Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "Supreme Court dividing line," May 6, 2000

Elián described as sad
After the raid
Two homeschoolers from Muscle Shoals, Ala., got a glimpse of Elián Gonzalez that news cameramen only dreamed of in the days following the Easter weekend government raid. Six-year-old Ashlie Fristoe and her sister Brittanie, 9, asked to meet the boy after learning that he was staying with his father at the same hotel on Andrews Air Force Base. Juan Miguel Gonzalez agreed, and offered the girls pizza while they spoke through an interpreter to Elián. Brittanie said the boy was nice but quiet, and told the Florence (Ala.) Times Daily that he looked sad. In the meantime, a Cuban delegation was set to arrive at the Elián compound. The group will not include Cuban psychologists, provoking a protest from Fidel Castro and one proposed member of the group, University of Havana psychologist Aurora Garcia, who said professionals needed to be on the scene to help the boy "restore his historical memory." But the armed assault on Lazaro Gonzalez's home in Miami was the continuing focus of controversy. NBC complained that its soundman Gustavo Moeller was ordered away from the house at gunpoint and struck in the head with the muzzle of an automatic weapon. Cameraman Tony Zumbado was knocked to the floor inside the house and told he would be shot if he tried to get up (no photos were available to determine whether the safety was on). Washington-based Judicial Watch asked a U.S. district court judge to order Attorney General Janet Reno to release all documents relating to the April 22 raid. U.S. District Judge James Robertson denied expedited release and instead told the Justice Department to file a schedule for releasing the items by May 12. That deadline is one day after a U.S. Court of Appeals takes up the question of whether Elián should be granted asylum. signs of the times
Bong scare
Here's an example of post-Columbine campus tension: When a police officer found a cardboard fireworks tube at Roland-Grise Middle School in Wilmington, N.C., the facility was evacuated. When seven teenagers wouldn't tell officers what the tube contained, frightened parents ran to pick up their kids. Then the bomb squad showed up and discovered the tube was a pipe used for smoking marijuana. "What we have is a B-O-N-G, not a B-O-M-B," said sheriff's Capt. David Smithey. That's a sorry sign of the times that officials breathe a sigh of relief that students are "only" involved in illegal drugs. Vermont advances gay agenda
Shotgun wedding
The Vermont Supreme Court's shotgun wedding between the state legislature and the gay agenda is consummated. Gay marriage, in everything but name, has arrived. Vermont governor Howard Dean approved the infamous bill giving homosexual couples all the benefits of marriage without the word marriage. "We need to value people for who they are, not what they are," he said after the measure passed the state legislature. These couplings won't be called marriages, but "civil unions" that give gay and lesbian partners the property and other legal rights of spouses. They become legal July 1. The state Supreme Court unanimously ruled last December that the couples were unconstitutionally denied the rights and benefits of marriage. The legislature decided to establish a parallel system for homosexual couples rather than change the current marriage statutes-for now. GAO finds "no corroberating evidence" of wrongdoing
IRS dodges a bullet
Back in 1998, numerous charges of misconduct and abuse were hurled at the IRS at high-profile Senate hearings. Now congressional watchdogs say there's little evidence to support the claims. IRS employees Ginger Jarvis, Michael Ayala, Maureen O'Dwyer, and Minh Thi Johnson testified about various alleged misdeeds by senior managers: They mistreated taxpayers. They forgave taxes for big companies as favors or to improve their own status. They even allowed former IRS agents who now work for private companies to influence audits. Yet a formerly secret General Accounting Office report doesn't support the charges. "Generally, we found no corroborating evidence that the criminal investigations described at the hearing were retaliatory against the specific taxpayer," the report's authors concluded. The finance committee hearings in April 1998 helped lead to the passage of an IRS reform law that was supposed to curb agency enforcement abuses and remake the agency into one that treats taxpayers more like customers. The agency has been on an image-improvement campaign ever since.

FACES

  • Michael and Angel Eads aren't typical third-year college students. Not only are the home-school graduates straight-A students at the University of Hawaii-Hilo, but Angel is only 14 and Michael is 16. In March, the Hawaii State Legislature recognized the siblings for outstanding academic performance. In addition to their studies, Michael, an astronomy major, works at an observatory and Angel, a theater major, works as a reporter for the university newspaper.
  • Laverne Barker of Fort Wayne, Indiana, announcing that she had become a Christian, renounced her 18-year career as a stripper. Speaking at a rally earlier this year, she called on the city council to close neighborhood strip bars. "I know I am making a lot of people angry, but I want the community to understand that this really does hurt families," she said. Quicktakes
  • The OPEC-orchestrated surge in oil prices may mean Americans pay more for gasoline, but it has helped at least one American industry-oil. Last week Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Texaco, and Conoco all reported stronger profits for the quarter than Wall Street analysts had expected. Oil companies are gouging drivers, according to Joan Claybrook, president of the Naderite group Public Citizen. She is calling on Congress to impose tax penalties on oil-company profits. But Severin Borenstein, director of the University of California, Berkeley's Energy Institute, said oil companies are essentially playing a game of "catch-up" as they seek to recoup earlier losses. Meanwhile, the American Petroleum Institute said the government was the true cause of high gasoline prices, pointing out that excise taxes contribute far more to the price at the pump than do oil industry profits.
  • Is it bad news that the economy keeps doing well? Wall Street reacted that way when the Commerce Department announced last week that orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket items-or "durable goods"-rose during March. The report sparked a sell-off in an already highly volatile climate. The Dow shed 179.32 points and the Nasdaq lost 81.14 points on April 26, the day the news broke. Wall Street's fear: News of economic strength will cause the Federal Reserve, concerned about inflation, to raise interest rates again to slow down the economy. Higher interest rates cut into company profits, and the Fed has already raised rates five times since June. The markets' drop came only one day after they had each gained more than 200 points. The Nasdaq in particular has been erratic all year. All of the Nasdaq's 10 biggest daily point losses have been this year, and its two largest point gains were in April.

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