This Week

Issue: "New attacks on taxes," April 18, 1998

NATO to the rescue?

It's time to declare war on the Year 2000 computer problem, says Edward Yardeni, chief economist for investment bank Deutsche Morgan Grenfell. He gave an April 7 speech to the Bank for International Settlements, forecasting a 60 percent chance of global recession within two years due to massive computer meltdowns. When systems around the world fail because they can't register the year 2000, Mr. Yardeni says, the economic jolt will surpass that of the 1973 oil crisis. "Let's stop pretending that Y2K isn't a major threat to our way of life," he told the bankers. "There is too much at stake." He warned of nuclear weapons failures, power outages, grounded airplanes, and disruptions to government services, health care, and financial markets. What's Mr. Yardeni's response? Global damage control. He proposed a NATO-esque Y2K Global Alliance run by a military commander in chief like Colin Powell. The Alliance would wage campaigns around the world to protect electricity, water, and other utilities from Y2K breakdown, including plans to ration usage in case of emergency. It would also manage efforts in industries such as farming, manufacturing, and retailing. Part of the Alliance's budget would pay for stockpiles of medicine, fuel, and food. Mr. Yardeni called for a "change freeze" that would stop business and government from passing legislation or adding new technology that would take away precious Y2K-fighting resources. He also wants Alliance members to declare a week-long bank holiday at the start of the year 2000 to allow technicians extra time to test upgraded systems. "There are no low-tech alternatives if our high-tech alternatives fail in 2000," he told the international bankers. Mr. Yardeni gave this proposal in preparation for the Group of Eight nations meeting next month. Representatives from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United States will meet to discuss the 2000 problem along with the Asian financial crisis and the ongoing turmoil in the former Soviet Union.

Try, try again

When Larry Flynt opened an adult bookstore in Cincinnati last October, he dared local authorities to prosecute him. A grand jury last week granted his wish. The Hustler publisher was indicted April 7 for selling obscene videos to a 14-year-old boy. Twenty-one years ago he was convicted of pandering obscenity in the same city. Mr. Flynt's first Cincy conviction-which became the focus of the 1996 movie The People vs. Larry Flynt-was eventually tossed out. This time he faces more serious charges. The 15 counts include pandering obscenity, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, and conspiracy to engage in a pattern of corrupt activity. Those charges carry possible penalties of two to eight years in prison, compared to a maximum of one year for the obscenity charge alone. According to prosecutor Joseph Deters, the 14-year-old boy bought an obscene video in the store, which Larry Flynt owns and brother Jimmy Flynt manages. He sold the tape to a friend, then bragged about the purchase. The boy then called the cops, who sent him back twice to buy more tapes. The store was raided in late March. Jimmy Flynt is also charged, but he plans to keep the family's store running. Mr. Deters said he expects both Flynts to surrender within the next few weeks. Larry Flynt says he was in California at the time and didn't know the circumstances of the boy's purchases. He says his company does not sell adult materials to minors. Mr. Flynt's original 1977 conviction made retailers afraid to sell Hustler and other forms of hardcore porn. Then he rode back into town last May, giving away copies of the magazine for free.

Death of an icon

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In one of her last media interviews, Tammy Wynette stood by "Stand by Your Man," the 1968 country chart-topper that would enrage feminists and become the brassy and many-times-married country performer's signature song. "I'd love to hear the song sung by a man with the line changed to 'if you love her, you'll forgive her.' It's the same thing. I defend it. That song took 230 minutes to write and 35 years to defend," she told an entertainment reporter during a recent interview in her Las Vegas hotel suite. Ms. Wynette died in her sleep last week at 55 from a blood clot. She was married five times, divorced four-her first in 1966, when she left Alabama with three young daughters for Nashville in search of a recording contract. She produced 20 No. 1 singles, more than 50 albums, and three Grammy Awards. Besides her current husband, singer-songwriter George Richey, Ms. Wynette is survived by five daughters, a son, and seven grandchildren. In the twilight of her career, Ms. Wynette was thrust into national politics in 1992, when Hillary Rodham Clinton dissed "Stand by Your Man" during a crucial 60 Minutes interview in which she did that very thing for her philandering husband, helping him to go on to win the presidency: "I'm not sitting here like some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette." Ms. Wynette countered that Mrs. Clinton had "offended every person who has 'made it on their own' with no one to take them to a White House." She added, "I can assure you, in spite of your education, you will find me as bright as yourself." Mrs. Clinton later apologized, and Ms. Wynette succumbed to the presidential charm, performing at a Clinton fundraiser. Shock-rocker Wendy O. Williams, 48, of the 1980s punk band The Plasmatics, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound last week in the woods behind the home she shared with her boyfriend in Storrs, Conn. "She felt she was past her peak and found it difficult to lead a normal life," Rod Swenson said of Ms. Williams, who had been working as an animal rehabilitator. Rob Pilatus, whose career as half of the pop-music duo Milli Vanilli crashed into disgrace and drug abuse after it was revealed that the group lip-synched its songs, died at age 32, in a hotel room in Frankfurt, Germany, after overdosing on alcohol, antidepressants, and cocaine. "The only disgrace is how Rob died-all alone, internally destroyed from the rapid rise then sudden fall," said show-biz partner Fabrice Morvan. "Where were the ones that pushed us to the top who made the millions?" Mr. Pilatus was born in New York the son of a U.S. soldier and a German mother. He grew up with adoptive parents in Munich. He will be buried at the site of their grave.

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