Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "Here we go again," Nov. 11, 2000

steve allen: man knows not his time
Final bow
Christian conservatives lost a non-Christian ally and America lost an entertainment giant last week when Steve Allen died of an apparent heart attack at age 78. Mr. Allen, a self-described freethinker and humanist, pioneered the late-night television talk show by introducing NBC's Tonight Show. He also appeared on Broadway, wrote thousands of songs and dozens of books, acted in soap operas, and wrote newspaper columns. "He was one of the sharpest guys off the cuff," said current Tonight host Jay Leno. "He played many characters, straight man and comic, and he did each role perfectly." Later in life, Mr. Allen joined with the Parents Television Council (PTC) to campaign against explicit television content. He called on parents, grandparents, and families "fed up with steamy unmarried sex situations, filthy jokes, perversions, vulgarity, foul language, violence, killings" to put pressure on the companies who sponsor the offending TV shows. "All across the spectrum, thoughtful observers are appalled by what passes for entertainment these days," Mr. Allen told WORLD in a recent interview. "No one can claim that the warning cries are simply the exaggerations of conservative spoilsports or fundamentalist preachers." Despite his non-Christian beliefs, he defended Christian conservatives concerned about the immorality of TV and criticized the typical Hollywood response of "If you don't like it, just don't watch it." "That is about as stupid as saying if you see something outrageous taking place, and you don't like what you're witnessing, just don't watch it. Would I call 911 if I witnessed a crime taking place or pick up a garden hose and turn on the water if I saw my neighbor's house afire? Anyone who cared about television would be willing to do something to improve it." Mr. Allen "never wavered in his determination to return Hollywood to its foundation as a force for good in American society," PTC Chairman L. Brent Bozell III said. "America has lost a role model." COIN-FLIPPING JUROR'S VERDICT STANDS
Tails, you lose
The Supreme Court last week let stand a guilty verdict in a drug case where a holdout juror reached his decision by flipping a coin. A California court convicted Isidro Samuel Reyes on a cocaine charge after a jury deliberated for two days. One juror who had consistently voted to acquit changed his vote to guilty after flipping a quarter during the final lunch break. Mr. Reyes, who unsuccessfully sought a new trial, received a seven-year sentence. The juror testified that he never changed his opinion of Mr. Reyes's innocence, but decided to "go along with the flow." America tunes out ny vs. ny
Series strikeout
What if they held a World Series and no one tuned in? This year's Fall Classic was the lowest-rated since the 1950s as the New York Yankees beat the New York Mets in a media-hyped five-game "Subway Series." The ratings were huge in the Big Apple, but low everywhere else, averaging an overnight rating of 15.1, down 4 percent from 1998. Still, Fox, which aired the series, was able to top the other networks on four of the five game nights. The previous low point was the 1998 World Series, a four-game sweep by the Yankees over the San Diego Padres. NO PRISON TIME FOR WOMAN WHO LEFT HER NEWBORN SON IN AN AIRPORT RESTROOM; GRANDPARENTS SEEK CUSTODY OF THE BABY
Harsh birth, easy sentence
Just before attempting to board a plane for London to visit her boyfriend, Kelly Angell slipped into the restroom at Boston's Logan Airport. The pregnant 20-year-old had felt labor pains coming on. In the restroom, she delivered her own baby, severing the umbilical cord with her fingernail. Instead of wrapping the baby in something warm, she placed her newborn son "in the toilet," according to prosecutor David Deakin. "[She] then placed toilet paper over the baby and left the bathroom." A cleaning woman heard the infant's cries and summoned two physicians, providentially in the terminal area, who administered emergency care. Benjamin Robert Angell-Clifton did not die. Airport security officers ran down Ms. Angell, who, according to The Boston Globe, was standing in line for the London flight, "boarding pass in hand ... wearing blood-stained jeans and ... fumbling with a bottle of pain medicine." She was arrested. Baby Benjamin entered foster care. At trial late last month, Ms. Angell didn't dispute the facts surrounding her son's birth. A judge found her guilty of child abandonment and allowing injury to a child under 14. Prosecutors recommended an 18-month prison sentence and five years' probation. But the judge refused to send her to jail, and instead sentenced her to 17 months' probation and counseling. John Fox, an attorney