ConFusion. Two chemists put $100,000 of their own money into a tabletop experiment and come up with fusion in a jar. If true, it will make a great movie (not to mention the boon to humanity). And even if it doesn't pan out, the experiment points up the folly of centralized science planning: millions for Tokamak and not one penny for the crazy ideas that just might work.
Ballot Initiative. Soviet citizens use the first quasi-real elections since 1917 to cast a remarkable number of protest ballots. Yeltsin gets headlines and None of the Above gets votes, as dissatisfied citizens force unopposed candidates into runoffs by crossing out their names. Not to engage in moral equivalence, but maybe we could apply that trick to U.S. House elections.
Getting Personnel. The looming labor shortage promises the old Humphrey-Hawkins dream—a job for everyone who wants to work but, in this case, without government financing. Employers adjust to a less-than-perfect workforce. McDonald's installs cash registers that illiterates can run. Employee education booms, especially after-work English classes in immigrant-rich areas. At White Storage & Retrieval, in Newark, N.J., two-thirds of the 275 production employees study English; flush with that success, the company will add math, blueprint-reading, and computer skills.
Crimson and Clever. Harvard rebuffs its Critical Legal Studies contingent. The new law school dean, Robert Clark, finds their attacks on science, the rule of law, and Western civilization not only wrong but dangerous. What's more, he served as faculty advisor to the libertarian/conservative Federalist Society. Crits squeal. Ordinary Harvard liberals sigh with relief.
China Blues. China strains toward a "new authoritarianism," and Bush wimps out. When Beijing bars dissident Fang Lizhi from a banquet with the president, U.S. diplomats and journalists cast about for someone to blame for the faux pas of inviting him. In talks with Chinese leaders, Bush fails to bring up Tibet—or to mention Wei Jingsheng, imprisoned since 1979 for advocating democracy. Wei has reportedly gone mad from solitary confinement; Chinese officials unabashedly note that the West doesn't care.
Sour Note. Symphony orchestras are the last, and perhaps first, bastion of truly color-blind hiring. Musicians audition from behind a screen. Dissatisfied with the results, Michigan lawmakers tell the Detroit symphony to hire blacks or face defunding. "It's impossible for me to go to Detroit because of the atmosphere," says James DePriest, a black conductor who turned down a job there. "People mean well, but you fight for years to make race irrelevant, and now they are making race the issue."
Mommy Flak. Felice Schwartz catches it for advocating flexible jobs that many working mothers would jump at, even if it meant slowing down the old career track. The "Mommy Track" furor points up official feminism's petulant refusal to acknowledge trade-offs. Treating women as equals doesn't entail the right to be CEO without working ridiculous hours. Sure, male honchos have kids; but they never see them.
Mass Hysteria. New York City picks Timothy Healy to head its public library. All hell breaks loose. Healy is an eminent scholar, president of Georgetown—and a Jesuit. Anti-Catholicism is the last bigotry acceptable in intellectual circles. Sundry writers, notably Gay Talese and Joseph Heller, charge Healy can't possibly tolerate the pursuit of truth. What if the pope calls up and wants to ban Catch 22? These guys obviously know nothing about the Jesuits, but have they really never heard of quitting your job?