News & Reviews

Issue: "Surviving the Y2K panic," April 3, 1999

nato launches its first attack ever on a sovereign country
Yugoslavia under fire
NATO launched airstrikes against Yugoslavia in retaliation for its war on ethnic Albanians in the province of Kosovo and the refusal of President Slobodan Milosevic to sign a peace plan. It was the largest aerial bombardment in Europe since World II and the first time NATO has launched an attack over sovereign territory since the Atlantic alliance was formed 50 years ago. A Serbian Web site compared the strikes-which rained missile fire on the capital Belgrade and other cities-to German bombing raids in 1941. The Yugoslav Defense Ministry called the NATO attacks an "unprecedented criminal act" in support of Albanian "terrorists." Yugoslav officials said 10 people were killed and 38 wounded in the first night of attacks, which pinpointed military training facilities and weapons installations across Serb-dominated Yugoslavia. Serbs weren't the only ones using WWII imagery. President Bill Clinton compared Mr. Milosevic to Adolf Hitler and his war against Albanians in Kosovo to ethnic cleansing in Nazi Germany. Republicans also took up the cry against the Serbian leader. Sen. Jesse Helms, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called Mr. Milosevic "a pariah" who had "almost single-handedly restored the word 'genocide' to the European vocabulary." Mr. Helms and a bipartisan group of colleagues planned to introduce legislation making Mr. Milosevic's removal from office part of U.S. policy. Mr. Helms parts ways with Mr. Clinton over strategy, arguing that U.S. officials should "stop trying to entice Milosevic and his cronies to dinners at French castles," a reference to failed peace talks near Paris. Instead, he said, the United States should focus on supporting Serbian opposition to Mr. Milosevic. A Communist Party leader when the Eastern Bloc crumbled, Mr. Milosevic has managed to stay in power for 11 years. He was the main force behind Serb advances against Muslims and Croats in the Bosnian War, and on at least three occasions he has sent army tanks into the streets of Belgrade to crush his own opposition. But it is by no means certain that Mr. Milosevic's opposition wants true democracy. Leaders of a four-party coalition have embraced Serb nationalism as well. Key opposition leader Zoran Djindjic organized demonstrations against the NATO bombing of Bosnian Serb army positions around Sarajevo after the Serbs violated ceasefire agreements in 1995. He favored Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who was indicted by the international war crimes tribunal for the killing of thousands of Muslims at Srebrenica. Evangelicals in Kosovo
Neither Jew nor Greek
Evangelicals in the Kosovar capital, Pristina, said the situation there began to deteriorate at least a week before the bombing began. When international monitors were evacuated from Kosovo, Serb forces moved back in. Pristina "looks like one dead city," according to one pastor. "Everyone is living under fear of war and death," he said. As fear spread in the countryside, approximately 100,000 Albanian refugees poured into the Kosovar capital in search of safety and dwindling food supplies. Bread of Life, an evangelical relief organization based in Belgrade and manned by Serbians, has tried to keep pace with needs in Kosovo, sending in shipments of food, clothing, vitamins, and bedsheets despite threats of NATO attacks. Serbian evangelicals have also organized round-the-clock prayer vigils, and they fast every Tuesday for peace in Kosovo, according to Bread of Life's Jasmina Tosic. Clinton's box score
Strike three
In President Clinton's news conference on March 19, he was asked, "What do you think your legacy will be about lying, and how important do you think it is to tell the truth, especially under oath?" After saying he believes that telling the truth is "very important," the president invoked a sports metaphor: "I also think there will be a box score, and there will be that one negative and then there will be hundreds and hundreds of times when the record will show that I did not abuse my authority as president, that I was truthful with the American people." In fact, chronicling Mr. Clinton's lies would produce a thick book. Here is a tiny sample:

  • In 1992 candidate Clinton denied having an affair with Gennifer Flowers. But in a 1998 deposition he admitted having a sexual affair with her.
  • In February 1996 Mr. Clinton said, "Since I was a little boy, I've heard about the Iowa caucuses." There were no Iowa caucuses when Clinton was a boy. They began in 1972 when Clinton was at Oxford avoiding the draft, an incident that produced several more lies, not only to avoid service but about his motives for doing so.
  • In June 1996 Mr. Clinton said, "I have vivid and painful memories of black churches being burned in my own state when I was a child." The truth is not one black church was burned in Arkansas when he was growing up. One definition of the word lie is "to make an untrue statement with intent to mislead." That seems to sum up the game Bill Clinton has been playing. By that definition, his box score shows he has mostly struck out.
