News & Reviews

Issue: "Remember Los Alamos," March 27, 1999

After verdict, Lyons confesses and resigns
'Out of control'
Like Jimmy Swaggart and Bill Clinton before him, Henry Lyons went on national TV and confessed he'd done wrong. In an interview with Connie Chung on 20/20 March 15, prison-bound Mr. Lyons avoided use of the word sin, but he admitted having "disgraced the church" and the black community. He said he was "deeply sorry" for the "shame" and "negative image" he had brought to the National Baptist Convention U.S.A. as its president. "I was out of control," he said after Miss Chung retraced how he swindled millions of dollars from corporations, how he stole nearly $225,000 in donations for burned churches, and how he lavished hundreds of thousands of dollars on lovers and on expensive cars and jewels. "That one error," he said, referring to the fire-fund donations, "has cost me all of my credibility.... I don't think I'll ever recover from that mistake." Most of the money wound up in a personal investment account. In a short side interview on the show, NBC board member E.V. Hill, a popular Los Angeles pastor, repeated a charge he made to WORLD earlier: Mr. Lyons is a victim of "a conspiracy to eliminate national black male leadership" in America. He did not explain. Next day, Mr. Lyons, 57, resigned as NBC president in a meeting of the NBC board at his church in St. Petersburg, Fla. Sobbing and apologizing in a sidewalk news conference outside, he told reporters he was "truly repentant.... I hate that I hurt so many people." Tearful board members rallied around him and said they had forgiven him. "We love you," said Pastor Hill, who may run as the board's candidate for the NBC presidency at the annual convention in September. NBC vice president S.C. Cureton, a South Carolina pastor, will serve as president in the interim. Mr. Lyons awaits sentencing March 31 for his conviction on criminal charges last month in state court (see WORLD, March 13). Meanwhile, the Baptist leader entered a plea bargain on March 17 in a federal case against him. He agreed to plead guilty to five of the 54 counts, including tax evasion and fraud. He could face a sentence of up to 75 years, but it is expected to be much shorter, likely to be served concurrently with the state sentence. Gates's punishment: Baby bills?
Looking bleak for Microsoft
Is Bill Gates's corporate empire about to split up? A sense of doom hangs over Microsoft as chances of beating a Justice Department antitrust case grow dimmer. The world's largest software company began preparing a reorganization into four large divisions, leading some to speculate that this is the beginning of the "Baby Bills" that will survive the breakup. The Software and Information Industry Association, a powerful trade lobby that usually backs Mr. Gates, endorsed a breakup in a report to the government. This move calmed some Washington detractors who have worried about ending a success story that employs 27,000 people and recorded $14.4 billion in sales last year. Microsoft officials refuse to comment publicly about the company's possible breakup. The company says it only wants to serve its customers without government encroachment. Spokesman Greg Shaw called the proposed remedies "little more than wishful thinking by our competitors." The Justice Department accuses Microsoft of abusing its market power through control of the Windows operating system. Prosecutors claim Bill Gates and his fellow executives bully competitors into submission and drive some out of the marketplace. Republicans and abortion
Is the GOP still pro-life?
Pro-abortion Republicans are on the move. New York Gov. George Pataki, a contender for a spot on the party's national ticket, has begun publicly urging the GOP to remove the pro-life plank from its platform. Elizabeth Dole seems to agree. Her advisors told Newsweek that the presidential candidate will not support the Human Life Amendment. Meanwhile, sources close to New Jersey's Christie Whitman say the militantly pro-abortion governor will run for the Senate. But liberal Republican John Chafee of Rhode Island announced that he will not seek reelection to that body in 2000 . michigan prosecutors outmaneuver kevorkian?
Staying out of the legal briar patch
