Sowing and reaping
At a New Jersey prom, an 18-year-old high school senior gave birth in a bathroom stall, wrapped her 6-pound 6-ounce newborn in a plastic bag, and threw him in the trash. After touching up her makeup the girl went to the dance floor, where she asked the DJ to play "Unforgiven" by Metallica. It begins, "New blood joins the earth and he's quickly subdued." A maintenance worker discovered the dead child. Prosecutors are trying to determine whether to charge the young woman with homicide. Friends and family members said they had no idea she was pregnant. Meanwhile, Amy Grossberg, the 18-year-old college freshman accused along with her boyfriend of killing their newborn son last November and dumping him in a Delaware trash bin, insisted on ABC's 20/20 that she "would never hurt anything or anybody." Miss Grossberg and boyfriend Brian Peterson face charges of first-degree murder. RU-486, the controversial drug that kills children in the womb, faces another delay in getting to the United States market. A European manufacturer has backed out of a deal to produce the drug. The Population Council, the group that owns the U.S. patent for RU-486, had hoped to make the abortion-inducing drug available by December.
Washington in brief
Billing it as a hallmark of his presidency, President Clinton June 13 kicked off a one-year dialogue on America's race problems and promised to outline concrete steps to repair that breach. A dozen white lawmakers, meanwhile, have prepared legislation to apologize officially for slavery. Rep. Tony Hall (D-Ohio) said he hopes "this apology will be a start of new healing between the races." Newt Gingrich called the proposal "emotional symbolism ... [that] strikes me as a dead end." On June 18, Mr. Gingrich proposed an end to public policies that imply racism: racial quotas, preferences, and set-asides in government contracts, hiring, and university admissions. The day before, Republicans revived a bill, stalled last year, that would eliminate race and sex classifications from federal programs. A bipartisan group of senators gave tentative approval to Medicare reform that requires wealthier seniors to pay more. Since the program began in 1960, rich and poor seniors alike pay the same Medicare deductible, today about $100 per year. Under a Senate Finance Committee proposal approved June 18, Medicare would be means-tested and the age limit for participation would rise from 65 to 67 by the year 2027. "It will be a contest between political timidity and what almost everyone recognizes we need to do," said Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.). The powerful American Association of Retired Persons, which can make senators timid, immediately denounced the proposal. Means-testing would hike annual deductibles to $540 for individuals making $50,000 a year or couples earning $75,000. A similar House Medicare bill does not contain those provisions. The Senate June 17 approved with only five "no" votes a something-for-everyone foreign policy bill. The measure reorganizes and consolidates U.S. foreign policy agencies, authorizes "overdue" U.S. payments to the U.N., and edges the United States closer to recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. A similar House bill does not include the $819 million for the U.N., which in the Senate bill is conditioned upon U.N. reforms. The provision most bothersome to the White House concerns Jerusalem and the $100 million authorized for the construction of a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. Out of deference to Palestinians, State Department officials regard Jerusalem as "disputed territory" and thus the current American embassy is in Tel Aviv. Although the administration opposes the Jerusalem provisions, Sen. Joseph Biden, a supporter, said, "If the president vetoes over this, I'll eat this microphone."
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a congressional redistricting plan that left Georgia, which is 28 percent black, with only one black-majority district. Voting 5-4, the court said "redistricting is best left to state legislatures," and it chastised the U.S. Justice Department for pressuring the state to draw additional race-based districts. Georgia has three black representatives, two of whom were reelected without the specially drawn districts. A report from a federal task force set up to investigate church burnings found no evidence to support the theory that most of the burnings were motivated by racial hatred. The National Church Arson Task Force reported on 429 arsons, bombings, and attempted bombings since January 1995. Sixty-two percent of the incidents occurred at predominantly white congregations.
Confession at 10,000 feet
Acting on a tip, four FBI agents sneaked into a hostel in Afghanistan in a predawn raid and seized Mir Amal Kansi, the suspect in a deadly 1993 rampage outside the CIA headquarters in suburban Washington. Mr. Kansi, a 33-year-old Pakistani with an unexplained grudge against the CIA, had eluded an international dragnet for four years. On the flight back to the United States, Mr. Kansi reportedly confessed to the crime. Two people were killed in the shootings and three others injured. A Saudi man, implicated in last summer's bombing that killed 19 American airmen in Saudi Arabia, was deported to the United States from Canada after agreeing to cooperate with the Justice Department's investigation of the attack. Investigators think the man drove the getaway car, but was not part of the group that actually planned the bombing.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz, citing government sources, reported that Prime Minister Netanyahu is preparing to offer a "final settlement" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that includes tacit acceptance of a Palestinian homeland. Under the plan, Israel would cede to Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority roughly 40 percent of the West Bank territory Israel gained in the five-day Arab-Israeli war in 1967. The territory would be sandwiched between Israeli territory. It would not have a common border with Jordan and would not officially be recognized by Israel as a Palestinian state.
