Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "A patient nation," Oct. 13, 2001

New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani minced no words when he spoke to the UN General Assembly Oct. 1. "We are right and they are wrong," he said of terrorists who attacked the city Sept. 11. He called on the 189-nation forum to "ostracize any nation that supports terrorism" and to "isolate any nation that remains neutral in the fight against terrorism." In the first-ever address to the assembly given by a mayor, he told the delegates, "This is not a time for further study or vague directives." But deliberations in the UN's special session on terrorism devolved along familiar lines. Sixty speeches into the first two days, Arab nations promised to fight terrorism-only if there is a quick settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Libya, operating as spokesman for the 22-member Arab Group, said "occupation is equal to terrorism," a reference to Israel's "occupation" of Palestinian territory. It also said the United States committed terrorism against Libya when it launched airstrikes in 1986. Those strikes were in response to a Libyan-planned attack on a Berlin disco aimed at American servicemen. COLOMBIAN TERROR
Culture shock
"In Colombia they assassinate beauty and intelligence," proclaimed a street protester after rebels murdered the country's former culture minister, Consuelo Araujo, 62. The kidnapping and subsequent murder of a treasured matriarch shocked Colombians into fresh consideration of their own terrorist problem even as the rest of the world focused on terrorism in the United States. Colombia has the highest kidnapping rate in the world, and at least 3,000 Colombians are killed annually in the country's civil war. Authorities blame the latest atrocity on one of two main rebel groups, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Colombia had 1,700 kidnappings in the first seven months of this year, the highest rate in the world. FASHION MAG FOLDS AFTER 66-YEAR RUN
Au revoir, Mademoiselle
The new millennium has not been kind to the magazine publishing industry, and last week Mademoiselle magazine, with a circulation of 1.1 million, became one of the biggest glossies to close its doors in the current downturn. Conde Nast Publications announced that it would stop publishing the 66-year-old fashion magazine in November because Mademoiselle was "no longer viable." Its readers will be able to look to Glamour, another Conde Nast magazine, for advice on dating, dieting, and hairdos; the company will begin sending Glamour to Mademoiselle subscribers in January. Mademoiselle joins Individual Investor, The Industry Standard, Family PC, and Working Woman, which have all folded in recent months. The problem is that advertising dollars are drying up. Overall ad pages for major U.S. magazines fell 11 percent in the year to date through August, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. Mademoiselle's falloff was almost 18 percent. The 9/11 terrorist attacks have only heightened the pain. "Uncertainty usually means paralysis, and that's kind of what we have," Gene DeWitt, chairman/CEO of Optimedia International, told Mediaweek. END MICROSOFT CASE QUICKLY, JUDGE URGES, CITING THE BAD ECONOMY AS AN ADDITIONAL REASON TO WRAP IT UP
24-7 settlement talks
Settle it, now. That was the word from the new judge in the Microsoft antitrust case, who ordered both sides to work "24 hours a day, seven days a week" to end the dispute. The economic fallout from the 9/11 terrorist attacks became a new cause for haste. If the government and the software giant cannot settle the case by Nov. 2, a penalty will be worked out in court, ruled U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly. The battle over Microsoft's alleged misuse of its monopoly power has been fought in and out of court for over six years-and the judge said both sides could better use their resources elsewhere. Prosecutors have not said what sanctions they would seek, but the Justice Department has already dropped its attempts to break up the company. Microsoft has said it would be willing to let both manufacturers and users add and remove Windows icons and programs, to open Windows code to software designers, and to stop Microsoft-only product deals. STUDY: BAD TEACHERS HURT LOW-INCOME KIDS THE MOST
Don't know much
What are teachers supposed to do? In the old days the answer was clear: They were to teach something, which implied that they knew something to teach. But that's not the job as currently defined by schools of education, where teaching gives way to facilitating, and knowledge ranks low on the list of necessary teacher traits. A recent study by the Pacific Research Institute found that most California schools of education are not teaching future teachers how to impart knowledge. Instead student teachers are learning how to lead their future pupils to "discover knowledge on their own." No drilling on facts for California youngsters, but years of discovery learning, critical thinking, and cooperative learning-all methods that emphasize the process of learning over content. Middle-class kids can apparently survive their teachers' good intentions, but low-income children flounder. Nancy Ichinaga, a long-time California elementary school principal, noted that "with affluent people you get by, but the poor kids do not get by." That's why, over the past several years, Ms. Ichinaga has hired emergency credentialed teachers over certified ones. "The teachers who have gone through the credentialed programs at the colleges come with baggage," she said. "They think they know better because they've been brainwashed and those are the teachers with whom we have trouble. There is resistance from them." According to School Reform News, a publication of the Heartland Institute, almost all states, with the exception of North Dakota, Montana, Rhode Island, Kansas, and Alaska, are either implementing or considering alternative certification. Private organizations doing teacher training include Sylvan Learning Systems, Teach for America, Edison Schools, E.D. Hirsch's Core Knowledge Foundation, and the University of Phoenix, the largest for-profit university in the United States. FAREWELL TO CAL RIPKEN JR. AND TONY GWYNN
Baseball's model citizens
