Law? What law?
Illegal aliens in California will get to keep their welfare benefits a while longer. A federal judge in Los Angeles again blocked enforcement of Proposition 187, a 1994 voter-passed law that sought to deny state-paid welfare and educational benefits to undocumented immigrants. The judge said the law had "obvious flaws" and had been superseded by federal immigration regulations anyway. California Gov. Pete Wilson, a Proposition 187 supporter, called the judge's analysis of the law "as flawed and error-prone as the 1962 New York Mets." He'll appeal the ruling. As for Proposition 209, the court-approved law banning race- and sex-based preferences, USA Today reported that left-leaning cities and counties are trying to find ways to circumvent the law. "We're going to stretch the envelope as far as we can and chip away at 209," promised Nate Miley, vice mayor of Oakland.
Free at last
Prominent Chinese political prisoner Wei Jingsheng, released by his communist captors after 18 years in jail, flew to the United States to live in exile. Wei's release, technically a "medical parole," came after repeated overtures from the United States, including a direct appeal from President Clinton to Chinese dictator Jiang Zemin during last month's U.S.-Chinese summit. The 47-year-old Wei suffers from heart problems, high blood pressure, and other illnesses. An estimated 2,000 dissidents remain in Chinese prisons.
Terror on the Nile
At an ancient temple in Luxor, Egypt, the same militant Islamic group that assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981 launched a vicious and deadly attack on foreign tourists. Fifty-eight people, most of them Swiss, were cut with knives and riddled with bullets as the attackers killed wantonly in a 45-minute rampage, leaving centuries-old sandstone pillars spattered with blood. The terrorists promised to suspend further attacks if Egypt releases jailed comrades. Also demanded: Release their spiritual leader, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, who's serving a life sentence in the United States for conspiring to blow up the World Trade Center.
Barney the matchmaker
At Star Hill Elementary School near Dover, Del., teacher Ede Outten led "wedding of friends" ceremonies for second-grade pupils, pairing boys with boys and girls with girls. A school curriculum panel brushed off parental concerns, voting 9-2 on Nov. 17 to recommend the school district make no changes to the class. Ms. Outten said the mock wedding was simply a creative way to get the students to promise to care for each other as friends, saying the ceremonies were as harmless as the children's TV character Barney's singing, "I love you, you love me. We're a happy family." The teacher mocked parents' concerns: "Even Barney's intentions," Ms. Outten said, "would be suspect in Dover, Del." Tiffany Kelty, who believed the "weddings" promoted homosexuality, had apparently had enough of school officials' arrogance. Calling the curriculum panel (made up primarily of teachers and administrators) "one-sided," she pulled her son, Steven, out of the school. She will teach him at home.
It seemed like "deja vu all over again" as top stories from the past again grabbed headlines: TWA 800, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the Unabomber. Hoping to lay the TWA story to rest at last, FBI investigators offered a thoroughgoing account of its investigation into the mysterious explosion and crash of the 747 jetliner that went down off the coast of Long Island in July 1996. The centerpiece of the FBI briefing was a CIA-produced videotape, showing a speculative, computer-generated simulation of the explosion. To the accompaniment of ominous-sounding music and dramatic narration, the tape showed the placid and graceful jetliner suddenly transforming into a fireball when the central fuel tank exploded, ripping the front end of the plane from the rest of fuselage. Meanwhile in Denver, FBI agents testified in the Oklahoma City bombing trial of Terry Nichols. Agents said they found bottles of ammonium nitrate fertilizer in Mr. Nichols's Kansas home three days after the blast. Bombing investigators believe such fertilizer was a key ingredient in the Oklahoma City bomb. In Sacramento, evidence mounted against Unabomber suspect Theodore Kaczynski. Government prosecutors submitted an excerpt from Mr. Kaczynski's journal in which he said, "I intend to start killing people."
Teamsters President Ron Carey won't be running for another term after all. A federal election officer barred Mr. Carey from seeking reelection after concluding the union chief had engaged in "extraordinarily serious misconduct" by illegally diverting nearly $1 million in Teamsters funds to finance a previous campaign. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, in violation of his own union's anti-corruption rules, invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused to testify.
