Less is Mir
Mir Aimal Kasi, who murdered two CIA employees outside the agency's headquarters five years ago, was sentenced to death by a Fairfax County Circuit Court judge last week. Hours after a jury convicted him and recommended the death penalty last fall, four American auditors for a Houston-based oil and gas exploration company, along with their Pakistani driver, were shot to death in Karachi. The Aimal Secret Action Committee later claimed responsibility for the killings and threatened more attacks if their hero was sentenced to death.
In his State of the Union address, President Clinton slapped handcuffs on Republicans who want to use the imaginary federal budget surplus (see sidebar, page 9) for tax relief. Mr. Clinton said the "surplus," which in actuality consists of Social Security tax receipts over and above current obligations due, should be reserved for the coming Social Security crisis-around the year 2010, when baby boomers start to retire. In addition, the president announced plans for a series of public forums to be held across the country this year. He had said in December that he would hold a conference on Social Security in Washington and then ask Congress to pass reforms in 1999. Republicans continued to argue that any money left over should immediately be refunded to the taxpayers. That, they argued, would do much more to provide for the stable retirements of the next generation of Americans. "When the government taxes away money that people could have used for their own retirement needs, Social Security's problems grow worse," said Rep. Bill Archer (R-Texas), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
All moms work
As if actual policy questions can be heard over the din of scandal in Washington, leadership Republicans launched a counter-proposal to President Clinton's $21.7 billion child-care initiative. Coordinated by Idaho Republican Larry Craig, the GOP proposal would give stay-at-home moms the same tax credit now restricted to parents who pay for day care. Like Mr. Clinton's plan, it also would provide more money to subsidize child care for low-income working parents and give tax credits to businesses that provide child care to their workers. Mr. Craig said in the Republicans' national radio speech, "The president has a lot to say about mothers who work outside the home. Let's get it straight, Mr. President. All moms work. No one should be left out." Left out thus far have been conservative Republicans such as Indiana Sen. Dan Coats. He has yet to sign on to a specific proposal, but says whatever plan emerges should not punish stay-at-home moms. At a press conference he touted a Family Research Council poll showing that parents would prefer to spend more time with their children if they could afford it. "We pump a lot of money into child care," Sen. Coats said. "What mothers really want is more time with their children, not less."
Even before President Clinton rapped Republicans in the State of the Union for delaying the confirmation of his judicial appointments, the chairman who oversees Senate action on the president's nominees warned the president's men to do themselves "a favor and stay out" of the confirmation process. The president's weekly radio address concentrated on the slow pace of judicial confirmations. White House communications director Ann Lewis warned a "full-scale political confrontation" is in the works. But Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) told the Federalist Society that the president "most assuredly" will not receive "carte blanche in filling the federal judiciary." Nevertheless, the day after the president's criticism last week, senators voted to confirm three of Mr. Clinton's nominees to the federal bench.
Prosecutors won indictments last week against 20 government subcontractors who allegedly helped up to 13,000 immigrants cheat on their citizenship tests for fees ranging from $125 to $500. The suspects, who either worked for or operated testing centers on behalf of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, are accused of collecting more than $3 million from immigrants in 22 states in exchange for promises they would pass written tests involving English comprehension, U.S. history, and civics.
A New Mexico public school choir director lost his job after criticism that last month's "Winter Concert" contained too many songs with Christian themes. The superintendent of schools notified director Frank Rotolo of the firing last week. His crime: The December program included no songs that referred to holidays of minority religions; about half of the more than 15 songs contained Christian themes. Mr. Rotolo's lawyer advised him not to discuss the case while he appeals.
In a 36-page preliminary report, Mexico's Attorney General, Jorge Madrazo Cuellar, accused government officials of abetting a Dec. 22 massacre in Chiapas and stopped just short of bringing charges against high state officials in Chiapas. He said police and other justice officials demolished the crime scene where the killings occurred near Acteal and the governor, Julio Cesar Ruiz Ferro, ignored repeated pleas for help with the escalating violence from Indian community leaders in the weeks before the killings. Mr. Ferro has since resigned.
