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Dispatches The Buzz (Publick Occurrences)

Presidential candidates reveal personal finances

Disclosure exposure

This being awards season, WORLD examined the Personal Financial Disclosure forms of presidential candidates and awarded a few prizes of its own:

Best brokerage customer: No, it's not Steve Forbes. His stock holdings are huge, but brokerage houses make money on frequent trades. The surprise winner here is Gary Bauer, who reported owning stock-valued anywhere from $550,000 to $1.8 million-in nearly 50 different companies. In addition to his holdings, he reported selling shares in another 70 companies, making him a shoo-in for the daytraders' vote. Most conservative investor: Opponents insist George W. Bush is a moderate, but he's a rock-ribbed conservative when it comes to investing. In addition to blue-chip stock holdings such as Chase Manhattan, AT&T, and GE, he owns millions of dollars in treasury notes. He'll not only have an interest in the national debt, he'll earn interest on it. Most pessimistic investor: Pat Buchanan has no competition. He owns stock in a paltry 12 companies, despite the hottest stock market in history. Instead of stocks, he's been hoarding precious metals: a reported $250,000 to $500,000 in gold and silver. No word on the value of his bomb shelter. Most overpaid speaker: Bill Bradley collected more than $1.5 million dollars for his speaking gigs, which he apparently billed at $25,000 a pop. $25,000? Have you ever heard Bill Bradley speak? Most likely expatriate: Bill Bradley again. If he doesn't make it to the White House, he's keeping his options open, with ownership interest in a Greek island and 80 acres of unimproved land in Nova Scotia. Maybe a few years in Canada would be good for Mr. Bradley; he could experience firsthand the inefficiencies of socialized medicine. Court lets several rulings stand

Vexed appeals

Who makes news even when they decide not to act? Supreme Court justices. In addition to agreeing to hear some landmark cases this term (see cover story, page 16), the Supreme Court last week also let stand several important lower-court rulings. The high court, without comment, refused to review a ruling that allowed Maryland's public schools to close on Good Friday. A retired Maryland teacher had argued that the school holiday violates the First Amendment. The justices still have before them a challenge to an Indiana law designating Good Friday a state holiday. The Supreme Court also rejected a challenge to Alabama's policy of segregating inmates who have the AIDS virus from other prisoners. A federal judge had ruled that the Americans with Disabilities Act did not protect Alabama's HIV-positive inmates. Also on the losing end of attempted appeals:

  • Former employees of a psychic hotline, who appealed a lower court's ruling that ABC News did not violate an anti-wiretapping law when it sent reporters undercover for an exposé of the hotline.
  • Quaker pacifists, who say the government violates their religious freedom by imposing fees and interest on the part of the federal tax bill that they delayed paying because it would finance the military.
  • A former Indianapolis policeman, who said that a federal ban on gun ownership for anyone convicted of a domestic-violence misdemeanor violated his constitutional rights.
  • Vincent "Chin" Gigante, longtime leader of the Genovese crime family, whose conviction and 12-year sentence for racketeering and murder conspiracy were allowed to stand. The high court, in a 5-4 vote, upheld the California practice of allowing court-appointed attorneys in criminal cases to refuse to file appeals that they think are frivolous. Also in a 5-4 vote, the court let stand the death sentence of a man convicted of murdering a Virginia state trooper. The No-Comment Zone
  • Another pro wrestler wants to put a hammerlock on politics. Ric Flair, one of the mat's top draws since the 1970s, may run as an independent candidate for governor of North Carolina. Mr. Flair, whose real last name is Fliehr, has lived in Charlotte since 1974; he has dabbled in local Republican politics and appeared at a Jesse Helms fundraiser. "I may have to tone down a few things, but I think charisma can go a long way," Mr. Flair said on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee as he made his "unofficial, official announcement."
  • High-tech prognosticators are buzzing over Bill Gates's decision to replace himself with back-slapping, boisterous executive Steve Ballmer as CEO of Microsoft. The co-founder will stick around as chairman and will guide the future of the Windows operating systems. The watershed management change has triggered speculation that Microsoft may show new flexibility in negotiations with the federal government over antitrust claims. Meanwhile, the money keeps rolling in at the software giant, with second-quarter profits soaring 22 percent over last year to $6.11 billion in revenue and $2.44 billion in profits.
  • A coalition of 850 liberal religious figures last week issued a declaration urging all faiths to back a gaggle of fashionable causes. First and foremost: Every religion must bless same-sex couples and allow openly gay ministers. Besides homosexuality, the declaration pushes open access to abortion and sex education at all age levels, and opposes "unsustainable population growth" and all forms of "sexual oppression." Among the endorsers of the statement: the presidents of the United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalist Association, presidents or deans at 15 Protestant seminaries, and numerous theology teachers. No major evangelical groups backed the document.
  • Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Jeff MacNelly is cutting back his cartooning schedule to undergo treatment for lymphoma. His website announced that he is expected to recover fully. Mr. MacNelly, whose syndicated editorial work appears in WORLD and numerous other publications, also produces the Shoe comic strip and illustrates Dave Barry's weekly humor column.
  • Bill Clinton shot off another round in his anti-gun campaign, asking Congress for $280 million in additional funds to hire 500 new federal agents and inspectors and to create a program to track guns through ballistics testing. Some supporters, however, say he isn't going far enough; they want him to push for "comprehensive gun control" before he leaves office. Group attacks school Bible teaching

    'Secular' program?

