Greenspan: Another rate hike coming to cool economy
Will Alan Greenspan freeze the bull market? The Federal Reserve chairman is sending strong signals that another interest rate hike is in the works for the following reason: High interest rates are needed to cool the too-hot economy and head off inflation, which could cool the too-hot economy. Got that? Is America too prosperous? Maybe. What Mr. Greenspan is saying is that a little cooling by way of higher interest rates is preferable to the deep freeze he fears a round of inflation would cause. His Federal Reserve Board predicts that the gross domestic product will expand by around 3.5 percent this year. Numbers released last week added credibility to the prediction: An industry group reported that the manufacturing economy experienced growth in February, and the government noted that construction spending-despite rising interest rates-shot up in January by 2.7 percent, the biggest spike in almost two years. He says Fed policymakers are being super-cautious about the nation's unprecedented economic boom. In remarks to the House Banking Committee, he said that low unemployment could cause higher wages and therefore higher prices for products. "At some point in the continuous reduction in the number of available workers willing to take jobs ... wage increases must rise above even impressive gains in productivity" that have helped to keep inflation low. The Fed chairman also opposes tax cuts due to the federal budget surpluses. Instead he wants the money used to pay down the national debt. If pressed, however, he prefers tax cuts to more federal spending. Mr. Greenspan also told Congress he was concerned about soaring oil prices. He said there was some worry about the "extraordinarily low level" of worldwide oil stocks-so low, he said, some people "are joking that we need to measure the fumes to get any measurable inventory."
Ups & Downs of the Week
- Charlie Trie admitted what everyone knew all along. Nevertheless, the testimony of the Little Rock restaurateur and friend of Bill was revealing. Mr. Trie acknowledged raising roughly a million dollars in illegal funds for the Democratic National Committee. He admitted to bringing Chinese arms dealer Wang Jun to a White House coffee. He admitted he paid to get clients into White House coffees, events the White House still denies were fundraisers. Mr. Trie told the House Government Reform Committee it was "well known that it cost $50,000 to attend a coffee." But he continued to deny that he used the inside track to commit espionage or to gain favors. Last May, Mr. Trie cut a plea deal with the Justice Department, and is serving a four-month home detention sentence.
- John Rocker, hurler of fastballs and high-and-tight rhetoric, reported to spring training after an arbitrator cut the suspension and fine of the Atlanta Braves reliever in half. Mr. Rocker will still miss the first two weeks of the regular season. In the NFL, Josh Evans of the Super Bowl runner-up Tennessee Titans, was suspended for the entire 2000 season for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. Mr. Evans, suspended for four games last year on substance-abuse charges, is appealing.
- The Buzz applauds Sen. Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, for bringing some needed perspective to the Elián Gonzalez matter. In a hearing on whether to grant the boy U.S. citizenship, Sen. Hatch said, "This is not just a custody matter, but a case where one of the options ... is returning this child to one of the last prison nations in the world, Fidel Castro's wretched communist dictatorship.... As Elián grows up in Castro's island jail, he will never be able to express his political views in public, he will never have a choice as to what he can read, and he will never be free to come here again."
Gender "equity": Title IX forces men's sports cuts
All things being equal
What began as a mandate to add has become a measure to subtract. The University of Miami, a hot-climate school where water sports have always been cool, will disband its men's swimming/diving and crew teams after this season in order to comply with Title IX gender-equity laws. The Hurricanes have produced 20 men's NCAA champions and 15 Olympians; Miami divers have won at least one national title in each of the past nine years. The male swimmers were, of course, upset: "It's like taking the sunshine away from Florida," team captain Tom Caplis said. But school officials said Miami had no choice but to cut the programs so as to comply with Title IX proportionality laws. One element requires schools to have athletic participation similar to the male/female ratio of the student body. When Miami began implementing a Title IX plan four years ago, the school's undergraduate population was 55 percent male and 45 percent female. By adding women's soccer and crew and limiting non-scholarship players in football and baseball, Miami achieved a 56-44 split early this year. But by then the percentage of female students had jumped to 54 percent, leaving Miami still 10 percent shy of compliance. The moves will leave Miami with seven men's sports and 10 for women. Other universities are facing the same problems and also restricting male sports participation. UCLA, for example, has also purged its male swimmers, even though the team had 41 individual NCAA champions over the years. And male college wrestlers are an endangered species throughout the United States.
