Sunday, May 18, 2008


The federal agency planning a new $130 million courthouse in Harrisburg has spent $197,000 to sell the community on its plans.

In comparison, that agency, the U.S. General Services Administration, spent less than one-fourth as much for economic research on potential sites for the courthouse, according to records under a Freedom of Information Act request.

The spending for public relations and communications consultants is seen as a drop in the bucket in view of the overall project. But public affairs experts and local leaders wonder what the GSA got for its money.

The agency defended the spending -- which it acknowledged as out of the ordinary -- because of its poor standing within the community. The agency continues to battle local officials over the proposed courthouse site.

"They're more concerned about their public image than they are the right thing," said U.S. Rep. Tim Holden, D-Schuylkill County, who called the public relations spending a waste of money.

"It is outrageous and unacceptable that a government agency would try to win the court of public opinion by hiring consultants," he said.

"It's a courthouse, for God's sake," said Chris Kelley Cimko, a public relations expert and senior vice president of FD Dittus Communications.

"Typically, GSA, local pols and city administrations know what to say and how to say it," Cimko said, adding that it "is not exactly rocket science."

Mayor Stephen R. Reed, Holden and other local lawmakers want the new courthouse at Sixth and Reily streets to spur development in that area.
After two attempts to build at other sites failed because of community opposition, the GSA wants to rebuild at the site of the existing Ronald Reagan Federal Building and Courthouse on Third and Walnut streets.

The GSA might have been forced to use outside help because its own communications department has been cut, Cimko said.

"They don't have people on staff that are the experts, so why not go out and hire," said Beverly Cigler, a public policy and administration professor at Penn State.

"It's fairly obvious that GSA had a big problem" coping with angry lawmakers and local officials, Cigler said.

In a statement, the GSA said it usually has good relationships in communities.

"The intensity of the Harrisburg community's response to our site proposals led us to believe that we needed additional support to communicate our objectives and rationale for decisions," the agency said. "Because of the public relations assistance, GSA has learned many things regarding the Harrisburg community and has modified the ways we provide information to the public."

The GSA has paid $197,000 to three firms: Xenophon Strategies, based in Washington, D.C.; Burson-Marsteller, a public relations firm; and the Neiman Group, based in Harrisburg.

Neiman was hired as a subcontractor by Gensler, the architectural firm coordinating the project. Gensler has been paid more than $686,000.

Xenophon and Neiman have ties to former Gov. Tom Ridge and Pennsylvania Republican political circles. Neiman President Tim Reeves was Ridge's communications director. Steve Aaron, the Neiman account executive working on behalf of the GSA, worked in the Ridge administration press office.

Called about Neiman's work, Aaron referred questions to the GSA.

David Fuscus, Xenophon's founder, CEO and president, was a deputy chief of staff to Ridge and later worked for him at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Many Xenophon staffers have Ridge administration ties.

Xenophon is no longer working on the courthouse project. Burson-Marsteller, which was paid $5,000 a month as a retainer, is not currently working on the project, according to the GSA.

Neiman started out working for $2,500 a month, but its monthly retainer was raised to $5,000.

Hiring Neiman or another local firm made sense because of the hostile community response, Cimko said. But she questioned the need for all three firms.

In response to questions submitted in writing, the agency said the outside consultants "provided GSA with a better understanding of the Harrisburg community and provided recommendations on the best ways to communicate with various stakeholders."

"By becoming more accessible to the media and proactive in our communications, the public has received regular updates and has learned more about the project," the agency said.

Community leaders questioned the value of spending that taxpayer money.

They said the agency and its representatives failed to substantively engage the community and its leaders, and often ignored their opinions.

Reginald A. Guy Jr., a member of the Right Site Harrisburg Coalition, which backs the Sixth and Reily location, called the GSA's community outreach efforts inadequate.

"To my knowledge, the agency has held no evening public meetings or engaged any African-American professionals to survey African-American views," he said.

Local leaders and congressional aides said the GSA's arrogant attitude toward local opinion worsened already strained relations.

Holden said he sees why the GSA hired architectural and engineering consultants, but questioned the need for communications assistance.

"Can't they make the arguments themselves?" he said.

When Diane Kovach read the letter from Procter & Gamble, her heart sank.

"I got sick to my stomach, honestly," the Palmyra-area resident said. "I never anticipated my name being a problem with a bigger company. I never in a million years would have anticipated something like that."

The problem? Kovach started an in-home business less than two years ago, making cloth diapers and selling them online. She needed a domain name, and "Pampered Bunz" seemed appropriate.

As the business took off, she applied to trademark the name, but Procter & Gamble, maker of Pampers disposable diapers, got a whiff of it.

"We are concerned that your client's use and registration of the mark Pampered Bunz may infringe P&G's established intellectual property rights in its famous Pampers trademark," stated the April 25 letter to Kovach's lawyer.

P&G told Kovach to withdraw her trademark application and stop using the word "Pampered."

"I never made the connection, and until now, nobody I talked to made it, either," Kovach said. "For heaven's sake, they're reusable."

Kovach started her business when other mothers asked for the cloth diapers she made for her son in various fabrics. She said she gets up to 40 orders a month from customers who typically buy about 24 diapers -- a two-day supply -- at a time. Prices range from $13 to $19.50.

At first, Kovach said, she wanted to fight Procter & Gamble, the Cincinnati-based personal and home products giant. But her lawyer, Norman Lehrer of Cherry Hill, N.J., told her a fight could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"Not only am I not going to do that to my family with the time it would take, but I'm a work-at-home mom," she said. "I really don't have the resources."

Kovach and her husband, a third-shift mechanic for Pepperidge Farm, have a 4-year-old daughter and a 17-month-old son.

Reusable versus disposable is not the legal issue in question, Lehrer said.

"Would the ordinary consumer be confused or deceived into believing there was some relationship between the two?" he asked. Kovach would have had to finance a survey costing anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 to prove that consumers didn't assume a link between Pampers and Pampered Bunz, Lehrer said.

Procter & Gamble's corporate communications office did not return calls for comment.

Before Kovach agrees to stop using the Pampered Bunz name, Lehrer is negotiating with P&G on issues that he would not specify. Kovach is doing some rebranding of her own, carefully researching a new name for her business.

She has recovered from her initial shock -- "overwhelmed" was her word for it -- and said she understands P&G's perspective.

"They're an established company," she said. "They've worked really hard for their name, and I can appreciate that, working really hard for a good name."

A poorly run Pentagon program for providing workman's compensation for civilian employees in Iraq and Afghanistan has allowed defense contractors and insurance companies to gouge American taxpayers, a House committee said Thursday.

Insurance companies alone have collected nearly $600 million in excessive profits over the past five years, says a Democratic staff report from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, but the Defense Department refuses to adjust its approach for managing the program.

According to the committee, the Pentagon allows its contractors to negotiate their own insurance contracts. By contrast, the State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development and the Army Corps of Engineers have all selected a single insurance carrier to provide the insurance at fixed rates.

"What makes the situation even worse is the people this program is supposed to benefit — the injured employees working for contractors — have to fight the insurance companies to get their benefits," committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said at a hearing Thursday.
"Delays and denials in paying claims are the rule."

KBR Inc., one of the largest defense contractors in Iraq, paid the insurance giant AIG $284 million for medical and disability coverage under the Defense Base Act, a reference to the federal law mandating the insurance. Due to the way KBR's contract is structured, this premium, along with an $8 million markup for KBR, gets billed to the taxpayer.

"Out of this amount, just $73 million actually goes to injured contractors, and AIG and KBR pocket over $100 million as profit," Waxman said.

In an e-mailed statement, AIG spokesman Chris Winans said the company is reviewing the staff report. But AIG is confident its coverage is accurately and fairly priced given the high risks to workers in war zones and the potential for sizable claims, Winans said.

All contractors doing work overseas for U.S. government agencies are required to insure their civilian employees, many of whom are handling dangerous jobs in hostile areas. Contractors get the coverage from private insurance companies, then they're reimbursed for what they spend. The insurance costs are included in the contract's overall price.

The Army Criminal Investigation Command has opened a probe into two companies working on Iraq reconstruction that have been accused of padding their profits by claiming reimbursements from the Corps of Engineers for insurance coverage they never purchased.

