Pope and president
The pope was received in North America like a rock star and surrounded by cheering fans from Azteca Stadium in Mexico to the Trans World Dome in St. Louis. At a St. Louis rally, young people were jubilant: weeping, squealing, jumping up and down and waving handkerchiefs. Other Missourians were respectful, if not as expressive. The governor commuted a death sentence that had been scheduled to be carried out during the 30-hour papal visit, out of deference to John Paul II's opposition to capital punishment, which along with abortion and euthanasia, he says, is part of the "culture of death." Abortionists, however, did business as usual. The pope invoked the U.S. Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision of 1857. It ruled that slaves were property and not citizens, and "Today the conflict is between a culture that affirms, cherishes, and celebrates the gift of life, and a culture that seeks to declare entire groups of human beings-the unborn, the terminally ill, the handicapped, and others considered 'unuseful'-to be outside the boundaries of legal protection." Welcoming John Paul II to the United States were President and Mrs. Clinton, who the previous week celebrated the 26th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade by lauding the work of pro-abortion activists and announcing a plan to provide $4.5 million in taxpayer money to make abortion clinics safer and pump $50 million more into abortion industry coffers by way of "family-planning" aid. The pope also spent about 20 minutes alone with President Clinton. According to a White House spokesman, abortion only "came up in passing" and l'affaire Lewinsky wasn't mentioned. During his St. Louis visit, the pope raised other social concerns. But while he has condemned U.S. airstrikes against Iraq, references to this were deleted from his prepared remarks in front of the president. In two months, the pope will be back in the United States-on compact disc and home video. Titled "Abba Pater," it will feature 11 tracks with snippets of the pope mixed with music. One selection featuring the pope saying the Lord's Prayer will be released as a music video.
They luv their attitude problem
If last week's Conservative Political Action Conference in the outskirts of Washington, D.C., is any indication, conservatives are through with being dejected and demoralized. Now they're just mad. The annual conclave is one of the biggest gatherings of activists from the Republican Party's right wing-though not necessarily the religious right. With GOP hopefuls scrambling to toss their hats into an already crowded ring, this year's meeting was something of a presidential beauty contest. But there was more attitude on display than pulchritude. Gary Bauer, Steve Forbes, Dan Quayle, John Kasich, and Lamar Alexander took turns knocking not only the Democrats, but other Republicans as well. Mr. Forbes criticized acknowledged frontrunner Texas Gov. George W. Bush and near-candidate Elizabeth Dole by blistering the performance of George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole: "Twice [they have] faced Bill Clinton. Twice they have abandoned conservative ideas. Twice they have lost." Despite the hits, however, Gov. Bush placed second in straw poll of attendees, just four percentage points behind gold medalist Mr. Bauer, who not only addressed the meeting but held a reception with live bluegrass music and bused in young supporters from across the country. Several days after the conference, journalists reported that Mr. Bauer's PAC provided $90 "scholarships" to pay the conference fee for some supporters, and the story created a minor tempest. Tim Goeglein of Mr. Bauer's Campaign for Working Families emphasized to WORLD the payments to supporters were not in exchange for their support. "I want to make it plain: We never asked any of those people to vote for Gary in the straw poll." Mr. Forbes placed third in the poll, followed by Mrs. Dole, Alan Keyes, Mr. Quayle, Mr. Kasich, and Pat Buchanan.
The school-choice movement won a major victory when the Arizona state supreme court upheld the state's private-scholarship tax credit. Now proponents hope to have similar laws passed nationwide. The credit, passed in 1997, gives income-tax breaks of up to $500 for scholarships donated to religious and other private schools. It was intended as a substitute for failed plans to give cash grants for tuition. "It's the closest thing you can get to a full-blown vouchers program," said Arizona lawmaker John Huppenthal. The credit plan in other states goes by names such as the Parental Empowerment in Education Plan or the Public School Relief Act. Opponents, including teachers unions, claimed the credit violates laws against tax dollars funding religious education, but the court rejected this in a 3-2 decision. Chief Justice Thomas A. Zlaket observed that the authors of the Arizona constitution did not intend "to divorce completely any hint of religion from all conceivably state-related functions, nor would such a goal be realistically attainable in today's world."
