Vouching for choice
The school choice movement won its biggest legal battle ever when Wisconsin's Supreme Court voted 4-2 last week to allow up to 15,000 low-income children to attend private religious schools with the help of state vouchers. People for the American Way announced immediately that it plans to appeal the ruling on the grounds that it violates the separation of church and state. But Justice Donald Steinmetz addressed that issue in his ruling, saying that a student would qualify for a voucher "not because he or she is a Catholic, a Jew, a Muslim, or an atheist; it is because he or she is from a poor family and is a student in the embattled Milwaukee Public Schools." Gov. Tommy Thompson, an advocate of vouchers, also discounted the criticism. "Religious values aren't our problem," he said. "Low test scores are."
Pro-lifers get Barry's Boot
Most media pundits used the occasion of Barry Goldwater's death to make a point about the state of the modern Republican party. The swaggering cowboy Goldwater shook his fist at establishment GOP liberals in 1964, and the fist-shaking continued into the '80s and '90s, directed at mainstream Republicans of a different stripe-religious conservatives and pro-lifers. Modern country-club Goldwaterites savored victory last week as they gave Barry's Boot to pro-life Republicans in primary contests from sea to shining sea. "Moderate" Republicans outpolled pro-lifers in two key California races: In Sacramento, pro-lifer Barbara Alby had the backing of Gary Bauer's PAC but lost to millionaire businessman Doug Ose, a pro-abortion candidate who pumped $1 million of his own money into the contest; and in Los Angeles, pro-abortion state assemblyman Steve Kuykendall won the nod to face a Democrat incumbent. In New Jersey, pro-abortion Republican congresswoman Marge Roukema barely staved off a pro-life challenge, winning last week by just 1,500 votes. The nine-term incumbent prevailed in what the Bergen (N.J.) County Record called "the most aggressive primary challenge she has faced since her election to Congress in 1980" from pro-lifer Scott Garrett. Money made the difference. In the last two weeks of the campaign, Ms. Roukema received three times the amount of money her opponent took in: $26,500 vs. $8,130. Eleventh-hour contributions from the Republican pro-abortion PAC Wish List and from Speaker Newt Gingrich's Monday Morning PAC helped eke out the victory. Said Gingrich spokesman Mike Shields: "Newt enjoys working with her and would miss her thoughtful ideas if she were gone."
What's the value of a strong marriage? According to the Florida legislature, it's $32.50. That's the discount on a marriage license for couples who agree to take a family-skills class before tying the knot. The four-hour course will cover such skills as listening, talking, and disagreeing constructively. Couples who refuse the class not only pay the full price of $88.50, but also must wait three days before getting hitched. The pro-marriage legislation was developed and pushed by the Christian Coalition, which also lobbied successfully to add a section on marriage skills to existing "life management" classes in public high schools. And if all that education doesn't work? The cost of a divorce in Florida will increase by $32.50 as well, saving happily married couples a total of $65.00. An unhappy marriage can cost much more than that, of course. A private investigator in New York is suing Ivana Trump for $400,000-money he claims she owes him for investigating her husband's affair with Marla Maples, whom Mr. Trump has since divorced. Attorneys promise plenty of lurid details about the couple's marital woes if the case goes to trial this summer.
Nothing Mickey Mouse about it
It was Gay Day at the Disney theme park in Orlando, Fla., last week, and many of the associated events advertised on the gayday.com Web site are unprintable. In the midst of all the site's Romans 1-style vile passions was a greeting from the president of the United States, commending the Gay Day faithful for helping Americans rise above "the voices of hatred and prejudice [that] drown out the harmony in our national life," the voices of those who view homosexual conduct as unbiblical-such as the leadership of Mr. Clinton's own Southern Baptist denomination. Or, perhaps, the Salvation Army, which last week elected to forgo $3.5 million in city contracts to provide services to the poor in San Francisco, rather than abide by the city's domestic partnership law. The law requires organizations doing business with the city to provide benefits to the live-in lovers of employees. "You can't put a price tag on discrimination," city supervisor Leslie Katz told the San Francisco Examiner. And you can't put a price tag on theological commitments, countered Salvation Army spokesman Richard Love: "The ordinance does conflict with our basic theological position." The move ends 11 months of negotiation in which city officials tried to persuade the Army to make the same compromise that kept government homeless money flowing to the local Roman Catholic archdiocese-namely, that the church would provide domestic-partner benefits, but they wouldn't be called domestic-partner benefits; the term "spousal equivalent" was substituted.
