Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "Dumpsters or hospitals?," June 24, 2000

U.S. government sends baseball star back to cuba, Castro forces him to quit
Washed up at 24?
It was a surprise to Andy Morales's fans but not to Cuba watchers last week when the third baseman announced he might quit baseball altogether. After his failed attempt to defect to the United States, Mr. Morales "expressed his repentance" and said he wants to work for Cuba's National Sports Institute instead of continuing in the game, according to institute head Humberto Rodriguez in Havana. The Cuban government announced that Mr. Morales, 24, was past his prime. Nonsense, said friends, relatives, and-most emphatically-scouts. "He's at the top of his game right now," said Gus Dominguez, a sports agent who has represented other Cuban baseball players. "I don't believe that Andy would give up baseball. That would be incredible." But Frank Calzon of the Center for a Free Cuba told Baseball Weekly that Mr. Morales "will be treated by the Castro government as 'scum' or a traitor to the motherland." Mr. Morales's father Adelso said, "As a baseball player, he's over." Mr. Morales had his bright shining moment in America last year when he hit a home run in an exhibition game against the Baltimore Orioles, in Baltimore, and raised his arms in the air as he ran the bases, exuding happiness. He came close to freedom two weeks ago, but after five days at sea a Coast Guard cutter picked up him and 31 others off Key West, Fla. Despite Mr. Morales's pleas, the government shipped him back to Cuba, where Elián Gonzalez is unlikely to see him in a ballpark, unless Mr. Morales is cleaning toilets. Separately, a Miami federal judge tossed out a class-action lawsuit seeking to stop U.S. immigration officials from sending home Cubans after they reach U.S. territorial waters, but not dry land. In the first ruling on the government's controversial "wet feet/dry feet" policy, U.S. District Judge William M. Hoeveler sided with the government. Francisco Abreu, a Miami engineer, had challenged the policy after the U.S. Coast Guard intercepted his wife and son in the Florida Straits and returned them to Cuba last summer. Judge Hoeveler upheld the discretion of the executive branch in such cases, which is consistent with federal rulings thus far in the Elián Gonzalez case-but in this case did nothing to reunite father and son. Troops clash
Terror in Congo
Rwandan troops battled Ugandan forces in a fierce seven-hour confrontation that laid bare foreign intervention in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Armies from neighboring African nations have been battling the forces of Congolese President Laurent Kabila. But they turned on each other in Kisangani, a city of 200,000, after a week of terrifying, indiscriminate shelling. At least 40 Ugandan soldiers were dead, along with hundreds of civilians. Both forces support rebels trying to oust Mr. Kabila, but disagreements about the conduct of the 22-month war have increased, and both armies want Kisingani as a key logistical base. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan asked the UN Security Council to demand that Rwanda and Uganda pull out their troops. Ups & Downs of the Week
Gasoline prices: New federal regulations requiring reformulated gasoline in more than a dozen cities have helped drive prices at the pump upward in recent weeks. Nationwide, gasoline prices are up nearly 9 cents per gallon, with cities in the Midwest hit especially hard. The cost of a gallon of self-serve regular reached an average of $2.13 in Chicago. America's spending spree: The Commerce Department reported last week that retail sales fell 0.3 percent in May, the second straight monthly slide and the first back-to-back decline since the summer of 1998. Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group, said the drop could be a reaction to higher interest rates and the recent drop in the stock market. The No Comment zone

  • Ford, GM, and Chrysler this month joined the recent trend of big corporations providing health care benefits for the partners of homosexual employees. The Big Three automakers claim this is a low-cost way to lure new workers in a tight labor market. Starting Aug. 1, autoworkers can apply for medical, dental, and prescription benefits for their same-sex partners. David Murphy, Ford vice president of human resources, said, "When we're in the labor market recruiting, we're sending a signal about how inclusive the Ford Motor Co. is." Ford considered whether the move would create a Disney-style backlash from employees or customers, Mr. Murphy said, but "We decided the business case for moving ahead was a strong one."
  • First Microsoft, now MasterCard. An antitrust trial began last week in Manhattan over charges that Visa USA and MasterCard International Inc. violated antitrust laws by limiting competition from such companies as American Express and Discover. The Big Two control about 75 percent of the credit card market in the United States.
  • San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Steve Young retired from football, saying his repeated concussions had made the game too dangerous. "The fire still burns but not enough for the stakes," he said. The seven-time Pro Bowler garnered six passing records and two league MVP Awards; he also led San Francisco to a Super Bowl title.
  • The military says it has a suicide problem. The Army last year had 65 confirmed suicides and 12 deaths suspected to be suicides, a rate of 15.5 suicides per 100,000 soldiers. The Marine Corps had a rate of 15. The Navy's rate was 11 and the Air Force's 5.6. The Pentagon says it's developing new policies on suicide prevention.