    Surprise. A new "report" issued by the People for the American Way Foundation (PAW) says that Bible history classes taught in Florida school districts violate the Constitution. The left-wing group announced the results of its "year-long study" of Bible curricula in Florida public schools at a news conference in Tallahassee last week. After two years of work by conservative Christians on its school board (See WORLD, May 23, 1998), Lee County adopted a Bible history program that complied with a 1963 Supreme Court ruling requiring that the Bible in public schools be taught "objectively, as a part of a secular program of education." Since then 13 other districts have adopted similar curricula. Now, PAW claims those classes assume that students are Christian, promote a Christian viewpoint, and teach the Bible as historical fact. PAW says every Florida district with a Bible-teaching curriculum has botched its program: "Even the schools that appear to have made an effort to do it right still got it wrong," said PAW president, Ralph Neas. Paul Johnson, Levy County schools superintendent, said his district-one of the offending districts named by PAW-would review the allegations. "I've had no complaints from parents or students," he said, adding that as far as he knew, the class has been taught in a secularly objective manner. Kathy Taylor, a Hillsborough County administrator, said the classes followed the guidelines established in PAW's 1998 court challenge: "We're teaching the history of the Bible, not the Bible as history." former german chancellor caught up in money scandal

    Kohl out in cold

    Almost overnight, the stature of one of Europe's longest-serving leaders has diminished. Helmut Kohl, chancellor of Germany from 1982 to 1998, had to resign his current position as honorary chairman of the Christian Democratic Union after scandal overtook a reputation that once looked unshakable. Mr. Kohl is under investigation for taking more than $1 million in private contributions while in office. He has admitted taking the money for party purposes, but he has refused to name the source of the secret payments. Mr. Kohl agreed to step down after party leaders accused him of "violating his duties" for not naming the contributors. Noting that he has been "a member of the Christian Democratic Party for 50 years," Mr. Kohl said his decision was not easy. "But I am in no position to meet the party's demand that I break the promise I made to those who financially supported my work in the Christian Democratic Party," he said. Mr. Kohl took a strong stand against the Soviet Union in the 1980s, defying nuclear-freeze demonstrators and allowing NATO to position American medium-range missiles in West Germany. He also presided over the reunification of Germany in 1990. New president elected as pinochet awaits ruling

    Chile's challenge

    Chile elected a new president and promptly made plans to bring an old dictator home. By a narrow margin, Chileans chose left-leaning Ricardo Lagos to take the helm, the first socialist to do so since President Salvador Allende was overthrown in a coup by Gen. Augusto Pinochet in 1973. Mr. Lagos opposed Mr. Pinochet and spent part of his 17-year rule in exile. Meanwhile, a Chilean-owned jet was on standby in Bermuda, ready to transport Mr. Pinochet, now 84, from Great Britain, where he has been hospitalized and under house arrest pending extradition to Spain for crimes committed during his term of office. After a 15-month court battle, British Home Secretary Jack Straw ruled Jan. 20 that the former dictator was unfit to stand trial. Human-rights groups and Chilean plaintiffs said they would try to block his release. If he is returned to Chile, however, he is likely to stand trial there. are they getting the real criminals?

    Chechen questions

    Russian military forces claimed victory over Grozny, the Chechen capital. As Russian soldiers fought street by street through the capital and helicopter gunships pounded nearby mountains, it was evident that not all rebel strongholds were wiped out. Russian troops entered Chechnya in late September after rebels staged armed incursions into the neighboring Russian region of Dagestan and allegedly organized the bombing of several apartment buildings in Moscow and other cities, which killed about 300 people. Russian officials issued an international arrest warrant for Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev and 79 other rebels, who they claim are responsible for the bombings. But public opinion in Moscow increasingly questions that official scenario. Frustrated with lack of physical evidence linking the bombings to the rebels, many Russians believe the government's FSB (the security bureau once headed by newly designated President Vladimir Putin) may have been behind the bombings to create a pretext for reentering Chechnya. U.S. offers cash for information about attacks

    Wanted: Taliban terrorists?

    The United States took out ads in Pakistan's leading newspapers, offering a "substantial monetary reward" for information about who was behind rocket attacks launched last November against U.S. posts. Six rockets exploded Nov. 12 in Islamabad at the U.S. Information Center, the U.S. Embassy, and United Nations offices. No one claimed responsibility for the crime, which took place in daylight and did not kill or injure workers. Officials appear to be short on leads. The attacks took place two days before UN sanctions were to take effect against the Taliban militia, which rules most of neighboring Afghanistan. Terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, who is headquartered in Taliban territory, issued a proclamation of his own. According to a Taliban paper, Mr. bin Laden will end his call for holy war against the United States if U.S. military forces are removed from Saudi Arabia, his home and the site of key Muslim shrines.