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
- The Dow Jones Industrial Average broke a record and crossed the five-digit barrier on March 16, hitting a high of 10,001.78. Fears of a "D10K" type crash because computers couldn't handle the extra digit proved unwarranted. The day went smoothly.
- Internet shoppers don't pay special sales taxes right now, but that will change soon, predicts Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.): "I don't think we can stop state and local governments from demanding their share of contributions."
- America's prison population more than doubled over the past 12 years and reached its highest level ever last year, according to a Justice Department survey. In mid-1988, U.S. prisons held the most prisoners ever: an estimated 1.8 million.
- Parental kidnappings are on the rise, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The reason: The growing number of divorces gives rise to more bitter custody battles and thus more occasions for such kidnappings.
- It's official: Amy Grant and Gary Chapman are getting divorced after 16 years. The most popular American Christian female vocalist filed for divorce this month, according to a record company statement. They have three children: Matthew, 11, Millie, 9, and Sarah, 6.
- Former sexual harassment plaintiff Paula Corbin Jones and her husband Steve have separated, but both say a divorce is not likely.
- Does character count? After a five-month media drumbeat in Toronto, Blue Jays baseball manager Tim Johnson was fired after failing to reestablish trust with his players. The Toronto Sun revealed last October that Mr. Johnson, in an attempt to inspire his players, lied to them about his Vietnam War experiences; in truth, he never saw combat. In January, Mr. Johnson ruminated on the controversy, the relationship between truth-telling and on-the-field success, and his future with the team: "The number of ball games we win will determine that. That's what a manager should be judged on." The Jays were 3-12 in Grapefruit League preseason action when he was canned. chilling details emerge from north korea
Shooting to kill
As an end-of-March deadline nears for reassessment of U.S. policy toward North Korea, important revelations about conditions inside the secretive regime are complicating the review process. 3 Christians in northern China risk fines equal to one year's income for sheltering starving refugees from North Korea. As the rivers separating North Korea from Liaoning and Jilin provinces in China have frozen, famine-plagued North Koreans have made desperate dashes by night to cross into China, according to Compass Direct. Escapees are most often shot by Korean border guards enforcing a 1998 shoot-to-kill policy. Or they are returned by Chinese authorities. Or they freeze to death. 3 Some of the failed border crossings were captured on film by a defector who returned to North Korea with a camera hidden beneath ragged clothes. The shaky videotape captures only several hundred of the famine's estimated 2-4 million victims, but it is the best unfiltered glimpse Western officials have obtained. 3 A report from the Congressional Research Service documents 30 cases of North Korean diplomats involved in drug smuggling. Because of the country's worsening economic condition, North Korea is not paying officials who are stationed abroad. Many are using diplomatic privileges to pursue illegal ventures. According to a Washington Post report, they use state-run poppy farms to produce heroin. U.S. food aid to North Korea has grown from $2 million to $170 million in the last four years. At the same time, Washington has sanctioned North Korea for developing chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. On the eve of former Defense Secretary William J. Perry's policy reexamination for President Clinton, North Korean officials announced they will grant access to a suspected nuclear production facility-in May. backsliding on life in ireland
Blarney over abortion
Lighthearted goodwill to all things Irish did not disguise a push to undermine historic protection of the unborn on the Emerald Isle. Five delegates from Ireland voted in favor of a European Parliament motion to liberalize abortion policies across the continent. The measure would make abortion acceptable in cases of rape and where the "life or health" of a mother is in danger in European Union member countries. Currently, Ireland allows abortion only when a mother's life is threatened, but there are no official abortion clinics to carry out the procedure. Delegate Patricia McKenna, a member of the environmentalist Green Party who voted in favor of the motion, accused her country's government of being "negligent" by not addressing the issue. Abortion is expected to be a campaign issue in June elections for European Parliament delegates. world in brief
Christians face fines in China
A human-rights group in Hong Kong reports that 13 Christians in eastern China, detained without formal charges since Christmas, face labor camp stints if they cannot pay police fines. The Christians are part of a group of 40 believers arrested in December in Henan province after a police raid on a house church. The 13 must pay 2,000 yuan ($240) each in order to be released. Several of the other 27 Christians who were released had paid the fee to the 20 policemen who arrested them, according to Frank Lu of the Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China. He said 225 Christians were arrested in China during the last three months of 1998. Missionaries detained
Three workers associated with an Indianapolis-based missionary group were taken into custody in Zimbabwe when, as they boarded a flight for Switzerland, a gun set off an airport metal detector. A subsequent search of their pickup truck at the airport turned up assault and sniper rifles, shotguns, a light machine gun, handguns, firearms, telescopic sights, knives, camouflage cream, two-way radios, and ammunition. Officials in Zimbabwe say the group is funneling arms to Congo rebels. Jonathan Wallace, head of Harvestfield Ministries, denied the charges. "We preached, we drilled water wells, and did lots of other missionary work there.... We now have hundreds of Christians and preachers there," he said. Harvestfield is supported financially by Assemblies of God, Church of God, and independent congregations, Mr. Wallace said. The three workers, including Mr. Wallace's son-in-law, were held without bail on charges that could bring life sentences.