Dispatches > In Brief

In Brief

News highlights from around the world

Issue: "Global shame," June 15, 2002

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?

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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


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