The 'N' word
The word is out. President Clinton has carefully tried to avoid drawing parallels between his administration's misdeeds and those that brought down the Nixon White House. Too late for that anymore. Last week, Judge Norma Holloway Johnson released the details of her 34-page ruling-issued May 4-that denied President Clinton's executive privilege claim to prevent two top aides from testifying in Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's probe. "[Judge] Johnson's opinion is absolutely consistent with Nixon," law professor Kathleen Clark told The Washington Post. The judge relied heavily on the precedents set in the Nixon vs. U.S. rulings, holding that the president does have the right to executive privilege, but that Mr. Starr's need to gather evidence trumped it in Mr. Clinton's case.
The politics of brinkmanship
Last week, President Clinton's connections to Chinese financiers and high-tech U.S. firms wielding cachet in Beijing moved from compromising the integrity of the Lincoln Bedroom to trading away national security. Americans, weary of the compound-complex sentences needed to make sense of White House ties to Chinese arms dealers, suddenly found the implications made plain in a May 28 nuclear explosion in western Pakistan (story, page 19). Both the Pakistani and Indian nuclear programs have been underwritten with nuclear materials and technology made in China. The promise of both countries to load long-range missiles with nuclear devices is a response to China's unchecked military build-up. "It is fair to say that India feels the fierce regional threat from the growing hegemonistic power of China, and we have helped China to become that," Tom Moore, deputy director of foreign policy and defense studies at the Heritage Foundation, told WORLD. Because of persistent allegations that U.S. firms provided missile technology to China, a Senate panel released portions of a classified CIA briefing last week on China's satellite launchers and its long-range nuclear missiles. The CIA told lawmakers that 13 of China's intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) are targeted at U.S. cities. The technology for launching and guiding those missiles, according to the CIA, is almost identical to commercial satellite technology Mr. Clinton approved for export to China earlier this year. In February, Loral Corp., a U.S.-based aerospace firm, received a waiver from the White House to provide China with sensitive technology to improve its missile guidance systems. Technology transfers to China with a potential military application are illegal, a restriction enacted after the 1989 crackdown in Tiananmen Square. Loral Corp. was given permission to go ahead with another satellite launch in China, even though the Justice Department was in the midst of a criminal investigation of the firm for unlawful technology transfer. It did not require a rocket scientist to wonder if a Friend of Bill figured into this equation. Loral Corp.'s CEO, Bernard L. Schwartz, was the largest individual donor to the Democratic Party during the 1996 election campaign cycle. He gave $632,000 to the party. Democratic Party officials are describing Mr. Schwartz as the "perfect donor"-someone who just wanted to attend the party but never asked to dance. His 70th birthday was celebrated at a White House dinner, and he was invited twice to sleep over in the Lincoln Bedroom but wasn't able to make it. A statement issued by Loral Corp. last week said the firm received "no political favors or benefits of any kind" in exchange for the campaign contributions. Nevertheless, Washington investigators are broadening their probes of Loral to include both the campaign finance and national-security questions. The Justice Department's campaign finance task force put the firm on its docket last week. House Speaker Newt Gingrich announced the formation of a select committee to investigate the technology transfers. The aerospace allegations don't stop with Loral. Johnny Chung, the Democratic fundraiser who pled guilty last March to illegal campaign contributions, has told federal investigators he received $300,000 from an executive in one of China's state-run aerospace firms. The money, he said, was to be used to make contributions to the Democratic Party. The executive, Liu Chao-Ying, is a military officer and the daughter of an influential retired army general. She accompanied Mr. Chung to a July 1996 fundraiser in Los Angeles, where she was photographed with President Clinton. Her firm, China Aerospace Corp., launches commercial satellites for firms in the United States and other countries, but officials said they had no evidence of a link between Ms. Liu and Loral Corp.
