Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "One president, under God," Feb. 3, 2001

Accounting for accountability
It's hard for Democrats to disagree with President Bush's insistence that, where education is concerned, no child should be left behind. But if education reform means crossing the politically powerful National Education Association, kid, you're on your own. President Bush rolled out his education plan last week and, despite some areas of bipartisan agreement, it quickly drew liberal hostility. Here's the hot spot: The president wants to redirect federal funds from schools that fail three years in a row to help fund alternatives for at-risk students. This isn't really a voucher program by the usual definition, but it's close enough to have NEA-friendly opponents tossing around the dreaded V-word. Mr. Bush also proposes a package of reading programs, after-school care, and teacher training, which Democrats tend to like, but the funding plan and student testing requirements have them in a fighting mood. As a play for bipartisanship, Mr. Bush's plan tosses in extra money to schools that fail in two consecutive years (giving them one last chance). Under a current federal program, the states have deemed 8,000 of their schools as failing. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), point man for a centrist Democrat counterproposal, said his colleagues' plan shared in common with the Bush plan greater accountability for public schools and local flexibility. But the former voucher supporter said he doubted "there's a consensus in Congress for vouchers-certainly not the kind of vouchers President Bush has in his proposal." The president called Sen. Lieberman's remarks "a great place to begin," but added that without the threat of vouchers as a consequence, "it's not much of an accountability system."
Bear market
Could Jesse Jackson's scandal have repercussions on Wall Street? The flamboyant activist organized a campaign ostensibly to bring African-Americans into more corporate boardrooms, but the revelation of recent adultery that produced a child could incite a backlash. Rod Dreher reported in the New York Post that the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition's Wall Street Project could face hard times. He speculated that the issue of Mr. Jackson's mistress and child may prompt questions about "Jesse Inc.'s" financial standing. Where did the money come from that bought his girlfriend's house and car? Details are sketchy. Meanwhile, Mr. Jackson has jumped back into public life, just days after he admitted to adultery. Asked during a brief news conference if he thought news of his affair would hurt his ability to lead, Mr. Jackson answered: "No," without elaboration.
Bush-league 'comedy'
Rumors of civility to the contrary, Comedy Central as of Jan. 23 still planned to air a new series mocking President Bush and slandering his two daughters. As reported by WORLD two weeks ago, plans for the show, by the creators of the scatological cartoon show South Park, have it as a live-action sitcom about the first family, including a portrayal of the Bush children in terms of homosexuality, promiscuity, and even incest. The working title was Family First, but the new title will be That's My Bush. Originally scheduled to premier in February, the show is now scheduled for March. Comedy Central is co-owned by AOL-Time Warner and Viacom, the owner of Simon & Schuster, which recently gave Hillary Clinton an $8 million advance.
'Intimidation' or invitation?
Two University of Georgia professors stand accused of violating the sacrament "separation of church and state." Their crime? They invited students to an after-class discussion about faith and science. The trouble started when biochemistry professor Russell Carlson invited "interested students" to his home to hear Henry Schaefer, an internationally acclaimed chemist, discuss "the relationship between faith and science." Both professors are members of the university's Christian Faculty Forum. Mr. Carlson printed the invitations on the back of class review notes. He thought he was saving paper; others thought he was violating the U.S. Constitution. Professors in state-funded classrooms "have no business pushing personal religious agendas nor using class resources to do that," said Barry Palevitz, a botany professor who took his complaint to the University Faculty Council. Mr. Palevitz complained that Mr. Carlson's invitation "intimidated" students who thought the dinner influenced their grade. The complaint launched a university inquiry over how and whether professors may invite students to out-of-class, "religious" discussions. Mr. Carlson said he agreed to host the discussion after his students asked questions about the relationship between faith and science. He also cited a university policy urging professors to encourage "meaningful interaction" with students "outside the traditional classroom." "I would hope that the university would not want to be in the business of picking which topics are appropriate or inappropriate," he wrote in a letter to university president Michael Adams. Faced with a media firestorm, Mr. Adams shunted the issue to the faculty council. On Jan. 10, a council subcommittee passed a motion upholding "diversity of opinion and freedom of expression on campus." If the entire council upholds that motion at its Feb. 22 meeting, Mr. Carlson said he would continue distributing invitations, "with the exception that I will waste more trees." He plans to print future invitations on separate paper.