The probe of two Iraqi companies located in Tikrit — Sakar al-Fahal and al-Jubori — led the Corps of Engineers to scour its records for evidence of fraud by other contractors hired with billions of U.S. dollars to help rebuild Iraqi infrastructure devastated by the war.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., asked what the Corps of Engineers is doing to stop other companies from bilking the federal government for unpaid insurance coverage.

James Dalton, chief of engineering and construction for the Corps of Engineers, said contracting officers are trained to look for signs of fraud. The case involving the Iraqi companies, Dalton said, "was found through routine oversight of our contracts."

Waxman asked John Needham of the Government Accountability Office if U.S. taxpayers were getting the most for their money.

"It's not apparent they are," answered Needham, who added that the Defense Department has been unable to collect data on how much is spent on insurance for defense contracts.

Richard Ginman, a senior Pentagon acquisition official, said the Army Corps of Engineers' approach stems from a pilot program the Defense Department began in 2003 after contractors doing business in Iraq complained about the high cost of the mandatory coverage.

Rates for the Defense Base Act insurance had ballooned from $4 per $100 of employee salary to a ratio of $20 per $100 of compensation. It was especially tough for small companies to get the mandatory insurance, Ginman said.

Through the pilot program, Chicago-based Continental Insurance Company offered companies with Corps of Engineers contracts at lower fixed rates. A company with a construction contract, for example, would pay $7.25 for every $100 of payroll.

The Pentagon is still studying that program's results to determine if it makes sense to require all military branches and agencies to use it, Ginman said.

Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., said the pilot effort has already saved $19 million and he criticized the Defense Department for moving too slowly to make needed changes.

"The foot dragging seems to be contagious," Cooper said.

But Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., the committee's top Republican, said using a single insurance company may not be possible for the Defense Department. The military's obligations under the Defense Base Act, he said, dwarf those of other federal agencies.

"It's not clear that any insurance provider would be willing to underwrite (Defense Base Act) insurance for all DOD contractors, or that contractors would be willing to participate on those terms," Davis said.

The most surprising thing about Sue Simmons’s unbleeped blooper the other night is that anyone in this city even noticed.

You may have read about her unfortunate slip. Ms. Simmons, a news anchor on WNBC-TV, tried to get the attention of her longtime partner, Chuck Scarborough, by asking him, “What are you doing?”

Only she did not realize that they were live on the air. And she didn’t quite say “What are you doing?” She inserted two words between “what” and “are.” One of those words was “the.” Sorry to be coy about the other one, but it is not allowed to be printed here. Rules are rules. If you can’t figure out what it is, you have not been in New York very long — like less than four minutes.

Despite a certain amount of twitter over this incident, it seems that both the republic and Ms. Simmons will survive. “She’ll continue to be on the air,” said a WNBC spokeswoman, Susan Kiel.

The reality is that this vulgar word has been tossed about with such abandon in public for so many years that New Yorkers tend to tune it out. Its endless, and mindless, repetition left them numb long ago. By now, the word is no longer shocking, just tedious.

Through frequent use, “a word like this begins to be less of a curse word,” said Ricardo Otheguy, a sociolinguist at the City University of New York Graduate Center. “The more you use it, the less dirty it is.”

Then, too, he said, the city has so many people for whom English is a second language. The word may sound softer to them than it is. “Swearing in your own language feels like a really dirty thing to do,” Professor Otheguy said. “Swearing in somebody else’s language seems somehow less fraught.”

Add to that the fact that boundaries between public space and private are being erased. Cellphones contribute mightily to that, said another sociolinguist, John V. Singler of New York University. “The range of places where it’s O.K. to use that word has grown enormously,” Professor Singler said. By now, he said, “the real taboo words — and even these depend on who’s saying them — have to do much more with race.”

You routinely hear Wall Street suits use the word at high decibels in the subway. Police officers bounce it casually among one another, no matter who else is around to hear. Teenagers use it all the time. Some people walk around with the word screaming from their T-shirts — an insight, perhaps, into their capacity for self-degradation.

Vice President Dick Cheney invoked the word on the Senate floor, suggesting to Senator Patrick Leahy that he commit an impossible sexual act. Eliot Spitzer, the swaggering former governor, tried to be macho by using it to emphasize his self-image as a “steamroller.”

Rarely do any of these people display a glimmer of the creativity shown by a fellow soldier in my Army days. The jeep he was driving broke down. Looking under the hood, he needed only four words to pronounce the vehicle beyond repair. The first was “the,” followed by the Simmons-Cheney-Spitzer word in its adjectival, noun and verb forms — in that order. It bordered on poetry.

There was nothing poetic this week in the repeated use of the word after the rapper Remy Ma was sentenced in Manhattan to eight years in prison for shooting a woman. Remy Ma’s boyfriend, a fellow performer with the nom de rap of Papoose, was outraged. Maybe he did not fully grasp that it is generally considered unacceptable to shoot people.

When told by court officers to vamoose, Papoose lost control. All along the courthouse corridors, he repeated that tiresome word. T. S. Eliot he wasn’t.

Some New Yorkers, though, are still capable of cringing. A shouting match between two taxi drivers — neither a native English speaker but both graced with a solid command of the familiar word — cost one of them dearly. As reported this week in The New York Post, he was deemed the aggressor, and fined $1,000 and suspended for 30 days by Matthew W. Daus, chairman of the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

Sure, driving a cab is stressful, Mr. Daus said, but decorum must be maintained, especially in a service industry that caters to tourists from places where that word may not be batted around casually. “Drivers are often the first and last face that visitors to our city see,” he said.

Official censure does only so much, though. No power could have prevented a loud argument some years ago between two street guys. Finally, one of them shouted at the other, “I’ve only got two words to say to you.”

Actually, he then said four words. Two of them were sandwiched between “shut” and “up.” You can easily guess what they were. The point is that this man truly thought he was using only two words. That’s a New Yorker.

Among the celluloid dream girls manufactured by Hollywood in the 1940s, Jennifer Jones occupies a celestial niche. Beginning with her first major feature, “The Song of Bernadette,” in which she played a saintly French peasant who has a vision of the Virgin Mary, the character she represented on the screen was a spiritually exalted being who kept part of herself in reserve. Even when Ms. Jones went notoriously down and dirty to play Pearl Chavez, a sex-crazed half-Indian woman in “Duel in the Sun,” right, you had the titillating sense of a lady playing a tramp. (The opposite could be said of Lana Turner in dignified upscale roles.)

These polarities are suggested by the title of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s retrospective of Ms. Jones’s movies, “Saint and Sinner: The Tempestuous Career of Jennifer Jones,” at the Walter Reade Theater. Even as she crawled through the dirt, you still had a sense of her as the abstract embodiment of ideal femininity, 1940s style: a beautiful, empathetic trophy who was fundamentally untouchable.

Her aura of exaltation is largely thanks to David O. Selznick, the producer who discovered her, fell in love with her and eventually married her; for most of her career he micromanaged every detail of her presentation. He liked to cast her as women from great literature: the title character of Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary”; Carrie Meeber in “Sister Carrie”; Catherine Barkley in the disastrous 1957 remake of “A Farewell to Arms” (not shown in the series); and Nicole Diver in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Tender Is the Night.”

The retrospective begins on Friday afternoon with the 1952 melodrama “Ruby Gentry,” set in Southern bayou country, followed by the 1946 Ernst Lubitsch comedy, “Cluny Brown,” in which she played opposite Charles Boyer, and “Duel in the Sun,” Selznick’s pulpy attempt in 1946 to duplicate the success of “Gone With the Wind.”

But the most blatant attempt to present Ms. Jones as the essence of female perfection is “Portrait of Jennie,” a romantic 1948 ghost story in which her dead character, Jennie Appleton, materializes from the past to inspire a starving artist (Joseph Cotten) who feels compelled to paint her. Jennie is the face in the misty light.

Poor old Pythagoras is slipping away from us. He was always a shadowy figure in Western thought -- his followers were secretive and he himself wrote nothing, as far as we know. Even in his own time and place, the Greek cities of southern Italy in the seventh century B.C., Pythagoras was a kind of myth-magnet. Over time a large body of thought about him developed, though it was based on precious little evidence. Then, in the second half of the 20th century, Pythagoras became yet more mysterious.

