The day before he turned 95 last week, Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) announced he would relinquish his chairmanship of the Senate Armed Services Committee at the end of next year. Saying next year is "the natural time" for him to step down, Mr. Thurmond said he was pleased to "turn the reins of the committee over to the next generation of leadership." That new generation is likely to be represented by 70-year-old John Warner, the senior senator from Virginia who is favored to succeed Mr. Thurmond.
The worth of a life
A Canadian farmer who admitted he killed his disabled 12-year-old daughter to end her pain will serve a light sentence: one year in jail, one year on probation. A judge exempted Robert Latimer from the mandatory 25-year sentence for second-degree murder, ruling that Mr. Latimer had been "motivated solely by ... love and compassion." Advocates for the disabled protested the sentence, saying it sent a message that the lives of the handicapped aren't worth much. Also in Canada, police charged eight teenagers-seven of them girls-in the beating death of a 14-year-old classmate. The dead girl was found floating in a tidal inlet in Victoria, British Columbia. Her alleged attackers range in age from 14 to 16.
A two-way street?
Does the same law that protects women from sexual harassment on the job also protect men who are the victims of homosexual overtures? That's a question the Supreme Court has agreed to decide; last week the justices heard graphic testimony from a lawyer for a man who so feared threats of homosexual rape that he quit his offshore-oil-rig job. The facts of the man's lawsuit against the drilling company for creating a hostile working environment have not even been heard, because lower courts have held the federal law against sexual discrimination and harassment does not apply to him. A decision is expected next June.
Hold that Asian tiger
Southeast Asia's deepening financial crisis claimed another victim: South Korea, home of the world's 11th largest economy. Buffeted by rising bankruptcies and a falling currency, the nation sought and received help from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the U.S. taxpayer. At $57 billion, the bailout was the largest such economic rescue in history. The loans will help South Korea repay money borrowed from Japan and other countries, perhaps forestalling further spread of the Asian contagion. As part of the deal, South Korea is being forced to cut government spending, restructure troubled banks, and ease import restrictions. In recent months, the IMF also has backed bailouts of Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
Upholding military values
Military exchanges began clearing their shelves of sexually explicit magazines after a federal appeals court upheld the Military Honor and Decency Act. Overruling a lower court judge who claimed the act would violate free speech, a panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals instead found the law to be a reasonable way to uphold military "values of honor, professionalism, and discipline." Congress passed the act last year, but sex-magazine publishers blocked enforcement by filing an appeal.
1.21 million abortions
Newly released federal figures show the number of surgical abortions in the United States fell to 1.21 million in 1995, down from a peak of 1.4 million in 1990. But the abortion decline may have been short-lived. Some already available state figures for 1996 suggest the number of children being aborted is on the way up again. The state figures were compiled by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood. In Florida, abortions in 1996 were up 7.1 percent over the previous year. Texas saw a 4.7 percent rise. Illinois had a 2.5 percent increase. Another sobering statistic: According to private researchers, about half of U.S. women now abort at least one of their children. Meanwhile, police in San Bernardino, Calif., arrested a man suspected of dumping the remains of 45 legally aborted children in a field just off a state highway. He's charged with improperly disposing of medical waste.
A New York nanny stands accused of sexual abuse of a toddler-and the evidence appears to be overwhelming. The child's father, concerned about the care his daughter was receiving, set up a hidden video camera. On the tape, he saw the woman forcing his two-year-old daughter to commit acts of sodomy. Police say they also have other evidence in support of the charges. British au pair Louise Woodward, set free by a Massachusetts judge only two weeks after she was convicted in the shaking death of an eight-month-old child, giggled and waved to a friend during a Dec. 3 court hearing. At the hearing, another judge decided Miss Woodward's controversial case should go to the Supreme Court for further review. A Brooklyn jury, rejecting a murder charge, convicted Luis Santiago of manslaughter in the 1995 killing of his girlfriend's 8-year-old daughter. The killing went unreported for more than a year. Administrators at the girl's school never noticed she was missing.
Rocking the boats
Missouri state representative Todd Akin addressed a church congregation gathered on Thanksgiving morning, during a service in which members took turns sharing reasons they were thankful to God. Rep. Akin brought along his two eldest sons, Wynn and Perry: "Wynn is holding a picture of a land-based casino. And Perry is holding a picture of a riverboat. I'm thankful the Missouri Supreme Court knew the difference." Many church members chuckled knowingly. Two days earlier, Mr. Akin had won a key court case, setting back Missouri gambling interests. He was lead plaintiff in a challenge to "riverboat" casinos in the state that are moored in moats hundreds of feet from riverfronts but filled with river water. Lower courts had tossed out Mr. Akin's case without even hearing the evidence. He asked the Supreme Court to consider the plain language of the state constitutional amendment approved by voters in 1994 restricting gambling establishments to vessels "upon" the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. Mr. Akin argued the constitution did not allow for the tortured definition the state gaming commission used to grant permits to a casino complex in St. Louis County. A unanimous high court agreed and ordered a trial court to hear the case-and use the common-sense definition of "upon" the river. That stacks the deck against the St. Louis complex's joint owners, Harrah's Entertainment and Players International. At risk is their $300 million investment, and the precedent could also sink a similar $300 million boat-in-a-moat casino in the Kansas City area owned by Station Casinos. The high-rollers are not without options. They could sue the state gaming commission for granting permits so clearly out of step with the constitution; they could win from the legislature, the commission, or even the trial judge some kind of grandfather clause that allows current boats-in-moats to stay but prohibits new ones (though that's open to another Supreme Court challenge); or they could engineer a new state referendum to change the constitution. In any case, they face long odds.
