This Week

Issue: "Chistendon's Kosher Allies," Feb. 15, 1997

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 &quothas 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 &quotcan determine his own ethical, religious, and moral beliefs in declining or agreeing to assist," the judge ruled. &quotLike 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: &quotIt'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 &quotsuicide 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, &quotYou 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 &quotattend" 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.

&quotContrary to the moral code"

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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 &quotdomestic 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 &quotto 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 &quothaphazard 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 &quotkind of government" that would not try to &quotsolve 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 &quotnational 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 &quota 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.

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