This Week

Issue: "Stand in the gap," Oct. 18, 1997

The world in brief

Ending a formal three-year period of mourning, the reclusive son of North Korea's national founder Kim Il Sung took formal control of the nation Oct. 8, assuming the post of general secretary of the ruling Korean Worker's Party. According to The Washington Post, 55-year-old Kim Jong Il, who has been de facto strongman since his father's death, "has inherited and cultivated the personality cult created by his father" that pictures Mr. Kim as the spiritual as well as political leader of the nation's 24 million people. In Cuba, Fidel Castro keeps going, and going, and going. In an Oct. 8 speech to Cuba's Communist Party congress, Mr. Castro spoke for 6 hours, 43 minutes. Then, after a break to allow the 1,500 party delegates to stretch and grab a bite to eat, the 71-year-old Cuban leader got a second wind and spoke again, going well into the night. Mr. Castro denounced the United States for waging "total economic and political war" on his island nation. He also celebrated the memory of communist revolutionary and former comrade-in-arms Che Guevara, and, according to Reuter, scorned capitalism as an economic system that "cannot have a moral future."

Just following advice

An unwed 17-year-old Long Island, N.Y., girl who hid her pregnancy from friends and family faces charges of child endangerment, after keeping her newborn son hidden in a bedroom closet for more than two weeks. Shanta Clark secretly gave birth Sept. 21 to a five-weeks premature infant, but was afraid to tell her mother. "She used to tell me if I ever got pregnant, I should get an abortion," Miss Clark told the New York Post. The boy, who weighed only four pounds when discovered, has been hospitalized and is recovering from dehydration. Miss Clark had been leaving him alone for eight hours a day while she went to school.

Washington in brief

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The Mod Squad: An FBI counterespionage sting operation netted a leftist trio that first met in college in the 1970s at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; the three were arrested Oct. 4 and charged Oct. 6 in U.S. district court on spy conspiracy charges. They were ordered held without bond pending trial. FBI officials allege the suspects spied for East Germany over a period of two decades, passing to the communist government secret documents and photographs obtained through friendly contacts at the State Department. The three-Theresa Marie Squillacote, her husband Kurt Alan Stand, and James Michael Clark-were small-time spies, FBI officials say, never earning more than $40,000 combined for all their efforts. They say the motive was ideology, not money. Fall cleaning: Supreme Court justices returned from a long summer vacation Oct. 6 and promptly rejected 1,500 appeals that had stacked up while they were away. Even though the court refused to act in the cases, the non-action effectively put the Supremes' stamp of approval on the appeals court actions that were being appealed. Among the rejected cases was a university graduation prayer case (a lower court held the prayers are constitutionally permissible), another challenge to the Clinton administration's "don't-ask, don't-tell" policy on homosexuals in the military (the policy was upheld in the lower court), and a court-appointed lawyer's appeal of abortion-doctor killer Paul Hill's death sentence (the execution should go on at the state's discretion). In a case from Maine, a state right-to-life group sued and successfully struck down a Federal Election Commission regulation governing advocacy group "issue" advertisements. The FEC rule asserted jurisdiction over any ad that could be interpreted "by a reasonable person" as calling for the election or defeat of any candidate for federal office. Political advocacy ads, as defined by the FEC, fall under the agency's disclosure requirements and caps on contributions. Maine Right to Life officials argued successfully that the rule was too vague and shouldn't have applied to its advertising contrasting pro-life and pro-abortion political candidates. Ding-dong: "McCain-Feingold is dead," declared Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), gleefully prounouncing last rites over the campaign-finance legislation that bears his colleagues' names. The legislation stalemated after Republicans failed to break a Democrat-led filibuster blocking consideration of an amendment to the campaign-finance bill; the amendment required union officials to obtain workers' expressed permission before spending their union dues on politics. Union bosses demanded that supportive senators block the provision; they complained it would have crippled organized labor's political power, which depends on mandatory worker dues to bankroll Democratic politicians. After the Democrat filibuster held, Democrats and a handful of Republicans tried and failed to break a Republican leadership filibuster of the McCain-Feingold legislation.

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