Made for television
Telegenic Sen. Fred Thompson, an actor who returned to his native Tennessee from Hollywood and was elected as a Republican in 1994, is getting very little TV exposure. CNN, MSNBC, PBS, and C-SPAN did not carry live Sen. Thompson's hearings into illegal campaign fundraising. Only the Fox News Channel (whose news president is former GOP strategist and ex-Rush Limbaugh TV producer Roger Ailes) broadcast the proceedings live. The lead Democrat in the probe, John Glenn, has been no less partisan. Sen. Glenn declared on day one of the hearings July 8, "The measure of success for this investigation will be whether it produces congressional action for campaign-finance reform." Week one produced snappy opening statements-Sen. Thompson asserted the Chinese government sought to "pour illegal money" into American campaigns to "subvert our electoral process"-but no startling revelations. Week two was different: After a three-hour, secret FBI briefing, both Sen. Glenn and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) admitted the evidence "strongly suggests" a Chinese plot. The committee also turned up a memo in which former Democrat fundraiser John Huang sought reimbursement from the Indonesia-based Lippo Group for a $50,000 contribution to the Democrats, making the gift illegal. On July 17, eyewitness testimony detailed Mr. Huang's frequent walks across the street between his Commerce Department office and the offices of a private investment firm. During his 18-month tenure at Commerce, Mr. Huang frequently used the private offices to keep in touch with his former employer, Lippo; he made phone calls, received faxes, and picked up parcels.
Death in the fast lane
Renowned fashion designer Gianni Versace, whom The New York Times described as bringing "rock, art, sexuality, and brilliant color into contemporary fashion," was shot in the head and killed July 15 outside his oceanfront home in Miami Beach. The main suspect is Andrew Phillip Cunanan, described by police as "a male prostitute who services an affluent clientele." Mr. Cunanan is suspected in four other murders.
Earth invades Mars
On Mars, NASA's unmanned Pathfinder spacecraft and its 23-pound roving explorer, Sojourner, began sending back pictures of the planet's red dusty soil and rugged terrain. Pathfinder's 390-million-mile journey, which ended July 4, began in December 1996. Meanwhile, the space shuttle Columbia and its crew of seven returned to earth July 17 after a nearly flawless 16-day science mission. Flawless is not the word to describe the Russian space station Mir, staffed by two cosmonauts and one American astronaut. Crippled last month by a collision with a cargo drone, Mir encountered more problems July 17 when one of the crew mistakenly disconnected a critical cable, disabling the space station's guidance system and interrupting its ability to gather solar energy.
Zeroing out the NEA
The House voted to eliminate funding for the National Endowment of the Arts-an agency Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) calls the "single most visible and deplorable black eye on the arts in America." But the fist-fighting in Washington over taxpayer subsidies for the arts is just beginning. By one vote, the House voted to zero out the NEA from an Interior Department appropriations bill. It contained the previously agreed-to $80 million for arts funding, but none for the NEA, forcing consideration of an earlier GOP proposal, authored by Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.), that would replace arts funding through the NEA with block grants to the states. But an unlikely coalition of conservatives who oppose all governmental arts funding and liberals who hope to save the NEA axed the block grants compromise. The NEA still enjoys strong support in the Senate, which will be considering a bill to reauthorize the agency (which has long operated without a multi-year authorization, requiring year-to-year funding votes) and to increase its budget to $175 million. "The far right has won the ideological battle but will lose the war," predicted Rep. Ken Bentson (D-Texas). Probably. The next front will be a House/Senate conference committee that will seek to work out a compromise. Meanwhile, President Clinton promised to veto the entire $13 billion Interior Department appropriation bill if it does not contain funding for the NEA at least at its present level of $99.5 million. The agency, notorious for some of its obscene and blasphemous grants, was a major issue for freshman lawmakers of the much-heralded conservative revolution of 1994. Finally, Congress is acting on the issue, though by now the newly powerful liberals of both parties may well thwart their efforts. The art world, in the meantime, is in a state of panic, even though every other enterprise , once freed from governmental subsidies, has flourished. Bureaucratic interference and political infighting have always given art a black eye.