In 1962, the Swiss scholar Walter Burkert -- using a close reading of earliest written accounts of what Pythagoras was supposed to have said to his followers -- published a monumental debunking of the Pythagorean tradition. Fellow scholars were persuaded that what little they thought they knew about Pythagoras was probably wrong.

Until then, it had been said that there were two sides to Pythagoras -- which is a little ironic, given his presumed association with triangles. He had a religious side as the miracle-working leader of a cult that believed in the transmigration of souls (that "the soul of our grandam might haply inhabit a bird," as Shakespeare's Malvolio puts it in "Twelfth Night"). And Pythagoras had a "scientific" side: He was a pioneering mathematician and philosopher who regarded geometry and numbers as the keys to the universe's harmonious structure.

Only the first side emerged intact from Burkert's scrutiny. The picture of Pythagoras as a mathematician and philosopher was a "mistake," Burkert said, an error resulting largely from the eagerness of self-styled "Pythagoreans" in later centuries to attribute their work to the master himself.

It now seems that Pythagoras did not invent the notion of mathematical proof after all. (Bertrand Russell and Arthur Koestler thought he did, which is why they both proclaimed him the West's most influential thinker.)

Nor did he discover the theorem that bears his name -- that the square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides. It was known a thousand years earlier in Mesopotamia. He may have noted a link between some harmonic intervals in the music of his time and certain simple numerical ratios. But there is no reason to think he was the first to do so.

Still, even if the old Greek magician himself did not have much to do with it, Pythagoreanism played a sometimes important role in Western science before Newton, especially in astronomy, as Kitty Ferguson illustrates in "The Music of Pythagoras," an engaging survey of the ideas that have been thought of as Pythagorean.

For example, Plato's "Timaeus," with its account of a creator fashioning the world out of basic geometrical shapes, reflected the ideas of Plato's friend Archytas of Tarentum, a mathematician who regarded himself as a Pythagorean. "Timaeus" was the basis for most cosmology in the West for the first 12 centuries of the Christian era.

In the early 17th century, the astronomy of Johannes Kepler was suffused with Pythagorean themes, including the Pythagorean "music of the spheres." In ancient times it was much discussed why this sound, allegedly made by the heavenly bodies as they whiz through space, cannot be heard by human ears. Aristotle wryly noted that humans cannot hear it because there is no such sound.

In general, Ms. Ferguson's theme is that Pythagoras himself is responsible for the notion that numbers reveal hidden patterns in nature and that this notion amounts to a fundamental principle in science. It is indeed likely that Pythagoras regarded simple numbers and ratios as the keys to the universe; this much survives the skeptical thrust of recent scholarship about him.

Ms. Ferguson is familiar with the scholarship, but it is not clear that she has grasped its significance. Pythagoras' interest in numbers was primarily mystical, with little scientific content. He was concerned more with numerological symbolism (four was justice, for example, and five was marriage) than with measuring things. And the hope that it is possible to provide a unified account of the universe, using quantitative tools, is fundamentally Greek rather than specifically Pythagorean. The idea is found, in crude forms, in Pythagoras' immediate predecessors, Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes.

Ms. Ferguson closes her book with a hurried meditation on the threats to the conception of an orderly universe that are allegedly posed by 20th-century math and science. Were the Pythagoreans -- or, we might as well say, the Greeks -- correct to assume that there are comprehensible patterns in the universe? Or has that turned out to be a false hope? Ms. Ferguson skips briskly through quantum mechanics, chaos theory, set theory and more, wondering whether they show, in their sometimes surprising and always complex claims, that the universe is not rational after all.

But each of these fields has added to our rational understanding of the world and has done so by means of mathematics. The universe may not be as simple as some early Greek mathematicians imagined it to be, but it is proving ever more comprehensible by the day.

We have all felt it -- the anxiety that comes when we walk (or are wheeled) through a hospital's doors or bring a relative to the emergency room. We all have our stories and gripes about a health-care system that may rank with the nation's air-travel industry as the greatest source of public complaint in America. And like it or not, each of us holds a stake in the current debate over how to improve the way we care for the sick in this country.

So it would seem a fine time to burrow into the inner workings of an American hospital, which is what Julie Salamon has done in "Hospital." Ms. Salamon, a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, negotiated for no-strings-attached, year-long access to Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. As the book's subtitle suggests -- "Man, Woman, Birth, Death, Infinity, Plus Red Tape, Bad Behavior, Money, God, and Diversity on Steroids" -- there's an awful lot going on there.

The hospital she chose is at once state-of-the-art and unwieldy, riven by feuds and inefficiency, a place that employs 5,700 people and admits more than 40,000 patients in a single year. It is, as Ms. Salamon puts it, "a demilitarized zone, where patients dragged in not just their wounds, fevers, and malfunctions, but their accents and customs, their immigration and insurance problems, their feelings about being outsiders."

Those "accents and customs" are among the hospital's most distinguishing features. Founded a century ago to serve an Orthodox Jewish community, Maimonides now treats Haitians, Pakistanis, Chinese, Mexicans and many more nationalities. All told, Ms. Salamon reports, an astonishing 67 languages are heard (if not always understood) at the hospital. It must rank among the most polyglot patient populations anywhere. Says one first-year resident: "If you can get the translator down to the ER fast enough to figure out what the heck is going on, you can actually save a lot of lives here."

Ms. Salamon had carte blanche to examine the place, "warts and all." And warts there are. Budgetary concerns hang over nearly everything that happens at Maimonides -- not a surprise, really, but it still jars to hear the hospital president bemoan the "f---ing surgery numbers," because those numbers are too low and hurting revenues. Cancer is seen as a "growth industry," the overburdened emergency room "a pot of gold." Patients must be discharged and newcomers admitted as expeditiously as possible -- again, an understandable desire, but a hospital vice president uses the unfortunate phrase "dead bed time." Ms. Salamon reports more serious problems: Blood donated specifically for one patient is mistakenly given to another, and we learn that -- even after recent improvements -- 20% of Maimonides' physicians still fail to practice "hand hygiene" -- i.e., wash their hands -- as often as they should.

Colorful characters abound. The emergency-room resident David Gregorius, Nebraska-raised, appears bewildered and overwhelmed at times but ever ready to improvise, going without food on intense shifts, picking up fragments of Mandarin and Russian to help understand his patients. As the end of his residency nears, Dr. Gregorius is a transformed, confident physician: "After I've dealt with Maimonides for a year, if you cut me loose in a little ER in Western Nebraska by myself, I'd be competent, actually."

A cancer patient called "Mr. Zen" (Ms. Salamon alters patients' names) spends his last eight months of life at Maimonides, stoic to the end, his care costing the hospital a million dollars in bills that are likely to go unpaid. The president and chief executive of Maimonides, Pam Brier, comes off as egotistical but also passionate about her work and tireless in her advocacy for the hospital -- so much so that when she learns that the Brooklyn borough president has been admitted with heart trouble, she tells the hospital board: "Who knows, that may be another advertisement."
The main character, as it were, is the hospital itself, where there is a constant struggle to care effectively for patients, lure top-flight physicians and coax reimbursements from insurance companies. The associate director of medical oncology voices a common lament: "All the things that are really good -- diabetes care, asthma care, taking good care of cancer patients -- you don't get paid for that . . . you get paid for radiating people, doing complicated surgery, giving them chemotherapy."

At Maimonides, "Hospital" will undoubtedly be a must-read, and the book will be of obvious interest to health-care professionals -- though some of Maimonides' problems are probably so well known to them, and others so peculiar to this one hospital, that they may prove less worthy of study. As for the rest of us, I am not so sure.

Ms. Salamon tells us many times that Maimonides is complex and chaotic and that it even has a "soul." But for long patches of her book, the narrative is dry and "soul" is absent from the page. In this respect "Hospital" disappoints. It would have been a great help had Ms. Salamon told us more about the patients admitted during her time there; apart from a wrenching chapter called "A Good Death," there are few stories about the patients themselves. "Hospital" is largely a book about physicians and administrators. While Ms. Salamon's immersive, you-are-there reporting brings the reader into offices and meetings, it might have been more compelling if she had reported more stories from the ER or OR. As it is, we hear ample discussion of how to revamp the emergency room, but we learn little about what patients actually experience there.

