News & Reviews

Issue: "Joe DiMaggio: In memoriam," March 20, 1999

hypocrisy watch
Turner: another Schott
Ted Turner's reign as the clown prince of tycoons has him in a bases-loaded jam with Major League Baseball. His bizarre, off-the-cuff remarks about politics and religion are a common source of unintentional hilarity. Now his words may come back to haunt him. The latest: an ethnic joke about Polish people has set a group of Roman Catholics protesting him. Former U.S. Senate candidate Thomas Droleskey, head of a group called Christ or Chaos, appealed to baseball commissioner Bud Selig for "immediate action" against Mr. Turner. They want him to suffer a similar fate as Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott for shooting off her mouth: suspension from any contact with the Atlanta Braves and the sport for a year. Mr. Turner has already issued a "heartfelt apology" for remarking that the pope should "get with it-welcome to the 20th century," and for proposing an end to the Ten Commandments' ban on adultery. Major League Baseball has already talked to Mr. Turner about his behavior, but even if he is disciplined, it won't matter much. Ms. Schott was forced to quit running the Cincinnati Reds because of her comments about black people. But Mr. Turner no longer technically owns his sports franchises. He sold them along with the rest of his assets to Time Warner. Nevertheless, whether MLB will treat a media mogul like Mr. Turner as it did an otherwise obscure Ohio car dealer like Marge Schott remains to be seen. As Cincinnati sports columnist Tim Sullivan of the Enquirer put it, "Marge Schott became a pariah because she picked on the wrong people. Ted Turner's fate will tell us how much baseball believes in brotherhood." oregon doctors uneasy about killing
A Kevorkian stigma
Oregon's promoters of assisted suicide have a small problem: Many doctors have qualms about killing their patients. An informal survey of physicians showed 67 percent unwilling to give people deadly doses of drugs. The so-called Death With Dignity movement says doctors have the right not to kill patients who ask to die. There's no shortage of suicide assistants, since Oregon's sampling showed about one-third of the state's doctors willing to do the dirty deed. "It's like being an abortion doctor," said study co-author Dr. Katrina Hedberg. "Doctors who take a stand and participate might be subjected to public harassment." Her study showed that only 15 people committed suicide last year under the law. Six of them were turned down by at least one doctor. Observers say that the number might have been higher had not reluctant doctors refused to serve the lethal cocktails. Meanwhile, Oregon officials plan more studies to find out why its legal suicides are so unpopular. state to parents: Gay teacher ok
Concern or bigotry?
When a group of Bakersfield, Calif., parents found out their 8th-grade kids' teacher might be a homosexual, they started pulling their children out of his classes. Now a state official has ordered the 15 pupils back into James Merrick's classroom. Mr. Merrick's mannerisms and open discussion of homosexuality made students uncomfortable. When he joined a campaign against a minister branded "anti-gay," that was the last straw. Mr. Merrick was hired by the district in 1994. He won't reveal his sexual preference, but he enlisted the homosexualist Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund to represent him in a crusade against his school district. He won. Chief Deputy Labor Commissioner Jose Millan ruled that the district discriminated against the science teacher. chinese espionage
Top scientist fired
Energy Secretary Bill Richardson fired a Chinese-American scientist from his job at the Los Alamos National Laboratory for providing top-secret design information to China on nuclear warhead technology. The Associated Press identified the scientist as Wen Ho Lee, a native of Taiwan who has worked at Los Alamos for more than 12 years with top security clearance. His wife also works at Los Alamos, in a program covering "liaison activities" with foreign scientists. FBI officials say she is not under investigation, but Mr. Lee has been the subject of a three-year inquiry. He was not arrested after his dismissal on March 8. The technology gained by the Chinese from Los Alamos enabled military technicians to perfect the miniaturization of nuclear bombs, a high-tech leap necessary for mounting small warheads on one missile aimed at multiple targets. World in brief