Party like it's 1999
If America's computers aren't fixed soon, there won't be any big parties on Millennium Eve. Instead, National Guardsmen will be patrolling the streets to hold back social chaos. That's the word from Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah), the Senate's point man on the Year 2000 problem. It won't be doomsday, but things could get freaky. He compared the potential for social breakdown to that of the New York City blackout in 1965 and the riots that followed Martin Luther King's assassination. "I remember driving to work in that area and seeing a GI in full-battle dress at every intersection in downtown D.C.," he told a committee. Nobody knows all that will happen when computer software that recognizes only two-digit dates can't understand the Year 2000. When questioned by Sen. Bennett, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said the problem is unusual and unexpected. "We all 20, 30 years ago assumed that no one in their right minds would keep those old programs in place by the Year 2000," he said. Today both the government and private sector are spending billions to find and reprogram that software. Only about a third of the federal government's 8,000 critical systems have been fixed. And that's counting only the problems discovered so far. The Department of Defense admits all its systems won't be ready in 18 months, and Health and Human Services was forced to quickly shuffle $40.5 million from various programs in order to rescue Medicare from bug bites. Nobody knows how corporate America is doing. "Very few public companies had made any disclosure about the Year 2000 in their securities filings," says Bennett. So he's introducing a bill aptly acronymed CRASH (the Computer Remediation and Shareholder Protection Act) to force publicly traded companies to come clean about computer repairs. Even House Speaker Newt Gingrich says America is losing the race against time. He said the bug could cause "the largest wreck in history on the first of January, 2000" and ruin Al Gore's political future. "I think it's a big problem, not a small problem," he says.
Learning to live
The end of the Cold War was supposed to usher in an era free from fear. No longer would students cower under their desks to hide from a nuclear attack. True, up to a point. Nowadays, if students are under their desks, they're probably worried about maniacs, not missiles. Prompted by a rash of shootings, schools around the country are instituting "bullet drills," showing students how to drop, take cover, and face away from any windows. In Maryland, for instance, the Emergency Management Institute recently shifted its focus from earthquake preparedness to school violence-and began selling out classes for the first time. Meanwhile, in tiny Wilmot, N.H., teachers and staff members spent two days last week learning what to do in case of a shooter. Starting in the fall, "stop and drop" will be taught alongside addition and subtraction.
Balking at war
NATO defense ministers met to design joint military exercises in Albania and Macedonia aimed at averting another Balkan war. The officials, including defense secretary William Cohen, said plans might include air strikes and the imposition of a no-fly zone to warn the Serb-led Yugoslav army and Albanian separatists against further violence in Kosovo. Implementation could begin this week. Options under consideration include dispatching up to 20,000 troops to Albania and Macedonia to reinforce the existing 750-man UN force in Macedonia. The troops would assist in stemming a growing tide of refugees fleeing Serb-led violence against ethnic Albanians. Mr. Cohen said NATO allies felt "an increased sense of urgency" because the crisis could spread to neighboring countries, including Greece, Turkey, and Russia.
No tears for Tiananmen
President Clinton has defied a congressional resolution and the exhortations of both human-rights groups and Chinese dissidents by promising to participate in a welcoming ceremony in Tiananmen Square. Mr. Clinton will be the first American president to go to China since the 1989 massacre of student demonstrators in Beijing's central plaza. Although Chinese protocol dictates that he be officially welcomed in the square, U.S. opponents of the regime asked him to forgo that portion of the state visit to show support for the democracy advocates, many of whom are still jailed. American journalists who witnessed the Tiananmen massacre wept as Chinese tanks rolled over student demonstrators and troops fired on buses filled with teenagers. But the president will leave his tears at home. Spokesman Mike McCurry dismissed the bipartisan challenges to the president's schedule in China as "political chatter." In waving away reports that more dissidents are being rounded up to prevent demonstrations during Mr. Clinton's trip, which begins June 25, Mr. McCurry said Chinese authorities sometimes "become more intense in and around visits of high-ranking U.S. officials." He also attributed fresh evidence of forced abortions to "poor supervision of local officials who are sometimes under very intense pressure to meet family-planning targets." In playing down the advice of lawmakers, human-rights groups, and recently exiled dissidents, Mr. McCurry actually added fuel to the fire: "It'd be as if someone visiting here said, 'Well, we really don't want to be greeted on the South Lawn of the White House,' even though that's where people are greeted when they arrive for a state visit." Family Research Council president Gary Bauer was enraged by the analogy. "I wonder if Mr. McCurry can tell us how many American citizens have been gunned down or run over by tanks on the South Lawn," he snapped.