Still, "Hospital" is a solid piece of reportage. In the end, you come to admire the book's principal figures, as Ms. Salamon does, however flawed they might be. The physicians and administrators, she makes clear, "tried to remember -- against the odds posed by a greedy and corrupted health-care system and by institutional and human frailty -- that healing was the heart of the matter."

Mr. Nagorski, a senior producer at ABC News, is the author of "Miracles on the Water: The Heroic Survivors of a World War II U-Boat Attack."

Should a leader strive to be loved or feared? This question, famously posed by Machiavelli, lies at the heart of Joseph Nye's new book. Mr Nye, a former dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and one-time chairman of America's National Intelligence Council, is best known for promoting the idea of “soft power”, based on persuasion and influence, as a counterpoint to “hard power”, based on coercion and force.

Having analysed the use of soft and hard power in politics and diplomacy in his previous books, he has now turned his attention to the relationship between power and leadership, in both the political and business spheres.

Machiavelli, he notes, concluded that “one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved.” In short, hard power is preferable to soft power. But modern leadership theorists have come to the opposite conclusion.

The context of leadership is changing, they observe, and the historical emphasis on hard power is becoming outdated. In modern companies and democracies, power is increasingly diffused and traditional hierarchies are being undermined, making soft power ever more important. But that does not mean coercion should now take a back seat to persuasion, Mr Nye argues. Instead, he advocates a synthesis of these two views. The conclusion of “The Powers to Lead”, his survey of the theory of leadership, is that a combination of hard and soft power, which he calls “smart power”, is the best approach.

The dominant theoretical model of leadership at the moment is, apparently, the “neocharismatic and transformational leadership paradigm”. Anyone allergic to management jargon will already be running for the exit, but Mr Nye has performed a valuable service in rounding up and summarising the various academic studies and theories of leadership into a single, slim volume. He examines different approaches to leadership, the morality of leadership and how the wider context can determine the effectiveness of a particular leader. There are plenty of anecdotes and examples, both historical and contemporary, political and corporate.

Alas, leadership is a slippery subject, and as he rehearses the pros and cons of various theories, even Mr Nye never quite nails the jelly to the wall. He is at his most interesting when discussing the moral aspects of leadership—in particular, the question of whether it is sometimes necessary for good leaders to lie—and he provides a helpful 12-point summary of his conclusions. A recurring theme is that as circumstances change, different sorts of leaders are required; a leader who thrives in one environment may struggle in another, and vice versa. Ultimately that is just a fancy way of saying that leadership offers no easy answers.

In 1964 NBC's “Today” show suddenly needed a new girl. The programme always had a glamorous “girl” to handle the weather and lighter stories, but the previous one was addicted to prescription drugs and the one before her had a drink problem. “Why not Barbara?” asked Hugh Downs, the show's host, referring to Barbara Walters, the programme's lone female writer. She wasn't beautiful or well known, but she knew the ropes and would “work cheap”.

“Well, like the ingénue in a corny movie, there I was: the patient and long overlooked understudy,” writes Ms Walters in her candid new memoir, “Audition”. Having toiled in the shadows for years, writing scripts and making coffee, she finally got her big on-air break. Don Hewitt, a TV producer, had assured her she would never make it because she had the wrong looks and couldn't pronounce her “r”s properly. Ms Walters duly avoided sentences with a lot of “r”s in them.

NBC's 13-week contract turned into 13 years at “Today” and nearly half a century in front of the camera, breaking gender barriers and securing interviews when other journalists were turned down. Her genial, empathetic style won fans and friends. “Barbara, are you hungry?” Fidel Castro asked after a marathon interview in Cuba before whipping up a sandwich. Anwar Sadat's grieving widow admitted, “you were the only one I was ever jealous of because Anwar liked you so much.” Ms Walters earned a reputation for finding something soft in her subjects. “Asking the right questions has always been less important than listening to the answers,” she explains.

She helped support her family (her father was an unlucky nightclub impresario), and she remains haunted by her impatience with her disabled sister. Her insecurities—some of them financial—pushed her to work harder. “Make no mistake: television is a demanding is hell on your social and romantic life,” she writes.

Indeed, Ms Walters's entertaining tome, which picks up considerably after the first 75 pages, describes three failed marriages, many complicated love affairs (including with Alan Greenspan and Edward W. Brooke, a senator) and a tough stretch with her adopted daughter. But the author seems reconciled with her many memories, and proud of her stories. It is for good reason that she now owns a ring inscribed with the words, “I did that already”.

Mortgage craters, ropy disclosure, bloated costs, a newish boss desperately trying to stop the haemorrhaging amid calls for radical surgery, even a break-up. Citigroup? Aptly though this describes America's biggest bank, it could just as easily apply to its biggest insurer, American International Group (AIG).

AIG's place in the credit crunch's hall of shame is now assured thanks to its record $7.8 billion loss in the latest quarter, bringing the red ink over the past six months to $13 billion. The main culprit is its book of credit-default swaps, much of it tied to subprime mortgages, which has been written down by $20 billion. A chastened AIG has joined the rush for fresh capital.

Disgruntled shareholders have a flag-waver in Hank Greenberg, who ran AIG imperiously for 37 years before being booted out in 2005 amid an accounting probe. Still the biggest individual shareholder, the 83-year-old lashed out at his former fief this week, averring that it had suffered a “complete loss of credibility”.

There is restiveness within, too. Executives at International Lease Finance Corporation, the world's biggest buyer of commercial aircraft and part of AIG since 1990, are reportedly agitating for a spin-off. They worry that AIG's woes will drag down ILFC: its credit rating was cut along with its parent's following the latest loss.

Such huffing is a trifle disingenuous. ILFC has benefited from being under AIG's wing, for instance amid the turmoil for aviation after September 11th 2001. And most of the dodgy default swaps were written on Mr Greenberg's watch—indeed, AIG stopped selling them at the end of 2005, a few months after he had been replaced by Martin Sullivan, a former protégé.

But AIG has played its hand badly. It insisted until this year that it had $15 billion-20 billion of excess capital and that actual (as opposed to mark-to-market) losses were unlikely. It has since retreated from that position and modified its internal models (ie, made them less optimistic). But uncertainty still abounds. AIG estimates its ultimate derivatives losses will be up to $2.4 billion. Unnervingly, an independent assessor hired by AIG puts the potential cost as high as $11 billion. AIG thinks much of the current damage will be reversed, thanks to the vagaries of fair-value accounting. But why trust its judgment rather than the market's? And any such gains won't come at least until 2009, says Thomas Cholnoky of Goldman Sachs.

Softening insurance markets may compound AIG's woes. With pricing power ebbing and catastrophe pay-outs set to rise after an unusually calm couple of years, America's property and casualty industry—dominated by AIG and Berkshire Hathaway—seems to be entering another of its periodic downturns (see chart). Premium rates in casualty will fall by 10-15% this year, predicts Lockton, a broker.

With the bull run in stocks over, life insurance and annuities could suffer, too. And insurers face lower returns on investments in alternative assets, such as hedge funds and private equity. “Yellow lights are blinking all over the industry,” says Donald Light of Celent, a consultancy.

All of which means AIG faces a double whammy of credit-market missteps and a deteriorating core business. Time is not on the affable Mr Sullivan's side. At the annual meeting this week, the directors reiterated their support for him, though some have privately begun to express doubts. Who said insurance was dull?

EVERY ecosystem has a cast of characters playing similar roles. The bison, moose and elk of North America do much the same thing as antelope and wildebeest do on the African savannah. Jackals and hyenas are the scavengers of the land whereas vultures are the undisputed scavengers of the air. The same is even true of carnivores. Crocodiles, cheetahs, great white sharks and peregrine falcons all come at their prey with great speed, using a combination of momentum and strength to stun and kill. Now research has put up a surprising candidate to join this high-speed predatory club: the short-finned pilot whale.

