Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "Interview with Larry King," July 28, 2001

Passing a tainted torch
The 21-year reign of the most powerful man in global sports came to an end, but not without the kind of disputes that often characterized his tenure. Juan Antonio Samaranch, a little-known Spanish diplomat when he took over as head of the International Olympic Committee in 1980, transferred the mantle to Belgian Jacques Rogge July 16. Controversy bookended his tenure: Just as he took office, the United States announced it would boycott the 1980 Moscow Games because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. That decision by then-President Jimmy Carter left the Olympics in a financial as well as morale crisis. Scandal dogged the administrators of the Games over the two decades that followed, including charges of drug use and over-commercialism of Olympic sport. But the biggest debacle came in 1999 when a Utah radio station charged that city fathers of Salt Lake City gave IOC officials over $1 million in bribes and incentives in a successful bid for the 2002 Winter Games. Ten of Mr. Samaranch's hand-picked committee members had to resign, and two Salt Lake City organizers are currently under federal indictment. The 81-year-old Samaranch, who twice had the age limit for his position changed so he could stay in office, left the top Olympic post under more clouds. Critics charged that Mr. Samaranch forced through the selection of Mr. Rogge. Another candidate for the post, IOC member Kim Un-yong, charged that Mr. Samaranch used his position and a "last-minute smear campaign" to defeat the only Asian contender. He said Mr. Samaranch was responsible for reports, leaked the day before voting, suggesting Mr. Kim promised fellow committee members $50,000 in exchange for their vote. Mr. Kim denied the charges, and an ethics commission dismissed them, but only after the selection of Mr. Rogge. The newly reconstituted IOC will also have to live with another Samaranch pet pick-Beijing as the site for the 2008 Olympic Games. China critics were divided over the choice. Some claim hosting the Games will force the communist regime into a fishbowl that could precipitate reforms. Others saw it as another undeserved reward bestowed by the tainted committee. Missile defense system passes test
Mission accomplished
When Ronald Reagan first proposed a Strategic Defense Initiative in the 1980s, many in the nation's capital scoffed at the improbable idea that one missile could hit another. On July 14, the Pentagon did just that, for the second time. The test began with the launch of a Minuteman II intercontinental ballistic missile from Vandenberg Air Force base on the coast north of Los Angeles. A half-hour later, from an atoll in the Marshall Islands, they launched a "kill vehicle," which hit the missile 144 miles into space. At impact, the projectiles were traveling 4.5 miles per second. Pentagon spokesman Ronald Kadish played down the test's importance, saying it was "just one stop on a journey," and would need to be evaluated further for several weeks. But the political stakes are high as President Bush pushes for accelerated funding in the hopes of deploying a limited missile defense by 2005. Democrats are balking at requests for $8 billion in fiscal year 2002, a 57 percent increase. Critics were poised to scorch the program after the last two tests, the most recent one last summer, failed. Missile-defense backers lauded the successful test but worried about what happens next, when the Bush administration has to convince reluctant Senate Democrats to fund the program. FRIEND OF HILL SUES CLINTONS OVER THEIR FAILURE TO DISCLOSE A $1.9 MILLION IN-KIND CAMPAIGN DONATION
Can't buy me love
Never before had so much money been raised by so many people with really good teeth. Perfect pearly whites were everywhere last August 12 as Hollywood turned out to honor President Bill Clinton-by contributing to his wife's Senate campaign. Brad Pitt. Jennifer Aniston. John Travolta. Shirley MacLaine. Wolfgang Puck in the kitchen. Cher and Melissa Etheridge on stage. All together the beautiful people coughed up $1.5 million in hard money that night, and Mrs. Clinton, not surprisingly, was smiling like a starlet herself. The guy who wrote the biggest check of all-the $1.9 million it cost to throw the gala celebration-was smiling too. His name is Peter Paul, and he hoped to lure the soon-to-be-former president to the board of his Hollywood-based entertainment company. Instead, he found himself indicted on charges of stock manipulation, and his buddy the president refused to pardon him. What's a discredited former mogul to do? With the aid of Judicial Watch, a conservative legal watchdog group in Washington, Mr. Paul filed suit against the Clintons on July 16, claiming they failed to report his in-kind contribution of almost $2 million, as federal election law requires. That, according to the suit, amounts to "unjust enrichment," and he wants his money back. It's doubtful Mr. Paul, now living in Brazil, will ever see his $1.9 million again. But his canceled checks for that evening-including $68,000 for the catering and $30,000 for Cher's private jet-could turn into a major headache for the junior senator from New York. Her campaign reported only $500,000 in contributions from Mr. Paul's various companies, though he insists she knew the money was coming from him personally and amounted to far more than $500,000. The Clintons initially pretended not to know Mr. Paul. But his home video from the Hollywood gala and an earlier fundraiser show the Clintons praising him warmly and joking with him like an old friend. Their smiles lit up the California night. No one is smiling now. Ed department says it's learning to count money
Waste a lot, want not
