Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "Mad Dash," Dec. 16, 2000

Scholarships for those 'other than heterosexual' proliferate
Deviance pays
What does it take to earn a scholarship these days? Academic achievement, community service and, increasingly, a same-sex sexual proclivity. Since homosexual college student Matthew Shepard was beaten to death in October 1998, scholarships for homosexuals and their allies have proliferated across the country. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are now available for those "self-identified" as gay, or supportive of homosexuality. For example, Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, now accepts applications for the $2,000 Matthew Shepard Scholarship from students who identify themselves as "other than heterosexual." In California, Golden Gate University law professor Michael Zamperini is a namesake for a law school scholarship for lesbian and gay students. And the National Gay Pilots Association in 1998 established two $1,500 scholarships for homosexual student pilots because, said the group's executive director Ron Swanda, "piloting is one of the last strongholds of homophobia." Such four-digit awards, though, are mere pocket change compared with the mammoth scholarships available to homosexual and "gay-supportive" students at Iowa's state universities. At a ceremony last spring, Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack announced three such scholarships-each worth $25,000 over four years. Traditional scholarship forms don't have questions about sexual preference, but advocates of gay-only scholarships nevertheless feel oppressed. "There are tons of scholarships available for heterosexuals," said Maria Lindsey, scholarship program coordinator for the Seattle-based Pride Foundation. Ms. Lindsey said the purpose of all their funds is to "strengthen the gay community and to promote activism in the community.... What we do is make it easier for gay and lesbian students to get money for school." Already, homosexual activists are manufacturing new sub-categories in order to broaden the definition of "sexual minorities in financial need." The Pride Foundation-supported by homosexual business groups with mainstream-sounding names like the "Greater Seattle Business Association" and the "Inland Northwest Business Alliance"-doles out college cash to a rainbow of sexual niche groups including "transgender youth and adults," "gay men and lesbians of color," and "students raised in lesbian or gay families." Last year, the foundation gave homosexual and "gay-supportive" students more than $77,000 in scholarships. Recent recipients include a transgender man studying auto mechanics at Spokane Community College, a gay youth who opposed measures at his high school that he perceived as "anti-gay," and a male Evergreen State College student who is pursuing a graduate degree in feminist psychology. At least one mainline church sponsors a scholarship for homosexuals. Next year, the United Church of Christ will bestow the first William R. Johnson Scholarships, awards named for the first openly homosexual minister ordained in the United States. The scholarships will go to homosexual and transgender seminary students planning on full-time ministry.-by World Journalism Institute students Richard Roberts and Sara Eisfeld jailed In Russia
American sentenced
A Moscow court last week found ailing American businessman Edmond Pope guilty of obtaining classified blueprints and sentenced him to 20 years in prison, despite recanted testimony from Mr. Pope's key accuser and the 54-year-old defendant's problems with bone cancer. Mr. Pope maintains that the plans for a high-speed underwater torpedo, which he purchased, were not secret because they had already been published and sold overseas. The U.S. government has joined his family and lawyers in calling on Russia to free Mr. Pope, and some analysts predict a chill in U.S.-Russian relations and in foreign investors' confidence in Russia if he remains in prison. Hollywood braces for writers & actors strike
Labor pains
The longest strike in Hollywood history is over, but labor troubles in tinsel town may not be. Members of two big performers unions overwhelmingly approved a new contract with commercial advertisers, but both the Writers Guild of America and the unions representing TV and film actors are threatening a strike against the TV networks and movie studios. The Screen Actors Guild and The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists voted overwhelmingly to end their fight with the ad industry, giving Hollywood a sigh of relief. The new contracts stay in effect until 2003. The unions lost the fight to spread the residual system to cable TV stations, but won a victory by getting ad agencies to concede their jurisdiction over online advertising. Now the writers and actors move from commercials to programs and movies-and threaten to shut down Hollywood. The last major strike lasted 22 weeks in 1988, putting the TV season on hold and draining millions from studio coffers. The key issues in the fight this time are increases in residual fees for TV shows and movies (particularly from overseas) and changes in screen credits. Many in the industry believe the present period is a calm before a storm. Producers are scrambling to find scripts and have projects approved in time. The WGA contract expires May 1, while the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television & Radio Artists deals run out July 1. A strike would make 11,000 writers and 135,000 actors unavailable. What happens if the strike comes? The 2001 season could be delayed or canceled. The screens could be filled with old programming, documentaries, and product from independent studios. TV could see yet another blast of reality entertainment, since real people don't have union contracts. And Hollywood could lose a fortune. Online guru leaves hedge fund
Street kill
If online trading is a circus, then James Cramer is a ringmaster. As co-founder of TheStreet.com, he serves up play-by-play on the markets with headlines like "Wake Up and Smell the Losses" and "Two Whacks With a Two-by-Four." This year his company's stock hit the tank and Mr. Cramer himself was the subject of an unflattering book by Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz. Now the Master of The Universe has blinked. He's resigned from his other job at a hedge fund, a 14-year-old operation that lets millionaires toss money into a kitty that he and partner Jeff Berkowitz use to trade investments. "Our firm has compounded at 24 percent net after all fees for 14 years," he bragged in late November. Just last month he taunted doubters who said that professional traders are overrated. "I will eat you for lunch tomorrow, as I have ever since times got tough," he sneered. "I prey on you. You make my returns." Now Mr. Cramer says he wants to end his famous workaholism, and he would rather spend his time writing and being with his family. Dalai Lama seeks 'middle way'