Whales, like all mammals, have lungs and must rise to the surface once in a while to breathe. The problem for many whale species is that their sources of food are usually at depth, forcing them to hold their breath as they descend to feed. Researchers have long assumed that deep-diving whales conserve their oxygen supply by moving slowly, not more than 2 metres per second, during their long descents. But that is not the way of the short-finned pilot whale.

Natacha Aguilar of La Laguna University on the Spanish Canary Islands and her colleagues fitted special suction-cupped electronic tags to 23 short-finned pilot whales near Tenerife. The tags were designed by Mark Johnson of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to record whale sounds while monitoring both their depth and position. The aim of the study, which will appear in a forthcoming edition of Animal Ecology, was to understand the foraging strategies that the whales used in deep-water.

The tags revealed that the maximum depth and time of the whales' dives was 1,018 metres and 21 minutes, which was in line with expectations. However, during most dives below 540 metres during the day, the whales broke into a sprint of up to 9 metres per second, which in deep water is the cetacean equivalent of a world record.

During these sprints the tags also picked up sonar buzzes and clicks from the whales which are known to be associated with the capture of prey. So the whales were chasing something at high speed, like a cheetah would on land. The researchers are not sure what is being hunted, but they suspect that it is large and worth the exertion in terms of the number of calories it could provide. One possibility is that the prey are giant squid: a chase of Titanic proportions.

In this remote corner of the former Soviet Union, life has shrunk to the size of the basics: tomatoes; corn; apricot trees; baby goats.

That is what grows in the garden of Toktokan Tileberdaeva, a mother of six who has lived almost 40 years in this small village in Kyrgyzstan, a claw-shaped country covered in mountains that once formed part of the Soviet Union’s long border with China.

Like a settler on the frontier, she lives off the land, hauling water from a turquoise-colored river and washing her clothes in the same bucket she washes her grandchildren. Her pension, $33 a month, is enough to buy one giant sack of flour — bread for the month.

Life was not always like this. Before Communism fell and Kyrgyzstan became its own country, Ms. Tileberdaeva had a job in a toothbrush factory. Her husband, now deceased, worked building giant hydroelectric plants, and a bus came to take their children to school.

But after 1991 the factory closed, all public services stopped and an economic collapse tore painful holes in the lives of families here, turning them into immigrants in their own country. Their skills were no longer needed. Their past was a mistake. Louis J. Sheehan Esquire

“I really miss the Soviet Union,” she said, standing in a small blue trailer where she and her children sleep on soft rugs. “We lived well. I worked. I earned a salary.”

The Soviet Union collapsed almost 17 years ago, but for many on the outer edges of the empire it feels like yesterday. They enjoy reminiscing about the time when they were young and their factories were working full steam. Now the toothbrush factory stands empty with blank windows, a painful reminder of their lost past.

Change is coming. Engineers from China, Turkey and Iran, though not from Russia, have rebuilt the long ribbon of road that cuts through the mountains to connect the south of the country to the north. Ms. Tileberdaeva’s younger children are taught in Kyrgyz, not Russian. Goods and trade have begun to flow from China in the east, instead of from Russia in the west.

But none of that is any consolation to Ms. Tileberdaeva, who spends every waking hour scratching a living out of her land.

Sometimes her oldest daughter, a cafeteria worker in Bishkek, the country’s capital, sends her money. The rest comes from her goats and her garden.

Her life is solitary. She is content with the company of her children and grandchildren, and says she does not seek other adults for support or friendship.

Most people in this small town are drunks, she said. Chinese merchants, sullenly despised for their wealth and success, provide fleeting entertainment: Locals throw rocks at them when they drive by.

The past is not always something she wants to remember. Her husband stole her when she was 19, as she walked home from class at a technical college, a local custom that she feels is heartlessly unfair. She cried, kicking and screaming, as they reached his home. She tried — and failed — three times to escape.

“I wanted to die,” she said looking at the remains of the first house she was brought to, also on the property, but now a grassy playground with walls but no roof.

Family life improved, but only a little. Her husband was a drinker, and was mean when drunk, sometimes throwing her and the children out of the house in a rage.

He died in 2003 (the Soviet military sent him to clean up Chernobyl, and he was never quite the same when he returned), but she grimaced when asked if she had married again.

“If I had had a second one, he would have been the same,” she said.

Her current concern is a roof, not a man. On a snowy night in December, a pan on her small wood stove caught fire during dinner, setting the roof on fire. She fled through a window with the children, wading out into the snow in pajamas and running for help.

The winter was unusually snowy, but there was no money for a roof, so she and her family crammed into a donated trailer, a single dark room coated in quilts.

Things could be worse. Kyrgyzstan is relatively liberal compared with its authoritarian neighbors, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. A clean river flows through her backyard, and the soil is rich. Her goats recently had a litter. Their soft babies wobbled in spring grass.

She asked about America, as water for laundry heated on a hotplate. Did everyone live in a high-rise building? Was everyone rich? She watched as her small grandson, wearing a cast-off New York Yankees hat, teetered in, holding a tiny yellow flower.

“Our garden is free,” she said smiling. “The earth is good. That’s how I live.”

Then she invited visitors to tear pieces from a round, coarse loaf of bread.

Volunteers with the Capital Area Chris tian Church in Hamp den Twp. have been busy this week constructing the Adventure Zone Playground, the first playground of its kind on the West Shore and only the second in the Harrisburg area.

Don Hamilton, senior pastor at the church on Lamb's Gap Road, said volunteers have worked until after sundown each day. Hamilton said about 1,200 volunteers have participated.

"You don't have to be skilled. Anyone can work on this playground," Hamilton said of the community project.

Building stops Sunday, Hamilton said.

"This has been a very, very exciting week for us," Hamilton said.

"We've been planning this playground for a little over a year now, and it's coming to fruition."

Hamilton said the completed Adventure Zone Playground will be part of Adventure Park, a fully accessible 53-acre recreation area for children of all ages and abilities.

When complete, Adventure Park will include public rest rooms, parking and a pavilion for picnics.

"So any kid can play on this playground, and it's just going to be a beautiful, beautiful playground," Hamilton said.

Local nonprofits, organizations and people have provided $370,000, but Hamilton said $120,000 is still needed for special rubber flooring to make the playground entirely accessible.

The only other local all-accessible park is Possibility Place in Lower Paxton Twp., in the new George Park at Nyes Road and Heatherfield Way.

U.S. spent $197,000 to sell plan
GSA faced community resistance to sites

The highly publicized releases of "UFO files" from France and Britain provide more puzzling tales about anomalous aerial objects over the years. But the stories behind some of the most spectacular sightings in UFO history will come to light only when the Russian Ministry of Defense opens up its files.

Consider one of the most sensational UFO stories in Soviet history — a story that has been enshrined in world "ufology" as a classic that cannot be explained in any prosaic terms.

The tale of the Minsk UFO sighting can teach a lesson about the vigor of unidentified flying objects as a cultural phenomenon.

A passenger jet is flying north on Sept. 7, 1984, near Minsk, in present-day Belarus. Suddenly, at 4:10 a.m., the flight crew notices a glowing object out their forward right window. In the 10 minutes that follow, the object changes shape, zooms in on the aircraft, plays searchlights on the ground beneath it, and envelops the airliner in a mysterious ray of light that fatally injures one of the pilots. Other aircraft in the area, alerted by air traffic control operators who are watching the UFO on radar, also see it.

The incident figures prominently in "UFO Chronicles of the Soviet Union," a 1992 book by Jacques Vallee, who was the real-life inspiration for the fictional ufologist in the movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."

“No natural explanation [is] possible, given the evidence,” Vallee wrote.

A leading Russian UFO expert, Vladimir Azhazha, reported that as a result of the encounter the co-pilot “had a serious mental derangement — the encephalogram of his brain was not of an ‘earthly’ character, as he lost memory for long periods of time.”

This combination of perceptions from multiple witnesses and sensors, together with the serious physiological effects, makes for a dramatic event that on the face of it defies any earthly explanation. It was just as amazing that the official Soviet news media, long averse to discussing UFO subjects, disclosed the story in the first place. So it was no mystery that over the years that followed, the story was never actually checked out. It was only retold again and again.

