News Quiz

No. 104: “For Meta, for Worse”

No. 104: “For Meta, for Worse”

By Randy Cohen

As he received a ceremonial welcome gift in Moscow Tuesday morning, President Clinton said to Boris Yeltsin: “It’s amazing. Just like you.” What was the gift?

by noon ET Wednesday to e-mail your answer (

Responses to Monday’s question (No. 103)–“Half the Fun”:

“The Americans are just beginning to come back now,” said Frederick Landman. “They will eventually get there.” Where?

“Bread lines.”–Patty Marx

“The finish line of 1997’s America’s Cup. The sailing team got lost, apparently, and ended up somewhere around Greenland before it realized that its ‘compass’ was, in fact, a wristwatch.”–Tim Carvell

“The Middle East, for those suddenly half-price ‘Tours of the Holy Land.’ “–Bill Franzen

“To America, from anywhere else, since they flew Northwest.”–Matthew Singer (Rich Harrington had a similar answer.)

“Russia. The 400 ruble toll on the Bering Strait Bridge is now a real bargain.”–Chuck Lawhorn

Click for more responses.

Randy’s Wrap-Up

“News Quiz” respondents displayed their characteristic resilience and black humor, presumably at the misfortunes of others, amid recent financial chaos. I’m proud to be among their number. It was with enormous insouciance that I watched the savings of a lifetime evaporate yesterday. Like a bit of 1929 nostalgia, my savings, mostly in mutual funds, are uninsured. I adhere to the conventional wisdom, not expecting to become wealthy but not desiring to be a schmuck. Ten percent would be a fine thing. Would have been.

Of course, the impoverished 1930s produced much that enriched American life: deco architecture; the black migration to the cities of the northeast; the finest popular music ever–Gershwin, Cole Porter, Hoagy Carmichael, Jerome Kern. The go-go years of the 1980s gave us disco music and designer pants.

But I still wish I’d sold it all in July.

Orbital Answer

Back to leadership in the commercial satellite launching business.

Last week Boeing’s new model Delta 3 rocket exploded just after takeoff, the latest setback for U.S. aerospace, which is still adapting to the aftermath of the Challenger disaster. American commercial launches grew to $940 million last year, but that’s still less than half of the $2.6 billion global market in which Europe’s Arianespace is the biggest operator.

As the space shuttle became a prime launcher of commercial satellites, private U.S. companies concentrated on the military market. After the Challenger explosion, President Reagan cut back on the shuttle’s commercial payloads, declining to risk astronaut lives for such tasks. The shuttle became almost exclusively a military vehicle, and U.S. commercial launchers were out in the cold.

Last week’s $225 million failure–Boeing built the rocket, Hughes built the satellite, and Panamsat was its intended user–was insured by a group led by Space Machine Advisors. A Panamsat exec describes a Space Machine exec watching the launch: “He was the one with the real pale look on his face.”

Frederick Landman, president of Panamsat, says his company will use Arianespace to launch their next satellite, from French Guiana, in October.

Augmented Assurances Extra

Ordinary investors respond bravely to the Dow’s 20 percent drop since July (final sentence added by News Quiz).

“I still think things are good. I don’t see a reason to panic. I can grow tomatoes in my window box or raise a herd of teeny-weeny beef cattle.”–Germaine Meilach, 61

“It’s not easy when you’re going through it, but after the pains your whole life is better. The party’s not over for me. I live on sunbeams, like a leaf!”–Josephine McArthur, 52

“It looks like a pretty good buying opportunity. So hand over the watch and wallet.”–Dennis Schouten

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