Diplomat on the warpath
Citizen William Weld, who quit the governorship of Massachusetts last week to campaign in Washington full-time for the job President Clinton wants him to have-that of U.S. ambassador to Mexico-roamed the halls of the Senate on his 52nd birthday July 31 looking for well-wishers. Characterizing his campaign as "a land war" that may turn into an "air war," liberal Republican Mr. Weld is at odds with the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, conservative Republican Jesse Helms, who says he won't even schedule a hearing to consider the nomination. Mr. Weld supports legalization of the "medicinal use" of marijuana and government-sponsored "clean-needle" exchanges for drug addicts-the exact wrong message the United States should be sending to Mexico, Mr. Helms contends. Mr. Weld has accused Mr. Helms of "ideological extortion" and says the battle over his nomination will also be a battle for the soul of the GOP. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott suggested the former Massachusetts governor look for a different job: "Diplomats are supposed to stop fights, not create fights."
Christian persecution watch: Big words, small deeds
A new report by the State Department acknowledges that countries the United States supports with favorable trade policies and infusions of foreign aid regularly abuse Christian believers. But don't wait around for the revelation to produce a sea-change in diplomacy. In the same week the government issued its first-ever report on Christian persecution, President Clinton waived for six months part of a law that imposes tougher sanctions on Cuba. It was the third time the president refused to impose trade restrictions enacted over a year ago by Congress. Lawmakers charged that Mr. Clinton made a deal with Europeans not to enforce the law if they won't file a complaint about the law with the World Trade Organization. The report criticizes the Castro regime for its rough treatment of Protestant and Catholic church leaders in Cuba. It acknowledges that China is instigating a renewed campaign to eliminate house churches (just weeks after the administration pressed Congress to approve continuing most-favored nation trade status for China). It states flatly that freedom of religion does not exist in Saudi Arabia (where the U.S. government has protected the right of American soldiers to buy alcohol and pornography but is sheepish about holding worship services within U.S. installations). Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally, gets top billing as the worst offender of Christians in the 78-nation report one newspaper report called "unsparing." The document will be a club for Christian and Jewish activists who've lobbied for specified focus on Christian persecution; a goad to groups like the National Council of Churches and even some evangelical mission agencies, who've lobbied for accommodation with offending countries. A yardstick for how Washington handles the issue? Forget it. Even The New York Times editorialized, "The Clinton administration and Congress have become quite skillful at identifying human-rights abuses around the world while not doing enough to end them."
Whither the welfare state?
Bowing to financial reality, Britain's increasingly pragmatic Labor Party moved to dismantle one of the pillars of the welfare state that the party had erected during its openly statist days-free college tuition. The country's 90 universities, desperate for money and falling behind other countries in academic excellence, pushed for the change. It would require students to pay roughly $1,600 a year for their education. Labor opted for the tuition co-pay plan instead of pushing for a general tax increase. Across the channel in France, the welfare state is alive, if not altogether well. The new socialist government announced a 15-percent tax increase on large corporations, hoping the hike will help France reduce its budget deficit. Business owners complained that the hike will raise unemployment, not money. The jobless rate in France, where corporations face a mountain of government mandates and taxes, stands at 13 percent.
Under heavy pressure from both the U.S. government and the Vatican, President Boris Yeltsin rejected a controversial bill that would have sharply curtailed religious freedom in Russia. Backed by the Russian Orthodox Church as a means of protecting its theological and geographical turf, the bill had passed overwhelmingly in both houses of the communist-dominated parliament. Religious groups that refused to register with the Soviet government in 1983, or that have sprung up since its collapse, would have faced wide-ranging limitations on their ability to operate. But Mr. Yeltsin pledged to sign the measure if parliament would strike certain provisions. He called for a revised bill that would specifically circumscribe "radical sects"-a term he did not define-saying such a law is needed to "protect the moral and spiritual health of Russians."
"It's not a hundred-year flood," said Colorado Gov. Roy Romer of the flood that hit Fort Collins, home of the University of Colorado. "It's a thousand-year flood." Heavy rains-as much in five hours as Colorado usually gets in about six months-inundated the area, creating a flash flood that destroyed two trailer parks, damaged many homes and apartments and killed five people. Some residents, still in their pajamas, climbed trees to escape the raging waters. The University suffered damage to more than 20 buildings and lost a significant portion of its library collection.
The battle for orthodoxy
By the narrowest of margins, the Episcopal Church turned back an attempt to put the denomination's blessing on homosexual "marriage." Even so, the 57-56 "no" vote at the church's General Convention heartened homosexual activists, who said they'll try again at the next convention in 2000.
Carnage in Jerusalem
Two bombers dressed in business suits and carrying briefcases laden with explosives and nails carried out a carefully synchronized afternoon suicide attack on a crowded Jerusalem market, killing 15 people and injuring more than 150. Hamas claimed responsibility for the double blast, which tore many victims limb from limb. An angry Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, claiming that terrorists have been staging their attacks from areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, accused Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat of not doing enough to control terrorism. Mr. Netanyahu pledged to do "whatever is necessary" to stop the attacks.
Judgment day coming?
Pol Pot, the former Cambodian communist leader considered responsible for the "killing fields" deaths of more than one million of his countrymen in the 1970s, resurfaced after dropping out of sight for almost 20 years. A video, made available to ABC, showed a weary and dejected Pol Pot sitting mute in a large jungle shed before a cheering crowd of former Khmer Rouge comrades as he was denounced and sentenced to life in prison. The United States pledged to seek his extradition and to support efforts to put him on trial before an international tribunal.
