This Week

"This Week" Continued...

Issue: "The Man Behind the Duck," July 26, 1997

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."

Power shifts

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.

Strings attached

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.

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