U.S. MILITARY

U.S. MILITARY
Mounting Costs of War
Publicly, the Pentagon insists it's getting the manpower and money it needs for Iraq and Afghanistan. But as those conflicts drag on, U.S. Army planners are privately growing more worried about a looming crisis. The problem is not quantity--the Pentagon says recruitment remains steady--but a loss of quality. Green Berets, for instance, are now considered trained after four years instead of seven. Some officers say the biggest worry is a mass exodus of experienced midlevel officers and, especially, noncommissioned officers (NCOs) who are fed up with all the time they're spending in theater. And once the "third rotation" of troops into Iraq begins in 2005, more careerists may call it quits. "I'm afraid that between April and September of 2005 we'll break the Army," says one Army general involved in logistics.

NCOs are mainly the career sergeants, who make the military work. A professional officer corps can mean the difference between a well-run unit and the kind of chaos and laxity that helped produce the Abu Ghraib abuses. Now that NCOs are getting moved directly into Iraq and Afghanistan, often after serving yearlong tours in South Korea or Germany, many are angry. "If you lose the NCO corps, you're done," says the general. "You'll need two decades to get it back."

The Army is trying to ease the pressure on career NCOs by relying more on reservists. Last week the Pentagon announced a call-up of 5,674 former soldiers in the "individual ready reserve," a move approved in January by U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. An Army source says the call-up was intended partly to fill out the new command headed by Gen. George Casey, who last week took over for Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez as the senior U.S. officer in Iraq.

Although Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry has called the Pentagon's efforts a "backdoor draft," there's no plan for an actual draft. But some on Capitol Hill and inside the military say the latest efforts to add new troops without formally expanding the Army are only part of a larger effort by the Bush administration to hide the longer-term costs of the war--especially until after the election. Among those unbudgeted costs: replacing desert-ravaged equipment and a coming surge in veterans' benefits (one in eight soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are said to suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome, according to a new study). Experts say the final tally is likely to amount to hundreds of billions of dollars over the current $400 billion annual Defense budget.
--Michael Hirsh and T. Trent Gegax

Global Buzz: The Looking-For-Action Edition

Leaders in Cairo and New Delhi are showing welcome signs of decisiveness, unlike in Mexico City. Kazakh officials, though, would do better to do less. Egypt Mubarak's firing cronies and shaking up his cabinet. The good news: It's a show of confidence--the establishment has accepted son Gamal as heir. India The new national budget's focus on agriculture and education will worry markets. But it's a smart move: with populists happy, reformers can proceed at will. Kazakhstan Markets looking for an alternative to OPEC nations have had high hopes for the country. But state interference with investors has oil majors worried. Mexico Crime has risen to the top of the agenda. But with regional elections spread out over the rest of the year, expect more finger-pointing, not real results.

PAKISTAN
The Right Choice?
Looking to India--where the election of technocrat turned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has so far been met with optimism--Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf last week appointed a new prime minister, 55-year-old Finance Minister and former Citibank executive Shaukat Aziz. But while Singh is seen by many as the right man for India, Musharraf's decision raises serious questions about the future of his country's fragile democratic process.

Aziz, who will take over from interim P.M. Chaudry Shujaat Hussain in August if he wins a seat in the lower house, is widely regarded as the architect behind Pakistan's economic recovery. But his appointment--made by Musharraf without a National Assembly nomination--could spell a reassertion of the Pakistani military's authority. Lacking any political base of his own, Aziz will depend for support on the Army, and will likely resist calls for Musharraf to relinquish his title as Army chief Aziz's appointment may prove not to be the best thing for Musharraf either. Never having run for office, he has few allies in Parliament, whose members feel increasingly alienated by the president's autocratic style. He doesn't make an ideal intermediary. "Aziz will be good for the economy, but bad for politics," says analyst Muddasir Malik. Musharraf may think he can handle the politics himself, but decrees like this only make the task harder.
--Zahid Hussain

ARGENTINA
Danger Signs
Since taking office in May 2003, Argentina's Peronist President Nestor Kirchner has adopted a mostly lenient stance toward the piqueteros, a grass-roots movement that demands more jobs and public housing. But he may have to take action soon. In recent weeks the piqueteros have targeted multinational corporations, shattering the confidence of much-needed foreign investors. Last week as Kirchner landed in China to sign several key trade agreements, the piqueteros seized a Buenos Aires police station to protest the June 25 murder of a fellow activist, unsettling the international investment community even further.