The Education Department flunked economics during the late Clinton years, but it promises that its grades are getting better. That's what Secretary Rod Paige said about his agency. It lost track of $450 million in the last three Clinton years through waste, fraud, and errors, but has found over half that amount. Congressional investigators discovered that someone stole $3 million in grants, and they've been investigating ever since. "Public confidence in the department has eroded," Secretary Paige said. "We cannot expect our schools to be accountable if we aren't accountable in Washington." Auditors reported last April that the department incorrectly sent about $250 million in grant checks as duplicates to recipients; all have been recovered. The agency lost $200 million in unauthorized purchases and fraud cases. Some of that was recovered through court orders of restitution, and the Justice Department is pursuing much of what remains. Man knows not his time
Capital gatekeeper
Katharine Graham, who became a major figure in American journalism as the head of The Washington Post Company, died after a fall in Idaho at age 84. She and her husband Philip Graham bought the paper from her father for a dollar in 1946, but her husband committed suicide in 1963, leaving her alone with the family business. The Post made its mark by joining The New York Times in publishing stories on the internal "Pentagon Papers" history of the Vietnam War over Nixon White House legal objections in 1971, and then by pushing the Watergate story from 1972 until President Nixon resigned in 1974. Mrs. Graham's fans said she triumphed over tragedy to become a stalwart defender of press freedom. Detractors said her newspaper danced to the tune of liberal bias, that her paper tilted toward the Beltway establishment with varying degrees of subtlety. Within Washington society, she played the role of hostess and gatekeeper to the in-crowd: Over the last 30 years, presidents of both parties have flocked to her door as a social requirement of Washington life. At age 80, she won the Pulitzer Prize for her autobiography, Personal History. No recession, maybe: economic numbers improve
Sleeping giant stirs
What? No recession? Economic predictions swung back toward positive when the Labor Department reported the biggest drop in wholesale prices in over two years. So now some experts guess that prosperity's sleeping giant will awaken later this year, shaken from slumber by falling energy prices, lower interest rates, and tax rebate checks. "The tax cut will be arriving just in the nick of time," said Bruce Steinberg, chief economist with Merrill Lynch. Gas prices are slinking south, which is an improvement that's easy to notice. They fell an average of 12.8 cents from late June through mid-July, according to the Lundberg Survey of about 8,000 gas stations nationwide. General inflation is also down, which leads economists to expect the Federal Reserve to cut rates in August-for the seventh time this year. Even with the recent surge in job losses (see page 30), the economy kept (slowly) growing, and another report said retail sales crept up 0.2 percent in June. But the news wasn't all good. Some scary numbers concern corporate credit. Standard & Poor's reported that 101 companies worldwide defaulted on $57.9 billion of debt in the first half of the year. That includes 83 in the United States. The credit reporting firm called this "the highest in recent memory" and said a continuing trend would approach the all-time high hit in the 1991 recession. -Chris Stamper Paul Harvey to return in August
Good days ahead?
Paul Harvey started telling "The Rest of the Story" before many of his listeners were born. Yet perhaps the most successful staccato in radio history has been silent from his microphone since May. Now he plans to have a weakened vocal cord repaired at the Mayo Clinic later this month. ABC expects the 82-year-old legend back on the air by the end of August. Mr. Harvey's style and flair hearken back to the charismatic star voices of old-time radio. He reaches out to a Middle American sensibility, embracing a world many national journalists consider "flyover territory." His programs reach approximately 24 million listeners daily. To its credit, ABC never tried to change him. Mr. Harvey's wife, Lynne "Angel" Harvey, is his executive producer, and Paul Harvey Jr. writes scripts. "My dad used to say he's writing for my Aunt Betty, my mother's sister. And perhaps now that she's passed away, he still does," the younger Mr. Harvey said. "I have a campfire in my mind when I'm writing." "This is not democracy": British evangelicals battle the government's ban on Christian broadcasting
Mere anti-Christianity
C.S. Lewis debuted Mere Christianity as BBC radio speeches back in 1941, but would he be able to get away with that today? Evangelicals in the UK today worry that Christian voices have almost no place on their country's airwaves. The issue boiled up earlier this month when the BBC named Alan Bookbinder, a self-proclaimed "open-hearted agnostic," as head of religious broadcasting. The Times of London reports that his predecessor, Ernest Rea, resigned after 22 years amid complaints the state-funded media group was "dancing to a secular tune." While such a move may not seem that important to American minds, religious broadcasting is on shaky ground in the UK. The 1990 Broadcasting Act bans national AM/FM radio licenses for religious stations. And the BBC is a lightning rod because of its own prestige. Britain's Evangelical Alliance, which wants the radio ban repealed, complains that Mr. Bookbinder is a step in the wrong direction. "It is the first time this post has gone to someone who has no personal faith in God," Joel Edwards, the group's general director, told The Scotsman. "Would the BBC appoint a head of sport who knows nothing about football?" Since Britain doesn't have the free speech protection taken for granted in the United States, Christian radio is dependent on the whims of government agencies. United Christian Broadcasters, which wants a national radio station, complains that the British government may try to force them to carry multiple religions in order to secure a license. It compares the situation to that of Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Iran. "This Government is banning Christians," the group said in a statement. "This is not democracy."

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