Ode to America
Stephen Ambrose spent years chronicling World War II; now he's fighting his own battle with lung cancer. The bestselling historian has opted for experimental chemotherapy as he prepares what may be his final works. "My doctor tells me I might make it," he said. "But I think that's pie-in-the-sky, first of all because nobody's going to live forever, and second, I've seen the CAT scans." The historian is currently writing a book titled A Love Song to America detailing his switch from left-wing demonstrator to patriot. Once he had attacked the bombing of Hiroshima and called the Mexican-American War "nothing but a land grab." Now he says he wants to "tell all the things that are right about America." Mr. Ambrose has written over 30 books but recently became embroiled in a controversy over apparent plagiarism. Some passages in several books were footnoted, but not set in quotation marks. Mr. Ambrose apologized for carelessness but still defended his work. "I always thought plagiarism meant using [someone else's] words and ideas, pretending they were your own and profiting from it," Mr. Ambrose wrote on his Web page. "I do not do that, never have done that, and never will." A new edition of The Wild Blue, the story of a World War II bombing crew, recently appeared with a lot of new quotation marks.
Going overtime at 60 Minutes
Mike Wallace is 84 years old, but he isn't heading for the rocking chair just yet. The veteran TV personality rejects retirement and plans to return this fall for another season of 60 Minutes. Mr. Wallace is the oldest face in the graying world of network news. By comparison, Peter Jennings is 63, Dan Rather is 70, and Charles Gibson is 59. Mr. Wallace's executive producer, Don Hewitt, who started 60 Minutes in 1968, is 79. As he accepted the Fred Friendly First Amendment Award from Quinnipiac University last month, Mr. Wallace disputed former CBS correspondent Bernard Goldberg's charges that the media lean leftward and compared himself to the more politically centrist Bill O'Reilly of Fox News Channel. "He likes to ask hard questions, he interrupts too often, and, since he owns the microphone, he takes charge," he said. "But it's not a newscast." Meanwhile, the big ship of 60 Minutes looks too big to revamp. Although the show remains the most popular newsmagazine on television, ratings have faded lately. The show's last major change was the addition of Lesley Stahl back in 1991.
Is it over the line?
Cantor Fitzgerald lost 658 employees in the attack on the World Trade Center. The company is now discussing the tragedy in an ad campaign, which is not without its critics. "I don't know if guilt is the motivation that you want to use to do business with people," said Bob Kuperman of New York's DDB Advertising on CNBC. A Cantor Fitzgerald TV ad has an employee saying, "I think for me it was getting back to work. That's the one thing that was keeping our minds off things and making us go on." A full-page ad in The New York Times says: "Tragedy forced Matt Claus to learn quickly." It goes on to describe how one manager had the company's electronic trading subsidiary running within two days of 9/11. "Our people have been tested. Our technology has been tested. And both are stronger than anyone could imagine." Cantor Fitzgerald plans to share 25 percent of company profits with employee victims' families over the next five years.