How may we serve you?
After a fitful start and a Republican detour, the Senate committee investigating campaign fundraising abuses got on track just before the congressional summer recess and adjourned until after Labor Day. Chairman Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) focused bipartisan outrage at the Clinton administration's lack of cooperation in providing key documents and engineered a unanimous committee vote on July 31 to subpoena the White House-a key step, because previously the committee could only request documentary evidence; with subpoena power, the panel can demand it. The issue came to a head July 29 following powerful committee testimony about Clinton friend and benefactor Charlie Trie, a Little Rock restaurateur not known to be independently wealthy. An FBI investigator told the committee that Mr. Trie used laundered Asian funds to make six-figure donations to the Democratic Party. Subsequent testimony that day revealed details about the successful Asian real-estate developer responsible for most of Mr. Trie's ability to steer huge sums to the president's political causes. Just hours after that testimony, White House counsel Charles Ruff provided documents requested by the panel May 21 showing that the Macao-based developer, Ng Lap Seng, was no stranger to the White House. Mr. Wu, as he's known by his Mandarin name, visited the executive mansion 12 times between June 1994 and October 1996-once as Mr. Trie's invited guest at a White House dinner. Saying the documentation "would have been extremely helpful" had it arrived in time, Sen. Thompson lashed out at the White House's sense of timing, which officials dismissed as sheer coincidence. "They have no credibility as far as I'm concerned," the committee chairman thundered. "They have not operated in good faith." The previous week, Sen. Thompson made the same claim about Justice Department officials who refused to explain why they opposed granting limited immunity to four Buddhist nuns in exchange for their testimony about a possibly illegal temple fundraiser attended by Vice President Gore in 1996. All the while the committee was hearing testimony about possible fundraising abuses on the part of Republicans, Mr. Thompson lined up bipartisan support to ignore the Justice Department and issue a congressional grant of immunity to the nuns. Not that GOP testimony didn't also grab headlines. The former chairman of the Republican National Committee, Haley Barbour, faced an uncomfortable line of questioning concerning foreign funding of a policy advocacy group closely tied to the RNC. Mr. Barbour said the National Policy Forum, on which he also served as chairman, was a net drain on the party: "NPF was not a funnel to the RNC; instead it was a siphon." Democrats pointed out Mr. Barbour helped broker a deal in which a Hong Kong corporation transferred to a U.S. subsidiary money that was used to collateralize a $2.1 million bank loan to the NPF, which then transferred $1.6 million to the RNC. A like amount then was transferred from the national party to state party organizations during the closing weeks of the 1994 election campaigns. Mr. Barbour said that because NPF was not chartered as a political organization, it was exempt from restrictions concerning foreign money. Moreover, he noted, the $1.6 million was a partial repayment of an RNC loan to NPF.
Church and state
A Dallas jury awarded $120 million in damages to ten former altar boys who were sexually abused by a Roman Catholic priest. The jury found the Dallas diocese liable for ignoring evidence that the abuse was taking place and then trying to cover up the evidence when the victims came forward. Two other cases against the Dallas diocese are pending. In New York City, a coalition of 68 churches, synagogues, and nonprofit groups launched a protest of a city program that requires people to work for their welfare benefits. Several church leaders, representing the religious left, denounced the "workfare" program as morally unjust and akin to slavery. Black Washington Post columnist William Raspberry ridiculed the notion and took issue with their theology. "They cite biblical passages requiring no-questions-asked charity for the strangers at the gate," he noted. "Didn't the Prodigal Son, returning to his father's house, do so with the expectation that he not only would work for his keep but that he might even lodge with the livestock?" A Fullerton, Calif., jury convicted a pastor of violating city zoning codes for allowing homeless people to live at his church. The Rev. Wiley Drake, pastor of the First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park, testified that the Bible commanded him to take care of the poor. "It's a sad day when ... it's a crime to help people," he said. Mr. Drake gained national notoriety earlier this summer as the author of a resolution, passed at the recent Southern Baptist Convention, calling on his denomination to boycott the Walt Disney Company.
The shadow of death
A nationwide manhunt for Andrew Cunanan, suspected of murdering high-fashion guru Gianni Versace, ended July 23 when police found the suspect's body on a houseboat in Miami, not far from the site of Versace's slaying. Mr. Cunanan, who made his living as a homosexual prostitute, apparently had committed suicide. Days earlier, more than 2,000 people gathered in Milan's Gothic cathedral for a celebrity-filled memorial service for Mr. Versace, known as the "designer to the stars." Sting and Elton John performed a mournful musical adaptation of the 23rd Psalm.
Striking the deal
Congressman Steve Largent (R-Okla.) struck out nine Democrats and led his fellow House Republicans to a 10-9 thriller in the annual inter-party charity baseball game in the Maryland suburbs of Washington on July 29. But who won the big game? Both parties' leaders agreed to call it a draw on the massive tax and budget deal that passed the House and Senate July 30 and 31 with virtually no opposition. The post-game stats: The tax and spending agreements run 280 and 1,200 pages respectively, theoretically balances the budget by 2002, and provides $95 billion in net tax cuts-including a $500 per-child tax credit-over the five-year period. In the negotiations that produced the deal, however, President Clinton rang up a big strikeout for the National Education Association: Republican leaders agreed to the president's demand that educational choice be stricken from the package (see pp. 12-13).