Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "A vacation from PC," June 3, 2000

Dr. Laura loses sponsor
P&G's gamble
Unable to persuade Paramount Television Group to drop Dr. Laura Schlessinger's upcoming television show, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) last week decided to go after the television industry's meal ticket-advertisers. Along with the National Mental Health Association and the National Organization for Women, the group launched an ad campaign aimed at companies that might sponsor Dr. Schlessinger's show. GLAAD timed the ads to coincide with companies' decisions about how to spend their ad dollars during the fall TV season. The ads, in such publications as the Los Angeles Times and Advertising Age, quote Dr. Schlessinger calling homosexuality "deviant" and "a biological error." One advertiser already has cold feet. Procter & Gamble last month pulled out of a deal to sponsor the show. "P&G serves nearly 5 billion consumers worldwide and we respect the diversity of views they represent on a variety of subjects," the company says on its website. "We're simply seeking a positive, non-controversial environment in which to advertise our brands." The controversy-averse consumer-products giant advertises on Fox's edgy Ally McBeal, which in February broke new cultural ground by showing, as the American Family Association put it, "prime-time's first male-to-male kiss of passion in a regular series." GIVING: $190 billion
1999 a 'new age' of giving
Charitable giving in the United States surged in 1999, according to the American Association of Fund-Raising Counsel. The group last week reported that total donations reached $190.1 billion last year, an increase of $15.8 billion over 1998, or 6.7 percent after adjusting for inflation. It was the fourth straight year of growth, and the report credited the country's long-running economic boom. "It is likely that this is not merely a momentary windfall for the nonprofit sector, but rather, we might say it signals the beginning of a new age of philanthropy," said the counsel's Russell Weigand. Last year marked the fourth straight year of growth in charitable giving. Ups & Downs of the week
Up, up, and away: United Airlines is hitting the afterburners. The world's largest air carrier cut a deal to take over USAirways-and added a sweetener to please Washington regulators who may look askance at the deal: United would spin off most of USAirways' routes out of Reagan National Airport to African-American entrepreneur Robert L. Johnson to create the U.S.'s first big minority-owned airline, DCAir. Protection of children from smut TV: A strangely divided Supreme Court struck down 5-4 a federal law restricting cable porn to late-night hours. In the majority was Clarence Thomas; in the minority, liberal Stephen Breyer. Defenders of the law argued that children whose parents did not subscribe to cable porn often would be able to see and hear raunchy shows on poorly scrambled sex channels. Biblical fidelity: The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s highest court ruled last week that even though its ministers can't carry out homosexual marriages, they can do homosexual "holy unions." The PCUSA will take up the issue at its June 24 general assembly. Meanwhile, Pope John Paul II reiterated the Roman Catholic Church's opposition to so-called gay marriage in a message to New Zealand's new ambassador to the Vatican. LEGACY WATCH: Clinton faces disbarment
Another lawyer joke?
It's not likely President Clinton will actually lose his law license, but the recommendation that he be disbarred as a lawyer in Arkansas provided newspapers and talk shows with fresh fodder for the story Americans know all too well: that the president lied under oath in the Paula Jones case. Last week, Arkansas' state legal disciplinary panel found Mr. Clinton unfit to be a member of the state bar association, even though the U.S. Senate, in acquitting Mr. Clinton of impeachment articles approved by the House of Representatives, found him fit to be president. Susan Webber Wright, the federal judge who presided over the Jones case, cited the president for contempt and fined him $90,000 when she discovered Mr. Clinton had lied to the court about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Judge Wright referred Mr. Clinton's case to the state Supreme Court's Committee on Professional Conduct. Eight of the 14 members of the committee bowed out before hearing the case; five were Clinton or Democratic Party contributors. The recommendation is now before a Little Rock judge, who could impose a lesser punishment or dismiss the recommendation altogether. On this one, Mr. Clinton has a pretty strong case-because disbarment proceedings usually involve a lawyer's conduct as a lawyer. University of Arkansas legal professor Howard Brill, who helped write the state's code of conduct for lawyers, calls the case unprecedented: "This case is distinguished because the lawyer, Mr. Clinton, was not acting like a lawyer, he was acting as a litigant, a private party." Mr. Clinton on NBC Nightly News complained that the committee is trying to hold the chief law enforcement officer of the United States to too high a standard: "There are clear precedents where more significant kinds of conduct ... led to nowhere near this kind of decision." China trade bill OK'D; Human rights group loses leverage
Trading away influence
It had become a regular part of the Washington calendar. For the last 20 years, normal trade relations with China came up for an annual vote in Congress, prompting much sound and fury in the political world. Those days probably are over. The House last week voted 237-197 to make the communist giant's regular trade status permanent, ending the yearly quarrel that pitted labor unions, most Democrats, and many social conservatives (who opposed trade with China) against business interests, the White House, and most Republicans (who supported it). This year, labor unions and business organizations poured millions into campaigns to sway lawmakers and the public. Labor made its usual pitch that free trade undermines U.S. jobs; business maintained that isolating China would undermine U.S. exports. But both sides also argued that they had the Chinese people's best interests at heart. "We will have more positive influence with an outstretched hand than with a clenched fist," said President Clinton, a strong supporter of the measure. Opponents, on the other hand, believe that Washington's yearly debate had given the U.S. leverage over China's brutal regime. "When we stand up, things get better for human rights in China," said House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.). "When we stand down, things get worse." But now things are likely to get permanent. Political analysts believed the House vote was opponents' best shot at stopping the trade bill. They expect the Senate to pass it easily. Faces

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