The Death of a Myth?
Is the search for Bigfoot finally over? It was all a joke, according to a man who said his father strapped on 16-inch carved feet and left fake footprints behind him.
Ray L. Wallace in 1958-in Humboldt County, Calif.-started the prank that became a sensation. When he died last month at age 84, his family decided to give up the gag. "The reality is, Bigfoot just died," son Michael said. Nephew Dale Lee Wallace says he has the carved-alder feet.
The biggest sighting of all came in October 1967. Roger Patterson claimed to have filmed Bigfoot running across a northern California sandbar. Skeptics said it was a man in a monkey suit.
Idaho State University anatomy professor Jeff Meldrum still claims the creature exists. He says Bigfoot stories date back to the 19th century and that he has casts of 40 to 50 footprints made by unknown primates: "To suggest all these are explained by simple carved feet strapped to boots just doesn't wash." But faith in Bigfoot seems even stranger. | Chris Stamper
Man knows not his time
Roone Arledge changed TV news and sports, developing such innovations as football's instant replay and ABC's Nightline. He died this month at age 71 of complications from cancer.
Mr. Arledge came to ABC in the 1960s and began jazzing up a floundering operation. Starting with the network's NCAA telecasts, he added slow motion, freeze-frame views, and instant replays. To bring the action closer to home, he introduced hand-held cameras and placed microphones close to the field.
Mr. Arledge created the long-running Wide World of Sports show, supervised the broadcast of 10 Olympic Games, including the tragic 1972 games in Munich, and hired the controversial Howard Cosell for Monday Night Football.
In 1977, ABC tapped Mr. Arledge to run the network's struggling news division. Two years later, he grabbed a late-night time slot for the show that became Nightline. He changed network news programming but not worldview. | Chris Stamper
A century of Goodwill
In 1902 Boston minister Edgar J. Helms wanted to raise $50,000 to replace his Boston church building, so unsafe that it was about to be condemned. He and his staff had the idea of repairing and selling old clothes and other material donations, and it worked. In 1905 Helms incorporated his new enterprise, and the first branch of what is now Goodwill Industries opened its doors.
Goodwill grew during its first three decades and then was hit by the Depression, as were other charities. Its donations fell by 20 percent, yet the organization was still strong enough to allow Helms in 1934 to make an offer to Harry Hopkins, President Franklin Roosevelt's key anti-poverty advisor: If the federal government gave Goodwill a $5 million grant, it would put every unemployed American to work. The Roosevelt administration, committed to expanding the federal bureaucracy, said no, and the growth of federal dominance of poverty-fighting was underway.
Goodwill during the 1930s maintained church connections. As one of its officials, R.E. Scully, noted in 1935: "The ideals of the Goodwill Industries are distinctly religious," and the Goodwill goal was to "seek to save the man, his self-respect, his morale, and his soul." Since then Goodwill's evangelism has been muted, but Goodwill now has nearly 70,000 employees and sells almost $1 billion worth of goods through stores run by 179 affiliated groups in the United States and Canada. | Marvin Olasky
It sounds too good to be true, and the FTC says it is. Mark Nutritionals says its weight-loss product burns away fat while users sleep, and the company hired DJs around the country to pitch the product. Now the company faces deceptive advertising suits filed by the FTC, Texas, and Illinois.
DJs pitched Body Solutions Evening Weight Loss Formula on over 650 stations in 110 cities. Local radio hosts described how they lost weight by taking the supplement before going to bed.
"It helped me lose 36 pounds and it helps me maintain through the holidays," claimed one of the pitches. "I mean, I ate so much over Thanksgiving, I still have turkey burps. But thanks to Body Solutions, I keep the weight off and now I'm ready for Christmas."
The agency claims Body Solutions was said to "cause substantial weight loss even if users eat substantial amounts of high-calorie foods such as pizza, beer, tacos, nachos, cheese grits, and doughnuts."
The FTC says there is no scientific proof that the concoction promotes weight loss. (The agency is not suing the DJs who read the ads, however.)
The product is still available. Larry Cochran, acting chief executive of Mark Nutritionals, said the company has agreed to change its advertising to address the FTC's concerns. "We are moving forward with a new way to promote and advertise our product." | Chris Stamper
The attention deficit disorder controversy could receive renewed attention next month. Eli Lilly plans to launch a new drug called Strattera, which unlike Ritalin and other medications is not a stimulant. The government, therefore, won't regulate it under the Controlled Substances Act.
Strattera won FDA approval after field trials showed it worked as well as Ritalin in fighting the disorder known as ADD or ADHD. Ritalin, Concerta, and other drugs require handwritten prescriptions with no refills. Patients will be able to refill Strattera over the phone. Its side effects, however, include decreased appetite, nausea, and vomiting.
As controlled substances, stimulants have won widespread criticism. Many parents claim their kids are dosed with drugs to make up for their school's failings. Others say that teachers treat boys as mentally ill just for being rowdy. Experts worry about abuse, as some kids have nicknamed their pills "vitamin R" and shared them with others, especially before exams.