  • The federal government last week agreed to pay Richard Nixon's estate $18 million for the presidential papers and 3,700 hours of secretly recorded tape it seized when he resigned in 1974. That's far less than what the Nixon camp wanted. Lawyers for the estate estimated that the Nixon family "will probably receive less than one-half of 1 percent of the settlement"-about $90,000. About $10 million will go to pay lawyers and taxes, with most of the rest going to the Richard Nixon Library. Man knows not his time
    'Lion' devoured Syria
    Epitaphs poured from the world's capitals upon the death of Hafez al-Assad, Syria's president for 30 years. In the week following his death from a heart attack June 10, the dignitaries heralded Mr. Assad as a "statesman" and defender of Arab nationalism. Much was made of the attributes attached to his family name, which means "lion" in Arabic. More was said about bravery and stoicism attached to his three decades of stand-alone rule in the Middle East, however, than the ferociousness with which he achieved it. Mr. Assad, then defense minister, seized power in a 1970 coup. Hailing from Syria's Alawite minority, a sect that borrows teaching from both Islam and Christianity, he ruled Syria's Muslim majority with bare-clawed cruelty hidden behind a thin smile. He borrowed heavily on communist ideology and Stalinist tactics, regularly purging the military of his detractors and invoking wholesale death sentences on political prisoners. Determined to thwart the rise of Muslim fundamentalism, Mr. Assad presided over the massacre in 1982 at Hama, where 10,000-20,000 Syrians are believed to have been killed. But he used Muslim extremism when it helped him politically. In the 1980s, he sanctioned terrorism against the United States and assisted the rise of Hezbollah, the Muslim insurgency dedicated to the destruction of Israel. A Soviet satellite during the Cold War, Syria's failed collectivist programs have left the country in economic shambles. Its defining characteristic is a broken-down industrial base overseen by a corrupt dictatorship. Syria remains wholly unconnected to the Internet. Mr. Assad's death comes at a dramatic juncture in the unending Middle East peace saga. He refused to make any territorial concessions to Israel and turned down a U.S. proposal on an Israeli-Syrian peace deal last March. But with Israel pulling its troops from Lebanon, Mr. Assad in recent weeks was under pressure to remove Syria's 35,000 troops that have occupied Lebanon for 25 years. Mr. Assad was talking by telephone with Lebanese President Emile Lahoud when he died, mid-sentence. -Mindy Belz Indiana school found guilty of plagiarism
    Dangerous dub
    Like many other academic institutions, Trinity College & Theological Seminary of Newburgh, Ind. (not to be confused with Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago, Ill.), warns its students that plagiarism is a breach of academic integrity. But what happens when the institution itself is found guilty of plagiarism? Trinity entered that twilight zone this spring when the Accrediting Commission for Higher Education of the Colorado-based National Association of Private, Nontraditional Schools & Colleges (NAPNSC) determined that Trinity College and Seminary plagiarized from Peter Checkland's text Systems Thinking, Systems Practice and Gary Yukl's text Leadership in Organizations. While Trinity holds traditional classes on its small campus, its main focus is long-distance education, often using audiotapes. Robert Wessel, an executive of a Washington, D.C.-based association, enrolled in a long-distance Systems Theory class in March 1999. He noticed that some of the class's audiotapes used language similar to, and even had verbatim excerpts from, Mr. Checkland's and Mr. Yukl's books, without standard attribution. He withdrew from classes and was reimbursed for his entire tuition. Edward Hogg, Trinity's President and featured lecturer for one of the offending audiocassettes, says a decade-long, systemic cassette duplication mix-up caused the problem. The course was created in 1991, Mr. Hogg explains, and numerous modifications and updates edited into the cassettes evidently dubbed over standard attributions that originally ended cassette lectures. NAPNSC investigated the matter and found Trinity guilty of plagiarism, putting the school on a six-month probation. Trinity appealed, arguing that the unattributed cassettes resulted from years of over-dubbing and staffing changes, not malevolent intent. NAPNSC changed the wording of its decision from "probation" to a "correction period of advisement for six months." Trinity has until August 6 to clean up its entire audiocassette curriculum. Otherwise, it stands to lose its accreditation recognition from NAPNSC, leaving it accredited only by the University of Liverpool of Liverpool, England. Other institutions may be looking over their own tapes to make sure that they are not doing what they advise their students to avoid. -Chistopher Mann House calls on GAO to investigate Education Dept.
