Scientology busters undeterred
Two years ago, Keith Henson decided to expose the Church of Scientology by publishing secret information about it. The result was a high-pitched legal battle that will cost him $75,000 in statutory damages. Mr. Henson was one of the leading lights of an online subculture dedicated to debunking the group. He and his colleagues down at the alt.religion.scientology Internet newsgroup say that lawsuits like this will stifle free speech in cyberspace. A year ago, Judge Ronald Whyte ruled that Mr. Henson had infringed on copyrights belonging to Scientology's Religious Technology Center. The plaintiff won a permanent injunction keeping Mr. Henson from reposting Scientology documents on the Net. But he is standing firm. "Judge Whyte puts the defense of intellectual property above the need to inform people," the defendant posted to the Net a few days after the ruling. Meanwhile, a devoted subculture continues to protest the Church of Scientology on the Internet. Detailed information about the group's history, including court transcripts, is on the Web. There's even a weekly digest of recent developments. Right now Mr. Hensen's friends fear Mr. Henson will be assessed his opponents' legal fees and get socked with a $1 million bill. Soon after this decision, another defendant, Grady Ward, whose case was similar to Mr. Hensen's, settled out of court.
"You must be this tall to look at this dirty book." The long arm of the law has intervened to ensure that a Barnes & Noble store in Tennessee keeps pornographic material where the short arm of a child can't reach. A local prosecutor had brought the bookstore chain up on obscenity charges based on three books featuring nude photos of children. Barnes & Noble agreed to shelve the books five feet off the floor so that small fry who can't jump high won't see them. The agreement does not put the brakes on pederasts, however. And Barnes & Noble's woes continue in other parts of the country, with picketers protesting stores in Kansas and New Hampshire and two grand jury indictments pending in Alabama.
United States vs. Microsoft
Does Microsoft succeed by serving customers? Or is it an 800-pound-gorilla waging a take-no-prisoners fight to dominate the competition? A judge may have to decide. Bill Gates and company must fight a massive antitrust lawsuit from the Justice Department and 20 states. The sweeping case, begun last week, claims Microsoft's "choke hold" on competitors is denying consumers important choices about how they buy and use computers. "Microsoft's actions have stifled competition in the operating-system and browser markets," Attorney General Janet Reno said. "But most importantly, it has restricted the choices available for consumers." Her suit accuses the company of trying to crush its biggest Internet competitor, Netscape, after Netscape refused an offer to divide the world's market for Web software. The lawsuits came on the day that Microsoft shipped to computer makers the final version of Windows 98, the latest upgrade to its flagship product. This update (reviewed in WORLD, May 2) merges Microsoft's Web browser into the operating system. That means most users don't need stand-alone software to go surfing. The government claims that's illegal "tying" of separate products, but Microsoft contends its browser is "integrated." That means America's richest man must go to war for his Windows-even though he golfed with the president, invited the vice president to a party at his mansion, and gives money to politically correct causes such as international population control. After nearly two weeks of feverish negotiations with government attorneys, Mr. Gates broke off talks. He said the feds were trying to punish success and wanted too many concessions. "Twenty-three years ago, Paul Allen and I started Microsoft on the principle that technology could dramatically improve people's lives," he told a press conference. "How ironic that in the United States, where freedom and innovation are core values, these regulators are trying to punish an American company that has worked hard and successfully to deliver on these values." Time is on Mr. Gates's side. By the time the case is decided, Windows 98 may be obsolete.The feds needed about a decade to break up the Bell System. In silicon time, 10-year-old software is scarcely remembered. Several technologies now in their infancy could one day change the method of computing made famous by Microsoft's Windows operating system, which runs nearly 90 percent of the world's personal computers. "If they don't get Microsoft to settle, technology might surpass the viability of the lawsuit," said Peter Krasilovsky, an analyst at Arlen Communications. In 10 years, the free market may have chipped away at Microsoft's market share and put the company in the same position as once-unstoppable IBM. Right now, the government seeks an injunction forcing Microsoft to distribute a copy of rival Netscape's software for viewing the Internet with every copy of the latest Windows operating system. Assistant Attorney General Joel Klein said Microsoft could avoid the injunction by selling Internet Explorer separately from Windows 98. Microsoft has said the browser is now inextricably integrated into the Windows 98 operating software-and offering Netscape is like making Coke sell Pepsi. Meanwhile, Mr. Klein wants Congress to hike the budget for his trust-busting staff. He thinks his $95 million annual budget needs to be augmented by "certainly several million dollars."
