School district to students: get a free lunch so we can have ours
What price pride?A human emotion strange to the culture of entitlement is posing problems for Missouri public-school officials: Students and families eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches aren't signing up because of, well, pride. Older students believe it's "not cool" to be poor, the state finance director explained, and parents of elementary-age children don't want to be seen as unable to feed their children. But all this pride is botching up everything from test-score interpretation to school budgets. In a lengthy report published last month in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, school officials bemoaned low school-performance numbers and the loss of state funds, blaming those problems on kids and parents who prefer to feed themselves rather than receive government aid. Normandy High School principal Alvin Smith was upset that his school received an "F" in the Post-Dispatch's annual school report last year. He blamed his school's poor showing in part on not having enough school-lunch applications on file. Schools are rated according to student performance on standardized tests, but schools with lower student socioeconomic status are graded on a curve. To establish that curve, schools use the number of school-lunch program applications on file to prove the socioeconomic status of their student bodies. Mr. Smith believes his school would have received a higher grade if more families simply admitted their poverty, but also added, "We're not allowed to use poverty as an excuse." Missouri schools are eligible for an additional $1,139 in state aid for each child with a school-lunch application on file. District officials say over-proud families are causing their schools to miss out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in state money. To grab more of that cash, many schools have launched marketing efforts to increase the number of lunch-program applications. But it takes money to make money. To secure more tax dollars, schools are spending more tax dollars to encourage families to apply. Promotional activities range from school-wide mailings costing thousands to offering five entrée choices instead of three in school cafeterias. Normandy School District innovators now pry reluctant students away from their pesky pride by holding drawings for kids who have a school-lunch application on file-even if they don't qualify for a free lunch financially. Last month, six students won a portable CD player, a stereo, or a video game. When you buy it from children, pride comes cheap.
Ups & Downs of the Week
- Interest rates: Less than a month after winning renomination to another four-year term as Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan announced that the Fed is raising interest rates again, a quarter point. The Fed hopes to battle inflation by cooling the hot economy.
- Minimum wage: If cooling off a robust economy is a good idea, Congress stumbled upon a great idea, raising the minimum wage a buck an hour. Senate Republicans' minimum-wage bill last week assumed the hike would damage the economy; the plan included $18 billion in tax relief for small businesses forced to pay the inflated wages. Predictably, Democrats thought the tax breaks were too big and the wage hike too small.
- In The Netherlands, an upscale bordello last week sued Amsterdam's Schiphol airport for denying it a permit to open within the airport a "relax service" establishment. The owner of the Yab Yum brothel chain filed the lawsuit to force the airport to let him open a branch by Oct. 1, when houses of prostitution become officially legal in the Netherlands. In that country, the sex industry accounts for more than $1.1 billion worth of business a year.
- Exercise and eating habits: The World Health Organization said American students exercise less and eat more junk food than school-aged kids in many other countries. Among 15-year-old students, the United States ranked among the top three countries where kids eat sweets, chocolate, and soft drinks every day.
- And a rotten tomato for congressional Republicans who promised to rush a citizenship bill to the floor for Elián Gonzalez. Still waiting.
NFLer arrested, Rocker suspended, Vermeil quits
Peaks and valleys
The big sports spotlight was on Kurt Warner and his teammates last week, but three other stories soon emerged. In the shadows, a few hours after the Super Bowl, Baltimore Ravens star linebacker Ray Lewis allegedly participated in the fatal stabbing of two men near an Atlanta nightclub. In an instant Mr. Lewis went from being at the top of his game to hitting one of the lowest rungs of society, and last week he was in an Atlanta jail on charges of first-degree murder rather than in Hawaii to play in the Pro Bowl, the NFL's all-star game. Last Nov. 30 Mr. Lewis was accused of punching a woman in a Baltimore bar. He said he was innocent and remarked, "The devil is busy, always after God's children. He is always trying to get you one way or another." Mr. Lewis was scheduled to be tried for that incident on Feb. 9 on a charge of second-degree assault, but that trial will be delayed. The day after the Super Bowl victory, Major League Baseball suspended hard-throwing, wild-talking pitcher John Rocker until May 1, fined him $20,000, and ordered him to undergo "sensitivity" training. The baseball players union quickly appealed that decision, particularly emphasizing the fine and suspension, which will keep Mr. Rocker, near the top of his game, out of spring training and the first month of the season. But, while baseball businessmen may be rightfully evaluating the financial cost of words that could sow racial dissension and alienate fans, the order to head to a particular type of reeducation camp seems like an overreach to those who take the First Amendment seriously. Two days after the Super Bowl victory, a small spotlight shone on St. Louis Rams coach Dick Vermeil, 63, who chose to retire at the top of his game. Mr. Vermeil led the Rams to a 16-3 record this year after going 9-23 during his first two years. A successful National Football League coach during the 1970s and early 1980s, he complained of burnout and left coaching for 15 years, then came back for not only a last hurrah but a great one. FCC backs off content regs