Washington in brief
Out of every $1 taxpayers spent on Medicaid last year, government auditors reported July 17 before a congressional panel, 14 cents was lost to fraud, abuse, or error. The total amount wasted: $23 billion, the same amount Congress seeks to trim from the program's projected increases next year. President Clinton's dialogue on race took on a harder edge. After a speech to the NAACP, his second major address of his yearlong campaign to raise racial issues, Mr. Clinton lashed the "shocking consequences" of decisions in Texas and California to curb race-based admissions preferences at state universities. The shocker: a dip in minority enrollment at law schools in the two states. Mr. Clinton urged the reversal of California's Proposition 209, which outlaws discriminatory race-conscious policies. He told a convention of black journalists, "I think if we all work on it, we can reverse it in a matter of a couple of years."
A longtime, bitter feud between Cambodia's Prince Norodom Ranariddh and his political rival and co-prime minister, Hun Sen, erupted in fierce street battles July 5 and 6. When the smoke cleared, Mr. Ranariddh had fled the country and Hun Sen, described as "a former communist," had become the nation's de facto leader. According to a United Nations official, at least 40 of Hun Sen's political opponents were seized and put to death. Some were shot while trying to surrender; others apparently were tortured to death. In Mexico, opposition parties made huge gains in national elections, sending shock waves through he Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which has governed Mexico since 1929. The PRI lost its majority in the lower house of Congress, but it continues to have the largest delegation in the 500-seat lower house. The PRI maintained its majority in the Senate, but lost 18 seats and will have to forge alliances with other parties to pass major legislation. The elections, the first under new election laws, gave voters a forum to express their discontent over government corruption and the country's anemic economy.
The evil empire
Investigators in Russia, following up on information found in the files of the former Soviet Union, discovered a mass grave of more than 1,100 victims of Joseph Stalin's 1937-38 purges. Investigators continue to search for other grave sites, looking for the remains of the millions who died under Mr. Stalin's regime. In the Netherlands, the International War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia sentenced a Bosnian Serb to 20 years for taking part in 1992 beatings and killings in northwestern Bosnia-Herzegovina. Meanwhile, NATO troops stepped up their search for war criminals. On July 10, troops in Sarajevo seized one suspect and shot and killed another as he tried to elude capture.
The U.S. Senate voted 95-4 on July 16 to cut off aid to Russia-if a bill passed by the Russian parliament restricting religious freedom becomes law (see WORLD, July 12/19). A bill approved by the communist-led body that would give preferential treatment to the Russian Orthodox Church and deny legal status to most religious groups established in Russia within the past 15 years still needs President Yeltsin's signature. Pope John Paul II also lobbied Mr. Yeltsin in a letter July 17 warning that the measure would threaten the survival of the Roman Catholic Church in Russia.
Final word on final exit
The Supreme Court of Florida upheld a state law banning doctor-assisted suicide. Reversing a lower-court judge who held that the ban violated a right-to-privacy provision in the state constitution, the state Supreme Court-echoing a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court-marked a distinction between "the right to refuse medical treatment and the right to commit physician-assisted suicide." The case involved a man who, after contracting AIDS from a blood transfusion, sued to overturn Florida's statute that outlaws "assisting another in the commission of self murder."
Councils of government
NATO officially extended membership invitations July 8 to three of its former Eastern European enemies-Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. The plan to add new members, which would alter the NATO treaty and broaden U.S. security commitments, faces an uphill battle in the U.S. Senate, where it must be OK'd by a two-thirds vote. At the United Nations, Secretary General Kofi Annan submitted a plan to streamline the financially troubled organization. But the proposal, which Mr. Annan characterized as "bold but not suicidal," does not call for large cuts in either staff or programs.