The real McCaugheys
Pick your statistic: 15-seat van; 31,500 diapers; 16 years worth of apple juice; a new house; a college education for seven-all that and more free. But however else it might be totaled, the birth of the McCaughey septuplets last week brought multiple references to the Lord of life. "The family, the doctors involved, all really praise God for this outcome," said one of the attending physicians, Paula Mahone. "Bobbi and her husband are born-again Christians. I am myself, Dr. [Karen] Drake is, and we absolutely know that this is a blessing from God." The maternal grandfather, immediately after the births, used his media access to call "all believers across the world to join us in praying" for the babies' safety. Kenny McCaughey, the father of only the second set of septuplets born alive, answered reporters' questions from inside the family's church, Missionary Baptist in Carlisle, Iowa. But not before the pastor opened the press conference-carried live on CNN-with an orthodox prayer of thanksgiving to God for the safe delivery of the four boys and three girls: Kenneth Robert, Alexis May, Natalie Sue, Kelsey Ann, Brandon James, Nathanial Roy, and Joel Steven. But with all the attention, Mr. McCaughey worried the spotlight might become too bright: "The big fear is that this does not turn into a big show. This is my family ... and that is my commission as a father to ... raise them in a normal, Christian home."
Rescinding its expulsion order, Iraq allowed American weapons inspectors to return, thus ending a standoff with the United States. However, it remained unclear whether Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein blinked-or winked. Insisting it had given away "nothing," the Clinton administration claimed diplomatic victory. But it was apparent that the three-week confrontation allowed Iraq time to further hide its weapons of mass destruction. UN inspectors have been playing a cat-and-mouse game with Saddam for six years, unable to find what's believed to be stores of chemical and biological weapons held in violation of the accord ending the Persian Gulf War. Resolution of the standoff came after Russian Foreign Minister-and former KGB official-Yevgeny Primakov intervened, promising to work "energetically" toward lifting Gulf War-related international sanctions on Iraq.
Partial-birth abortion and cruelty to animals
President Clinton thus far has been the top federal official standing in the way of a ban on partial-birth abortions. He got some reinforcement Nov. 18, when a federal appeals court ruled that an Ohio law criminalizing partial-birth abortion violates the Supreme Court's current view of a woman's constitutional abortion right. The 1992 Casey v. Planned Parenthood decision upheld state abortion regulations that do not constitute an "undue burden" on the right to abortion. Last week's ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is the first by a court at that level to hold that a state ban on partial-birth abortion, which is similar to the federal legislation twice vetoed by Mr. Clinton, is an "undue burden." To carry out a partial-birth abortion, an abortionist delivers a live unborn child up to the neck, then punctures the base of the skull with a pair of scissors and inserts a catheter to suck out the brain and collapse the skull, then finishes delivery of the dead child. The Clinton administration last week did show its sympathy for coyotes. Officials capitulated to the demands of an animal-rights group called the Predator Defense Institute and stopped the trapping and killing of coyotes preying on endangered white-tailed deer along the Columbia River in Washington state. A total of nine coyotes were killed before the moratorium was announced last week. Meanwhile, a North Carolina woman was able to plea-bargain down an animal-cruelty charge arising from her piercing the ears of a two-month-old deer she found wandering near a highway in western Virginia. A judge ordered Bettie Phillips to pay $250 to a Virginia wildlife center and her daughter and partner-in-crime Gerry Rae Beckner to perform 20 hours of community service. Both must stay out of trouble for six months in exchange for dropping the cruelty charge.
Life in these United States
Jack Kevorkian, the "suicide doctor," became a churchgoer--sort of. According to his lawyer, Mr. Kevorkian showed up at a Roman Catholic church in the Detroit area long enough to help a woman commit suicide in the church building. It appeared to be an in-your-face rejoinder to the church's staunch opposition to assisted suicide. Ned McGrath, a spokesman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit, called the church suicide "a tragic publicity stunt." The Roman Catholic Church recently spent more than $2 million to fund what proved to be an unsuccessful attempt to repeal an Oregon law allowing doctor-assisted suicide.