Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "Bush wins one," June 9, 2001

Gray Davis tries to repeal the law of supply and demand
California scheming
Reporters suffered no energy shortage when Bush aides announced the president would meet in California with Gov. Gray Davis about the state's energy problems. Last week's meeting between George W. Bush and Mr. Davis, once mentioned as a 2004 rival, lasted 40 minutes, twice as long as scheduled, but the two officials could come to no agreement. Mr. Davis insisted that the president impose price controls on his state's energy suppliers, and when Mr. Bush refused, he announced afterward in an impromptu press conference that he would file suit with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. With wild estimates that energy prices will increase 700 percent, Mr. Davis insisted "California is entitled to price relief. I don't think it's a matter of philosophy or ideology. It's a matter of law." President Bush insisted that price caps "do nothing to reduce demand and they do nothing to increase supply." He stipulated, "We will not take any action that makes California's problem worse." Mr. Bush did propose the addition of $150 million to the $300 million budget of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps pay power bills and often becomes a political football in Northern states during the winter when heating oil prices rise. Republicans worried about Mr. Davis's tone after he picked up the services of Mark Fabiani and Chris Lehane, Gore campaign attack dogs and self-proclaimed "Masters of Disaster" in the Clinton White House, for $30,000 a month. During Mr. Bush's three-day California jaunt, Democrats organized protests and arranged for anti-Bush TV and radio ads. Last year, Mr. Bush lost California to Mr. Gore by 12 percentage points. Mission workers taken hostage
Americans seized
New Tribes Mission workers Martin and Gracia Burnham were among 20 people kidnapped in the Philippines on May 27 by Abu Sayyaf, an Islamic guerrilla group. Philippine military rescuers are under orders to use force against the militants, who last year seized more than 40 people from a resort in Malaysia. Kidnappers held those hostages for months until Libya paid a ransom of up to $1 million per person. The Burnhams, from Kansas, are 15-year veterans of New Tribes work in the Philippines. New Tribes has been working for eight years to obtain the release of three kidnapped missionaries in Colombia. The three, Dave Mankins, Mark Rich, and Rick Tenenoff, have not been heard from since soon after they were abducted. Jury convicts accused terrorists
Guilty as charged
A four-month trial ended with guilty verdicts for all defendants accused of carrying out the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. The jury deliberated for three weeks before finding the defendants guilty. The jury found all four defendants guilty of conspiring to kill Americans, and also found the two principal conspirators, Mohamed Rashid Daoud al-Owhali, 24, and Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, 27, guilty of direct involvement in the bombings, which killed 213 people in Nairobi and 11 in Dar es Salaam. A sentencing trial that began May 30 will determine whether Mr. Owhali and Mr. Mohamed receive life imprisonment or death by execution. When truck bombs exploded simultaneously at the two embassies, shards of glass wounded over 4,000 people. Twelve Americans died in the attack, including Julian Bartley, the U.S. consul general for Kenya. High court decrees golf rule out of bounds
The sports authority
All sports have rules, but now some of those rules may come from Washington. The U.S. Supreme Court last week ruled that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires the PGA Tour to allow a disabled golfer, Casey Martin, to ride a cart between holes, even though PGA rules require walking. The PGA Tour could have accommodated Mr. Martin. He was not asking for strokes to be subtracted from his score, and no PGA Tour golfer would want to trade places with him, even with a cart. That's because Mr. Martin suffers from a rare circulatory disorder that has left him with a withered right leg. But the Tour fought Mr. Martin, saying all pro golfers must walk because uniform rules are essential for the integrity of the sport. The seven-justice majority ruled walking was not a fundamental part of the sport, but golfers wonder if the decision opens the doors for abuse. "I think we ought to take them all out and play golf," Jack Nicklaus said of the justices. "I think they'd change their minds. I promise you, it's fundamental." Hal Sutton, a member of the Tour's policy board, said many pros have bad backs and might now apply to use a cart, giving themselves an advantage. And Brenda Corrie Kuehn, who played at the U.S. Women's Open while eight months pregnant, said she never considered asking for a cart. "The fact that you're pregnant ... it's part of life," she said. Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas were the only dissenters on the high court, saying the majority stretched the meaning of the Americans with Disabilities Act to create different sets of sporting rules for the able-bodied and the disabled. The decision's ramifications stretch far beyond golf. Activists say that many schools across the country are now subject to lawsuits because gyms and other facilities are not fit to accommodate the disabled. Powell outlines new policy
Into Africa
