An Inclusive Litany


A minor-league baseball team in West Virginia decided to offer a free vasectomy in a Father's Day promotion that was ultimately unsuccessful.

After four gunmen robbed a bar in Hayward, California, police shot and wounded one of the perpetrators, and two others ran back into the bar to take hostages. One of the gunmen was then stabbed and killed by a hostage wielding a pocket knife. The family of the dead robber later sued the bar, claiming it did not provide a "safe environment" for him.

The National Labor Relations Board ruled that Caterpillar, Inc. broke the law during a strike that ended two years ago. The firm provided t-shirts and snacks to those who stayed on the job. Caterpillar was thus "restraining and coercing employees in the exercise of their rights," said the NLRB.

USA Today founder Al Neuharth in his June 20 column:
What if Watergate had elected McGovern?.... The Cold War would have ended in the '70s rather than in the '90s. McGovern, in his campaign, debunked the threat and invincibility of the so-called evil Soviet empire. Republican and Democratic Presidents preached that myth for four decades, until the USSR self-destructed.... George McGovern. A man before his time. Prescient. Decisive, but decent. The USA and the world would have been far better off if we'd been heedful of his early Watergate warnings and had put McGovern in the White House in 1972.


A notice from New York's Film Society of Lincoln Center, announcing " 'What a Drag!': A Cross-Dressing Series For Kids," Spring 1997:
The first-ever "Kid Curator Contest" has found its winner! Victoria Kabek came up with the wonderfully original idea of Cross-Dressing for Kids. An eloquent nine-year-old fourth-grader from the Upper West Side, Victoria wrote that such a series would help "to teach people to be tolerant of others who are different." And so from June 28 to August 31, we will present her suggested movies, plus a few more we contributed to fit the bill: Tootsie, Mrs. Doubtfire, Some Like It Hot, I Was A Male War Bride. Join us for a fun, instructive romp—through mistakes, mishaps, and missteps...oh, miss?

Letter to the editor, the Orange County Register, February 24, 1997:
While I found the content of the article "Tackling hurt head-on" [News, Feb. 17] quite sensitive and compassionate, it contained a phrase that I feel is insensitive and offensive, That phrase is "sat Indian style."

What exactly does "say Indian style" mean? How does it happen that a whole race of people have the honor of having a way of sitting named after them? Are Native Americans the only people who sit with their legs crossed? I would think that the educated and learned reporters of the Orange County Register could come up with a more descriptive and appropriate way of describing how a person was sitting. Perhaps using the simple phrase "sitting cross legged" would be adequate....


After children in Chino, California, found several boxes containing discarded human fetuses while walking along a road, the San Bernardino County coroner's office faced a debate concerning their disposal. A religious group wanted to bury them, while the American Civil Liberties Union preferred their cremation as medical waste—arguing that only human remains can be buried in a cemetery, and by law, these were not human remains.

The Boston Globe reports from Palmer, Massachusetts, June 15, 1997:

The witnesses told an appalling tale of arrogance and destruction.

The frog said she was born with a third hind leg because humans polluted the marsh where she lives. A panther told of a whole species that people had wiped out and of hunters who display the head of the animals they kill.

The prosecutor, a crow with a long black beak, charged humanity with transforming a "once-living planet into a dull and lifeless rock."

For the students inside the animal costumes, their play, "The Trial of Humanity" climaxed months of rehearsal and even the building of a "jungle" with Palmer High School ecology teacher Michelle Corbeil-Crawford. More than 600 people in this blue-collar town near Springfield watched last month as animals prosecuted people for their environmental crimes.

[Ed.: Critics complained that along with their problems understanding the complex ecological issues involved, none of the 7-year-olds in the play served as mankind's defense attorney.]


Mattel's marketing of Share-a-Smile Becky, a wheelchair-bound friend of the Barbie doll character, has hit a snag. Barbie's Dream House, an accessory of the collection, has doors and an elevator column into which Barbie can fit, but Becky and her wheelchair cannot. A future Dream House design will correct this problem.