On a national holiday to celebrate Christ's ascension, Indonesians awoke to find they had a new president, who is Muslim. Vice President Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie assumed leadership after President Suharto resigned the post he held for 32 years. Mr. Suharto stepped aside after a week of intense rioting in Jakarta, the capital, left more than 500 people dead. Mr. Suharto had been elected to a seventh five-year term last March. Even with a government of cronies and a loyal military, the 76-year-old autocrat could not avoid a stealthy fifth column: market forces that forced the devaluation of Indonesia's currency and sent its economy through the floor beginning nearly a year ago. On May 20 Mr. Suharto announced plans to resign but did not say when. He surprised observers by abruptly leaving office the following day. The transition may not be smooth. Foreign investors have fled the country, along with many ethnic Chinese. Indonesia's large and more affluent Chinese population was targeted in looting. Their shops have been closed, along with major grocery distributorships they own. Food shortages are expected. Christians, too, expect a rough ride. Protestant churches have been targeted by Muslim fanatics in the past (see WORLD, Nov. 9, 1996), and Mr. Habibie-although a Suharto protege-has ties to Amien Rais, a Muslim leader who has used anti-Christian and anti-Jewish rhetoric in the past. Mr. Suharto was credited with keeping a lid on nationalism and religious fanaticism in a country whose national motto is "Unity in Diversity."
World in brief
No surprises at G-8
Western leaders wound up their annual G-8 summit the usual way: by stating the obvious. They issued statements which concluded that Indonesia's financial woes would require political restructuring, affirmed China's decision not to devalue its currency, and called for market transparency to ward off further decline across the Pacific Rim. While much of the agenda of the meeting, held this year in Birmingham, England, dealt with Asia's economic downturn, the summit leaders also condemned India for conducting five nuclear tests two weeks ago and urged Pakistan to exercise "maximum restraint" in reply. On the brink
Tension rose between India and Pakistan, which has indicated it may launch a nuclear test of its own in retaliation for India's recent show of nuclear force. India accused Pakistan of stepping up border attacks in the contested Kashmir Valley and said the "unprovoked firing" of artillery and mortar rounds violated a 1997 weapons agreement.
Just 35 feet
Christopher Sercye, 15, was playing basketball with some friends in the early evening last week when gang members popped out of a car and shot him twice. Christopher's friends carried him 100 yards toward Chicago's Ravenswood Hospital. Thinking they had moved him close enough, one of the boys dashed inside the emergency room for help. Workers there said hospital policy required them to remain inside; an ambulance would have to deliver the boy. After 15 minutes of hospital staff refusals, angry police officers grabbed a wheelchair and brought him in. An hour later, Christopher died. "There were people standing outside there, their own employees standing out there having a smoke while this kid is laying in the alley," an incredulous officer James Maurer said. George Ciorba, an eyewitness, told CNN: "He would have died here ... no more than 30-35 feet.... Come on, please help him. 'No, we cannot.'" After the death, hospital officials rescinded the policy.
Forbes sounds alarm
Steve Forbes raised the year 2000 alarm in Washington with a memo warning about the millennium bug. He's the first presidential candidate to do so. Unless computer glitches are fixed, devastating disruptions will strike business and government services from air traffic control to medicine. "The implications are ominous," the flat-taxer told GOP leaders. "Medicare, the IRS, the FAA, and other basic agencies are operating on utterly out-of-date technology. It doesn't take much imagination to see how dreadfully wrong things could go." Time is short, says Mr. Forbes, because most states start fiscal year 2000 on July 1, 1999, and the federal government starts on October 1, 1999. He says only 63 percent of the federal government's most important computers will be ready on January 1, 2000. Meanwhile, the private sector is racing to fix the problem. Ameritech officials, for example, say their company may spend about $200 million fixing computers. Executives of the Baby Bell phone company say they've found most of their problems and are optimistic about getting them fixed on time-that is, if their suppliers get their own technology upgraded. But if something vital goes wrong, service could be disrupted. The problems result from obsolete, hard-to-repair software that cannot distinguish the year 2000 from 1900. Mr. Forbes describes the situation as a "leadership crisis" rather than a technology crisis. He accused Clinton and Gore of neglecting the problem, which could cost the government over $4 billion, according to recent estimates. "Why such silence?" he wonders. "Are they trying to limit public concern until after the mid-term elections?" What's his solution? Mr. Forbes wants Congress to boost defense spending to help the military's lagging year 2000 program. He called for a system of penalties and incentives to coax federal bureaucrats into fixing bad computers. His most ominous suggestion is for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to set up contingency plans for year 2000 breakdowns. "Move fast," urges Mr. Forbes.
Keeping his cool
"Not cool, Reggie," chided Sports Illustrated for Kids in reprimanding football star/Baptist minister Reggie White for his recent "dumb comments," which included calling homosexuality a sin in a speech to the Wisconsin state legislature. Given a similar chorus of criticism in the mainstream press, the Family Research Council put on a luncheon to let Mr. White know that some people still think morality is cool. FRC president Gary Bauer called the football veteran a "great defender of truth" and charged that the media's "mean-spirited attack would draw a yellow flag in the NFL. Where's the penalty now?" "You are a credit to sports at a time when many 'stars' set the wrong example," Sen. John Ashcroft noted. In accepting FRC's Family, Faith, and Freedom Award last week, Mr. White expanded his remarks beyond homosexual sin. "I have guys in our locker room who are just as wicked as any gay guy could ever be," he said of a teammate who once bragged of having sex with a woman just after she confided that she had been molested. "This girl was trying to reach out to someone to talk to about her hurt. That's just as bad as the sin of homosexuality." But the 12-time pro-bowl defensive end also played some offense: "I'm tired of the devil pushing us around. God is trying to give people some guts to speak out on truth." CBS will not provide the platform. The network recently withdrew the tentative offer it had made before Mr. White's remarks for him to serve as an on-air football commentator. A spokeswoman for CBS said the network had never made a formal contract. "CBS lied," Mr. White said. "They said they were never pressured by activist groups, but when my wife and myself and my agent were on the phone, we heard them say they were concerned with pressure from gay groups.... I don't want to work for them. I don't want to play on a team that doesn't have any guts." He'll play one more year for the Packers.
