The House and Senate approved measures last week aimed at containing abortion across the nation and overseas. The House on Sept. 4 backed a perennial pro-life amendment to the foreign-aid budget. The amendment, sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), would bar international family-planning money to organizations that perform, promote, or support abortion in grant-receiving countries. President Clinton has vowed, again, to veto the entire foreign-aid budget rather than restrict abortion-industry heavies like Planned Parenthood, which has an international arm that regularly uses the U.S. subsidy to promote abortion in the Third World. In the Senate on Sept. 3, Missouri Republican John Ashcroft won a voice vote to forbid the use of state or federal Medicaid funds to purchase HMO plans that provide abortion coverage. The Ashcroft measure is an amendment to the 1998 appropriations bill that funds the Department of Health and Human Services. Forty percent of low-income Medicaid recipients are in managed-care plans. "It is cheaper for an HMO for a person to have an abortion than if that person delivers a child," Mr. Ashcroft said. "I do not want that sort of potential to exist." Congress approved the two initiatives within hours of a warning by House appropriations committee chairman Bob Livingston (R-La.) not to attach "controversial or impassable" social-issue amendments onto funding bills. Mr. Livingston worries about another showdown with President Clinton similar to 1995 in which Republicans took most of the blame for the impasse that led to the partial government shutdown. He says provoking a presidential veto puts Republicans "in a briar patch that will be very difficult to extract ourselves from."
If the election were today
With the 2000 GOP presidential primary still two-and-a-half years away, polling has already begun in New Hampshire, the first-in-the-nation primary state. Leading the GOP pack: Texas Gov. George W. Bush, with 16 percent of registered Republicans surveyed. Runners up: 1996 vice-presidential candidate Jack Kemp, 12 percent; Lamar Alexander and Steve Forbes, 11 percent; Pat Buchanan, the winner of the '96 New Hampshire primary, 9 percent; bringing up the rear with 3 percent each, former Vice President Dan Quayle and Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.).
Hail and farewell
Britain's fabled stiff upper lip quivered and gave way to national mourning over the sudden and unexpected death of Diana, Princess of Wales. She was killed with her boyfriend in the crash of a speeding Mercedes driven by a drunken chauffeur fleeing paparazzi on motorcycles. Diana's death unleashed a torrent of celebrity worship from both the public and the press. Mourners turned out in droves at Buckingham Palace, St. James's Palace and Kensington Palace, praising Diana for her common touch and her humanitarian works. In the United States, TV networks hurriedly produced adoring prime-time specials on the life and times of the woman who, until a year ago, was married to Prince Charles, heir to the British throne. Newspapers and magazines around the world rushed out photo-laden special issues about the princess who became a cultural icon. A writer for The Times of London summed up Diana's appeal: She was "the paradigm [of the] unhappy woman of today," representing "those with impossible husbands, worried about their appearance, wrestling with divorce, careers, children, trying to match impossible expectations." Queen Elizabeth, apparently stung by criticism that the royal family was indifferent to British grief over the death of the "people's princess," made a televised address to the nation, calling Diana "an exceptional and gifted human being." She also ordered the Union Jack to be flown at half-staff over Buckingham Palace. Diana's Sept. 6 funeral at Westminster Abbey, scheduled to be attended by 2,000 invited guests and watched worldwide by millions, was arranged to mix the traditional and the unusual: Prime Minister Tony Blair read from 1 Corinthians 13; Elton John sang "Candle in the Wind," his 1993 musical tribute to Marilyn Monroe, with lyrics revised to refer to the princess. Diana's family decided to inter her body at a private ceremony at her ancestral home of Althorp, Northamptonshire. Her boyfriend, Mr. Fayed, an Egyptian Muslim, was buried within 24 hours of his death, in accordance with Islamic custom. Diana is survived by two sons: 15-year-old Prince William, in line to become the British king, and 12-year-old Prince Harry.
