Dispatches > In Brief

In Brief

News highlights from around the world

Issue: "Osama's witnesses," May 18, 2002

Mommy, cut the crusts off

Will parents fork over extra dough for a loaf of bread with no crusts? Sara Lee hopes so. The company believes parents will pay about 75 cents more so that they won't have to pull the crusts off their young children's bread. Sara Lee Bakery Group claims America's prosperity and increased daily stress will make IronKids Crustless Bread attractive. "Is everyone going to pay for it? No," admitted Sara Lee's Matt Hall. "But convenience and simplicity are important consumer needs right now. Consumers told us they'd be willing to pay a premium for this product. Twenty years ago, they probably wouldn't have paid for it." Since no loaves can be cooked without crusts, Sara Lee tweaked its breadmaking procedures at its bakery in Paris, Texas. It uses larger baking pans, along with an automated slicer that removes crusts. The result is normal-sized bread-and the rejected crusts are used for croutons, bread crumbs and other products.

Beaten at the buzzer

The Charlotte Hornets finished near the top of the NBA's Eastern Conference standings this season, but the team was dead last in one crucial statistic: attendance. Fans apparently couldn't muster enthusiasm for a team that they knew was leaving them next season for New Orleans. When Hornet's co-owner Ray Wooldridge announced his team's 10-year contract with the New Orleans Arena, he said the team lost $15 million in Charlotte last season. The move may show some shakiness in the NBA's status as an American cash cow. The league went 16 years without a relocation, but the Hornets' move will be the second in two years, following the Grizzlies' departure last year from Vancouver to Memphis. The Hornets' relocation struggle dragged on for two years-and players themselves have had little to say about the matter. "Who cares? I don't," guard Baron Davis said. "We know what's going to happen, we're moving, it's over with."

Broken broker

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Even kingmakers can be dethroned. Michael Ovitz used to be Hollywood's most powerful talent broker, but now he's unloading his troubled talent agency, whose roster includes Cameron Diaz, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Samuel L. Jackson. The former manager of stars is himself a fading star. As co-founder of Creative Artists Management, Mr. Ovitz became the master of the package deal, in which he used one or two of his big stars as leverage to force studios to sign up a number of lesser talents. Some resented Mr. Ovitz and compared his tactics to extortion. Mr. Ovitz left Creative Artists to become president of Disney in 1995, but he lasted only 16 months in that job. He resurfaced in 1999, running Artists Management Group, but he had lost his touch. The company turned out to be a money loser, and a fired executive, Eric Tannenbaum, sued Mr. Ovitz for $9.6 million, claiming fraud, deceit, and defamation. Now Mr. Ovitz is selling the company to another agency, which is ominously named the Firm. Other recent Ovitz ventures have also proved less than blockbuster. He invested in an online music service called Scour that went bankrupt, and he also tried and failed to bring an NFL franchise to Los Angeles.

A nation prayed

"My husband and I find strength in the word of the Lord, and we realize the power that prayer has in our own lives. I'm truly blessed to be married to a man who's strong enough to bear the burdens and humble enough to ask God for help." The 200 people in the White House East Room on the National Day of Prayer May 2, many of them evangelical luminaries, gave Laura Bush's words a long ovation. On his turn to address the gathering as thunder rumbled in the skies outside, Mr. Bush said prayer "strengthens our commitment to things that last and things that matter." In a proclamation he issued earlier, he looked back to 9/11 and said, "We have all seen God's great faithfulness to our country." Senate Chaplain Lloyd Ogilvie unintendedly evoked laughter, including a loud chuckle from Mr. Bush: "Today, along with millions of Americans, we pray for nothing less than a spiritual awakening in America and an unprecedented unity in Congress." Some Bush proposals and appointments have stalled in the narrowly Democrat-controlled Senate. Thousands of similar gatherings to pray for the nation convened that day in government buildings, parks, churches, office buildings, and other sites across the nation and even in Canada. Organizers said 30,000 such prayer events were held in 2001, and this year's numbers would be about the same. The 1775 Continental Congress informally began the day of prayer; it was signed into law in 1952 by President Truman.

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