Seducing the soccer moms
With impeachment hanging thick in the air of the Capitol, Bill Clinton took a deep breath and made the final State of the Union speech of the 20th century. His hour-and-17-minute-long address showed again why so many baby boomers find him irresistible. In a gift-giving frenzy that would make Monica Lewinsky jealous, the president divvied up the projected budget surplus with lavish promises of something for everyone, purportedly paid for by someone else. Mr. Clinton repeatedly reminded his listeners of all that they deserve: a worry-free retirement, a flexible work schedule, the doctor of their choice, a college education, a brand new school building for their children, even subsidized prescription drugs. These are things that all Americans are entitled to, he insisted. Almost every item in the presidential goodie bag was intended for the middle class. But this new category of entitlements will ultimately prove much costlier than the old Great Society version of entitlements, which were intended for the relatively few Americans living in poverty. If Ronald Reagan was the Great Communicator, Bill Clinton may be remembered as the Great Seducer-and not just because of the current scandal. For six years he has flirted with the middle class, asking them to hug the Big He, the federal government, while claiming all the time the innocence of his intentions. Once voters are hooked, demands for entitlements increase. Next year, watch for subsidized soccer uniforms.
The American Medical Association has never been shy about injecting itself into political debates such as abortion. But the debate over presidential sex, evidently, is another story. Dr. George Lundberg, editor of the association's journal for 17 years, was abruptly fired after publishing an eight-year-old "what-is-sex?" survey (by the largely discredited Kinsey Institute) to coincide with President Clinton's impeachment trial. The article reported that 59 percent of college students surveyed in 1991 shared the president's rather narrow definition of what it meant to actually "have sex." Dr. Lundberg was sacked for "inexcusably interjecting JAMA into the middle of a debate that has nothing to do with science or medicine," according to an AMA official. In apologizing for the article, the AMA admitted that the timing of publication was motivated by "sensationalism, not journalism."
Gary Bauer moved one step closer to a White House bid when he resigned as president of the Family Research Council on Jan. 15. An acknowledged longshot, Mr. Bauer is at least a fundraising powerhouse. His PAC, the Campaign for Working Families (CWF), raised some $7 million last year-one of the best records in Washington. Mr. Bauer's nascent campaign got a boost when Michael Reagan, the former president's son, announced he would take over as head of CWF in February.
Fight or makeup?
A cross-dressing civilian Air Force employee is battling the military brass because his squadron commander expected him to dress like a man. The unidentified airfield management specialist was ordered to stop wearing his makeup, bra, and earrings to work. He charges that violates his rights, and he wants an apology. Supervisors at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida first brought up the employee's attire in July 1996. Air Force records show that from time to time a civilian supervisor asked the man to try to appear less feminine. Then in October 1998, the commander of the 46th Operations Support Squadron gave the employee a written reprimand and ordered him to stop wearing women's clothing at work. That was too much discrimination for the man to bear, so the American Federation of Government Employees filed a complaint against the military forcing him to dress like a man. The union local claims his supervisors are trying to establish regulations not allowed by the collective bargaining contract. The transvestite says he has been dressing like a woman since he started his job at Eglin's Base Operations Center in Florida, and doesn't want to change his costume now. Not only does he demand an apology, he wants the reprimand removed from his file, and $580,000 in damages as well. That would buy a lot of lipstick.
Sins of the past
Daniel L. Crocker, 38, who in Christian conscience left his wife and children behind in Chantilly, Va., to confess to an unsolved 1979 murder in Kansas (WORLD, Oct. 17, 1998), was sentenced under a plea bargain to 20 to 60 years in prison. He will be eligible for parole in 10 years. In an Olathe, Kan., courtroom, Mr. Crocker apologized tearfully both to his family "for embarrassing and shaming them" and to relatives of Tracy Fresquez, the 19-year-old he smothered with a pillow following an attempted rape. Mr. Crocker and his wife, Nicolette, reportedly were able to pray together twice before the sentencing. Mrs. Crocker said their two children, Isaac, 9, and Analiese, 8, who were not at the proceeding, "know what Daddy's doing is right." Although the Fresquez family had asked for the maximum penalty of life in prison, Jay Fresquez, the victim's brother, remarked: "It's a shame that the Daniel today is being punished for the animal he was 20 years ago."