- Jill Klopfenstein of Monument, Colo., adopted Zachary-a 7-day-old, partial-birth abortion survivor-despite doctors' warnings that he might never communicate. Three years later, Zachary has proved doctors wrong by showing a 100-word vocabulary, along with the ability to feed himself and walk. He is one of eight "crack babies" adopted or fostered by Mrs. Klopfenstein and her husband, Terry.
- As chairman of the Boise, Idaho, Community Coalition for Abstinence, 18-year-old homeschool student Shannon Visser designed a poster listing reasons why teenagers choose abstinence before marriage. State officials liked it so much that they reproduced the reasons on three professionally designed posters and distributed them to area high schools.
- By day, radio news anchor Melody Morris reports the news. By night she reverses it. After hearing predictions that Dayton, Ohio, city commissioners would pass a pro-homosexual ordinance 4 to 1, the mother of two rallied business and pro-family troops to testify against it. The ordinance was subsequently defeated 4 to 1.
Leap year another big zero
Leaping out of the Y2K abyss
Close the book on Y2K. The last red-letter day on the millennium bug calendar was Feb. 29 and virtually nothing happened, again. Passengers at Reagan Airport in Washington had to use regular check-in stations until the skycap system could properly recognize Feb. 29. And some Caller ID and paging devices displayed the wrong date. Not much else occurred. The fear was that computers would not understand that 2000 is a leap year when 1900 was not. It was the last gasp of the Y2K panic, which predicted that chaos would erupt because computers would not recognize four-digit dates come Jan. 1. The result was one of the most heavily anticipated non-events in history. Now the mania is dead, even online. Gary North stopped updating his online catastrophist Y2K commentary in early February. Other sites are being retooled and simply taken down. One self-styled preparedness guru, Michael S. Hyatt, isn't giving up yet. "So you think Y2K is over?" he touts on his home page. "Think again." Yet the doomsaying is being toned down in favor of old-fashioned survivalism. The millennial sensationalism is now buried on a small corner of michaelhyatt.com, though former doomsayers Jim Lord and Karen Anderson are listed as contributors. A partner in the defunct Wolgemouth & Hyatt publishing company, Mr. Hyatt changed his Y2Kprep page to "Michael Hyatt's Self-Reliant Living" and still touts first aid and food storage. Anderson elected to the Hall of Fame
Sparky Anderson became the 16th team manager voted into Baseball's Hall of Fame last week. Mr. Anderson, 66, is the only manager to win World Series championships in both leagues, leading the Cincinnati Reds to the title in 1975 and 1976 and the Detroit Tigers in 1984. But the honor forced Mr. Anderson into a difficult decision: Which team's cap would his Hall of Fame plaque show him wearing? Saying, "They treated me like a king in both places," he finally chose the Reds in gratitude to former Cincinnati general manager Bob Howsam: "He hired a 35-year-old nobody knew and he had the courage and fortitude to do that. Had he not done that, I doubt very much in all honesty that I would have managed in the major leagues." recording artist raided
Michael English is in trouble again. This time the pop artist, formerly popular among Christians, is being investigated after his Nashville apartment was raided and agents found illegal prescription drugs. Mr. English was not arrested, however. An announcement on MichaelEnglish.com said he "checked in to an inpatient treatment facility several weeks ago for an addiction to prescription medication and a continuing struggle with depression." The singer was just about to make a comeback with his first record aimed at Christian consumers in seven years. "Michael's current health situation will have absolutely no effect whatsoever on the release of Heaven to Earth," proclaimed his website. (MichaelEnglish.com still directs concert promoters to contact the William Morris Agency about bookings.) In a statement, Mr. English said he started taking medication for an undisclosed injury a few years ago and things got out of hand. This isn't the first time Mr. English has faced controversy in his career. In 1994, Mr. English acknowledged an adulterous affair with backup singer Marabeth Jordan that resulted in her pregnancy. Ms. Jordan later announced she had had a miscarriage. Mr. English returned six Dove Awards. After an unsuccessful attempt at a secular music career, Mr. English announced his return to the contemporary Christian music industry in 1998.
The No Comment Zone
- The United States cited both Russia and China for a stepped-up campaign against personal freedoms during the last year. The State Department's annual human-rights report dealt with more than 100 countries, but much of its focus was on China. The report said the communist government "intensified efforts to suppress dissent, particularly organized dissent." Nevertheless, one day before the report's release, President Clinton told a Philadelphia audience that problems "will be worse if we don't bring China" into the World Trade Organization.
