Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "Bush picks Cheney as VP," Aug. 5, 2000

General mills apologizes for giving away Scripture
Sorry for the Bible
More than 12 million boxes of General Mills cereal-each containing a CD version of the Bible-are headed for grocery stores nationwide. But not without an accompanying corporate apology. Late last month, General Mills balked at its own promotional pitch: free CDROMs attached to cereal boxes, each containing PC games, reference materials, and the New International Version of the Bible. In a public statement released just as the Scripture-filled boxes were headed for market, the food giant said someone placed the Bible on the CD "without our knowledge or consent." Though the national media implicated Wisconsin-based CD publisher Rhinosoft Interactive as the culprit, it was actually a company called Lightdog that was responsible. Lightdog, the Minneapolis-based promotions firm hired by General Mills to develop the CD giveaway, told WORLD it added the Bible to the list of materials General Mills had already approved for the disk-without telling General Mills. An e-mail trail indicates that at least one General Mills employee was aware of the Bible's inclusion. General Mills threw away any goodwill it might have gained among Christians by apologizing to the nation. "While the inclusion of the Bible may be seen as added value by some," said the General Mills statement, "it is the company's policy not to advance any particular set of religious beliefs. Inclusion of the material does not conform to our policy, and we apologize for the lapse." Why is General Mills apologizing for a book that most Americans already have in their homes? The answer may lie in its historically left-leaning corporate giving habits. The Washington, D.C.-based Capital Research Center, which monitors corporate philanthropy, lists the Brookings Institution (a liberal think tank), Planned Parenthood, and other left-of-center groups as recipients of General Mills largesse. Since 1997, the General Mills Foundation has contributed at least $86,000 to Planned Parenthood of Minnesota and South Dakota in the form of grants specifically earmarked for family planning and "reproductive health." Looks like the company, which also owns restaurant chains The Olive Garden and Red Lobster, would prefer to fund the extermination of future breakfast-cereal customers than provide current customers with food for their souls. -Lynn Vincent Clinton Preemptive strike
Money talks
A million dollars? What million dollars? President Clinton told federal investigators he did not remember a 1992 limousine ride in which James Riady purportedly pledged to funnel that amount in donations to his campaign. The White House last week released copies of a transcript of a Justice Department lawyer's interview with the president last April as part of the government's probe into alleged fundraising abuses by the Democrats. Members of a congressional panel reviewing the probe had sought the transcript and the White House released it all at once, rather than let it leak out. In the transcript, the president tells Robert J. Conrad Jr., head of the Justice Department's campaign finance task force: "I don't have a specific recollection of what the conversation was, or this fact of the car ride," the president said. He said he only remembered seeing Mr. Riady "some time in '92 after I became the nominee," and that the Indonesian businessman pledged to help his campaign. According to an FBI summary released last year, Democratic fundraiser John Huang, a Riady employee, said Mr. Riady "rode in a limousine with ... Clinton," telling the then-Arkansas governor "that he would like to raise $1 million." Mr. Huang said that in the following weeks, Riady employees donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Democratic Party. He said he assumed the donors had been reimbursed by Mr. Riady, as he had been. When pressed as to whether he could specifically recall Mr. Riady's $1 million promise, President Clinton replied: "I don't. I don't. And I don't know whether he ever gave that much money.... If he said a million, I'm surprised, I don't remember it." When investigators asked about the size of Mr. Riady's pledged donation, the president said such activities are commonplace. "Sometimes people give that much money," he said. Gore finds a fundraiser he doesn't like
Taking the bunny test
Hugh Hefner opened the doors of the Playboy Mansion to Democrats and found Al Gore didn't want to come out and play. The shindig at the tacky Southern California residence was billed as a fundraiser for the Hispanic Unity Caucus, a voter registration group headed by Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.). News of the event leaked out the day George W. Bush announced running mate Dick Cheney, and blunted political talking points that the conservative ex-congressman and defense secretary would not appeal to "mainstream" America. A Playboy gala was such an easy target for Republican pundits that Vice President Gore bailed on the party before he was even invited. "We're not attending, participating, supporting, condoning, or giving our imprimatur in any shape, way, or form," to the party, said Gore campaign spokesman Chris Lehane. But Mr. Gore is willing to accept Hef's money: According to USA Today, the Hefner family has given $1,500 to Mr. Gore's presidential bid, causing Mr. Hefner to describe Mr. Gore's reaction as "hypocrisy." Where are they now?
Pro-abortion evangelist?