The right to remain silent
Religious institutions can't be held liable for discriminating against employees on the basis of religion, the California Supreme Court ruled last month, even if the effect is to muzzle religious speech. It all started when Terence Silo, a file clerk at the 42-hospital Catholic Healthcare West Medical Foundation, became an evangelical believer more than a year after he was hired. He began speaking openly about his faith. A patient and several fellow employees complained. (One said he had urged her not to use "the name of God in vain.") Administrators warned Mr. Silo not to use the word God during work hours. After repeated warnings, administrators said, they fired him. Mr. Silo took his case to court. He denied he had harassed anyone, and he said his "religious discussions" had taken place during lunch hour. A lower court and a state appeals court found in his favor, ruling that Healthcare West had shown religious prejudice. But the high court held unanimously that religious organizations have the right under the First Amendment to "define themselves and their religious message" and may fire workers for "objectionable religious speech." Mr. Silo's contention that Healthcare West for all practical purposes is a secular organization, and thus subject to sanctions, swayed no one. - Edward E. Plowman
Man knows not his time
Rev. Paul Lindstrom, educator, homeschooling pioneer, and pastor of the Church of Christian Liberty in Arlington Heights, Ill., for 38 years, died on May 22 at his home in suburban Chicago from cancer of the liver. He was 62. He launched the well-known Christian Liberty Academy, a day school now with nearly 1,000 students, in 1968, and began organizing the homeschooling movement the following year. The academy published materials for homeschoolers. He also established an international network of schools; his Christian Liberty Academy School System enrolls more than 35,000 students worldwide. - Edward E. Plowman
And stay out
A federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., last month upheld the ouster of conservative Episcopal priest Samuel Edwards from Christ Church in Accokeek, Md. In a case followed closely in Episcopal circles, former acting bishop Jane Dixon had refused to accept the newly called rector. She cited his opposition to "un-Christian" developments in the denomination and women's ordination. After he said he could accept her administrative role but not her sacramental role, she ordered him out of the pulpit and off church property. But he and the church's governing board refused to comply. Bishop Dixon filed suit. A lower court said her power was absolute: Rev. Edwards would have to leave. - Edward E. Plowman
Render unto Costco
Zoning disputes that pit city and county agencies against churches are fairly common across the country: Neighbors may object to expansion of facilities, and officials may fight to keep property on the tax rolls by rejecting church bids to buy commercial sites. But the city council of Cyprus in Orange County, Calif., took an uncommon-and drastic-action against 4,000-member Cottonwood Christian Center of neighboring Los Alamitos. The city fathers, acting as the community's redevelopment agency, voted unanimously last month to seize by eminent domain an 18-acre site the church had purchased in 1999 for $14 million with the intent to relocate there. The action would force the church to sell the site, part of a 300-acre tract earmarked for redevelopment, to the city for $14.6 million to make way for a Costco-anchored shopping strip. The church has filed suit in federal court to block the action. Legal authorities described the city's move as the most aggressive one against any church since the passage of the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000. It is a law that restricts cities from limiting church development in favor of tax dollars churches don't provide. Soon after purchasing the property, Cottonwood applied for a permit to build a $50 million worship center. City officials rejected the application and instead entered into exclusive negotiations with discounter Costco. The church in January sued the city officials, citing the federal land-use law and seeking to force them to permit construction of the building. That case was still pending at the time of the eminent-domain decision. Area residents are divided. Some say new jobs, quality services, and convenient shopping are important to them. Cottonwood's senior pastor, Bayless Conley, wonders why the city wants his church's 18-acre plot when there's so much other available land around it. - Edward E. Plowman
A new study has confirmed a trend that has been making many people sit up and take notice: Growing numbers of Hispanics in the United States, especially younger ones, are moving from Catholic to Protestant churches. And, the study found, many Hispanic Christians think churches should be more involved in public issues. Among those noticing: President Bush. He joined more than 800 Hispanic clergy and lay leaders at the Capital Hilton in Washington last month for a national Hispanic Prayer Breakfast, sponsored by two evangelical Hispanic alliances. He drew applause when he referred to a "spiritual revolution" that is catching hold among many young Hispanics. And when he said, "For some people, Jesus' admonition to 'care for the least of these' is an admirable moral teaching. For many Hispanic Americans, it's a way of life," he received a standing ovation. He also gave a plug for pending faith-based legislation. - Edward E. Plowman
