This Week

"This Week" Continued...

Issue: "Modern martyrs," Nov. 30, 1996

Out of Africa

The planned multinational intervention in Zaire is looking a lot less multi. On Nov. 19, the United States scaled back its previously committed 4,000 troops to less than 1,000 logistics specialists. The change in plans came amid reports that more than a half million Rwandan refugees have left camps in eastern Zaire and returned home. Departing Defense Secretary William Perry called the resettlement a "very positive development." Along with the logistics personnel who will deploy primarily to help distribute relief aid, participating countries will be providing a heavy supply of so-called "morning after" birth-control pills. Relief workers from the United Nations and the Red Cross say they want to help refugee women "avoid" unwanted pregnancy.

The "moral deficit"

After winning by acclamation the support of his party to remain Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich extended a kinder, gentler hand of cooperation to the president. Mr. Gingrich termed the 104th Congress elected in 1994 the "Confrontation Congress"; he said the 105th would be the "Implementation Congress." Tops on the implementation agenda is a balanced budget, but Mr. Gingrich said he hoped the new Congress would also address the nation's "moral deficit." Mr. Gingrich said, "We have an obligation to reassert... that this nation comes from God, that it is in fact only successful when it is submissive to God's will. I'm not suggesting here in any way a state religion. This country will never again be healthy if we don't have the courage to confront the spiritual and cultural and moral deficit that is an even greater threat to our future than the economic deficit."

Culture rot

In Delaware, police charged two unwed 18-year-old college students with murdering their 6 pound, 2 ounce newborn son. Brian Peterson and Amy Grossman, who grew up in the affluent suburbs of New York City, are accused of killing the child after Miss Grossman gave birth in a motel room, not far from her university dormitory. An autopsy suggested the child had been shaken and beaten to death before being stuffed in a plastic bag and thrown in a trash bin. In an interview with Fox television, Mr. Peterson's attorney audaciously claimed murder was the wrong charge: "[My client] did not commit murder. He committed a crime of bad judgment because no two teenagers [who] have no medical training should be alone in a motel when a baby is being delivered." If convicted of murder, the two teens could face the death penalty. A South Carolina man, seeking revenge on his estranged wife, reportedly shot and killed her four children as they slept, leaving them as a "Christmas present" for her to find. One of the children was the man's own son; the three others were his stepchildren. Police later found the body of the man in a nearby reservoir, an apparent suicide. Nearly one child in 10 is living with parents who have never married each other, according to a congressional report released Nov. 19. That's up from 0.4 percent in 1960. Also rising, according to a separate report issued the same day: sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). A committee of the Institute of Medicine said the United States now has the highest rate of sexually transmitted diseases of any developed nation in the world. One-fourth of the estimated 12 million new cases of STDs each year are among adolescents. What to do? One choice is "delaying sexual intercourse," but for those who just can't say no, the committee recommended distribution of free condoms through government schools.

Tragic circumstances

A week of public hearings opened Nov. 18 into the mid-May crash of ValuJet Flight 592. At the hearing, the government released a transcript of the plane's cockpit voice recorder. "Completely on fire!" were the final words heard on the tape. Crash investigators believe improperly packed or stored oxygen canisters in the DC-9's cargo hold may have started or fueled the fire. Later in the week, a federal safety inspector conceded his agency had cut corners on approving ValuJet's operations procedures because it couldn't keep up with the airline's rapid growth. Near Quincy, Ill., Nov. 19, two planes collided at a runway intersection at a small airport. All 13 crew and passengers of the planes died in the collision. One of the planes, a commercial commuter aircraft, had just landed. The other, smaller plane was getting ready for takeoff.

New Era settlement close

Christian ministries, colleges, and charities burned in the collapse of the Philadelphia-based Foundation for New Era Philanthropy are one step closer to getting some of their money back. A bankruptcy settlement, worked out by many evangelical groups affected by New Era's collapse, had been held up by Prudential Securities, which was being sued in its role as New Era's investment broker. Under a Nov. 15 agreement, Prudential promised $18 million to be distributed to New Era's creditors if all lawsuits against the brokerage company are dismissed. The agreement must be approved by a bankruptcy judge.

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