Newsweek December 20, 2013

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United States
The Newsweek/Daily Beast Company LLC
37 号


the sinkhole that’s eating louisiana

“They goin’ down,” John Boudreaux recalls telling a colleague as he recorded the watery cataclysm unfolding before him with an iPhone camera. “They” were a grove of cypress trees; “down” was into a sinkhole in rural Louisiana that had steadily grown to a depth of several hundred feet of fetid water - and was in the throes of a violent growth spurt. Boudreaux’s video, posted on YouTube in late August, went viral in the way that recordings of disaster tend to, leading to alarmist headlines: e.g., “Mining Madness: 750-Foot-Deep Sinkhole Swallows Louisiana Town.” That sinkhole was then a year old, and Boudreaux, an emergency response official, had filmed it several times by then, though never before had he captured it burping with such violence, sending combustible methane up through fractures in…

obamacare’s pulp friction

The all-thumbs rollout of Obamacare has been a technology debacle, but the biggest malfunction could turn out to be on paper. For millions of Americans scrambling to sign up for government-mandated health insurance by the December 23 deadline, offline problems have been a huge hurdle. Glitches at, the website behind the federal insurance program, still hog the headlines, but many people who opted to use paper applications have experienced long delays that put their coverage in limbo. “There are people who have just not heard back,” says Jan Plummer, a coordinator at Mountain Projects, a community action agency in Waynesville, N.C., and Silva, N.C., working to enroll local citizens. Adding to the pressure those people are feeling is the fact that simply mailing in an application by the deadline is not…

the short arm of the law

In November 2010, Steven Vargas, a federal probation officer in New York, received a call from a detective in Minnesota. Police in St. Paul had arrested 24-year-old Douglas Luke Robinette, who had confessed to producing child pornography and distributing it via email. He had shared some of that porn (Robinette’s computer contained more than 18,000 images and 900 videos) with someone he knew only by an email address: Eight months earlier, the man with that address, Anthony Brooks, had walked out of a federal courthouse in lower Manhattan to begin a 10-year probation sentence for possessing child pornography. At first, Brooks, who was in his mid-30s, seemed to be a model probationer. He met deadlines. He passed mandatory polygraphs. There were suspicions when the FBI contacted Vargas to say that…

enter the muslim sisterhood

Wafaa Hefny was not even born when her grandfather, Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna, was assassinated while waiting for a taxi on February 12, 1949. But like many conservative Muslims, al-Banna’s teachings and doctrines had a profound effect on Hefny, a lecturer in English literature at al-Azhar University. Since the military crackdown on the brotherhood after the overthrow of President Morsi last June, and as the second, third, and fourth tier of the organization have been dismantled and imprisoned, the brotherhood has increasingly relied on women. With no traditional leadership at the moment, it is an inevitable - but paradoxical - role in an organization as traditional as the brotherhood. “But we are very strong women,” Hefny says. “We are taking up the role of men.” In this Muslim-majority country, women - even welleducated…

murder in the air

It was four days before Christmas, 1988, and the day started out like any other. Victoria Cummock, a 35-yearold interior designer in Coral Gables, Fla., dropped her three young children at preschool, picked up her mother from the airport, then headed to work. She had a thriving business and was in the midst of remodeling a house. The workmen were on site when she arrived, wielding sledgehammers and listening to the radio. “Suddenly, the announcer said a plane had gone off the radar and crashed into a town in Scotland called Lockerbie. I said, ’Oh, Mom, that is right near the town where John is from,’ ” Cummock recalled, referring to her husband, a 38-year-old marketing vice president with the Miami-based Bacardi Foods Group, who was in London on business. She had just…

kerry’s three-card trick

Secretary of State John Kerry celebrated his 70th birthday last week in Jerusalem, where he was forced to endure not only a snowstorm in a country unequipped to deal with it, but growing skepticism about his ability to complete an ambitious diplomatic plan to end a century-old Palestinian-Israeli dispute by next spring. Similar skepticism meets Kerry whenever he tries to resolve the Syrian crisis by organizing a peaceful powwow among warriors who would rather see each other dead, and when he tries to convince Congress to withhold further Iran sanctions while he negotiates an end to Tehran’s nuclear arms program. Kerry may hope against hope that a single success in any part of this three-pronged diplomatic high-wire act will become contagious, but the reverse may also be true: A collapse of the…