Tastes like chicken
A federal judge apparently didn't like the bland taste of the plea-bargain special served up by the independent counsel in the case involving poultry giant Tyson Foods Inc. So last week he added a little spice. U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina doubled-from two years to four-the length of probation on the company, whose officials admitted they gave illegal gifts to then-agriculture secretary Mike Espy while the company had business pending before the department. Judge Urbina, who said he would personally oversee Tyson's compliance with the terms of its probation, ordered quarterly reports detailing its spending on politics and lobbying and its establishment of a new in-house corporate code of ethical conduct. He wants an initial progress report in 30 days. If the company does not mind its table manners, Judge Urbina threatened there would be no dessert: namely, rich government contracts. Had Tyson Foods not agreed to the plea bargain and instead been found guilty, it stood to lose hundreds of millions in government business; according to The Washington Post, the company could have lost $200 million in Agriculture Department contracts alone. Meanwhile, AFLAC insurance company last week paid an $80,000 fine for making illegal campaign contributions to Mr. Espy's brother, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress. Henry Espy sought the House seat vacated by his brother when he became agriculture secretary. And nothing but the truth: Hillary Clinton answered questions under oath last week about an issue she has said publicly she knows nothing about. White-water independent counsel Kenneth Starr and a battery of prosecutors and defense lawyers converged on the White House Treaty Room-the site of several other interrogations of the president and first lady-to ask about the White House's gathering of FBI background files on hundreds of political appointees from past Republican administrations. Anonymous sources quoted by The New York Times and the Reuters news service said Mrs. Clinton repeated denials she knew anything about the files and about the hiring of the White House aide who oversaw the illegal acquisition of them. The first lady's session with Mr. Starr-reportedly just 15 minutes long-marked her fifth round of sworn testimony in connection with the Whitewater investigation. "Consistent with past practice," said presidential spokesman Mike McCurry, "no further statements about the content of the interview will be made at this time."
Pro-lifers found good news in an abortion-law status report issued by a prominent pro-abortion group. The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League reported that state-level "restrictions" on abortion continue to increase. Last year, the report said, 31 states enacted measures designed to reduce the number of abortions, including parental-notice requirements, mandatory waiting periods, and prohibitions against using taxpayer money to pay for abortions. Lamented NARAL's Kate Michelman: "We're not losing the war, but they are gaining ground." A federal judge approved a legal settlement that would end years of litigation between Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry and the National Organization for Women. Mr. Terry, now a candidate for Congress, is one of numerous pro-lifers sued by NOW a decade ago under federal racketeering laws. As part of the settlement, Mr. Terry agreed not to block abortion clinic entrances and to refrain from any criminal acts against clinics or their staff and clients. "The only reason [this settlement] was agreed to," said attorney Larry Crain, "is because Mr. Terry did not have to admit any wrongdoing, which he still adamantly denies." Several others named in the suit, including Joseph Scheidler of the Pro-Life Action League, have refused to settle, insisting they have done nothing illegal. The case against them goes to trial in March.
Deja vu all over again
The United Nations Security Council, for the fourth time, voted to rebuke Iraq for blocking UN inspectors from searching suspected weapons sites. As before, however, the Council didn't say what it will do if Iraqi President Saddam Hussein continues to violate the inspection requirement, a condition of Iraq's 1991 surrender in the Gulf War. In a related development, CBS News reported that UN arms inspectors have photographic evidence that Iraq has conducted biological warfare experiments on humans. Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz called the allegation "a sheer lie."
Homosexual legal activists suffered a setback last week when the Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of a lesbian lawyer denied a job with the Georgia attorney general after he learned of her plan to "marry" another woman. The activists had hoped the case would lay the foundation for a future Supreme Court edict requiring special treatment in the workplace. The high court's refusal cements into place a federal appellate court ruling that covers Georgia, Florida, and Alabama; it creates no binding national precedent. The decision of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals held: "The attorney general was ... entitled to conclude that the public may think that employment of a staff attorney who openly purports to be part of a same-sex 'marriage' is, at best, inconsistent with the other positions taken ... by the attorney general as the state's chief legal officer."
In a closely watched special congressional primary, California assemblyman Tom Bordonaro, a conservative Republican pro-lifer, edged out the chosen candidate of the GOP establishment. With financial help from a political action committee founded by conservative activist Gary Bauer, Mr. Bordonaro defeated tire company heir and fellow state legislator Brooks Firestone, who had been recruited to run by House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Mr. Firestone's unwillingness to support a state ban on partial-birth abortion apparently did him in. "We were partial-birthed to defeat," conceded Firestone campaign manager John Davies. Mr. Bordonaro, who won 29 percent of the vote to Mr. Firestone's 25 percent, now faces a March 10 run-off with Democrat Lois Capps. Mrs. Capps, whose husband held the congressional seat until his death last year, was the top vote-getter in the open primary, receiving 45 percent of the votes. Meanwhile, a bipartisan national poll found that "chances are slim" Democrats will regain control of Congress in November. The poll, conducted by Democrat Celinda Lake and Republican Ed Goas, found the public is equally divided between the two major parties and that more than half of the respondents like having a Democrat in the White House and the GOP controlling Congress.
