News & Reviews

Issue: "Smoking guns," March 6, 1999

euthanasia in oregon?
Follow the money
Do federal tax dollars cover assisted suicides in Oregon? Rep. Thomas Bliley (R-Va.), chairman of the House Commerce Committee, and three other Republicans want the Clinton administration to review whether Oregon includes such euthanasia in its health plan for the poor. Congress in 1997 prohibited the use of federal funds for assisted suicide. The Oregon Health Plan is partially funded by Medicaid. It covers about 350,000 Oregonians, and began covering suicides in December but has not yet had any suicide claims. State and federal officials said these would be covered entirely by the state. This may sound conclusive, but as liberals argue when trying to regulate private schools that get any government funds, money is fungible. If the federal government picks up the tab for any part of the Oregon Health Plan, that frees up state funds to be used for assisted suicide. Fifteen people committed suicide under Oregon's Death With Dignity Act during the law's first year. Two were covered by the Oregon Health Plan, but they died before the plan covered assisted suicides. jane doe #5
Does anyone care?
It's not over. Let's get on with the business of the country, the pollsters reported people saying, and the Senate irresponsibly complied, truncating the impeachment trial despite valiant efforts by the House managers. Here was last week's sad story, as reported on Dateline NBC (after a month-long delay) and now relayed throughout many media: Two decades ago, Bill Clinton raped Juanita Broaddrick. WORLD is not going to present the details, and normally would not report a claim like that from 20 years ago, long after the statute of limitations for such a crime ran out. But this story involves the president of the United States, and it is well-enough corroborated-by a woman who after the sexual assault saw Mrs. Broaddrick, and by others-to have impressed liberals at NBC and The Washington Post as well as conservatives at The Wall Street Journal. Controversy about the timing of the Dateline NBC showing, which was held up by network executives, remains. Had the story hit the airwaves when originally scheduled, would the impeachment trial vote have been different? But the sadness of this situation goes beyond politics. The book of Deuteronomy discusses certain sins, including rape, that required the perpetrators to be purged from Israel. America is not Israel and those specific civil laws do not apply, but the general principle does: Evil ignored is evil preserved, and it's not over until cleansing occurs. Now, for almost two more years, we are stuck with a president who no longer has the capacity to surprise us. Charges of lying? No surprise. Rape? No astonishment. Little outrage. Just sadness. Would T.S. Eliot say this is the way America's hope ends: not with a bang, but a whimper? We can't let that happen. This too shall pass; this country has made comebacks before. But while this peculiar gray state lasts for the next two years, words are beginning to fail even those who have been long indignant. It's just so sad. abortion
Small victory
Underage girls in Virginia still have to tell their parents in most cases that they are about to get an abortion before getting one. The Supreme Court left intact a state law requiring unmarried girls under 18 to tell Mom or Dad at least 24 hours in advance. This Virginia law is about notification, not consent. It can be waived if the abortionist has reason to believe the girl has been abused or neglected. And if the abortion-seeker can prove to a judge that she's mature enough to handle the decision by herself, she can leave Mom and Dad in the dark. Even this was too much for a Planned Parenthood-led coalition of abortionists that challenged the legislation, but the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted against them last August. greenspan on the economy
Danger signs ahead
The U.S. economy will stay prosperous this year-and Americans "can justifiably feel proud" of that, said Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. "Our economy's performance should remain solid this year," he told the Senate Banking Committee, "though likely with a slower pace of economic expansion and a slightly higher rate of overall inflation than last year." Mr. Greenspan left his options open, though. He said interest rates likely would remain steady, but warned of factors that could move the economy toward recession, requiring lower interest rates, as well as threats that could lead to higher inflation, requiring higher interest rates. Trouble spots include the global economic crunch, the ongoing shortage of skilled workers, a skyrocketing trade deficit, and possible Y2K disruptions. judge slaps two cabinet officials
'Outright false statements'
U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth slapped contempt-of-court citations on two Clinton cabinet officials for delays of up to two years in handing over records for a case involving Indian trust funds. Brushing away charges of partisanship, Judge Lamberth ruled that Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin must take blame for delays and "outright false statements" in a lawsuit alleging federal mishandling of $500 million in funds. He ordered the administration to pay $500,000 in plaintiffs' legal fees. The Clinton administration apologized for its handling of the suit and pledged its cooperation. The costs of the mess ultimately will be paid by taxpayers. Mr. Babbitt requested $100 million in his 2000 budget toward cleaning up the Indian funds, which everyone involved agrees were mismanaged for decades. Judge Lamberth warned he may impose fines or other punitive damages if matters don't improve. Mr. Lamberth is the same judge who once called Ira Magaziner "dishonest" for withholding White House documents from a doctors' group. "People forget the number of times I ruled against the Bush administration," the judge said. man knows not his time
Gene Siskel
The lights dimmed for Gene Siskel after 24 years as half of the team that turned the world of movie critics upside down. Just 17 days after taking a leave of absence from his TV slot with Roger Ebert, he died while recovering from brain surgery. Mr. Siskel and Mr. Ebert, critics for competing Chicago newspapers, came together on the PBS show Sneak Previews in 1975. Their love-hate relationship became a hit and they left for commercial TV in 1982. Mr. Siskel and Mr. Ebert became stars themselves, as much a part of the Hollywood scene as the actors and directors. The "thumbs-up/thumbs-down" reviews at the end of their shows became legendary but won groans from other critics (many of whom wish they had thought of it themselves). While the pair argued with each other, their reviews were a good way to test establishment opinion about particular movies. Mr. Siskel's favorites over the years leaned toward the unconventional (like Hoop Dreams, The Ice Storm, and Shoah) and sometimes ghastly (The Last Temptation of Christ, Hair, and last year's tasteless disaster Babe: Pig in the City). He worked a manic schedule, doing reviews for the TV show, the Chicago Tribune, TV Guide, CBS This Morning, and WBBM-TV. Mr. Ebert said his partner focused on his work as he fought a quiet but strenuous battle against complications that arose after a growth was removed from his brain in May. "I can't even imagine what it will be like [without Mr. Siskel]," Mr. Ebert said. "There was a history there, a respect that I'm never really going to replace in my life. It's going to be tough." The no-comment zone

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