Killing the patient
A Florida judge became the first state jurist in the nation to support doctor-assisted suicide. In a case sponsored by the ACLU, Circuit Judge Joseph Davis ruled that AIDS patient Charles Hall "has a constitutional right... to terminate his suffering and determine the time and manner of his death." Judge Davis also ruled that the doctor who wants to kill Mr. Hall will be safe from prosecution. The doctor "can determine his own ethical, religious, and moral beliefs in declining or agreeing to assist," the judge ruled. "Like Mr. Hall, he has the freedom of choice." Meanwhile, a survey reported in the Feb. 6 New England Journal of Medicine found that 53 percent of AIDS doctors in the San Francisco area had assisted in at least one suicide. Said one doctor: "It's not something I arrived at easily. I did not go into medicine to prescribe lethal doses." Following a lull of several months, the nation's foremost "suicide doctor" appeared to have struck again. Someone left the bodies of two women Feb. 3 near medical facilities in the Detroit area, home territory of Jack Kevorkian. Although the retired pathologist didn't own up to the deaths, his attorney Geoffrey Fieger told The Detroit News, "You have to have been born under a rock yesterday not to know who was involved in these cases." Mr. Kevorkian, facing assisted suicide charges in a death last summer, is free on bond. He had given his word he would not "attend" any more deaths.
OK, you win
After 11 weeks of daily street protests, Socialist Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic announced Feb. 5 he was willing to acknowledge opposition party victories in Belgrade and 13 other cities. Even so, the next day protests continued. Demonstrators said they would keep up the pressure until Mr. Milosevic follows through and opposition candidates actually take office. In Bulgaria, the governing Socialist party, responding to street protests there, agreed to hold legislative elections in the Spring. Bulgarians are angry over government corruption and a flagging economy.
"Contrary to the moral code"
The head of the Roman Catholic Church in San Francisco is refusing to go along with the city's latest attempt to impose its pro-homosexual values on traditionalists. The city's Board of Supervisors has given an ultimatum: All companies and nonprofit organizations doing business with the city must extend spousal-type "domestic partner" benefits to their employees by June 1 or face losing city contracts. Among the nonprofits that work with the city: Catholic Charities, which receives $5.6 billion in city taxpayer money to provide a host of services to the area's poor. Archbishop William Levada said the city was trying "to force a church to adopt a policy on the basis of activity which is contrary to the moral code." He said the church would sue unless the city backed down. United Airlines, which has a large hub at San Francisco International Airport, also has refused to cater to the city's whims. Mayor Willie Brown insists all city contractors will comply. Claiming the death penalty has a disproportionate impact on minorities, the nation's largest lawyers organization called Feb. 3 for an immediate halt to its use. The American Bar Association's House of Delegates voted 280 to 119 urging that all executions in the United States be stopped until federal and state authorities can correct what the lawyers called a "haphazard maze of unfair practices" in the implementation of capital punishment. The ABA will lobby Congress and state legislatures for changes in death penalty procedures.
New kind of government?
Millions of Americans tuned in Feb. 4 to see the O.J. Simpson verdict and watch President Clinton's State of the Union message while waiting. As network programmers sweated, hoping the leader of the free world would finish before the verdict was announced, the recently reinaugurated president called for bipartisan commitment to a new "kind of government" that would not try to "solve all our problems for us." Two days later, the president shipped to Congress his 1998 budget--tipping the scales at $1,690,000,000,000--that targets several problems Mr. Clinton does want government to solve. His solutions: expanding health coverage for some five million uninsured children at a cost of $3 billion, watering down last year's welfare reform with an extra $21 billion federal expenditure for poverty programs, and boosting federal environmental spending 12 percent to $7.5 billion. The centerpiece of Mr. Clinton's spending initiatives is a "national crusade" to improve education, a multi-faceted plan that calls for a 40 percent increase in federal education funding by 2002 (the same year the budget is to be balanced). The education crusade would include a series of tax credits, deductions, and federal scholarships to cover college costs, effectively creating what The Los Angeles Times described as "a higher education entitlement for millions of middle-income Americans." Also proposed: a $500 per child tax credit, designed to aid middle-class families with children, and the elimination of the capital gains tax on the sale of most houses. But the administration plan calls for canceling the tax cuts after 2000 if the economy doesn't perform as well as expected. While Mr. Clinton claimed his budget would erase deficits by 2002 and for 20 years beyond, Republicans pointed out that the plan was brimming with costly new programs and phantom savings. Still, they said they were ready to bargain.
A federal grand jury in Washington subpoenaed some 40 individuals and businesses in an investigation into possibly illegal foreign contributions that helped President Clinton win reelection. The subpoenas included contributions records from the Democratic National Committee. Also subpoenaed, according to The Washington Times: 28 DNC contributors and 11 corporations. Meanwhile, a federal watchdog agency opened an investigation into allegations that senior White House official Harold Ickes violated a law that prohibits federal officials from soliciting campaign funds. Mr. Ickes, using a White House fax machine and telephone line, sent a memo to Florida businessman Warren Medoff saying a $500,000 contribution to the DNC "would be greatly appreciated." White House officials insisted that Mr. Ickes was not soliciting the contribution, only passing along information about where to send it. The Ickes incident could renew calls for Attorney General Janet Reno to appoint an independent counsel to investigate questionable Clinton campaign practices. Thus far, Ms. Reno has refused, saying there is no credible evidence that any high-ranking White House official has broken the law. Mr. Medoff, the Florida businessman, also figured in a story that raised new questions about the possible impact of campaign contributions on administration foreign policy. The Boston Globe reported that President Clinton renewed controversial aid flights to Cuba on the same day Mr. Medoff urged him to resume the flights and offered to arrange a $5 million contribution to the DNC. White House officials claimed Mr. Clinton's decision to resume the flights had nothing to do with the contribution.
