, even guarding local McDonald's outlets. Italians around the country stocked up on supplies.Who...

The Most Fortunate People In The World

For the past two weeks, it's been all bin Laden, all the time. He diverted the attention of the world's most outspoken media and critics, allowing several scandal-ridden politicians around the globe to escape an unwelcome glare. PERI's gallery of the luckiest public figures to benefit from bin Laden mania: ALEKSANDR LUKASHENKO He's president of Belarus again, winning 75 percent of the vote on Sept. 9. An impossibility, cry his critics. His biggest opponent, the international press,...

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. It's the largest surge ever recorded since the Feds began tracking claims in 1968--and in sheer numbers the highest since 1992. Next comes another round of layoffs in industries from telecom to high tech and automaking.Remember consumer spending, which Alan Greenspan & Co....

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. PERI recaps some other recent misnomers. Operation Infinite Justice: The United States soon realized that, in Islam, this sort of finality can be ensured only by Allah. Now comes Operation Enduring Freedom. It does have a nicer ring. Terrorist:...

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. Not to worry. Applicants don't have to interview naked. "We are not a sex-line center. And we...

Rumsfeld's Rift With Japan

When U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld proposed shifting military strategy to emphasize the importance of Asia, nobody was happier than the Japanese. But six months later Tokyo is quietly seething: Rumsfeld has yet to ask for its input in the department's strategic review of the region. "We have not been consulted," says Masashi Nishihara of Japan's National Defense Academy. "It is a source of worry." Worrisome enough for senior U.S. Defense officials to visit Tokyo in the coming weeks...

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. Planning a trip to the green isles? Don't miss the 11th-century Alnwick Castle and Gloucester Cathedral, a.k.a. Hogwarts School. Visit the delightfully quaint village of Ottery St. Mary--or in Harry-speak, Ottery St. Catchpole. Or even make a gold withdrawal from Gringotts Bank (The Australian High Commission, in...

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