This Week

Issue: "Who's marching now?," Oct. 17, 1998

Shoot or shut up

As NATO leaders met last week to decide whether to intervene militarily in Kosovo, journalists and international monitors on the ground were concluding that it was already too late to strike back. They said NATO airstrikes could not undo the unfolding evidence of atrocities committed by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's police forces during a seven-month campaign against ethnic Albanians in the region. Western investigators dubbed the scene "a killing garden"-reminiscent of the Khmer Rouge "killing fields" in Cambodia. A Pentagon officer told Newsweek, "Milosevic has created a desert, and we're about to call it peace." Newsweek reporters documented 12 massacre sites in Kosovo, where Serb police units directed by Mr. Milosevic slaughtered ethnic Albanian civilians. Three of the worst incidents, say investigators, occurred during the last week of September. Human Rights Watch released a report last week documenting additional sites going back to last February and concluding that Mr. Milosevic "is conducting a brutal war against civilians in Kosovo" in what spokesman Holly Cartner called "a climate of impunity."

  • The first: At Likosane, 26 people were killed last winter. Ten victims came from the same family, and one included a pregnant woman shot at point-blank range.
  • Young and old: At Obrinje, Serb police in February killed a 94-year-old invalid as well as a toddler. Valmir Deliaj, 18 months, was found shot in the head at close range, a pacifier dangling from her bright snowsuit. Only one child in the village was spared, a one-month-old infant found trying to nurse at her dead mother's breast.
  • The recent: On Sept. 26, Serb police rounded up 200 Albanian villagers from Golubovac. They had fled to a nearby forest but were lured back to town by false reports that they would be safe. Fourteen men were eventually selected out of the group. They were ordered to lie down in a garden and were executed using automatic weapons.

The massacres "have pushed many of us over the atrocity line," said Sen. Gordon Smith, (R-Ore.). The reports, together with UN security council action condemning the Yugoslav government, prompted NATO to issue a warning of three-pronged airstrikes coming this week. But as NATO continued to hedge, Sen. Smith told Clinton foreign policymakers: "With all due respect, it's time to shoot or shut up."

The final roundup

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First Roy Rogers, now Gene Autry. The singing cowboy, who made 95 movies and recorded 635 songs, died of lymphoma at age 91. Will Rogers once heard a young Autry strumming a guitar and singing in an Oklahoma telegraph office. "You're good," he said. "Stick to it, young fellow, and you'll make something of yourself." Mr. Autry did much more than that; his 1949 single, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," alone sold 10 million copies. With his sidekick Smiley Burnett and his horse Champion, he popularized the Western musical as Republic Pictures' biggest Western star. Mr. Autry gave Mr. Rogers the slot so he could serve as a flier in the Army Air Corps during World War II. Both men played true-blue cowboys who always fought fair. "He often considered himself the baby sitter of three generations of children," said Alex Gordon, Mr. Autry's director of licensing. "And these weren't just bang-bang, shoot 'em-up Westerns. He always wanted to put a moral in the story." Mr. Autry's "Cowboy Code" contained eight rules. The first: "The cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take unfair advantage." After the war, he moved to TV, then launched the California Angels in 1961. He also owned four radio stations, the Gene Autry Hotel in Palm Springs, and several other properties. Mr. Autry ranked for many years on the Forbes magazine list of the 400 richest Americans, until 1995 when he hit the magazine's "near miss" list with an estimated net worth of $320 million.

This is only a test

What happens when the millennium bug strikes? The city of Lubbock, Texas, held the world's first Y2K drill-a citywide simulation of the problem. The city of 196,000 in the south plains of Texas didn't test any equipment. Instead the drill staged mock crises to see how city personnel would react. "This is the one disaster that we know exactly when it could occur, but it's also the one disaster that we have no idea how bad it will be," city manager Bob Cass said. Mr. Cass said the drill, which was devised by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was a success. Simulated problems included an ice storm, a blizzard, a blackout, a hospital fire, and a raucous New Year's Eve party. There was even a fake riot caused by a grocery store whose cash registers broke down. Details of the planned "disasters" were kept secret. Test conductors sent e-mail messages to city officials notifying them of problems and emergency officials, including police, fire, and utility workers, then had to react. As the drill began, officials were told the city's 911 emergency system had failed. Later, a simulated prison riot outside town gobbled up valuable police resources. Mr. Cass said city workers improvised well when unexpected trouble arose. Computers programmed with two-digit dates could malfunction come 2000. Some bug watchers fear the glitch could cause serious problems in electric power grids, telecommunications, financial markets, and government systems. When a Chrysler plant ran a Y2K test on a computer system, it discovered its security doors were stuck closed. Mayor Windy Sitton said the test revealed that Lubbock needs a better response to natural gas shortages. When fake gas outages left hundreds of homes without heat, officials had to devise a plan to set up shelters in the parts of town that still had power.

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