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Inside the System

August 2, 2002 | Page 4

A bunch of grouches

FIRST IT was Jerry Falwell, flipping out over a supposedly gay Teletubby. Now, congressional Republicans are having a fit over an HIV-positive Muppet character being developed for Takalani Street, the South African version of Sesame Street.

Producers say that the new character is intended to challenge stigmas of HIV-infected people in a country where an estimated one in nine people is infected.

When the new character was announced, Rep. W.J. ''Billy'' Tauzin (R-La.) and five other Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote to PBS President Pat Mitchell, expressing "concern" that the new character would be inappropriate for young U.S. viewers. In a barely veiled threat, the letter noted that the lawmakers' committee controls PBS's funding.

Mitchell replied immediately, saying that there are no plans to bring the character to the U.S. show.

--Entertainment Weekly, July 18, 2002

Fighting terror at summer camp

ARE YOUR kids bored with the same old summer camp? Now they can attend the nation's first "homeland security training summer camps for teenagers."

The program--called "Secure Corps" in Bucks County, Pa.--is drilling 92 teenagers in "essential skills" this summer.

When the eight-week program ends on August 23, graduates will be certified in first aid, CPR (both human and animal)--and what organizers call "terrorism response." They will be ready to don haz-mat chemical-protection suits, evacuate institutional buildings and become "first responders" to highway pileups and poison-gas attacks.

And forget about evenings spent roasting marshmallows. Each group of campers has been assigned a long-term homeland security problem to study, such as what to do if there's a subway derailment or a bomb threat at a mall.

"I've had enough of this terrorism," camper Mark Tomlinson told reporters.

--Philadelphia Inquirer, July 24, 2002

Heard it through the grapevine

"[THE MONEY was spent] on lap dancing and other entertainment."
--Rep. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), explaining the $38,000 bill discovered by the General Accounting Office during a probe of official U.S. Army charge card

"THIS OPERATION was, in my view, one of our biggest successes."
--Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, on the Israeli bombing that killed 15 Palestinians, nine of them children

"I'M FOCUSED on 18 holes of golf."
--George W. Bush, replying to reporters about prepping for his July 9 speech to Wall Street

"I'M AN optimist about the future of this economy."
--Bush, the day after the stock market dropped below 8,500

"WE WERE in a land of--there was endless profit, there was no tomorrow when it came to, you know, the stock markets and corporate profits. And now we're suffering a hangover for that binge."
--Bush

"WE HAVE an attorney general who is a cross between J. Edgar Hoover and Jerry Falwell. And too often, one political party is shameless and the other is spineless."
--Julian Bond, Chairman of the Board of the NAACP

"WHEN [BUSH] spoke to our convention in Baltimore in 2000, he promised to enforce the civil rights laws. We know he was in the business. We just didn't know it was snake oil."
--Bond again

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