Changing the channel
Members of the Federal Communications Commission had heard all the static they could stand-so they changed the channel. The FCC, which regulates the broadcast airwaves, found itself embroiled in a controversy over regulating the content of broadcasts. Swamped by protests from members of Congress, religious broadcasters, church leaders, and thousands of their constituents, the FCC last week reversed a section of a Dec. 29 ruling that attempted to define and regulate religious content on some Christian-operated television stations (WORLD, Jan. 22). The commissioners voted 4-1 to vacate two paragraphs of "Additional Guidance" in that ruling. The ruling granted permission to Cornerstone Television, a Christian nonprofit in Greensburg, Pa., to acquire a station in Pittsburgh operating under an educational license. The "guidance," which would have had the force of law, spelled out examples of religious content deemed acceptable and unacceptable for fulfilling educational and cultural requirements. Only about 20 Christian broadcast firms that hold educational TV licenses would have been affected, but many religious broadcasters warned that the government action had vast implications and violated the freedom of religion and speech. Now, FCC chairman William Kennard says disputes over content quotas will continue to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. (Pressure on the FCC, dominated by Clinton appointees, to back off included threats of "a legislative remedy" by Congress and, reportedly, "advice" from Vice President Gore.) Days prior to the FCC reversal, Cornerstone-alarmed by the guidelines-announced it had canceled its complex deal to obtain Channel 16 in Pittsburgh. "No way will we proceed," a Cornerstone spokesman told WORLD. "The FCC showed its true intent. We have no assurances the government won't attempt to restrict our freedom later on."
- Matt Schwantes, 17, is one of four National Merit Scholar semi-finalists out of 22 seniors at Moscow, Idaho's Logos Christian School. Founded 19 years ago in a church basement, the school now has 300 students and has enjoyed the state's highest ratio of Merit scholars to eligible students for two consecutive years.
- Frosty Westering, Pacific Lutheran University football coach, has an unusual game strategy: He requires players to help up opponents and greet trash talk with a thumbs-up. "When you have a relationship with Jesus Christ, your point of view is a lot different than the humanistic person who says hooray for me and nuts to you," said the 72-year-old coach, whose Tacoma, Wash., team won the1999 NCAA Division III championship.
for taxpayers, Clinton's talk isn't cheap
$1.6 billion per minute
President Clinton wants to have his surplus and spend it too, according to a Washington watchdog group. After Mr. Clinton's State of the Union address, analysts at the National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF) tallied up how much new spending he proposed. The annual result: $125.8 billion in new spending and $14.6 billion in targeted tax breaks. These proposals, "absent any tax increase, would break this year's discretionary spending caps as well as dip into the so-called Social Security Trust Fund," the NTUF reported. In his speech Mr. Clinton called for spending more on programs ranging from entitlements like Medicare (by allowing people as young as 55 to buy into the program) to agencies like AmeriCorps, a program identified by government investigators as rife with waste. According to NTUF analyst Tom McClusky, for every minute the golden-tongued Mr. Clinton spoke, he proposed $1.6 billion in new spending. Welfare-to-ouija scheme tossed
Tarot and state
Discrimination against religion took another ugly turn late last month when New York City officials kicked the Psychic Network off its list of businesses in which to place welfare recipients. Since last April 15 people had exchanged the dole for $10 an hour jobs in which they purportedly offered clairvoyance to callers foolish enough to call a 900 number and pay up to $4.99 a minute. The qualifications for psychic stardom were a high school diploma and the ability to read, write, and speak English; the Network trained new hires in tarot card reading and tips on keeping the lonely and gullible on the line. When the psychic/state connection became public late last month, city Human Resources Administration HRA spokesman Ruth Reinecke at first defended the psychic hot line jobs, noting that "the pay is rather good" and employees could work out of their homes. But city officials, proud of the city's record in cutting its welfare rolls from 1.2 million people to about 630,000, and not wanting to give ammunition to critics, soon dropped the Network. Now those leaving the welfare rolls have to choose from companies such as Rite Aid, Madison Square Garden, and Macy's. No Comment Zone
- Federal judges in the nation's capital quietly scrapped a rule that allowed their chief judge to bypass normal random assignments and send cases involving prominent friends of President Clinton to Clinton-appointed judges. Judge Norma Holloway Johnson, the chief judge for the U.S. District Courthouse in Washington, has been under scrutiny since last summer when she specially assigned the criminal cases of five big-time Democrats-including those of presidential friends Webster Hubbell and Charlie Trie-to judges appointed by President Clinton.
