This Week

"This Week" Continued...

Issue: "Daniel of the Year 1998," Dec. 5, 1998

You've got Netscape

Now that America Online is buying Netscape, Microsoft must face a new superpower in the Cold War for the Internet. This $4.21 billion combo joins the dominant online service with the company whose software popularized the Web. "The way great companies get built is through combinations, and this is a combination of a smaller company with two much bigger companies," said Netscape CEO James Barksdale. "This is the way AT&T got built." The duo has access to tens of millions of eyeballs on the Web; AOL has 14 million subscribers, and Netscape's Netcenter Web site alone draws 20 million visitors every month. Recently AOL also gobbled up its rival CompuServe along with ICQ, an Israeli-based chat service with 20 million customers. That means the company that popularized "You've Got Mail" is now a vast corporate empire. And that means Microsoft wants its antitrust suit discarded. Suit supporters, however, say the company's tactics may have driven Netscape into a merger. But what is a combined AOL/Netscape if not competition? The deal "shows how the competitive landscape in our industry can change overnight, making government regulation of this high-technology industry completely unnecessary," said Microsoft counsel Bill Neukom.

Just gimme that big-tent religion

The U.S. Roman Catholic Bishops' letter on abortion is starting to squeeze pro-abortion Republican governors. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge says he will avoid church events after being told by his bishop to stay away. Bishop Donald Trautman said Gov. Ridge's separation of public and private beliefs is no longer acceptable. "Those who justify their actions on the grounds that abortion is the law of the land need to recognize that there is a higher law," he told the Erie Daily Times. So Gov. Ridge decided to bail out on his fellow Catholics: "I had pretty much concluded in my mind that's pretty much what I should do anyhow." However, Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, a pro-life Catholic, defended Gov. Ridge at a Republican governors' meeting in New Orleans. He says the bishops should be more open minded. "The Catholic Church is a big tent religion," the Times-Picayune reported. "In this country, we have a clear separation of church and state. We do what our consciences tell us is best to do." Catholic columnist Joseph Sobran blasted this stance, saying it means that the church can't have any position not backed by the political establishment. "Truth imposes limits on opinion," he explained. "You have a legal right to talk nonsense, but that's all. We're talking about the slaughter of millions." Christians who are not horrified by abortion, Mr. Sobran said, "might as well stop being Christian."

Bishops get tough

American Catholic bishops are taking a harder line on abortion. The National Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement saying that parishioners must do more than just hold pro-life positions privately. They say Catholics should vote for pro-life candidates-and abortion-backing Catholic office-holders are violating God's law. "No public official, especially one claiming to be a faithful and serious Catholic, can responsibly advocate for or actively support direct attacks on innocent human life," the bishops wrote. While they say many strong things-"No one but the Creator is the sovereign of basic human rights," they write-they still hold to seamless garment theology, which expands "pro-life" to encompass support for government welfare and opposition to capital punishment. Even so, they say that being "right" on those issues "can never excuse a wrong choice regarding direct attacks on innocent human life." This means liberal politicians can no longer claim to be "pro-life" without opposing abortion. Frank Pavone of the Pontifical Council for the Family says this statement will help end the public scandal of Catholic politicians who support abortion. "There is simply no way to be Catholic and 'pro-choice,' when the choice in question involves the taking of innocent life," he says. "Those who hold that there is more than one Catholic position on abortion are mistaken and need to stop misleading others." Just days before the statement was issued, an awards ceremony for New Jersey Gov. Christie Whitman was booted off Seton Hall University's law school campus when the school balked at her support for abortion. Seton Hall has a policy not to give public recognition to people who espouse positions "contrary to our Catholic mission," said university president Robert Sheeran.

Sufficient funds

Don't panic! Don't pull your money out of the bank! That's the message from the banking industry, which promises that America's ATMs, credit cards, and bank accounts will be OK during Y2K. Michael ter Maat of the American Bankers Association said that customers could "take out a few extra bucks," but withdrawing massive amounts of cash could make people vulnerable to criminals. And, he stresses, be on the lookout for Y2K con men who offer to "hold" stashes of cash through Jan. 1, 2000. Instead, depositors should pay attention to their monthly statements-and read any Y2K reports from their bank. Paper records should be kept filed away, especially in the last months of 1999. As bankers stress calm to their customers, they aren't taking any chances. The U.S. banking industry is spending more than $8 billion fixing bank computers. A survey by Weiss Ratings reported last month that at least 12 percent of America's banks and S&Ls were behind schedule in preparing for the year 2000. To hold off bank runs by Y2K-panicked people, the Federal Reserve will circulate an extra $50 billion in new currency. Some observers fear that social disorder caused by fear of millennial doomsday will cause more damage than the bug itself.


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