Another addition to the growing Barbie community is "Billy," an anatomically correct 13-inch doll who, according to his manufacturer, is "the world's first out and proud gay doll." Billy "has arms like a football linebacker and legs like a weightlifter," and comes with a trim sailor's suit, among other outfits.

The Village Voice, June 18, 1997:
Two United Nations soldiers from Belgium will stand trial in their own country beginning next Monday on charges of roasting a live Somali child over an open fire during "peacekeeping" operations in 1993....

Photos taken by one Belgian UN soldier—published for what is probably the first time in the United States by the Village Voice—show two soldiers smiling as they roast one child. Another soldier is photographed forcing a child to drink worms and vomit, after being compelled to drink salt water to make him vomit. In one photograph, a UN peacekeeper is urinating on the body of a presumably dead Somali. In another, a soldier's foot, encased in a black combat boot, is pressed into the head of a Somali sprawled on the ground, presumed dead.

Shocking as it is, the UN scandal in Somalia is no anomaly. A Village Voice analysis of documents and reports relating to recent UN peacekeeping operations has uncovered incidents ranging from murder and torture to sexual exploitation, harassment of and discrimination against local women and children. UN representatives have also sexually harassed their female colleagues, and have been accused of smuggling drugs and arms. In addition, brothels have sprouted nearby—and in one case allegedly inside—UN compounds. In the latter case, prostitutes were allegedly employed by the UN and were reportedly even shipped on UN planes to fornicate with a UN staff member in hotels paid for by the UN. Shoddy leadership has also led to what the UN's own investigators call "mismanagement" of $26.7 million relating to a war-crimes tribunal in Rwanda; another $3.9 million in cold cash was stolen outright from an unlocked filing cabinet in Somalia.


National Public Radio White House reporter Mara Liasson on "Fox News Sunday," June 1, 1997, reacting to the news that Rep. Susan Molinari (R-NY) would be leaving Congress for a position at CBS:
Well, I think it's disturbing. I mean, she is not going to be a commentator or a part of a show where she's clearly identified with her partisan point of view—she's going to be an anchor. And I think it means, it sends the message that there's no such thing as journalism anymore. It's all just about celebrity-hood and name recognition and I think it's, I think it's disturbing.
NPR's Nina Totenberg, "Inside Washington," May 31, 1997:
Well, this really makes me want to puke. You know, at least CBS had the decency, when they hired Diane Sawyer from the Nixon White House, to make her go out and stand in the rain for a year or so, to earn her position... it really, it just makes me want to throw up.
In criticizing Molinari's partisanship, neither Liasson nor Totenberg noted that the current and previous two Presidents of National Public Radio had been active in the Democratic Party. In fact, when Bill Clinton was first elected, the NPR President at the time jumped to a position in the new administration.


Responding to concerns that industrial emissions from the United States were causing highly acidic precipitation that would damage forests and ruin fisheries, particularly in the northeast United States and Canada, the Environmental Protection Agency administered the National Acid Precipitation Assessment Project (NAPAP), a ten-year scientific inquiry of unprecedented scale that cost $540 million and concluded in 1990.

But NAPAP found that over half of the dead, acidic lakes were not located in the northeast at all but in Florida, which does not receive high rates of acid rain. Despite dire assertions about the state of northeastern lakes, it turned out that only about one-fiftieth of one percent of the fresh water in the eastern United States was "acid-dead," with a pH of 5.0 or lower. NAPAP concluded that acid rain may have caused marginal environmental problems such as stress to certain high-altitude tree stands, which itself could also be explained by the presence of disease or parasites. NAPAP also noted huge variations in acid precipitation around the world, with some Pacific islands receiving naturally high levels of acid rain due to the presence of carbonic acid derived from carbon dioxide. Of the acids derived from industrial emissions, NAPAP was mostly concerned about sulfuric acid, since nitric acid is readily absorbed by trees as a nutrient.

