How Best To Help?

With the Loya Jirga a success and a new government in place, the situation in Afghanistan was looking up. The Bush administration was set to review its "where now?" goals. But the assassination of Vice President Haji Abdul Qadir in early July, threats to President Hamid Karzai's own life and signs that rising violence in the countryside could wreck the international-aid programs have given the picture an ominous new cast. And Karzai's new U.S. bodyguards won't fix the deeper problems. Without cash to run his embryonic Kabul government, without aid to disburse to the regions and without the forces to bring order, he is essentially powerless.

All of this has lent newurgency to the policy review. Among the White House options:

Extend the mission of the 4,650-strong International Security Assistance Force at least through the elections planned for 2004.

Send in a high-level civilian official to coordinate the flow of foreign aid. Karzai's infant government lacks the wherewithal to handle the task, and donor nations, especially in Europe, worry about corruption.

Send a senior officer to Kabul to coordinate the U.S. role in supporting internal security. This would free up the current U.S. forces commander, Lt. Gen. Dan McNeill, to focus on hunting Al Qaeda.

Speed the creation of an Afghan national Army. The first 300 recruits graduated July 23 from 10 weeks' basic training by U.S. Army Special Forces. But privately, U.S. officials say the program is already faltering. One problem: a shortage of recruits--warlords pay better. The most radical proposed remedy is to accept reality and train the warlords' militias to become the core of a national Army.

Achieving consensus among Bush's top-level officials has been difficult, sources say. "Nation-building is still a forbidden term," one official acknowledged. And the Pentagon's civilian and military leaders oppose any peacekeeping role for the 7,000 U.S. troops in country. The outcome will likely be a face-saving compromise that floats in Washington but may not change much in Afghanistan.


Internal Doubts

Attorney General John Ashcroft was about to proclaim the U.S. government's biggest legal victory yet in the war on terrorism last week. Expecting Zacarias Moussaoui to plead guilty to charges he was involved in the 9-11 conspiracy, Ashcroft aides were busily crafting a celebratory statement.

But the erratic Moussaoui ruined the festivities when he abruptly withdrew his guilty plea after U.S. Judge Leonie Brinkema told him he had to admit direct participation in the 9-11 plot. This, Moussaoui said, he couldn't do because of his "obligation toward my creator, Allah." Now the case will go to trial Sept. 30. Justice officials say they are confident it won't change the outcome. But privately, some lawyers familiar with the evidence are not so sure. Brinkema last week appeared to adopt arguments submitted by Moussaoui's court-appointed lawyers that merely showing Moussaoui was a member of Al Qaeda and wanted to harm Americans is not enough to convict. Sources familiar with classified FBI documents relating to the case tell NEWSWEEK there's nothing that shows Moussaoui ever had contact with any of the 9-11 hijackers. Some documents even suggest internal FBI doubts over whether Moussaoui was involved. Prosecutors do have one compelling piece of circumstantial evidence: Moussaoui received $14,000 in money orders from Ramzi bin al-Shibh, former roommate of Mohamed Atta, in August 2001. But Moussaoui's lawyers have a counterargument: while the other hijackers met repeatedly, Moussaoui was conspicuously absent from any of their gatherings. Meanwhile Moussaoui, convinced the lawyers are out to kill him, insists on representing himself. His legal incompetence--rather than the evidence--may be the government's strongest card.

CHINA: Skies on Schedule

A year ago Beijing won its bid to host the 2008 Olympics, and it's been consumed with a frenzy of preparation ever since. Weather is a particular concern, since the city's eye-searing pollution almost nixed China's Olympic bid. So now China is banishing polluting factories from the capital, planting trees to keep out dust blown in from the Gobi Desert and clamping down on vehicle emissions in hopes of guaranteeing blue skies by 2008.

Beijing's bureaucrats have also embarked on a Great Leap Forward in manipulating the weather by dispelling rain and fog, trying to ensure that nothing, er, clouds China's achievements and image during important public events. "We'll definitely be consulted on how to create beautiful conditions for the Olympics," says Wang Wang of Beijing's Study Institute of Artificial Influence on the Weather, one of China's foremost weather experts.

Chinese officials' interest in controlling weather dates to the 1950s, when Beijing had access to cloud-seeding expertise from the U.S.S.R. Since then, provincial bureaucrats all across northern China have learned to induce rainfall yearly between April and June to combat the region's chronic drought, says Wang. Using aircraft, rockets and even land-based furnaces, experts propel tiny amounts of silver iodide into certain types of cloud formations to accelerate condensation, creating rain on demand--and averting showers during later scheduled events.

Does it work? Wang proudly relates how he helped provoke rainfall to douse a Heilongjiang forest fire in 1987. Around the same time, he says, "we experimented for a month to disperse fog and rain for China's Oct. 1 National Day Parade." Rain was also successfully averted at least three times in the past decade, twice for public sporting events and once during a panda festival, he says. And Beijing has now started trying to control those who would control the weather. Regulations unveiled two months ago stipulate that "artificially induced weather cannot take place whenever people want," especially since "dangerous missiles" are sometimes used. Indeed, one rainmaking attempt went awry earlier this year when a rocket fell through a villager's roof in northern China. "It's still not a mature art," says Wang.


Separation Anxiety?

