Newswire

Newswire

  • Short Takes

    You'd think folks with money to burn would find better deals on the Home Shopping Network. But last week, Air Canada and a Texas investment group offered $400 million for the troubled Continental Airlines. That follows bids of $350 million and $385 million from Maxxam and Houston Air, respectively. Did we hear the words "breakup value"?... Mutual Madness: investors sank $18.63 billion into mutual funds in July-the second highest monthly total ever.
  • The Spy Who Got Away--Again

    The voice calling from a Stockholm jail sounded familiar as I picked up the phone in Washington last week. It was Edward Lee Howard, the only CIA man ever to defect to the Soviet Union. I knew the 40-year-old spy from interviews in Budapest for a book I wrote about him in 1988, and I'd seen him again at his KGB dacha outside Moscow last year. Now, it seemed, the FBI was about to catch up with Howard. The Swedish counterintelligence service, SAPO, had nabbed him. Back in Washington, the U.S. authorities were eager to bring the fugitive to justice. Yet Howard sounded perfectly cheerful. "A couple of hours ago," he explained, "the prosecutor dropped all charges." In a few hours more, Howard would be freed and back on a plane for Moscow. Once again, it seemed, of all the secrets Howard learned from American intelligence, the one he learned best was the art of escape. For Edward Lee Howard, Stockholm was only the latest stop in an odyssey that began nine years ago. Back in May 1983, he...
  • Columbus As A Hollywood Hustler

    Alexander and Ilya Salkind's Christopher Columbus: the Discovery has beaten Ridley Scott's "1492" to the screen by a couple of months, but it's not an occasion for trumpets. A perfunctory historical epic with no clear point of view, it makes one long for the hokey old Hollywood swashbucklers that at least generated some star power. George Corraface plays the determined Genoan explorer (here called by his Spanish moniker, Cristobal Colon) as a Hollywood hustler with a cocky, lounge-lizard grin and a way with women. He pitches his highconcept voyage (The world is round! We'll sail west to China!) to Queen Isabella of Spain, portrayed by Rachel Ward as a bright-eyed Jesus freak with hormones raging under her breastplate. She green-lights the trip, over the objections of Marlon Brando's heretic-sniffing Torquemada and Tom Selleck's petulant, sleepy King Ferdinand, but by the time the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria set sail, half the movie is over and the audience is ready to jump...
  • Defending Your Home

    It wasn't just couches, roofs and cars that Hurricane Andrew blew away. It wiped out the futures of thousands of families who were not well enough insured. The same thing happens on a smaller scale when any single home burns down. Feeling invulnerable, we skimp-especially on higher-cost policies that can cover a major loss. But without such coverage, you are hostage to fortune. You effectively own nothing, if one act of God can bring everything down. ...
  • Bad Vibes

    Finance police in Milan, Italy, for making the locals wonder just who's running their town. When callers to their station are placed on hold, they hear the theme from "The Godfather"-not exactly the best selection in these Mafia-marred times. A police spokesman blamed headquarters in Rome for the inappropriate mood music.
  • Fighting The Squish Factor

    Jim Baker began to strut his stuff last week. He shipped George Bush off to Miami within hours after Hurricane Andrew struck. Trouble was, Bush arrived in Florida bearing sound bites when real food was needed-and the public reaction was predictable: who does this guy think he's kidding? The president, clearly, is in desperate trouble. His "campaign mode" cynicism and promises are transparent. The public has lost faith in his ability-indeed, in his desire-to get anything done. According to last week's CBS-New York Times poll, only 15 percent thought Bush could accomplish "real change" in a second term (by contrast, 61 thought Clinton might and 95 said "real change" was needed). ...
  • Anatomy Of A Hype

