The New York Post is calling Bobby Fischer a "chess master-turned-madman" for his remarks to a radio station in the Philippines. The publication says that Fischer, famous for his capture of the world chess title in 1972 by beating chess icon Boris Spassky, referred to the attacks as "wonderful news" and said that he wanted to "see the U.S. wiped out." Fischer retired from chess competition after winning the title and has kept a low profile ever since ... until his remarks about the tragedy. The Internet provider Yahoo! through its Internet Life magazine is additionally reporting that Fischer -- who is half Jewish -- went on an anti-Jewish tirade during his phone conversation with shock-jock Pablo Mercado. In 1992 Fischer was indicted for violating sanctions against Yugoslavia and played in a tournament there. Rather than face prison time he fled to Argentina, then eventually to Hungary. Fischer is 58.
RANDY TRAVIS IN NEW WESTERN
The country singer with the rich, "down-home voice," Randy Travis, is starring in a new movie. This time it's a Western that Tom Roland of country.com says is the kind of movie that once embodied and shaped American cultural ideals. On the same day the movie, "Texas Rangers," opened in Nashville, Travis was in Los Angeles. He was appearing at the seventh annual American Veteran Awards at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Montel Williams was master of ceremonies. Among those honored were Hal Linden -- who received the National Veteran Salute Award -- and journalist Sam Donaldson -- the recipient of the Ernie Pyle Award. Travis, dressed in a tuxedo and burgundy tie, ended the event by leading those in attendance in a slow, reverent version of "God Bless America."
ACTOR AL FARIS TAKES ON NEW ROLE
For years the men and women who select actors and actresses for roles thought Egyptian-American Al Faris was perfect playing a terrorist. You may remember him as a Tunisian assassin in "The X-Files." Now Faris is getting the chance to play the "good guy" for once. This week's installment of "NYPD Blue" on ABC has him cast as the victim of a hate crime. Faris tells USA Today that he is "used to Arabs being portrayed as one-dimensional fanatics ... For once, this is a complex, sympathetic character," he tells the publication. In the broadcast he plays one of two Arab immigrant brothers in the Big Apple whose store is burned in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center towers.
ENRON EMPLOYEES FIND NO 'WHITE KNIGHT'
During the past week, thousands of employees of Houston-based Enron had ridden an emotional roller coaster. With confidence in their company's stock dwindling and talks of massive layoffs in the wind, there was word that Enron would be merging with Dynergy, in essence being rescued by a corporate "white knight." Well, just as the deal was about to be inked, several institutions further lowered Enron's international credit status and Dynergy rode off into the sunset. Now comes word from the Houston Chronicle that Enron is laying off 4,000 of its workers. Monday it sent home most of the entire 7,500-strong work force at its headquarters, saying it didn't have the cash to meet payroll. And, if you include the people laid off overseas, the totals mean that one out every four employees at the international energy company has gotten a pink slip. The disappointing news hits Enron's employees just before Christmas.
COUNTRY STARS GATHER FOR SPECIAL CALENDAR
When a Tennessee group working with children and adults who have Down syndrome mentioned to several country stars that those who have the condition are often stereotyped, the idea of a calendar was born. Now, such famous singers as George Jones, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Sara Evans, Vince Gill and Martina McBride will appear on a special fund-raising calendar for 2002. The group Down Syndrome Association of Middle Tennessee says that the calendar, "Down Home Country," has a major star featured each month. Each personality appears with one or more Down syndrome children or adults. The selling price is $10 with more information available at dsamt.org on the Internet or by calling 615-386-9002.
TOM JONES A 'REGULAR' GUY
In spite of the fact that singer Tom Jones has likely had more underwear thrown at him than any other pop artist and for decades has been an internationally recognized mega-star, he remains a "regular guy." Gossip columnist Liz Smith reports that the 61-year-old Welsh-born Jones recently gathered with a group of fellow passengers on a long Virgin Airlines flight from London to Los Angeles. He stood at the bar in first class, generously giving of his time, signing autographs and posing for photographs. He wore a dark shirt and blue jeans and even handled his own bags at LAX and left with no entourage. By the way, Jones will be at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas on Jan. 1 and will alternate between that city and Atlantic City during 2002.
UPI DAILY SURVEY QUESTION NO. 217
I've always thought -- being raised in the Christian tradition -- that it must be difficult for Jews or Muslims or members of other sects or atheists to have to deal with Christmas. Even though it's a secular holiday and should be spelled with a small "c," it still has Christian roots. Come to think of it, so does "break-fast." So, here's today's question: "If you are not a Christian, what are your thoughts about the way Christmas is celebrated in your country?" Put CELEBRATE in the subject line and send to firstname.lastname@example.org via the Internet.
RESULTS OF UPI QUESTION NO. 212
Last week we asked if you had anyone in your family who is so predictable that you already know what they will be giving you over the holidays. Here are some of the responses: Sir Jay writes to say that for the first nine years he was married, his mother-in-law sent him a shirt, EVERY year. Last year she sent a jewelry box. But, knowing the way she operates, he's expecting a shirt .... again! Bev says her stepmother always gives her china and she's "delighted." Bev, does it all match? Rose says that one year she got a Roger Rabbit doll. She was so thrilled she jumped for joy. Then her BF at the time noted that she had done "nothing but talk about the movie for months." She retorted that at age 30 she didn't think anyone would actually get her a doll! Ali says an aunt always buys everyone gift cards. How droll, but useful. And Karen says that "Grandma always buys us Jammies." Peggy has always gotten a candle from a friend, remembering an incident when her city had an electrical failure. On a personal note: For decades, whoever drew the name of our news director at the second radio station where I worked always gave him a flashlight. It seems that years before he was broadcasting from a darkened studio during a city-wide power failure (the broadcast mixer and microphone had reserve power). He repeatedly said: "If I only had a flashlight." Everyone remembered it and by the time he died he must have had hundreds given him as gifts. I wonder if anyone thought to include batteries? GBA.