Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "The narrow runway," Oct. 14, 2000

California law allows state to police thought
Thinking tanked
Thinking thoughts that don't align with state-approved orthodoxy is now dangerous in California schools. Golden State Governor Gray Davis last week signed into law measures that create "human relations" curricula designed to prevent "discriminatory" thought, provide funding for field trips to promote "tolerant" thought, and elevate acts motivated by "hateful" thoughts to offenses reportable to the state Department of Justice. The most controversial bill, Assembly Bill 1785, provides for the establishment of state-approved human relations programs that teach "appreciation" of diversity, including homosexuality. The new law turns teachers into thought police, establishing in-service training programs and guidelines that "raise (teacher) awareness ... to (students') potentially prejudicial and discriminatory behavior." Those students considered by teachers to be "at risk" of developing such behavior-for example, believing that homosexual behavior is sinful-would be referred to "appropriate counseling." AB1785 establishes a new form of campus crime-reporting. Existing California law requires public-school administrators to make regular reports of crimes occurring on campus. AB1785 establishes new crime subcategories: hate crimes and "hate-motivated incidents." The law defines a hate-motivated incident as "an act which constitutes an expression of hostility against a person, property or institution because of the victim's real or perceived race ... gender ... or sexual orientation." Such acts include "bigoted insults, taunts, or slurs, distributing or posting hate group literature ... or circulating demeaning jokes." So, if Johnny calls Bobby a "fruit" on the playground, his act, under the new law, could be reported to state law enforcement officials. Golden State assemblyman Steve Baldwin called AB1785 "the most dangerous" of the pro-homosexual bills Governor Davis signed. "It sounds nice and sweet because it talks about 'tolerance,' but the bill defines as crime anything 'motivated by hate.' That's a broad and highly subjective judgment." Mr. Baldwin said AB1785 creates for gay activists a legal dragnet. Under the new law, Christian clubs that disagree that homosexual behavior is acceptable, along with health teachers who include information on shortened gay male life spans could all be swept off public-school campuses. -Lynn Vincent Embryos created for sick child
SacriÞced siblings
A Colorado couple, in the first known case of its kind, created several embryos in a lab in order to produce one transplant donor to save the life of their 6-year-old daughter. Doctors late last month took blood from the umbilical cord of 5-week-old Adam Nash-the one embryo allowed to survive-and infused it into his sister, Molly, who suffers from a rare genetic disease that prevents her from creating her own bone marrow. Doctors hope stem cells in Adam's blood will help Molly develop marrow cells. Doctors say they will know within several days whether the transplant was successful. The first debate: The GOP candidate didn't lose
Bush's challenge
It was George W. Bush's debate to lose, and he didn't. Bush passed the test by not living down to his lowest expectations. Al Gore was rude and cocky. He frequently rolled his eyes, smacked his lips, sighed in disgust, and constantly interrupted, even claiming "rebuttal" time that wasn't his. Mr. Gore always seems to have a chant, perhaps the result of hanging out at a Buddhist temple. This time it was "the wealthiest 1 percent." Mr. Bush needs to develop an answer for this. Perhaps he might say, "Look, Al, I'm tired of you bashing the people who make America work. These are entrepreneurs you want to punish for their initiative, sacrifice, and risk-taking. They have built businesses and hired workers, thus expanding the middle class. You want to punish people for becoming wealthy. I want to make it easier for more people to become wealthy." Mr. Bush made some good points. He spoke of Mr. Gore having had nearly eight years to do the things he says he will do if elected president. He wondered what happened to the middle-class tax cut Mr. Gore had promised in 1992. Instead, it got a retroactive tax increase. And Mr. Bush got in the best line of the night in response to the "character question" by noting that "the buck stops here" sign had been moved from the Oval Office to the Lincoln Bedroom. There were plenty of opportunities for Mr. Bush to skewer Mr. Gore, but perhaps for fear of being labeled "mean-spirited," he didn't. Mr. Gore took credit for welfare reform, though his impeached "greatest president" repeatedly vetoed Republican congressional attempts at reform until advisor Dick Morris observed the polls showed the public wanted it. Only then, of course, did President Clinton sign a bill. On RU-486, which Pat Buchanan has called "human pesticide" (he and Ralph Nader should have been included in the debate to liven things up), Mr. Bush did not display the outrage one might expect from a pro-lifer. He didn't even question the timing of the FDA's approval of the drug weeks before the election. And he treated it as a fait accompli, saying he wanted to make sure it wouldn't damage a woman's health. How about the baby's health? Giving people the technological tool to kill a child at an earlier stage does not answer the moral problem of abortion, which is only one part of a growing debate about the use of technology. Mr. Gore virtually conceded he would apply an abortion "litmus test" for Supreme Court justices. Why does he get such a test and Mr. Bush feels he can't have one? The governor should not let the competition for the small number of "undecideds" keep him from articulating his philosophy about the role of government and of life and the importance of having a president who tells the truth. Jimmy Carter scored points following the Nixon years when he said, "I'll never lie to you." -Cal Thomas, © 2000, Los Angeles Times Syndicate VP's stories turn out to be false
Gore's gaffes
