This Week

Issue: "Palau: Renaissance Man," Jan. 24, 1998

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."

Abortion battles

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

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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."

Lesbian law

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."

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