Four defendants in the BALCO steroid scandal are set to go on trial today in San Francisco on charges of distributing performance-enhancing drugs to sports stars. Police raids on the Bay Area lab sparked a national scandal that has implicated dozens of top athletes. Most prominent among them is baseball slugger Barry Bonds, whose personal trainer was indicted and is one of the four standing trial. In addition to giving a black eye to baseball in general, the scandal has hurt the market for Bonds memorabilia, even as the slugger closes in on Babe Ruth's home-run record. Bonds's 700th home-run ball, which reportedly sold at auction for $804,000 last year, fetched just $85,000 in June.
The United Nations General Assembly, which opens today, has a full plate this fall. Several long-discussed reforms top the agenda: expanding the Security Council and giving permanent representation (probably without veto power) to Japan, Germany, India, Brazil, and two still unnamed African countries; barring human-rights violators from serving on the Human Rights Commission; and passing new peacekeeping and anti-genocide measures. In addition, the UN hopes to move assembled nations toward meeting previous pledges to halve world poverty by 2015. The United States and Japan are expected to come under criticism: each nation's foreign aid, as a percentage of its GDP, is less than a third of the UN's proposed target for developed countries.
The former president may finally have found a task befitting his ambition: running the world. Today Bill Clinton convenes a group including world leaders (Kofi Annan has confirmed), heads of state (Tony Blair will be there), a certain celebrity governor (the Terminator), and assorted captains of industry (Rupert Murdoch among them) to hash things out over three days in New York. Clinton associates have told The Washington Post that the conference is part of Clinton's ongoing global schmooze campaign to one day be secretary-general of the United Nations.
After a remarkably smooth presidential election last October, Afghans face another hurdle on the way to stability: today's parliamentary elections. The central government seeks to extend its rule over a countryside still controlled by a patchwork of warlords and private armies.
Former Taliban members have vowed to step up their campaign of intimidation by shootings and bombings. NATO has committed 2,000 soldiers and the United States another 500 to keep the peace, and Pakistan has promised to seal its border to prevent militants from crossing into Afghanistan (a promise that observers doubt can be kept).
John Hinckley Jr., who tried to assassinate Ronald Reagan in 1981, has a hearing today that could result in his venturing beyond Washington, D.C., for the first time since he entered a mental hospital after the shooting. In recent years Hinckley has been given greater freedom, including overnight stays in District hotels with his parents. He would now like to visit their home in Virginia. The judge in the case is concerned that because Hinckley—who shot Reagan in the throes of a romantic obsession with the actress Jodie Foster—recently ended his relationship with a fellow mental patient (who killed her ten-year-old daughter but was found not guilty by reason of insanity), this may not be the best time for him to be out and about.
Today is the deadline for the Army to reach its fiscal-year quota of 80,000 recruits. With the slog in Iraq, signing up soldiers has become increasingly difficult; though the other armed services are on track to hit their quotas, the Army says it might miss its goal (which would be the first time since 1999, when the booming economy lured away potential recruits). As of late June the Army was short by 7,800 soldiers; it has resorted to accepting more high school dropouts, paying bigger bonuses, and hiring mass marketers to identify potential recruits. The Army's chief of staff, Peter Schoomaker, predicts that the troubles won't let up: next year "may be the toughest recruiting environment ever."
The famously nasty infighting in the Disney media empire ends today—or at least its current chapter does—when CEO Michael Eisner hands over the reins to Disney's president, Bob Iger. Additionally, Bob and Harvey Weinstein leave Miramax, the Oscar factory bought by Disney in 1993, for a new, as yet unnamed film company of their own.