Dispatches > The Buzz
- PBS, which prides itself on carrying high-minded programming, is now jumping on the reality TV bandwagon. It grabbed a show called American High that originally ran on the Fox network but was canceled after four episodes. The show follows a group of real students through their senior year in a Chicago-area high school. R.J. Cutler, maker of the Clinton campaign documentary The War Room, produced the series.
- An armed teenager held a classroom full of children and a teacher hostage at his former elementary school before surrendering to authorities. The standoff in the eighth-grade classroom at Pioneer Elementary School in Glendale, Ariz., lasted about an hour. Police said the portable classroom was full when the student walked in with a 9mm handgun, but he gradually let students go.
- Nearly 7,000 college students who applied for financial aid this fall are being denied due to drug convictions. Under a new law, students can lose one year of federal aid eligibility for a first conviction on a drug-possession charge, and two years for a second conviction. They can be suspended indefinitely for a third. About 790,000 applicants initially failed to answer the question of whether they had been convicted of using drugs when they filled out their student aid applications. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Board of Education dropped tough graduation requirements for the class of 2001 after learning that 30 percent of the city's high-school seniors would fail to meet them.
- Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's visit last week to North Korea, and President Clinton's planned trip there this month, overlap the 50th anniversary of American heavy losses on the peninsula, when North Korean and Chinese forces vise-gripped U.S. soldiers along the Yalu River. (34,000 Americans died in the war.) The president's unprecedented trip seeks an unseasonable thaw in relations in the final months of his administration and in advance of U.S.-North Korean talks aimed at ending the war. Fighting ended in 1953, but the nations only signed a truce; 37,000 U.S. troops along with South Korean forces patrol the border of North and South Korea, facing as many as 1 million North Korean troops. The Clinton trip "is not likely to advance the cause of peace in the region," said Heritage Foundation Asian Studies Center director Larry Wortzel. "Instead, it will bestow legitimacy on a repressive regime."
- Communism is dying, and now Gus Hall is dead. The Communist Party USA chief, who toiled for the party for 74 years, died of diabetic complications at age 90. As party boss, Mr. Hall followed orders from Moscow to the end, bitterly lamenting the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. "I did what I believe in. I believe socialism is inevitable," he said in a 1992 interview. "Life cannot go on forever without that step [socialism], and setbacks don't change it."