Pro-life on a roll
During the debates over partial-birth abortion, the only truth uttered by its staunchest defenders is that those who seek to outlaw the practice will not stop there. Banning this particularly gruesome method is an end in itself, to be sure, but it is also a means to another end: namely, ending all abortions. In the Senate last week, pro-lifers lost the vote but won the debate. Presidential spokesman Mike McCurry said after a so-called compromise measure was defeated, "We are now headed, obviously, to a veto and that won't accomplish anything in the long run." Yes, it will. Even though senators failed to muster the necessary 67 votes to override a promised presidential veto of the partial-birth abortion bill, pro-life forces are actually in better shape now than in the heady days after the Webster decision in 1989. Every vote the pro-abortion extremists are forced to make diminishes their strength. Senator by senator, authority by authority, the debate over partial-birth abortion is winning. Last year's debate brought C. Everett Koop back into the picture on the pro-life side; pro-abortion Sen. Pat Moynihan (D-N.Y.) was forced to concede the procedure was "too close to infanticide." This time it was the American Medical Association and Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.). And don't forget the admission of abortion lobbyist Ron Fitzsimmons that the pro-abortion talking points are lies. The case of Sen. Daschle is interesting. Although he believes the partial-birth abortion ban would not survive a test of the Supreme Court's surrealistic jurisprudence on this issue, he said: "You could make a very strong argument that this abhorrent procedure needs to be stopped regardless of the circumstances. And if this will bring about some new direction by the court with regard to how we might effectively eliminate the procedure, we might be helped by allowing the legislation to pass." And despite the phony "grievous injury" health exceptions in Sen. Daschle's "compromise" bill, it purports to ban not just partial-birth abortions, but all third-trimester abortions. This is progress.
Presenting a strong but largely circumstantial case against accused Oklahoma City bombing suspect Timothy McVeigh, prosecutors held a Denver jury spellbound by laying out their case in dramatic fashion. Instead of following a chronological sequence, the prosecution interspersed weighty technical evidence, such as fingerprint information, with compelling emotional testimony from blast survivors and McVeigh acquaintances. Prosecutors, however, couldn't produce any witnesses who could place Mr. McVeigh in the area of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in the minutes leading up to the April 1995 truck bombing that gutted the structure and killed 168 people. The defense team opened its case by suggesting that the terrorist attack, the worst ever on American soil, may have been committed by a mystery bomber who was killed in the explosion.
Trying to block San Francisco's new city ordinance requiring all businesses to provide health benefits to "domestic partners," the nation's major airlines filed suit May 13, arguing that they're governed by federal, not local, laws. "It would be impossible to operate in hundreds of communities with different and possibly contradictory local ordinances," said Carol Hallett, president of the airline organization that filed the suit. The San Francisco ordinance, passed in November, demands that all companies doing business with the city provide the same benefits to unmarried couples, including homosexual couples, that are available to married couples. United Airlines, the city's largest air carrier, at first balked at the law, but then agreed to abide by it. Upon further review of federal statutes, however, United decided it didn't have to comply.
The China syndrome
Setting up a battle with a broad coalition of human-rights activists, including several conservative Christian groups, President Clinton announced he intends to renew China's special trading privileges with the United States, despite widespread and conclusive evidence of the Communist nation's human-rights abuses. Congress has 90 days to overrule the president's decision on China's trading status. The president's announcement came even as the missionary organization Voice of the Martyrs reported the Chinese government had ordered the execution of the country's most prominent Christian house church leaders. Meanwhile, lawmakers and religious leaders urged the White House to create an office to monitor worldwide religious persecution. At a May 20 news conference, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) announced legislation that would allow such an office to trigger sanctions against oppressive nations, such as banning exports and cutting foreign aid. Regarding Mr. Clinton's decision to push for renewed Most Favored Nation (MFN) trading status for China, Family Research Council president Gary Bauer said President Clinton should "assert American values instead of merely groveling for dollars." China's MFN status could be in jeopardy for another reason as well. Rep. Gerald Solomon (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Rules Committee, said he would not look kindly on renewing MFN if China is harboring Arkansas businessman Charles Yah Lin Trie, wanted for questioning in Congress's probe into campaign finance improprieties. Mr. Trie, a longtime friend of President Clinton, disappeared in China after being linked to close to $1 million in questionable contributions to Mr. Clinton's legal defense fund and to the Democratic National Committee.
Not in our backyard
Saying it would lodge an official complaint with the United Nations human-rights committee, the Israeli government labeled as "racist" a new Palestinian policy calling for the execution of Palestinians who sell land to Jews. Meanwhile, Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority continued its crackdown on land dealers who deal with Jews, taking 15 suspects into custody. One reputed land dealer who lives in Israel was declared missing by Israeli police.
On the Whitewater front
Growing weary of repeated stalling, Whitewater Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr sharply criticized the White House for impeding his investigation. The complaint came after White House attorneys asked the Supreme Court to keep Mr. Starr from obtaining their notes of interviews with First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. Days later, ABC News, citing a closed-door courtroom tape recording of a deputy Whitewater independent counsel, reported that Mrs. Clinton could face indictment for her role in the shady Whitewater land deal. USA Today reported that Vernon Jordan, a close friend of President Clinton, is on the long list of those who helped get legal work for former Deputy Attorney General Webster Hubbell in the weeks after Mr. Hubbell, facing indictment on tax and fraud charges, resigned from the Justice Department. Investigators are looking into whether payments to Mr. Hubbell, totaling more than $500,000 from various sources, were part of a potentially illegal campaign to buy his silence in the Whitewater investigation. At least 14 companies and individuals hired Mr. Hubbell, some of them at the request of White House officials. Mr. Hubbell and Mrs. Clinton were partners at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock.