who is representing baby Benjamin, said Ms. Angell's sentence improves the chances that custody will be granted to her parents, Mark and Lee Angell of South Portland, Maine. He noted that Ms. Angell will probably be required to move out of her parents' home if they gain custody of Benjamin. The elder Angells, said Mr. Fox, "will do whatever terms and conditions the state requires in an attempt to regain custody." The baby's father, Graeme Clifton, a 21-year-old computer science student at East Anglia University in Norwich, England, appealed to be left in peace following the trial: "I don't want to say anything at the moment. I just want to get on with my life." PROBE OF NEW TAILHOOK INCIDENT ENDS WITH CHARGES DISMISSED
Off the Tailhook
Navy investigators dismissed a sexual harassment allegation against naval aviators who attended the Tailhook Association's convention three months ago. The man who brought the complaint, a civilian who with his wife was staying at the Nevada hotel that hosted the convention, said aviators made inappropriate comments and had contact with his wife when the couple tried to pass through a crowded hallway. The couple refused to be interviewed by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and the Los Angeles Times said they didn't sign a complaint with the local police after they were told that a security camera taped the incident. The Navy severed its ties to Tailhook after the 1991 convention involved highly publicized episodes of property damage and sexual assault. Just this year it resumed sponsoring the event. FEDS: HOW does BUFFETT PICK WINNERS?
Just buy his book
First Bill Gates, now Warren Buffett? Federal regulators want to know the stock-picking secrets of the man who built one of the largest fortunes in American history. Mr. Buffett, nicknamed the "Oracle of Omaha" by some admirers, is under scrutiny from the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to a Bloomberg report. SEC investigators don't claim that he did anything wrong. They say that they just want more details about his equity positions. Most of Mr. Buffett's wealth is in a publicly traded holding company called Berkshire Hathaway, whose stock was worth about $100 billion at the end of October. He owns such companies as Dairy Queen, GEICO insurance, and The Buffalo News, along with major chunks of American Express, Coca-Cola, and Gillette. The tycoon said last year that about 250,000 investors held stock in Berkshire Hathaway. Mr. Buffett explains his investment strategies in lengthy annual letters to shareholders. Numerous books also explain his methods. MICROSOFT FALLS VICTIM TO NET HACKER
Was it Janet Reno?
Not even Microsoft is safe. Using an Internet account in Russia, a hacker broke into the software giant's computer systems and apparently found the code for a new piece of software. The hacker created phony user accounts, then tried to upgrade their privileges to gain access to company secrets. Microsoft admitted that its experts couldn't track the infiltrator despite more than a week's worth of cat-and-mouse games through the corporate network. "Only the dumb ones get caught," former Justice Department official Mark Rasch said. Microsoft workers tried to track the intruder on their own, but could not determine where his commands were coming from. Hackers often use other computers across the Internet, often ones they have previously broken into, to "bounce" their data around to confuse trackers. liberal baptists in texas, angered by conservative successes, slash giving
The end is near
As expected, Southern Baptists in Texas by sizable majorities slashed giving to the Southern Baptist Convention's six seminaries, the SBC headquarters operation, and the SBC's ethics and public policy agency ("Texas chain saw," Oct. 14). Nearly 6,500 voting "messengers" took part in the late-October annual meeting of their state unit in Corpus Christi. Their leaders, aligned with the so-called "moderate" dissidents in the SBC, had recommended the defunding to protest successes of theological conservatives in the 15.8-million-member denomination. SBC leaders admit to being concerned. The 2.7-million-member Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) is the SBC's largest state affiliate. It represents 17 percent of the SBC's membership and accounts for 13 percent of SBC giving. The six seminaries face cutbacks if they can't raise enough new funds to replace the $4.3 million the Texans axed. (The money will be redirected to three small moderate-oriented schools in Texas.) Of the $52 million BGCT budget, $19 million will still flow to the SBC home and international mission agencies, but that policy is up for reconsideration next year. BGCT leaders are reviewing a proposal to invite disaffected churches in other states to join their organization. An SBC executive in Nashville said it all "signals the beginning of the end game" by "anti-Southern Baptists." Meanwhile, conservatives have formed the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention to counter the BGCT. More than 400 congregations have joined the 2-year-old group, and a chunk of the BGCT's remaining 6,000 churches may switch to the new group as a result of Corpus Christi. REMEMBERING THOSE who are PERSECUTED FOR THEIR FAITH