Strattera's launch may reopen discussion of ADD--and whether it really is a medical condition. Lilly claims that 3 percent to 7 percent of school-age children and 4 percent of adults are afflicted. Symptoms include sloppiness, inattention, and fidgeting.
Medical analysts do not expect Strattera to replace Ritalin and other stimulants, but they predict that it will become a popular alternative. | Chris Stamper
A root of all kinds of evil
Robert Courtney was not your friendly neighborhood druggist. He diluted chemotherapy drugs that he sold to thousands of cancer patients, and this month a Kansas City judge sentenced him to up to 30 years in prison.
Mr. Courtney pleaded guilty to 20 counts of altering the cancer drugs Taxol and Gemzar. Authorities said he was able to pocket $780 from each dose of Gemzar by putting only a small fraction of the prescribed amount into an intravenous solution.
His scheme affected as many as 4,200 patients, 400 doctors, and 98,000 prescriptions. An attorney representing the victims called him a serial killer. "Your crimes are a shock to the civilized conscience," U.S. District Judge Ortrie Smith told Mr. Courtney. "They are beyond understanding."
Over 400 plaintiffs filed civil lawsuits against Mr. Courtney. One plaintiff, Georgia Hayes, won over $2.2 billion. She won't see more than a fraction of that money. The federal government seized Mr. Courtney's assets, once estimated at $12 million, for a victims' fund.
Mr. Courtney was also ordered to pay $10.4 million in restitution and a $25,000 fine. "I have committed a terrible crime that I deeply and severely regret," he told the court before being sentenced. "I wish I could change everything." | Chris Stamper
'A new low'
Despite objections by some Christian leaders and groups, Planned Parenthood barreled ahead in its marketing of cards and other T-shirts featuring its controversial "Choice on Earth" holiday theme.
It means "abortion on earth," said Jim Sedlak of American Life League. The theme is "a grotesque mangling of the gospel story of Christ's birth," complained Family Research Council president Ken Connor. "The world's largest provider of abortions has sunk to a new low.
Planned Parenthood's Gloria Feldt said in a statement: "Planned Parenthood believes in every individual's right to make choices and live in peace with our planet, and wishes people of all beliefs a peaceful and safe holiday season." Assuming they survive the womb, that is. | Edward E. Plowman
Rumblings from Rome
With widely publicized allegations of sexual abuse against hundreds of Roman Catholic priests in the United States as a backdrop, the Vatican is drafting new guidelines for accepting candidates for the priesthood. Among other things, the guidelines are expected to address ordination of homosexuals. The majority of allegations involve priests preying on adolescent boys.
Release of the guidelines may still be months away, but leaks suggest that Rome will encourage seminaries to do better screening of applicants and to reject men with homosexual leanings. Ordination "of homosexual men or men with homosexual tendencies is absolutely inadvisable and imprudent, and from the pastoral point of view, very risky," warned a recently retired top Vatican official, Cardinal Jorge Arturo Medina Estevez. | Edward E. Plowman
Welsh bishop (and Welsh Druid) Rowan Williams officially took office this month as the new Archbishop of Canterbury, titular head of the world's 70-plus million Anglicans. In an interview with the London-based Church Times, he covered some of the hot topics.
He has no theological objection to female bishops, but if any are consecrated in the Church of England, he believes the church may need a separate jurisdiction for dissenting traditionalists, since there are so many. (Anglican churches in Canada, the United States, and New Zealand have women bishops, and they have been approved in principle elsewhere.)
He said he abstained from voting on homosexuality at the 1998 international Lambeth Conference, where the world's Anglican bishops overwhelmingly endorsed a resolution saying active homosexual relationships are "incompatible with Scripture." That was "the mind of the church [and] I am bound to live with that." Although he ordained a practicing homosexual once, he said he would abide by Lambeth and not do it again. | Edward E. Plowman
Anglican bishop Michael Ingham of Vancouver, B.C., won't implement same-sex union rites in his New Westminster diocese-at least for now. He said he would delay implementation of the new rites in order not to disturb dialogue he is trying to set up with dissidents in the diocese who oppose the move.
Diocesan delegates by a split vote had approved same-sex blessings earlier, and the bishop last June said he would draw up a liturgy for them. However, eight of the diocese's 80 parishes rebelled, withheld funds (almost $30,000 a month) from the diocese, and asked for alternative oversight of their churches.
The 40-member Canadian House of Bishops in October acknowledged it was divided on whether the Bible condemns homosexual relationships. It voted to ask Bishop Ingham to delay implementing the rites until the denomination's General Synod in 2004. Last month, the bishops also asked him to try to reconcile with the eight conservative parishes.
For his part, Bishop Ingham asked the delegates who voted for the rites to "review the consequences of their decision." He has called a special meeting of the 400-member diocesan synod next month to deal with a 20 percent budget shortfall.
Dissident leaders say the bishop's willingness to talk is an encouraging sign, but they don't believe he will keep the same-sex rites on hold for long. | David Aikman