However much we are comfortable in entrusting our lives to airline pilots, a blind trust in their abilities as trained observers of aerial phenomena is sometimes a stretch. For a number of excellent and honorable reasons, pilots have often been known to overinterpret unusual visual phenomena, particularly when it comes to underestimating the distance from what look like other aircraft.

Think of it this way: You want the person at the front of the plane to be hair-trigger alert for visual cues to potential collisions, so avoidance maneuvers can be performed in time. The worst-case interpretation of perceptions is actually a plus.

So it’s no surprise that pilots have sent their planes into a dive to duck under a fireball meteor that was really 50 miles away, or have dodged a flaming falling satellite passing 60 miles overhead. Even celestial objects are misperceived by pilots more frequently than by any other category of witness, UFO investigator J. Allen Hynek concluded 30 years ago. Since the outcome of a false-negative assessment (that is, being closer than assumed) could be death, and the cost of a false positive (being much farther away) is mere embarrassment, the bias of these reactions makes perfect sense.

Was there anything else in the sky that morning that the Soviet pilots might have seen? This wasn’t an easy question, since the Moscow press reports neglected to give the exact date of the event, but I could figure it out by checking Aeroflot airline schedules.

It turned out that early risers in Sweden and Finland had also seen an astonishing apparition in the sky that morning. According to reports collected by Claus Svahn of UFO-Sweden, people called in accounts of seeing "a very strong globe of light," sometimes "with a skirt under it." The light's glow was reflected off the ground and lasted for several minutes. In Finland, a UFO research club's annual report later cataloged 15 similar sightings from that country.

The immediate disconnect that I found was that the Scandinavian witnesses were not looking southeast, toward Minsk and the nearby airliner with its terrified crew. Nor were they looking eastward, toward the top-secret Russian space base at Plesetsk, where launchings sparked UFO reports starting in the mid-1960s. They were looking to the northeast, across Karelia and perhaps farther.

The direction of the apparition being seen simultaneously near Minsk provided another "look angle." If the vectors of the eyewitnesses are plotted on a map, they tend to converge out over the Barents Sea, far from land. This made the triggering mechanism for the sightings — assuming they were all of the same phenomenon — even more extraordinary.

Whatever the stimulus behind the 1984 Minsk airliner story turned out to be, I already knew that many famous Soviet UFO reports were connected with secret military aerospace activities that were misperceived by ordinary citizens. I’ve posted several decades of such research results on my Web site.

In 1967, waves of UFO reports from southern Russia and a temporary period of official permission for public discussion created a "perfect storm" of Soviet UFO enthusiasm. But it was short-lived — the topic was soon forbidden again, possibly because the government realized that what was being seen and publicized was actually a series of top-secret space-to-ground nuclear warhead tests, a weapon Moscow had just signed an international space treaty to outlaw.

Once the Plesetsk Cosmodrome (south of Arkhangelsk) began launching satellites in 1966, skywatchers throughout the northwestern Soviet Union began seeing vast glowing clouds and lights moving through the skies. These were officially non-existent rocket launchings. "Not ours!” the officials seemed to be saying. "Must be Martians."

Other space events that sparked UFO reports included orbital rocket firings timed to occur while in direct radio contact with the main Soviet tracking site in the Crimea. Such firings and the subsequent expanding clouds of jettisoned surplus fuel weren't confined to Soviet airspace. One particular category of Soviet communications satellites performed the maneuver over the Andes Mountains, subjecting the southern tip of South America to UFO panics every year or two for decades.

As the Soviet Union lurched toward collapse in the 1980s, its rigid control over the press decayed. This allowed local newspapers, especially in the area of the Plesetsk space base, to begin publishing eyewitness accounts of correctly identified rocket launchings. The newspapers sometimes printed detailed drawings of the shifting shapes of the light show caused by the sequence of rocket stage firings and equipment ejections.

Still, I wasn't willing to wave off the elaborate extra dimensions of the Minsk UFO case as mere misperception and exaggerated coincidences. Even though none of the most exciting stories, such as one pilot's death half a year later from cancer, could ever be traced to any original firsthand sources, they made for a compelling narrative.

Fortunately, the Soviet collapse provided the opening for the collapse of the UFO story. The May-June 1991 issue of the magazine Science in the USSR contained an article that reprised the story with one stunning addendum from the co-pilot’s flight log. He had sketched the apparition, minute by minute, as it changed shape out his side of the cockpit window, and 14 of the drawings were published for the first (and as far as I can tell, only) time.

The graphic sequence of bright light, rays, expanding halos, misty cloudiness, tadpole tail and sudden linear streamers may have looked bizarre to the magazine’s readers. But they looked very familiar to me.

I dug out the clippings from Arkhangelsk newspapers that had been mailed to me by an associate there. I looked up the other articles from recent Moscow science magazines that showed how beautiful these rocket launches looked. I also found the set of sketches made by a witness in Sweden of what was immediately recognized as a rocket launch. I laid the separate sketches out on a table.

They all clearly showed the same sequence of shape-shifting visions, as viewed from different angles to the rear of the object’s flight. The more recent accounts were of nighttime missile launches — and the impression was overwhelming that the Minsk UFO, as drawn in real time by one of the primary witnesses, looked and changed just like them.

Without the detailed minute-by-minute drawings, any claim for solving the case would have been tentative, and circumstantial at best. Even now, the case isn't quite closed. Until the Russians release the records for the test launch of a submarine-based missile — as we now know often happened from that region of the ocean, but without official acknowledgement — the answer to the mystery will remain technically unproven.

But the answer is strong enough to remind us of wider principles of investigating — and evaluating — similar stories from around the world: There are more potential prosaic stimuli out there than we usually expect. Precise times and locations and viewing directions are critical to an investigation. The temptation to fall into excitable overinterpretation is almost irresistible. Myriads of weird but meaningless coincidences can be combined to embellish a good story.

The most important factors for cutting through the misperceptions would be having the good fortune to come across enough original evidence, and having enough time to make sense of that evidence. That’s one of the biggest lessons to be learned from the Minsk UFO case: As long as those factors are in short supply, it’s no mystery why there are so many amazing UFO stories — and so many enthusiasts willing to endorse them.

Erich Honecker,( 1912 – May 29, 1994) was a German Communist politician who led the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) from 1971 until 1989.

After German re-unification, he first fled to the Soviet Union but was extradited by the new Russian government to Germany, where he was imprisoned and tried for high treason and crimes committed during the Cold War. However, as he was dying of cancer, he was released from prison. He died in exile in Chile about a year and a half later.

Honecker was born on Max-Braun-Straße in Neunkirchen, now Saarland, as the son of a politically militant coal miner, Wilhelm, who in 1905 had married Caroline Catharina Weidenhof. There were six children born to the family: Katharina (Käthe), Wilhelm (Willi, Hungary), Frieda, Erich, Gertrud (b. 1917; m. Hoppstädter), and Karl-Robert.

He joined the Young Communist League of Germany (KJVD), the youth section of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), in 1926 and joined the KPD itself in 1929. Between 1928 and 1930 he worked as a roofer, but did not finish his apprenticeship. Thereafter he was sent to Moscow to study at the International Lenin School and for the rest of his life remained a full-time politician.

He returned to Germany in 1931 and was arrested in 1935, two years after the Nazis had come to power. In 1937, he was sentenced to ten years for Communist activities and remained a prisoner until the end of World War II. At the end of the war, Honecker resumed activity in the party under leader Walter Ulbricht, and, in 1946, became one of the first members of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands, SED), which was formed by the merger of the KPD and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in the Soviet occupation zone of Germany. Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

Following the SED victory in the October 1946 elections, Honecker took his place amongst the SED leadership in the first postwar East German parliament, the German People's Congress (Deutscher Volkskongress). The German Democratic Republic was proclaimed on 7 October 1949 with the adoption of a new constitution, establishing a political system similar to that of the Soviet Union. Honecker was a candidate member for the secretariat of the Central Committee in 1950; by 1958, he had become a full member of the Politbüro.

In 1961, Honecker, as the Central Committee secretary for security matters, was in charge of the building of the Berlin Wall. In 1971, he initiated a political power struggle that led, with Soviet support, to himself becoming the new leader, replacing Walter Ulbricht as First Secretary of the SED Central Committee and as chairman of the National Defense Council. In 1976, he also became Chairman of the Council of State (Vorsitzender des Staatsrats der DDR) and thus the head of state.

