This Week

Issue: "Federal Testing," Sept. 13, 1997

Containing abortion

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

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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.

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