Two 41-year-old model citizens and baseball legends-Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn-played their last major league games early in October. Mr. Ripken played for all 21 years of his major league career with his hometown Baltimore Orioles. For 16 straight years he played in every game, setting the all-time record of 2,632 consecutive games played. He is one of only seven players to collect 400 homeruns and 3,000 hits. Defensively, he holds several records, including: double plays by a shortstop (1,565); highest fielding percentage in a season (.996); and consecutive errorless games by an American League shortstop (95). He moved to third base in 1996. Mr. Ripken was the American League's Most Valuable Player in 1983 and 1991, but his most valuable contribution to all of baseball came in 1995. The ill will from the 1994 players' strike that knocked out the World Series had lasted throughout the season, but when Mr. Ripken tied and passed Lou Gehrig's revered record for consecutive games played, fans let out a collective cheer. This wasn't Joe DiMaggio hitting in 56 straight games or Hank Aaron clubbing 755 homers. This was a record that required a talent all mere mortals could display-faithfully showing up for work every day. Tony Gwynn also spent his whole major league career, 20 years, with one team, the San Diego Padres, and would also sign autographs long after games ended. He batted .300 or better for 19 consecutive seasons, a National League record, and was a lifetime .338 hitter as of Oct. 1. A stocky but steady rightfielder, he won eight batting championships and five Gold Gloves as the best fielder at his position, and was on 15 All Star teams. A current commercial shows Mr. Ripken walking off the field with his daughter Rachel, 12. That is fitting, because both men have shown commitment to their children. Last month Mr. Gwynn was named head baseball coach at San Diego State University, which he attended before signing with the Padres in 1981. One of the draws: He will be coaching his son, Anthony Gwynn Jr. War puts network back in driver's seat, but liberal habits die hard
CNN's offensive
The war network is back. CNN had been in decline for months, with Fox News providing stiff competition. But CNN is now reprising the newscaster-of-record role it played during the Gulf War. With ratings on the increase, new chairman Walter Isaacson said the attacks helped CNN solve its identity crisis. "This tragic situation has helped us on our true mission and the vital importance of what we do," he said. "Our true mission is to do hard reporting and smart analysis." This crisis may delay CNN's decline for the foreseeable future. CNN's corporate parents at AOL Time Warner demanded profit projections and the network had been lagging, according to media analyst Porter Bibb. But now CNN can charge more for ads until life returns to normal and old problems resurface. "CNN will probably show a very sustained ratings rebound for the next three to six months," Mr. Bibb said. "Then it's a whole new ballgame." The current confidence boost may explain why CNN is showing some of its old hubris. A network spokeswoman told The Wall Street Journal that it had joined Reuters in using "alleged hijackers" in lieu of "terrorists" to describe those who crashed planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. (CNN later backpedaled and issued a "clarification," saying it had and would use the word terrorist.) Back in 1990, then-boss Ted Turner banned the word foreign on the air, demanding that reporters use the more politically correct word international. Mr. Issacson, a former Time magazine chief, said that CNN tried to beat Fox by imitating it-and that's over now. Yet one of the most visible on-air roles belongs to Fox News defector Paula Zahn. Despite the optimism in its Atlanta headquarters, CNN's future may be as murky as ever. Toymakers make products inoffensive
War games
America's war on terrorism has brought back the old "war toys" debate in a new way. Since Sept. 11, the toy industry has been busy editing product lines, quietly delaying or pulling some items deemed too violent. Initial sales, however, may show consumers running against the grain of corporate concern. Wal-Mart reported increased sales of Hasbro's new GI Joe series. Toy analysts say the line could be attractive to parents who want to help children act out their fears. Firefighter and policeman figures are also moving steadily, as well as rescue vehicles. Toymakers are trying to eschew violence on one hand while still filling kids' desires for role-playing. Ann Brown, chairwoman of the Consumer Products Safety Commission, reflects this mindset. She said she's against any toys that "glorify violence," yet she also says Army toys and GI Joes are acceptable because "kids need to really re-enact their fears as heroes." This view cuts against some politically correct strategies. For example, Bandai America redesigned some of its advertising and marketing for the Power Rangers to promote teamwork instead of combat. The extreme position is like that of the Zany Brainy chain, which ran a promotion where parents could trade in their kids' war toys for "nonviolent" items. Right now, companies are wary about anything that directly concerns terrorism, especially involving New York or the World Trade Center. The video game industry has been scrambling to remove such images from its new releases. GM drops Firebird, Camaro
Muscled out
Goodbye, Firebird. So long, Camaro. These two leading lines are passing into history as car buyers trade muscle cars for minivans. General Motors announced that those two models will disappear after 2002. The company will close the Ste. Therese, Quebec, assembly plant that builds the cars next September. The demise follows a 53 percent decline in the sports car market since 1990, as sport utility vehicle and pickup truck sales increased. The Ford Mustang remains for now, as does the Chevy Corvette and Dodge Viper. As the Camaro and Firebird pass into car history, GM plans to issue "collector's edition" versions of the cars in the final year. Both cars were introduced in 1966 and had their best year in 1978. They survived the oil shocks, inflation, and even the Gulf War, but only 31,000 Firebirds were sold in 2000, compared to over 175,000 at the model's peak.

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