Under Honecker's leadership, the GDR adopted a program of "consumer socialism," which resulted in a marked improvement in living standards—already the highest among the Eastern bloc countries. More attention was placed on the availability of consumer goods, and the construction of new housing was accelerated, with Honecker promising to "settle the housing problem as an issue of social relevance." Yet, despite improved living conditions, internal dissent was not tolerated. Around 125 East German citizens were killed during this period while trying to cross the border into West Berlin.

In foreign relations, Honecker renounced the objective of a unified Germany and adopted the "defensive" position of ideological Abgrenzung (demarcation). He combined loyalty to the USSR with flexibility toward détente, especially in relation to rapprochement with West Germany. In September 1987, he became the first East German head of state to visit West Germany.

In the late 1980s Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev introduced glasnost and perestroika, reforms to liberalize communism. Honecker and the East German government, however, refused to implement similar reforms in the GDR, with Honecker reportedly telling Gorbachev: "We have done our perestroika, we have nothing to restructure." However, as the reform movement spread throughout Central and Eastern Europe, mass demonstrations against the East German government erupted, most prominently the 1989 Monday demonstrations in Leipzig. Faced with civil unrest, Honecker's Politbüro comrades colluded to replace him. The elderly and ill Honecker was forced to resign on 18 October 1989, and was replaced by Egon Krenz.

After the GDR was dissolved in October 1990, the Honeckers stayed with the family of the Lutheran pastor Uwe Holmer. Honecker then stayed in a Soviet military hospital near Berlin before later fleeing with Margot Honecker to Moscow, to avoid prosecution over charges of Cold War crimes. He was accused by the German government of involvement in the deaths of 192 East Germans who tried to leave the GDR. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991, Honecker took refuge in the Chilean embassy in Moscow, but was extradited by the Yeltsin administration to Germany in 1992. However, when the trial formally opened in early 1993, Honecker was released due to ill health and on 13 January of that year moved to Chile to live with his daughter Sonja, her Chilean husband Leo Yáñez, and their son Roberto. He died in exile of liver cancer in Santiago on 29 May 1994. His body was cremated and the remains are believed to be in the possession of his widow Margot.

Honecker married Edith Baumann in 1950 and divorced her in 1953. They had a daughter, Erika (b. 1950). In 1953 he married Margot Feist and they remained married until his death. They had a daughter, Sonja, born in 1952. Margot Honecker served for several years as the GDR Minister for People's Education.

Famous quotes

* "The Wall will be standing in 50 and even in 100 years, if the reasons for it are not removed." (Berlin, 19 January 1989)

(Original: "Die Mauer wird in 50 und auch in 100 Jahren noch bestehen bleiben, wenn die dazu vorhandenen Gründe noch nicht beseitigt sind")

* "Neither an ox nor a donkey is able to stop the progress of socialism."

(Original: "Den Sozialismus in seinem Lauf, halten weder Ochs' noch Esel auf", Berlin, 7 October 1989)

* "The future belongs to socialism" (Original: Die Zukunft gehört dem Sozialismus) (early 1980's)
Honecker's autobiography Aus meinem Leben is translated into English as From my life. New York : Pergamon, 1981. ISBN 0080245323

Andrei Gromyko was born into a peasant family in the Belarusian village of Starye Gromyki, near Gomel. He studied agriculture at the Minsk School of Agricultural Technology and graduated in 1936. Later he worked as an economist at the Institute of Economics in Moscow.

Gromyko entered the department of the foreign affairs in 1939 after Joseph Stalin's purges in the section responsible for the Americas. He was soon sent to the United States and worked in the Soviet embassy there until 1943, when he was appointed the Soviet ambassador to the United States. He played an important role in coordinating the wartime alliance between the two nations and was prominent at events such as the Yalta Conference. He became known as an expert negotiator. In the West, Mr. Gromyko received a nickname "Mr. Nyet" (Mr. No) or "Comrade Nyet" or "Grim Grom" for his obstinate negotiating style. He was removed from his Washington post on April 10, 1946 in order to be able to devote his full attention to UN matters.
Andrei Gromyko signing the Charter of the United Nations, 26 June 1945

In 1946 he became the Soviet Union's representative on the United Nations Security Council. He served briefly as the ambassador to the United Kingdom in 1952-1953 and then returned to the Soviet Union, where he served as foreign minister for 28 years. As Soviet foreign minister, Gromyko played a direct role in the Cuban Missile Crisis and met with U.S. President Kennedy during the crisis. Gromyko also helped negotiate arms limitations treaties, specifically the ABM Treaty, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, SALT I and II, and the INF and START agreements. During the Brezhnev years, he helped construct the policy of détente between the superpowers and was active in drawing up the non-aggression pact with West Germany.
Sculpture of Andrei Gromyko in Gomel, Belarus

Gromyko always believed in the superpower status of the Soviet Union and always promoted an idea that no important international agreement could be reached without its involvement.

Gromyko was minister of foreign affairs from 1957 until 1985, when he was replaced as foreign minister by Eduard Shevardnadze. Gromyko entered the Politburo in 1973, eventually becoming chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet (i.e. head of state of the Soviet Union) in 1985. However, the position was largely ceremonial, and he was forced out three years later because of his conservative views during the Gorbachev era. Gromyko died in Moscow a year later.

He had a wife named Ludmila (died 2004) and a son named Anatoli (born 1932).

Doctors and politicians in search of the magic bullet to solve the so-called medical malpractice crisis have focused on a pie-in-the-sky solution that won’t fly politically or constitutionally – the $250,000 cap on pain and suffering. That would take a constitutional amendment, which requires something close to a political consensus. That political consensus will never happen due to the determined and effective opposition of the trial lawyers and most consumer organizations, and the difficulties inherent in passing any constitutional amendment at the state or federal level. What’s worse, the public, even if half-informed, would reject the concept, of a cap on damages. It is obviously unfair and off the wall.

In the process of primary focus on a solution that will never happen these interest groups are missing the more obvious, the more practical and the more immediate solutions that may produce bigger and quicker premium reductions. To find these solutions all the doctors and politicians would have to do is to read a memo dated February 28, 2002, entitled “Suggestions to Effect Immediate Premium Savings for Health Care Providers.” The memo was written by John H. Reed, then the Director of the Cat Fund (now an attorney in private practice in Sellingsgrove, Pennsylvania), and his Deputy Director, Robert W. Waeger.

Here are a few of their recommendations, which should be given immediate and serious consideration, but which have been ignored by doctors and politicians and legislators and by the insurance commissioner and the insurance industry (the latter two groups being in perpetual hibernation when it comes to new ideas or basic reforms of the present system).

LET STATE PROVIDE MEDICAL MALPRACTICE COVERAGE THROUGH CAT FUND. Now doctors have to go to commercial insurers for the first $500,000 of coverage (the excess over that $500,000 primary limit is now provided by the CAT Fund).

The commercial insurance companies don’t want to write the business. Fine. They should have no complaints when the state of Pennsylvania fills the vacuum. As the memo in question indicates, the Cat Fund could provide the first $500,000 coverage for 40 percent less than the commercial insurance industry. That would be possible, as the state through the Cat Fund, would have a lower expense ratio. They would not have to pay commissions to agents or support a major marketing structure. The Cat Fund would not have to earn and pay a profit to shareholders. It would not have to pay taxes. It would not have to support the corporate structure that goes with any commercial insurance operation. The CAT Fund pays out in claims 99 cents on the dollar of collected premiums; commercial insurers, in contrast, pay out 60 to 65 cents on the dollar in claims, with 35 to 40 cents going for marketing, commissions, profits, etc.

CUT REQUIREMENT OF $500,000 IN PRIMARY COVERAGE TO $200,000. Now each doctor must buy $500,000 in commercial insurance and the rest if sold by the state-operated CAT fund. If this $500,000 requirement were cut to $200,000, the Reed-Waeger Memo estimates premiums would be reduced by at least 25 to 35 percent. This would also increase the market for malpractice as commercial insurers would have to shoulder less risk, and that in turn would improve the competitive environment. It would also make it easier for doctors to use self-insurance, risk retention groups (RRGs), fronted captives and other alternatives to commercial insurance (see next reform on RRGs). This change could come about without adoption of the first recommended change.

