This Week

Issue: "A reason to live," March 23, 1996

Gay docket

A federal appeals court in Atlanta March 12 overruled a lower court decree that said employers couldn't refuse to employ homosexuals. Lesbian lawyer Robin Shahar, 32, had sued the state's attorney general's office, claiming officials withdrew her job offer after discovering she was planning to be "married" in a lesbian ceremony. A day earlier, Georgia's Supreme Court ruled that the state's sodomy law was a legitimate use of state power to further "the moral welfare of the public," upholding a misdemeanor conviction and $500 fine of a citizen for seeking sex from a sheriff's deputy. In Boston, Jeannine and Thomas Jenei announced they would sue the suburb of Brookline for more than $600,000 for forcing their daughter, Johanna, to listen to a high-school social studies teacher describe her "wonderful relationship with her lesbian partner," Reuters reported. And in Colorado on March 13, legislators passed a bill banning same-sex marriages.

Spring break

In Austria, more than 20,000 students staged a mass demonstration in Vienna March 14 to protest planned cuts of $170 million in government education spending; more than 80 percent of Austria's 200,000 students are striking overall. Austrian students are currently entitled to taxpayer-funded university training, but the government wants to cut free travel for students who are 19 years or older, and mandated child-support payments of parents to students. Also students would no longer be able to apply university years to their state pension; teaching staffs would face cuts too.

GOP crackup watch

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Sen. Bob Dole easily swept primaries in Texas, Florida, and five other states as he continued his march to the Republican presidential nomination. Steve Forbes, whose withering television ads early in his $30 million, $170,000-a-day campaign vilified Mr. Dole as a "Washington politician," folded his presidential campaign and "wholeheartedly" endorsed Mr. Dole. Asked about the inconsistency, Mr. Forbes grinned and said, "Just look at who he's going to be running against in November, for starters." But Pat Buchanan battled on, and threatened March 14 on CNN's Larry King Live to break away from the GOP "if my party takes a sharp turn to the left" at the convention in San Diego this summer. Mr. Buchanan met in Flint, Mich., with members of the striking United Auto Workers, hoping his protectionist message would woo voters who belong to the heavily Democratic union embroiled in a labor dispute with General Motors. On the campaign trail March 16, Mr. Dole tossed some rhetorical bones to both Mr. Forbes and Mr. Buchanan. Of the Forbes flat tax, Mr. Dole declared, "We're now looking possibly, possibly at a single rate." In a nod to Mr. Buchanan's concern for downsized American workforces, Mr. Dole said, "Pat Buchanan has touched a nerve when it comes to people concerned about their jobs, concerned about their future. And we will address that."

One week at a time

Congress sent legislation to President Clinton March 14 to avert a partial government shutdown at midnight the next day. The seven-day spending bill gave lawmakers and the administration more time to settle differences over a $160 billion measure to carry the government through the 6 1/2 months left in fiscal 1996. Mr. Clinton's veto pen last year stopped GOP efforts to balance the budget and avert shutdowns for the next seven years. He declared it "regrettable that I must sign yet another" stopgap bill, and signed the measure

Technical foul

Denver Nuggets basketball star Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was suspended for two days by the NBA after he told reporters on March 12 that he had been sitting out the U.S. national anthem before games due to his Muslim beliefs. Other Islamic athletes, including Hakeem Olajuwon of the Houston Rockets, disagreed with Abdul-Rauf's opinion, but the Nuggets' guard won back-door support from the likes of long-time NBA star A.C. Green of the Phoenix Suns. "I hope he sticks with his convictions," said Mr. Green, a Christian. Mr. Abdul-Rauf had said he'd quit basketball before compromising his convictions; on March 14, he said he had found "a better approach" to holding his convictions, namely offering an Islamic prayer while standing during the anthem.

Mrs. Graham ill

Ruth Bell Graham, 75, wife of evangelist Billy Graham, remained in serious condition all last week after undergoing surgery to treat spinal meningitis, a dangerous neurological infection. Her husband remained at her side throughout her hospital stay.

Taiwan tensions

Is China playing chicken with Taiwan and the United States, or is it deadly serious? On Sunday, March 10, U.S. officials took to the talk-show airwaves expressing caution about China's wargames. Secretary of State Warren Christopher said China is "a strategic weight of enormous size, and we have to treat it that way," and National Security Advisor Anthony Lake said it was likely that the U.S. government could continue "most favored nation" status to the oppressive mainland giant, which has been threatening action against Taiwan if it holds presidential elections on March 23. Taiwanese president Lee Ten-hui needs to garner 50 percent of the votes to win re-election, and is considered the favorite. China regards the elections as a sign that the island, which has been free of mainland authority since Chiang Kai-Shek's Nationalists fled there at the end of the civil war in 1949, wants total independence instead of reunification. By March 12, China's navy and air force had begun eight days of live-ammunition exercises in the 90-mile Taiwan strait, a move U.S. officials called "reckless." The United States responded by dispatching a second aircraft carrier, Nimitz, to join the Independence and an Aegis missile cruiser, Bunker Hill. Along with about 10 other warships, it was the largest U.S. armada in the region since 1975 and the Vietnam War. Congress also voted to offer defensive weapons to Taipei, Taiwan's capital. China has more than 2 million troops to Taiwan's 290,000, a navy of 260,000 to Taiwan's 68,000, and a 470,000-man air force to Taiwan's 67,000. However, by March 13, Taiwanese officials said they would defend themselves, and didn't need "foreigners to go to war" for them. Some military analysts began speculating that China might make a grab at an outlying Taiwan island, as it did in 1955. And on March 15, China increased tensions when it announced yet a second round of military exercises planned for March 18-25; moreover, reports began emerging late in the week that some lower-level Chinese officials had threatened the communist country would drop nuclear bombs on Los Angeles if the United States defended Taiwan.

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