Dispatches > In Brief

In Brief

News highlights from around the world

Issue: "Scorched-earth politics," Sept. 7, 2002

I spy

They may let you in, but will they try to debrief you when you leave? Washington, D.C., boasts a new attraction, the International Spy Museum, which organizers say is America's first public museum dedicated to espionage.

The open is well-timed, since international intrigue is hot news again. The museum boasts eyefuls of historic gadgets and tricks of deception. It focuses on real-life tools used by spooks around the world, including both heroes and villains of history. Perhaps the most valuable item is an Enigma code machine used by the Germans during World War II.

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Many of the items cover the Cold War. On display is a fake tree stump used by the CIA as an eavesdropping device. Also, there's the "kiss of death" pistol used by KGB agents-a firearm disguised as a tube of lipstick. Another Soviet invention was a coat with a buttonhole camera; the lens was hidden in a fake button and triggered from inside a pocket. The Russians also used microphones and transmitters hidden in shoes to monitor a subject's conversations.

One especially valuable exhibit is a 1777 letter by Gen. George Washington. He offered New York merchant Nathaniel Sackett $50 a month to hunt down "the earliest and best intelligence of the designs of the enemy," meaning the British.

"Espionage is as old as recorded time-and probably older," says E. Peter Earnest, a 36-year CIA veteran who is now the museum's executive director. (The $40 million complex includes a building used as the district headquarters for the Communist Party in the 1940s.) The project recruited several ex-spies (including former CIA chief William Webster and retired KGB Gen. Oleg Kalugin) as advisors to help find various rare pieces from around the world.

Posting the Post

It looks like The Washington Post and reads like The Washington Post, so it must be The Washington Post.

The newspaper is trying a unique experiment in online journalism: a digital edition that reprints the paper version section-by-section and page-by-page. The layout, headlines, and even the ads are the same. The paper's management hopes readers are willing to pay for this new form of home delivery.

The Post's existing Web page continues as normal and the new Electronic Edition exists as a premium service. The paper bills it as "an exact, digital replica of the actual newspaper." Subscribers receive a two-week free trial, then must pay $3.15 per week. The paper appears in a browser window showing entire pages.

Many Web designers will likely scoff at the idea, since it blatantly copies "old media" style into the Internet, but newspaper design has survived the trial and error of many generations. And by republishing the whole print edition, the ad department can sell the same space for both electronic and paper versions.

Experiments like this may become more frequent as publishers come to accept the concept of online newspapers. W. Dean Singleton, chairman of the Newspaper Association of America, told an industry conference last month that he is a "reformed skeptic" about the Internet: "We're starting to understand that reading a newspaper and surfing the Web are not 'either-or' propositions."

The myth of "safe" abortions

Giving lie to the idea that abortion is safer than childbirth, a new study finds a significantly increased risk of death for women who abort their children. Published in the latest issue of the Southern Medical Journal, the study relied on California Medicaid records for more than 170,000 pregnant women who either aborted or delivered; researchers checked them against death certificates over an eight-year period. Researchers found aborting women faced:

  • 154% higher risk of death from suicide
  • 82% higher risk of death from accidents
  • 44% higher risk of death from natural causes

Wired and wireless

Some Starbucks customers can get wired by a double shot of espresso and go wireless at the same time. The latte-loving powerhouse hopes so, and is now offering wireless Internet access at its stores.

"You never have to look for a phone jack," the company touts in a promotional brochure. "You can sit and relax in your favorite comfy chair." The move is natural for Starbucks, where customers often bring laptops and use the stores as temporary offices. To make such work easier, the stores' dining areas are dotted with electrical jacks so people can plug in their computers.

Yet this service, dubbed HotSpot, is also historic. It represents one of the first major rollouts of Wi-Fi wireless service, which is cheap high-speed access that covers short distances. HotSpot service started at about 1,200 Starbucks stores with another 800 planned by the end of the year. Each store is hooked up with a Wi-Fi hub connected to a T-1 high-speed line.

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