Apart from God
At the University of Florida in Gainesville, doctors transplanted tissue from seven aborted children into a patient with a spinal cord disease, hoping the embryonic spinal cells would help stop or reverse the spread of the disease. The Florida Times-Union reported that the cells were harvested from two Northeast Florida abortion clinics. It was the first transplant of embryonic spinal cells in the United States; similar operations have been performed in Russia and Sweden.Tissue from aborted children routinely is being used in the United States to treat patients with Huntington's disease and Parkinson's disease. In New Jersey, police charged a 16-year-old girl from the Dominican Republic with abandoning her baby after she gave birth in a bus terminal bathroom. She left the full-term, 6-pound, 10-ounce child in a toilet. He was rescued minutes later by a bus driver and taken to a hospital in critical condition. The girl had been on a tour of Atlantic City's casinos. The mother of a 7-year-old California girl raped and murdered in the restroom of a Nevada casino filed suit against the casino for creating an environment that "encourage[s] parents to separate from their children." The girl, who had been playing in a casino video arcade, was killed around 3 a.m. May 25 while her father gambled upstairs. In a related development, government officials in Las Vegas voted to bar anyone under 18 from casino arcades between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Homosexual couples in Hawaii now have some of the same legal benefits as heterosexual couples. Under a law that took effect July 9 without Gov. Ben Cayetano's signature, homosexual couples will be allowed to share medical insurance and have joint property rights. The law was part of a compromise worked out in the state legislature. It passed along with a proposal that calls for amending the state constitution to prohibit legal sanction of homosexual marriage. In the first reported case of HIV transmission through a kiss, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention disclosed that a woman apparently became infected with the AIDS virus from kissing a man who had bleeding gums. Seeking to quell concern over the announcement, the CDC emphasized that the virus was transmitted by the man's blood, not his saliva.
The Department of Education announced a federal investigation into whether the University of California's new race-blind admissions policy discriminates against blacks and Hispanics. The policy, the first at a public university to prohibit preferences based on race and ethnicity, takes effect this fall for graduate school admissions. Ward Connerly, a black member of the UC Board of Regents who led the effort to abolish race-based admissions, called the probe "harassment." Education Department officials cite the school system's receipt of federal aid as the basis of their authority to investigate. The UC system has 160,000 students on nine campuses.
Phone home, Mr. Speaker
n the blockbuster summer hit Men in Black, House Speaker Newt Gingrich is depicted in one scene as a space alien. Mr. Gingrich referred jokingly to the news-footage cameo last week when a Capitol Hill newspaper reported a serious effort by disgruntled conservative lawmakers to strip him of his Speakership, saying both were fiction. The next day's news did not prove the Speaker an alien, but it did confirm the depth of the alienation between the once-revered leader and rank-and-file House Republicans: In a surprise move, one of Mr. Gingrich's top deputies resigned his leadership post July 17 over his role in an abortive coup planned July 10 and revealed July 16 by The Hill, a small weekly newspaper that covers Congress. The Washington Post ran a story citing an unnamed congressman as confirming some details of The Hill's reporting. According to these news reports, the story goes like this: Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) planned the coup July 10 during a meeting with conservatives. Mr. DeLay insisted Mr. Gingrich be deposed quickly. Talk then turned to a successor; the consensus favored Rep. Bill Paxon (R-N.Y.), the GOP conference chairman. Mr. DeLay relayed the news to Mr. Paxon and Dick Armey, the House majority leader. But the coup faltered after Mr. Armey-second in command in the GOP hierarchy-refused to go along. After the news started to break July 16, Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Armey met with Mr. DeLay and Mr. Paxon, who that night offered to step down. Mr. Paxon's letter of resignation, accepted with no fanfare the next morning and not made public until after the evening news, complained that the July 10 incident had been "grossly misconstrued" and had rendered him ineffective: "[I]t is clear that I can no longer be an asset to your team in this appointed capacity." White House officials were loving it. Spokesman Mike McCurry wryly said of the leadership struggle, "I categorically deny that anyone is gleefully watching those actions." During the wrangling, however, Mr. Gingrich won a small victory. Gingrich ally Jennifer Dunn (R-Wash.) won a GOP caucus vote July 16 over Gingrich critic Jim Nussle (R-Iowa) to fill a leadership post vacated by Mr. Paxon's wife, Susan Molinari, who is leaving Congress to become a television personality.