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, exercising an ancient prerogative of his office, named Rowan Williams as the spiritual head of the Church of England last week. Big deal? Well, it was for the 70 million-strong Anglican communion around the world. But the selection also highlights the increasingly tenuous relationship between the British state and its official church. Williams has flirted with disestablishment--arguing, for example, that the status of the British monarch as titular head of the C of E has "outlived its usefulness." Blair himself symbolizes the quirkiness of a prime ministerial role in choosing who should lead the church. Nominally an Anglican, Blair goes to mass with his Roman Catholic wife and children. The leaders of Britain's two other major political parties are both Catholics. But despite the likelihood of the absurd scenario in which a future head of the Anglican Church would be named by a Catholic prime minister, a church-state divorce is not imminent. In his new role as Archbishop of Canterbury, Williams cannot push for it, and Blair, says an aide, "supports the longstanding relationship." Paul Handley, editor of the Church Times, says change is likely, but "gradual."


Fear of Finances

Secretive Swiss bankers are so fearful of getting caught laundering money for crooked foreign leaders and terrorists, they have started to scrub the backgrounds and monitor transactions of wealthy clients from the Mideast. A section of the new USA PATRIOT Act requires financial institutions doing business in the United States or with U.S. institutions to conduct "enhanced scrutiny" of bank accounts maintained by or for the benefit of "senior foreign political figures," their family members or their close associates. Some Swiss-owned institutions are currying favor in Washington by checking out names with the State Department before opening new accounts. U.S. officials say bankers will be shown only data from already-public terrorism sanctions lists. Swiss authorities have also given U.S. officials copies of telephone records and other documents seized in raids on Al Taqwa, a now defunct Swiss-based offshore-banking network accused by Washington of financing terror groups. Meanwhile a consortium of big Wall Street and European firms, concerned about the new money-laundering rules, has set up a company called Regulatory DataCorp to conduct public-information databank searches on customers with accounts inside the United States.

Therapy: Analyzing Animals

Sonya Fitzpatrick's patients sometimes feel as if they're having the life sucked out of them. Perhaps that's because it's tick season. As global television phenomenon Animal Planet's new "Pet Psychic," the telepathic therapist from the United Kingdom treats emotionally disturbed denizens of the animal kingdom. NEWSWEEK's Katherine Stroup had to settle for verbal communication.

When did you start speaking to animals?

I was born with this gift. I talked to animals before people. I had a hearing loss, so I didn't talk at all until I was 4. My mother likes to say I haven't stopped since.

How exactly does your "gift" work?

We communicate in pictures, feelings, emotions and senses. Pets and people transmit energy fields like radio stations. I pick up their signals. I could go into the metaphysics of it, dear, but you wouldn't understand anyway.

Hey, I'm not dumb.

It's just hard to explain. I become the animal--I think like a dog when I talk to a dog. You see the world on all fours, smell it on all fours.

But how do you know how a dog thinks?

I just know.

Can anyone talk to animals telepathically?

No, you have to be a true animal lover--someone who thinks of pets as children in fur clothes. Those people can learn.

Skeptics say you're telling pet owners only what they want to hear.

That doesn't bother me one bit. I know that what I'm experiencing and feeling is real.

What's the most common complaint you hear from the animal world?

Oh, they always want to talk about their food. One problem is that people feed their dogs dog food. I don't give my dogs anything that I wouldn't eat. So I cook for them--not sweets, of course, just meat, rice and vegetables.

Are there any animals that are so dumb, their minds aren't worth reading?

[ Gasps ] I can't think in those terms. All animals are worthwhile. I even pull flies from my pool.

Can you also read my thoughts?

Oh, darling, I can't be bothered with humans.

Museums: Exhibiting Signs of Intelligence

The cold war has thawed. The craft of gathering intelligence has been tarnished by the record of the CIA and FBI prior to September 11. It seems only fitting, then, that the techniques, technologies, gadgets and gimmicks of the spy world should be relegated to a museum--the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C.

The museum, which opened earlier this month, is a window on a looking-glass world we've all dreamed of sneaking into. A stroll through the exhibits (under an assumed identity assigned at the entrance) rapidly gives way to unseen trickery. This shoe, for instance, is no ordinary shoe. Slide off the heel to reveal... an eavesdropping device. It's no Gucci, but it was used by the Soviets in the cold war to listen in on sensitive conversations. And what about that lovely lipstick case? The gentleman of the old spy-vs.-spy days had to be wary; if his date brought this Soviet lipstick tube out of her handbag during a meal, there was trouble ahead--it doubled as a gun. Mysteries abound in the museum: on one side of a replica of a tunnel used in East Berlin by the U.S. government to eavesdrop on the enemy sit a washing machine and dryer. It wasn't that these spies were domesticated--they needed clean clothes so as to emerge from the tunnel inconspicuously.

But there's more to this museum than the umbrella that administered a shot of poison or the wristwatch-cum-camera; there's history--and lots of it. Learn about the use of coded messages (not the ones you and your siblings once spontaneously invented and forgot just as quickly) from exhibits about the German World War II Enigma cipher machine and the U.S. Navajo code-talkers. If you still have that childhood desire to be a spy yourself, study the learning process in the museum's "School for Spies" section--where recruitment and training drills are explained in depth--and see if you have what it takes to be an operative. And even if your interest in spy games is geared solely toward the Hollywood variety, you'll be pleased, too: the museum boasts an exhibit on spy representations in the movies and pop culture.

The International Spy Museum has something for everyone--except for the infamous cigars that were designed by the CIA to explode in the face of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. (Perhaps they're still trying to perfect those over at Langley?) And for visitors of all walks of life, the museum should provide a little bit of education. Convenient, then, that it's located just one block away from FBI headquarters. Maybe some of today's active agents will pop in every so often to learn a few tricks of this seemingly lost trade.

Periscope | News