Newsweek December 6, 2013

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13
newtown massacre: inside. out

On the afternoon of December 14, 2012, I was on the phone, battling with my wife. It was a carryover from the night before, a fight about a dress she wanted to buy for our daughter to wear to her first-grade Christmas play. My argument was simple: She would wear it once, and then it would be forever banished to a far corner of the closet. A waste of money. At the time, I was sitting in my car, deep on Long Island, parked outside the house of a man whose car was linked to a mob-style hit a few days before in midtown Manhattan. The stakeout wasn't going anywhere, but since the story was on the top of the New York media news cycle, neither was I. Then the AP alert…

21
soccer punch

It is possible to view the prospect of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar with concern, even horror. It is also possible to admire the drive and single-mindedness the emirate has shown in pursuing its dream to host the tournament. This dream - to use a word used prominently in Qatar's promotional campaign - is nothing less than the stunning, self-willed transformation of a micro-state (it's smaller than Connecticut) that was under British rule until 1971, when its population was less than 100,000 (it's close to 2 million now). Qataris were mocked by their neighbors as backward desert-dwellers, barely settled nomads with no culture. Nobody's laughing now. Nobody snickers at a country whose annual GDP per capita is by some sources the highest in the world - $153,000 or thereabouts -…

9
the hanoi cleanse

It's not easy to find a turkey dinner in Hanoi, but a handful of Americans and their Vietnamese friends gathered last Thursday over an imported bird cooked for them at a fancy restaurant in the capital's old quarter, and they gave thanks. One of them was Chuck Searcy, who was a U.S. Army intelligence analyst in Saigon 45 years ago. Another was Manus Campbell, who survived some of the war's bloodiest fighting as a Marine draftee in Quang Tri Province. Both are nearly 70 now. While hundreds of Vietnam vets have come back for brief, melancholy visits to the old battlefields to heal their psychological wounds, Searcy and Campbell are different: They and a handful of other former U.S. servicemen have moved to Vietnam more or less permanently to help clean up…

6
assad’s poison pill

Initially perceived as President Bashar Assad's worst blunder in Syria's civil war, the use of chemical weapons by his army last summer increasingly looks like his ticket to military victory and the key to his political survival. As a small U.N.-affiliated group of chemical weapons experts toils to maintain a tight schedule mandated by the Security Council for the destruction of Syria's chemical arms, Western diplomats and the United Nations are hard at work organizing a conference in Geneva in an attempt to end the carnage. But critics say that it could actually help Assad win the nearly three-year war, even as he stands accused by a top U.N. official of complicity in war crimes. Damascus says its aim in attending the proposed Geneva conference is to maintain the Assad family's 40-year hold…

6
the perils of whistle-blowing

Richard Barlow was driving his 13-year-old motorhome through a mountain state's blizzard the week before Thanksgiving when news broke of the Iran nuclear deal. Bad memories flooded his mind, not that they're ever far away. For more than 25 years, ever since he testified behind closed doors on Capitol Hill that the CIA had "scores" of "absolutely reliable" reports on Pakistan's clandestine efforts to obtain nuclear bomb technology - technology it later gave to Iran - his life has been tumbling through one trapdoor after another. Barlow's testimony in 1987 shocked several panel members of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee, in part because Army General David Einsel, assigned to the CIA as a top intelligence official, had just told the committee that - despite the recent arrest of a Pakistani caught red-handed…

6
the sound of one hand clapping

The first rule of congressional budget negotiations: Do not talk about the budget negotiations. "I have no idea what's going on," said Representative Jim McDermott, D-Washington. "I'm on the Budget Committee and nobody has talked to me about anything." Senate and House negotiators, led by the two budget committees' chairs, Senator Patty Murray, D-Washington, and Representative Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, have until December 13 to hammer out a budget to fund the government after mid-January. Talks continue, but details of a potential agreement are scarce. Both chambers come to the talks with a budget, but at different overall spending levels. The Senate passed a budget set at $1.058 trillion, noticeably above the spending level set by sequestration, while the House budget maintains sequester level spending for 2014, suggesting a budget of $967 billion. If negotiators…