• Take Me Out Of The Ball Game

    From the upper deck at Shea Stadium, baseball fan Melissa Moses used to be able to squint down and figure out who was at the plate just by the way he held the bat. Now the players change so often, she can't connect the player with the pose until she checks the scoreboard. Without the intimacy of instant recognition, says Moses, "it's harder to relate" to her team. ...
  • The 'Murphy Brown' Debate, Take 22

    When last we visited the increasingly tiresome "Murphy Brown"-Dan Quayle slugfest, Candice Bergen was tweaking the veep during the Emmys. But now Quayle has somehow obtained a copy of the sitcom's supersecret season premiere episode, to be aired Sept. 21. Seems there's a Republican mole on the liberal "Murphy Brown" set-a "friendly source," as Quayle spokesman David Beck with puts it. Despite rigorous efforts by the show's producers to keep the episode under wraps-key scenes were filmed late, scripts were guarded like gold-copies were smuggled to Quayle and conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who read some Quayle-bashing excerpts on the air recently. Moments later, Warner Bros. lawyers demanded that Limbaugh return the "stolen property" and he did. Both conservatives say the script has Murphy hearing Quayle's single-mother speech and turning to the camera to defend single mothers. Beck with says that although his boss doesn't watch the sitcom, "he intends to watch this one."
  • Conundrum In The Classroom

    An "all star" group of economists met in Wyoming last week to seek what The New York Times called the "Holy Grail"-the secret of long-term industrial growth. Somehow Wyoming survived. Lucky for us, the geniuses could agree on only one sure stimulant and it was outside their field of expertise: a well-educated workforce helps.Great.But how do we get one? According to a Department of Education report, school funding has increased 40 percent (inflation adjusted) since 1982 and the results remain dismal. " Education is in a time warp. Most schools aren't much different from the one my grandparents attended in Tennessee," Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander said as he wandered about North Carolina in search of exceptions last week. "The schools our fifth graders graduate from in the year 2000 should be almost unrecognizable to us." ...
  • No Man's Land

    So, New York, are you just gonna stand there and take this? Not only is the Lyons, France, metro system much cleaner than yours; it's now the world's first completely automated subway-with no conductors at all. A central computer controls the $170 million command system, and infrared lights stop the trains if something (or someone) falls onto the track. There are no conductors' booths, so riders cluster near the front window to get a cool-Ouiiii!-roller-coaster effect. Undercover trainmen mill about the cars, ready to fix problems. The worst indignity for Gotham: the Lyons system has a 95 percent on-time rate.
  • Frustrations On The Board

    As a newly elected representative to my town's board of education, I received a letter of "deepest personal condolences" from a colleague, who was himself a veteran school-board member. He told me I would soon know the joy of explaining to irate parents why offering Urdu as a second language was simply not feasible, why restructuring every bus route in town so Johnny could see the TV program "3-2-1 Contact" before school was not possible and why their child has to pay $1 toward an expensive field trip when public education is supposed to be free. ...
  • Jumping Ship

    The publishing world continues to bleed The Wall Street Journal. Last week, Page One Editor James Stewart-author of the best-selling "Den of Thieves"--decided to leave the paper to write another book. The project is hush-hush, but sources hint the topic is Citicorp and the advance from Simon & Schuster was more than $1 million. Stewart's departure follows that of "Backlash" author Susan Faludi, now working on a new book, and Bryan Burrough, coauthor of "Barbarians at the Gate," who left for Vanity Fair. Other valuable, if less famous, staffers are on leave to write books on such subjects as IBM and the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings.
  • Forbidden City, Meet Sin City

    Viva lost communism. Sure, China may be the last major Communist power, but it's not too communist. Representatives from the People's Republic recently met with Nevada Gov. Bob Miller and Las Vegas dignitaries to discuss a proposal to open a $94 million theme park/casino resort. Operation of the casino would be left to more experienced capitalists, but the Chinese plan on doing all the decorating. The hotel's motif would be based on Beijing's historic Forbidden City and would include ancient artifacts, not Mao Zedong impersonators. But China may run into some big trouble: gaming-board officials have expressed concern about granting a license to a foreign government. Furthermore, there are absolutely no references to show girls in the Little Red Book.
  • How The Candidates Play To Gays

    Last spring Bill Clinton met in Los Angeles at a gala with 600 gay and lesbian activists. In an emotional speech, he told them, " I have a vision and you're part of it." The dinner raised $100,000 for the Clinton campaign coffers. News photographs showed dozens of gay men eagerly reaching out to touch the candidate. It was an image designed to appeal to a powerful voting block. But the photographs may well be put to another use this fall: as fodder for ads to boost George Bush's re-election chances. ...
  • It Has Four Legs And Starts With 'S'

    The 70-year-old woman had a neurological illness that left her unable to correctly name animals. According to a paper last week in the British journal Nature, she could accurately name pictures of plants, people, building and musical instruments but she couldn't get the word "sheep" past her lips. It's strong evidence, say Drs. John Hart Jr. and Barry Gordon of Johns Hopkins University, that the brain processes information according to surprisingly specific categories-including some with four feet.
  • Swatted By Hurricane Jesse

    Nicaragua took body blows from two forces of nature last week: a tidal wave and Jesse Helms. First Helms, the conservative U.S. senator, issued a report accusing President Violeta Chamorro's government of corruption and complaining that the leftist Sandinistas, whom Chamorro defeated two years ago, retain too much political power. Helms's report recommended that vital U.S. foreign aid, which was suspended last spring, be withheld until Chamorro cleans up her government and cuts off the Sandinistas. Then, two days later, an earthquake stirred up a tidal wave that slammed into Nicaragua's Pacific coast, killing more than 100 people and leaving thousands homeless. Washington quickly sent more than $5 million in humanitarian assistance, but the foreign aid was still frozen. As Chamorro inspected the damage, she lamented: "We just don't have enough [resources] to help even these people who have no bread for tomorrow." ...
  • San Francisco's 'Parking Vigilantes'