Soil scientist and NAPAP participant Edward Krug concludes that the major factor causing certain lakes to become acidic is not acid precipitation but the alkalinity of the surrounding soil. Krug notes that normal rainfall has a pH of 5.0, which most species of fish cannot survive in, but most watersheds are buffered by lime-like alkaline substances that underly rivers and lakes. The high acidity of lakes in the Adirondacks and Nova Scotia results from a lack of this natural buffering. A multimillion-dollar survey also found that biological factors, such as the presence of acid-producing sphagnum mosses, also contributed to the dearth of alkalinity in the Adirondack watershed.

Then why was there such good fishing in the Adirondacks as recently as 100 years ago? Even President Theodore Roosevelt prized the region as a vacation site because the fish were so plentiful. Krug concludes that this represents a recent anomaly and that originally the lakes were acid-dead. The Iroquois word "Adirondack" literally means "bark-eater," which suggests poor fishing, and initial European settlers also found it very difficult to stock local lakes with fish. Core samples from lake bottoms also revealed the lakes to be historically acidic.

However, during the latter half of the 19th century the Adirondack area became a major center for the wood industry, which at the time entailed devastating clear-cutting that was accompanied by massive forest fires. Much of the naturally acid-producing plant life was eroded away and replaced by alkaline ash from the forest fires, runoff from which caused the local watershed to become inhabitable for sport fish for a time. But this severe environmental disturbance in turn led to local conservation measures when the government bought the damaged land from the lumber companies and made it into a park, a measure that after a time caused the watershed to return to its natural acidic state. Krug found the same scenario of low-alkalinity soil, and the same history of logging followed by conservation, also applied to Nova Scotia as well as Scandinavia, where the recent acid-lake problem had been blamed on industrial emissions from Great Britain and central Europe.

Krug also concluded that if people wanted those lakes that were acidic to support wildlife, the best way to do so would be to seed targeted watersheds with lime. Krug determined that all acidic lakes in New York and New England could successfully be limed for under $500,000 a year, compared to the billions of dollars it would cost to reduce acid rain emissions, which evidence showed would not work anyway. And already on Cape Cod, the National Park Service has resisted pressure to "improve" acid lakes for fishermen, in favor of its environmental mandate to preserve the natural ecosystem of its parks.

[Ed.: Acidity and alkalinity are measured on the logarithmic pH scale in units from 0 to 14, with 0 representing extreme acidity, 14 as extreme alkalinity, and 7 as neutral. Each pH unit represents a ten-fold increase in concentration, so a pH of 4.0 (as in a pear) is ten times more acidic than pH 5.0 (as in tea).

Ironically, regional acid precipitation intensified following local environmental efforts in cities like Pittsburgh and Cleveland to spread out pollution more widely with tall smokestacks and also to reduce soot emissions, which are alkaline and effectively neutralize the acids formed by burning fossil fuels.]

Anne Bourne in California's Monterey County Herald, April 18, 1997:
We could abolish gun violence very easily, simply by making gun ownership a crime until such violence is reduced to zero. Everyone who owns a gun and defends general gun ownership is, I believe, a contributor to gun violence and should be held partially responsible. Once gun crime has stopped (yes, I believe it's possible to actually stop anything we really want to stop), those who have gun permits for hunting and have never committed a crime could once more own a gun, but if any crime occurs, once more all guns would be confiscated.

At a time of base closings, privatization, and budget austerity at the Pentagon, word filtered up from the U.S. Southern Command (6,200 members strong, from all branches of the military) that U.S. soldiers were being drafted to carry out new duties in Central and South America—guarding rain forests and endangered species and building parks.

The United Nations Development Agency has ranked Cuba, whose people are on the verge of starvation and whose economy is comparable to that of Haiti, as the world's second-best nation at combating poverty, behind Trinidad and Tobago but ahead of Chile, Singapore, and Costa Rica, all of which are economic success stories. The U.N. cites Cuba's ability to narrow differences between genders and social classes.

According to official Cuban statistics, the country's GNP has fallen by about 20 percent since 1991, and the average Cuban worker earns a monthly wage of 203 pesos. Even if the nonconvertible currency's official exchange rate is taken seriously, it still means the average Cuban worker earns about $140 per year, less than an American minimum wage earner earns in a week. This is occurring despite a considerable level of investment by Western governments defying American policy.