  • Gondola Clipper not guilty
    A Marine Corps pilot whose plane severed gondola cables in Italy last year, sending 20 people to their deaths, was acquitted of charges of involuntary homicide and manslaughter by a court-martial jury in North Carolina that found no negligence, even though the plane was flying lower and faster than rules permitted. Pilot Richard J. Ashby, 31, a captain from Mission Viejo, Calif., could still face other charges, including obstruction of justice, in another court-martial trial.
  • Aid worker killed
    Christian humanitarian aid worker Londa Taylor was killed in an auto accident in Kyrgyzstan in the vehicle meant to launch a long-awaited mobile medical project founded by Mrs. Taylor and her husband Ron, both Americans. The medically equipped van, driven by a colleague, crashed March 9 at the Kazakh-Russia border.
  • Symbolic library
    Christian and Muslim leaders in Pakistan dedicated the Prince of Peace Library and Center in Shantinagar, hoping its resources will be a symbolic gesture of mutual trust and respect. The rural village in Punjab province was the site two years ago of angry riots against Christians falsely accused of desecrating the Koran. A mob of 30,000 Muslims burned homes and took belongings of the village's 10,000 Christians. U.S. citizens killed, imprisoned in S. America
    Americans in danger
    In an unprecedented confession, the largest rebel group in Colombia admitted its men abducted and later killed three Americans whose bodies were found just inside Venezuela last week. The Americans were working with a local Indian group to set up a school system. A leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC, said the Americans were kidnapped and executed by a low-ranking field commander acting without the approval of his superiors. Ruling junta member Raul Reyes said the rebel who ordered the shootings may face a firing squad. The confession was seen in part as a plea bargain to sustain peace talks begun in January between the rebels and Colombia president Andres Pastrana. Critics say Mr. Pastrana has been overly conciliatory toward the guerrilla group, which finances its operations through kidnappings and extortion of farmers and drug traffickers involved in the cocaine trade. Officials of the U.S. State Department also met with the rebels last December in a first-ever face-to-face encounter aimed at getting the talks off the ground. In spite of last week's moment of truth, FARC leaders have refused to provide information on three American missionaries kidnapped over five years ago and believed to be either in captivity or killed by rebels. New Tribes Mission issued a statement just after the recent killings to clarify that the three dead Americans were not its still-missing missionaries. The parents of Lori Berenson, an MIT graduate accused of "high treason" for her work with Tupac Amaru guerrillas in Peru, blasted the Clinton administration during a state visit to the White House by Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori for ignoring human-rights abuses in Peru. "I am offended by my country! I am offended by my government! Where is President Clinton feeling my pain?" Mark Berenson shouted, pounding the lectern at a New York news conference called to report the latest details of his daughter's incarceration. Miss Berenson is serving a life sentence in a high-altitude prison with no heat or other amenities. the no-comment zone
  • The race for the GOP presidential nomination will again likely contain a Bush and a Dole: Elizabeth Dole, wife of the former senator and candidate for top office, announced the formation of a presidential exploratory committee, a move Texas Gov. George W. Bush already had made. Mrs. Dole also launched a series of TV commercials in Iowa and New Hampshire; the video footage contains no images of her husband.
  • Louisiana's partial-birth abortion ban met a now predictable end in court: A federal judge tossed it out, saying it caused confusion. Of 28 states that have passed some kind of ban on late-term abortions, judicial decisions have shot down 19 of them.
  • Veteran D.C. radio reporter Larry Matthews said he was only investigating a news story when he traded kiddie porn over the Internet. He pled guilty to peddling child pornography and was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Mr. Matthews, who has the backing of several media and civil liberties groups, was not allowed to invoke the First Amendment in his case. He vows to appeal a judge's denial of that line of defense.
  • Crayola announced that it is changing the name of its "Indian Red" crayon because of complaints from teachers, who say students think the name pertains to American Indians. In fact, Crayola says, the color is based on a reddish-brown pigment commonly found near India.
  • The NCAA's minimum test score requirement for student athletes was shot down as racist by a federal judge. U.S. District Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter says that making incoming freshmen score 820 or better on the SAT disadvantages blacks and may not be used. The NCAA will appeal. accidental nuclear holocaust?
    Y2K stand-down
    Worried about a Y2K-provoked nuclear holocaust, Washington's military policymakers are debating whether to take the U.S. nuclear arsenal off alert in December. The Pentagon won't talk about this in public, but one congressman hopes such action would prevent a dangerous confrontation. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said at a Y2K symposium that "this is a perfect opportunity to use the Y2K issue to open the whole discussion" of nuclear stand-down. Others say taking weapons off alert status and then back on might pose additional risks. At the same meeting, Bruce Blair of the Brookings Institution said the Russian early warning system, with its thousands of missiles on hair-trigger alert, is a high Y2K risk. The Clinton Administration is trying to get U.S. and Russian experts together at the end of the year to monitor missile systems. If the nukes don't launch, the nation's skies will be safe to fly on New Year's Day. But the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) still doesn't know how things will go at U.S. airports or in foreign aviation systems. "From the air-traffic control system, our end-to-end testing says there will be no impact on Jan. 1," said Ray Long, director of the FAA's Y2K program. "The impact could be more to the infrastructure-how you get to and from the airport." Top FAA officials made that pronouncement last week in response to continuing questions about whether the U.S. aviation system will be able to deal with the computer glitch. "know your customer" in trouble in Congress
    "Bank teller," literally
    Will every bank teller in America become a spy for Big Brother? That fear has created an outcry from customers that has spread from the Internet to the steps of Capitol Hill. Originally buried in the Federal Register last year, the so-called "Know Your Customer" regulations would force banks to track depositors' habits. Under the rules, banks would have to verify their customers' identities, know where their money comes from, and determine their normal pattern of transactions. They also would have to watch closely for "suspicious" transactions and report them to the feds for investigation. Opponents called the regulations unconstitutional, but the road to overturning them has been bumpy. "If you ever wondered whatever happened to the people in the former Soviet Union who used to run things there and now are permanently out of work, the answer is they're all in the Clinton administration, and they're running the banking authorities of this country," Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas) said. By an 88-0 vote, the Senate expressed support for a resolution directing regulators to drop the proposed rules, but Senate Democrats blocked a vote on actual adoption; in other words, the resolution has no force of law. But over in the House, the banking committee adopted an amendment to a big financial services bill that would kill such banking rules. America's bankers say they don't want these rules because they add work and reduce consumer trust. Many have warned that "Know Your Customer" will cause Americans to lose confidence in the banking system and the government. The rules are supposed to fight money laundering by drug dealers and other criminals, but could send snoops digging into the transactions of average Americans.

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