Devil made him do it?
Jurors in Hattiesburg, Miss., last week heard testimony about the "horror movie" that played out in real life last October in a nearby high school. Adam Scott, a 10th-grader at Pearl High School described what he saw: "We were standing there in the commons and heard a loud boom and everything got real quiet. I saw [accused shooter Luke Woodham] walk up to the first girl and pull out a gun and shoot her. Everything got real quiet and started moving in slow motion. I saw him walk over and shoot the second girl and everyone started running." Two weeks ago, the boy was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his mother earlier in the morning of the school attack. Lawyers for Mr. Woodham, 17, don't dispute the basic facts about the shootings that left two students dead and seven wounded. They plan to argue their client was insane at the time of the shooting rampage, under the control of the teenage leader of a satanic cult when he committed the killings. Cult expert Gretchen Passantino doubts that testimony about Luke Woodham's cult involvement is simply a made-for-trial legal excuse, but neither does she think that an untrained teenager could exert such mind control. "I don't want to give the devil too much credit," she told WORLD. "The proliferation of more violent and less controlled behavior on the part of younger perpetrators says more about the decline of our culture and our social expectations than it does about Satan's power."
World in brief
American missionaries were forced to flee western Uganda once again after rebels attacked a nearby technical school, killing 80 students and abducting 60 more. The World Harvest team based near Bundibugyo evacuated June 11 to the capital city after fighting in the region escalated. About 150 rebels from the Allied Democratic Forces, seeking to overthrow President Yoweri Museveni, attacked Kicwamba Technical College, locked students in dormitories, and then set the buildings ablaze. The rebels were apparently angered by student refusals to join their cause. Similar attacks caused evacuations just a year ago. Muslim vows
Russia's biggest-selling newspaper, Pravda, notes that handguns, machine guns, and grenade launchers are openly on sale at the central market in the capital city of Grozny-but not pork or liquor, to which the Muslim religious police object. Authorities also are cracking down on drugs and sex, the paper says, so that owners of "love houses" sometimes hire a mullah to sit at the entrance, where he pronounces every entering couple "man and wife" so as not to violate the Shariat law. Death of a dictator
Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha, who aroused worldwide dismay at his ruthless suppression of political dissent, died June 8 of a heart attack. Despite international calls for a return to democratic rule, Nigeria's top military brass moved quickly to install one of their own as his successor.
Nation in brief
B&W: Black and White
Family members who lived with Roland Maddox endured 50 years of his second-hand smoke; now, as his survivors, they're entitled to his second-hand damages award, a Florida jury ruled last week. The million-dollar decision against Brown & Williamson is the biggest liability verdict ever against a tobacco company. The family sued upon Mr. Maddox's death last year, claiming B&W was negligent, made a defective product, and conspired with other tobacco companies to hide the health risks of smoking. In Washington, lawmakers inched closer to passing legislation giving them a more generous cut of big tobacco's balance sheet. They're seeking $516 billion over 25 years, raised through a new $1.10-per-pack tax on smokers. (If the late Mr. Maddox, for example, were a pack-a-day man, such a price increase would have cost him an additional $20,000 over his smoking life.) In an effort to sweeten the tax hike, Senate Democrats and the White House backed an amendment to the tobacco tax-and-regulation bill that would cut taxes for some Americans. The tax provision that passed last week was designed to lessen the impact of the "marriage penalty" for couples earning less than $50,000 a year. Plus, it would allow self-employed people to deduct the cost of health insurance from their income taxes. A racist slaying?
Texas prosecutors said they may seek the death penalty against three white men-Lawrence Russell Brewer, 31, and Shawn Allen Berry and John William King, both 23-suspected in the grisly murder of a black man. Two of the three sported Aryan Brotherhood tattoos. The mangled torso of the black man, James Byrd Jr., was found last weekend on a bumpy, winding country road. The three suspects allegedly dragged Mr. Byrd behind their vehicle until he died. Need to know
A new survey shows the number of Americans reading news on the World Wide Web is growing at an astonishing rate, with one in five people using the international network at least once a week to satisfy their need for news. Most people, however, said they use the Internet to supplement, not replace, their traditional sources of news. Just two years ago, only 6 percent went online for news.
