The anti-communist Cuban exile leader who dreamed of one day becoming president of Cuba died last weekend at 58 after a bout with lung cancer. Jorge Mas Canosa built a political movement of Cuban-Americans modeled after a typical American political action committee and delivered thousands of votes for Republican candidates. Yet he enjoyed some influence in the Clinton White House; the Helms-Burton bill tightening sanctions on Cuba became law with Mr. Clinton's signature and support.
A colorful political strategist is at the center of an intensifying controversy in Israel. Avigdor Lieberman, the 39-year-old former bar bouncer and political genius who emigrated from Moldova, resigned Nov. 24 as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-hand man. He was under fire from party leaders who consider him too brusque and law enforcement officials who think he may have engaged in theft and fraud. Mr. Lieberman masterminded Mr. Netanyahu's successful campaign for prime minister in 1996. Now, Mr. Netanyahu finds himself in danger of being overthrown from within his own Likud Party. Many are angry with his attempt-which some see as a Lieberman power grab-to change the system of party elections in a way that would give him more control over selecting candidates. At the last minute, Mr. Netanyahu withdrew the proposal.
President Clinton and 17 Pacific leaders last week advanced a $68 billion bailout plan they hoped would calm Asian economic turmoil. Mr. Clinton tried to be at once serious-backing the largest financial bailout in history-and reassuring, referring to the Pacific crisis as a "few little glitches on the road." American taxpayers will be patching the potholes, but, the president said, the U.S. share will be "nowhere near ... the commitment we made in Mexico." Taxpayers footed $20 billion of the $50 billion reserve fund made available in the wake of the collapse of the Mexican peso. The president began the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vancouver by meeting with five leaders of Southeast Asian countries where the trouble began five months ago with a currency crisis in Thailand. He said Asia's troubles could affect U.S. interests and the American stock market. Before traveling to Canada to attend the meeting, South Korean President Kim Young-sam took to national television in his homeland and apologized for mishandling his nation's economy. On Nov. 21, South Korea sought a $20-billion economic bailout from the IMF. Even as government ministers made it clear there would be no financial rescues of individual companies, Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto promised special funds from the nation's central bank to protect customers of the failed brokerage giant Yamaichi Securities Co., Japan's fourth-largest brokerage. Yamaichi closed under the burden of a $24 billion debt, making it the third Japanese financial company to collapse in a month.
Pot smokers and dealers in California busted for non-medical uses of marijuana may find themselves the unwitting suppliers of dope for the sick. Officials in San Mateo County came up with a plan last week that would use seized marijuana under the new Proposition 215 law, but the plan must first be approved by the state attorney general and legislators. Under the plan, the marijuana first would be photographed and cataloged for use in trials. Then it would be shipped to public health clinics, where it would be tested for freshness and contamination. If the pot met quality standards, it would be doled out at clinics to patients or others authorized to pick it up.
Pay now or pay later
A funny thing happened on the way to the Supreme Court. Supporters of race-conscious hiring and firing got nervous and-instead of risking a high-court ruling further solidifying a color-blind view of the law and the constitution-raised money to pay off a reverse-discrimination plaintiff in an 11th-hour settlement. Had the case gone the way "affirmative action" forces had feared, the Supreme Court would have held that Piscataway, N.J., school officials' decision to lay off a white high-school teacher (instead of an equally qualified black teacher) solely on the basis of her white skin is illegal racial discrimination. Of all the cases in the legal system, Piscataway offered a look at perhaps the crudest example of a so-called workforce diversity program. Nevertheless, school officials had at least two appealing facts on their side: The black teacher was more qualified academically, and she was the only black among 10 members of the business department faculty. In the end, none of that mattered. Unlike Piscataway, other businesses and governments have drawn up careful policies documenting the need to remedy past discrimination or compensate for the underrepresentation of minorities. In Piscataway, high-school officials simply decided they wanted a more "diverse" faculty. That's it. And that's what an appeals court pointed out in ruling for the white teacher, holding that workplace diversity is no justification for making a race-based employment decision. It is of no small significance that Jesse Jackson and company elected to take a dive on this one. According to a New York Times account, Mr. Jackson, who is reported to have been the point man on raising 70 percent of the $433,500 settlement deal, got the money in large part from corporate high-rollers who feared they'd have to drastically revise their own affirmative action plans (or be exposed to similar lawsuits) if the case went forward. Sure, this near-decision will drive a lot of racial discrimination underground, and newer, more sophisticated rationales will be developed to mask race-based decisions. But the principle of justice has prevailed, and that's good enough for now.
