Thanks to Gov. Pete Wilson, Californians can once again enjoy a proper Caesar salad. Ever vigilant to protect citizens from themselves, the state assembly in 1997 passed the Beth Rudolph Food Safety Act, named after a little girl who died after eating a hamburger contaminated with E. coli. To prevent similar tragedies, the law set minimum restaurant cooking temperatures. Restaurateurs protested that certain dishes, like the Caesar salad, could not be prepared without raw eggs, which would violate the temperature guidelines. So Gov. Wilson last week signed an amendment protecting gourmands while still requiring that hamburgers be cooked well done unless patrons specifically request rare or medium rare. Assemblywoman Carole Migden (D-San Francisco), who proposed the change, joked of saving the salads: "Even a bad egg is entitled to enjoy a good Caesar salad."
Eat, drink, and...
Corporate marketing has hit a new low. In Cambodia's bars, "beer girls" wear gowns in the colors of various beer brands. Each tries to sell her particular label, hoping the customer will pick her to pour his drinks all night. And the relationship often extends past closing time. Many of the 4,000 to 5,000 beer girls sleep with clients, sometimes in exchange for money or gifts or simply to encourage sales. Though some brewers send inspectors to enforce their rules against fraternization with customers, others, such as Australia's Foster's Brewing Group Ltd., have no such restrictions, and even pay bonuses for higher sales-regardless of the sales technique. "We take no responsibility for what the girls may do outside working hours," says Malcolm Paul, the company's Hong Kong-based regional director. Mr. Paul noted condoms to help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases are widely available in Cambodia and said his employees are adults. "I don't think there is a pressure on the girls to get that extra bonus, but it's a part of the job to make sure the guys and the girls have a good time," he said. Cambodian health officials worry that such attitudes among foreign beer companies may be encouraging the spread of AIDS. The threat of AIDS may be greater for beer girls because they don't consider themselves to be prostitutes and thus at higher risk for the disease. Despite the dangers, almost no one wants the companies to stop hiring beer girls, since jobs paying the equivalent of $50 a month are hard to come by in Cambodia.
Dr. Death redux
John Biskind, an Arizona abortionist who earlier this summer "mistook" a full-term pregnancy for one just 23 weeks along, won't be making that same mistake again soon. The Arizona Board of Medical Examiners voted last week to suspend Dr. Biskind's license, pending a review of the botched abortion. "Dr. Biskind is incompetent to tell a woman in the middle of her pregnancy from a woman in the end of her pregnancy," said one member of the board. "Anybody that does this should not have the right to practice medicine." The baby survived the abortion attempt, but not all Dr. Biskind's patients fared so well. In April, a 32-year-old woman bled to death after the doctor punctured her uterus during a procedure. That death is also under investigation.
Death by computer
The world is waking up to the millennium bug. Among major American corporations, those making contingency plans for 2000 troubles jumped from 3 percent to 72 percent in three months. "Corporate America is finally dealing head-on with the Year 2000 challenge," says Jim Woodward, senior vice president of a computer consulting firm. Nevertheless, he reports, big businesses initially underestimated repair costs and fell behind schedule. The percentage of big businesses reporting Y2K-related breakdowns skyrocketed from 7 percent in December to 40 percent this month. Health care, transportation, and public utilities are the industries in critical condition. High-tech and financial companies are in better shape. Right now, billions of dollars are being poured into fixing the problem, which affects computers that recognize only the last two digits of a year. Those computers will be confused by the year 2000, meaning their software must be tediously reprogrammed or replaced. Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah), who chairs a special committee on the bug, worries about medical equipment with bad microchips that must be replaced. He warns that only 2 to 5 percent of those chips are susceptible to the Year 2000 glitch, but "you don't know which 2 to 5 percent they are, and you don't know where they are.... If enough of them fail in enough medical devices in a major hospital, some people will die." To prevent such a tragedy, an industry trade group is currently trying to build a clearinghouse of information about which medical equipment will survive the millennial turnover.
World in brief
Business as usual
The House of Representatives defied public opinion and voted to continue China's current trading status with the United States. The 264-166 vote was to defeat a measure to rescind Most Favored Nation trading status. The Senate will most likely not even consider the measure, in spite of a July USA Today/CNN/ Gallup poll showing 56 percent of Americans want Congress to restrict China's trade status. Earlier last month, Congress quietly attached an amendment to a popular IRS reform bill that skewed the terms of the debate over U.S.-China trade policy. The amendment changed the legal designation from Most Favored Nation status to "normal trade relations." By law, China's trade status must be renewed each year, even though the same tariff rate is granted to other trading partners. President Clinton renewed China's MFN status June 3, leaving it up to lawmakers to derail trade as usual. Sarajevo, again
Over 12,000 ethnic Albanians say they were forced to flee their homes after their neighborhoods in Kosovo were shelled by government forces. The refugees say they were chased out in retaliation for an attack by Albanian separatists in the Serb enclave of Orahovac, a town that is predominantly Albanian. After the anti-aircraft shelling was over, however, eyewitnesses say Serb soldiers began sniping at civilian targets, shooting randomly into homes, to force out the Albanians.
