China: Summer of Silence

It may be the slow summer season in China's capital, but the courts sure have been busy. In the past two weeks, they've concluded three high-profile cases, two of which have been lingering for more than a year. The courts handed out convictions and prison terms in each case. The latest: on Friday, a Beijing court sentenced Hong Kong resident and Singapore Straits Times reporter Ching Cheong to five years on charges that he spied for Taiwan.

The guilty verdicts are part of a larger, long-term effort by Beijing to rein in journalists and activists, say analysts. And worryingly, they were handed out with little regard to legal niceties. Consider the case of rural activist Chen Guangcheng, whose lawyers were all arrested the day before he was to go to trial. On Aug. 24, he was sentenced to more than four years in prison for "disturbing public order."

Beijing lawyer Teng Biao says, "Nothing can prevent human-rights activities from developing because more and more Chinese want to fight for their legal rights." But China watchers expect those dissidents and activists to suffer the consequences. (One likely victim: controversial and outspoken Beijing lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who was recently detained for questioning.) Drowning out dissent will be crucial during China's next annual party plenum this fall, when the leadership will propose new policies and figure out the 2007-2012 slate for the Politburo. Then there's the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Starting as early as next month, when thousands of foreign journalists will come to Beijing for an early Olympic press event, China's leaders will be under the spotlight. The International Olympic Committee has warned them they must be on their best behavior for the Games. Beijing, it would seem, figures it's better to do its dirty work now, rather than wait for the rest of the world to tune in.

Sarah Schafer

Oji paper co.'s announcement of a hostile-takeover bid against a smaller rival early last month had analysts predicting that other companies would soon follow suit, and finally bring takeover culture to Japan. But BAD NEWS soon followed: Oji president Kazuhisa Shinoda conceded defeat last week, after the target's shareholders refused to sell their stock, and the company, Hokuetsu, sold its own 24 percent stake at a huge discount. Initially, Oji had shown too much respect for Japanese business practices, say analysts, leaving Hokuetsu time to develop a strong defense.

THE GOOD NEWS: Even though Oji failed, it's only a matter of time before Japan sees similar attempts by more blue-chip companies. After all, Oji is not alone in facing intensifying global competition and seeking alternative means of survival, note analysts. And the decision by Japan's largest brokerage, Nomura Securities, to become Oji's adviser is regarded as revolutionary--it indicates that hostile takeovers are no longer a taboo, even if they are still difficult to pull off.

Akiko Kashiwagi

Lebanon says it will take $3.6 billion to rebuild after five weeks of conflict with Israel. Here's a look at who will foot the bill:

$180 million Pledged by Hizbullah, allegedly raised by Iran

$940 million Gift from an international group of donors last week

$1.3 billion Combined emergency relief gift from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia

$284 million Combined aid earmarked by the United States and European Union

Tony Skaggs and Tony Dokoupil

California's land-mark deal to require a 25 percent cut in industrial carbon-dioxide emissions by 2020 will have only a tiny impact on global climate, according to scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). But the symbolic impact could be huge. "If the world follows California's example it might be enough to avoid the worst effects of global warming," says Bill Collins, a researcher in NCAR's climate-modeling group. "That means shorter, less intense heat spells, and fewer dry spells." It also means an end-of-century average global temperature within 2 degrees of preindustrial-age conditions--the European Union's working threshold for tolerable warming.

California's new plan builds on existing bio-friendly legislation, including support for hybrid electric vehicles, solar-powered homes and in-state ethanol production. But its "cap and trade" model for controlling industry emissions is reproducible elsewhere, says Daniel Kammen, director of UC Berkeley's Renewable and Appropriate Energy Lab. The solution requires tracking carbon emissions, and offering salable permits as a reward to those companies who improve their energy efficiency. "That's the beauty of this system," says Kammen. "It puts the market to work to find the most economically efficient ways to cap emissions.

Tony Dokoupil

The lackluster earnings of "Snakes on a Plane," despite the movie being No. 1 at the box office, suggest that for most people, the title is more fun than the film itself.

[BLOGGER-DRIVEN HYPE] + [A WAY TOO LITERAL TITLE] + [TERROR IN THE SKIES] = [OFFICE JOKES, NOT $$$]

(From Slate.com) A backlash erupted over a recent Forbes article claiming that career women are divorce-prone. A closer look at the quoted studies suggest other gender-neutral interpretations: Career gals are more likely to cheat.

Wrong: The findings make no reference to gender. Higher-educated individuals who make more than $30,000 a year are more likely to have extramarital sex.

If they have children, career women are more likely to be unhappy than less-educated, lower-income women.

Wrong: The study found that affluent parents--not professional women--suffer reduced marital happiness after having kids more often than middle-class parents.

A forthcoming HarperCollins book is a real whodunit--but not because it belongs on the mystery shelf. The publishing house is shopping a new title to booksellers--with a 300,000 initial press run--but the company's not revealing who wrote it, what it will be called or even what it's about. It's saying only that the 320-page nonfiction work, to be released Sept. 12 by imprint William Morrow, is a "must-read tell-all" that will get "major national media attention"--and that it's not by a Bush administration official. (Insiders suspect it's about a celeb, says Rachel Deahl, Publishers Weekly's news editor.) The marketing ploy seems to be working. Barnes & Noble is buying the title for all its U.S. stores--and other booksellers are following suit. But not everyone is. "I just got really annoyed about blind ordering," says Ann Christopher-sen, co-owner of Women & Children First bookstore in Chicago. "I didn't like feeling manipulated."

Karen Springen

Outkast's "Idlewild," a hollywood musical that opened last month, might remind viewers of "Moulin Rouge" if it weren't set in a 1930s Georgia speakeasy and didn't feature an all-black cast. The original score is a Big Boi-Dre blend of vaudeville and hip-hop. Andre (Andre 3000) Benjamin is Percival, a shy piano virtuoso and mortician, and Antwan (Big Boi) Patton is Rooster, a small-time club owner and moonshine runner. "The obvious choice," says writer-director Bryan Barber, "would have been to make Dre the lead. But notice how I surrounded Big Boi with women, so it was easier for him to be himself."

Lorraine Ali

(From Slate.com) Critics of male circumcision convened at an international symposium in August, but data suggests that, unlike female genital mutilation, circumcision may actually save lives. In South Africa, researchers found that circumcision reduces female-to-male HIV transmission by 60 percent. Scientists estimate that the practice could prevent 6 million infections and 3 millions deaths over the next 20 years in sub-Saharan Africa alone.

"Rise and shine," Anna Quindlen's fifth novel, kicks into motion when top-rated morning chat-show host Meghan Fitzmaurice has a didn't-know-the-mike-was-still-on moment after interviewing a big-deal politician. (Quindlen, a NEWSWEEK contributing editor, would have to use an "f," an "a" and 12 dashes to quote such a gaffe in her biweekly column.) It could be that Meghan's feeling a little raw because her husband of 21 years had just told her ... oh, nothing good. The incident changes everything for Meghan and her social-worker sister Bridget, who narrates the book.

Booklist's reviewer calls Quindlen's book "a lavishly perceptive homage" to New York City, and writes that Quindlen's "transcendentally agile and empathetic observations of the human condition underlie the Fitzmaurice sisters' discovery of the transience of fame and the permanence of family."

David Gates