And a Happy New Year
The Southern Baptist pastor who, despite local ordinances and angry city officials, has maintained a church encampment for the homeless near Disneyland won a holiday stay from a judge last week. The ruling keeps open the homeless shelter through Christmas. "The good news is we don't have to kick anybody out over the holidays," said Wiley Drake, a minister who also led the SBC boycott of Walt Disney Co. this summer. The bad news is that Mr. Drake, who was convicted of violating zoning laws for housing about 70 homeless persons at his church, will have to reduce the population to 56 by Jan. 5. And who knows how many will be turned out after that date, because the judge ordered Mr. Drake to obey the orders of city authorities, who do not want homeless individuals taking shelter at the church.
How long will it last?
The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first in a new class of obesity drugs. Knoll Pharmaceutical's Meridia appears to cause a modest weight reduction when taken together with diet and exercise. It's the first prescription alternative since two powerful diet drugs were banned in September. But the FDA urged doctors to use caution in prescribing Meridia, warning that some patients may experience a dangerous rise in blood pressure.
Sex at the Citadel
The Citadel military college suffered its first co-ed sex scandal since bowing to legal pressure to admit women into the traditionally all-male academy this year. Over the weekend, a male Citadel cadet resigned after an alleged sexual encounter in the barracks with a freshman female cadet. Details of the encounter, which allegedly occurred sometime in early November, had just become known to cadet officers. Sexual activity on campus between cadets is prohibited. The upperclassman chose to resign rather than respond in writing to a citation of conduct unbecoming a cadet. At West Point, about 50 seniors were punished for taking part in a "blood branching," in which pins designating their branches in the Army were pushed through their uniforms into their chests. A West Point spokesman called the ritual-similar to Marines' infamous "blood pinnings"-a "stupid rite of passage" and said last week the cadets face demerits, extra duty, or restrictions in connection with the Nov. 13 ritual.
What a catch
Zipping along at 17,500 mph 175 miles above the earth, two astronauts flanked a 3,000-lb. satellite as the space shuttle Columbia maneuvered toward an errant satellite on Nov. 24. NASA's Winston Scott and Japanese astronaut Takao Doi waited nearly an hour before they were properly positioned to grab the Spartan satellite with gloved hands and stow it in a cargo bay for later relaunch. The six-member Columbia crew had to recover the Spartan because three days earlier, astronauts had accidentally sent the satellite into a slow tumble after deploying it. The rescue was the first manual recovery of a satellite since 1992; it also marked the first spacewalk for a Japanese astronaut. We have a problem, Moscow: More Russian orbital equipment spun out of control. A new computer installed aboard the Russian space station Mir suffered yet another computer breakdown that knocked out power. Russian space officials, however, kept journalists and the public in the dark about the failure until after cosmonauts installed a new computer.
A piece of the action?
Prudential Insurance Co. of America has agreed to pay $317,500 to settle a Justice Department complaint that it concealed a contract with a top fundraiser for President Clinton to help lease Washington office space to a quasi-governmental agency. Prudential spokesmen denied any wrongdoing, but said the company agreed to the settlement "rather than enter into lengthy and expensive civil litigation to defend ourselves," The Washington Post reported Nov. 25. According to settlement documents, the newspaper said, Prudential entered into the agreement with Clinton fundraiser Terence R. McAuliffe on March 18, 1993, under which Mr. McAuliffe would get $375,000 if the lease for office space with the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. went through and $20,000 if it did not. The lease was finalized the following month. Prudential, which had, as required, certified that it had not retained anyone to lobby to obtain the contract, recertified that no one had been retained. At the time of the alleged deal, Mr. McAuliffe headed the Democratic National Committee's Business Leadership Forum, which raised political donations from corporate interests. In 1996, he headed fundraising activities for the Clinton-Gore reelection campaign. Meanwhile, President Clinton attended two fundraising luncheons for the Democratic National Committee, mired in $14 million of debt. With the president's approval, the party last week lifted its self-imposed $100,000 ceiling on donations. The $100,000 ceiling was revoked quietly, in contrast to the fanfare that accompanied the imposition of the cap last January. Mr. Clinton raised about half a million dollars for the DNC at two weekend events in Denver.
Promoting a new book that she says tells her side of the story without any interference from the military or the media, former Air Force pilot Kelly Flynn said on CNN's Larry King Live she's pondering the next step in her life: "I'm in limbo right now. The first thing I have planned is find a place to settle and unpack my bags. I don't have a home right now." Ms. Flynn said that one thing about her future will be certain, however: It will include flying, either for a commercial airliner or back in the military someday-if her lawyer succeeds in having her "general discharge" upgraded to honorable.