Nation in brief
All choked up
Latrell Sprewell hopes to put a legal choke hold on the NBA and the Golden State Warriors. He filed suit last week claiming victim status even though he attempted to choke his coach in December. Mr. Sprewell, who was suspended, now wants $30 million, including his lost wages of $6.4 million, which could be tripled under federal anti-trust statutes, in addition to attorneys' fees and additional damages. School shooting
A Tennessee high-school senior was shot last week on campus by another student three days before he was to graduate. Robert Creson, 18, died about 15 minutes after being brought to a hospital. Police have the alleged shooter, Jacob Davis, in custody. They said the two had been at odds over a girl. Kevorkian watch
Jack Kevorkian, who has admitted assisting more than 100 suicides, painted another skull and crossbones on his medical bag last week. Dr. Death dropped off the body of cancer patient Emma Kassa at the same hospital where he was arrested three weeks ago following a scuffle with police after bringing in a man's body. The county medical examiner confirmed only that Ms. Kassa had terminal lung cancer, and ruled the death a homicide caused by an intravenous injection. Out in the cold
Keeping a promise to education union bosses, President Clinton last week vetoed legislation that would have given some District of Columbia schoolchildren a chance to escape the public schools. The bill earmarks vouchers worth $3,200 each for 2,000 of the neediest kids for private-school tuition assistance. House Republican leader Dick Armey blasted Mr. Clinton: "It says a lot about the character of our president that he would stand in the schoolhouse door and deny D.C.'s most vulnerable children the opportunity for a decent education."
Profit over protest
Wisconsin abortionists began cashing checks again last week; they had shut down their clinics for a week to protest a new state ban on partial-birth abortions. The doctors claimed they feared prosecution for performing even "legitimate" abortions because the statute was overly broad in its wording. But after both a federal judge and the circuit court of appeals refused to issue a temporary restraining order, the abortionists evidently decided that profit beat protest. So they cranked up the vacuums and went back to Judge John Shabaz to ask again for a permanent injunction against enforcement of the partial-birth ban. So far, Judge Shabaz is saying no. Although 27 other states have passed laws similar to Wisconsin's, every previous court challenge by abortionists-13 in all-had led to overturned statutes or blocked enforcement. Wisconsin abortionists claimed the law's vague language would make them liable to life in prison for performing even legal, first-trimester abortions, but Wisconsin Right to Life called that a "smokescreen" and said "the law couldn't be clearer as to what's a partial-birth abortion." Because of the way records are kept, no one knows how many of the 13,000-plus abortions performed in Wisconsin each year are truly of the partial-birth variety. In Florida, meanwhile, pro-lifers lost a symbolic victory when Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles vetoed a bill that would have created a "Choose Life" license plate. Mr. Chiles said the design-one of 39 options for Florida drivers-was inappropriate because of its "controversial and difficult" message. Proceeds from the sale of the special plates were earmarked for non-profit adoption agencies. Manatees, wild dolphins, and public education will all continue to benefit from sales of their special plates.
Man knows not his time
But now the days are short,
I'm in the autumn of my years.
And now I think of my life as vintage wine from fine old kegs.
From the brim to the dregs, it poured sweet and clear,
It was a very good year. The wine ran out for Frank Sinatra last week when he died of a heart attack at age 82. From his time crooning in Tommy Dorsey's orchestra through his years as a lounge singer and even into his 70s and 80s, Mr. Sinatra took songs that other people had written, such as "Fly Me to the Moon" and "Strangers in the Night," and styled them into his own. He also made a mark in Hollywood, starring in many films and winning an Oscar for his role in From Here to Eternity. Frank Sinatra's golden voice, strong and confident, was the voice of America, and parts of his life displayed changing American morals. He was married, with three children, when he engaged in adultery with actress Ava Gardner in 1948; divorce from his first wife was followed by more adultery, marriage to Ms. Gardner and others, and two subsequent divorces. But after much drinking and sexual prowling with members of his "Rat Pack," Mr. Sinatra eventually settled down with fourth wife Barbara Marx (widow of Harpo). Younger Sinatra fans do not tend to know much or care much about the singer's tumultuous personal life, and in a way that is appropriate. His mellow recordings are his legacy, and the words of "My Way" present a worldview. For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels;
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows-
And did it my way!