If thy hand offend thee
A 46-year-old man who was once considered an archetype for the success of chemical castration has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for a sexual attack on a 5-year-old girl. Joseph Smith was convicted of raping the same Texas woman twice in 1983. As part of his probation, he was ordered to take sexual-suppression drugs. Psychologists considered the treatment so successful that Mr. Smith appeared in a 60 Minutes report. He stopped taking the drugs in 1989. Mr. Smith is a suspect in a series of similar assaults in Virginia.
A luxury hotel. A media blackout. A panel of interrogators asking tough questions, waiting for the respondent to squirm. But wait, this isn't the Mayflower. The scene took place across town at the Washington Court Hotel, as two dozen well-known Christian leaders from across the country grilled six would-be presidents. Steve Forbes, Gary Bauer, Alan Keyes, Rep. John Kasich (R-Ohio), and Sen. Bob Smith showed up for an hour each of questioning. Dan Quayle answered his questions by phone. George W. Bush and Elizabeth Dole declined the group's invitation. The meeting was part of a nascent effort to achieve unity among Christian voters in 2000. The groups involved, including the Free Congress Foundation and the Christian Coalition, hope to avoid splitting the conservative vote in the primaries. But they admit that any consensus on a single candidate is still a distant-if not impossible-goal.
Going to the tape
Monica Lewinsky was back in Washington D.C. last week, talking to House prosecutors desperate for a bombshell that would turn the tide of the impeachment trial against President Clinton. But even the press photographers staking out the Mayflower Hotel seemed to sense that her videotaped testimony wouldn't make much difference. The crowds were smaller this time, the cameras fewer, the clamor less urgent. In a week that saw closed-door depositions of three key witnesses, remarkably little scandal news emerged-perhaps because the Senate jurors were uncharacteristically silent. Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) provided the biggest leak when he divulged that Ms. Lewinsky admitted to still harboring "mixed feelings" for the president. That was hardly the kind of bombshell Republicans were looking for. Word spread quickly that the Lewinsky tape offered nothing new. Many senators browsed through a transcript of the four-hour session, then fast-forwarded to bits that looked interesting. Others simply had a staffer do the viewing for them. If few senators were watching the tapes, all eyes were on the finish line. But reaching that line will still be difficult. Even before voting against live witnesses, Democrats were already turning their fire on a GOP plan to confirm the facts of the charges against Mr. Clinton without finding him guilty and removing him from office. Sensing imminent victory, presidential spokesman Joe Lockhart promised the post-impeachment White House would be a "gloat-free zone."
Spending spree 2000
President Clinton promises huge federal surpluses, but his $1.77 trillion budget for the year 2000 is larded with pork. The four-volume proposal, delivered to Congress last week, bestows billions on everything from troops to teachers. Forget about tax cuts and smaller government; beltway Democrats are rallying around Social Security and expanded domestic spending. Mr. Clinton says the Feds have "a special obligation" to throw cash at a plethora programs. "In all my years in Congress, I've never seen such a kitchen-sink approach to government," growled Rep. Bill Archer (R-Texas), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Even with a surplus, the president still wants to raise taxes by $82 billion through 2004. Cigarette taxes, for instance, will jump from 24 cents to 94 cents per pack next year under his plan. Many other tax increases will hit American businesses, raising the specter of coming price increases or higher unemployment. The life insurance industry alone will suffer a hefty $4 billion tax increase over five years-costs that are sure to be passed along to policyholders. Economists warn that a recession could erase the projected black ink, forcing the United States back into the days of deficit spending.
Bill Gates says the millennium bug may be a good thing after all. He told the World Economic Forum in Switzerland that Y2K had pushed companies into using more standardized software. Many improvements will come, he explained, even though "it's a terrible distraction, a terrible cost, and there will be some disruption." His competitor, Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy, was less optimistic. He said most of the world is in "pretty reasonable shape," but Asia is "disastrously behind." Late last month, the World Bank warned poor nations that time is running out on Y2K repairs. Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the former Soviet Union could be hit hard. Meanwhile, the State Department wants Americans to watch out when traveling anywhere in the world over New Year's weekend. Their bulletin warns that banks, airlines, hospitals, utilities, and even sanitation systems could go haywire by early next year.