EEOC vs. Duke Nukem
When Frances Wagner, a software technical support telephone operator in Colorado, was transferred to a call center specializing in problems related to popular kill-'em games Doom, Hexen, Quake, and Duke Nukem, she objected on religious grounds. Such violence conflicted with her strong Christian beliefs, she said. Her employer, the Tampa-based Sykes Enterprises, tried to find another slot for her, but a physical impairment ruled out that particular assignment, and Sykes balked at retaining her in her original job. The company then fired her. That was in 1997. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has now filed a lawsuit against Sykes on behalf of Ms. Wagner, 51. It seeks unspecified monetary damages and a court order aimed at implementing policies to prevent religious discrimination at Sykes. Sykes didn't return media calls seeking comment. EEOC lawyer Karen Weeks in Denver says the lawsuit is unusual in that it is directly related to the work itself. "Normally, in religious-belief cases," she told a reporter, "the conflict comes when the employee wants to leave work and attend some sort of religious event or ceremony." - Edward E. Plowman
New York City officials asked a federal appeals court late last month to lift a ban on using police to shut down a "homeless encampment" outside Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. The church operates a shelter for 10 people inside its facility, but for two years also has allowed some 20 to 30 homeless people to spend the night on its steps and property adjacent to the sidewalks. After police began rousting the homeless campers last December, the church won an injunction, claiming the homeless outreach was an integral part of its ministry. At the latest hearing, a city lawyer argued that the church steps constitute an illegal homeless shelter, where dangerous and unsanitary conditions create a nuisance to the city and are a danger to the homeless campers themselves. A statement released by the city said: "The current situation provides no access to toilet facilities, no security protection, and no protection from the elements-a situation that we view as unacceptable." But church attorney Carter G. Phillips contended the church steps are not a shelter, but rather "a place of sanctuary" for homeless people that, as part of the church's ministry, is protected under the First Amendment. Many of the homeless feared the city's shelter system, he said. He vowed to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary. - Edward E. Plowman
PCUSA: proof of chastity
Despite its fidelity-in-marriage and chastity-in-singleness standard for ordained clergy and elders, some open homosexuals and their supporters in the 2.5-million-member Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) continue to flout church law. And in some cases, church courts have found-or woven-loopholes and technicalities that aid the rebels. It happened again last month. The case involved Katie Morrison, a lesbian ordained last year in northern California. She is a "field organizer" for More Light Presbyterians-a gay advocacy network. During her pre-ordination exam, she said she would abide by the chastity standards. Some church members complained that presbytery officials should have asked more specifically her definition of "chaste." But a regional church court dismissed the complaint. It said the complaint failed the new, narrower requirements: Accusers must present evidence and "specific" details of "how, when, where, and under what circumstances the person was self-acknowledging a practice which the [church] Confessions call a sin." Short of planting a video camera in a self-avowed homosexual's bedroom, it means plaintiffs now will be hard pressed to make leaders enforce the chastity standards. Indeed, dozens of pastors and church boards and even some presbyteries have announced they are in defiance of the fidelity-chastity standards. Curiously, the PCUSA high court in 2000 said church governing bodies do not have the right to defy the ordination standard, and a "response" is required by church authorities. Yet, so far, no rebellious groups have been disciplined-an issue sure to be raised at this summer's PCUSA general assembly. - Edward E. Plowman
Among the findings of various surveys and studies released last month:
- Median pastoral salaries have increased 25 percent over the last decade to $40,077, 31 percent of the average Protestant church's operating budget (Barna Research Group).
- A spiritual awakening is underway in Canada; evangelical Protestants have more than doubled since 1950, from 1.1 million in 1950 to 2.5 million in 2000 (leading religion pollster Reginald Bibby).
- Although the number of American adults who expressed no religious preference doubled, from 7 percent to 14 percent, during the 1990s, most still classified themselves as believers; they dropped out of churches, they contended, not the faith (Berkeley sociologists Michael Hout and Claude Fischer).
- Denominations mean less to more; nondenominational church growth went from 1 percent in 1992 to 6 percent last year (Gallup).
