American Pie 27.02.03

The copies of scientific journals found in the rebel hideouts in the mountains of Kabul were of great concern to the Pentagon. The terrorists were getting tips from magazines sold openly in the US. Now more than 20 leading scientific journals have agreed to censor any articles that might compromise national security. Among the journals subscribing to the pact are Nature and Science. Although the Pentagon has welcomed the move, it has created a debate in the scientific-journalism world. Some prominent scientists are calling it a step in the wrong direction. Some say that it will stifle research. Also, it’s argued that there is no reliable way to evaluate what information might do more harm than good. One scientist, Dr Stanford Falkow, a microbiologist at Stanford University, argued: “The job of journals is to judge the scientific quality of things, not to act as censors.” But some editors disagree. They said that scientists must hold themselves accountable for the dissemination of powerful information.

Since the beginning of the year and up to last week, America’s leading newspapers used the expression “impending war” 725 times. They used “imminent war” 214 times and “approaching war” 84 times. A NY Times spokesman admitted it might be considered an “overstatement”. For the time being the Times will switch to “possible war” or “potential war”.

After being renovated, New York’s most famous hangout for newspapermen, PJ Clark’s, (it was the set for the movie The Lost Weekend) re-opened last week, with a party for Playboy. One question everyone asked: “What’s happened to the block of ice in the men’s lavatory?”

Now that Tina Brown has moved on, the British woman editor who is getting the most attention in New York is Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue for the past 15 years. New York Fashion Week was marked with a television documentary about her and several profiles, including one in the NY Times. As the Times noted, just four years ago she was more toast than toast of the town. Just as she has virtually abandoned her trade-mark sun-glasses, Vogue has become more with it. Rail-thin models have been replaced by less-haughty and in some cases more “rounded” models. Last year no less than nine covers featured celebrities. Theme issues, once considered tacky, are not uncommon. As a result ad pages are up -as much as 13 per cent. Like the magazine, Wintour – daughter of former Evening Standard editor Charles Wintour (who for a time edited Press Gazette) – is riding high. According to the Times, her salary is more than a million dollars a year, plus a $50,000 a year clothing allowance. But celebrity status has its penalties. Due out soon is a book by a former assistant, Lauren Weisberger, called The Devil Wears Prada, all about a stylish but ill-tempered editor of a fictional fashion magazine. Will Wintour read it? “I haven’t decided yet” she says.

Could this be the ultimate television game show? Reality is hardly the word, I fear. The Fox TV network is planning a new programme to be called The American Candidate. Viewers will be invited to pick a new US president. Already 5,000 Presidential “wannabees” have written in. These will be whittled down to 18 “candidates” – viewers will be invited to e-mail or phone through their votes.

Jeffrey Blyth

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