Reviewing Jim Hormel
William F. Buckley's National Review broke ranks with other conservatives last week when it urged in an editorial that gay-rights activist James Hormel be confirmed as the U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg. National Review took issue with GOP senators who are blocking the nomination, arguing that the largely ceremonial post would allow no chance for Mr. Hormel to effect any real change in social policy. Leaders such as Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation blasted that justification. "This nomination is being opposed precisely because Hormel isn't just content to lead a sinful life; he wants to push that lifestyle on the rest of the nation. Homosexual activists have no tolerance for the Judeo/Christian way of life," Mr. Weyrich said. The fact that an ambassadorship is "merely" ceremonial makes the character of the nominee more important, rather than less. Without any real policy work to do, an ambassador's main job is to represent his country's outlook and beliefs to the rest of the world. Yet Mr. Hormel has spent much of his life and millions of dollars opposing the beliefs of the vast majority of his countrymen. That makes him a revolutionary, not a representative.
Tawana Brawley, call your office. Last December, a South Carolina lesbian named Regan Wolf claimed she was twice beaten by an intruder at her home. In May, she reported she had been hit from behind, beaten and tied up on her back porch, and left hanging by her wrists and ankles for two hours. The gay-rights movement used her story to call for increased hate-crime laws. Police, however, say the whole thing is a hoax. Last December, Ms. Wolf was found on her front porch, tied hand and foot with abrasions across her back. She said a stocky, red-haired man with a scruffy beard attacked her. The words "Jesus weren't born for you, faggot," were spray-painted in red on her porch steps. After Ms. Wolf told her story to the police, an unidentified man came forward with a different version. He said she hired him to perform the December beating. The man gave both a sworn statement and physical evidence; he also passed a lie-detector test. According to police he was promised $350 but received only $50. Ms. Wolf was scheduled to appear in court July 28. If convicted of giving false information to a law enforcement officer, she could get a month in jail and a $200 fine. So far she stands by her story. State Sen. Darrell Jackson used that story to whip up support for his hate-crimes bill, which did not pass following a dispute over whether offenses based on sexual orientation should be covered. Meanwhile, another South Carolinian testified in court about hate crimes of another sort. Gary Cox said he set fire to two black churches three years ago in hopes of increasing racial tension. Mr. Cox claimed he was influenced by local KKK leaders who wanted to incite a race war and "get it going real good." Mr. Cox testified in a civil suit brought by one of the churches, seeking to recoup the $200,000 it spent in rebuilding after the 1995 fire.
Five of approximately 20 expatriate Christians arrested in Riyadh last month were deported by the Saudi Arabian government to their home countries July 14. The four Filipinos and a Dutch national were expelled for involvement in Christian activities. One of the prisoners, Roman Catholic Gaudencio Lorenzo, showed signs of physical torture-"several broken bones and multiple wounds," according to Vatican news service Fides. At least eight other Filipinos arrested in the police crackdown on suspicion of being Christian worshippers reportedly have been transferred out of detention cells, apparently to await deportation. The 35-year-old Dutch businessman, Wim den Hertog, was reunited with his wife and three children after 31 days of detention. He was denied diplomatic access during that time, but was eventually allowed to speak with his family. "We have not been informed officially about the charges, nor were we given any access to visit him while he was in prison," Dutch foreign ministry spokeswoman Bridget Tazelaar told Compass Direct. The Saudi government says it allows non-Muslim religious worship within homes, but foreign Christians say they are harassed by police for such activities.
The death waves
Mission Aviation Fellowship pilots were among the first to fly search-and-rescue flights over Papua New Guinea in the aftermath of a tsunami that devastated an 18-mile stretch of the island nation's northwestern coastline. MAF-er Don Harvey piloted the provincial governor and other officials over the area where five villages were completely swept away. The death toll stood at 1,200 one week after the disaster. Officials expect that number to mount. As many as 6,000 people-many of them children-remain unaccounted for after the July 17 tidal waves. The tsunami occurred approximately 10 minutes after an offshore earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale. Villagers along a narrow strip of land that runs between the Pacific and an inland lagoon near Sissano had little warning. Whole villages were swept into the lagoon. They were more full of children than usual, with many home on vacation from an inland mission school run by Franciscan missionaries. In addition to the Catholic presence, Protestant and evangelical groups operate in the area. Four Catholic churches, an Apostolic church, and an Assemblies of God church were destroyed, according to Religion Today. One Catholic grade school was swept away and two others are severely damaged.