Political dry heat
After years of vowing to beat whatever federal prosecutors threw at him, Arizona Gov. Fife Symington gave up the fight and left office Sept. 5 after being convicted on seven counts of lying to lenders to get millions of dollars for his failing real estate ventures. "Every once a great while, there is salvation in surrender," he said, announcing his resignation. Sentencing is set for Nov. 10. In a complicated 17-week trial that followed a five-year federal probe, jurors reviewed more than 1,400 documents and heard many hours of highly technical and often conflicting testimony from nearly 40 witnesses. Attorneys for Mr. Symington, the second Arizona governor indicted on criminal charges in the last 10 years, will appeal.
"Small foreign faction"?
For the first time, newspapers published the full ransom note purportedly left by the killer of child beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey. The ransom note writer purported to represent "a small foreign faction" and threatened "immediate execution" of JonBenet for "any deviation from our instructions." Those instructions called for John Ramsey, the girl's father, to put $118,000 in a brown paper bag and then wait for further instructions. "You stand a 99 percent chance of killing your daughter if you try to outsmart us," the note said. The body of six-year-old JonBenet was discovered in the basement of her Colorado home the day after Christmas, eight hours after her mother, Patricia, said she found the note.
Genetic search and destroy My dear Watson
"Smile! Your mother was pro-life," a clever bumper-sticker slogan says. Whoever invented that must not have heard of James Watson, the scientist who defined the structure of DNA. Speaking in St. Louis at Washington University last week, the Nobel Prize-winning scientist said that if he knew then what he knows now, he would have had his autistic son killed before he was born. In a question-and-answer session following his address at the university's Graham Chapel, Mr. Watson defended the idea that a pregnant woman who learns from a genetic screening that the baby she is carrying is "defective" should have the right to kill the child. The 69-year-old geneticist spoke in response to a woman who said she had a child with the Fragile X chromosome, a leading cause of mental retardation. She said scientific advances were helping children with the disorder and suggested that such children should not be aborted. Mr. Watson replied: "I think what we want is for a woman to have the right for tests to be available and not be thought to be immoral because she would choose not to have a child who would be disadvantaged. I have a son who is disadvantaged in another way, so I speak with personal knowledge." What happened next is recorded by journalist Deborah Peterson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Be patient with her obfuscation: "After the session, Watson told a reporter that he would have chosen to have a healthy child without a genetic defect if he could have availed himself of the type of DNA testing available today." The reporter does not explain how "the type of DNA testing available today" would have empowered the wise scientist to "have chosen to have a healthy child without a genetic defect." Notice "abortion" is never mentioned; it's just naturally assumed. The scientist's son was said by an assistant to be a "young adult" (Mr. Watson himself refused to disclose his son's age). Apparently not wanting newspaper readers to think of him as an unloving father, Mr. Watson "added that his comments should not be interpreted to mean that he and his wife won't do their utmost to make sure their son leads the best possible life he can have." Perhaps it's possible Mr. Watson shares his true feelings toward his son only with reporters at major metropolitan newspapers-and not at home.
Where there is no peace
Armed with nail-studded explosives, three Palestinian terrorists walked into a popular West Jerusalem shopping area Sept. 4 and detonated their bombs, killing themselves and four others, leaving a blood-splattered scene that one witness said resembled "a battlefield." More than 190 people were wounded, including many foreign tourists. The militant Muslim group Hamas took responsibility for the bombing and threatened more attacks unless Hamas prisoners held by Israel are released. An angry Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again warned Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat that his failure to rein in militant groups threatened the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. "Unless [the Palestinians] make the choice between peace with Israel and peace with Hamas, then this process cannot continue," he said. Hours later, the Israeli Army arrested 69 suspected Islamic militants in Israeli-controlled areas in the West Bank. Israel also said it was prepared to hunt down additional suspects in Palestinian-run areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a move almost certain to provoke a Palestinian backlash. Meanwhile, at least 11 Israeli commandos died Sept. 5 in clashes with Lebanese army troops and Muslim guerrillas in south Lebanon, near an Israeli-occupied "security zone." The commandos apparently had launched a raid on a Shi'ite military base.