After the Iowa legislature declared nude dancing illegal in establishments that served liquor, the activity shifted to specialty juice bars that suddenly sprang up in great numbers. The legislature responded by making nude dancing illegal in any establishment holding a sales-tax permit, unless it was an organization "primarily devoted to the arts." A bar promptly renamed itself the "Southern Comfort Free Theater for the Performing Arts." Owners placed sketch pads on tables, held drawing contests, and asked "students" for donations.

The American Humane Society has launched a campaign to stamp out the sport hunting of elephants in Zimbabwe, even though the elephant population there has been growing for a long time now—precisely because the government's recognition of hunting rights has made the animals into economic assets. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) is leading an effort to cut off U.S. funds for Campfire, the program that allows partnerships between hunters, villagers, and wildlife officials.

But the local environment has in fact been suffering from an overpopulation of elephants, with herds growing at an annual rate of 5 percent. Noting the ever-accumulating piles of tusks from elephants as they die off, Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe has also denounced the world-wide ban on the ivory trade as "colonialist." Matusadona National Park warden Zephania Muketiwa also warns that elephant overpopulation threatens the survival of other wildlife in the region, including the endangered black rhino.

A eulogy delivered by Michael Weiss in the San Jose Mercury News, April 13, 1997:
Awhile later, with the sky outside the plate glass window turning murky with light, I felt somebody touch my thigh. Allen was sitting beside me and when I looked down I saw his hand resting there. He squeezed.

I thought: One of the great poets of the century is making a pass at me. And it has to be a man! And then I thought that this man was 20 years older than I was, he had been drinking and doping and laughing and shouting and making great ribald sense all night through; his lover was here; he had tried to seduce Andy; and now he was going to settle for me.

My head was drooping with tiredness and he was going strong. It taught me something about the vast energy that underlies the creative urge in a genius like Allen Ginsberg, the unlimited appetites, to contempt for the barriers that keep the rest of us penned in.

This week thinking about Allen Ginsberg and old idea made sense anew: The world is a smaller place when a great man dies. He breathed life and yearning into all he touched.


In a "60 Minutes" segment titled "The Big Apple," Leslie Stahl reported that not all New Yorkers were happy with New York City's new reputation for cleanliness and crime reduction.

Author Fran Liebowitz told Stahl, "Why should Times Square be safe for children? I mean they have the whole rest of the country... [Mayor Giuliani's] kind of turning this from the you know, Big Apple to the Big Apple Pie.... I'm not romanticizing the gutter. I didn't move here when I was 18 years old because I heard how clean it was. You know. You came here because you thought it would be interesting. And it was. And it's significantly less interesting now."

Asked whether he had been to Times Square following the city's campaign to drive out pornography and prostitution, columnist Jimmy Breslin responded: "Yeah, with the celebration of the corporations on the signs? I love it. There's no dirt. No dirt at all. City dies unless it's got some dirt and a little raciness." Asked whether he thought it was a good thing to be able to walk down the street free of constant solicitation from prostitutes, Breslin responded: "Well who's gonna be there? What's on 42nd Street now?... Disney? I'll take the hookers."


An Associated Press dispatch from Detroit, June 4, 1997:
A dark-skinned Egyptian immigrant is suing the federal government to change his racial classification from white to black.

Mostafa Hefny said the classification, based solely on his country of origin, has kept him from seeking jobs, grants, scholarships and loans as a member of a minority group.

He said that even though he's from Egypt, his ancestry is from the ancient black kingdom of Nubia, now part of modern Egypt and Sudan.

Hefny said his hair is kinkier, his complexion darker, and his features more African than blacks such as Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer and retired Army Gen. Colin Powell.

"I was born and raised in Africa and they were not," said Hefny, a 46-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen. "And yet they are classified as black and I am classified as white."

The lawsuit, filed in March in federal court in Detroit, targets directive No.15 of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, a document drafted in 1977 that sets racial categories for all federal record keeping, including the census.

The directive defines blacks as having origins with the black racial groups of Africa.