'Sometimes I feel like weeping'
Filipinos are riding a wave of relief, while their ousted president, Joseph Estrada, faces a blighted future. Civil unrest loomed after Mr. Estrada's impeachment trial, which riveted the nation for three weeks, came to a sudden halt last month. Legislators ended the proceedings when Estrada supporters barred prosecutors from access to the president's bank records. Filipinos took to the streets, and Mr. Estrada turned over power to his vice president, Gloria Arroyo, on Jan. 20. For a few days Mr. Estrada appeared poised to take back the office once order returned to the streets, but the rule of law prevailed. The Philippine military went on high alert, siding with the new government. An opinion from the country's top justice official ruled that Mr. Estrada had relinquished power lawfully and could not retake it. Other government officials moved in to freeze Mr. Estrada's bank accounts and bar the former president and his family from leaving the country. The country's Roman Catholic bishops announced Mr. Estrada had lost any "moral right" to be president. They carried popular opinion, which has become increasingly rankled with the former actor's bawdy lifestyle-he has at least 10 children by four different women-an is financial misdeeds. The president reportedly has $5 million in personal assets and another $67 million stashed under false names-money acquired through gambling and embezzlement of public funds. Trouble for the country is not over. "Sometimes I feel like weeping," said Finance Secretary Alberto Romulo, describing the budget deficit left by Mr. Estrada.
Cole aftershocks
A hijacker claiming to have ties to Saddam Hussein took charge of a Boeing 727 carrying 91 passengers to Yemen. On board was the U.S. ambassador to Yemen, Barbara Bodine, as well as U.S. political and military attachés. The delegation was due to meet Gen. Tommy Franks, head of the U.S. Central Command, in the ongoing investigation of the bombing of the USS Cole in a Yemen harbor last October. The hijacker, a Yemeni in his 40s, carried a pistol and threatened to blow up the plane with a suitcase of explosives. He demanded to be flown to Baghdad. But one hour into the drama, crewmembers overpowered him. His pistol fired two shots into the air. Passengers were safe, but a flight engineer was wounded slightly in the hand. Meanwhile in Yemen, less than a mile from the harbor where the Cole took a direct hit from suicide bombers, a similar device ripped a hole in a medical clinic where wounded sailors from the U.S. naval vessel were treated. The explosion to the Christ church clinic and a nearby church building in Aden, all run by the Anglican church, left $60,000 worth of damage. Peter Tolley and his wife Sheryl, the only medical workers on site at the time of the attack, fought their way outside through smoke and broken glass to survey debris and a gaping hole in the wall of the clinic compound. They told WORLD it was the third bomb in as many years to strike the Church of England site, the only free medical and eye clinic in the impoverished region. The terrorists' target was apparently the staff quarters, home to five volunteer workers from the United States, New Zealand, and Asia. The clinic provides health care to about 30,000 Muslims every year, they said. The bomb was thought to have been only slightly smaller than the powerful device that killed 17 American sailors and injured 38 more on the Cole last Oct. 12. "The Islamic fundamentalists may have bombed us because our nursing and pastoral staff were so involved with assisting the crew on the USS Cole," said Tom Hamlin, the English missionary who set up the clinic in 1996. He has also helped restore the building three times following bomb attacks and a raid.
Deadly legacy
With the assassination of Democratic Republic of Congo President Laurent Kabila, fighting resumed outside the capital between factions loyal to the president and his opponents. With Mr. Kabila's death, the new government run by his son Joseph inherits a nation wracked by a war that has pulled in six neighboring nations and spawned three major rebel movements. That legacy made Mr. Kabila's Jan. 24 funeral a solitary affair; only six African heads of state attended the ceremony, and only Belgium among Western nations sent a representative. Keith Ferdinando of Africa Inland Mission and other church workers warned last week that the country's weak state could lead to another Rwanda-like bloodletting, where tribal fighting slaughtered millions.
Letter from your friends
Dear Mr. President,
Happy 90th Birthday. My journey with you began when I was 8 years old, with a transistor radio at my ear, hearing the news of your defeat. Many years later I visited with you at your office and though you understood little, when I said, "We all love you very much," your eyes danced, your face broke into a wide grin, and you winked at me. I remember how your enemies hated you. How often they lied about you. Friends in junior high said you would blow up the world, teachers in high school said you were just an actor, professors in college said your faith was phony, fabricated to win the votes of the moralists. Now, almost every day small men are forced by the currents of history to adopt your view of the world. As the awful disease slowly pulls you from us do you have moments when you hear the voice of God? Do you remember the letter you wrote to the old Methodist minister who was doubting his own faith and for some reason thought the governor of California could set him straight? You reminded him that Christ was either who He said He was or the greatest liar that ever lived-and that you had chosen the former. Scharansky of Israel tells the story of how your Evil Empire speech gave courage to the dissidents rotting in Soviet jails-that they tapped out messages to one another and spread the word among the disheartened that one Big Man believed in them and refused to see the world as it was. And now it is you, locked up in the prison of your own mind. But it will soon be over, Mr. President, for you will soon, to borrow your's and the poet's words, slip the surly bonds of earth and touch the face of God. At your farewell service in the Rotunda will be dozens of small men and women who will put on their game faces and do their best to pretend that they had anything but contempt for you while you were alive and active. Most of your true friends will find themselves without the proper credentials to get in. They will be in the heartland that gave you to the world. In Dixon, Tampico, Des Moines, St. Paul, Tuscaloosa, and La Mirada. Happy Birthday, Mr. President.

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