- Police in India arrested the main suspect in the burning deaths of an Australian missionary and his two sons; he had eluded Indian authorities for over a year. They followed Dara Singh for two days through a forest, before ambushing him in his sleep. He was armed with a spear but did not resist. Under interrogation, according to a report in The Hindu, Mr. Singh confessed to the murders of Graham Staines and his two young sons, who were burned while sleeping in their jeep. The murders sparked a national debate about the growing strength of the Hindu militant movement.
- First Minister David Trimble flew to London to appeal to Prime Minister Tony Blair to rescue Northern Ireland's collapsing government. The fragile coalition, not yet two months old, was on the verge of its own undoing after the release of a report showing that the Irish Republican Army has not decommissioned weapons, as promised. That was the keystone to a December agreement that brought Protestant and Catholic political organizations together for the first time to govern the divided province. Mr. Trimble, who leads the (Protestant) Ulster Unionists has said he will resign if the IRA is not disarmed.
- The streets of Tehran flashed with red, white, and green lights-Iranian flag colors-in an annual celebration of the return of Iran's premier Muslim cleric, the late revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini. The event, known as "10 days of dawn," begins precisely at 9:33 a.m. Feb. 1, the moment Mr. Khomeini stepped off the plane from exile in France 21 years ago. It ends Feb. 11, marking the time in which the fundamentalist revolution took hold in the capital, ousting the long-ruling Shah of Iran. Mr. Khomeini's followers, led by former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, used this year's event to criticize reform-minded clerics, who hope for gains against the fundamentalists in upcoming parliamentary elections. Conservative bishops consecrated, ready to rumble with liberals
Anglicans in exile?
Six conservative Anglican and Episcopal prelates on Jan. 29 fired a shot from Singapore across the bow of the biblically off-course 2.4-million-member Episcopal Church in the United States. They consecrated two prominent conservative American priests as bishops and sent them home to warn the establishment to turn the church around. They also will begin contingency preparations for the creation of an Anglican missionary province on Episcopal soil answerable to the Anglican archbishops of Southeast Asia and Rwanda. If no changes are set into motion at the Episcopal Church's triennial convention in Denver this summer, the province will be set up, the participants said. The two new bishops are John H. Rodgers, New Testament scholar and former dean of the evangelical Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pa., and Charles H. Murphy III, rector of the 700-member All Saints Episcopal Church in Pawleys Island, S.C., and head of the First Promise renewal group in the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church has lost more than 1.2 million members since 1966, and much of the exodus is due to the increasingly liberal drift of the church. In recent years, some dioceses have approved same-sex unions and the ordination of homosexuals, contrary to the overwhelming majority position adopted in August 1998 by the world's Anglican bishops at the Lambeth conference in England. Even the widely stated anti-Christian positions of church leaders such as recently retired bishop John Spong have gone unchallenged officially. And many conservative parishes in liberal-run dioceses allege they are neglected or targets of punitive discrimination. Liberals expressed outrage at the Singapore action. Conservatives generally expressed quiet "I told you so" support, but many also voiced "reservations" because the unorthodox move could fracture their ranks. Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold of the Episcopal Church said he was "appalled" by the action. Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey had asked that it be delayed until after a meeting of Anglican bishops next month. It was the first shot in what may become one of the most bitter ecclesiastical civil wars in modern church history.
- Two major air disasters hit within hours of one another: An Alaska Airlines flight was in the final hour of its journey from Mexico to San Francisco when it plummeted into the ocean, 40 miles northwest of the Los Angeles airport. Eighty-eight people were aboard the plane when it nose-dived on Jan. 30; no survivors were found in the 59-degree water. The plane was cleared for an emergency landing when it dropped off radar screens without a word from the crew. On the same day a Kenya Airways flight bound for Nigeria crashed in the Atlantic Ocean shortly after takeoff from Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Like Alaska Airlines, the regional airline had a strong safety record; however, unlike the crash off the California coast just 24 hours later, the pilot issued no report of mechanical difficulty or other problems aboard the Airbus 300 jet before the crash. Ten people survived the crash, but 169 are believed to have died.
- In a dramatic commercial aired during the Super Bowl, paralyzed actor Christopher Reeve is among those assembled in an auditorium of the future to honor research that helped bring healing to spinal-cord injuries. He gets up from a chair, then walks haltingly to the stage and stands with other research beneficiaries. But in real life, Mr. Reeve still can't walk. His "recovery" was a puff of computerized special effects promoting Nuveen Investments. The former Superman actor, paralyzed in a 1995 horse-riding accident, defended the scene as "something that can actually happen." But an advocacy group complained that it gave paralyzed people false hope. "We've received a number of phone calls from persons who are paralyzed or their parents or relatives, saying, 'What research institute did Mr. Reeve go to in order to receive his cure?'" said Thomas Countee Jr., executive director of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association.