    -Cal Thomas, © 1999
    Los Angeles Times Syndicate Missile defense legislation approved
    Star Wars: The Sequel
    When President Reagan first proposed a space-based defense against nuclear missiles, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) sarcastically dubbed the idea "Star Wars." Last week, the force was with Sen. Kennedy. He voted yes-only three senators voted no-to legislation committing the Pentagon to building a national defense against limited ballistic missile attack "as soon as technologically possible." The plan is a scaled-down version of the Strategic Defense Initiative proposed by Ronald Reagan back in 1983. President Clinton vetoed a similar measure in 1995. It was revived based on a new assessment of threats from countries such as Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. Recent missile tests by North Korea and Iran and reports of nuclear weapons espionage by China helped build support for the measures, approved 90-3 by the Senate and 317-105 by the House. Naturally, the Russians and Chinese complained. China said that the system could spark a new arms race and strengthen U.S. military ties with Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. The White House backed down from veto threats and forced a provision to encourage more nuclear arms- reduction talks with Moscow. The lasers mentioned often in Mr. Reagan's plan have been scaled back. The national missile defense now on the drawing board will be based mostly on the ground. The Pentagon has spent about $50 billion on missile defense work over the past three decades. The first rocket test is due this summer. If successful, the military will order 61 anti-missile missiles, which will be placed at ground stations in either Alaska or North Dakota. double standards
    Aim higher
    The Senate may have let the commander in chief of the U.S. military off the hook for lying under oath about sex, but the military itself has higher standards for admirals and generals. Rear Admiral Paul "Scott" Semko, commander of U.S. land-based naval air forces in the Mediterranean region, lost that job for allegedly having an extramarital affair with a civilian not under his command and lying about it. Mr. Semko, who also received a punitive letter of reprimand, will be reassigned by the Navy Personnel Command. Navy sources say the punishment is virtually certain to end Mr. Semko's career. His is the latest in a string of cases of senior military officers being punished for sexual misconduct. Last December, the Navy found Rear Admiral John T. Scudi guilty of adultery, obstruction of justice, and improperly steering defense contracts to a woman with whom he was having an affair. His punishment: a 30-day arrest in his quarters, forfeiture of half his pay for two months, and a punitive letter of reprimand. Last week the Army ordered retired Major General David Hale to pay a $10,000 fine and forfeit $12,000 of his pension after he admitted on the opening day of his court-martial to adulterous affairs with the wives of four subordinates. report: homeschoolers consistently outperform their fellow students
    Head of the class
    Results from the largest-ever study of home education in America reinforce what homeschooling advocates already knew: It works. Homeschool students in elementary grades score a grade level higher on achievement tests than their counterparts in public and private schools, the research shows. And the longer the students are homeschooled, the better they get. By eighth grade, they perform four grade levels higher than do other students, according to the study. Lawrence M. Rudner, a University of Maryland professor of statistics and information science whose children attend public schools, looked at the achievement test scores and demographics of 20,760 homeschooled students in 11,903 families. The $35,000 study, which was commissioned by the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), should not be interpreted as criticism of public or private schools, he cautioned; it was not a controlled study. It "simply shows that home schooling works for those who make the commitment," he told a reporter. He acknowledged being surprised by "the magnitude of median achievement levels." Among the findings:
  • Homeschooled boys and girls do equally well on tests.
  • Homeschooled children watch significantly less television than other children. (For example, an average 1.6 percent of fourth-grade homeschoolers watch more than three hours of TV a day, compared with 40 percent nationally.)
  • Average home-school parents are married (97 percent vs. 72 percent of parents of school-age children nationally), have more education, have a higher median income ($52,000 vs. $36,000), and tend to have larger families (three or more children) than parents in the general population.
  • Nearly 80 percent of homeschool mothers do not work for pay; of those who do, 86 percent work part time. Bush, Dole face the heat from both sides on abortion
    A rent in the big tent?
