Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "Reining in the UN," Feb. 17, 2001

Hard-liner Sharon takes over Israeli government
Commando in chief
Israeli voters went to the polls in low numbers last week but by an overwhelming margin elected hard-line warrior Ariel Sharon to lead the country. His victory came in elections forced by Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who resigned last December and called early elections in a move to avert a takeover by Mr. Sharon's Likud Party. The 72-year-old's landslide ended the internal political crisis in Israel sparked by Mr. Barak's resignation and by fighting between Israelis and Palestinians. It does not bring Israel closer to a settlement over disputed territory with Palestinians. In turbulent Middle East history, Mr. Sharon is Israel's General MacArthur. Forging a career that is more commando than politician, he has fought in every major armed conflict since the founding of Israel. He saw combat in Israel's 1948 war and also in the 1956 Arab-Israeli conflict, where he led a controversial forced march. In 1973 he came out of retirement to lead an armored assault across the Suez Canal, trapping the Egyptians in hand-to-hand combat and against orders. Overshooting his charge again in 1982, Mr. Sharon-at that time Israeli defense minister-pressed a border conflict deep into Lebanese territory and into Lebanon's capital, Beirut. That campaign sparked a decade of tension and terrorism that included the killing of 237 American soldiers in a Beirut bombing and a rash of hostage-taking. Israeli troops did not completely withdraw from Lebanon until last spring. Israeli voters said they were ready for a firm hand at the wheel again. The 17 weeks of fighting that began after Mr. Sharon on Sept. 28 visited the Temple Mount, a site held holy by both Muslims and Jews, turned many Israelis against the far-reaching compromises offered to the Palestinians by Mr. Barak. Mr. Sharon made it clear he will act on the mandate. The day after elections, he visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem and said it will remain in Israeli hands forever. The power transition comes at a transitional time in U.S.-Israeli relations. The Bush administration halted frenetic mediation efforts by President Clinton and his appointed envoys upon taking office last month. A White House statement after the Israeli elections called U.S. ties to Israel "rock-solid" but gave no timetable for reentering peace talks. President Bush, untraveled to most of the world's hot spots, once took what he described as a very moving tour of Israel-in a helicopter with Mr. Sharon. Groups unite to help India
Aid and comfort
Business leaders representing over a million Indian residents in the United States are putting together a multimillion dollar fund to aid victims of the Jan. 26 earthquake in Gujarat, India. The quake killed over 30,000 people (WORLD, "'A one-two punch,'" Feb. 10). United Community Appeal (UCA) for India, based in Silicon Valley, is cooperating with other aid agencies and local Indian-American business organizations to send $2 million to the region. Here is its address, and contact information for others working in the zone:

  • UCA for India c/o Community Foundation Silicon Valley, 60 South Market Street, Suite 1000, San Jose, CA 95113
  • India Quake Relief, World Vision, P.O. Box 70288, Tacoma, WA 98481-0288; (888) 56-CHILD
  • World Relief, Department 3, P.O. Box WRC , Wheaton, IL 60189; (800) 535-5433
  • MAP International, Emergency Relief Fund, P.O. Box 215000, Brunswick, GA 31521; (800) 225-8550
  • Food for the Hungry, 7729 E. Greenway Road, Scottsdale, AZ 85260; (800) 2-HUNGER
  • Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, India Earthquake, 2850 Kalamazoo Ave., SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49560; (800) 848-5818
  • Catholic Relief Services, India Earthquake Fund, P.O. Box 17090, Baltimore, MD 21203-7090; (800) 736-3467
  • American Red Cross, Disaster Relief Fund, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013; (800) HELP NOW Black history month founder was pre-pc
    Venerable vision
    When in 1926 black historian Carter G. Woodson instituted Negro History Week (the forerunner of today's Black History Month, celebrated across America every February), he wasn't kowtowing to the idols of multiculturalism. In fact, Woodson's hope of generating respect for the contributions of blacks to American society predated political correctness by more than half a century. Born into a poor Virginia family in 1875 (both his mother and father were former slaves), Woodson wasn't able to attend school regularly. Still, by age 17, he had mastered the fundamentals of common school subjects, largely through his own efforts. For years, he toiled in Virginia's coal mines to help support his family. But at age 20, Woodson was able to enter high school, where he earned his diploma in less than two years. After earning a degree at Berea College in Kentucky, he worked as a teacher and writer and then earned a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University in 1912. Woodson's studies convinced him that American history books ignored-and sometimes misrepresented-the black experience in this country. He set out to change that: In 1915, he founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (which operates today as the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History). In 1916, he launched the Journal of Negro History. In 1921, he founded a publishing company to print books about black life that didn't interest mainstream publishers. When he first conceived of Negro History Week, Woodson chose the second week in February to coincide with the birthdays of two persons who had dramatically affected the lives of black Americans: Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, the former slave who became a leading abolitionist. Fifty years later, during America's 1976 bicentennial celebration, the week-long observance was expanded to include the entire month. This month marks the observance's diamond anniversary, but for many, Woodson's vision of greater respect and understanding between black and white Americans still seems far away.
    -Linda Shrewsbury Inquiring reader
    Scouts honored
    The Boy Scouts did their duty in the Atlanta Olympics, but are they dumped for the Salt Lake 2002 games? That's what WORLD reader Steve Gross and many others wondered after reading on one news website that the Salt Lake Olympic Committee (SLOC) snubbed Boy Scout volunteers. Both the SLOC and Boy Scouts say that's not true, Scout's honor. The SLOC says official volunteers at the games must sport 2002 garb and be at least 18, but Scout volunteers can participate in pre-game activities and have already helped in Olympic venues. Kay Godfrey of the Boy Scouts' Great Salt Lake Council said, "We haven't been banned from participation in the Olympics at all." An SLOC press release "supports the values of Scouting" and says "there is no plan in place to exclude Scouts." Steve Gross will receive a World wear cap. Bush tax cut: Historically small
    Massive overstatement
    "Big," "huge," "massive," and "enormous." Those are the adjectives Democrats and many reporters are using to describe President Bush's proposal to cut income taxes. But how big is it? The National Taxpayers Union's Eric Schlecht compared the Bush plan to Ronald Reagan's 1981 tax cut. While Mr. Bush proposed to reduce taxes by an average of 1.2 percent of the gross domestic product, Mr. Reagan's plan cut taxes by 3.3 percent of GDP. Mr. Bush would reduce the federal government's total revenues by no more than 6.2 percent per year, while Mr. Reagan's reduced the federal tax bite by 18.7 percent. Mr. Schlecht even found that Democratic House Speaker Tip O'Neill proposed a "fiscally responsible" alternative to Mr. Reagan's tax cut in 1981 that would now total $237 billion a year (after adjusting for inflation), compared to Mr. Bush's $160 billion. Meanwhile, Mr. Bush's hand was strengthened when the Congressional Budget Office again increased its estimate of the surplus to $5.6 trillion over the next 10 years, and without Social Security surpluses, $3.1 trillion. Economy slows but averts collapse
    Still standing
    Nobody is talking about "irrational exuberance" or the "wealth effect" nowadays, but even in the current economic slowdown not all signs are bad. Americans' productivity last year posted the best gain since 1983. Some observers say this shows that the economy and stock markets, while weak, are not in danger of a free-fall. Still, the slowing economy is taking its toll on some American workers, spawning thousands of layoffs from heavy industry to high-tech. DaimlerChrysler announced it would eliminate 26,000 Chrysler jobs. Lucent Technologies plans to cut up to 16,000 jobs, and MCI-parent WorldCom Inc. will trim as many as 11,000 jobs. Meanwhile, dot-com firings and layoffs have become routine. The cumulative effect: The nation's unemployment rate jumped to 4.2 percent in January, the highest level in 16 months. As Napster cuts deals with record companies, it announces plans to charge for downloaded music
    No more free lunches
    Time to say goodbye to the free ride? Napster plans to start charging users to download music. It's part of the company's plan to cooperate with the major record labels. Redwood, Calif.-based Napster is one of the Internet's most bizarre success stories, boasting millions of users who download songs off one another's hard drives. The company claims it has millions of users, with 1.6 million people online at any one time. The music industry claims the whole thing is a copyright violation, and Napster faces a giant lawsuit. Both sides await an opinion from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on a preliminary injunction against Napster that was stayed in July. Bertlesmann cut a deal with Napster in October, and chairman Thomas Middelhoff announced the service would start charging royalties by June or July. "We carried out market research among 20,000 Napster users. The willingness to pay is given," the head of the German media company said during the World Economic Forum in Davos. Napster is now trying to negotiate deals with Sony, EMI Group, Warner Music, and Universal. So what will happen? Once Napster starts charging, many users could leave for other services, which aren't as easy to use as Napster and don't have its huge selection. Analyst Eric Scheirer of Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research says that the paid service would have to equal the breadth of the current incarnation in order to make money. "Music fans really want the opportunity to choose from the entire body of recorded music," Mr. Scheirer said. "If we want to raise the price we're going to have to raise the opportunity."
    -Chris Stamper Disney opens new park
    California dreaming
    Is America ready for a California Adventure? Disney has poured $1.4 billion into a new theme park that sits adjacent to Disneyland, hoping to pull about 7 million visitors annually to attractions dedicated to the Muppets, ESPN, ABC soap operas, and other parts of the company's empire. With movie costs spiraling and its Internet strategy crashing, Disney's tourist properties are increasingly important. They're amazing cash cows. They include all of the top five theme parks in North America and overall are expected to pull in $1 billion a year starting in 2002. So what is the new California Adventure park like? Smaller than others. Designers made it for smaller crowds, and visitors can cover it in a day. Many of the ideas are recycled from other parks, but the focus is regional. Upon paying the $43 admission, visitors are greeted by "CALIFORNIA" spelled out in 11-foot letters, mosaics of local natural scenery, and a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge. Big deal. Even with an apparently drooping economy, theme parks are still hot stuff. Last year, a record 175.1 million visitors passed through North American theme park turnstiles, according to Amusement Business. KFC says colonel's "secret recipe" is still a secret
    Recipe for a lawsuit?
    Harlan Sanders was a small Kentucky coffee shop owner until he made marketing history selling chicken with 11 "secret" herbs and spices-aka "Kentucky Fried Chicken." The power of a good gimmick stands strong decades later. When a couple who bought his former home discovered an old recipe, they found themselves in a legal fight with Colonel Sanders's corporate heirs. Tommy and Cherry Settle found an old box of books in their basement with a leather-bound datebook from 1964, including a recipe for fried chicken. Could this be it? The biggest secret since the Coca-Cola formula? The couple contacted the fast food chain formerly known as Kentucky Fried Chicken (now "KFC") to see if what they found was authentic. The response: a lawsuit demanding that the piece of paper be handed over. Now KFC says the recipe the Settles found is not the true original recipe.

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