Is this a case of a "big brother" government or of a homosexual military man's wanting a double standard? U.S. District Judge Stanley Sporkin last week ruled in favor of the gay Navy enlistee by overruling his expulsion for homosexuality based on evidence the brass obtained anonymously through America Online. "In these days of 'big brother,' where through technology and otherwise the privacy interests of individuals from all walks of life are being ignored or marginalized, it is imperative that statutes explicitly protecting these rights be strictly observed," Judge Sporkin wrote. "This court finds that the Navy has gone too far." But the case is hardly clear-cut. The case began when seaman Timothy McVeigh (no relation to the Oklahoma bomber) sent a routine e-mail message to a Navy spouse serving as an onshore ombudsman for sailors aboard the USS Chicago and their spouses. The woman knew Mr. McVeigh to be the author of the e-mail, but she noticed the "Boysrch" screen name. She then went to the profile page in the AOL system that provided more background information. There, she saw that the author of the page identified himself as "Tim" from Honolulu and, under marital status, wrote "gay." Under hobbies, the profile page listed "driving, boy watching, collecting pictures of other young studs."
"String" him up
Just hours before departing for a tour of European and Persian Gulf nations, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said "the diplomatic string is running out" for Iraq. Her comments capped a week of speculation about U.S. military strikes against Iraq over its failure to comply with UN weapons inspections. Top .......foreign-policy advisers to President Clinton discussed a sustained attack on biological and chemical weapons sites that Saddam Hussein has hidden from UN inspectors. The UN's chief weapons inspector, Richard Butler, said that Iraq had enough biological weapons to "blow away Tel Aviv." Republicans in Congress said they would support the president's action, but NATO commanders and foreign heads of state publicly hedged their support, saying Mr. Clinton was clearly "weakened" by sexual scandal and charges of obstructing justice.
Off the dole
Making good on a pledge made to the U.S. Congress in 1996, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began steps to wean his country from U.S. foreign aid. Finance minister Yaakov Neeman traveled to Washington to begin talks on a 10-year phase-out. Israel is the United States' largest recipient of aid: $1.2 billion in economic aid and $1.8 billion in military aid. Israel initiated the plan to cut off the aid, saying it did not want to be dependent and no longer needed the help. The plan could commence in 2000.
The right wing strikes back
One day after First Lady Hillary Clinton denounced the "vast right-wing conspiracy" to destroy her husband, Janet Reno's campaign-finance task force lawyers last week won an indictment against presidential pal Yah Lin "Charlie" Trie. A federal grand jury returned the indictment in connection with Mr. Trie's alleged "straw donor" scheme to distribute foreign-donated money to U.S. citizens who in turn gave money to the Democrats. But the Trie indictment was mishandled by federal prosecutors who immediately moved to keep the indictment under seal. A Washington Post reporter present in the courtroom reported that the U.S. magistrate presiding over the request criticized prosecutors "in open court for failing to pose their request" properly. Because the judge refused to discuss the issue privately, reporters overheard the exchange and disseminated news of the indictment. Prosecutors had hoped to keep the indictment secret, to make it easier to nab Mr. Trie, who is believed to be hiding in China.
How necessary, how evil?
The IRS is now a bipartisan whipping boy. President Clinton, in the State of the Union address, pronounced himself "outraged" by reports of IRS abuses. Senate majority leader Trent Lott went further: "Some call the IRS a 'necessary evil.' I know I agree with the second part of that description; I have not made up my mind about the first part." The IRS commissioner, Charles O. Rossotti, appeared before the Senate Finance Committee last week and outlined his plan to reorganize the agency into four "service organizations." Under the current structure, taxpayers deal with one division on an audit, another on collections, and yet another to appeal a decision.
Can't beat 'em? Join 'em
Perhaps realizing the long odds he faced at trial, veteran FBI agent Jerome R. Sullivan pleaded guilty to embezzling $400,000 and making false statements. Mr. Sullivan supervised an organized crime squad and placed substantial bets on sporting events with people he was investigating. "My client had a gambling problem," said his attorney Mark Schnapp. Mr. Sullivan failed to account for $130,000 that the FBI seized from a Deerfield Beach check-cashing store controlled by reputed members of the Gambino crime family of New York. Court documents show Mr. Sullivan took kickbacks from informants. They also show that Mr. Sullivan received death threats from an associate of the Lucchese crime family, also of New York, when he amassed $100,000 in gambling debts. Mr. Sullivan said he first started placing $100 bets with people he was investigating while on an undercover organized crime assignment in Fort Lauderdale.