- At least 16 Catholic priests accused of sexually molesting minors, including 12 priests in the United States, have committed suicide since 1986 (Cleveland Plain Dealer). - Edward E. Plowman
On their honor
Is cheating an epidemic in American schools? Georgia Tech officials said on May 30 that 136 students accepted punishment for cheating on a computer science assignment last fall. Critics worry that the scandal is just one symptom of an enormous problem that often goes undetected. Recent research hints at the breadth of the cheating problem. Rutgers University professor Don McCabe found in a study that 70 percent of 4,500 high-school seniors reported "seriously cheating" at least once on schoolwork. A similar study by Princeton University found that almost three in four high-school students plagiarized during the prior year. Some of the cheating involves athletes. Two former Louisiana State teachers allege academic wrongdoing involving LSU football players. The charges include plagiarism, improper use of note takers, tutors and academic center employees providing too much help, athletes taking unsupervised tests, and superiors pressuring instructors to let improprieties continue. Meanwhile, some schools are trying new ways to cope with a seemingly unstoppable problem. The University of Maryland, for example, is bolstering its honor code. A new policy asks students to sign an oath on papers and tests swearing that they did not cheat. The pledge says, "I pledge on my honor that I have not given or received any unauthorized assistance on this examination." Yet the school does not penalize students for not signing it. - Chris Stamper
Golden State's warriors
Multicultural activists in California tried to cancel the Chiefs and ax the Apaches. But on May 28 the state assembly scalped their attempt to ban American Indian nicknames for public-school teams. Yet this isn't likely to end the campaign for politically correct mascots. New York Education Commissioner Richard Mills is campaigning to have Indian sports symbols eliminated from his state, and the Maryland State Board of Education asked schools to drop the names last year. An activist group called the Morning Star Institute claims that over half of America's 3,000 schools with Indian mascots or nicknames have already changed to other mascots. Stanford University replaced its "Indian" with a color, "Cardinal," back in 1972. Los Angeles and Dallas schools banned Indian mascots in 1997. Democratic Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg wrote the California bill claiming Indian names create a hostile learning environment and spark racial division. The bill would have banned such names as Redskins, Indians, Braves, Chiefs, Apaches, and Comanches. The mascots would have vanished from elementary up to university levels with one exception: schools on reservations. The measure would have forced about 100 California schools to change names, including 26 using "Braves" and 55 using "Indians." California also has 85 "Warriors" teams, which the bill would have barred if they used Indian mascots. Critics said that schools had the right to pick their own names, a position Ms. Goldberg rejected. "Civil rights are not a matter of local control," she said. "They are a matter of simple dignity." After both sides debated for hours, the bill went down to defeat on a 35-to-29 vote. The whole Indian mascot debate was refueled by a misbegotten attempt at mockery. Some Indian students at the University of Northern Colorado named their intramural basketball team "The Fighting Whities." They printed jerseys with clip art of a middle-aged white man-and the shirts quickly became collectors' items. The students found themselves deluged with requests for the shirts from outside the school. - Chris Stamper
Back in 1998, California maverick Ron Unz led a ballot fight to have public-school kids taught in English. Today he and his fellow proponents are still trying to see Proposition 227 enforced, but roughly 25 percent of California's 6 million public-school students do not speak English fluently. Boston University Professor Christine Rossell claims the state's educational bureaucrats undermined the law. Prop. 227 demands that "nearly all" lessons be in English, but her study found that school districts allow up to 30 percent of instruction in another language. Parents retain the right to apply for a waiver that would allow their children to be transferred to bilingual classes. But schools are not required to offer the alternative courses unless 20 or more students in one grade level receive waivers. Multiculturalists and bilingualism advocates wanted the rules changed so faculty and teachers can initiate the waiver process. Prop. 227 supporters said this would undermine the law, and Mr. Unz threatened to sue the board over this issue: "That was completely illegal and contrary to the clear language of the initiative." Prop. 227 has resurfaced as an election issue this year, as California Gov. Gray Davis's opponents accused him of undermining the initiative. When the referendum passed in 1998, it carried 61 percent of the vote. - Chris Stamper
Gender Bender, Inc.