Tony Valenzuela carries HIV. He has sex with other homosexuals without telling them of his disease-and he isn't sorry. "I come from a generation that has normalized the epidemic," he told a crowd of 300 in Greenwich Village. "It's not my experience to lose half of my friends and feel the debilitating effects of the virus." Mr. Valenzuela said transmitting HIV is not so horrible-and he said he never volunteers that he carries a deadly disease unless asked. Frighteningly, he isn't alone. Some of his peers say they miss the pre-AIDS days when homosexuals went to discos, bathhouses, and parties for casual, often anonymous, sex. Others are bleak and nihilistic and say infection is inevitable. Also, the rise of new AIDS medications is causing homosexuals to become more cavalier about their behavior. The drugs also allow many HIV+ men to remain healthy enough to be sexually active, thus increasing the chances that the disease will spread. "Young men think the crisis is under control," says Mark King of AID Atlanta, a group that reports a 50 percent spike in positive HIV tests since 1997. "They think the new HIV medicines are going to save their lives, although we have no assurances that that is true." The Centers for Disease Control reports some chilling statistics: Over 20 percent of HIV+ men in San Francisco and New York engage in unprotected sex with an HIV-negative partner or a partner whose HIV status they do not know. Will, a 38-year-old man in the crowd with Mr. Valenzuela (but who would not give his surname) said he had seen 68 friends die. He takes 26 pills a day and suffers from fungus infections, nausea, and diarrhea. Yet he still has unprotected sex with other men. "It's not like we have a lot to lose," he said. "In my last days on this planet, I do not want celibacy."
The No-Comment Zone
- House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt decided not to challenge Vice President Al Gore for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2000. The Missouri Democrat was considered a serious threat because of his well-oiled fundraising machine and strong union base. With Republicans holding only a slim majority in the House, however, Mr. Gephardt chose to aim his sights on the Speaker's chair, instead. His decision leaves former Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.) as Mr. Gore's only announced opposition.
- A 19-year-old hacker in Denmark faces six months' imprisonment after he selected the wrong victim. The unnamed student hacked his way into the home computer of the man who later arrested him: Arne Gammelgaard, head of the Copenhagen police department's computer crimes unit.
- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's college curriculum, Renewing American Civilization, the tax status of which was the core of a politically damaging ethics dispute in 1995, earned a clean bill of health last week from the Internal Revenue Service. In its ruling, the IRS said the content of Mr. Gingrich's course "was educational and never favored or opposed a candidate for public office." A special counsel for the ethics committee had accused Mr. Gingrich of running a partisan political agenda through the tax-exempt class. To settle the ethics complaint, Mr. Gingrich agreed to pay a $300,000 fine.
- Next year, Louisiana will again usurp Iowa as home to the nation's first GOP presidential contest. The last such attempt was an embarrassing flop that produced a candidate boycott and overcrowded polling places. Only Pat Buchanan and Phil Gramm participated in Louisiana's 1996 caucus.
- Fay Boozman, a Christian eye surgeon and failed GOP Senate candidate, was named Arkansas health director despite a feminist outcry that erupted after he said he supported an abortion ban with exceptions for rape and incest because pregnancies rarely occur in such cases.
- Vernon Berg, an ex-Navy ensign who sued the military after he was dishonorably discharged for being homosexual, has died of AIDS at age 47. A federal appeals court ruled in 1978 that he was unfairly discharged. The armed forces now generally grant honorable discharges to homosexuals.
In the hypersensitive racial atmosphere of Washington, D.C., all words seem to be created equally hurtful. When Public Advocate David Howard, who is white, explained to two subordinates that he had to be "niggardly" because of the department's tight budget, a black employee took offense. The dictionary says that "niggardly," which means stingy and comes from the Middle English, has no etymological relationship to the American racist term derived from the Spanish word for black. But the dictionary is no defense in matters of offense, and Mr. Howard found himself out of a job. That was too much even for Julian Bond of the NAACP, who accused D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams of being "niggardly" for accepting Mr. Howard's resignation.
After Yuriko Kawaguchi was convicted of credit card forgery, she sued the Ohio judge who wouldn't let her out of the slammer to get an abortion. Now she has given birth to a 7-pound, 1-ounce girl. Ms. Kawaguchi, 21, convinced a state appeals court to release her on bond on Oct. 13. But by that time she was too far along in her pregnancy to get a legal abortion in Ohio. She decided to keep her baby and got court permission to move to California, where she lives with her mother and sister while her lawsuit against the judge continues. Patricia Cleary, the judge who sentenced Ms. Kawaguchi to six months in prison, said the news of the birth is "wonderful. I hope everything is okay."
