News & Reviews

"News & Reviews" Continued...

Issue: "Gunpoint evangelist," Oct. 9, 1999
  • Until last month, Robert Beck was king of the Miss America Pageant and its young princesses. But he lost his crown just days after the 50-year ban on contestants who've been married or had abortions was halted. The new rules are now shelved, but the boss is out of his $250,000 job. The move was initially recommended not by the now-unemployed Beck but by Steven Perskie, a pageant lawyer who was asked to update the contestant contract signed by Miss America hopefuls.
  • For President Clinton, thanks were in order all around: to his wife, his daughter, his colleagues, a majority of Americans, and "the God in whom I believe" for helping him skate past removal from office after the House impeached him last winter. Mr. Clinton delivered his remarks at his annual prayer breakfast at the White House. "I have been profoundly moved as few people have by the pure power of grace," he said. "Unmerited forgiveness through grace."
  • All in a day's work, a federal appeals court struck down laws banning partial-birth abortion in Nebraska, Arkansas, and Iowa. A three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals considered the three states' laws together because of their similarity; Judge Richard Arnold spoke for the panel when he declared, echoing language liked by the Supreme Court, that the laws improperly place "an undue burden on the right of women to choose whether to have an abortion." The 8th Circuit, in St. Louis, will eventually consider a Missouri partial-birth law, passed last month and immediately challenged in a lower court. Nineteen of 28 state laws against partial-birth abortion have been blocked or limited by the courts.
  • Can a state create and enforce a No First Amendment Zone? The Supreme Court will consider the case of three pro-life sidewalk counselors who are challenging a Colorado law that bars people from coming within eight feet of others without their consent whenever they are within 100 feet of an entrance to an abortion business. The law aims to stop sidewalk counselors from trying to talk women out of abortion at the last minute. The pro-life counselors' appeal called the law an "overbroad, content-based, viewpoint-discriminatory" prior restraint on speech.
  • Newt Gingrich's political battles are over, but his divorce war is still raging. Now he's trying to keep his wife's lawyers from learning the details about his affair with House staffer Callista Bisek. Marianne Gingrich's lawyers charged in court papers that the ex-speaker "willfully failed and refused to answer" questions "concerning his personal and professional relationships as well as the finances of his marriage." They want to know about his affairs with other women and whether the one-time Republican standard bearer spent any money on his mistress. Mr. Gingrich, 56, separated from his wife of 18 years on May 10 and filed for divorce July 29. Quayle bows out
    Know when to fold 'em
    "There's a time to stay and there's a time to fold. There's a time to know when to leave the stage," said former Vice President Dan Quayle as he removed himself from the race for the GOP presidential nomination. Mr. Quayle cited frontrunner George W. Bush's fundraising lead and the GOP's frontloaded primary schedule as factors that "made the task for me of winning the nomination of my party virtually impossible." He is the fourth GOP nominee to turn in his chips this year, following Rep. John Kasich of Ohio, former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander, and Sen. Bob Smith of New Hampshire, who opted to run as an independent. Ventura spouts off in Playboy
    The mouth that roars
    The novelty of Jesse "The Body" Ventura as political phenomenon is starting to fade, in part because the fluke Minnesota governor is starting to lose his shock value. Consider his most recent collection of outrageous comments in an interview with Playboy: "Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers," Gov. Ventura said, according to a transcript obtained by the Associated Press. "It tells people to go out and stick their noses in other people's business." The Reform Party's would-be political kingmaker also said he believed President Kennedy was killed by the "military-industrial complex," that legalized prostitution should be considered, and that the Navy's Tailhook sexual harassment scandal was "much ado about nothing." Dow Jones Industrial Avg. sheds over 1,000 points
    Heads up! Dow's down
    The Dow could have added an n to its name during September. Starting at a record peak of 11,326.04 on Aug. 25, the index of leading companies lost more than 9 percent of its value, or 1,050.51 points, through Sept. 28, finishing that day at 10,275.53. The biggest losses came during the week of Sept. 20-24, when the Dow tumbled 524.30 points. What caused the slide? Choose your poison. Analysts blamed fear of another interest-rate hike, a weakening dollar (which makes foreign investments more attractive), and sagging profits at some companies. Microsoft president Steve Ballmer also roiled financial markets by telling a conference of business journalists that a "gold rush" mentality had caused "such an overvaluation of tech stocks that it's absurd." (He included in that category the price of Microsoft stocks, which have made him a billionaire.) As for where financial markets would go next, predictions were-predictably-mixed. The calendar caused some jitters. The month of October has seen some of the worst market declines in history, such as the 1929 stock market crash and the one-day 554.26-point drop in the Dow on Oct. 27, 1997. "It's a scary time of year," said Brian Belski, an investment strategist at George K. Baum & Co. in Kansas City. "By September or October, you know where a company's fundamentals are for the year, and a lot of investment managers make their buy and sell decisions based on that." Others were more optimistic, suggesting that the Dow's weak September performance might keep the Federal Reserve from raising interest rates, and that lower prices could draw investors back to stocks. "Every time we come close to a 10 percent correction in the Dow, investors feel this is enough of a drop and they go back in and buy stocks," said Robert Freedman of the John Hancock Funds in Boston. NYC mayor caught in art vs. pornography battle
    Rudy and the arts
    New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has declared war on "The Holy Virgin Mary." That's a black Madonna "decorated" with elephant dung and pornographic cutouts, and now displayed at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Mr. Giuliani decided the obvious-that such nonsense didn't deserve to receive tax dollars-and announced he would cut the museum's funding. The cry of "Censorship!" was heard throughout the Big Apple, with representatives of the Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, and the Guggenheim all protesting the move. Political carpetbagger Hillary Clinton, who is plotting a Senate campaign with Mr. Giuliani as likely challenger, joined the fracas. Even though the issue involves art made from elephant dung, artist Chris Ofili is dead serious. Mr. Ofili said he was inspired to use elephant droppings after being emotionally moved by the wildlife of Zimbabwe. He claims it is a reference to his heritage. That's why "The Holy Virgin Mary," his 1996 collage, depicts Mary with African features and flowing robes along with shellacked clumps of elephant dung and dozens of cutouts of female private parts from porno magazines. "I don't feel as though I have to defend it," Mr. Ofili said. "The people who are attacking this painting are attacking their own interpretation, not mine." The spat has now gone to court, with the Brooklyn Museum saying Mr. Giuliani violated the First Amendment. A federal judge will decide whether the budget cut of about $7 million must be restored. City Hall lawyer Michael Hess argued on Mr. Giuliani's behalf: "There is nothing in the Constitution that says taxpayers should pay for an exhibition like this." The Supreme Court may back him up. Last year, the high court held that government may exercise a "decency standard" for funding the arts. Transsexual teacher pushes to keep job
    Unfitness for service
    Like a good reporter, Antelope, Calif., high-school journalism teacher David Warfield got right to the point: In April, Mr. Warfield informed Center High Principal Steve Wehr that in the fall he'd come to work as Dana Lee Rivers. Like a good principal, Mr. Wehr saw to it that Mr. Warfield was fired because of his "evident unfitness for service" as a teacher. Now, Mr. Warfield, who plans a sex-change operation, has filed a complaint with the state labor commissioner. He claims he has a disorder that causes people extreme discomfort with their sexual identity. According to the Pacific Justice Institute, a conservative group, Mr. Warfield's discussion of his problems with students-and parental complaints about the discussion-prompted the school's response.

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