- Connecticut may join New York, Oregon, and Vermont as one of the few states that offer health benefits to employees in same-sex relationships. The policy was not decided by voters, but by an arbitrator settling a dispute between the state government and the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, which negotiates the pension and health benefits of about 43,000 employees. The ruling applies only to homosexual couples and does not affect employees in unmarried, opposite-sex "domestic partner" living arrangements. It will take effect unless a two-thirds majority of one house of the legislature determines the state does not have not enough money to cover its costs, but the agreement is expected to be approved.
Old games make a comeback
Old video games never die; they just get repackaged. Favorites from the first generation of video games keep reappearing years after they were considered technologically passé. Space Invaders is the latest to get such treatment. Activision released an updated version of the game with a copy of the original hidden as a prize for skillful players to find. Originally released back in 1978, it became ubiquitous by the early 1980s, with kids and adults lining up to slug quarters into machines. The original Space Invaders' simplicity is amazing to those used to complex buttons that require dexterity and memorization of arcane rules and tricks. With this game, you just shoot the aliens before they shoot you. The new Space Invaders is just part of the ongoing video-game nostalgia market. Microsoft has two volumes of old games like Pole Position, Dig Dug, and Pac Man. Activision has dozens of its old console games like Private Eye, Space War, and Yar's Revenge available. And Hasbro bought the rights to the old Atari games, giving the world new versions of old quarter crunchers like Pong, Missile Command, and Centipede. Why are all these games back? Not all of them are great; the old Activision games are often forgettable. But kids in the 1980s spent countless hours on these things, and buying the games for the PCs give them a second taste of sixth grade. People bring them out again like they do old favorite board games. Too many of today's games are endless rehashes of one another, trying to show off the latest technology. In the late 1970s, there was nothing to clone so designers had to be imaginative just to survive. Some of their creations may be played for decades to come.-by Chris Stamper Jacoby mourns the left
Russell Jacoby is an unhappy leftist. In his latest book, The End of Utopia, (Basic Books), he complains that his comrades are too busy striking a marginalized pose to make a difference in society. Mr. Jacoby, a UCLA historian, especially means his academic colleagues. With the downfall of communism, he says, the left lost its ideals and is left to pontificate away about such tedious pursuits as multiculturalism and cultural studies. "Stripped of a racial idiom, robbed of a utopian hope, liberals and leftists retreated in the name of progress to celebrate diversity," he writes. "With few ideas on how a future should be shaped, they embrace all ideas." Mr. Jacoby complains that there are no public intellectuals to guide people toward a better world, even though liberalism is everywhere. He also seems not to understand that old-style leftism, which pitted the masses against the Establishment in search of redistributed wealth, falls flat in a world in which the left is in charge. Politically, though, the left has won. Many debates do not pit liberals vs. conservatives or libertarians. Instead, liberal pragmatists and liberal idealists fight it out. Mr. Jacoby has thrown his lot in with the idealists.-Chris Stamper Everyman columnist thrives
Dave Barry for President? Since he got his job at The Miami Herald back in 1983, he's become America's most popular humor columnist, dishing out a silly point of view from his baby-boomer perspective. Mr. Barry put the phrase "I am not making this up" into common usage. His new publicity stunt is "Dave2k," a mock presidential campaign, which features a website (deep inside Herald.com) that spoofs the super-seriousness of most political literature. "You can call me courageous if you want, but I am against crime,"he says in one of his position papers. He also claims to have been born "July 3, 1947, in the same log cabin that Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and John F. Kennedy were born in." That Mr. Barry has survived all these years is amazing. Many have tried to do humor and print, but only a select few do it well and a tiny number of those can do it steadily. Also, today's bland, lackluster world of chain newspapers doesn't breed many great columnists anymore. His 20 nonfiction books plus one novel and a TV series are a massive mound of consistency. His critics claim he makes baby boomers feel better by belittling everything outside their milieu, yet his popularity is unabated. In Erma Bombeck-esque fashion, his column reflects his own life. For example, a recent piece talks about visiting his son's college dorm room, buried in pizza boxes. Mr. Barry's humor reflects an Everyman approach with a light libertarian touch. He once proposed that all taxes be reduced so everyone only had to pay $8.95. "Cheating would be allowed," he told Reason magazine. "But the incentive to cheat wouldn't be nearly as great if you only had to pay the $8.95."-Chris Stamper