Death in the family
A New York City mother and grandmother poisoned a five-year-old girl, put her body in a garbage bag, and left the body on the curbside to be picked up by garbage collectors. Police charged the two women with second-degree murder. In New Jersey, Avi Kostner, a former Hebrew teacher who killed his 10-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter rather than have them raised as Christians by his ex-wife, was sentenced to two life terms in prison. He will not be eligible for parole until 2059.
In the ever-widening sex scandal at the Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, an army staff sergeant agreed to plead guilty to sexual-misconduct charges involving 14 trainees. He also implicated still more sergeants and officers in the scandal, according to The Baltimore Sun. A California newspaper, The San Jose Mercury News, acknowledged that it "did not have proof" that top CIA officials had conspired with Nicaraguan drug dealers to spread crack cocaine in urban America. The paper made the allegation last August in a controversial series titled "Dark Alliance" that sparked a furor among many black politicians and radio talk-show hosts.
Congress scurried to pass other legislation before leaving town for a week-long Memorial Day recess, but the notoriously inefficient wheels of government couldn't grind fast enough to produce final votes on a budget resolution and a disaster relief bill. Finally throwing in the towel, lawmakers hung out the "back after vacation" sign and headed home. The budget bill, the five-year tax-cut and spending plan crafted by the White House and Republican congressional leaders, became bogged down by attempts to add more spending for highway construction, school building maintenance, and health insurance for uninsured children. Liberals and conservatives both complained about the budget blueprint, which assumes that continued economic growth and the resulting increases in tax receipts will outpace spending increases and bring the federal budget into balance by 2002. House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), a likely presidential contender in 2000, appealed to liberals by denouncing the plan's spending growth as not enough. Economic conservatives, on the other hand, complained that the deal contained too much spending and too little tax relief. Even so, the budget plan passed both the House and the Senate, but in slightly different forms. A final vote on a consensus version is slated for June 3. The disaster relief bill, offering billions for flood-ravaged areas from California to Minnesota, also awaits final passage. The politically popular "must pass" measure ground to a halt when the White House and congressional Democrats objected to a Republican-backed provision that would prevent any future government shutdowns during budget fights. Under the provision, government spending would be held constant and could not go up until a new budget is passed. Democrats complained that such a spending freeze would give them no leverage with Republicans in the battle to raise spending. President Clinton vowed to veto the bill if the spending restraint provision is included.
Two key Democratic Party fundraisers agreed to plead guilty to arranging illegal campaign contributions in 1994 and pledged to "cooperate fully" with government prosecutors in the first criminal case growing out the Justice Department's investigation of Democratic fundraising practices. Nora Lum and her husband Gene acknowledged they funneled $50,000 in unlawful contributions to two congressional campaigns by making it appear the contributions came from lots of small donors, thus skirting federal law capping individual donations. A House committee is continuing its investigation into the Lums' efforts to raise party donations from Asian-Americans beginning in 1992. Facing a possible contempt of Congress citation, the White House gave in to a House committee's demands for subpoenaed documents related to campaign finance abuses during the 1996 election. But even when the White House says it's cooperating, it sometimes isn't. The Washington Post reported that presidential aides aren't living up to an earlier agreement to provide documents to the Senate committee investigating campaign fundraising wrongdoing. The paper said the committee is "receiving documents slowly and often with whole sections ... blanked out."
Decay and depravity
In a surprise ruling, Colombia's highest court legalized euthanasia for terminally ill people who give their consent to be killed. The Constitutional Court ruled 6-3 that a person acting under certain guidelines cannot be held criminally responsible for taking another person's life. The three dissenting judges said the court had overstepped its bounds and had entered the realm of lawmaking. With "child-sex tourism" proliferating, tourism leaders from 60 nations pledged May 22 to "deprive malefactors of any safe haven anywhere," according to a Reuters report. The World Tourism Organization said an increasing number of pedophiles are traveling to Asia to have sex with children. An estimated one million children under age 16 are working as prostitutes in Asia; about 100,000 of them are in the Philippines alone. Several nations have agreed to work together on extradition treaties so pedophiles can be found and punished.
President Clinton issued a formal U.S. government apology to survivors of the "Tuskegee experiment," a multi-decade federal study of syphilis that used black men as human guinea pigs to judge the long-term effects of the disease. The Rev. Bill Redmond became Rep. Bill Redmond. The conservative Republican, pastor of Santa Fe Christian Church in Los Alamos, N.M., won a special election in a heavily Democratic district to fill the seat formerly held by now-U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson.
Changing of the guard
In the face of advancing rebel forces, President Mobutu Sese Seko, Zaire's dictator for 32 years, fled the country May 16. An explosion of euphoria erupted as rebel leader Laurent Kabila and his Alliance of Democratic Forces-after a seven-month drive across Africa's third-largest nation-swept into the capital of Kinshasa. The coup was not bloodless, however. Missionaries reported that retreating government troops fired machine guns almost willy nilly, killing an undetermined number of civilians, including children. In Kinshasa, Kabila aide Babi Mbayi promised the bloodletting was over: "We are a government that forgives," he said. "We will not waste our time hunting people or settling scores." As the first order of business, Mr. Kabila proclaimed himself president and his alliance announced the nation would revert to its former name: the Democratic Republic of Congo. In South Africa, the governing African National Congress admitted that in its long fight against apartheid, it had committed bombings, murders, and torture, sometimes killing innocent civilians. The admissions came in a detailed 139-page report to the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The commission is offering amnesty to people who confess to politically related crimes of the apartheid era.