They have a prayer
Steve Haas has quit counting churches. The chairman of the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church says his organization has seen "a reliable increase" in the number of Christians participating in the Nov. 12 event, but goes no further. World Evangelical Fellowship, a partner in IDOP efforts, estimates that more than 300,000 churches worldwide are participating this year with special services or segments of regular Sunday worship devoted to the persecuted. Now in its fifth year, the International Day of Prayer has captured great support among American evangelical congregations. Sudan tops the list of persecuting countries receiving prayer attention: The Islamic regime is continuing its attacks on Christians, and governmental leaders in other nations-including the Clinton administration-have offered little opposition. Some anti-persecution activists hoped that the outpouring of Christian prayer would come during the U.S. campaign season instead of just days after it is over. But Mr. Haas said, "It has always been on the second Sunday of November, without consideration of any country's political process." INQUIRING READER: IS THE NRA SHOOTING STRAIGHT?
Constitution control
Gun-control arguments are usually smoke in the air, but when the law targets Second Amendment rights, everyone takes aim. WORLD reader Mike Hurd received a National Rifle Association flier claiming the Department of Justice no longer views the Second Amendment as guaranteeing to individuals the right to keep and bear arms, and he wanted to know whether the NRA was exaggerating. Apparently not. In U.S. vs. Emerson last year, a Department of Justice attorney did claim that Timothy Joe Emerson of San Angelo, Texas, has no constitutional right to possess a gun. Texas federal judge Sam R. Cummings did not buy that argument, but now a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans is deciding whether to uphold the hotly contested ruling. Experts say the battle is likely to end in the Supreme Court, where the nine justices will deconstruct the founders' statement that "A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." And Mike Hurd will receive a WORLD Wear cap too colorful to wear while hunting. AHA releases new dietary guidelines
Veggie hails
The American Heart Association wants Americans to walk past those vending machines, 7-Elevens, and Baskin-Robbins stores more often without stopping. The organization released new dietary guidelines last month that are supposed to make healthy eating easier by playing down fat and nutrient percentages and playing up overall eating patterns. As with previous editions, the revision urges a varied diet including fruits, vegetables, legumes (beans), whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fish, lean meats, and poultry. The AHA wants healthy adults to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables and six servings of grains. This time, there's also a major addition: It now recommends two weekly servings of fatty fish, such as tuna or salmon. The AHA is also turning up its warnings about obesity. Dr. Ronald M.Krauss, lead author of the report, says that Americans eat too many calories and do not receive enough nutritional value for what they consume. He said that people should avoid sugary soft drinks and commercially baked goods and recommends people lose weight gradually, not dropping more than a pound or two every week. Also, his report says alcohol consumption should be at most one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. The new guidelines take a jab at the fad diet industry. The organization says, for example, that there is little scientific evidence to believe that high-protein diets result in significant changes in metabolism, sustained weight loss, or improved health. "Simply put," Dr. Krauss said, "to lose weight, you must eat fewer calories than you burn and increase physical activity, such as brisk walking, to at least 30 minutes daily." To figure out how many calories you use in a day, the AHA recommends multiplying your current weight by 15 if you're moderately active or 13 if you get very little exercise. Gene-altered grain pulled
Supercorn scare