- A young woman who spent three days in a tree to escape Mozambique's rising floodwaters also gave birth while waiting. Mother and child both survived, and their feat was enough to get the attention of private relief groups and overseas governments, which, until last week, responded too slowly to pleas for help. One million people are without homes after a worsening of the flooding in Mozambique that began almost a month ago. The main national highway collapsed in three places, making delivery of food, medicine, and emergency supplies impossible. Until reinforcements arrived, five South African Air Force helicopters were nearly alone in the rescue and relief effort.
- "You're all white trash, racist pigs," Ronald Taylor shouted to maintenance workers at his Pittsburgh-area apartment building moments before he allegedly shot and killed one. Police say he then menaced customers at two fast food restaurants-shooting four and killing one-before taking wheelchair-bound hostages at a senior hospice center and finally surrendering to authorities. Mr. Taylor was said to have been angry at the workers' delay in fixing a broken door at his apartment.
- The Detroit Free Press reported that General Motors has made the largest corporate donation in the history of "Affirmation," Michigan's biggest homosexual community center. Gay activists hailed the donation of $10,000; Leslie Ann Thompson, executive director of the center, observed, "First the closet doors came open and now the financial doors are open."
- The district attorney in the Amadou Diallo case called for the resignation of the four New York City police officers who were acquitted in the shooting death of the unarmed street vendor. Associates of the officers say they haven't decided if they will return to their beats. The officers still face a police review, a possible federal probe, and a potential civil lawsuit by the Diallo family.
Shameless money-waster Americorps asks Congress for more
'Kumbaya' at taxpayer expense
"Waste a lot, want not." That appears to be the unofficial motto for AmeriCorps, President Clinton's pet national-service project. Reports of financial mismanagement have plagued the program since its inception, but the administration is requesting a 23 percent increase in spending on AmeriCorps for the next fiscal year (beginning Oct. 1). In 1995, Luise Jordan, inspector general for the Corporation for National Service, told Congress that the program was unauditable because "weaknesses in management controls had remained uncorrected throughout the fiscal year." Since then the program has made progress-sort of. Now, at least Ms. Jordan can perform an audit, although last year's found that eight areas of the program's financial operations were "materially weak," including financial management and reporting, she said. AmeriCorps pays almost 40,000 "volunteers" an average of over $8,700 a year and almost $5,000 in educational vouchers for 1,700 hours of community service. The House voted last year to abolish the program, but a House-Senate compromise gave AmeriCorps $439 million, a $3 million increase over the previous year. Harris Wofford, chief executive officer of the Corporation for National Service, defended the White House request for $546 million. "We are making AmeriCorps stronger, more vital, and more effective," he told a House Appropriations subcommittee. Republicans didn't seem convinced. "I don't know if we'll be able to meet that request," said Rep. James Walsh (R-N.Y.). Mr. Wofford, while a senator from Pennsylvania, sponsored the legislation creating AmeriCorps. He lost his senate seat in 1994 to Republican Rick Santorum, who during the campaign said the program was "for hippie kids to stand around a campfire holding hands and singing 'Kumbaya' at taxpayer expense."
- A 12-year-old boy in Tuscon, Ariz., is serving a year's probation after he held another child at knifepoint and stole his Pokémon cards. The boy, whom authorities have kept anonymous, was found guilty of robbery and placed on probation for a year. According to his victim, the perpetrator held a 4-inch knife to his stomach and threatened to stab him if he didn't produce the cards. The victim said he borrowed cards from friends to satisfy the threatening boy. Meanwhile, in California, Rudy Donithan-Treat, 11, whose school confiscated, then lost, his 161 Pokémon cards, took the school to small claims court and won a $1,500 judgment. Rudy originally sued for $5,000, but was pleased with the judge's order: "I'll be able to get more Pokémon cards."
- The House voted 422-0 last week to repeal a rule that makes Social Security benefits contingent on recipients being idle. The legislation scraps the Social Security earning limit, which imposes a penalty of $1 in lost benefits for every $3 a senior earns over $17,000. The bill would affect 800,000 seniors between the ages of 65 and 69. (Recipients over age 70 face no earnings limit.) "Why in the world would we want to discourage any American, whether they're 17 or 67, from working?" asked Rep. Bill Archer (R-Texas). "Americans are living longer now, and older Americans can work, they want to work, and they shouldn't be punished by an outdated law." The Senate is expected to pass the bill as well, and President Clinton has indicated that he will sign it into law.