"GENDER-NEUTRAL" NIV--The reaction
Now that other media are finally picking up on the NIV Bible controversy, it's fascinating to watch how journalists take sides. Surprisingly, many general media outlets realized there were big principles at stake. ABC Radio on June 19 noted the stand against "politically correct" Bibles. The Chicago Tribune's "Womannews" section for June 8 pulled no punches with its sassy little story, "Gender-neutral Bible belted." It began, "If you were looking forward to getting a copy of the proposed gender-neutral Bible, forget it, because there won't be one." Christianity Today, however, asked, "Why are we so easily distracted by the latest controversy?" CT "found the whole episode discouraging" because "we are dependent on controversy to stimulate discussion. Even then, there is no guarantee that people with wise counsel are the ones who will be heard." Ecumenical News International of Geneva, Switzerland, did some original reporting on the International Bible Society decision to "abandon all plans" for the gender-neutral NIV. Only one member of the 18-person board voted "no," ENI reported, and writer Lucy Shaw abstained. She complained that the IBS board had "bowed to the attacks of the religious right," and that its retreat was "wrong." ENI reported that Ms. Shaw considered resigning from the IBS board, but is "sticking with it for now."
Cutting the ties
After several years of hearing reports that the Christian Reformed Church is intent on pursuing a policy of ordaining women to preaching and ruling offices, the general assemblies of both the Presbyterian Church in America and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church voted to end long-standing, formal relationships with the CRC.
The city by the bay
San Francisco's Human Rights Commission upheld rules regulating the city's dozen-or-so homosexual sex clubs. Among other things, the regulations ban sex without condoms and require that lighting be bright enough to enable club staff members to observe what kind of sexual relations are taking place. The rules are meant to curb the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, according to the city's health department. Regulation opponents says the rules are "an attack" on the homosexual community's right to privacy, arguing that sex clubs are sometimes the only place where strangers can have sex.
French police rounded up more than 600 people suspected of trafficking in child pornography. Authorities seized more than 250 child-porn films, including one portraying the rapes of four children. The police operation followed 14 months of investigation. Meanwhile, 71 people charged in an earlier child-porn crackdown went on trial in Paris. In Great Britain, the House of Commons, by a 384-181 vote, approved a complete ban on the possession of handguns, fulfilling a campaign promise made by new Prime Minister Tony Blair.
"GENDER-NEUTRAL" NIV--The reaction
Now that other media are finally picking up on the NIV Bible controversy, it's fascinating to watch how journalists take sides. Surprisingly, many general media outlets realized there were big principles at stake. ABC Radio on June 19 noted the stand against "politically correct" Bibles. The Chicago Tribune's "Womannews" section for June 8 pulled no punches with its sassy little story, "Gender-neutral Bible belted." It began, "If you were looking forward to getting a copy of the proposed gender-neutral Bible, forget it, because there won't be one." Christianity Today, however, asked, "Why are we so easily distracted by the latest controversy?" CT "found the whole episode discouraging" because "we are dependent on controversy to stimulate discussion. Even then, there is no guarantee that people with wise counsel are the ones who will be heard." Ecumenical News International of Geneva, Switzerland, did some original reporting on the International Bible Society decision to "abandon all plans" for the gender-neutral NIV. Only one member of the 18-person board voted "no," ENI reported, and writer Luci Shaw abstained. She complained that the IBS board had "bowed to the attacks of the religious right," and that its retreat was "wrong." ENI reported that Ms. Shaw considered resigning from the IBS board, but is "sticking with it for now."
The temple of Duma
The Russian Duma voted overwhelmingly June 18 to pass legislation restricting religious freedom. Under the law, which still awaits final passage, all religious organizations formed within the past 15 years will lose their legal status. According to the Law and Liberty Trust, an organization promoting religious liberty in Russia, the bill would "wipe out hundreds of recently registered ... churches, seminaries, and charities," leaving "only religious organizations registered during the Soviet period." The bill also prohibits non-Russians from forming religious associations, including prayer groups.