The theory of humor
A $107,000 federal grant for a college professor to study flatulence humor and anti-Jewish jokes is "no laughing matter," says the Libertarian Party. "The joke is on taxpayers-and we don't think it is funny," said Steve Dasbach, the party's national chairman. The $107,000 grant was awarded to Robert S. Wyer, a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, by the National Science Foundation. His research project: to learn why people are angered or amused by tasteless humor and dirty jokes. In his study, Mr. Wyer pays college students to read jokes with ethnic or sexual themes to other students, and then record their reactions.
Pregnant question: Who pays?
It's 10 o'clock. Do you know where your children are? More important: Do you know whom your children are sleeping with? And if you do, do you have a responsibility to stop them? That's the question a jury in Lincoln, Neb., will be asked to answer this fall when a first-of-its-kind lawsuit goes to trial. The parents of a 16-year-old girl made pregnant by a boy she dated for four months are suing the boy's mother, alleging the woman knew the teenagers were having sex but did nothing to stop it. Judge Jeffre Cheuvront ruled there was evidence the two kids had numerous sexual encounters in both the girl's home and the boy's. The judge held May 27 that the boy did nothing wrong-determining the sex was consensual-and dropped him from the suit. But Judge Cheuvront found that although there was no "crime," there was enough evidence to suggest the girl may have suffered harm: "Certainly it is foreseeable that harm can result to a person of tender years who finds herself pregnant." But the key issue for the jury to decide, the judge said, is "whether [the boy's mother] had a duty to act." The girl's parents want to be reimbursed $11, 371 in costs associated with their daughter's abortion, additional related medical attention, psychological counseling, and other unspecified damages. The parents' lawyer said that if the family had not had the girl's baby killed, they would still be in court. "If this had gone full term, we wouldn't have this lawsuit-we would be having a child-support lawsuit," lawyer Kirk Wolgamott told the Lincoln Journal Star. Nevertheless, pro-abortion legal advocates are much concerned about the precedent the case might set. "In my view, teenagers do have some constitutional rights to engage in sexual activity," said Simon Heller, a lawyer with the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy in New York. Mr. Heller also noted the case might lead parents to watch their kids more closely. Might be bad for business.
Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.) proved last week that a conservative Republican could appeal to black voters without losing his base. By a 3-1 margin, Mr. Inglis beat back a primary challenge from Stephen Brown, a former party chairman who accused the congressman of betraying the GOP by abandoning the so-called Southern Strategy of racial polarization (WORLD, April 25). Mr. Inglis will carry the Republican banner in November against Sen. Ernest Hollings. Despite (or perhaps because of) his 30-year tenure in the Senate and more than $500,000 in advertising to date, Mr. Hollings finds himself in a statistical dead heat with Mr. Inglis. Experts predict even a small defection among black voters will result in a GOP pickup. Now that's a Southern Strategy.
New World Order in the court
Score one for the New World Order. A U.S. Army court rejected Michael New's appeal of his court martial for refusing to wear the United Nations' blue beret. Mr. New wants an honorable discharge because the order violated his oath of office. "I believe those soldiers, like myself, signed up to be American military and did not agree to be in the foreign military under foreign commanders," says the discharged medical specialist. Back in 1995, Mr. New, who served in Kuwait after the Gulf War, was scheduled to join a UN peacekeeping force in Macedonia (part of the war zone formerly known as Yugoslavia). He told officers he would not wear UN blue unless the Constitution required him to do so. "I am an American soldier," Mr. New told his Finnish commander, "not a minion of the UN." He was convicted in 20 minutes by a court-martial jury a year later and sentenced to a bad-conduct discharge. His appeal to the Supreme Court was turned away without comment. This time, a three-judge panel said the president has the authority to deploy troops, even without consulting Congress. "Our military would grind to a screeching halt if soldiers didn't follow orders," said Associate Judge Col. Frank Ecker of the Army Court of Criminal Appeals. "What is it that permits him to violate that order? What is his justification?" Earlier, two lower civil courts ruled they could not hear his case because his military trial process was still underway. Mr. New persisted, and now he plans more appeals. "The UN is just like a foreign government, but without a land mass," he says.