Is genetically altered corn unhealthy? Probably not, say scientists, but a souped-up grain called StarLink is giving the food industry headaches. The grain is genetically engineered to be toxic to insects and has federal approval only for animal feed or industrial uses. Last week, though, it showed up in various products in grocery stores. Kraft made headlines by pulling Taco Bell-brand taco shells, and Kellogg closed a Memphis breakfast cereal plant because a supplier could not guarantee its corn was StarLink-free. The Agriculture Department started tracking down the grain in late September. So far, it has been unable to trace about 1.5 percent-or 1.2 million bushels-of the StarLink corn. Several other varieties of gene-altered corn already are approved for human use and are used in processed foods. The X factor for StarLink is food allergies: It contains a special protein that digests slowly, like peanuts and other foods that induce some allergies. Researchers haven't fully studied this and other sorts of reactions. Still, StarLink corn makes up only a small fraction of the corn that farmers produce. America's corn harvest this year is about 10.4 billion bushels, only 10 percent of which is for human consumption. By comparison, farmers grew only 80 million bushels of StarLink corn this year. Actor considers a remake of bomb
Travolta's personal battleÞeld
One good bomb deserves another. John Travolta is hinting about a coming sequel to the disastrous movie Battlefield Earth. It will apparently cover the second half of the phone book-length pulp novel from Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. The star was the object of ridicule for his portrayal of an alien who keeps humans enslaved. The villains are called Psyclos; supposedly this symbolically refers to psychiatrists in Hubbard's paranoid view of the mental health industry. Mr. Travolta, a public Hubbard devotee, told Reuters that he was delighted with the whole experience after spending 15 years trying to get Hollywood to make the movie. "The bottom line is that I feel really good about it," he said. "Here I was taking big chances, breaking a new genre." The movie's release put copies of Hubbard's books on display in countless bookstores, with big thick Battlefield stuffing the paperback racks of groceries, drug stores, and gift shops. Another Battlefield may keep Hubbard in the public eye and help keep his work in print a few years longer. -Chris Stamper Authors cash in with hit piece
A Wall Street journal
Investment banks are where cash cows go to get milk. This universe is obscure to most people, but investment houses make possible everything from new dot-coms to hostile takeovers. They're the guys who do the deals that launch a new company's initial public offering onto the stock market. John Rolfe and Peter Troob spent the mid-90s as young MBAs in the jungles of Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette and collected war stories in their book Monkey Business (Warner Books). They describe their old jobs as "processing lots of junk for fees and making things look pretty so that the Fidelitys, Putnams, and unsuspecting individual investors of the world would buy them without asking too many questions." The authors' anecdotes wear thin fast (Michael Lewis's Liar's Poker is a far better memoir), and they would have better served readers if they had avoided an old hustle: making Wall Street look ugly so that money-envious liberal arts majors will buy attacks on business without asking too many questions. The authors go astray in portraying banking as evil in itself-and in suggesting that DLJ, Morgan Stanley, or Goldman Sachs require employees to live as hedonists. Wall Street has plenty of brains and money, but it's easier to find a hot tip than a good book about business. Once-popular Rock genre is barely remembered
Rusty metal
Whatever became of heavy metal music? It haunted youth culture through the '80s and into the '90s, then it was gone. An entire rock genre once loved and hated by millions is now barely remembered. Back then, bands like Iron Maiden, Megadeth, and WASP were all the rage among an exploding youth culture. Satanic lyrics, endless guitar solos, and gallons of hair spray became symbols of subcultural sensationalism. Then alternative music took over and metal vanished in a poof of Gen-X angst. Today, metal doesn't even merit much recollection. Retro-80s music buffs are more likely to remember new wave bands like Depeche Mode or A Flock of Seagulls than Anthrax or Slayer. Former Black Sabbath lead singer Ozzy Osbourne has taken up acting, appearing in Adam Sandler's new movie. He told Movieline magazine that seeing wilder social circles again isn't enticing. "I've been blown away (by Hollywood)," Mr. Osbourne said. "I don't mix. I don't drink or get stoned anymore, so what's the point? I like to stay home and play with my dogs and my kids."

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