Fighting and burning of Albanian villages in Kosovo continued, despite pleas for peace talks from Western leaders. The depopulation of large areas prompted renewed charges of ethnic cleansing on the part of Serb forces. One Bosnian Serb about to be charged with genocide died before facing his day in court. Milan Kovacevic, a hospital director and anesthesiologist from Prejidor, apparently had a heart attack in his Dutch jail cell. An indictment charged Mr. Kovacevic with playing a key role in forcibly relocating and killing large numbers of Muslim and Croatian civilians in Bosnia. International law experts said the case was significant because the judges were expected to set new definitions for the crime of genocide. Now the case will be dropped. Another Serb, the former mayor of Vukovar, Croatia, Slavko Kokmanovic, hanged himself in his cell in June just as the tribunal was set to begin deliberations against him for war crimes.
21 guns for Fidel
Cuban leader Fidel Castro received a 21-gun salute and cheers from Grenada's citizens nearly 15 years after U.S. troops invaded the Caribbean island and expelled Mr. Castro's communist soldiers. Mr. Castro's landing at Point Salines Airport, the target of the U.S. invasion, went beyond ironic. He shook hands with local dignitaries while a steel-drum band played "Guantanamera." He unveiled a plaque commemorating the Cuban government's hand in creating the Point Salines Airport, even though U.S. foreign aid was used to complete the project. Construction of the airstrip, by a military unit sent to Grenada by Mr. Castro in 1980, prompted the U.S. invasion. Then-President Ronald Reagan viewed the project as an attempt by the Soviet Union and its Cuban protégés to establish a military foothold in the eastern Caribbean. In 1983, after Prime Minister Maurice Bishop was killed in a coup attempt led by a faction of his own party, the United States intervened militarily, in part to protect American medical students studying at a university near the airport, and to halt construction. In the invasion, 19 U.S. soldiers died, along with 45 Grenadians and scores of Cuban soldiers. Despite the warm welcome, the Cuban leader's visit provoked controversy. "Castro is a dog" graffiti popped up along the main road from the airport to the capital. Prominent dissidents editorialized against the visit. "Cuba cannot offer us anything we can use," said attorney and newspaper columnist Lloyd Noel.
World in brief
- Flooding on the Yangtze
Waters on the Yangtze River reached levels not seen since floods in 1954 killed more than 30,000 people. The floodwaters burst through one sodden levee Aug. 4, causing what a local Chinese newspaper called "huge loss of life and property." A report said 150 soldiers and up to 1,000 villagers were swept away in the collapse near Wuhan, but local officials in flood areas have barred foreign journalists from visiting the disaster areas, and state-controlled media have provided conflicting reports of casualties.
- Control in congo
Rebel fighters in the Democratic Republic of Congo reportedly took control of the eastern border towns of Goma and Bukavu. The government of Laurent Kabila, himself a rebel leader who ousted the former Zaire's long-time ruler, Mobutu Sese Seko, faces factional fighting from within and an erosion of support from neighbors. Government spokesman Didier Mumenge said Rwanda, which aided Kabila against Mobutu, has turned against him and is aiding rebels in the war-ravaged towns along the Congo-Rwanda border.
With you to the end
After an energizing and profitable weekend raising campaign cash from Hollywood glitterati in the Hamptons in New York, President Clinton thrilled Democratic lawmakers in a series of closed-door pep rallies on Capitol Hill last week. According to congressmen who attended, Hill Democrats last week put the Monica Lewinsky mess out of their minds and cheered, whistled, and hollered for the president, who hollered back: "I'm going to raise issues, raise money, and raise Cain to help elect Democrats." In separate sessions with the black and Hispanic caucuses, the president was not pushed to come clean about Miss Lewinsky. Bronx congressman José Serrano argued that opinion back home has not changed, despite all the revelations: "It's still the economy, stupid." Polls backed him up. A Pew Research Center survey found that seven in 10 think the president's denials are phony, but 57 percent said they would have an unfavorable opinion of members of Congress who supported impeachment hearings. The scandals were perhaps having an effect on both international and domestic policy. Iraq, sensing White House distraction, broke off talks with UN negotiators over weapons inspections. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) said the scandals were forcing Mr. Clinton to hug closely congressional liberals. "Whenever there's political controversy surrounding him he identifies with the left, his staunchest supporters," the son of the civil-rights leader told The Washington Post. The outward calm of the president was belied by off-the-record nervousness of aides behind the scenes. The New York Times reported, "Even some of the president's advisers have doubts about his truthfulness regarding Ms. Lewinsky." The paper also noted that White House aides pumped reporters for information about what they knew, if anything, about the results of the FBI lab's tests to determine whether the stain on Miss Lewinsky's dress contained presidential DNA. Sources last week said the tests were complete, but the results are a closely guarded secret. According to the Times, "One of Mr. Clinton's advisers said his team of political and legal aides was nervously awaiting the test results on Ms. Lewinsky's dress. If DNA testing links the dress to Mr. Clinton, this adviser said, White House thinking on his testimony may change." One thing won't change. As Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) put it in a heart-to-heart with the president during his visit to the Hill last week, "We will be with you to the end." That was supposed to be reassuring?