Two big ifs
In the year 2002, the Congressional Budget Office predicted Sept. 2, the federal government will run a $32 billion surplus-on two conditions: if the economy doesn't tank in the next four years, depressing projected tax revenues; and if future Congresses agree to abide by the modest spending restraint agreed to in this summer's budget deal. CBO projected, however, continued deficits each year until 2002, when the surplus is supposed to arrive. An economic downturn, the congressional economists estimated, could spill as much as $100 billion in unplanned red ink. One day after news of the surplus, senators added $29 million in new spending to fund a federal crackdown on underage tobacco purchases. The money-now $34 million in total-will hire local enforcement agents who will check local compliance with the requirement that retailers check the IDs of all tobacco customers who appear to be under age 27. Tobacco buyers must be at least 18.
In a unanimous one-sentence ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block implementation of the California Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI), the voter-passed law that ends race- and sex-based discrimination in government hiring and school admissions. The American Civil Liberties Union and and other opponents had sought to have the new law suspended while the High Court decides whether to accept a constitutional challenge.
Looting the victims
A Vietnamese airliner crashed Sept. 4 in a Cambodian rice paddy, killing 64 of the 66 people on board. Two children survived. Hundreds of people rushed to the site-not to help, but to loot the bodies of the dead. Looters also were seen carting off parts of the wreckage. Among the stolen items: one of the plane's flight recorders, a vital tool in d.iscovering the cause of the crash.
Hard luck, hard money
Four stoic ladies-three Buddhist nuns and one attorney general-all had bad news for Vice President Gore last week. In a statement Sept. 3, Janet Reno said she'd taken the first of three steps toward naming an independent counsel to investigate whether Mr. Gore violated federal law in making White House phone calls seeking funds for the Democrats. That day, The Washington Post revealed $120,000 of the funds Mr. Gore raised on a White House telephone went to "hard-money" accounts at the Democratic National Committee. The significance: Hard money is used specifically to elect candidates and is regulated by federal election laws. (Unregulated "soft money" is used simply to strengthen and build a political party.) Since the controversy broke, Ms. Reno has resisted taking steps to name a special prosecutor, maintaining no federal laws were at issue in the raising of soft money. A DNC spokesman defended Mr. Gore by saying "the vice president was not aware that money was being designated for the federal [hard-money] account." Nor did Mr. Gore have even "the slightest knowledge ... of the illegal" money-laundering scheme at the infamous Buddhist temple fundraiser in Los Angeles last summer, White House officials said prior to the resumption of Senate hearings Sept. 4. The officials summoned reporters to the White House Sept. 2 to pronounce the upcoming testimony of three nuns who engaged in illegal activities at the 1996 Gore fundraiser "the nuclear issue." At the hearings, the what-did-the-vice-president-know missile stayed in its silo, but the monastics provided plenty of throw-weight for Republicans on the committee. The nuns on Sept. 4 not only admitted to violating federal election laws with sham DNC contributions that were reimbursed by temple officials; they also revealed their involvement in destroying and altering documents to cover up the crime after it made news weeks before the election. They pleaded ignorance of the laws, saying the tens of thousands in contributions to the DNC were not political. "In Buddhism, we talk about making friends," said temple administrative officer Man Ho. Deputy committee counsel Sandy Mattice was not impressed by the cultural arguments: "They had enough knowledge to cover their tracks." The three testified under a congressional grant of immunity from prosecution.
In South Carolina, a 10-day-old girl left in a hot car for about seven hours died from dehydration while her mother played video poker in a casino. The girl's mother, Army Sgt. Gail Baker, was charged with homicide by child abuse. In a written statement to police, Mrs. Baker said she never went to the car to check on her daughter. "I thought she would be okay," she wrote. The dead girl's name was Joy. The trial of Amy Grossberg and Brian Peterson, two New Jersey teenagers accused of killing their newborn son and tossing him into a Delaware trash bin, has been delayed from fall to spring. New trial date: May 4. Police in Southern California arrested a San Bernardino county couple on suspicion of molesting 20 young girls, including an 18-month-old baby, UPI reported. Authorities discovered Polaroid photos depicting the couple in sex acts with children. Jack Kevorkian, the so-called "suicide doctor," propelled into death two more people. A note left with one of the bodies told a police detective who investigated a previous Kevorkian case to "keep his religious nose" out of other people's business.