Keep the change
U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) says he keeps a lean and mean congressional office. To prove it, he will give back over $72,500 to the U.S. Treasury, almost 8 percent of his office budget. "There would be a lot of happy people if the federal government could cut its operational costs by 8 percent this year," he said, "and give every single American taxpayer an immediate, across-the-board 8 percent tax cut." The money came from his allocation of $919,633 for 1998 to pay office expenses, including staff, mail, and computer equipment. Rep. Paul, the Libertarian presidential candidate in 1988, also refuses to participate in the congressional pension plan.
Is your photo for sale? A little-known company called Image Data LLC is buying up millions of driver's license photos from state governments. The snapshots are being stored in a database sold to retailers as a fraud-protection scheme. South Carolina Attorney General Charlie Condon calls it "Big Brother hustling for bucks." He plans to sue the Nashua, N.H.-based company next month to stop it from using 3.5 million photos bought from the state Public Safety Department. "This action constitutes invasion of privacy on a grand scale," Mr. Condon said. Image Data's supporters say the photos will only be used to catch criminals. Using the company's system, a cashier swipes the driver's license into a card reader. Then a postage stamp-sized image is shown for eight seconds, then disappears. Recently, the company spent a penny for each of 14 million pictures from Florida, a collection previously only available to law enforcement. The company is also negotiating to buy Colorado's collection.
Going for the gold
Four members of the International Olympic Committee have resigned due to the bribery scandal rocking Salt Lake City. Accusations are swarming that Salt Lake City officials gave payments and gifts during their successful campaign bid for the 2002 Winter games. Up to nine members could be kicked out during an official vote in mid-March. One of the group, Kenya's Charles Mukora, proclaimed his innocence even as he quit. He denied receiving any money personally. Mr. Mukora claims the $34,650 he received was for "sports development in Kenya" and "world youth sporting activities." David Sibandze of Swaziland, another IOC member in hot water, said he believed there was nothing wrong with his son receiving $100,000 in scholarships and living expenses from the University of Utah: "Universities in the United States give scholarships all the time." Mr. Sibandze also admitted he received numerous other gifts, including paintings and sculptures, even though the IOC limits gifts to a $150 total value. African sports authorities complained their IOC members were unfairly made the focus of the bribery scandal, since six from the notorious nine are from the same continent.
Rearing its ugly head
An Australian missionary and his two sons were burned to death as they slept in their Jeep Saturday after attending a Bible study in a village in India. Police say a group of nearly 40 attackers doused the vehicle with gasoline and set it ablaze. Then they beat up anyone who tried to rescue the family. They were the first casualties in a month of anti-Christian violence. Graham Stuart Staines, 58, was a secretary of the Evangelical Missionary Society and ran a home for lepers. His widow, Gladys, called for forgiveness in a TV interview. "We cannot demand a longer life span from God than what he has decided for each of us," she said. "I am grateful to God for giving him this long a life span to serve people." To add insult to injury, Hindu political activists beat five Baptist missionaries the next day. They had been distributing Christian literature at a Hindu holy site 250 miles east of New Delhi. Several Hindu extremist groups are prime suspects in a series of anti-Christian attacks that began on Christmas Day. Over in China, persecution stepped up when police raided an underground church and arrested the pastor and his congregation of 45 people. It is part of an ongoing crackdown on worship not sanctioned by the state. During last fall alone, more than140 underground Protestants in Henan province were arrested, and many leaders were beaten by police.
King Hussein of Jordan came to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for medical care because of a recurrence of lymphatic cancer. Before he left, he named his son Abdullah crown prince, replacing the king's brother. The king has already undergone six months of chemotherapy to fight his cancer, and Middle Easterners-especially Israelis-closely monitored reports on the 63-year-old monarch's health. Jordanian newspapers were full of pictures of Hussein and Abdullah, along with ads congratulating the new crown prince. "This cub is from the lion king," said one.
