"There clearly are underlying racial tensions [in the South] and they manifest themselves in church burnings," claimed Mary Frances Berry of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights at an Oct. 9 news conference. The press briefing was called to announce results of the commission's six-state study conducted in response to a series of church fires this year. Evidence collected by the Justice Department undercut the study's conclusions: More than one-third of the suspects arrested in black church burnings are black. Also, most church burnings over the past two years have involved predominantly white churches. A 13-year-old girl who admitted burning down a black church in Charlotte, N.C., was sentenced Oct. 8 to 200 hours of community service, a year's probation, and mental health treatment. "I'm sorry," the teenager told the Rev. Larry Hill, pastor of Matthews Murkland Presbyterian Church, at the sentencing. She and the pastor then hugged each other.
"Kneel for peace"
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat warned Oct. 10 that his people "will not be forced to kneel [in exchange] for peace." Mr. Arafat's strong words to the Palestinian Legislative Council came after four days of fruitless discussions with the Netanyahu government over terms of an Israeli troop withdrawal from the largely Palestinian West Bank city of Hebron. Mr. Arafat had negotiated a withdrawal agreement with Mr. Netanyahu's predecessor, but the Netanyahu government says that agreement fails to provide adequately for the security of Israeli settlers in the area. Earlier in the week, King Hussein of Jordan, the Arab leader who had been most receptive to Mr. Netanyahu, took the Israeli prime minister to task in an interview with an Arabic newspaper, warning that unless definite steps were taken to advance negotiations with the Palestinians, the region could be headed for war. For his part, Mr. Netanyahu told the Boston Globe that he simply is looking out for Israel's best interests. n Communist crackdowns An American drifter who became a Christian last year while serving time on a drunk-driving charge in Alaska is now in a North Korean prison charged with espionage. Evan Carl Hunziker, 26, who apparently went to China earlier this year to do mission work, crossed into North Korea for unknown reasons. "He probably thought he was going to do those people a favor, teach them the gospel or something," his father told The Washington Post. In China, pro-democracy activist Liu Xia was sentenced to three years in a labor camp for calling on the Communist Party to honor promises to allow freedom of speech and assembly. Another pro-democracy demonstrator was missing and may also have been sent to a labor camp, reported The New York Times.
Pope John Paul underwent surgery Oct. 8 to remove an inflamed appendix, an operation that reportedly went in textbook fashion. Doctors refused to discuss any other physical problems the 76-year-old pontiff may have.
The bottom of the ninth is fast approaching for the Dole/Kemp ticket. Both sluggers-in the words of conservative columnist George Will-refused to swing at "hanging curve ball[s]" served up by debate moderator Jim Lehrer in presidential and vice-presidential debates Oct. 6 and 9 respectively. A Lehrer question gave Mr. Dole the opportunity to raise the "character" issue against Mr. Clinton; the PBS broadcaster's opening question to Mr. Kemp noted GOP dissatisfaction with Mr. Dole's failure to address the issue. Mr. Kemp responded: "It is beneath Bob Dole to go after anyone personally." Indeed, criticism of the Clinton administration's ethics came from those beneath Bob Dole-on the campaign organizational chart. Spokesman Nelson Warfield, hours before the debate began, answered a reporter's question about whether the candidate would talk about cabinet appointments in the unlikely event of a Dole presidency. Mr. Warfield said the focus would "more likely" be on Clinton associates who "are now in federal penitentiaries." Two days after the debate, when reporters caught Mr. Dole shaking hands with supporters and referring to Mr. Clinton as "Bozo," Mr. Warfield quipped, "If the red rubber nose fits, wear it." Mr. Kemp, in his debate with Mr. Gore Oct. 9, pressed economic issues-but did criticize the administration's abortion record, an issue absent from the presidential debate. Mr. Kemp spoke of the "ugly and gruesome" partial-birth abortion procedure, but said "this country should not be torn asunder over this debate." Mr. Gore did not back down: "We will never allow a woman's right to choose to be taken away." Mr. Clinton's lead in the polls appears in no danger of being taken away. Post-debate surveys by CBS, ABC, and CNN/USA Today/Gallup showed the president's lead anywhere between 16 and 21 percentage points. The CBS poll found two-thirds of respondents (the highest percentage since 1988) believing the economy is in good shape; Mr. Clinton's job approval is at 61 percent among those polled-the highest in his presidency.
Just say no
Spokane, Wash., joined a growing number of cities daring to just say no to DARE -the Drug Awareness Resistance Education program aimed at stopping teen drug use by promoting self-esteem. DARE, offered in about 60 percent of school districts nationwide, can cost local governments hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, mostly to cover staff salaries and "DARE-phernalia"-T-shirts, pencils, stickers, and other items bearing the program's red-on-black logo. The high cost isn't the only thing motivating some cities to end DARE. Recent studies show the program just doesn't work. Said Seattle police chief Norm Stamper: "[T]his enormously popular and enormously expensive program has been ...an enormous failure."
Taliban soldiers in Afghanistan, who overran the capital city of Kabul in late September and proclaimed a strict Muslim government, continued to consolidate their power, searching house-to-house for anyone who may have collaborated with the former regime. The new government issued orders prohibiting women from working and girls from going to school. Women make up an estimated 70 percent of teachers in Afghanistan and 40 percent of all physicians. Also outlawed: music and dancing.