Talking to China
The Dalai Lama celebrated 50 years as priest-king of Tibet, telling reporters that he has resumed contact with Beijing. Now he wants to be able to send a fact-finding delegation to his homeland. The man born Tenzin Gyatso says he doesn't want Tibet to break from the communist empire, saying he is willing to accept an autonomous state within China. "Of course, everybody knows I am not seeking independence," he said. "My commitment to the middle way is not changed." Now 65, the Dalai Lama fled to India after a failed 1959 uprising against the Chinese. He set up a government-in-exile in 1960 and slowly became Buddhism's equivalent of Mother Teresa, soft-spoken and beloved by the world's media. In the United States, the Dalai Lama's Buddhism has caused many who normally avoid anti-communism to rally to his side. The would-be Tibetan leader is the toast of Hollywood and even appeared in a late-1990s Apple Computer ad. "Being religious isn't important," he said in a 1998 New York appearance. "What matters is being a good person." The Dalai Lama plans another American tour next year, lecturing on topics like "Compassion and Universal Responsibility in a New Century." Boy Scouts take school board to court
Another Broward case
The Boy Scouts of South Florida, expelled from schools last month by the Broward County School Board (WORLD, Dec. 9), filed a complaint in federal court on Dec. 4, charging the school board with violating their First Amendment rights to free speech and expressive association and their right to equal protection under the law. The school board's diversity committee had kicked out 57 troops because the Boy Scouts do not let avowed homosexuals become Scout leaders. The Boy Scouts' complaint alleged that many other groups use Broward schools but also discriminate by excluding children of a certain age or gender. "The School Board cannot single out the Boy Scouts simply because it disagrees with one or more of our policies," said Scout head Jeffrie Herrman. Meanwhile, in neighboring Dade County, the Christian Coalition succeeded in collecting enough signatures to put a local sexual-orientation nondiscrimination law to a countywide vote. That provision was used this year by the Miami-Dade County Commission to cut funding for Scout troops in poor neighborhoods by more than $75,000. -Margaret Menge Inquiring reader
Every vote counts
Vice President Al Gore grabbed the popular vote, but were all the absentee votes counted? WORLD reader Ricki Cochran heard that some states ditch the absentee votes if a candidate already has an overwhelming majority, making the total popular vote unknown. Not so, says the Federal Election Commission and other sources we checked. Absentee votes are always counted and included in the popular vote, though they are sometimes counted last. Ricki Cochran will receive a WORLD WEAR cap. Collectibles as investments
Keepsakes may not keep their value
Some people like their ornaments more than their trees. Since the 1970s, Hallmark's Keepsake collection has quietly joined the ranks of baseball cards, action figures, and Barbie dolls. The greeting card gorilla says there's a market of 31 million Americans collecting ornaments of some sort. Enthusiasts typically buy 10-13 every year at about $10 a pop. Every year about 200 of these come out, usually taking up a good chunk of a wall at the Hallmark store. The core business of the Keepsakes is licensed merchandise-ornaments that are figurines representing Peanuts, Star Wars, I Love Lucy, and even Veggie Tales. As with bubble gum cards, once the season ends every piece is retired and an entire new collection comes next year. Most of the Hallmark Keepsakes are cute, but are these mementos really worth something? Financial advisors tend to frown on collectibles in general unless the collector is an enthusiast or the collectible is particularly valuable. A 1979 "Santa's Motorcar" figure has been priced at about $690 and a 1991 Starship Enterprise has been priced at $395. On the other hand, lots of other Hallmark Keepsakes can be found selling on eBay for less than their original retail price. As decorations, they can be pretty valuable. As investments, they look pretty risky-especially since many people keep their ornaments from year to year, cutting down on scarcity. Hallmark encourages collection, but doesn't take a position on the ornaments' value. -Chris Stamper Finicky cat mascot may be back on TV
More Morris?
Morris the Cat may have another life. H.J. Heinz Co. is hinting that the famous mascot may show up in a new ad campaign for 9 Lives cat food next year. He hasn't been seen in one for 10 years. "The equity of our 9-Lives brand has been allowed to languish," announced Joe Jimenez, the president of Heinz's North American business. "Morris the Cat has been underleveraged." The Morris character dates back to 1968, with a voiceover speaking the cat's finicky thoughts during TV commercials. Morris became a personification of every housecat, mixed with the idea that millions could love a pet plucked from obscurity. Americans loved the character even as the original joke got old. Throughout the 1990s, Morris was still around, though taking the lower-profile role of goodwill ambassador and corporate icon, along the lines of Budweiser's Clydesdale horses. This year Heinz started preparing a new cat for action, and Heinz official Rose Ordile introduced Morris IV last May. In keeping with tradition, he was rescued from an animal shelter. For weeks Ms. Ordile traveled around the country, looking for a male orange tabby with just the right look and mellow manner. Morris IV now lives with Ms. Ordile in her Southern California home. Whether he can bring back the magic of the past remains to be seen. Ben & Jerry's founder denounces new owners
Hippie capitalism
Is hippie capitalism dead? Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream is in the middle of a corporate power struggle between its bohemian founders and its new corporate parents. Ben Cohen set aside his affable public persona and threatened to quit unless the Unilever conglomerate brings back the "social mission" that is part of the ice cream's identity. The Anglo-Dutch food company shelled out $326 million for the company in April and last month gave the CEO spot to one of its own veterans, Frenchman Yves Couette. Unilever and Mr. Couette haven't said they are changing the Ben & Jerry's philosophy, but the founders fear the worst. "Ben & Jerry's will become just another brand like any other soulless, heartless, spiritless brand out there-that's my concern," said Mr. Cohen. Over the years, Mr. Cohen and partner Jerry Greenfield gave the corporate imprimatur to causes ranging from organic farming to the anti-nuclear power movement to the Children's Defense Fund. Observers suspect the founders could be out the door soon, and Ben & Jerry's will no longer be a dairy brand with a political ideology.

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