PROMOTE USE OF RRGs. The Risk Retention Group is a self-insurance device, which involves doctors banding together in non-profit groups to self-insure their coverage. It is a min-insurance company. The reduction of the primary requirement from $500,000 to $200,000, as suggested above, would make this approach easier to undertake. Although not mentioned in the MEMO, Reed recommends that a solvency fund be created to cover RRGs for medical malpractice. This was a recommendation he did make in testifying before the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce on February 10, 2003. Now RRGs are not so covered, and this means that doctors would have a dangerous exposure if the RRG would go under. With commercial insurance companies, there is a solvency fund back-up and if this were extended to RRGs, they would become more popular and could make a larger contribution to the solution of any problems in obtaining reasonably priced medical malpractice insurance. The MEMO estimates that some specialists could cut their premiums by 60 to70 percent with RRGs.

COMPRESS RATE SCHEDULE. Now there is incredible variation in premiums between so-called high-risk specialists and lower-risk categories of doctors. Premiums are so tailored to each category of doctors that the insurance function of spreading risk does not work as effectively as it might. Compressing rate schedules means that the differences between the highest and lowest risk categories would be reduced, thus lowering the burden on the higher risk specialties and spreading risk more evenly. The Memo says, if the lowest risk groups paid $1,000 more, the higher risks groups could be cut by up to l/3rd.

CONCLUSION. The MEMO has a good summary of what these recommended changes might do: “What now seems to be a looming crisis can be averted. All of the above options … will immediately reduce malpractice premiums to health care providers. Most importantly, they can accomplish that result without taking money from taxpayers, without triggering the additional expense of borrowing, without burdening future generations of health care providers, and without having to bar the door of the courthouse to those individuals having legitimate claims.”

When it comes to trade, chimps are far from venture capitalists. Our closest relatives almost always prefer a sure bet, according to a recent study, choosing value in hand over risk for higher returns. The finding brings us closer to understanding chimps’ trading habits and gives us precious insight into how trade, an essential cooperative behavior, works for humans.

To conduct the study, researchers started with two groups of chimps: one with little exposure to social and cognitive testing and no trading experience, and one with extensive bartering practice and language training. The scientists determined which food each chimp liked best. Then they assigned values to the foods. Finally, they taught the inexperienced chimps how to trade with tokens and food.

The results? When chimps possessing items of medium-high value, such as carrots, were offered high-value items, like grapes, they kept the lesser food. This tendency held true for both groups, despite different rearing histories, suggesting that their disinclination to barter is innate, says Sarah Brosnan of Georgia State University, the lead researcher in this study.

The chimps’ risk-averse behavior, Brosnan speculates, is attributable to a lack of language skills. “If one chimp could say to another, ‘OK, you crack nuts while I hunt meat, and then we’ll trade,’ they’d be able to specialize and have a developed economy,” Brosnan says. Because humans can specialize, she adds, we can generate surplus to purchase or barter for better foods from one another.

There's no other major item most of us own that is as confusing, unpredictable and unreliable as our personal computers. Everybody has questions about them, and we aim to help.

Here are a few questions about computers I've received recently from people like you, and my answers. I have edited and restated the questions a bit, for readability.

Q. I have moved from a PC to the iMac. In the Windows environment, I felt a need to run utilities to clean out the registry and defragment the hard disk frequently. Is this also needed on the iMac? If so, what programs are recommended?

A. The Mac operating system, called OS X Leopard, doesn't include a registry, which is a feature of Windows that holds information that programs need to operate properly. So there's no need to clean or maintain any registry on a Mac.

Mac hard disks, like those on Windows computers, can get fragmented -- a condition in which parts of files are so scattered around on the disk that the disk runs slowly. However, the operating system has some under-the-covers features that generally obviate the need to run a defragmentation utility. In fact, Apple, which calls defragmenting a disk "optimizing" it, flatly claims that "You probably won't need to optimize at all if you use Mac OS X." There are some Mac defragmentation utilities, but I don't believe you will need them unless you have large numbers of extremely large files and almost no free disk space.

Q. My son's computer frequently gets infected with adware, pop-ups. Recently it was hit with a continuing pop-up ad called VirusHeat that touted itself as a solution to the computer's problems. When I paid for VirusHeat, the problems went away. Is it legitimate?

A. According to numerous reports on the Web, including some from security companies, VirusHeat is a form of malicious or misleading software. It falls into a category that attempts to scare people into thinking their computers are badly infected, or exaggerates any problems you may have. This is a common tactic now used by creators of malware.

Some of these fake or misleading "security programs" may be designed merely to make you pay. Others may even be designed to install the very kinds of viruses, spyware or adware that they claim to fight.

Q. I have updated to a new PC. My data are on a floppy disc. There is no floppy disc drive on this new computer. How can I transfer my data?

A. For around $25, you can buy an external floppy disk drive that plugs into a new PC using its standard USB port. If you do so, and connect it to the new PC, you should be able to copy your data to the new computer's hard disk.

Ohio AG Marc Dann has resigned amid the scandal of a sexual harassment investigation in his office and his extramarital affair. Dann, 46, led the state on a 10-day odyssey, at first refusing to resign despite demands by Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland and others within his party, a growing number of investigations into conduct at his office, and the filing Tuesday of articles of impeachment against him. (Find past LB coverage of the Dann scandal here and here.)

Two Fridays ago, Dann admitted to a “romantic relationship” with a member of his staff, prompting Democratic leaders such as Governor Ted Strickland to call for his Dann’s head. But despite a letter that Strickland and others sent to Dann, arguing that he’d lost “even the most remote hope” of continuing to serve effectively as AG, Dann told his staff that he was optimistic about plans to stay in office despite an impeachment threat. “I think that there is a great chance that we can continue to do great work for the people of the state.”

The great work that Dann, who was elected to his first term in 2006, referred to may have been his crusade against ratings agencies and his pursuit of mortgage lenders and brokers for allegedly inflating home prices and contributing to the subprime crisis. Click here for a past WSJ profile of Dann, titled “The Mortgage Cop.”

But yesterday, when Ohio democrats sprung into action, filing articles of impeachment against Dann, he appeared to lose his mettle. What followed was 24 hours of speculation that Dann would resign.

How would you like to carry around your entire DVD collection on a single disk? That is the promise of a new holo–graphic digital storage technology being developed by General Electric and coming to a computer near you around 2012. Although not the first commercial holographic storage system—that honor goes to InPhase Technologies’ Tapestry™ 300r holographic drive—GE’s system could be the first one aimed at consumers. (InPhase’s holographic drives, which debuted last year, sell for $18,000 and target broadcasters who need to archive television programs.)

Holographic media can store huge amounts of data because information is encoded in layers throughout the entire disk, not just on a single reflective surface as in today’s optical media. In GE’s system, a single CD-size disk made of plastic will be able to store about 1 terabyte of data, equivalent to 110 typical movie DVDs.
Louis J. Sheehan Esquire
This kind of capacity would make it possible to back up all your music, photos, home movies, and e-mails in one place; it would also allow for totally new, extremely data-intensive applications, such as Micro–soft’s MyLifeBits project, which aims to capture in digital form every–thing that happens in an individual’s life. Besides automatically archiving and indexing things like e-mails and text documents, the project includes a wearable camera that snaps a picture at least once every 30 seconds, creating a visual index of every day.

To store data holographically, a laser beam (1) is split in two (2). One half of the beam passes through an array of hundreds of thousands of gates (3). Each gate can be opened or closed to represent a binary 1 or 0. The gates either block or pass the beam, filtering it into a coded pattern, or signal. The other half of the beam, known as the reference beam, is bounced off a mirror (4), so that the reference beam and the signal beam encoded with digital information intersect somewhere within the plastic storage medium (5). Light waves from the two beams interfere with each other, imprinting into the plastic a hologram—a three-dimensional pattern. By varying the angle of the mirror, millions of holograms can be created in the same piece of plastic. To read data from storage, the reference beam alone is used to illuminate the hologram. The resulting image can be read by a sensor and converted back into 1s and 0s.

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