George W. Bush likes to say he's not running to be federal superintendent of education. Al Gore, on the other hand, seems to be running for superintendent, facilities supervisor, and lunchroom monitor all in one. That was the impression, at least, as the two candidates sparred in 90 minutes of heated debate on Oct. 3. Both men came out swinging, repeatedly challenging the other's numbers on the budget, tax cuts, and Medicare benefits. With all the "fuzzy math" (in Mr. Bush's words) floating around, viewers probably finished the debate more confused than they started. Overnight polls showed almost no change in the candidates' standing and no clear "winner" on the policy issues. But Mr. Gore did seem to score points with the slice-of-life vignettes he threw in at every opportunity, from seniors who couldn't afford prescription drugs to schoolchildren who had to eat lunch at 9:30 a.m. The most resonant story of all, perhaps, was about 15-year-old Kailey Ellis, whose Sarasota high school is so overcrowded, "They can't squeeze another desk in for her, so she has to stand during class." Just one problem: The story isn't true. Kailey's principal told a local radio station that the overcrowding was limited to the first several days of the fall term, when class sizes were going through a normal adjustment period. Besides that, the science classroom in question was extra crowded because the school had just received $100,000 in new lab equipment, which was still in boxes stacked along the wall. Kailey, and every other student in the school, has had a desk for weeks now, according to the principal. Mr. Gore did admit one lie the next morning. He said during the debate that he traveled to a Texas disaster area in 1996 with Federal Emergency Management Agency head James Lee Witt to examine forest fire damage. He did not-not that year, not any year. In 1998, Mr. Witt was in Texas to observe fire damage, but Mr. Gore arrived after the fires to attend a Democratic Party event. Inquiring reader: Rowling quote
Peeling The Onion
WORLD has criticized the best-selling Harry Potter series of children's books by J.K. Rowling, but we believe in quoting opponents accurately. When reader Linda Teekell sent us an incredible statement that Ms. Rowling supposedly gave to a London Times interviewer, and asked, "Could you check this out to see if there is truth to it, or is this just another hoax?"-well, we jumped to it. The purported quotation, which has been repeatedly e-mailed around, and which the Augusta, Ga., daily newspaper printed, goes as follows: "I think it's absolute rubbish to protest children's books on the grounds that they are luring children to Satan. People should be praising them for that! These books guide children to an understanding that the weak, idiotic Son of God is a living hoax who will be humiliated when the rain of fire comes ... while we, his faithful servants, laugh and cavort in victory." The Onion, a satirical publication, made up the quotation. (It included one pornographic phrase that we have omitted.) The Onion's fictitious article included several quotations from blaspheming children planning satanic rituals. It claimed that 14 million American children have joined the Church of Satan because of Harry Potter. Apparently many people took the story at face value; for example, someone posted the entire Onion piece on FaithCafe.com, with the comment, "I hope Christians everywhere will do something about this.... For the sake of your own kids and others as well, not to mention the future of our country." We'll send a WORLD WEAR cap to Linda Teekell. Violence heats up Israel
'I cannot accept it'
A week of fierce fighting between Israeli troops and Palestinians left more than 60 people dead and nearly 2,000 injured. The fighting was the most widespread in years, with clashes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and scattered gunfire along with tense demonstrations in Jerusalem. Israeli troops fired armor-piercing missiles at a Palestinian police post on Oct. 4 and sent tanks to Bethlehem; that day, six Palestinians, including a 13-year-old boy, were killed in morning firefights alone. Some pundits said the violence was triggered by a Sept. 28 visit to the Temple Mount-a holy site for both Jews and Palestinians-by Likud Party leader Ariel Sharon. Palestinians blame Mr. Sharon for Israel's actions in southern Lebanon and other areas. Mr. Sharon admitted that his visit was intended to assert Israeli sovereignty over the site, but the violence began two days before his visit when Palestinian extremists attacked Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak called on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to rein in the extremists, but called out troops when he did not. Mr. Arafat tried to portray himself as a martyr. With pre-planned peace negotiations underway in Paris on Oct. 4, he stormed out of a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Mr. Barak, shouting, "This is humiliation. I cannot accept it!" Ms. Albright chased him on foot, calling for guards to shut the gates. When Mr. Arafat returned to the table, Israel's Mr. Barak agreed to pull back his military hardware from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Ten killed, 49 wounded among korean-led congregation
Tajik church bombed
Two powerful explosions rocked church services in a Korean-led church in Tajikistan, killing 10 members of the congregation and wounding at least 49. The Oct. 1 bombing at Sonmin Grace Church came two days after the U.S. embassy evacuated American personnel because it received "a confirmed threat against foreigners." The church, begun by South Korean missionaries several years ago, included ethnic Russian, Tajik, and Korean Christians. A year ago police raided worship services at least three times, confiscating literature and arresting some church members. Government officials threatened to remove the church's state registration for its evangelistic activities in other Tajik towns. The harassment did not stop with the tragedy: After the bombing, police arrested 12 church leaders and held them overnight for questioning. One eyewitness who tried to visit the detainees told Compass Direct that jailers had beaten at least one church leader, a South Korean. The central Asian country is coming off a five-year civil war between communist holdovers and an Islamic opposition. Greenspan's fed holds rates steady