Evangelist C.S. Lovett was widely known a generation ago for his popular book distributed by evangelical ministries, Soul Winning Made Easy. But his book What's a Parent to Do?, published in 1971, included a startling note in a chapter on teen pregnancy: "Aside from the moral issue, it has been my experience that abortion solves the problem with the least amount of bad side effects.... The surgeon's scalpel removes the tissue and God's forgiveness removes the guilt feelings." Last month, nearly three decades after the book's publication, the nationally syndicated Christian radio talk show Crosstalk revisited Mr. Lovett's views and called him a "pro-abortion advocate." Producer Ingrid Schlueter quoted a June 21 e-mail she received from Mr. Lovett stating that "I've been a party to a number of abortions and they really were quick problem solvers." Calling Mr. Lovett's comments "a real wake-up call," Mrs. Schlueter said she hoped they would "help people understand why Roe vs. Wade happened in such a vacuum of protest." In a telephone interview with WORLD, the now 83-year-old evangelist confirmed that he still has "mixed up" feelings about abortion. "I hate abortion," he said. "But I have some very funny feelings about a woman's right to choose being taken away." Coptic Christian sentenced
Egyptian justice
An Egyptian court has sentenced a Coptic Christian to three years hard labor for "publicly insulting Islam." Witnesses say Sourial Gayed Isshak, a 37-year-old merchant, cursed Islam in the streets of his village after violence broke out between Christians and Muslims there in January. A mob of 3,000 Muslims attacked Christians, killing 21 and destroying over 100 Christian-owned homes and businesses. One Muslim villager was killed during the attacks when a gun belonging to a Muslim misfired. Mr. Isshak is the only person to be sentenced for the violence. Authorities have kept him in prison since March. Supersonic jet hits French hotel
Concorde crashes
An Air France Concorde en route to New York City crashed outside Paris shortly after takeoff July 25, slamming into a hotel and a restaurant. At least 113 people were killed. The charter flight of German tourists, bound for a cruise holiday, was the first crash in the supersonic jet's 30-year history. Police said all 109 passengers and crew on board were killed and four others died at the 72-room Relais Bleus hotel, which erupted into flames after the crash. At least a dozen others were injured at the hotel, they said. Firefighters poured streams of water on the completely blackened wreckage and combed through twisted metal sections of the hotel. The remains of the Concorde were barely recognizable as an airplane fuselage. Just two days before the crash, British Airways grounded seven Concordes in its fleet after discovering minute cracks in the jets' delta-shaped wings. Both British Airways and Air France, the sole operators of the only commercial supersonic plane in the world, put further cross-Atlantic flights on hold while authorities investigate the crash. Air France said the plane that crashed, in service since 1980, had undergone regular maintenance and a major overhaul last September. FCC wants to license small-watt radio stations
Clearing the air
Want to own a radio station? With an antenna and everything? The airwaves could open up to a host of new stations if low power FM (LPFM) radio becomes a reality. The FCC has proposed allowing thousands of licenses for small radio stations that will run between 1 and 1000 watts. That's a fraction of the power of a major station, but it can cover a suburb or a small town. After a 20-year ban, this would let small players (such as churches, students, and community groups) into the market. The National Association of Broadcasters is lobbying against the proposal and has won support among congressional Republicans. Yet LPFM has supporters across the political spectrum. The New York Times reported that almost half of the 750 applications for the first 200 available licenses were from religious groups. Historically, the number of radio stations has been kept down, often by bureaucratic mandate. Webcasting opened the door to thousands of broadcasts running off PCs, but the listener is tethered to his computer. A few commercial services will soon deliver satellite-fed music to car radios, but those require a monthly fee and no one knows whether they will take hold. Shortwave radio could have revolutionized broadcasting decades ago, with global broadcasters providing commercial programming from around the world. With a few exceptions, treaties and regulation turned it into a boring megaphone for government-sponsored public or propaganda broadcasters. LPFM is more of a threat to NPR, college stations, and established religious broadcasters since the non-commercial stations using these licenses will compete against them. If they ever get off the ground, programming likely will be low budget, often lousy, and frequently hard to tune in. Yet there will be gold among the dross, along with more freedom of choice on the radio dial. -Chris Stamper Strip returns on the web
Li'l Abner's big impact
For more than 40 years, the residents of the fictional backwoods town of Dogpatch, Ark., were a daily delight to millions. Their comic adventures ended in 1977 and they fell into obscurity. Now they're making an online comeback: United Media's comics site is rerunning the Li'l Abner strip. The Web reprints run as in the newspaper, with another strip appearing daily. Abner, the strong but dimwitted 19-year-old mattress tester, saw himself as an all-American boy, and his innocence played against the outside world in adventures about everything from boxing to atomic testing. Al Capp's strip started out liberal but wound up conservative. The strip differed from the usual gag-a-day fare in that the action took place in story arcs that lasted for weeks, getting more absurd along the way. Li'l Abner introduced Sadie Hawkins Day, the Shmoo, and nutty detective Fearless Fosdick to the world. The cartoonist used the strip as a launch pad for a broad range of satire, throwing the bumpkins into all sorts of silly situations. He took on everything from Gone with the Wind to student radicalism, inspiring two movies, a Broadway play, and a theme park along the way. Capp was a master at making humor that could appeal broadly. The average reader liked the silliness and the more intelligent got the subtle jokes. That the absurdity was able to keep running so many decades is amazing. Will Abner prove as likable to the Internet generation? Taco bell ends famous ad campaign
Drop the Chihuahua
Say good-bye to the Taco Bell Chihuahua. After three years of commercials, he's been sent to the doghouse. Launched in 1998, he was one of the most-noticed attempts by a fast food chain to grab attention. But after all the toys (Taco Bell sold 13 million stuffed Chihuahuas) and "Yo quiero Taco Bell" jokes, sales at the chain actually slipped. So the chain canned their creator, the TBWA/ Chiat Day ad agency, which had scored the $200 million advertising account back in 1997. There's no word on whether the less amusing campaign at Taco Bell's sister company KFC-the dancing hipster version of Colonel Sanders-will stick around.

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