Shaken to its foundations
At one flattened apartment building in Armenia, Colombia, Jose Noe Lozano watched orange-helmeted workers remove slabs of concrete from atop his two sons. A power saw whirred and sparks flew as a man cut through a three-inch slab to reveal the face of 15-year-old Sebastian, his right arm outstretched. Both boys, among an estimated 2,000, were added to the death toll. Rescue workers scrambled to find survivors after a monster earthquake struck Colombia, devastating cities and towns across the country's rich coffee belt. The tremor shook buildings as far away as Bogota, 140 miles from the epicenter. Damage to the coffee crop-critical to the Colombian economy-was not expected to be severe. Teams of earthquake specialists from the United States, Japan, and France traveled to Colombia to aid the search for survivors. Mexico said it would send an army search team with sniffer dogs and power generators. "We don't have enough coffins to bury the dead," said Quindio state Gov. Henry Gomez. The government denounced profiteering in caskets and pledged to provide coffins to families that need them. Meanwhile, relief workers wrapped bodies in black plastic or blankets and left them on the streets. Many residents banded together to clear debris and salvage furniture and clothes. In some areas, however, looters took advantage of the confusion to steal food from damaged markets. With chaos reigning, authorities dispatched scores of extra military police to the streets. Many watched helplessly as scores of desperate Colombians dashed into stores, grabbing anything they could find. "We're with them because the people are hungry," said one patrolman.
Try old math
Next year, America's constitutionally mandated census will be conducted the old-fashioned way, with a one-by-one nose count. That's what the Supreme Court ordered-by a one-vote margin, 5-4-in a case challenging the White House plan to use "statistical sampling" to boost the count of generally Democratic voters. The census, among other things, determines how many members of Congress each state should have. Democrats claim that without sampling the census will produce an undercount. The Supreme Court ruled that a 1976 federal census law "directly prohibits the use of sampling." Congressional Democrats may try to amend the law, signaled House Democratic leader Richard Gephardt. White House spokesman Joe Lockhart dismissed the ruling as a "limited decision" and only a minor setback, since the justices did not say sampling is unconstitutional. The black conservative group Project 21 complains that sampling will politicize the census and corrupt the figures. "Sampling would intentionally pass over some citizens in favor of creating 'virtual citizens' elsewhere," said Project 21 spokesman Stuart Pigler. If the Clinton administration tries to bring back sampling, the Republican majority plans to fight it.
An online pioneer says it is the first major casualty of the millennium bug. The original version of the Prodigy online service will shut down by October. "This retirement is a result of the Prodigy Classic Service's proprietary technology that predates current Internet standards," said a company statement. Prodigy e-mailed the 208,000 subscribers of Prodigy Classic and told them it could not avoid the dire effects of Y2K. The company's other service, Prodigy Internet (which is more like a standard Internet provider), will not be affected. Orphaned subscribers were encouraged to move there. Some subscribers on Prodigy's bulletin boards suggested that this was an excuse cooked up to push customers to its newer service. Prodigy's Classic launched in 1990 and had 1.13 million subscribers in 1995, but that number dropped as online users jumped to the Internet.
The no-comment zone
- Some residents of Saugerties, N.Y., have threatened to go to court to keep Woodstock '99 out of their town. As the town board and concert promoters hit snags in negotiations over money, locals complained they don't want another giant drug-induced muddy mess.
- The number of legal immigrants granted residence in the United States fell 13 percent to 800,000 during the 1997 fiscal year. Immigration is not dropping, but the INS simply can't handle all the applications because of a green card surge prompted by a 1994 federal amnesty law for illegals.
- Ford Motor Co. is buying the passenger car division of Sweden's Volvo AB for $6.45 billion. This deal follows Ford's purchase of Jaguar as its second acquisition of an overseas automaker.
- Palestinian-ruled areas have a new symbol of self-reliance: their own international dialing code, 970. Over opposition from the United States and Israel, the International Telecommunications Union has asked its members to use the new code for those parts of the West Bank and Gaza, replacing the Israeli code (972).
- Babyface William J. McCorkle became a late-night TV fixture with his infomercials telling how he went from being a poor child who was once evicted from his family's home to a real-estate millionaire. His next residence is behind bars. He and his wife each received 20-year-plus sentences for fraud and money laundering from a $72 million bogus real estate deal.
- Pluto may be dropped from the list of our solar system's planets. Some members of the International Astronomical Union want the planet reclassified because it is smaller than our moon and seems to have more in common with minor planets known as Trans-Neptunian Objects than with the other eight planets.
- President Clinton says his plan to throw 62 percent of the proposed budget surplus into Social Security will "actually grow the American economy while preparing for the future." Critics called it an accounting gimmick that would do nothing to stop the drain on national resources caused by Social Security and Medicare. Others feared the prospect of the government's picking winners and losers on Wall Street.