World in brief
The biggest battleground in the 2000 Mexican presidential election could be the United States. Mexican expatriates now have the right to vote in their homeland-and candidates may be stumping in Los Angeles, San Diego, and New York. Some speculate the expatriate vote may break the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party's political chokehold. Millions of Mexicans in the United States consider the PRI a defender of the status quo and part of the reason they crossed the border in the first place. Matrimony in gay paree
Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and the French government are pushing a bill that would give legal status to unmarried couples, including homosexual unions. But their plans face vocal hostility. Tens of thousands of people marched through Paris streets to protest the Civil Solidarity Pact, known as PACS law. But France's leftist government is pressing ahead. PACS is headed for the country's Senate and could be law before the year is out.
New Chinese crackdown?
Rev. Pei Junchao and Rev. Chen Hekun are two of the latest victims of the Chinese Communist Party's crackdown on dissent. These Roman Catholic priests worship outside the state-approved church. According to the Cardinal Kung Foundation, a U.S.-based group advocating the rights of Catholics in China, other priests and seminarians were arrested with Junchao and Hekun. A spokesman for the group says Chinese authorities have "a terrorist policy" against Catholics that includes beatings, detentions, and confiscation of property. Over the past six months, the group reports, Chinese police broke up a Catholic celebration in one province, beat and fined worshippers in another province, and sexually assaulted a priest.
Disneyland-style special effects are coming to the Holy Land. A private contractor will build a submerged bridge on the Sea of Galilee so pilgrims can "walk on water." "It would not be too kitschy," claimed Zeev Margalit of Israel's National Parks Authority. This man-made miracle will arrive in Capernaum next August as part of Israel's preparations for an anticipated 4 million visitors arriving for millennium celebrations. The crescent-shaped floating bridge will be 13 feet wide, 28 feet long, and hold up to 50 people at once. For full effect, it will sit two inches below the water-with no railings. Instead, when people fall off the bridge, boats and lifeguards will rush to save them.
A call for tolerance
The village of Monoharpur is typical of many in India. It has no electricity or telephones and only a rutted dirt track connects it to the outside world. But its one-room Baptist church leaves a legacy of the anti-Christian tension that is heating up across the country. Monoharpur is the place where Australian Baptist missionary Graham Stains and his two young sons were burned alive last month by a slogan-shouting mob of Hindu nationalists. Hardcore Hindus see Christianity as unwanted competition to a religious absolute in Indian life. "In Hinduism, we regard conversions as a wrong act," said the World Hindu Council's international president, Vishnu Hari Dalmia. Christians have never been more than about 2 percent of India's population. But some Hindu traditionalists say conversions could snowball and someday transform a Hindu society into a Christian one. Shailesh Mark, an official with the Evangelical Fellowship of India, described how one local official burst into a low-caste prayer meeting. "He said things like: 'If you become Christian, who is going to till our land? Who is going to polish our shoes?'" Right now, the Indian government is trying to play peacekeeper. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee called for "tolerance" and staged a fast on the 51st anniversary of the death of Mohandas Gandhi to protest the murder of the missionary.