Fieger the flinger
"It's Fieger time!" exclaimed the world-famous lawyer for Jack Kevorkian on election night in Michigan. Geoffrey Fieger, the brassy millionaire litigator, won a tight primary contest to become the Democratic nominee to challenge Republican Gov. John Engler in November. Mr. Engler has been critical of Mr. Fieger's equally flamboyant client Mr. Kevorkian and has worked to pass laws banning doctor-assisted suicide. With more than 100 notches on his belt, Mr. Kevorkian has never been convicted-in part because of Mr. Fieger's zealous representation in court. Although it was as Mr. Kevorkian's sidekick that he won his fame, Mr. Fieger emphasized early in his candidacy that the suicide doctor would have no place in his administration. But that is as far as the brash challenger would back down in a wild campaign of attack, attack, attack. In heavily black Detroit, Mr. Fieger positioned himself as heir apparent to colorful ex-Detroit mayor Coleman Young. "We had a mayor of this city who would call an SOB an SOB. If that was good enough for Coleman Young, it's good enough for me. I'm telling you John Engler is an SOB." He went further to other audiences, calling the governor the "product of barnyard miscegenation between animals and humans." Mr. Fieger's Democrat primary opponent, Larry Owen, was the favorite of organized labor-but Mr. Fieger skillfully played the economic-envy card. A unionized bus driver, Jody Paschen, told The Detroit News: "Everybody wants Fieger, I guess because he's for getting the poor richer and the rich poorer." He's made good on it so far. The rich Mr. Fieger is at least $1 million poorer because he put that amount of his personal fortune into the primary campaign; he'll spend more in the general.
What will Reno do next?
In the White House press briefing room last week, the smooth Mike McCurry was missed. Congressional Republicans were painting Attorney General Janet Reno into a corner on her campaign-finance probe of the White House-using FBI Director Louis Freeh and Justice Department lead investigator Charles LaBella as the paint brushes. On the issue of whether to name yet another independent counsel to probe White House wrongdoing, deputy press secretary Barry Toiv reiterated that Ms. Reno would decide "based upon the facts and based upon the law." Mr. Toiv continued, "Obviously, there are others who will seek to apply pressure from one direction or another-" "Like the FBI director?" challenged a briefing-room reporter. Mr. Toiv was forced into a no-comment retreat. It's no secret Mr. Freeh favors an independent counsel. Nor, for that matter, is it a secret Mr. LaBella favors one also. What some Republicans in Congress demanded last week was a look at the detailed memoranda both men prepared for Ms. Reno outlining their specific legal reasons an independent counsel should be investigating the White House campaign-finance scandal. They also extracted a new admission from Mr. Freeh: The president and vice president are targets-which in and of itself should trigger the independent counsel law. The investigation involves "a core group of individuals who in my view are indisputably covered persons" under the law that governs Ms. Reno's decision, Mr. Freeh testified. "I couldn't think of a stronger argument for an independent counsel." Dan Burton (D-Ind.), chairman of the House committee exercising oversight of the Justice Department, asked whether those "covered persons" included the president and vice president. "Yes, sir," Mr. Freeh answered. But Mr. Freeh's answer was, "No, sir," when asked whether his pro-independent counsel memo should be turned over to Congress. His fear was that the memo contained sensitive information that could wind up helping the probe's targets evade prosecution. Ms. Reno sought permission to testify at last week's hearing. She was rebuffed, so she held a news conference to proclaim, "I may trigger the Independent Counsel Act. I may not. I don't know." Even as Congress took the stunning testimony last week, committee investigators released a new bombshell: more records showing checks from Indonesia made their way into Democratic Party coffers and may even have been cashed inside the White House. The committee disclosed the discovery of almost $200,000 in travelers checks from an Indonesian bank that were cashed or deposited in the United States by associates of Clinton friend Charlie Trie and Antonio Pan, both of whom are under indictment for illegal contributions to the Democratic National Committee. Mr. Burton's committee investigators discovered that $50,000 of the money made its way to the DNC. Mr. Pan is out of the country; Mr. Trie has pleaded not guilty.