At stake for Kirchner is Argentina's nascent recovery from the worst depression in its history. The economy grew by 8.7 percent in 2003 and many experts are forecasting another year of robust expansion. But apart from the booming agricultural sector, only a trickle of foreign capital has entered the country thus far, and most investors have remained on the fence pending a final settlement between Argentina and its private creditors, who hold $88 billion worth of government bonds in default. Already skeptical investors will derive little encouragement from a piquetero offensive that shows no signs of losing steam. "The costs of not enforcing the laws are always greater than those of enforcing the laws," says Rosendo Fraga of the Buenos Aires-based New Majority Studies Center.
--Joseph Contreras

INVESTING
A Share of Wealth
Neighbors have long worried that China would suck in all investment bound for Asia, leaving scraps for the rest of the region. Data released last week by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development seemed to confirm those fears, showing foreign direct investment in China rising rapidly, and commanding an ever-larger share of investment in poor countries. Meanwhile, flows to neighbors like Malaysia and Thailand stagnated or fell. An OECD report to be published later this year, however, may ease those concerns.

It argues that money pouring into China trickles all over Asia. Foreign investors are making China rich enough to be a major consumer--exports from the rest of Asia to China rose 43 percent in 2003. The country is also a big investor. Since 1995, Chinese firms have poured more than $1 billion into Southeast Asia alone. "The more dynamic the Asian market is, the more investment is going to go to Asia," says Stephen Thomsen, author of the report. The main danger is that small Asian states tend to "give away too much" to compete with China, offering companies incentives that do more harm than good. But in the end, he says, China and its neighbors will "sink or swim together."
--Michael Hastings

MONEY Matching Wits
Outfoxing North Korean counterfeiters is tough. Just ask Yoshihide Matsumura, the world's top counterfeit detective. In the 1990s he spotted Pyongyang's "Super K" U.S. $100 bills, but when he revealed their flaws--like the right side of Ben Franklin's lip turning up in a tiny smile--the North quickly fixed them. Now Matsumura says Pyongyang is "trying to read my brain constantly" and getting "better and better all the time."

Matsumura should retake the lead with a new $4,500 detector revealed last week. NEWSWEEK witnessed a final test, in which the detector used an array of sensors--light circuit, ultraviolet and magnetic--to spot the latest phony, called the Super X, with a 100 percent success rate. Still the game goes on. Matsumura's agents have seen Super X's in Russia and the Middle East and believe that North Korea is now making fakes for foreign mafias. He also thinks Pyongyang will soon begin cranking out euros--so his new detector has been designed to spot those too, as well as yen and other currencies.
--Hideko Takayama

EXHIBITS
How to Heal a Shlumping Borfin
An electrical engineer, two industrial designers and a sculptor recently huddled around an odd-looking machine. The mood was tense as they pressed a series of buttons and the contraption sputtered to life. Each held his breath: Have we done it? they wondered. Have we unshlumped the shlumping Borfin?

This isn't a scene from a movie--it was a real-life test at the Children's Museum of Manhattan. This month the museum is premiering a touring exhibit, "Oh Seuss! Off to Great Places." The exhibit's showstoppers are two machines brought to life from Dr. Seuss's "Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?" There's the Throm-dim-bu-lator, which the book says has been taken apart and needs to be put back together, and the shlumping Borfin, a lethargic contraption that has to be unshlumped. The idea was simple--the museum would build models and kids could come and "fix" them.