Dooby dooby don't
When California legalized medical marijuana last year, a cottage industry of around 30 pot clubs sprang up to supply "patients." The Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Club lets members select from 15 different grades of pot displayed in glass cases, ranging in price from $5 to $16 a gram. There are marijuana-laced brownies, banana muffins, and cereal treats for those who don't like to smoke. The Justice Department says selling marijuana is still illegal, referendum or not. The feds sued six clubs and won. U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer ordered six Northern California medical marijuana clubs to close their doors for violating laws against distributing drugs. He rejected arguments that the clubs should be entitled to furnish the drug because their customers, many of whom suffer from AIDS or cancer, cannot survive without marijuana to ease the pain and side effects of therapy. A "medical necessity" defense might be available in individual cases, but it can't be used by a club that distributes marijuana to a large number of patients with different diseases.
Another fishy complaint
Something's rotten in Republic, but it's not the fish. "I urge you to tell the ACLU to stay in Kansas City and leave us alone down here," one resident of the otherwise tranquil southwestern Missouri town said in a spirited city council meeting last month. Apparently, some uptown lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union are raising a stink on behalf of an unidentified citizen about the Republic, Missouri, town logo, which includes a Christian ichthus. Even some unbelievers in the town don't understand why the ACLU is on this anti-Christian fishing expedition. Springfield's KYTV, which covered the city council meeting and posted several stories about the controversy on its Web site, quoted a Jewish man in attendance: "There's no threat there. We feel that the ACLU may have overstepped their bounds a tad. But we know the spirit that they offered the suggestion was to protect the minority. Well, in Republic, we don't need that protection." Republic itself will need some protection now that the city council has voted 5-2 to defy the ACLU. Mayor Doug Boatright said, "We'll draft a real nice letter saying, 'Thank you for your concern but you're really not needed here today.'" Council members know that's easier said than done. City officials assume a legal battle will cost about $100,000, and some citizens are raising money to help fight the lawsuit they expect will be filed soon. The Kansas City-area ACLU has indicated its intention to sue. Heading the fundraising effort is Paula Howell, who said she's raised about $8,000 since mid-April, mainly through the sale of "Save Republic" T-shirts. Although that's not nearly enough, Ms. Howell, who manages an accounting office, said her group of about 10 volunteers can raise money if the case goes forward. She also said the American Center for Law and Justice has said it might help the city fight the case. Oddly, the woman who created the town logo had no idea what she was getting Republic into when her design was selected in 1990 as the winner of a design-the-town-logo contest. Marilyn Schexsnayder told KYTV her logo simply means to communicate four ideas: the city's location, charity, family, and religion; she told a reporter she didn't even realize the ichthus was a symbol of Christianity. But she must know the Republic logo is a symbol-of the secularist struggle to wipe out all expressions of religion in the public square.
If the millennium bug isn't scary enough, one of the high-tech analysts at the Gartner Groups predicts disaster when the Dow Jones Industrial Average hits 10,000 points. The Dow bug, also known as D10K, could strike because old Wall Street computer systems might read a 10,000 Dow as 1,000 or 0000. This would cause them to think the stock market had cratered and start selling shares. Other might think the financial world was in a panic and stop trading. Most of the financial world is blowing off this report. After all, some say, Tokyo's Nikkei Stock Average is over 10,000 and the Standard & Poor's 500 stock average shot over the 1,000 mark without incident. Naturally, where there are computer problems, an army of experts will fix the problem for a fat fee. ADPAC, a company that sells D10K conversion software, says the cost for an average company might be about $2 million. So what happens when major technology blows out? May's pager breakdown may give some clues. PanAmSat's $250 million Galaxy IV spun out of control after an onboard computer control system failed. The malfunction knocked out service to about 45 million pagers across North America. So PanAmSat shifted service to other satellites. Humanity survived. The company plans to launch a replacement at the end of next year. What's the lesson from all this? As everyday life gets more wired with technology, more things can go wrong. "We assume that technology will be there to serve us," said Roger Horowitz, associate director of the Center for Business, Technology & Society. "When it's removed, all those assumptions have to stop working."
World in brief
Protestants and Catholics together?
