Land for death
Israeli police claimed to have "direct proof" linking Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority to the killing of two Arab land brokers who sold Arab-owned land to Jews. Last month, Palestinian Justice Minister Freih Abu Medein urged a death sentence for Arabs who sell land to Jews, and since then three land dealers have been murdered. Israeli police rescued another dealer minutes after his June 1 abduction, taking into custody his six kidnappers. In Israeli politics, former army chief Ehud Barak easily won election as leader of the Labor Party. Mr. Barak pledged to push for early elections to oust conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Is Kevorkian libel proof?
Just when you thought you'd heard it all, a Michigan judge ruled in a decision made public last week that suicide doctor Jack Kevorkian's claim he was libeled may now move forward. How, exactly, does one libel Dr. Death? According to Mr. Kevorkian's attorney Geoffrey Fieger, the American Medical Association libeled his client in a news release by saying he had engaged in "criminal conduct" and labeling him a "killer." Imagine that. Instead of being proud of this perfectly appropriate title, Mr. Kevorkian is suing the AMA for $10 million. For what? To get his "good name" back? "'Free' though speech may be, it can still carry a price tag," Judge Sharon Finch stated in a ruling disclosed last week by Mr. Fieger. "The First Amendment does not guarantee that one will be safe from suit for libelous statements." The judge held that because Mr. Kevorkian has never been convicted of the crime of murder, it is "libel per se" to label him a killer. "This allegation is so strong and so unequivocal," Judge Finch ruled, "that when directed against a specific person, it constitutes libel." Problem is, this specific person kills specific other persons, causing their hearts to stop beating, their lungs to quit breathing. Regrettably, this is neither criminal nor murder by the sorry standards of today's jurisprudence, but carbon monoxide does kill. This ridiculous libel case still must be tried; the ruling simply was to allow the case to come to court. But if Mr. Kevorkian wins and the judgment stands on appeal, pro-lifers and pro-life publishers had better brace themselves for the onslaught of libel litigation from the child-killers better known in polite society as "abortionists."
Death and destruction
Dozens of tornadoes ripped through central Texas May 27, the deadliest hitting the small farming community of Jarrell, killing at least 27 people. The half-a-mile-wide Jarrell twister, with winds near 300 mph, stayed on the ground for an unusually long 25 to 30 minutes, flattening houses, ripping auto bodies from their chassis, and even tearing pavement off streets. Some people remain missing.
Life apart from God
A 7-year-old girl, left to play in a 24-hour children's video arcade while her father gambled upstairs at a Nevada casino, was raped and strangled in a women's restroom. Police arrested an 18-year-old California man on suspicion of kidnapping, rape, and murder. The father told police he thought his daughter, left in the arcade with her 14-year-old brother, would be safe. The murder occurred at about 4 a.m. In New Jersey, a jury convicted Jesse Timmendequas, 36, of the 1994 rape and murder of 7-year-old Megan Kanka-the crime that sparked passage of a federal law requiring public notification if a convicted sex offender moves into a neighborhood. Megan's parents had not known that Mr. Timmendequas, who lived across the street, was a twice-convicted child molester. Seething over his parents' strict rules and curfews, Robert Dingman, 17, shot them in cold blood-so ruled a New Hampshire jury May 28. Prosecutors said Robert, with help from his 14-year-old brother, Jeffrey, ambushed his parents as they arrived home from work on Feb. 9, 1996. Jeffrey pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and agreed to testify against his brother in exchange for a reduced sentence. He faces 18 years in prison. Robert has been sentenced to life without parole. In California, a teenager who bludgeoned to death his parents and grandparents and the next day killed his 10-year-old sister with an ax, faces 116 years in prison after a jury found him legally sane. Joshua Jenkins, who was 15 at the time of the killings last year, confessed to the murders. Prosecutors said the boy was motivated by anger over his parents' placing him in a school for troubled youths.
After several days of speeches and media interviews staunchly defending the military's strict code of moral conduct, Defense Secretary William Cohen June 4 opted for a "rule of reason instead of a rule of thumb" after a close ally admitted he, too, had committed adultery. Air Force General Joseph Ralston-Mr. Cohen's choice to succeed as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili, who will retire at the end of September-admitted he carried on a year-long extramarital affair during the time he was separated from his wife in the 1980s. Mrs. Ralston sought and was granted a divorce in 1988. After the news broke, Mr. Cohen said it was time to "draw a line" against the "frenzy" of sexual misconduct complaints "that end up destroying people unnecessarily." The previous day, 32-year veteran Maj. Gen. John E. Longhouser, commander of the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, announced his resignation effective June 30, citing a desire to spend more time with his family. The New York Times reported the decision was prmmpted more by reports he had committed adultery while separated from his wife in the early '90s. On May 29, Mr. Cohen addressed graduates of the Air Force Academy and defended the military's rules against sexual misconduct, saying high standards of behavior become essential in the crucible of war. The next day, Pentagon officials temporarily relieved of duty two men-an officer and a civilian-pending an investigation into sexual misconduct. Also May 30, a jury sentenced staff Sgt. Vernell Robinson Jr. to six months in jail and a dishonorable discharge for having sex with five women under his command at Aberdeen. Before the sentencing, members of the jury watched Sgt. Robinson burst into tears and plead for their mercy. Mr. Cohen said June 5 he was disappointed that Gen. Ralston kept his adultery a secret until now, and said he would wait a week or two before officially recommending Gen. Ralston to President Clinton as Gen. Shalikashvili's successor. He also said he may appoint a commission to review the military's rules against adultery and sexual misconduct.