This is the Army?
An army Sergeant Major accused her former boss, the nation's top-ranking enlisted soldier, of sexual assault. Sgt. Mjr. Brenda Hoster claimed Gene McKinney, who holds the title Sergeant Major of the Army, assaulted her in her hotel room last year during a business trip. Sgt. Mjr. McKinney, recently appointed to a commission reviewing the Army's sex-harassment polices, said the incident never happened. He has stepped down from the review commission until the matter is resolved. In the wake of numerous sex-harassment and assault cases, military minds are rethinking the Army's current policy of training men and women together. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Dennis Reimer said Feb. 4 that the service will reexamine whether the benefits of "gender-integrated" military training outweigh the drawbacks. "I think ... there's probably a need for a more detailed look in this particular area," he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Clearing the way
Responding to months of pressure from American Jewish groups, Switzerland's three largest banks announced the creation of a $71 million "humanitarian fund for victims of the Holocaust." Some believe the Swiss banks, which had close ties to Nazi Germany, secretly hold assets owned by Holocaust victims. Bank officials continued to deny the accusations, but said in a statement that the newly created fund "would clear the way ... toward finding a just and equitable solution to the issues involved."
Thief in the night?
Sensing, perhaps, that their decades-long denial of the humanity of unborn children is rapidly being undermined by advances in ultrasound technology, leading abortion enthusiasts have turned to academia for a new legal theory--abortion as self-defense--to protect their cherished right. This theory, reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education, is developed in the new book Breaking Abortion Deadlock: From Choice to Consent, by political science professor Eileen McDonagh. The professor concedes the humanity of the unborn child, just as a homeowner concedes the humanity of a thief in the night but shoots him dead. And that's her chilling argument: "[E]ven in a medically normal pregnancy, the fetus massively intrudes on a woman's body and expropriates her liberty. If the woman does not consent to this transformation and use of her body, the fetus's imposition constitutes injuries sufficient to justify the use of deadly force to stop it." WORLD has made the point before that our society's schizophrenic support of abortion despite high levels of unease with its practice amounts to a belief in abortion as "justifiable homicide." We've just never heard the other side put it that bluntly. This, by the way, is not some fringe point of view. Prof. McDonagh's book is published by Oxford University Press; it includes dust-jacket blurbs of praise from NOW president Patricia Ireland ("required reading") and feminist abortion crusader Eleanor Smeal ("a powerful, new, women-centered framework for abortion rights"). Powerful? Maybe. Flawed? Definitely. The (pardon the expression) fatal flaw in the professor's justifiable homicide argument is in the issue of consent. Prof. McDonagh must at least concede that any time a woman consents to sexual relations and conceives, the unborn baby is an invited guest, not a liberty-stealing burglar. How thrilling to hear pro-abortion forces granting the obvious: The unborn child is human. How frightening, however, to hear their cold calculation that unwanted pregnancy is tantamount to an injury "sufficient to justify the use of deadly force."
Whitewater prosecutors said one of their cooperating witnesses, James McDougal--a former partner of Bill and Hillary Clinton in the Whitewater land deal--had provided "new and important information" and they were seeking to corroborate his story. Although prosecutors did not reveal the nature of the information, Mr. McDougal's ex-wife, Susan, claimed her former husband had told her he was "going to lie" and say that then-Gov. Clinton attended a meeting to discuss how to set up illegal loans. "He wants me to lie, too," Mrs. McDougal told the Arkansas Times. Last year, President Clinton denied under oath that he had attended such a meeting. Mrs. McDougal, a convicted felon in the Whitewater case, is currently jailed on a contempt charge for refusing to say whether Mr. Clinton told the truth during his testimony.
If the shoes fit...
One day after a jury's verdicts holding O.J. Simpson responsible for two deaths, the former football star's defense team planned an appeal. In a 12-0 decision Feb. 4, the Santa Monica, Calif., jury found Mr. Simpson liable for the 1994 slashing deaths of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. Because the charges came in a civil case, Mr. Simpson won't face jail time. Unlike the earlier murder case, in which Mr. Simpson was acquitted, the civil trial's standard for establishing liability was easier to meet. Even so, the evidence in the civil case was stronger than in the murder trial, buttressed by 30 previously undiscovered photos of Mr. Simpson wearing a pair of rare designer shoes, the same brand that left bloody prints at the crime scene. Markedly absent from the civil trial was the issue of race, which dominated the murder case. The reason: Judge Hiroshi Fujisaki ruled early in the civil proceeding that the defense couldn't make race a major issue since there was no real evidence that racism had hampered the police investigation. In Texas, a seven-woman, five-man jury sentenced a suburban Dallas homemaker to die after finding her guilty in the stabbing death of her five-year-old son. Darlie Routier, 27, may face a separate trial for the killing of another son. Mrs. Routier, who showed little emotion as the verdict was read, had claimed the two boys were killed by an unidentified man who broke into their home. Prosecutors said she killed the boys because she was distraught over financial problems and wanted to be free of the responsibilities of motherhood.
Israel held a day of mourning for 73 soldiers killed in the worst military air disaster in the nation's history. Two helicopters flying to Lebanon to patrol a buffer zone collided at night over a small farming community near the Lebanese border. Officials said the cause of the crash is unknown, but the choppers' pilots may not have been able to see each other. Israeli military helicopters routinely turn off all their lights when approaching the border to avoid being spotted by Iranian-backed Hezbollah guerrillas operating in South Lebanon. Hezbollah fighters claimed the crash was an answer to prayer and was evidence of the "finger of Allah."