This Week

Issue: "38,000,000 Children Killed," Jan. 16, 1999

Trial and error

It was all pomp and circumstance on Thursday, Jan. 7, as the first presidential impeachment trial in 130 years finally got underway. The 13 House prosecutors, known as "managers," solemnly presented the two impeachment counts alleging perjury and obstruction of justice. Then Chief Justice William Rehnquist, in full judicial regalia, swore in the 100 senators who will serve as Bill Clinton's jury. But behind all the pomp, the Senate was in pandemonium. Apart from the day's photo opportunities, almost nothing was clear about how the trial would proceed. Insiders said leaders of both parties were pressing hard for a quick, face-saving resolution. The House managers, however, were pressing equally hard for a full trial, complete with witnesses. Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.), the white-haired lion of the Senate, was warning darkly that the president's future was far from certain. And the chief justice was harumphing that he'd really rather not be bothered with the political brouhaha. The wrangling had continued day and night, and on Jan. 6 a group of senators met with Rep. Henry Hyde and several other House managers before calling over members of the White House legal team. At issue: How many witnesses-if any-would be called by each side. Mr. Hyde and his team want Monica Lewinsky and presidential pal Vernon Jordan to testify, at the very least. Democrats would prefer to see the trial proceed with no witnesses at all. The White House, meanwhile, was pressing for a quick "test vote" to show that the 2/3 majority needed for conviction simply doesn't exist. Off the record, White House officials outlined their talking points: Such a test vote would prove that any further action is a show trial conducted for political purposes. By WORLD's press time, the only remote certainty was that each side would have up to five days to present its case. Calling witnesses would push any verdict back by perhaps a month.

The no-comment zone

  • Two pranksters were fined about $88 each by a Belgian court for hitting Bill Gates in the face with a cream pie last year, leaving him with pastry dripping off his glasses and onto his suit.
  • The Dow shot through that 9,500 barrier, setting new all-time highs as expectations kept rising that the American economy would keep booming.
  • Movie star turned NRA President Charlton Heston says he is on the road to recovery from prostate cancer-and weeks of intense radiation treatments haven't stopped him from political activism or making his 75th movie at age 75.
  • Playboy's cable TV empire won two victories that give it five cable channels running 24 hours a day. Two days after it won a huge court case-striking down a federal law keeping "adult" programs off the air from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.-Playboy gobbled up its biggest cable porn competitor in a merger.
  • On the eve of President Clinton's plan to bring U.S. money, mail, and baseball to Cuba, Fidel Castro celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Communist takeover of the island nation.
  • America Online was denied a restraining order against AT&T after a federal judge ruled the online service did not have the exclusive rights to its onscreen phrases "You have mail," "Buddy list," and "IM" (for instant message).
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture will pay a $375 million settlement to about 3,000 black farmers-that's about $125,000 per farmer-who say they were unfairly denied government loans and subsidies.
  • Not one of 615 million passengers died in an accident last year on any U.S. commercial airplane anywhere in the world; this achievement has never occurred before in the history of commercial aviation.

Courts could restrict pro-life Internet speech

The abortion wars, like most other political disputes, are being fought on the Internet-and abortionists are going to court to stop some of their opponents. One abortion clinic owner sued Compuserve and another company, TML Information Services, saying pro-life protesters used the services to dig up personal information about clinic visitors. America Online is named in the case because it owns Compuserve. The Aware Woman Center for Choice says abortion foes searched for clinic visitors' names and addresses, using license plate numbers of cars driven to the clinic. The federal lawsuit charges that a picture of one abortionist in a car wreck was sent to his patients. The clinic also claims activists found the identity of one woman visitor and trailed her to a hospital and a department store. Elsewhere in the courtroom, Planned Parenthood is suing Christiangallery.com for millions in damages. This Web site calls abortionists "baby butchers" and contains photos of mangled fetuses and drawings of dripping blood. It includes names and details on hundreds of abortionists, clinic owners, and workers. Four doctors and two clinic workers murdered since 1993 are crossed off. Lawyers for the abortion industry say this is an invitation to murder. "These are not words in isolation," said Bonnie Jones, a lawyer at New York's Center for Reproductive Law and Policy. But Jim Henderson, an anti-abortion lawyer, said, "I'd hate to see the Constitution perverted by the claim that posting names and addresses alone on the Internet is cause for incitement." The law that makes the disputes possible is the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which makes it illegal to incite violence against abortionists and their patients. While it was purportedly intended to stop people who have firebombed clinics or attacked doctors, the law has put a lid on peaceful clinic sit-ins and now is being used against those who take to the Net to protest.

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