Selective free speech
Judge sides with pornographers in one Internet case, but jury finds against radical abortion protesters in another
If you're a pornographer who pushes the envelope peddling smut to children, go for it. If you're a pro-lifer who pushes the envelope trying to drive abortionists out of business, shut up. That was the message of two different decisions handed down in federal courts last week. In Philadelphia, U.S. District Court Judge Lowell A. Reed Jr. ruled Monday that the Child Online Protection Act was unconstitutional and that its stiff penalties-six months in jail and fines of $50,000 per violation-could not be enforced. Earlier, Judge Reed had issued a temporary injunction against COPA, but that ruling was slated to expire at midnight on Monday. Just in the nick of time, the judge issued his new, "preliminary injunction," guaranteeing pornographers continuing unfettered use of the Internet. The new injunction renders the law-passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton last October-unenforceable until another court can hear an ACLU lawsuit that challenges COPA on constitutional grounds. Lawmakers in both parties hoped COPA would pass judicial scrutiny after its predecessor, the Communications Decency Act, was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1997. COPA's restrictions were much looser than those in the earlier law: It merely said that commercial pornography sites on the Web must require a credit card number in an effort to ensure that the person accessing the site is not a minor. In the opinion of Judge Reed, however, no such plain brown wrapper can be imposed on the Internet. He agreed with the plaintiffs that the credit card requirement would decrease visits to pornographic sites by adults concerned about their privacy. That, in turn, would threaten the commercial viability of the porn peddlers, who depend upon large numbers of anonymous visitors to justify the rates charged to advertisers on their sites. Pro-lifers in Portland, Ore., aren't going to get away so easily. An eight-person jury deliberated for four days before handing down a stunning, $109 million verdict against a coalition of abortion opponents who circulated "Wanted" posters with photos of abortionists and provided information for a Web site listing their home addresses and other personal information. Under instruction from Judge Robert E. Jones, the jury decided that such tactics might be construed as a threat by a "reasonable person." Threatening abortionists is illegal under clinic-protection and anti-racketeering laws, so the jury's finding made the defendants liable for both compensatory and punitive damages. "I'm very gratified by this verdict," said James Newhall, a Portland abortionist who was one of the plaintiffs. "This country will not tolerate domestic terrorism." Chris Ferrara, an attorney for one of the defendants, took a different view. "I think it shreds the First Amendment," he said, arguing that the jury's reasoning would make participants in any movement liable for the actions of those on the fringe. For instance, he said, other environmentalists could be punished for extremist violence like recent arson attacks on an Oregon logging company and a Colorado ski resort. Catherine Ramey, one of the defendants, cried as the verdict was read. "You might as well pack away your picket signs and go home," she said, adding that the verdict "should put a chill on everybody." Mrs. Ramey said she wasn't concerned about the money. After years of lawsuits, she has already used legal means to shuffle her assets to others in order to avoid seizure. The greater harm, she said, was the message being sent by the huge award, and the precedent that it might set. The liberal plaintiffs immediately began making that message plain. "The American people-represented by this jury-have clearly stated that our society will neither tolerate violence, nor tolerate intimidation by domestic terrorists who issue thinly veiled threats of violence," said Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood, which won the largest monetary award in the case. "Whether these threats are posted on trees or on the Internet, their intent and impact is the same: to threaten the lives of doctors who courageously serve women seeking to exercise their right to choose abortion." The details of the case made even some conservatives squeamish. The Web site in question, known as "The Nuremberg Files" (www.christiangallery.com/ atrocity) is undeniably graphic, with animated blood dripping from photos of dismembered little bodies. Text on the site condemns the "baby butchers" who throw out aborted fetuses, "bagged like groceries destined for Satan's table." The page titled "A Day at the Baby Butcher's Lab" concludes with this question: "Is it any wonder people are driven to violence in the face of such injustice, such evil, such abomination?" Another controversial page on the site lists the names of known abortionists. Those who have been killed in recent attacks have their names crossed off the list. Few Christians might agree with the tone and content of the Nuremberg Files Web site. But in his decision on cyberporn, Judge Reed of Philadelphia stressed that he had little use for online pornographers, either-but in this case, the judge called free speech "the greater good" that must be protected at all costs. The irony of the two decisions, handed down within hours of each other, is that commercial pornography now appears to enjoy greater constitutional protection than speech intended to preserve life. The threat of a $50,000 penalty for providing lewd pictures to minors was considered unconstitutionally "chilling" to the speech rights of pornographers. Yet the effect of a $109 million judgment against a group that gains nothing financially from its speech didn't seem to be a concern. Both decisions will likely be appealed. The Justice Department, which defended the constitutionality of the Child Online Protection Act, is weighing its options, but legal experts believe the Clinton Administration will continue to fight for the law, as it did for the Communications Decency Act. The ACLU cheered the pornography decision but hedged on the abortion verdict, saying it was "trying to strike a balance between protecting free speech and reproductive freedom." The pro-abortion St. Louis Post-Dispatch, however, editorialized that while the "language and tone of the site come too close for comfort to the line that separates free speech from speech that incites violence," it "probably does not cross that line." The paper called the site "objectionable, distasteful, troubling. And that's exactly the kind of speech the First Amendment is designed to protect."