Scotland's brat pack
Police halted an animal-rights demonstration in Scotland after about 100 school kids pelted the protesters with milk cartons. Helen Morgan of the Scotsman reports that two activists showed up at an Aberdeen school trying to convince children of the alleged evils of milk. Things soon turned sour, and two police officers had to rescue the protesters. "I have traveled all over the UK with this protest and I have never seen anything like this before," protester Sean Gifford told the paper. "I think they just got a bit overexcited."
Present for the president
President Bush probably intended to hand out pens with no expectation of receiving anything in return. But when Mr. Bush signed the Sudan Peace Act last week at the White House, Brad Phillips of the Persecution Project was ready with a gift: a burnt Bible he retrieved from south-central Sudan on a recent trip to visit villagers left homeless. "This Bible belonged to a Christian family that were among the victims of genocide in southern Sudan's Upper Nile oil region," Mr. Phillips told the president. "They were killed and their home was burned to the ground and this burnt Bible is all that remained. Please accept this Bible and remember to pray for our persecuted brethren in Sudan." Mr. Bush replied, "Thank you, I will pray."
DVD to the retail rescue?
DVD players are cheaper than ever-and retailers look for them to be this year's big Christmas hit. Customers can find cheap DVD players on clearance racks for under $60. The average regular model sells for about $150, but markdowns are common. DVD may be one of the few bright spots for retailers this year, as economists predict cautious consumer spending. A Merrill Lynch survey reports falling demand at electronics retailers like Best Buy, Tweeter, and Radio Shack over the last several months. Meanwhile, video rental shelves are increasingly moving toward DVD, as the discs are lighter, take up less room, and don't need rewinding. They also offer better picture quality and extra features. The number of movies available on DVD has doubled since last year. The DVD disc's portability has spawned a new business model: rental by mail. Netflix pioneered this idea in 1999 and now has 742,000 subscribers. Companies like Blockbuster, Wal-Mart, and Columbia House may follow suit. Nearly 20,000 titles are available now, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. DVD has been the top video purchase among consumers for the last three years. Compared to the decade-long rise of the VCR, this growth is extraordinary.
The price of college subsidies
Many media outlets have reported the news that college tuitions are up 9.6 percent over last year. Few, however, have asked why. A Wall Street Journal editorial addresses that question, and reports that financial aid increased 11.5 percent over the same period. The two increases are connected, argues the Journal, with financial aid severely distorting the higher-education market. Federal and state subsidies "immunize college campuses from the market pressures that businesses face every day." The result: As politicians throw more money at universities, administrators are able to raise prices to levels that no one would pay without aid. "In other words," notes the Journal, "taxpayers are chasing their own wallets." The Journal also notes the perverse outcome of these subsidies: Taxpayers who don't go to college must underwrite those who do, as well as "the tenured faculties living in Madison, Chapel Hill, and other leafy latte towns."
Michael Braithwaite says his conversion to Christianity led him to shut down his sex shop. He now calls his Kentucky store a "sinful business" and plans to burn his inventory. Just last July, Mr. Braithwaite pleaded innocent to charges of advertising and distributing obscene material. He defended his business. "I've had hundreds of married and (unmarried) couples come in and thank me for having my shop," he told the Harlan Daily Enterprise. After a car accident, he said he reconsidered his life. He claims his conversion is not a scheme to escape charges. "The Lord started dealing with my heart," he said. "I got my priorities straight." Local attorney Russell Alred, who had pushed for Mr. Braithwaite's prosecution, said the man may be sincere. "It's not for me to judge his motives," he said. "I would find it hard to believe that he would burn his entire inventory and take the loss just to get out of this pending court date."