After a peace plan for Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland won 71 percent of the vote two weeks ago, a much bigger hurdle remained. Voters on June 25 in Northern Ireland will elect 108 members to a new assembly charged with pursuing common policymaking with the Irish government. As if to underline potential troubles ahead, a bomb exploded at a Belfast rail station last week, but no one was injured. IMF: Infusion of Money Fast
Now that President Suharto is out, Indonesian government officials sought last week to revive an International Monetary Fund plan to rebuild the struggling economy. Recent violence derailed a $43 billion IMF package. The country's currency and stock market have crashed because of Asia's financial meltdown. In return for the IMF help, Indonesia has pledged to liberalize its economy by dismantling monopolies and cartels, some of which were operated by Mr. Suharto's family. In Russia, government officials are hoping IMF money will solve their problems. The Russian stock market tumbled again last week as foreign investors continued to abandon the economically troubled country. The market has tumbled more than 40 percent this year after being the world's top performer for the past two years. Russian Finance Ministry officials predicted the IMF would agree to disburse the latest $700 million installment on a $10 billion loan. Rigged game
Drawing the highest voter turnout for a Hong Kong election, pro-democracy parties did the best they could. Although the Democratic Party and its allies won most of the seats chosen by direct, popular vote, they remain a relatively powerless minority under rules established by Beijing after the former British colony was handed over to Chinese rule. The remaining seats were filled by an 800-member election committee and by members of specific professions elected by a small percentage of the population. Throw the bums out
Hungarians repudiated their Socialist-led government two weekends ago, voting overwhelmingly in favor of the opposition and opening the way for a center-right coalition to rule the country. Voters gave the Young Democrats-Civic Party, the premier center-right party, 149 seats of the 386-member parliament. The Socialist Party, made up of former communists, was second with 133 seats. Easing up on Saddam?
Over the next two weeks, U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf will draw down to about 20,000, about the same number there prior to the crisis over Iraqi weapons inspections. The move cuts the 37,000 troops there now by transferring out of the region an aircraft carrier battle group, dozens of warplanes, and thousands of Army soldiers.
Who raises the kids?
Following the tragic shooting at Thurston High School in Springfield, Ore., allegedly by 15-year-old Kip Kinkel, newspapers across the country trotted out the usual gun-control editorials. The New York Times, the Buffalo News, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Chicago Tribune-all of them and more beat the drums for more gun control. More typical, though, in the second-day news coverage was the emphasis on "programs"-usually those that leave God out of the discussion-or the lack of them. "School Officials Didn't Order Boy Into Counseling Because of Cuts," read a Boston Globe headline. Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber was quoted in several papers around the country calling for a new state "violence prevention program" for $30 million. But at least one politician in Washington refused to jump on the program bandwagon. The colorful James Traficant (D-Ohio) laid it on the line in a speech on the House floor: "Another tragedy in our schools: more expert analysis. "One group said America should heed the advice of the First Lady when she said it takes a community to raise a child. I do not mean to be disrespectful, but I disagree. "Communities do not raise a child; PTAs do not raise a child; schools do not raise a child; day care centers and summer camps do not raise a child. My colleagues, the awesome responsibility of raising a child is still the parents'. Parents raise our children. "Maybe if America got back to basics and placed more emphasis on parents instead of communities, our kids would be much better off. If the community wants to help, they might allow God back into our schools. Parents, with the help of God, will be much more effective raising our kids."