First Monday in October
The Supreme Court opened its 1996-97 term by letting stand a New York City ordinance banning from the city's shelves toy guns that look too realistic. The justices dismissed as unrealistic a challenge brought by Ted Kaczynski, the accused Unabomber. He sought to argue in a lower court that news media leaks had poisoned public opinion against him and that the government should have to forfeit the right to prosecute him. Mr. Kaczynski, who is being held in a California jail, is charged in eight of the 16 bombings linked to the Unabomber; he could face the death penalty. In another case, the challengers are also concerned about too much media. The high court agreed to hear a case that will determine whether Congress can force local cable operators to carry all area broadcast stations. The Clinton administration's solicitor general is arguing in support of the "must-carry" rule, saying it prevents local operators from driving off the air small, independent, or public stations. Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. is having "must-carry" problems of its own. One day before Time Warner shareholders Oct. 10 approved a $7.5 billion merger with Ted Turner's CNN, Mr. Murdoch went to court accusing Time Warner of violating anti-trust laws by denying his Fox News Channel a spot on TW-owned cable systems. New York's attorney general that same day confirmed he'd subpoenaed documents from Time Warner for his own investigation into whether the media giant violated anti-trust laws by shutting out Fox. Mr. Murdoch's all-news competitor to Mr. Turner's CNN debuted Oct. 7. Fox News Channel claims it will present "politics without spin, information without opinion, news without bias."
In its biennial survey of charitable giving, including church giving, the Gallup organization found that contributions were up 10 percent since the last survey, adjusted for inflation. Average annual contribution: $1,017, or 2.2 percent of household income. The study said people with a "religious affiliation" were more likely to give to charity than those with no such affiliation. The survey also found an increasing number of people give nothing to charitable causes. Credit-card debt went up $2.8 billion in August, according to Federal Reserve figures released Oct. 7, half the $5.6 billion increase posted in July.
Down with the deficit
The official FY 1996 federal budget deficit is almost half of what the Congressional Budget Office estimated it would be before Republicans took charge of the government's purse strings by winning control of Congress. CBO figures released Oct. 9 put the deficit at $109 billion; President Clinton's proposed budget included a deficit of $197 billion. The cloud of this silver lining: CBO reports that without legislation restraining the growth of entitlements such as Medicare and Medicaid, the budget deficit will grow next year to $169 billion and $212 billion by 2002.
A federal appeals court Oct. 9 upheld a contempt citation against Whitewater felon Susan McDougal. Mrs. McDougal, a former business partner of the Clintons, has refused to testify before a grand jury about whether President Clinton told the truth in videotaped testimony at her fraud trial earlier this year. She has been jailed on the contempt charge since Sept. 16. Mrs. McDougal's two-year sentence for Whitewater crimes will not start until the contempt charge has been resolved. Jury selection continued in Santa Monica, Calif. in the wrongful-death trial of O.J. Simpson. Mr. Simpson, acquitted last year of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman, is being sued by their families on a lesser charge. In an interview aired Oct. 11 on ABC, longtime Simpson friend Robert Kardashian revealed that the former football star flunked a defense-administered lie detector test shortly after the murders, but he said Mr. Simpson had convinced him the test was faulty. Mr. Kardashian says he now has "doubts" about Mr. Simpson's innocence. n Concrete evidence Olympic bombing suspect Richard Jewell may be a suspect no more. The FBI returned some of Mr. Jewell's personal belongings, including 14 guns. The Oct. 10 New York Times reported that "authorities now privately acknowledge that an aggressive investigation ...has yielded no concrete evidence implicating Jewell in the bombing." Mr. Jewell, a former campus police officer and Olympic security guard, has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
Cooking the numbers
A researcher for the liberal activist group People for the American Way caused a stir by quitting his job this summer because his conscience wouldn't let him continue to cook numbers about supposed "attacks on the freedom to learn" by the religious right. Marc Herman's principled departure didn't make nearly the news the annual People for the American Way report-released each September-on public-school "censorship" made once again this year. But Mr. Herman exposed PAW's report as the fraud it was in an essay published by the Internet magazine SALON and subsequently reprinted in the October Harper's. Mr. Herman starts by criticizing reporters "on a tight deadline" who "lapped ...up" without checking for themselves and their readers PAW's bogus claims about the dark forces of the Christian right banning books. Mr. Herman then admits that "those startling censorship numbers-which invariably hit the editorial pages and then shape the nation's conventional wisdom-are cooked." The report's "most challenged book in America" (often Of Mice and Men) usually elicits "fewer than 10 complaints nationwide." Mr. Herman stresses the complaints "are usually complaints, not witch hunts," which result 60 percent of the time in "either very limited or no restriction of the book in question."Moreover, Mr. Herman notes, "Of the remaining 40 percent of incidents, those where there is some level of censorship, many cases involve books being reassigned from lower libraries to upper libraries for arguably sound reasons of age-appropriateness." Then there is this stunning revelation: "In 1993, our new study was not on pace to surpass the previous year's total, and I recall telling a superior the good news that censorship appeared to be easing up. He told me that he had faith I could make things look worse, that we needed to make it look worse. So I did. I began to joke to friends about being the person singlehandedly responsible for most of the censorship in the United States." And who says there aren't honest liberals? This took courage.