Alan Greenspan held back this time. The Federal Reserve last week left interest rates alone for the third time this year, marking a departure from a string of earlier increases. The Fed's six spikes since June, 1999, raised borrowing costs for businesses and consumers. The Fed, concerned about inflation, intended to slow down an economy that it said was growing too fast during the high-tech boom. But the economy showed no signs of obedience. The gross domestic product-America's total output of goods and services-grew at a 5.6 percent annual rate between April and June, according to the Commerce Department. That beat the sizzling 4.8 percent rate between January and March. However, if the goal of the rate increases was to chasten stock markets that Mr. Greenspan feared were overvalued, the Fed seems to have succeeded. On Oct. 3, the day of the announcement, the technology-heavy Nasdaq index closed 34 percent below this year's record highs. Technology bellwethers have suffered badly: Microsoft was down 53 percent and Intel 47 percent from their 52-week highs. Internet godzillas are bleeding even worse: Amazon had plummeted 69 percent and Yahoo tanked 66 percent. Even Wal-Mart was down 34 percent. Is the raging bull market now a grizzly bear? Managed care plans to cover RU-486
Death insurance
Many women seeking abortion via RU-486 will be able to charge the drug to their medical insurance. Several major managed care plans, including Aetna, United HealthCare, and Cigna, announced last week that they will cover it as a standard benefit. PacifiCare will leave the decision to doctors, while Humana and Kaiser Permanente said they are still deciding whether to cover the pill. Danco Laboratories, which just won FDA approval for the drug, plans to make the pill available under the brand name Mifeprex later this month. Overbuilding, competition from home videos leads to bankruptcy for three big cinema chains
Theaters' family problem
Next time you want to catch a flick, will there be a movie theater left to show it? Many cinema chains are in horrible shape and three big ones-United Artists, Edwards, and Carmike-have filed for bankruptcy. The problem: Lots of expensive buildings. Home video came to threaten the big boxes in the 1980s and the result was a building spree that replaced the bland mall theaters with huge multiplexes; often, several screens showed the same movie. Stadium seating, parking garages, and high-powered sound systems went up for suburban audiences. This was great for the studios, which pulled in record receipts, but the overbuilt theaters are now struggling to survive. The theater chains have never figured out how to deal with their family problem. A household can own a tape of a movie for less than the cost of tickets for everyone, plus video stores have a bigger selection. And at home, no excess noise comes from other people's kids. Bob Fridley, who runs the small Iowa-based Fridley Theaters, blames Hollywood for the demise of four of his 38 cinemas. He says he won't re-open any screens until the fare improves: "They make movies to appeal to high-school kids, then put an R-rating on it." The inevitable backlash of closing could resemble the death of the great movie palaces, when glorious Bijous and Roxys were shuttered and demolished in the wake of television. Home theater is getting cheaper and better, with brilliant widescreen pictures and digital sound available in living rooms. Movie theaters still have some unique qualities: giant screens for a total-immersion viewing experience, along with the advantage of receiving films months before they are available at home. How long will that advantage survive? -Chris Stamper U.K. compact comeback
Ugly-car chic
The ugliest car of the 20th century is coming to America in a fit of retro-chic. A revamped British compact called the Mini is back after 35 years, harkening back to the days when MGs, Triumphs, and Fiats tooled down America's highways. What once was a cheap option for the lower middle class has become an upscale item for GenXers. Chrysler offers a similar car, called the PT Cruiser, and it is flying out of automobile showrooms. The Mini is a squat little car of the sort that added ambiance to old spy movies. Built as a response to the Suez Crisis of the 1950s, it was the British answer to the Volkswagen: a short, dumpy engine-in-the-front job intended to be cheap transportation for common folk. The Mini is small, boxy, and so visually dreadful that it winds up cute; over five million have been sold over the years. Now BMW owns the rights to the Mini and is marketing it to those who see cars as fashion statements. The company attracted crowds with the Mini at the Paris Auto Show this year and plans to have it back on our shores by 2002. One new Mini is already in the United States: a prototype on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Streisand ends her concert career
Goodbye, girl
So long, Diva. Barbra Streisand, 58, gave farewell concerts to adoring crowds at Madison Square Garden on Sept. 26 and 27. She says the performances marked the end of her concert career. Ms. Streisand's concerts officially sold out, but they weren't huge hits. Scalpers were forced to sell tickets below face value just to unload them. Ms. Streisand hasn't had a hit for years and critics are on the rise. FM radio doesn't play her old hits-lounge songs like "People," "Send in the Clowns," and "The Way We Were"-anymore. Last May, Forbes American Heritage dubbed her "most overrated singer." Ms. Streisand hasn't said farewell to politics. The activist for fashionable liberal causes was the toast of private parties at the Democratic National Convention last summer, and she is a Friend of Bill par excellence, speaking out for Mr. Clinton and helping raise boatloads of cash. "I mean, why not Hillary?" she exclaimed to NBC News not long after the First Lady announced she was running for the Senate.

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