A new band of eco-terrorists is trying to strike fear into the heart of the capitalist system. The Earth Liberation Front claimed responsibility last week for torching the headquarters of U.S. Forest Industries, a Medford, Ore., timber company. In a touch reminiscent of the Unabomber, the group sent a fax to the Associated Press claiming that the Dec. 26 fire was set "in retribution for all the wild forests and animals lost to feed the wallets of greedy" corporations. "On the foggy night after Christmas," the missive read in part, when Americans were "digesting their turkey and pie, Santa's ELFs dropped two five-gallon buckets of diesel/unleaded mix and a one-gallon jug with cigarette delays; which proved to be more than enough to get this party started." The "party" caused an estimated $500,000 in damage. Although police refused to comment on the fax, company president Jerry Bramwell said he had never been contacted by the group claiming responsibility. "There is a difference between claiming it and it actually being a fact," he said. "The Republic of Ireland has gone through that on numerous occasions." This was hardly the group's first appearance, however. ELF claims to have set a fire in Vail, Colo., last October that destroyed four ski lifts, a restaurant, a picnic facility, and a utility building. And two years ago it took responsibility for burning two ranger stations in Oregon's Willamette National Forest. Apparently, logging companies and ski resorts merit less protection from arsonists than do abortion clinics; Attorney General Janet Reno has yet to announce a special task force to investigate the bombings.
William B. Ball
William Bentley Ball, a Pennsylvania attorney who championed religious rights in some precedent-setting Supreme Court cases, died Jan. 10 while swimming at Sanibel Island, Fla. He was 82. Mr. Ball was a dedicated pro-life advocate and committed Catholic who was equally at home in evangelical circles. At least nine times he went before the high court to argue cases dealing with religious rights, and he assisted in two dozen others. The issues included whether students at religious schools can receive state financial aid for textbooks and other assistance; whether Amish children must attend school beyond the eighth grade; and whether religious institutions are subject to certain tax and employment laws. He was perhaps best known for his work to preserve the Amish way of life. The Wisconsin vs. Yoder case he argued successfully in the early 1970s set a standard under which the government was required to show a compelling public need behind policies affecting religious groups. Although weakened in the early 1990s, the precedent continues to protect religious liberty for many groups besides the Amish.
Operation Rescue's defamation lawsuit against Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) was shot down by the Supreme Court last week. The justices refused to revive a suit filed after Mr. Kennedy incorrectly linked the anti-abortion group to murder and other violence. At a 1993 Boston fundraiser, Mr. Kennedy was touting the then-pending Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which he sponsored. Responding to a question, he said, "People can have a difference on public policy issues, but when we have a national organization like Operation Rescue that has as a matter of national policy firebombing and even murder, that's unacceptable." Operation Rescue's lawyers said the protest group "never advocated firebombing or murder as part of their opposition to abortion." The lawsuit said the senator had falsely accused OR of criminal conduct and thus hurt its reputation. The court let stand an earlier ruling that gives "officers or employees" of the federal government-including members of Congress-greater protection from libel suits than the general public.
The no-comment zone
- After a sensational, 12-week trial, a Delaware jury found Thomas Capano guilty of murdering his mistress, Anne Marie Fahey. Mr. Capano, one of Delaware's most prominent citizens, had been carrying on a three-year affair with Ms. Fahey when he killed her, stuffed her body into a cooler, and dumped the cooler in the ocean.
- Mick Jagger claims he wasn't married to Jerry Hall, after all. He says her divorce petition to end their tumultuous eight-year marriage is invalid because their union is not legally recognized in Indonesia, where the two were joined in a Hindu wedding ceremony. Annulling the marriage could save the rocker tens of millions of dollars.