    Who is Donna Tartt and why is everyone talking about her new book? OK, maybe not everyone ("One thing I can tell you is, everybody's not talking about it in Iowa City."--Paul Ingram, bookseller, Iowa City), but Tartt, 28, is featured in the latest issues of Vanity Fair, M, Esquire, Vogue, Elle and Mirabella. In September she embarks on a 20-city publicity tour (including Iowa City). Her book is called The Secret History (Knopf. 524 pages. $23) and Knopf paid $450,000 for it-an astonishing amount for a first novel, especially one that isn't just glitzy trash or about eave dwellers. Foreign rights have been sold to 11 countries for more than $500,000, paperback rights went for another half million, it's a Book of the Month Club selection, and Alan J. Pakula ("All the President's Men") has bought the movie rights. Most first novels get a first printing of about 10,000 copies; Tartt's is getting 75,000. "I can't remember a first literary/ commercial novel with this much push from the...
  • The Money Of Collor

    A little more than two years ago, Brazilian President Fernando Collor de Mello came to power on a vow to clean up corruption in Brazil. Today, the dashing 43-year-old free marketer has not only failed to live up to that promise-he also faces well-documented accusations that he ripped off the government on a grand scale himself A Brazilian congressional commission has found that Collor personally benefited from an influence-peddling ring operated within the government by his former campaign treasurer. Of "hundreds of millions of dollars" raked off through kickbacks on government contracts, bank fraud and tax evasion, more than $20 million allegedly made it into the pockets of Collor, his family and cronies. The loot reportedly included hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal expenses for the president, a $1.8 million overhaul of the presidential-residence gardens and swimming pool, a $10,000 Fiat and a $5,000 monthly salary for Collor's butler. First Lady Rosane Collor...
  • The Cost Of Quality

    Well, maybe copying the Japanese isn't such a good idea after all. Consider Douglas Aircraft, the troubled subsidiary of McDonnell Douglas Corp. Plagued by poor earnings and richer competitors, the aircraft maker three years ago embraced "Total Quality Management," a Japanese import that had become the American business cult of the 1980s. TQM, as it is known, depends on small teams of workers-all the way down to the factory floor-to clean up poor procedures and work habits. That appealed to Douglas, which dispatched 8,000 employees in Long Beach, Calif., to two-week training seminars. They also spent weeks preparing for TQM on the job. But in less than two years, Douglas's version of quality management was a shambles, largely because the program's advocates hadn't anticipated the massive layoffs that poisoned labor-management relations. At Douglas, TQM appeared to be just one more hothouse Japanese flower never meant to grow on rocky American ground. ...
  • Grizzlies Come Back

    Above tree line in the rugged Absaroka Mountains east of Yellowstone National Park, eight grizzly bears graze purposefully in a barren glacial amphitheater. As hulking as nose tackles but as nimble as mountain goats, these grizzlies had descended the sheer, fortress-like walls or scampered up from forested knolls before settling down within 150 yards of each other for a communal breakfast. But what could they possibly be eating here at 12,000 feet? At first glance (through a highpowered spotting scope), the grizzlies seem to be feeding on rocks. But no. The great bear, Ursus arctos horribilis, is slurping up moths-thousands of delectable, nutritious army cutworm moths-gobbling them like so many diaphanous-winged M&Ms. ...
  • One Issue, Two Fantasies

    You've heard the speeches: Bill Clinton and George Bush both say restoring American productivity and economic growth is the No. 1 issue of the campaign. But what are their actual programs-how do they plan to do it? ...
  • A Fortress Around Her Heart

    The scene: the ninth-century Church of St. Andrew's in rural Wiltshire, England. The costumes: for the bride, an ivory satin dress decorated with glass beads and gold thread in Baroque arabesques; for the groom, a classic black tail coat with flamboyant striped waistcoat over tight pants. The designer: Gianni Versace, who spent five months fashioning garments fit for an "English Baroque Renaissance" wedding. It was tailor-made tradition for British rock star Sting and the mother of three of his children, actress Trudie Styler, who wed Aug. 22 after 10 years of unmarried bliss. Afterward, Trudie was led by Sting to the reception sitting sidesaddle on a white horse. And who says rock stars don't have family values?
  • Quite A Haul