The museum's main challenge was to stay true to Seuss while keeping the machines portable and kid-friendly. There were obstacles from the start. Seuss's Throm-dim-bu-lator, for example, defies gravity with a large unsupported overhang. The designers solved the problem with wood beams and foam up top, counterbalanced with weights on the bottom.

And then there was the Borfin: Seuss never explained how it unshlumps. "We asked questions like, 'Is a Borfin something you can fix or you can heal?' " says Rich Miller, manager of exhibitions and technical design. "And what the hell is a shlump?" So the museum created a backstory ("The Borfin is a tired and troubled machine. It is part machine, part animal") and concocted an unshlumping formula: it works when kids press a series of buttons and stamp their feet. After three failed prototypes, they developed a working model: a massive mechanical puppet moved by linear activators and triggered by microsensors that are hooked up to a computer that counts the kids' button presses and foot pumps. Almost as innovative as the good doctor himself.
--Elise Soukup

INDICATORS
Only Time Will Tell
With George W. Bush and John Kerry still close in the polls, it's tough to predict who'll come out on top in November. So why not try some unscientific ways of gauging the political winds? At Mr. Dooley's Boston Tavern, the Kerry Burger outsells the Bush Burger four to three. California's Presidential Playing Cards--which makes card decks featuring the candidates --runs a "Deck Poll" based on its sales. (Bush has around 70 percent of the vote.) The incumbent trails three to one, however, in preorders of watches that feature the candidates waving. Another informal poll begins July 13, when the August issue of Ladies' Home Journal hits newsstands. The magazine, which has interviews with the candidates and their wives, will have the president and Laura on one cover, Kerry and Teresa on another. Subscribers don't get to vote: it'll be the First Couple in the mailbox.
--Peter Suciu

Technology Keeping an Eye on the Ball
Perhaps the most difficult rule to call correctly in the sports world is football's offside. Leave it to the Italians--who have complained about more than their fair share of dodgy calls--to dive into solving the problem. Experts at Italy's National Research Council are developing a computer-based system that could change the way the game is judged. Here's how it would work: a camera installed on the sideline at midfield would offer a 180-degree view of the field. The camera's footage would be processed by a computer capable of distinguishing not only each player's position on the field, but also that of the ball in order to determine if a player is offside. At the moment of infringement, the machine will then wirelessly signal the referee. The system--which researchers hope to complete by next year--would be a blessing to any team that has ever been on the receiving end of a bad call. Still, although domestic leagues around the world may well adopt the technology, not everyone is keen on the idea. Football is a game played by humans that should be judged by humans, says a FIFA spokesperson. Fair enough. But if this new technology takes off, FIFA's referees may find themselves facing even more cries of foul than they do now.
--Nicole Martinelli

Q&A: Molly Ringwald
After several years out of the spotlight, Molly Ringwald of "The Breakfast Club" and "Pretty in Pink" fame has resurfaced, playing the lead in the London stage production of "When Harry Met Sally," based on the hit 1989 flick of that name. Ringwald, now 36, spoke with NEWSWEEK's Ginanne Brownell:

Why did you decide to play the role of Sally?

I just wanted to do something that was fun.

You've done a bunch of fringe films and some theater in recent years. Do you get irritated when people say, "So where have you been?"

I don't let it annoy me because if you are doing things on the fringe, you have to expect that people are not going to necessarily know about it.

Are you surprised that some of your old hits still have such cultural resonance today--even with younger kids?

I do find it a little surprising, but I think they were good movies. If something is really good, it has staying power.

So, who was a better kisser--Judd Nelson or Andrew McCarthy?

That's a hard question.

I was an Andrew McCarthy fan personally.

I thought he was really cute and I had a big crush on him, so maybe I would have to go for Andrew. But you know, Judd was pretty cute, too. I actually kissed Andrew more because we did two movies together. I only got to kiss Judd once.

U.S. MILITARY | News