Which companies are leading the way in corporate-backed "gender inclusion"? American Airlines, Verizon, and IBM. The three mega-corporations last month partially bankrolled the second annual national conference of GenderPAC, a "human-rights" group that works to blur the distinction between males and females and to "give our children the right to choose and express their gender." The three-day event in Washington included a Capitol Hill lobby day; workshops on legislative activism that promotes gender "self-determination"; and something called the "Great Big International Drag King Show II." In one address, IBM representative Cynthia Neff lauded her company's progress toward hiring and promoting inclusiveness for such "sexual minorities" as transsexuals. Meanwhile, a Verizon table offered a booklet that listed ways to make a workplace more inclusive. Among specific suggestions: "Use examples of same-sex couples in business exercises and role-plays," and "seek out opportunities to learn from transgender people."- Lynn Vincent
One area where the Bush administration would like more of a "digital divide" is in public libraries: keeping children digitally divided from online pornography. But a federal court ruled that a law requiring Web filters at public libraries is unconstitutional. The three-judge panel said legislatures cannot force public libraries to install software that blocks sexually explicit sites from their public computers. The upshot: Taxpayers must pay for people to view cyberporn in public libraries. This marks the third law restricting online obscenity to be tossed out since 1996. In this case, the panel charged that Web filters also block sites on topics that should not be suppressed, such as politics, health, and science. The Justice Department says it may appeal to the Supreme Court. The law, called the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA), had bipartisan support when President Clinton signed it two years ago. Its supporters say the decision ties the hands of parents who want to take children to the library without fear of endangerment. The Justice Department argues that smut is so pervasive that children need special protection and that libraries should use the same caution with the Internet that they use with books and magazines. The ALA claims filters give parents a false sense of security. The group has suggested that libraries use optional filters for children, privacy screens, and special classes about Internet use. Critics say these ideas may make forbidden fruit more tempting. Another major cyberporn law is still before the courts. The 1998 Child Online Protection Act would force sites to check proof of age before displaying material deemed harmful to minors. Meanwhile, lawmakers are trying to draft new anti?kiddie porn laws after the Supreme Court struck down key provisions of a 1996 law that would have banned simulated sexual images of children.
Space travel's new Buzz
Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, wants to help men set foot on Mars. He and a team of scientists are designing a super space shuttle that they hope can take a crew to the red planet as early as 2018. Mr. Aldrin's crew plans to build something massive: a craft that resembles a big space bus more than today's Columbia and Atlantis vessels. The ship would fly back and forth between the two planets, powered by both gravity and booster rockets. It would house up to 50 people taking six-month shuttle flights. The former astronaut said he first thought of a Mars shuttle in the mid-1990s, and now he is working with scientists from Purdue, MIT, and the University of Texas to make it a reality. Manned flight to the red planet has become space travel's new crusade. Jim Garvin, NASA's lead scientist for Mars exploration, says his agency will spend about $500 million a year over the next 10 years trying to reach that goal. In recent years, this dream has been clouded by problems. Two unmanned spacecraft failed upon reaching Mars in 1999. The planet's atmosphere burned up one and a software failure wrecked the other. Optimism grew this year, however, after the Mars Odyssey spacecraft entered an orbit and began mapping the minerals and chemicals on the planet's surface. According to Mr. Garvin, today's work on Mars exploration is mostly theoretical. No one expects to blast off anytime soon, if at all. "We're in a decade of discovery for Mars," he said. "It will fill in the homework we need, so come 2010, maybe sooner, we'll know enough to start asking the question, 'Now what do we do if we want to insert humans as the explorers?'"
