This Week

"This Week" Continued...

Issue: "Roe vs. Wade 25," Jan. 17, 1998

Ruby Ridge saga continues

A state judge in Idaho ordered FBI sharpshooter Lon Horiuchi to stand trial for involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of Vicki Weaver, killed during the bureau's 1992 siege at Ruby Ridge. Seeking Mrs. Weaver's husband Randy on a weapons charge, dozens of FBI agents surrounded the Weaver family's mountaintop cabin. As Mrs. Weaver, with a baby in her arms, held open the cabin door to allow her husband, a daughter, and family friend Kevin Harris to take cover inside, Mr. Horiuchi fired, killing Mrs. Weaver. He later claimed he was shooting at Mr. Harris. Although the Ruby Ridge incident touched off a firestorm of concern about government abuse of power-the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals called the FBI's "shoot-on-sight" policy at Ruby Ridge "a gross deviation from constitutional principles"-the FBI has defended Mr. Horiuchi's actions and the Justice Department is paying for his attorneys.

The nation in brief

Almost two-thirds of children in urban public schools are failing to reach minimal standards in reading, math, and science, according to a report from Education Week magazine. While fretting about lack of funding for some urban schools, the report also concedes that "huge bureaucracies and special interest groups" are a big part of the problem. Feeding at the public trough proved quite satisfying for 90 members of an extended Georgia family. Working together, they laid claim to more than $1 million in federal disability benefits before government officials discovered they didn't qualify. The inspector general for the Social Security Administration said that while the Georgia case was unusually large, abuse of the federal disability program is not unusual at all, but increasingly common. NASA headed back to the Moon, the first lunar mission in 25 years. The space agency launched an unmanned orbiting spacecraft, the Lunar Prospector, to search for water that could one day be used by human settlers.

Show me the reforms

Concerns about Asian economic problems continued to roil international markets. Currencies in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines fell to record lows. Sharp currency declines also occurred in Taiwan and Singapore, even as the Clinton administration sought to project confidence that a $100 billion bailout effort by the International Monetary Fund is bearing fruit. That assessment was further undercut by Indonesia's refusal to implement budget cuts ordered by the IMF. Instead, hoping to quell unrest caused by rapidly rising unemployment-Indonesia has more than two million newly unemployed-Indonesian leaders moved to raise government spending by 32 percent.

Blood flows

Algeria's bloody six-year Islamic insurgency got bloodier. An estimated 1,000 people died in a new round of massacres coinciding with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Several hundred people were said to have been burned alive and many others were chopped to death with axes. Some 65,000 have died in brutal attacks by Muslim guerrillas. Repercussions continued from the December massacre of 45 unarmed Indians in a southern Mexican state. The governor of the state resigned Jan. 7, becoming the second top official to do so. So far, more than 40 men have been arrested, including the top county official where the slaughter took place. He's charged with organizing the killings. A local village leader is accused of buying the weapons that were used, ranging from machetes to AK-47 assault rifles.

Just don't do it

Sex educators like to say that kids will "do it anyway," so it stands to reason they should be taught to "do it responsibly." Those who want sexual abstinence taught point out that "responsible" fornication or adultery is a contradiction in terms. There's an analogy here to government spending on sex-education programs in the public schools. Can education bureaucrats be trusted to spend taxpayer money responsibly? Apparently not, one congressman complained last week. He charges that local officials may be misusing money from a five-year, $50 million annual federal program to promote sexual abstinence among public-school students. Part of the 1996 welfare reform bill, the abstinence provision is aimed at reducing family-destroying sexual promiscuity and out-of-wedlock pregnancies that worsen poverty and welfare dependence. At the time, the program met with much criticism from sex educators who didn't like the requirement that none of the money could be used for, or mixed with funds for, other school curricula that promote birth control. Now, there's evidence that officials in at least half of the states signed up for the money anyway and found a way around the law. In a letter last week to Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, Rep. Thomas Bliley (R-Va.) noted that some states plan to use the money for after-school programs, without any effort to tell children not to have sex. Other states, the letter says, may be using their matching money to distribute information about birth control. "It is imperative that the guidelines used by [HHS] to approve applications are consistent with the letter and spirit of the legislation," Rep. Bliley wrote. The Virginia congressman also demanded an investigation into an e-mail message sent by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention staffer urging state officials to lobby their members of Congress to repeal the abstinence-only requirement. It is against the law for federal agencies to spend money on "grass-roots" lobbying efforts, Mr. Bliley noted.

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