This Week

Issue: "DeLay: Cracking the whip," July 18, 1998

Frankly speaking

Where's the straight-talking Joycelyn Elders when you need her? Her replacement, Surgeon General David Satcher, went to the big AIDS confab in Geneva late last month and seemed to call for condom ads on TV. "As you know, we've had significant problems in our country with condom advertisements on television. In a country in which sex is happening everywhere-it shows up in movies, on TV. It's happening everywhere you can imagine. And yet, when it comes to addressing it frankly, we still have a long ways to go." He went on to criticize as "three major barriers" abstinence-only programs in schools, the condom ad problem, and the ban on federal funding of needle-exchanges. Liberals praised him. "surgeon general: in praise of honesty and condoms," said the Kaiser Family Foundation in its daily update. Yet when an AP story reporting the speech said Dr. Satcher called for televised condom commercials in the United States, a spin-controller from his office talked the AP into retracting the story. The wire service offered a legalistic 71-word correction that said Dr. Satcher "did not specifically advocate such commercials."

A small victory

Partial-birth abortions in Virginia are illegal-for now. A federal appeals court judge said the law should stay on the books while abortion industry lawyers and the commonwealth's attorney general prepare for an Aug. 18 federal court trial on the law's constitutionality. But the ruling marks the first time a federal appeals court has upheld a state law restricting partial-birth abortions. Judge J. Michael Luttig of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower-court ruling blocking the law pending trial. Pro-life efforts to ban the procedure in other states fared less well. 0In Nebraska, a federal judge called that state's ban unconstitutionally vague. 0In Florida, the state supreme court rejected a technical argument about the manner in which legislators overrode Gov. Lawton Chiles's veto of a bill to ban partial-birth abortions. The ruling would have allowed the law to take effect, but a separate federal court has blocked it. 0In Montana, a district judge discovered the right to abortion in the state's constitution and struck down a new law banning the partial-birth procedure. Judge Jeffrey Sherlock even cited federal court rulings as authority for his decision: "The legislature apparently accidentally forgot that these provisions have been enjoined by federal courts."

World in brief

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Foul play?
For the second time in a month, Nigerians were shocked by the death of one of the country's leaders. Its most prominent political prisoner, Moshood K.O. Abiola, died of apparent heart failure on July 7, less than a day before his scheduled release. He died less than a month after military ruler Sani Achaba died-also of a heart attack. Gen. Achaba imprisoned Mr. Abiola in 1994 and charged him with treason, after he appeared to have won Nigeria's last democratic election. Mr. Abiola was meeting with U.S. diplomats when he fell ill. Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering, on a mission to revive democracy in Nigeria that included discussions with Mr. Abiola, accompanied Mr. Abiola to the hospital and watched as doctors tried to revive him. Mr. Pickering said he did not suspect foul play in the death, but that brutal imprisonment had contributed to Mr. Abiola's poor health. Nigeria's new military leader, Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar, agreed to an independent autopsy of Mr. Abiola, which will be conducted by an international team that includes two U.S. physicians. That did not quell rioting in Nigeria's capital, Lagos, which resulted in the deaths of 19 people in the two days following Mr. Abiola's death. Ulster marches
Garvaghy Road became the focal point of renewed Northern Ireland skirmishes. The Catholic neighborhood of Portadown, just west of Belfast, is part of a route historically favored by the Protestant Orange Order for its annual Orange Day marches, a summer-long celebration of the 1690 victory of Protestant William of Orange over his Catholic father-in-law, King James II. More than 800 additional British soldiers were called up to police Portadown after authorities told the Orangemen they must march elsewhere to avoid Protestant/Catholic clashes. Protestant/police clashes ensued. Gangs of Protestants threw blazing gasoline bombs at police officers and vandalized Catholic schools. Colombian release
Colombia's second-largest rebel group released 15 women it had held hostage for three weeks. The women were part of a "good Samaritan" group connected to the Colombian army that delivers food and medicine to remote villages. The guerrilla group ELN accused the women of espionage but released them after a civilian commission headed by Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta negotiated with the rebels for their release.

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