This Week

"This Week" Continued...

Issue: "Debunking Darwinism," Nov. 22, 1997

White flag

Anxious to get out of town, congressional Republicans caved in to White House resolve and dropped measures to provide education vouchers to needy students in the District of Columbia and to keep taxpayer money out of the hands of international family-planning groups that promote abortion overseas. The House voted Nov. 13 to approve a compromise foreign-aid bill without the abortion restrictions, but that same measure cuts out $900 million earmarked to pay American "back dues" to the United Nations. Presidential spokesman Mike McCurry called the UN cut "ill-timed" and "utterly bone-headed" because of U.S. attempts to get the blessing of the UN Security Council to bomb Iraq. On abortion, the president refused to budge, maintaining he would veto the foreign aid bill if it included any restrictions on international family-planning groups. The week before, he refused to offer the foreign-aid abortion restrictions as a bargaining chip to win crucial support for his request for fast-track authority to negotiate trade agreements.

Targeting Cuba

In Miami, trial began in the first suit filed under a new federal law that allows American victims of terrorist nations to seek damages in U.S. courts. Families of three deceased members of the Cuban-American expatriate group Brothers to the Rescue are suing the government of Cuba for $79 million, hoping to receive damages from frozen Cuban assets. The three flyers died when Cuban military jets shot down two unarmed Brothers to the Rescue aircraft over international waters in February 1996. Cuba, refusing to recognize the court's authority, is not represented at the trial.

This present darkness

Italian authorities announced a crackdown on a multi-nation child-sex ring that had been trafficking in Chinese children. Prosecutors said ring members, operating in more than a dozen countries, were sending Chinese children, accompanied by phony parents, to the United States by way of Europe. A Japanese man and a Chinese woman were caught trying to smuggle a 12-year-old Chinese girl to Miami via Milan. The girl told police her parents had sold her.

Not so fast

Alabama attorney general Bill Pryor, calling a federal judge's ruling against religious expression in public schools a restriction of free speech, requested that enforcement of the ruling be delayed. Because of the constitutional issues raised by U.S. District Judge Ira DeMent's ruling, Mr. Pryor urged that it be put on hold until an appeal can be heard by the federal 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Last month, Mr. DeMent ordered an end to public prayers at public school graduation ceremonies and football games and cessation of Bible-reading at school-sponsored events.

Gimme three steps

Facing a vote that would have effectively killed the nomination, Democrats employed a parliamentary maneuver on Nov. 13 to block the Senate Judiciary Committee from acting on the nomination of Bill Lann Lee to be President Clinton's top civil-rights enforcer. That tables the nomination for the year, but keeps it alive to fight another day-probably in January. Republicans on the committee oppose Mr. Lee's nomination because he supports racial quotas, which the Supreme Court has ruled unconstitutional. Democrats accused Mr. Lee's Republican opponents of racism, prompting committee chairman Orrin Hatch to invite any detractors to step outside: "Anybody who doubts that I'm doing this on principle, I'd like to see afterwards." A day before the committee action, the National Council of Churches weighed in. NCC general secretary Joan Brown Campbell denounced the GOP opposition: "We are deeply disappointed at the inordinate politicizing of what has every right to be a straightforward confirmation hearing." That's a turnaround from Ms. Campbell's fondness for "inordinate politicizing" of presidential nominees in 1991 when the NCC opposed the confirmation of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. The NCC has long been politically active: Last year, Ms. Campbell demanded government action on so-called greenhouse-gas emissions; in 1994, the church group opposed NAFTA; and the NCC called for U.S. military action to reinstall the Haitian socialist regime of Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Crime-and punishment?

Although not totally absolving British au pair Louise Woodward of responsibility for the death of an 8-month-old child in her care, Judge Hiller Zobel said the earlier murder verdict had been a "miscarriage of justice" and that it failed to recognize that it was the young woman's "confusion, fright, and bad judgment rather than rage or malice" that led her to injure the baby. Ms. Woodward, released less than two weeks after the murder conviction, insisted later in a written statement that she was determined "to obtain total vindication.... I did not harm, much less kill, Matthew Eappen." In Missouri, meanwhile, a 21-year-old father who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the shaking death of his 3-month-old son faces only probation and a requirement to attend classes on anger control and parenting. Prosecutors had asked that Eric Coffey be sentenced to 20 years. "If our system is not capable of punishing this man, then our system is failing, and failing dramatically," said frustrated prosecutor Claire McCaskill.

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