    'Important dollars'
    Congressional investigators may soon look into charges of widespread fraud at the U.S. Department of Education. House lawmakers voted 380-19 last week to approve legislation directing the General Accounting Office to audit the agency. A discovery last month of an employee theft ring that had cost the agency more than $1 million in stolen equipment and falsely reported overtime spurred the legislation. Twenty years ago, Reaganites vowed to abolish the Department of Education, which today spends $32 billion annually and manages billions more in student loans. But today's Republican leadership speaks in hushed tones about the agency, saying only that it needs fixing. "We are talking about some of the most important dollars that we spend in Washington today," said Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Education and Workforce oversight subcommittee. Faces
  • Last year, Frank Finelli (left) offered his Fairfax Station, Va., neighbor an unusual gift: his liver. After learning that 38-year-old father of two Jim Traficant was dying from a rare liver disease, Mr. Finelli was inspired by a church sermon titled "It doesn't belong to me." He doesn't regret the decision: "The health I have is a gift from the Lord, so the chance to pass that on was something I felt morally compelled to do."
  • Terrence Hoben of New Jersey won a $50,000 grant last month from the Russell Berrie Foundation for going beyond the call of duty as an emergency medical service coordinator. During Hurricane Floyd, he spent 18 hours on duty, only to find his neighborhood flooded when he returned home. He then spent another 13 hours in his fishing boat retrieving people from rooftops and trees. He helped rescue some 300 people.
  • Omni Hotels is pulling the plug on its pornographic pay-for-view movies, becoming the first national hotel chain to do so. "It's the right thing to do," Omni president James Caldwell said. Minus adult movie profits, the hotel's entertainment contractor would no longer provide complimentary television sets, and Mr. Caldwell said that the company spent nearly $3 million purchasing new sets for every room. Author sees New age and scientology movements as part of the American tradition
    Home-grown paganism
    Is America in a Third Great Awakening? Harvard historian and psychologist Eugene Taylor thinks so. He doesn't see a revival of Christianity, though, but the expansion of what his recent book calls a Shadow Culture, one with deep roots in American history. What Francis Schaeffer called the "Christian consensus" is gone, replaced by a cacophony of religions, therapies, traditions, and recovery programs all bidding to help people find fulfillment. "Hardly anyone in popular culture still seems to be chanting the guiding pronouncements of the past century that began with Nietzsche, who proclaimed that God is dead," Mr. Taylor writes. And while some of the ideas may have names derived from Asian religion or European psychology, the impulse is as American as apple pie. The shadow culture of today, Mr. Taylor claims, has a heritage that includes such people as Joseph Smith, Mary Baker Eddy, and Werner Erhard, each pushing the envelope his or her own way. What people recently called the New Age wasn't new at all. It simply meant that pagan belief systems were becoming part of a vast soup. Our ancestors toyed with mesmerism, transcendentalism, phrenology, and all sorts of folk beliefs and pseudo-sciences. Now we have feng shui, Zen meditation, psychotherapy, and Scientology. Add mass culture, modern psychology, and modern marketing, and the result is today's civic culture. What once was marginal or regional is now considered mainstream and normal. Mr. Taylor applauds the development of this "visionary tradition" in American life. While various ideas were once treated with skepticism, they slowly became normalized. What Taylor doesn't spend much time on is Christianity, which he paints in shallow and often misleading terms. But his book is helpful for understanding that modern paganism is not something inflicted on America from without. It grew from what already existed. -Chris Stamper Man knows not his time
    Cartoonist dies
    Jeff MacNelly's 30-year career as an editorial cartoonist abruptly ended when he died earlier this month of cancer. He was 52 years old. Mr. MacNelly's death, along with that of Charles M. Schultz, makes American newspapers that much grayer. Mr. MacNelly, whose work regularly appeared in WORLD, won three Pulitzer Prizes during his career, the first at age 24. He earned fame and respect in the mainstream press, despite his conservatism and its liberalism. He spent most of his career at the Chicago Tribune. During the mid-90s, Mr. MacNelly's work appeared in four places in many newspapers. He drew editorial cartoons and illustrated Dave Barry's humor column. His two strips, Shoe and Pluggers, graced the funny pages. Mr. MacNelly, who lived with his family and a 1959 DeSoto in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, lost his son, Jeffrey Jr., in a rock-climbing accident four years ago in Colorado. The younger MacNelly was an editorial cartoonist for the Aspen Times. A sub-industry of video pinball games springs up
    Cyber-pinball
    Remember pinball? The flippers aren't flying so much anymore thanks to video games, but devoted fans still keep the old arcade standard alive. Once, manufacturers made 100,000 pinball machines. Now, only one maker survives, and it produced only about 12,000 machines last year. How can buttons and flippers survive in an age of Playstations, digital sound, and DVD? Perhaps by adapting. A sub-industry of video game pinball simulations for home play has sprung up. Microsoft sells its own collection, and other programs offer NASCAR, Pokémon, and other themes. The feeling of leaning over a pinball machine with one hand on each flipper is replaced by sitting at a desk hitting buttons. Still, it's hard to see even old-fashioned pinball becoming completely extinct. Too many machines are still in circulation and the game is too easy to play.

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