    Some people have way too much free time. The San Francisco Parking Vigilantes, a group of more than 30 locals, have taken it upon themselves to make parking in the city even tougher. Fed up with cars parked unesthetically-and often obstructively-on the city's sidewalks, the group has tattled on more than 800 vehicles to the traffic authorities. They're even plotting to smuggle tickets out of city offices-threatening to write out citations themselves if the city doesn't step up enforcement. Tim Johnson, acting executive director of the Department of Parking and Traffic, said he has responded to the group's complaints but is worried about reactions from angry motorists: "They're likely to get a punch in the nose."
  • Whose Gut Is It, Anyway?

    Except for some Greek Republicans, are there any other voters who favored Michael Dukakis in 1988 and now support George Bush? Statistically speaking, that's the essence of Bush's problem. Bill Clinton begins the fall campaign with Dukakis's 46 percent as a rough base line which means that he need only convert about one in 10 Bush supporters in order to win the popular vote. Given last week's sour economic news (more poverty, unemployment), that's not such a tall order. ...
  • Check Mated

    He's back-chunky and weathered after two decades in seclusion but still brimming with nastiness. Bobby Fischer was just 29 when he won the world chess championship in 1972. Last week, ignoring U.N. sanctions against Yugoslavia, he surfaced near Montenegro for a $5 million match with his old foe Boris Spassky. Fischer used the occasion to rant about Jews, chess players and the government. With luck, we'll hear from him again-in 2012.
  • On The Ground At Ground Zero

    Viewed from the air, the destruction in south Dade County looks like a fairground the day after a raucous rock concert. Trailer parks and transmission towers lie crushed, as if trampled by a crowd. Huge sheets of roofing metal are wadded up like tinfoil or wrapped around trees. Then comes a swarm of locusts-helicopters hovering above and military Humvees scuttling below-to help with the formidable task of rebuilding. ...
  • The Caricature Wars

    The presidential race doesn't have a title yet, but here's a fitting one: "All About Bill." The fall campaign isn't really a duel between Bill Clinton and George Bush-it's a contest to define the governor of Arkansas. The Republicans want to frame the election that way, and they have the savvy, the money and the sense of urgency to do so. It's the classic game plan for threatened incumbents: deflect attention from your own stewardship by demonizing the enemy. ...
  • Storm Victim

    Add one more name to the list of those left homeless by Hurricane Andrew: Manuel Noriega, late of Miami's Metropolitan Correctional Center. After winds devastated the prison, SWAT units flew Noriega and a handful of other big-name inmates to Alabama's Talladega prison. Because the new pokey is only medium security, Noriega has had to trade the comfort of his specially built "dictator's suite" at MCC for 23-hour-a-day lock-down and solitary confinement. Meanwhile, Noriega's lawyers will file papers this week arguing that he is a POW and should be held in military custody rather than in a less cozy prison.
  • Putting The Squeeze On Fidel

    Fidel Castro is doomed. From State Department experts to teenage prostitutes on the Malecon, everyone agrees Cuba's Maximum Leader will fall. But nobody knows when. He has already outlived the dire predictions of academics, diplomats and journalists. Despite the end of Soviet subsidies, the fall of communism and desperate food and oil shortages, the old man totters on, scrounging sustenance wherever he can. Most recently, he's been shopping for grain in Calcutta, of all places. His rhetoric is filled with bombast and belligerence, even as Havana buzzes with rumors of purges and arrests. American policymakers would dearly love to turn the talk in the streets to revolution. The question is how: with a carrot or a stick? ...
  • What Johnny Can't Read In School

    People for the American Way, the liberal watchdog group,reported last week that school censorship attempts by conservatives rose 50 percent during the 1991-92 academic year. Forty percent succeeded, making it the worst year on record. Among the offending books: "The Grapes of Wrath;' "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings;' "A Separate Peace"and Maurice Sendak's "In the Night Kitchen;' for its illustration of a naked boy.
  • Paying The Price Of Peace?

    As Daniella Shaul explains it, she didn't settle in the Golan Heights to make a financial killing. "I was attracted by the Golan as a new frontier, full of thorny plants, but where every neighbor is a good friend," she says. Last week, however, Shaul and other Golan settlers suddenly found their homes on the bargaining table. For the first time, Israel accepted the principle of trading land for peace in the Golan Heights-of giving up at least some of the strategic chunk of territory captured in the 1967 war. If the two warring neighbors eventually reach an agreement at ongoing talks in Washington, Shaul and her friends may have to move. That prospect had the 10,000 Jewish settlers on the Golan talking-sometimes bitterly, sometimes hopefully-about the price of peace. ...
  • Family Values?

    In his quest to promote family values, Dan Quayle has said he was raised to believe the gay lifestyle is "wrong." But business is business. The Arizona Republic-owned and operated by Quayle's relatives in the Pulliam newspaper chain--gladly sells classified ads for love-seeking gays and lesbians. Those wishing to take out an ad are asked to check off sex-specific categories such as "Male Seeking Male" and "Female Seeking Female." Ironically, most large metropolitan papers do not carry gay personals. Quayle spokesman David Beckwith said the vice president was "unaware" of the ads and confirmed that Quayle owns "some stock" in the chain.