Flying the buggy skies
Probably the biggest myth about the millennium bug is that planes will fall out of the sky on the first day of 2000. It won't happen, because if airlines don't think their flights can take off and land safely, they'll have delays and cancellations. Yet the air industry is a good case study of the 2000 problem, which affects computers whose programs only understand two-digit dates. Companies and governments must make upgrades and repairs in time to prevent malfunctions. In this case, everything from flight-deck computers to air traffic control systems must be checked and upgraded to make sure they work properly and safely. United Airlines issued an update this month on the progress of its Y2K efforts. The company says it started taking inventory way back in 1995, looking for date-dependent equipment. Then the company put together a Year 2000 Project Office last year to battle the bug. The airline found 40,000 computer programs that need checking-and 11,000 of these need fixing. This software affects a wide range of functions from payroll and accounting to the frequent flyer program to scheduling, reservations, and inventory. United is also scouring flight equipment-including communications, baggage systems, and avionics-to see what needs repair. "To date, United has completed about 70 percent of its Year 2000 work on its critical core computer systems," says the company's announcement. That means the airline, like many others, is using triage. It is concentrating on its most vital issues and waiting until later to handle the remainder. United says fixing computers will cost $15 million. The airline doesn't know how high the repair bill will be for other equipment because it doesn't know where all the bugs are yet. The company plans to start testing its computers by March 31, 1999, so it will have nine months to make sure all systems are go.
Closing the steakhouse
With time running out on Fiscal Year 1998 and the federal behemoth needing its 1999 feeding by Oct. 1, Congress and the White House are getting closer to a budget showdown similar to the one that led to partial government shutdowns in 1995. Eager to avoid blame-polls showed voter anger in 1995 was directed against the Republican congressional leadership-GOP leaders are sending signals they are preparing a temporary funding measure. Known as a continuing resolution, the stopgap legislation would keep government operating while Congress and the White House fight over the details of FY 1999 spending. Last week, the president indicated he wanted to fight the fight under the pressure of a government shutdown. He said he would oppose a continuing resolution that funds government operations at current FY 1998 levels, deriding such a plan as a "bare-bones budget." And he went to work defining the terms of the debate, issuing veto-threat after veto-threat. In Maryland to showcase his federal summer-jobs program last week, the president announced to rousing approval that he would veto a House bill cutting the $871 million youth summer-employment program next year-despite the booming private-sector job market. So great is the labor squeeze that Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan, in testimony to Congress, said he fears the tight job market is more likely to spark renewed inflation than is the Asian financial crisis. Is there a crying need for a government summer-jobs program? Some potential workers in poor neighborhoods may need transportation help but not specially created, often make-work jobs that rarely teach marketable work skills. "Today, because of the budget we passed last year, there are half a million young people just like you in summer-job programs," Mr. Clinton said in Maryland. "But if the House Republican budget passes, most of those children would not have a job next year." Not likely. The employee-is-king storyline can be found in newspapers nationwide: A Virginia Beach, Va., Dairy Queen owner complained to the Washington Times that this summer marks the "worst year I've ever had" in terms of finding summer help. The paper reported he's paying $1 per hour more than the minimum wage "out of desperation" to attract teenage workers to make sundaes and serve as cashiers. At Sullivan's Steakhouse in Anchorage, Alaska, managers were forced to put off the opening of a restaurant this month because of the labor shortage. The Anchorage Daily News noted that the restaurant had hired only 20 of the 75 to 80 staffers needed to open the steakhouse. But in Washington, where the main dish is pork, the "steakhouse" may have to close for a few weeks.
Jesus was a vegetarian?
As vegetarianism and animal rights move more mainstream by the day, the defenders are getting weirder. The media hogs at PETA-People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals-are on a protest tour this summer to over 70 cities. The target: the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. Protesters arrive holding up 6-foot-tall signs that say "Pigs Are Friends-Not Food." PETA's Bruce Friedrich says eating hot dogs helps cause heart disease, cancer, and stroke. "The Wienermobile is the meat industry's Joe Camel," the organizer says. When the group came to Birmingham, Ala., the ACLU filed a lawsuit when the city repeatedly turned down PETA's permit requests. At this event, PETA cooked up a choir of vegetarian children singing its own version of the classic jingle: "I'm glad I'm not an Oscar Mayer Wiener, that is what I'd truly hate to be, for if I were an Oscar Mayer Wiener, pigs would have to suffer and die for me." To make matters worse, PETA now claims God is on its side. This summer the group launched an ad titled, "Jesus Was a Vegetarian," a Web site trying to get Christians to jump on the animal-rights bandwagon. The group even sent letters to Pat Robertson, Billy Graham, Oral Roberts, and Jerry Falwell, asking them to join PETA's struggle. (Catholics got a better deal; every cardinal in the country got a basket of meat-free food.) PETA's pitch is that the Gospels' loaves and fishes were just symbolism. Worse, they say that Jesus was crucified for opposing animal sacrifice in the Temple. "Christians should extend the message that 'God is love' by not eating his creation," Mr. Friedrich proclaims.