    Gov. Pete Wilson may be doing his best to make I.O.U.s the hip new medium of exchange, but California moving companies are demanding the real thing-and plenty of it. As more and more Californians jump ship from the sinking Golden State economy to go to less strapped-and less crowded-states like Oregon and Washington, moving companies are finding it hard to keep up with the outflux. Mayflower Transit is trucking in 200 empty trailers each month to meet the demand. And U-Haul, which earlier this year was charging $700 to rent its smallest truck for a one-way trip from San Francisco to Portland, is now asking the antiJoads to fork out $1,215.
  • So Many Ways To Say Goodbye

    At Junior Funeral Home in Pensacola, Fla., they know how hectic life can get. That's why you can pull up to the drive-in viewing window, give your dearly departed the once-over, sign the handy register and get on to your next appointment. A spokesman admits it's not a hit: "Most people haven't fallen into this yet." ...
  • Read His Lips

    Jiro, the Japanese performing monkey, brings his act to the United States this weekminus his aping of President Bush's fainting spell in Tokyo last January. Jiro will perform on Capitol Hill, and possibly at the White House. "Jiro," says trainer Taro Murasaki, "hopes to be friends" with the Bushes.
  • Still Separate After 20 Years

    In 1971, Captain Shreve High School in Shreveport, La., had been fully integrated for only a year, and black and white students eyed one another uneasily. It was still the Old South-symbolized by the Confederate monument that occupied a place of honor in the courthouse square. That spring, Captain Shreve students added their own chapter to the city's divided history. When no black girls were elected by their classmates to the cheerleading squad, about a third of the school's 566 black students stormed out of the building. By the next day many of the 969 white kids were also at home. Their parents feared the protest might incite violence. ...
  • Lonely Guys

    First there was software featuring still-life nudies. Then the lovelies moved. Now, thanks to state-of-the-art CD-ROM discs, some companies are taking the genre one step further. SeXXy Software of La Canada, Calif., peddles full-length computer "movies" that help you "create your own erotic fantasies about friends and lovers:' SeXXy's president says he began marketing the software as a "stress reliever" for hardworking computer programmers. Hey, boys, try Valium instead.
  • From Zagreb Zelda To Guns N' Roses

    For November Company of the Royal Canadian Regiment, keeping the peace in the ruins of Yugoslavia means absorbing the violent spasms of a dirty little war. One day last week Lt. Kevin Cameron's platoon was manning a U.N. roadblock on the Serbian side of the border with Croatia. "Zagreb Zelda" was on the air, broadcasting music and propaganda over Radio Croatia. Suddenly a drunken Serbian soldier thrust his weapon in Cameron's face. "If you no shut off," he said, " I kill you." Cameron slammed in a tape of Guns N' Roses, turned up the volume and offered the drunk a smoke. Diversions help. ...
  • Master Of The Power Lines

    In August 1973, years of quiet backstabbing finally got Henry Kissinger the job he wanted. Secretary of State William P. Rogers, the victim of his endless undercutting, decided to quit. Richard Nixon didn't want to put Kissinger in his place; he preferred former treasury secretary John Connally or lawyer-diplomat Kenneth Rush. But eventually the president was convinced of Henry's inevitability. Paddling in his pool at San Clemente, Calif., he brusquely informed Kissinger of his promotion. "I hope to be worthy of your trust," murmured Kissinger. The next day, at a press conference to which Kissinger was not invited, Nixon heaped praise on Rogers. His announcement of Kissinger's elevation was terse. "Dr. Kissinger's qualifications for this post, I think, are well known by all of you," he said. Kissinger, watching the press conference on television, missed his brief moment of triumph. He was distracted by a phone call from Liv Ullmann. ...
  • After The Storm

    In Dade County, Fla., once comfortable suburban sprawl was reduced to a trail of rubble. The storm splintered housed, flattened cars, toppled trees and whipped power lines around like children's jump ropes, causing $20 billion worth of damage. At the weekend, 22 people had died as a result of the storm, many crushed to death within their own homes. After the rains stopped, Andrew's victims tearfully surveyed the damage. Many were without food or water, and federal aid was slow in coming. "Where the hell is the cavalry on this one?" one local official demanded. "We need food, we need water, we need people."