    GOP presidential contenders George W. Bush and Elizabeth Dole are suffering from the curse of the big-tent Republican Party: They have to be pro-life enough to win in GOP primaries and pro-choice enough to appease the political establishment. Mrs. Dole simply won't talk about abortion. Her handlers coached her to say she is "personally pro-life," but opposes such specifics as the Human Life Amendment. Texas Governor Bush says he is opposed to abortion, with exceptions only for the life of the mother, rape, and incest. Yet he ducks the constitutional amendment issue as well, saying, "That's a hypothetical question" when it comes up. That's good enough for the National Right to Life Committee, which has certified Mr. Bush as "pro-life" and urged candidates to focus on Al Gore and not one another, but it's not good enough for those other candidates. Gary Bauer, for instance, attacked Mr. Bush's abortion stand as vague. "I don't see how a 'compassionate conservative' can be ambiguous about protecting unborn children," he said. Some other pro-life groups are also unimpressed by Mr. Bush's stance. Colleen Parro, director of the Republican National Coalition for Life, a Dallas-based group devoted to maintaining the pro-life plank in the GOP platform, said: "There is no way his stance can be described as pro-life." Ditto for the no-compromise American Life League. But neither do their evasions or nuances save them from the wrath of the abortion lobby, which refuses to give an inch of ground from Roe vs. Wade. To abortionists, Mr. Bush and Mrs. Dole are just lackeys of the fabled Religious Right. "George W. Bush opposes a woman's right to choose. Elizabeth Dole opposes a woman's right to choose," said abortion enthusiast Kate Michelman. Her group bought ads in New Hampshire and Iowa attacking the two hopefuls. Nasty Lotto fight settled
    Love your mom
    Is there no honor among gamblers? When Michael Klingebiel refused to share his $2.15 million New Jersey Lottery jackpot with his mother Phyllis, she took him to court. They settled on the same day the case was to go to trial. Mrs. Klingebiel sued for half. The settlement gives her 22.5 percent of the prize. She claimed that she and her son agreed for 10 years to buy lottery tickets together and share any prizes. Each month, they each pitched in enough to buy 40 lottery tickets. The system worked in 1991, when they split a $500 prize. But when he won a 1997 drawing, Michael Klingebiel claimed that he had bought the ticket on his own and did not have to share the winnings with his mother. The younger Klingebiel's lawyer said he didn't want his client to lose more of his winnings to a jury that might be sympathetic to a mother. Mr. Klingebiel "made a business decision," attorney Henry Rzemieniewski said. scripture-quoting judge overturned
    By the book
    A convicted child rapist's 51-year prison sentence was tossed because the sentencing judge turned to the Bible while deciding the punishment. James Arnett had been sentenced 13 months ago on 10 counts of raping and molesting his fiancee's 8-year-old daughter. Now, according to a 2-1 ruling by an appeals court, Mr. Arnett can seek a lesser sentence. The reason: By referring to Scripture, Cincinnati Judge Melba Marsh acted outside Ohio's sentencing guidelines. Ms. Marsh said she turned to the Bible while weighing Mr. Arnett's sentence. She said she read the verse in Matthew that said anyone who offends a child would be better off if "a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea." Prosecutor Mike Allen said he was appalled by the ruling: "For 200 years in this country, judges have been invoking Scripture in the courtroom. [This] is total nonsense." Now Mr. Allen says he must get to work making sure Mr. Arnett isn't released from jail while he waits for the case to be handed back to Judge Marsh for a new sentence. gay parade mocks easter
    Sister Act-up
    Roman Catholic leaders in San Francisco want city officials to revoke an Easter parade permit given to a group of drag queens known as the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. These cross-dressing men dress up as nuns with glittery makeup and false eyelashes. This year they've been allowed to close a section of a road in the largely homosexual Castro District. Maurice Healy, a spokesman for San Francisco's Roman Catholic Archdiocese, said that is comparable to "allowing a group of neo-Nazis to close a city street for a celebration on the Jewish feast of Passover." The drag queens say the party is on. The protests caused city officials to back down from their unanimous approval of the event, but city officials have tolerated for years the group's hateful attacks on Christianity, including a "Condom Savior Mass," featuring a "Latex Host." The No-Comment Zone
  • Tinseltown bestowed seven Academy Awards upon Shakespeare in Love while Saving Private Ryan tallied five. Roberto Benigni, playing an Italian Jew shielding his son from the horrors of the Holocaust in Life Is Beautiful, became the first star of a foreign film to take the Oscar for best actor. For political statement of the night, the planned protest of the Academy's lifetime achievement award to Elia Kazan fizzled. The Media Research Center reported that only four stars-including Amy Madigan and Nick Nolte-were shown refusing to applaud. Among media critics, most of the non-clapping was for awards show host Whoopi Goldberg, who embarrassed herself with raunchy jokes and sexual innuendo. Critics included television and film writers from The Washington Post ("tasteless"), New York Post ("vulgarity-spiked"), Seattle Times ("gross"), and The Associated Press ("potty-mouthed").
  • Actor David Strickland, who appeared on NBC's Suddenly Susan, apparently committed suicide by hanging himself in a Las Vegas motel room. He was serving a 36-month probation for cocaine possession and was supposed to be in court the day his body was found. The network indefinitely halted production of his sitcom.
  • Trial judges in civil cases won expanded authority to exclude questionable "expert" testimony. The Supreme Court voted 8-1 that a federal trial judge correctly barred an engineer from testifying that he believed a defect had caused a tire blowout in an accident. The judge had doubted whether the engineer's methodology could reliably determine the cause of the tire's failure.
  • Computer vandal Kevin Mitnick signed a plea agreement giving him one more year behind bars. His well-publicized exploits made him the FBI's most wanted hacker until he was arrested four years ago. Now Mr. Mitnick must stay away from computers for at least three years after his release.
  • The Supreme Court went in two directions over the rights of teenagers. The Justices left intact a Charlottesville, Va., curfew for children under 17 and rejected Indiana school officials' effort to have their drug-testing policy reinstated. The nighttime curfew issue was not formally decided and may be reconsidered later. The drug-testing case reinforces a 1995 ruling that random drug tests for student athletes are constitutional.

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