This Week

Issue: "China’s one-child policy," June 27, 1998

Polishing the Apple

New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has won a three-year court battle with the sex industry. As a result, 150 of the city's 177 adult businesses may be headed for the far outskirts of the Big Apple. A federal appeals court ruled recently in favor of a zoning ordinance that boots out sex shops within 500 feet of each other or of homes, schools, or houses of worship. That makes most of New York City off-limits. This will not only finish off the old Times Square sleaze district-once America's most notorious red-light neighborhood. Sex shops in Queens and Brooklyn that had moved out of Manhattan to escape the city's previous clean-up efforts will be in trouble, too. Sanity hasn't prevailed entirely, as stores stocked with "only" 40 percent porn will stay in business. But the neon-ugly signage and in-your-face sleaze is doomed. Many jaded New Yorkers are nostalgic for the old days. Naturally, the smut merchants hope to tie this plan up in endless litigation. They've got the New York Civil Liberties Union on their side, calling for freedom of expression, but Mr. Giuliani has bipartisan support in one of America's most liberal cities. Why? Because New York's city fathers like the idea of a metropolis with less crime and blight and more tourists and investments from the likes of Time Warner and Disney. Just as Las Vegas is bulldozing its memories of old-style mobsters, New York is tearing down adult theaters to make the city more friendly to families and overseas tourists. In this new NYC, the old had to go.

Into the sunset

July 4, 2002, could see more than just the usual fireworks. Thanks to a 219-209 vote in the House of Representatives last week, that day may mark the deadline for voting on a brand-new tax code. If the House legislation becomes law, by Jan. 31 of that year, the current, impossibly complicated code-all 555 million words of it-must be scrapped. President Clinton says he'll veto the measure if it passes the Senate, but Republicans believe they have a potent political issue. Taxpayers now spend billions annually completing their tax forms, yet still pay $200 billion to accountants to make sure they comply with the complex laws. The 2002 "sunset law" may make the current code obsolete in a few years, but it specifies no replacement. GOP leaders are split over alternatives, with some favoring a flat tax and others a national sales tax. If a deadline looms, however, they say an end to the wrangling could in sight.

Dr. Hug

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It's tempting to dismiss Leo Buscaglia, who died June 12 at age 74, as a quirky pop-psychologist who did little more than earn the nickname "Dr. Hug." How seriously can one take the author of such lines as, "We're beautiful. We're the most beautiful creatures on earth. Being human is good"? But Dr. Buscaglia made a larger contribution: He made postmodernism popular. "Dichotomies: good, bad, right, wrong-nonsense!-normal, abnormal-no such thing but gradations and possibilities and creativity," he wrote. "What is normal? What is right? What is wrong? As long as you are free, you are free to select and choose alternatives...." At the time of his death, Dr. Buscaglia had sold 11 million books in 19 languages. The American Booksellers Association credits him with virtually creating the self-help book market with his 1972 work Love, which never went out of print.

Sacrificial lamb?

A sixth-grade bilingual education teacher in New York was fired last week after a discussion about the death of a fellow student ended in prayer. The teacher, Mildred Rosario, told her 29 students they should leave the room if they didn't want to take part in the conversation. None left, but one later complained about the prayer. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani defended the firing, but House Majority Leader Dick Armey called it a clear sign that "the anti-religion animus has gone too far in America" when students cannot turn to a teacher for spiritual consolation.

We are family

Even by modern standards, it was a weird week for the American family. On June 12, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon blessed the vows of 1,500 couples in a mass ceremony at Madison Square Garden. Mr. Moon turned total strangers into couples based on photographs. "It's a very spiritual process," said his spokesman. "The Rev. Moon is good at reading a person's character from the shape of their face." In Minnesota, meanwhile, several dozen women showed up at a "bridal mixer" for David Weinlick, a 28-year-old anthropology student. After interviewing the women, Mr. Weinlick's friends chose Elizabeth Runze to be his bride. With 2,000 shoppers watching, the two strangers were married just hours later in a ceremony held at the massive Mall of America. "She's very committed to the idea and so is he. They'll probably be married 67 years," said the bride's proud mother, who, like the groom's mother, is herself divorced. Not to be outdone in the shameless publicity department, a 40-year-old woman identified only as Elizabeth gave birth last week to a 7-pound, 8-ounce baby boy-while 10,000 people watched live on the World Wide Web. One glimmer of hope for traditional families: A recent survey by the Whirlpool Foundation revealed that 50 percent of teen girls plan to stay at home and raise their children, while 60 percent of boys want to marry a woman who will do just that. The results were surprising, given that 70 percent of today's teenagers have parents who both work outside the home.

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