Does the digital divide really exist? Are poor people oppressed if they can't access Yahoo, America Online, and Amazon.com? Such complaints have been lobbed at the high-tech industry for years-and now critics are targeting President Bush, saying he doesn't do enough to solve this supposed problem. The Consumers Union and other liberal groups say the White House is inadequately concerned about the gap between technology haves and have-nots. They want more federal efforts to promote Internet access. These activists say the Bush administration misinterprets an optimistic Commerce Department report released last February. It said over half of all Americans now use the Internet. More than 2 million people go online for the first time every month. And nine out of 10 school-age children can access computers either at home or at school. They say these figures hide the lack of access at home. Many analysts dismiss the idea of a digital divide, arguing that the alleged disparities result from the fact that consumer Internet use is relatively new. This innovation, they say, is trickling down to low-income households just as color TV, microwave ovens, and refrigerators did in the past. While Michael D. Gallagher of the Commerce Department says the digital divide is a genuine concern, he made similar arguments. He pointed out that other developments like cable TV and cell-phone use boomed across economic lines without government subsidy. "This administration focuses much more on digital opportunities as opposed to divides," Gallagher said. "We believe in expanded opportunities, which happen in schools, in libraries, in workplaces, and at home." Bush administration officials used the February results as evidence that the "digital divide" is fading away. They said Internet use growing at a faster-than-average rate among the poor and minorities and in rural areas. A $15 million program for "technology opportunities" was cut last year and is marked for elimination in the 2003 budget.
More and more doctors are losing confidence in their profession. A new study finds that physician morale dropped over the last five years, and almost half would not recommend medicine as a career choice. The survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 87 percent of doctors said that overall morale within their profession had dropped. Yet their own feelings were a bit more optimistic: 58 percent said their own morale had dropped over the last five years. "Among the almost half of doctors who would not recommend the profession today, administrative hassles and loss of autonomy are cited as the main reasons for dissatisfaction, followed by excessive professional demands, less respect for the medical profession, and inadequate financial rewards," the Kaiser report said. "I don't know of anybody who is enjoying the practice of medicine the way they once did," Atlanta psychiatrist Sheldon Cohen told the American Medical News, a trade publication. "The biggest things are a lack of gratification and a lack of relationships with patients." - Chris Stamper
Buckles beat air bags
The effectiveness of air bags may be a bit, well, inflated. A new study found them far less helpful than the traditional seat belt. A group of University of Washington researchers concluded that air bags "offer relatively little benefit in road vehicle crashes." Air bags alone reduced the risk of death by only about 8 percent-a statistic that pales behind the 65 percent drop just from wearing seat belts. Those protected by both devices face a risk of death 68 percent lower than those who use neither. "No matter what you see on television, you really need to buckle up," Peter Cummings, one of the researchers, told the Seattle Times. "Seat belts are really superior to air bags." Air bags quickly pop out of the dashboard (at speeds up to 200 mph) at impact. They are intended to prevent head and chest injuries during frontal impact. They entered widespread use starting with the 1987 model year and became mandatory in 1998 (for cars) and 1999 (for light trucks). They attracted controversy in recent years due to research showing that they are too strong for little kids and can cause head and neck injuries. Federal regulators started allowing deactivation switches in 1995 and many urged people to have children ride in the back seat. Since then, government statistics say the number of child fatalities from air bags dropped from 25 in 1996 down to six in 2000. - Chris Stamper
New and not improved?
Is a new drug always the best drug? The FDA approved hundreds of medications during the 1990s, but a controversial new study claims that only a few were serious innovations. This means many patients may be spending extra money on products that aren't worth the expense. The report by the National Institute for Health Care Management reviewed 1,035 drugs approved between 1989 and 2000 and concluded that only 153 were highly innovative drugs. "We are all under the impression that 'new and improved' is always much better," yet that's not always true, said Nancy Chockley, president of the institute. The same group reported in March that outpatient prescription drug spending totaled $154.5 billion in 2001, up from $131.9 billion in 2000. Much of the increase was from expensive drugs that have become brand names: Lipitor and Zocor for cholesterol, Vioxx and Celebrex for arthritis, and OxyContin for pain. The institute's prescription for rising costs is severe: Ms. Chockley wants the government to stop issuing patents for drugs that aren't significantly different from their predecessors. Drug makers disagree and argue that competing drugs give doctors and patients more options. Also, similar drugs may have different effects in different cases. The debate is sure to heat up as baby boomers age. Last month the AARP joined three lawsuits against six drug companies, claiming patent abuse, suppression of generic competition, and collusion to keep cheap medications off the market. - Chris Stamper