Flying in the face of repeated company denials, internal documents from the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. appear to show a purposeful effort to market the company's cigarette brands to teenagers. The documents, released as part of a legal settlement, include confidential memos, marketing surveys, and long-term planning strategies from the 1970s and '80s. In one 1973 memo, a RJR senior researcher noted that, despite legal restrictions on promoting cigarette use by those under age 21, "there is certainly nothing immoral or unethical about our Company attempting to attract ... to our products [young people who choose to smoke]." A 1975 memo speaks of the need to "increase [the Camel Filter brand's] share among the 14-24 age group." RJR, claiming that the material was being quoted out of context, issued a press release insisting that the company has never targeted young people and that it is firmly committed to reducing youth smoking.
Having narrowly survived a no-confidence vote in the Israeli parliament, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepared to head to Washington for talks on Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. Mr. Netanyahu's cabinet officially backed his negotiating position, declaring that Israel will never give up certain parts of the West Bank, won in the 1967 Middle East war. The cabinet also adopted a 12-page list of conditions that Palestinian negotiators must fulfill before Israel will cede any more of the West Bank.
Full faith and credit
At first glance, it seems like a rather straightforward business law case: In a unanimous decision last week, the Supreme Court ruled that a Michigan court order barring a former GM employee from testifying against the automaker need not be respected by courts in other states. GM argued that the so-called "full faith and credit" clause of the Constitution, which says that court orders in one state must be enforced by other states, required that the gag order be enforced around the country. The Supreme Court overwhelmingly disagreed. Case closed? Not quite. What remains open is a much more controversial issue-same-sex marriage. If a state does not have to recognize a gag order that it believes is against its own public policy, how about a homosexual marriage? Some conservatives had hoped that a ruling against GM would set a precedent denying that the full faith and credit provision of the Constitution requires all states to recognize a gay marriage sanctioned by a single state-most likely Hawaii. Don't count on it, says Paul T. Cappuccio, the lawyer who argued the case for GM. Although the decision, authored by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, ruled that the Michigan court order was not binding on other states, it emphasized that there was "no free-floating public policy exception to full faith and credit." This means, according to Mr. Cappuccio, that the justices might still rule that a court-recognized gay marriage be given full faith and credit by all states, unless Congress directs otherwise. And that issue-whether Congress can alter how full faith and credit applies to gay marriage-is precisely the issue raised by the federal Defense of Marriage Act. In the end then, the GM decision may leave liberals with the best they could have hoped for-an open door for a constitutional protection of gay marriage.
Rosty the taxman
President Clinton's opposition to proposed Republican tax cuts got a new ally last weekend: ex-congressman and ex-con Dan Rostenkowski. His appearance on NBC's Meet the Press was his first television interview since his release last November from federal prison where he did a 15-month stretch for fraudulently misusing taxpayer money. He said he thinks it's a misuse of taxpayer money to give any of it back: "If you are going to run a country and you're going to run a government, you need the revenues to do it." Two likely Republican presidential candidates, meanwhile, outlined ambitious tax-cut proposals. Last weekend, Steve Forbes unveiled his "1998 agenda," which urges Congress to move to replace the graduated federal income tax with the flat-rate tax he has long advocated; to eliminate the marriage tax penalty; to expand medical savings accounts; and to give parents greater control over education through such means as charter schools, vouchers, and educational savings accounts. Sen. John Ashcroft (R-Mo.) took a different approach on taxes: advocating a middle-class tax break that would reduce taxes on such Americans by as much as 86 percent.
Against the wall
Succumbing to international pressure and worried about an erosion of domestic political support, Indonesia's President Suharto agreed to implement austerity measures aimed at stabilizing the country's teetering economy. Mr. Suharto, who earlier had bucked austerity demands made by the International Monetary Fund, pledged to take full personal responsibility for carrying out the reforms, which include tightening the country's budget and putting an end to several monopolies controlled by the president's family and friends. The IMF demanded the reforms in exchange for a $40 billion rescue package for Indonesia, the world's fourth-most-populous nation. The Indonesian currency has lost two-thirds of its value since the economic crisis began last summer.
In southern Mexico, federal prosecutors charged a state police commander with building the stockpile of weapons used in the December massacre of 45 unarmed Indian peasants (WORLD, Jan. 10). Prosecutors hinted that other state officials may have supported the killers by helping to dispose of the bodies and destroy evidence.
Unruly White House guests
Security agents at the White House last week detected the container of spray paint in a female tourist's handbag, but did not raise a question about it. A spokesman for the Secret Service said, "A can of spray paint itself is not a security issue and there was nothing to indicate any kind of suspect behavior." Until, that is, the woman's White House tour group reached the Blue Room. She then allegedly removed the can of brown paint and began defacing two historic sculptures. Meanwhile, another potential White House troublemaker, plaintiff Paula Jones, did not make it past the White House gates. The scheduled deposition of President Clinton for the May 27 sexual harassment trial was moved from the White House to the offices of Clinton lawyer Robert Bennett. The change came after the deposition date was disclosed and after the Clinton legal team learned Mrs. Jones had planned to attend. Also last week, Mr. Bennett dropped his effort to obtain donor lists and depositions from the Rutherford Institute, the Christian religious-liberty organization that is raising funds for Mrs. Jones's case. In December, the federal judge in Arkansas presiding over the case ruled that Rutherford's fundraising, tax, and public-relations strategy documents must be turned over to the president's lawyers. Mr. Bennett declared on television he'd use the documentation to prove the organization was a "cash conduit" for "Clinton haters." But with the support of the American Civil Liberties Union, the institute challenged a Clinton subpoena for the documents in federal court in Virginia, arguing that the legal team was conducting a "witch hunt" aimed at revoking its tax-exempt status and chilling donations. Lawyers for Rutherford settled the matter by agreeing to turn over expenditure records instead.