Blame America first
It might have been another Woodstock reunion-environmental activists roaming the conference center in khakis and baggy sweaters, carrying stacks of documents printed on recycled paper, as video screens carried continuous ominous warnings about the dangers of climate change-but without all the talk of peace and love. At the UN environmental conference in Japan, the conferees meant business, and in this context, the business of Kyoto was a war on American industry. The Washington Post described the antics of one green group, Friends of the Earth, and its playful survey giving conferees a chance to blow off environmentally responsible steam: Participants were asked to vote on their top 12 most-hated organizations-from oil companies and automakers to business lobbying groups that take on environmentalist orthodoxy. Friends of the Earth also criticized the Clinton administration. In the days before the vice president's one-day visit to Kyoto, the group distributed a nasty flier, the Post reported, depicting a "jowly man in a cowboy hat and bolo string tie, looking a lot like J.R. Ewing of Dallas, with little bow-tied puppets of President Clinton and Vice President Gore sitting on his considerable lap."
Golden Rule on race
In Akron, Ohio, where white and black churches have been coming together for joint services to promote racial reconciliation, President Clinton hosted the first of several planned "town hall" meetings on race relations. Looking not unlike a TV-talk show host, Mr. Clinton, microphone in hand, roamed among preselected participants, engaging in interchanges and repeatedly asking sharp questions. His goal-as The Washington Post put it-was to elicit "raw feelings" about race problems in America. Instead, most participants were polite and reserved. At least one was profound. The secret of good race relations, she said, isn't difficult: Simply practice the Golden Rule.
AIDS on the rise
AIDS activists around the world marked the 10th World AIDS Day Dec. 1. In France, demonstrators held a rally in Paris, demanding more government help for AIDS sufferers. In Finland, lawmakers lit candles on the steps of Parliament. In Tokyo, demonstrators decorated a huge tree with electric lights and 17,000 red ribbons. Medical experts working for the United Nations reported that the worldwide spread of AIDS has been grossly underestimated. They said new infections are occurring at a rate of 16,000 per day, nearly double earlier estimates.
Hearing the evidence
After 98 witnesses and 20 days of testimony, prosecutors rested their case in the second Oklahoma City bombing trial. Defendant Terry Nichols, like now-convicted-and-sentenced bomber Timothy McVeigh, faces charges of murder and conspiracy in the April 1995 truck bombing. Defense attorneys sought to muddle what appeared to be a strong case against their client, calling several witnesses who testified they saw men other than Mr. Nichols with Timothy McVeigh in the days before the blast. The case is expected to go to the jury before Christmas.
"What time's the game?" President Clinton reportedly asked of White House counsel Charles Ruff moments after he informed Mr. Clinton of Attorney General Janet Reno's decision not to seek an independent counsel to probe allegations of campaign-finance lawbreaking against him or the vice president. The president released a terse, 23-word statement for press consumption, then headed to the Washington Wizards-Seattle SuperSonics game, and the only reporter he talked to was an ESPN sports broadcaster; the conversation was all hoops. Mr. Clinton seemed to beat the rap with even greater ease than the Wizards did the SuperSonics that night, 95-78. While the president was thinking basketball, his spokesman Mike McCurry had to deal with the press. Mr. McCurry grew frustrated and irritated by reporters' apparent disbelief in his account of the president's nonchalance: "Look, do you want the truth or something that fits your own spin?" The president seemed to relish his life on the edge, one step ahead of law enforcement. One day after the Reno decision, Mr. Clinton raised $900,000 at two Chicago fundraisers and vowed to be busy "until the last minute of the last day of my presidency and beyond" raising money and supporting Democratic candidates. As if to thumb their noses at Republicans, members of the band played a bouncy rendition of "Jailhouse Rock" after the president spoke. Ms. Reno's decision came after more than a week's worth of news leaks that suggested she would not seek a special counsel. It was a decision Republicans loudly anticipated in the days leading up to the Dec. 2 deadline for completing her preliminary review. As Ms. Reno met with her top prosecutors, Republicans appeared on several Sunday talking-head shows criticizing her in advance. Ms. Reno let it be known her decision was an agonizing one. Justice Department press officials provided information on the frequency and length of virtually every Reno huddle with prosecutors and investigators, and they were dutifully chronicled in the press. The night before decision day (Dec. 2), The Associated Press reported the attorney general didn't leave her office until 8:20 p.m., but did so with a briefcase full of papers and the announcement that she had yet to decide. "I'm going to make sure I consider every angle." Every angle? Republicans complained that Ms. Reno's decision was foreordained by her decision to focus narrowly on the issue of fundraising telephone calls-where they were made and where the money went. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), Senate majority leader, said Ms. Reno instead should have considered "the whole pattern of patently illegal actions taken to achieve at any costs the Clinton-Gore campaign's fundraising quotas." Republicans also made a hero of FBI director Louis Freeh, who wrote a memo urging the attorney general to seek an independent counsel. The FBI chief worried that not doing so would foreclose further investigation of allegations of wrongdoing. But, in a statement after Ms. Reno's decision, Mr. Freeh said, "I and all of my colleagues in the FBI respect her decision and understand fully that it is the attorney general's by law to make." Although Mr. Freeh emphasized his "amicable relationship" with Ms. Reno, Republican senators characterized the decision as creating "a really deep split" between the two. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said he would ask the Justice Department to provide Congress a copy of Mr. Freeh's memo.