By sheer coincidence, Boston’s Blue Cross-Blue Shield Building (1960) was profiled recently on the same day in two quite different publications. In the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, the thirteen-story office tower was described as a landmark of modern architecture, a decisive renunciation of the glass curtain-walled architecture of the 1950’s. The article, by Timothy Rowan of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, rested on a mountain of patient archival research. Too patient, alas: just as Rowan’s article appeared, the New York Times revealed that the building is slated to be torn down to make room for an 80-story skyscraper.
The BC-BS Building (as it is known locally) was designed by Paul Rudolph, an early opponent of America’s postwar architectural modernism. Rudolph scorned the spread of the all-glass curtain wall, which might be lovely in a single example—permitting a rich play of reflections—but which becomes maddening when it takes over an entire street, a spectacle of mirrors reflecting other mirrors. The problem of modern architecture, he quipped, was “too many goldfish bowls, too few caves.”
“In the morning at Yad Vashem, photos of the inhuman Warsaw Ghetto; in the afternoon, we go to the ghetto in Ramallah. It’s enough to make you blow your top.” This outburst in Bethlehem by Bishop Gregor Maria Hanke of Eichstätt was only one of several provocative comments made during a much-heralded pilgrimage to Israel and the Palestinian terroritories by all 27 German Catholic bishops last week.
The Bishop of Augsburg, Walter Mixa, accused the Israelis of “racism,” while the most senior member of the delegation, the Cardinal Archbishop of Cologne, Joachim Meisner, compared Israel’s security fence to the Berlin Wall and predicted that it, too, would be torn down. “This is something that is done to animals, not people,” Cardinal Meisner declared.
While in Israel, the bishops were given VIP treatment by Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres and other senior officials. At the Yad Vashem memorial, Cardinal Karl Lehmann, the chairman of the Bishops’ Conference, gave a respectful speech. But the tone changed dramatically after the bishops left Israel and entered Palestinian-controlled territory.
A vaccine for Human Papillomavirus (HPV), approved last year, has now sparked controversy in at least a half dozen states. HPV is by far the most common sexually transmitted virus in the U.S. (a recent study suggests as many as 25 percent of women under the age of 60 are infected). Symptoms are usually not serious but two rare strains of the virus can actually cause cervical cancer—the second most common form of cancer among American women.
That’s why the introduction of an HPV vaccine made waves last year. Approved by the FDA in June, it is the first vaccine that can avert a form of cancer. Public health officials hailed it, and even President Bush talked it up earlier this year.
Anyone who doubts that the Reagan coalition no longer exists ought to look at the latest diatribe by the syndicated columnist Paul Craig Roberts, which ran prominently in my local paper. Roberts, some will recall, was one of the most prominent supply-siders in the late 1970′s and early 1980′s. His credentials as a “Reagan conservative” are impeccable: editor at the Wall Street Journal, assistant secretary in Reagan’s Treasury Department, fellow at the Hoover Institution, congressional staffer who helped write the landmark Kemp-Roth tax-cut bill. But for the last few years, Roberts has been unleashing a series of rants against the Iraq war, the Bush administration, and neoconservatives, all delivered with a heavy dose of conspiracy theory involving Israel, AIPAC, and Norman Podhoretz.
Roberts is certainly entitled to air his fevered views. But the extremism of his ideas—shared, alas, by a number of libertarians—shows the futility of hoping that the old alliance of tax-cutters, social conservatives, and foreign-policy hawks that formed the Reagan coalition will reunite behind a 2008 candidate.
What happens when good or not-so-good reporters do bad things? In most cases, probably nothing. Usually, no one ever finds out. Two recent episodes illuminate a very different scenario.
The first has come to light through an Editor’s Note in the New York Times. It turns out that a Times reporter, Kurt Eichenwald, wrote a $2,000 check to a young man, Justin Berry, who was the main subject of his 2005 article about sexual exploitation on the Internet.
Eichenwald, who is no longer with the Times, had not disclosed this payment to his editors. It emerged into view only in the course of criminal proceedings involving one of Berry’s sexual contacts. “Times policy forbids paying the subjects of articles for information or interviews. A member of Mr. Berry’s family helped repay the $2,000,” says the note.