- Nigeria's national council voted to suspend the adoption of Islamic law in northern Nigeria. The surprise move came after more than 200 people were killed in riots between Muslims and Christians last week. The council is composed of President Olusegun Obasanjo and all 36 state governors. The vote to set aside Sharia, the strict Islamic code, was unanimous. Violence erupted in Kaduna on Feb. 21, when Muslim youths attacked Christian demonstrators protesting the adoption of Sharia. Churches, mosques, and shops were incinerated before the army and state police restored order, according to the Christian news service Newsroom. The conflict quickly spread to southeastern towns, where another 30 people were killed. Nigeria's population is equally divided between Christians and Muslims. Said President Obasanjo, who identifies himself as a Christian: "What happened in Kaduna is a shame to all of us and we have all sinned."
TV marriage fiasco was too much even for Fox
Did Rick Rockwell kill reality TV? The infamous groom from Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire has FOX swearing off the genre. If the network is serious, that means no more When Good Pets Go Bad or World's Scariest Police Shootouts or Surviving the Moment of Impact. "They re gone," top FOX executive Sandy Grushow told The New York Times. Multi-Millionaire was billed as "television's most-watched marriage ceremony since Charles and Diana" and attracted 10.8 million homes, according to Nielsen. FOX staple David Duchovny of X-Files fame mockingly suggested they do a sequel called How to Marry a Broke Girlfriend Beater. (Mr. Rockwell allegedly threatened an ex-girlfriend, and his TV bride wants to end the marriage.) For the network, reality shows are dirt cheap. They don't have to hire an army of actors, writers, and others who feed sitcoms and dramas. In an era of declining ratings, this is easy money. So will the shows really go? In January, Mr. Grushow claimed he'd move away from them. "Oversaturation has really come back this season to bite us," he said then. A few weeks later he gave us perhaps the tackiest wedding in American history. -Chris Stamper German firm buys Jim Henson Co.
Kermit's new boss
First Chrysler, now this. A German company that is little known in the United States is absorbing the Muppets and Jim Henson's other creations. EM.TV is buying the Jim Henson Co. for $680 million to help launch itself into the American market. Even a decade after Henson's death, the Muppet properties are still strong. The Tickle Me Elmo doll is just one of 5,000 licensed products to hit shelves since 1990. The company itself dates back to 1958, when Henson created the term Muppet as a cross between marionette and puppet. Last February, Henson's five children announced they had bought Charlie Chaplin's historic studio and leased it to their father's company. The place where parts of The Gold Rush, Modern Times, and The Great Dictator were shot is now home to Oscar The Grouch and the Swedish Chef. Henson's Muppets could be downright sarcastic at times, but they were far from the rank cynicism seen in cartoons today. The characters certainly transcended their creator's personal New Agey beliefs. Will their new owners lose the fun in translation? -Chris Stamper Wholesome Cats closes on Broadway
Last of 9 lives
Meow. After nearly 20 years of continuous performances, Cats is closing on Broadway. The end of the run next June, after a record-breaking 7,397 performances, closes the curtain on a streak some thought would never stop. Cats is the longest running show in London and on Broadway, but it has gone from art to kitsch in the eyes of critics. It won seven Tony Awards, including best musical, in 1983; American audiences turned their backs on it in the 1990s. The show carried on with the weight of its reputation and its attractiveness to international tourists. When Cats opened, it was an amazing spectacle of special effects and catchy music. Productions that followed-hyped extravaganzas like Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon, and Les Miserables-tried to top one another. Cats was still huge, but it became just a cute musical with an ensemble cast in feline costumes. The show itself, based on Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, a bit of light verse by Christian poet T.S. Eliot, is a boisterous collection of songs about living in an alley. Either you like this or you don't. Lots of kids like it. Some people adore it. Some people are bored stiff. But for all of the svelte women in cat costumes, the play was utterly wholesome. Interest stayed strong enough to hang the words "Now and Forever" as a slogan outside the Winter Garden Theatre. By the end, the show was only filling half the theater's seats and the producer decided to end it. "The houses have been slow," Marlene Danielle, the sole remaining original cast member, said. "It's a business, and they have to make their money." Cats represented a turning point for Broadway theater, which was declining as a mass-interest art form and needed a blockbuster to keep interest high. The show will live on through videotape, soundtracks, and the eventual revival performances. -Chris Stamper