But it defines whites as having origins with original peoples of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, including Egypt.


The State of the World Forum, which has previously attracted such noteworthy attendees as Mikhail Gorbachev, George Schultz, Deepak Chopra, Shirley MacLaine, Zbigniew Brzezinski, John Denver, Ted Turner, and Jane Fonda, plans to meet again this fall in San Francisco. One day's scheduled forums will include "A Walk Through Time: From Stardust to Us," which is billed as "a mile-long walk (one foot for each million years of time) to highlight the major events and themes of the evolution of life on earth." This will be followed by a "Guided Meditation on Interconnectedness," then a dinner forum on "The Sweep and Future of Human Civilization."

From Anything We Can Love Can Be Saved: A Writer's Activism, by Alice Walker:
I do not believe in male-only leadership anywhere in the world, including Cuba. I think the woman at Fidel's side should be his co-president, not his interpreter. Nor do I wish to imitate Frida Kahlo, one of whose last paintings was of "Uncle" Joe Stalin, whose attempts to improve the lives of Russians she respected and about whose gulags and genocidal policies she knew nothing. There is no way of knowing yet what skeletons, if any, are gleaming in Fidel's closet. Or if they are worse than Clinton's, Kennedy's, Gingrich's, or Dole's. For years the United States media have been pulling out bones that almost never, once you actually go to Cuba and talk to Cubans, connect, except grotesquely, to the reality of life there and the dreams and aspirations of the people. As an outsider I have nothing to go on but the universal evidence of healthy bodies, sound teeth, and self-possessed spirits so lacking in many other third-world countries; the excellence Cubans exhibit in so many areas, including medicine, education, and sports. Even the Cuban boat people, escaping from the devastation and hunger of their island, were remarkable for their fitness, their ingenuity in constructing their boats, and often for their ability to speak more than one language.

New York Times columnist and former reporter Thomas Friedman on U.S. and Russian parliament reaction to NATO expansion, "Washington Week in Review," May 16, 1997:
You're going to find a lot of opposition from a lot of different trends. The isolationists are going to say wait a minute, we're not sending troops or our nuclear umbrella to defend Prague, basically, that's going to be one line. Right-wing Republicans, maybe even led by Henry Kissinger, are going to say you just gave away the store to the Russians....

You've got a basically, hardline, right-wing Duma, largely, not largely but a strong communist, I'm not sure a majority but a plurality....

Elizabeth Vargas introduces Nicholas Cage on ABC's "Good Morning America," June 2, 1997:
Nicholas Cage is known for aggressively pursuing roles. Fifteen years ago, he apparently ate a live cockroach in seeking one role. He notes that this would no longer be legal: animal rights concerns now cover cockroaches. The creature would have to be a remote control cockroach.
The name of the movie containing the scene in question is Vampire's Kiss. In addition to Cage and the unfortunate cockroach, the 1989 film also stars Maria Conchita Alonso, Jennifer Beals, and Elizabeth Ashley. A 1997 release, Addicted to Love, starring Meg Ryan and Matthew Broderick, features a similar scene: a roach unwittingly eaten by a restaurant critic. Credits state simply that no animals were harmed in the course of making the film.

Barry Sonnenfeld, who directed 1997's Men in Black, commented on the presence of representatives from the American Humane Association at scenes involving cockroaches. "In each shot we had to tell them how many roaches we were using. So if we had eighty roaches coming out of a Dumpster they would actually count—'We're still missing three, guys'—and we'd be shooting at ten thousand dollars an hour, looking for three roaches." But Sonnenfeld expressed puzzlement that if any roaches were unaccounted for by the end of the day, the crew was still allowed to fumigate the stage. For its part, the Humane Society invokes the "slippery slope" metaphor to explain its policy—that if cruel treatment of cockroaches was allowed, it would then be a small step to allow cruelty towards cats, dogs, and horses.

During the filming of The Shawshank Redemption, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals objected to a scene in which a crow is fed a maggot, requiring filmmakers to substitute a maggot that had died of natural causes. One was found, and the scene was filmed.