- The German government will pay up to $25 million in reparations to over 200 Americans who survived Nazi death camps, but hundreds of others-including many ex-POWs and those held in slave labor camps-were denied compensation.
- NBA training camps opened Thursday after a 204-day lockout spurred by soaring player salaries. The abbreviated season will open Feb. 5.
- In Jasper, Texas, where a black man was dragged to death behind a pickup truck last year, 75 residents turned out to dismantle the rusted iron fence that had segregated the town cemetery for 166 years. One defendant in the dragging death goes on trial this week.
- Drivers can no longer make cell phone calls at Exxon stations in Finland. The company may extend the ban worldwide, because some experts believe electronic impulses from the phones could ignite gas fumes-though no such fires have been reported.
- Protesters in Philadelphia sprawled on city sidewalks to protest a new ordinance aimed at reducing loitering and panhandling by homeless people. Advocates for the homeless say the law violates their free-speech rights.
The Washington offices of a consulting firm hired by Israeli Labor Party candidate Ehud Barak were broken into a second time in what Israeli papers dubbed "Watergate II." During the first break-in, burglars stole petty cash, office supplies, and a computer disk. The company installed an improved security system after that burglary, but intruders managed to bypass it Jan. 18. "They apparently focused this time on research material relating specifically to our campaign," said Mr. Barak's campaign manager. Likud Party leaders were skeptical. "This looks like a cheap provocation by our enemies whose purpose is to invent false accusations against the Likud in some sort of poor man's Watergate," said a party spokesman.
World in brief
Snowfall in Toronto has already trebled what a normal January would bring. With 30 inches on the ground and another 10 on the way, officials in Canada's largest city called out the troops: More than 400 soldiers, some in armored vehicles, took up posts to help the city cope with crippling weather. Religion and politics
Political veteran Bulent Ecevit won easy approval from parliament to become Turkey's new prime minister. But his rule may be short-lived. Powerful military commanders are casting a wary eye on the continuing advance of Turkey's Islamic parties. They are pushing to postpone general elections set for April 18, in an effort to steer the government away from religious parties. Support for the Islamic-led Virtue Party remains high, even though its last government quickly collapsed in scandal. The merry wives of Pretoria
If it's good enough for the king of Swaziland, then it's good enough for me, argued South African theologian Christina Landman. She was talking about polygamy. South Africa's out-of-control divorce rate-only one in three marriages survives-is apparently inspiring some to find a solution in the life of a throw-back monarch with six wives. Ms. Landman, a theology professor at the University of South Africa in Pretoria and member of the conservative Dutch Reformed Church, said South Africa should legalize polygamy for whites. "Timesharing awaits us, ladies," she said.
So this is ceasefire
A muddy ditch above the Kosovo town of Racak gave no hint of a peace settlement. There villagers, journalists, and Western officials discovered 45 bodies of ethnic Albanians, murdered gruesomely in the worst killing spree of the one-year-old conflict between Serb forces of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and ethnic Albanians. Nearby was William Walker, the American head of the three-month-old Kosovo Verification Mission, an international monitoring group meant to watch over a ceasefire agreement brokered by the United States last October. He visited the site hours after the Jan. 16 attack and, voice shaking, called the killings "an unspeakable atrocity," and "a crime very much against humanity." "Nor do I hesitate to accuse the government security forces of responsibility," Mr. Walker said, referring to soldiers under Mr. Milosevic. Witnesses agreed in their accounts of Serb soldiers pulling the Albanians from their homes and marching them up the hill above town, and confirmed that the slain were civilians. Contrary to Serb claims that they were "terrorists," the dead included one young woman, a 12-year-old boy, and men as old as 70. Some victims were found with their eyes gouged out or heads smashed in; one man was decapitated. Yugoslav authorities declared Mr. Walker persona non grata after his condemnation, and he was ordered to leave the country by Jan. 21. NATO heads remained undecided about a course of action, even after British Prime Minister Tony Blair threatened a military response.