Dueling foreign policy
srael was flooded with junketeering American politicians last week. Spending their Memorial Day recess in Israel: the chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee and seven congressmen; Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and four Democratic colleagues; seven members of Congress who were the guests of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC); and a 20-member official congressional delegation led by minority leader Dick Gephardt and House Speaker Newt Gingrich. It was hardly a vacation for Mr. Gingrich, who had revved up an AIPAC rally in the capitol just days before heading to the Jewish state, calling Secretary of State Madeleine Albright "out of touch with reality" over the West Bank and pledging to visit the site of the future American embassy building in Jerusalem. "The time is come to break the ground, build the building," Mr. Gingrich declared. Placement of the American embassy-currently in Tel Aviv-is controversial with Palestinians because they also lay claim to Jerusalem. Congress has authorized building the new embassy by May 31, 1999. Accepting the Clinton administration argument that a visit to the site might touch off riots, the Speaker backed down and instead took a drive past the building site without stopping. But in a speech to the Knesset, he blistered the administration for trying to impose a peace settlement on the Israeli government. And he again pressed the capital city hot button: "We in Congress ... stand with you today in recognizing Jerusalem as the united and eternal capital of Israel." Administration spokesmen did not comment directly on the Gingrich speech, but instead dragged out and denounced a Gingrich statement from last month in which the Speaker said, "It's wrong for the American secretary of state to become the agent for the Palestinians." Denunciations came from spokesmen for both the State Department ("stunning comments") and White House ("offensive and highly offensive"). The Palestinians were more conciliatory. Mr. Gingrich and other members of the congressional delegation who met with Palestinian leaders in the West Bank were "very positive and willing to listen," said planning minister Nabil Shaath. The Speaker said his meeting with Yasser Arafat was "very honest, very straight ... but also very positive."
The maybe scenario
President Clinton discussed the millennium bug at a Rose Garden press briefing last week, but he didn't say much. "This is a very complicated problem," he said in response to a reporter's question. Mr. Clinton said the problem was discussed at length at the recent G-8 conference and that "we're working very hard" to make sure computers still work at the end of next year. He also said the private sector should do everything possible to make sure the turn of the century is "a happy event and not a cyberspace headache." Meanwhile, Wells Fargo Bank released a study with the latest scary numbers about how American business is unprepared for the millennium: 5 million small businesses are at risk. Three-fourths of business owners familiar with the problem have done nothing and half plan to do nothing until after 1999. "Most small businesses regard Y2K as little more than a blip, a minor glitch with modest or no consequences for their operations," said study author William Dennis, a senior research fellow at the National Federation of Independent Businesses Education Foundation. To get ready, managers must not just check computers, but also such areas as phone systems, elevators, and cash registers. The study says that one-third of America's small businesses are in trouble because of bugs in microchips embedded in other equipment. Little is known about what will happen come January 1, 2000. Some computers and chips will cough up bad data and cause trouble. The number of systems affected and the way they will respond is unknown. Speculation runs rampant from scenarios of mild annoyance to a recession to a techno-doomsday caused by neverending power outages. The fear of the unknown is causing some to complain of a new generation of war profiteers, computer experts paid enormous fees to repair software, riding alongside a hysterical fear of impending doom. "It's really bizarre and it's getting worse," says skeptical software consultant Nicholas Zvegintzov. "I don't see any actual facts rolling around. Just ... mights."
Nation in brief
The Supreme Court
The Fox Television Network may be assured of more gripping footage of police pursuit, now that the Supreme Court has ruled police departments generally won't have to worry about lawsuits over deadly high-speed chases. Last week, the justices ruled police can be sued only in the most extreme cases: only when they injure or kill someone during the chase, and when their actions would "shock the conscience." The ruling reverses a federal appeals court decision. Also last week, the justices resolved a border dispute: It's Ellis Island, N.J. Most of the island-the historic gateway for millions of immigrants-is part of New Jersey, the high court ruled 6-3 in resolving a border dispute between the Garden State and the Empire State. For New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani the decision was a blow to the Big Apple's civic pride. "You're still not going to convince me that my grandfather, when he was sitting in Italy thinking of coming to the United States ... [was] saying to himself, 'I'm coming to New Jersey.' He knew where he was coming, he was coming to the streets of New York." What's it worth?
A new survey shows Americans think college is more expensive than it really is. The study, conducted for the American Council on Education, found that although Americans believed the in-state tuition for a four-year public college to be $9,694, data from The College Board show the real amount is $3,111.