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell last week announced that the United States will begin a new effort to end the 18-year civil war in Sudan. On a tour of Africa to assess food and security issues, along with the AIDS epidemic, Mr. Powell announced that the United States will send 40,000 tons of emergency food to areas in both the north and south and promised $3 million in logistical support to an opposition umbrella group, the National Democratic Alliance. He also said he would soon appoint a special envoy for the country. Mr. Powell did not visit Sudan but spoke at the end of the four-country trip from Kampala, Uganda. U.S. intervention will mark the first time the Bush administration has stepped into an internal conflict, and came in spite of Bush pledges not to get involved in civil wars. But it underscored Mr. Powell's pledge to make Africa a priority, and the tremendous pressure to do so from Washington lawmakers, Christian advocacy groups, and relief organizations. Mr. Powell said the United States will "work with all parties in the area," and said the first goal would be achieving a cease-fire. Food shipments will mark the first time the United States has provided aid to the north since a 1989 coup carried in a radical Islamic government. That regime is under U.S. sanctions for its support of terrorists and has been under United Nations sanctions since a 1995 assassination attempt against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak by an Islamic terrorist organization with support from Sudan. Iron Chef is headed to UPN
Monday night cooking
What may be the world's strangest sporting contest comes to network TV next season. UPN plans two Iron Chef specials, a Japanese cooking show with the aesthetics of pro wrestling. Fans call it Monday Night Football meets Julia Child. The original episodes, which run dubbed into English on the Food Network, are based in Tokyo's "Kitchen Stadium." Restaurant chefs challenge four Iron Chefs, each with their own specialty: Chinese, Italian, French, and (of course) Japanese cuisine. The show gives contestants a secret ingredient-like giant lobster, eel, and tripe-at the beginning of each episode, and they have an hour to concoct their own gourmet, full-course meals. (They know what category to expect, so they can prepare utensils, but they don't know what specific item will be the surprise.) Announcers cover the whole thing with completely straight play-by-play and color commentary. After time runs out, a panel of judges decides the winner. In the event of a tie, there's a second, 30-minute round with another secret ingredient. Strangely, no matter how well he may succeed, a victorious challenger cannot unseat an Iron Chef. "One perk is that their restaurants become extremely popular," quips the Food Network's Web page on the show. Manhattan restaurant owner Bobby Flay challenged Japanese Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto in a special for cable TV last year. Mr. Flay lost and suffered a serious cut and an electric shock during the New York taping. UPN has disclosed little about its version, except that it will feature William Shatner as host. -Chris Stamper Business Professors create art index
For love, not money
Jianping Mei and Michael A. Moses created a new way to look at the art world-without making a single brush stroke. The two finance professors at New York University's Stern School of Business invented a method of tracking the prices of expensive paintings the way the Dow tracks blue-chip stocks. The Mei/Moses Fine Art Index traces prices for art works at New York auctions back to 1875 for three categories: Impressionist, American, and Old Masters. It turns out that fine art has a strange similarity to a more low-rent world of collectibles, such as rare Barbies, Beanie Babies, and baseball cards: It carries great aesthetic value and personal pride, but profits aren't as high as some imagine. Christie's auction house advises its clients not to buy merely for investment purposes, but to find art that fits their collections. That's good advice. The Mei/Moses Fine Art Index underperformed the stock market-and expensive art purchases often haven't returned much to buyers. For example, a buyer acquired Marc Chagall's "Le Violoniste au Monde Renverse" for a hefty $4.2 million in 1989; on sale last month, the work fetched only $2.1 million. Still, the two professors do not frown on art purchases. "As an investment, art gives a return comparable to government bonds, plus you have something nice to hang on your wall," Mr. Moses said. Students get an early look at AP history essay question
High-tech cheating
Some students had an advance look at a college placement exam given to tens of thousands of high-school students last month-and the Educational Testing Service says retests may be in order. The problem: Someone posted a copy of an essay question from the Advanced Placement U.S. History exam on the Internet on the night before the test. Headmaster Jim Cantwell at St. Andrew's Episcopal School in Potomac, Md., said a student confessed to seeing the post. Apparently at least one California school had given the test a day early, but the test preparation service says it found no trace of the leak. Advanced Placement courses are college-level classes offered to students still in high school. Students with high scores on the standardized test at the end of the year may earn college credit for their work. The ETS, which also runs the SAT, GRE, GMAT, and other major exams, is currently fighting a cheating lawsuit in China. Last February, The Washington Post reported that the service accused test preparer Michael Yu of making millions from selling illegal copies of its tests and questions.

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