Federal disaster area
House Majority Leader Dick Armey's tart "Y'all have a good day now" response to a question seeking his assessment of House Speaker Newt Gingrich's leadership abruptly ended a June 17 news conference. The remark sent journalists scurrying to report the news of the Republican crackup. That was not all Mr. Armey said about his colleagues in the Republican leadership. "The basic rule around this town is that if you're not in the room and you don't make the agreement, you're not bound by it," he said in reference to the GOP/ White House budget deal still being debated in Congress. "You just have to understand you're not going to get acquiescent, conforming behavior to everything that two or three or four ... big shots think they agreed to." GOP big shots brought Mr. Armey back into conformity later that day and the next. Three hours after his non-answer left the impression he had lost respect for Mr. Gingrich's reign, Mr. Armey issued a statement that he and the Speaker "continue to work as effectively together as we have for the last four years." Of the budget deal, he conceded June 18, "Our final product will be in compliance with the budget agreement." Nevertheless, Mr. Armey has become the point man for conservative discontent with Mr. Gingrich and Senate leader Trent Lott. The bungled disaster-relief bill, freshman and sophomore Republicans say, is the latest in a string of leadership failures. Conservatives watched as their leaders demanded President Clinton accept a bailout bill for flood victims in the upper Midwest that included unrelated amendments to prevent government shutdowns and thwart a White House effort to manipulate the Census to help Democrats. When Mr. Clinton vetoed the bill June 9 and blamed the GOP for prolonging the suffering of flood victims, Republicans caved in within three days. A "clean" bill passed June 12 and the first check was cut by the weekend. Republicans seeking to cut taxes are girding for another battle with Mr. Clinton. Smarting from the disaster-aid defeat, Sen. Trent Lott on ABC's This Week June 15 denounced the president as "spoiled brat" and predicted Mr. Clinton would not "have it his way" on tax cuts. The House Ways and Means Committee had the previous week OK'd a five-year package of capital-gains cuts, estate-tax relief, and a $500-per-child tax credit. The Senate Finance Committee went to work on the tax-cut package June 19.
Getting away with murder
The fourth criminal proceeding against Jack Kevorkian ended almost before it began. A judge declared a mistrial in the case, ruling that Kevorkian lawyer Geoffrey Fieger made "improper and prejudicial" remarks in his opening statement. Mr. Fieger called the mistrial a victory and predicted his client, charged with assisted suicide and practicing medicine without a license, "will never be retried in this court." In Oregon, voters will decide whether to legalize assisted suicide. Oregonians approved the nation's first pro-assisted suicide law in 1994, but the law has been stopped from taking effect by a series of legal challenges. State lawmakers decided June 9 to put the issue before the voters again in November.
Hard of hearings
For less than 24 hours last week, it appeared the central figure in the Democratic National Committee fundraising scandal was ready to tell what he knew. The New York Daily News reported Mr. Huang would testify to Congress if subpoenaed; the next day, Mr. Huang's lawyer said his client would do no such thing without a grant of immunity. "We were ready to celebrate and jump up and click our heels," said House Government Reform and Oversight Committee Chairman Dan Burton. But the false alarm doesn't mean the committee investigators are cooling their heels. Mr. Burton said he may be ready to open hearings on Democrat fundraising abuses by the end of July. (Meanwhile, the chief Senate investigator, Sen. Fred Thompson, announced his committee will begin its public probe July 8. Mr. Thompson is also having trouble gathering evidence. Senate Democrats blocked his request for a grant of limited immunity for 18 witnesses-among them 15 Buddhist monks and nuns-in exchange for their testimony concerning Vice President Gore's 1996 temple fundraiser. On June 18, however, The Washington Post reported the Justice Department was mulling an immunity offer in connection with its own investigation.)
Life for lives
Capping an 11-week trial, a federal jury said 29-year-old Timothy McVeigh-found guilty of the deadliest act of terrorism ever committed in the United States-should die. Mr. McVeigh appeared unshaken as the death sentence was read. Meanwhile, Congress voted not to allow Mr. McVeigh to be buried in Arlington Cemetery, a privilege given all war veterans. No trial date has been set for Mr. McVeigh's co-defendant, Terry Nichols.