In a true clash of fashion opposites, the Boston Red Sox have submitted to a different kind of umpire. At their wives' request, the notoriously unkempt World Series champions began spring training with makeovers from the cast of the hit TV show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. The episode airs today. Expect a less than complete makeover for the hirsute Sox outfielder Johnny Damon—a publishing contract stipulates that he not trim his good-luck mane.
Today the Financial Accounting Standards Board pulls the plug on pain-free accounting for stock options, the popular perk of the 1990s tech boom—one that, critics say, helped falsely inflate earnings. Companies that offer options must now record them as an expense, rather than burying their estimated value in a footnote on income statements. Silicon Valley firms that fought the change are planning a variety of gimmicks to soften the blow, such as rejiggering the numbers used to estimate the value of options.
Negotiations over Iran's suspected nuclear-weapons program, stalled pending the outcome of today's vote, could pick up steam once a new government is in place.
The previous election was a debacle for reformists, who were disqualified by the thousands from running for parliament. Moderate Iranian voters, resigned to reformists' slim chances under the country's strict Islamic government, now support a pragmatic conservative—the former president Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, who is considered cagey but willing to engage with the United States. Some Westerners hope he will lead a group of economically minded conservatives to adopt a "China model" path toward reform—one that allows economic and cultural liberalization even as political repression continues.
Since 1938 tobacco farmers have been guaranteed a set price for their crop (government-subsidized, if necessary) in exchange for limiting production. Now the government is ending the quota program with a $10.1 billion buyout, spread over ten years, and farmers have until today to sign up to receive their cut. North Carolina gets the lion's share: $3.8 billion, with a median payment of $14,798. A Kentucky economist has predicted that half to three quarters of tobacco producers will use their cash to quit the industry, which has suffered from overseas competition and a dwindling American taste for cigarettes.
When the Man Group, a British investment company, began sponsoring the United Kingdom's prestigious Booker Prize for fiction, it proposed expanding eligibility outside the Commonwealth to include Americans (thus interesting American book buyers). The suggestion was greeted with sniffs and huffs. So Man created a new, biennial Booker International Prize for lifetime achievement in fiction, to be awarded (along with $110,000) today in Edinburgh.
All English-language writers, and those whose work has been translated into English, are eligible. Margaret Atwood, Gabriel García Márquez, Günter Grass, Milan Kundera, Tomás Eloy Martínez, Ian McEwan, Philip Roth, Muriel Spark, and John Updike are on the shortlist of eighteen.
Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who has been slowed by thyroid cancer but continues to review cases, is widely expected to step down at the close of this Supreme Court term, in late June. For the past few months culture warriors from both sides have been quietly preparing battle strategies for when Bush nominates his replacement. However furious the fight over Rehnquist's successor becomes, it will pale before those expected in the wake of liberal retirements, which will actually change the Court's balance of power.
John Demjanjuk, an ailing eighty-four-year-old retired auto worker, has already been expelled from the United States once before: in 1986, after he was identified as "Ivan the Terrible," a notorious Ukrainian gas-chamber operator at Treblinka. He was tried in Israel and sentenced to hang. Then the Israeli Supreme Court decided that American Nazi hunters had the wrong man, and returned him to Ohio. Today the United States will make another attempt to deport him, in a hearing based on evidence that Demjanjuk worked at three other death camps, where 450,000 people were murdered.
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