Michigan prosecutors want to keep Jack Kevorkian from stumping for assisted suicide at his upcoming murder trial. So they dropped an assisted suicide charge against the death doctor, opting to focus on Dr. Kevorkian's act of murder, not his argument about how the victim's pain and suffering supposedly gave Dr. Kevorkian the right to kill him. "The issue in this case is Kevorkian's right to kill, not his belief in an individual's right to die," said Oakland County prosecutor David Gorcyca. His killing of Thomas Youk, who was suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease, was videotaped and aired on 60 Minutes as a test case for active euthanasia. Dr. Kevorkian appealed the murder charge, saying he wants to fight for the "right to end their suffering." Prosecutor John O'Brien called Dr. Kevorkian's filing a sham: "He demanded that he be charged by the prosecution and now he's appealing." Dr. Kevorkian has tangled with prosecutors for nine years, since he attended the first of what he has said are more than 130 deaths. This time, they vow they will get their man. While keeping Dr. Kevorkian's views out of the courtroom means he is more likely to be convicted, it also means that his arguments for assisted suicide can't be shot down in court either. The murder trial was scheduled to start March 22, but Dr. Kevorkian's appeal requested a delay. In Michigan, the murder charge carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison upon conviction. high-tech merger
AT&T: All telephones & televisions?
Ma Bell is preparing to make a comeback. AT&T completed its $55 billion purchase of TCI, America's largest cable company. This gives the combo a head start in the race toward putting cable TV, Internet access, and phone service in one high-speed fiber optic jack installed in every home. "The closing of the TCI merger is a huge step forward in the transformation of AT&T to an 'any-distance' company," said AT&T chairman C. Michael Armstrong. The deal wasn't done just to put AT&T in the TV business, but to give the company control of TCI's massive infrastructure that delivers service to millions. The court-ordered Bell System breakup keeps AT&T away from local phone lines while leaving it as America's largest long distance company. By buying TCI, the company buys into local service for the first time in 15 years. AT&T will start offering local calling in 10 cities later this year. TCI is busy rolling out fiber optic lines in its own areas and selling packages of services in other cities. Combining the services makes upgrading to a new high-tech world easier for the home customer and lets AT&T sell everything. temporary fix for the Y2K bug?
Pay me later
What do you do when you're a middle manager with a Y2K problem and an unmovable deadline? Instead of buying new software, many are using a sophisticated twist of logic to fool computers into accepting 21st-century dates. In effect, techies trade a bug that will blow up in 30 weeks for one that will blow up in 30 years. The FAA, for example, admits it uses this technique, known as "windowing," a technological short cut that will have to be replaced within a generation. That could mean another heavily hyped techno-scare in a few decades. "It's a Band-Aid, the way building a house out of wood and fiberboard is," said Gartner Group researcher Jim Duggan. "You hope you'll be somewhere else before it falls down." Windowing works by programming software to guess the century for dates that fall within a specific "window" of time, such as the years 00 to 30. The computer interprets the year based on a future "hinge date," or pivot, which is often chosen arbitrarily. Critics say this only passes off the problem to another generation that will still be using the same rusty software. "It's like the Fram oil filter guy: You can pay me now or you can pay me later," said Keith Rhodes of the General Accounting Office. al gore: the internet is my baby
Ma, ma, who's my pa?
Is Al Gore the father of the Internet? He thinks so. "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet," the vice president told CNN's Wolf Blitzer in an interview for that network. Actually, what we know as the Internet was created by a Cold War brain trust called DARPA, or the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, back in 1969. Back then, Mr. Gore was only 21, still eight years away from joining Congress. The Net's origins date back to 1957, when DARPA started researching how to improve military communications. Congressional Republicans were more than willing to remind Gore of this. "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the paper clip," joked Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.). "Paper clips bind us together as a nation." A press release from Mr. Lott's office also announced that the senator "refused to answer questions about whether or not he was also the fifth Beatle." Gore aides say their boss has a rightful claim, having appeared at nearly every Internet-related photo-op his handlers could find. He's also called for more government funding for pork-barrel cyberprojects. The biggest is something called Internet 2, which provides R&D services for large corporations at taxpayer expense. While this gaffe may not be the silver bullet that keeps Mr. Gore out of the Oval Office, it certainly drills a hole in an image that has been carefully crafted ever since he started talking about a vague "information superhighway." "When historians write about the Internet, I don't think they'll put the vice president in the same category as Thomas Edison," said House Majority Leader Dick Armey. The no-comment zone

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