Five months after it took effect, Poland's highest court struck down the nation's controversial abortion law. The 9-3 ruling means almost all abortions will once again become illegal. "The highest value in a democracy is human life, which must be protected from its beginning to the end," said tribunal chairman Andrzej Zoll.
Washington in brief
President Clinton's Whitewater lawyer claims the independent counsel's office is engaging in a "leak-and-smear" campaign against the first lady. David Kendall, in a letter to Kenneth Starr June 3, called news leaks from Mr. Starr's office part of a "public-relations offensive [that] is wholly inconsistent with your professional obligations." Mr. Starr disputes the charge. Days earlier, Mr. Starr asked the Supreme Court not to allow the White House to continue withholding from his investigators notes detailing conversations between Mrs. Clinton and government lawyers. A federal appeals court ordered the White House to turn over the notes. Republican Rep. Susan Molinari to quit Congress, join CBS as a journalist. Ms. Molinari, who gave the keynote address at the Republican National Convention last year, will leave the House August 1 to anchor a new Saturday morning news magazine show. Asked at her press conference May 28 how she could become an objective reporter, Ms. Molinari said, "I will be as apolitical as the rest of you." Convicted CIA double agent sentenced to 23 years in prison. Harold Nicholson, the highest-ranking CIA official ever caught spying against his country, apologized at his sentencing June 5.
As spectators sobbed, the word "guilty" resounded 11 times in a packed federal courtroom in Denver. Solemnly, one by one, Judge Richard Maitsch announced the murder and conspiracy verdicts June 2 against Timothy McVeigh, the 29-year-old Gulf War veteran tried for the deadliest domestic terrorist attack in American history: the April 1995 truck bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people, including 19 children. The trial, hailed as a model of no-nonsense jurisprudence, lasted 18 days, with prosecutors producing rental documents, phone records, and witnesses identifying Mr. McVeigh as the man who rented the Ryder truck used to house a 4,000-pound fertilizer bomb that transformed the federal building into a death trap of crumbling concrete and twisted steel. The prosecution also called to the stand people close to Mr. McVeigh who testified that months before the attack he divulged detailed plans to bomb the building. In the penalty phase of the trial, which opened two days after the guilty verdicts, jurors wept openly as blast survivors, rescue workers, and relatives of victims offered heartbreaking testimony about the emotional impact of the bombing. But the judge warned jurors that he would not allow the sentencing of Mr. McVeigh to become a public "lynching."
Pro-lifers in Wisconsin failed to collect enough signatures by the June 3 deadline to force recall elections for the state's U.S. senators, both of whom want to keep partial-birth abortions legal. If the recall drive had been successful, under Wisconsin law Sen. Herb Kohl and Sen. Russ Feingold, both Democrats, would have been forced to run for re-election before their six-year terms expire. Petition organizers came up about 50,000 names shy of the needed 391,000 signatures. The U.S. Senate last month fell three votes short of a veto-proof majority when it passed a bill to outlaw partial-birth abortions. President Clinton has promised to veto the bill.
Trust but bulletproof
On a two-day visit to the Balkans, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright warned Croatian and Serbian leaders they would face punitive measures if they failed to give their full support to U.S.-backed peace accords. Later, she presided over a ceremony reopening a one-lane bridge across the Sava River, restoring Bosnia's main link with the rest of Western Europe. Ms. Albright said the ceremony was the turning point away from the ethnic violence that killed 200,000 people in the 3 1/2-year-long war in Bosnia. Even as she spoke hopefully of peace in the region, Ms. Albright wore a bulletproof vest and was guarded by a man with a submachine gun.
Russian President Boris Yeltsin and leaders of the 16 nations of NATO signed a historic cooperation pact May 27, giving Moscow an official voice in the alliance created 48 years ago to protect Western Europe from attack by the then-Soviet Union.The accord is intended to allay Russian concerns about NATO's impending expansion toward Russia's borders. Under the agreement, Russia will join a new NATO council to set European security policy. U.S. officials stressed that Russia would have "a voice, not a veto."
Jones vs. Clinton
"I am not a fool," declared President Clinton's lawyer Robert Bennett June 4. Mr. Bennett reversed course following negative feminist reaction to his weekend threats to probe Paula Jones's sexual history in a trial that the Supreme Court said May 27 may proceed. On Sunday morning talk shows June 1, Mr. Bennett strongly hinted that if Mrs. Jones's lawyers use testimony about President Clinton's past amours in the upcoming sexual harassment trial, such histories would be a "two-way street." Indeed, the previous day, Mr. Bennett's team took an affidavit from a man who was Mrs. Jones's supervisor in a prior job, and claimed she had propositioned him and slept with him. Feminist leaders immediately denounced the threatened trial strategy, and the White House hunkered down: Officials refused for four days straight to comment and even canceled a presidential news conference scheduled for the next week. On June 4, Mr. Bennett engaged in what The Washington Post described as a "day-long media blitz," claiming he was misunderstood. "It was never my intention of attacking her sex life and it's not my intention now," Mr. Bennett said. The blitz ended with ABC's Nightline, where he promised "nuclear war" if the case goes to trial, but raised the possibility of a settlement that would include money for Mrs. Jones not restricted to charity and legal fees-as had been offered previously.
Watch and pray
Awaiting China's impending takeover of Hong Kong, Christians gathered in Hong Kong Stadium June 1 to pray for a peaceful transition from British to Chinese rule. Three days later, on the eighth anniversary of the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, an estimated 50,000 Hong Kong residents held a commemorative nighttime vigil in a harborside park. In fiery speeches, speakers at the gathering called for an end to China's one-party rule and for the release of dissidents from prisons and labor camps. Hong Kong's incoming legislature, appointed by China's communist leaders, already has drafted a law banning such public assemblies. That law and other restrictions on political freedom take effect July 1.