u.s.-russia relations deteriorate further as war drags on
A chill in the air
There was no spring thaw in relations between the United States and Russia, hardened since NATO began its air war against Yugoslavia. Miffed over continuing attacks on a traditional ally, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov announced the country would not send a delegation to the NATO summit in Washington, which would mark the alliance's 50th anniversary. The event was to have showcased NATO's record of creating and expanding stability across Europe, highlighted by the fall of the Berlin Wall and greater cooperation with the states of the former Soviet Union. Events in Yugoslavia, however, turned the three-day Washington ceremony into a war council. As Day 30 of the air strikes passed, NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said beefed-up numbers of aircraft were exacting greater damage on strongholds of President Slobodan Milosevic. NATO firepower blasted two key sites in Belgrade: a building that housed both ruling parties and served as a link in Mr. Milosevic's air defense command, as well as the president's Belgrade villa. Neither Mr. Milosevic nor his family was home when three missiles slammed into the residence. Officials noted a pause in refugee activity. Much of the border between Kosovo and Albania was closed. Humanitarian relief officials said the exodus to Macedonia dropped to as low as 600 refugees per day. Relief workers, however, believe that thousands of Kosovar Albanians are still trapped at the border. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that around 400,000 to 500,000 ethnic Albanians remain in Kosovo, compared to almost 2 million before the conflict began in February last year. The Clinton administration said it was ready to take in 20,000 Kosovo refugees on the U.S. mainland. The White House reversed plans to house the refugees at Guantanamo Bay after World Relief, the evangelical relief agency that headed up work among Haitian and Cuban refugees at Guantanamo, criticized the location as too much like a prison camp. china's new weapons: look familiar?
U.S. intelligence officials warned that the results of Chinese espionage to obtain U.S. nuclear secrets would likely be seen in Chinese weapons over the next several years. CIA director George Tenet briefed congressional intelligence committees on a report assessing the implications of China's acquisition of U.S. nuclear secrets. The report found that China obtained at least basic design information on several nuclear weapons, including the Trident II W88 miniaturized nuclear warhead. "China has obtained by espionage classified U.S. information," an anonymous senior intelligence official admitted to Reuters. "We expect that future Chinese weapons will look more like ours." jesuits denied in russia
Religion law strikes again
Russia's Ministry of Justice denied the application of the Jesuit order for official registration under Russia's controversial law on religion. The rejection made Jesuits the first Roman Catholic entity since the law's passage in 1997 to be explicitly denied the right to function in Russia. The Justice Ministry ruling denied Jesuits the right to establish a religious organization on Russian soil because it classified them as a 'foreign' religious body, even though Jesuits existed legally in czarist Russia as far back as the 18th century. hockey loses its greatest: gretzky
A career on ice
Sportwriters from newspapers across the country last week wore out the phrase "the Michael Jordan of ..." to help explain Wayne Gretzky's importance to the game of hockey. Actually, Mr. Jordan is the Wayne Gretzky of basketball. By number of records set, the Great Gretzky was superior: most goals (career, single season, and playoff), most assists (career, single season, and playoff)-in all he holds 61 different National Hockey League scoring records. But Wayne Gretzky is more than just statistics. He was the NHL's ambassador, whose finesse style of play emphasized the grace and beauty of what had been known as a bruising, brutish sport. Mr. Gretzky singlehandedly won hockey some respectability-and a foothold in more lucrative sports markets. Since Mr. Gretzky's 1988 trade from the Edmonton Oilers (not exactly the flashiest of media centers) to the Los Angeles Kings, the game has caught on big time south of the border. California now has as many NHL teams as Ontario and Quebec combined; Florida has as many as Alberta. Wayne Gretzky, the skinny, shy kid from Brantford, Ontario, ended his career in flashy New York City. In announcing his retirement he passed up media opportunities to revel in personal greatness; he preferred to use the term "God-gifted." Said Mr. Gretzky: "For some reason, the good Lord gave me a special talent." if partial-birth abortion doesn't work, try infanticide?
Killing a baby called Hope
It's not news when the life of a late-term unborn child is snuffed out at the hands of Martin Haskell, the abortionist who pioneered the partial-birth abortion procedure. But it is news when there's a survivor. Last week, pro-lifers called attention to the case of a 22-week-old child born alive in a Cincinnati hospital-a day after Dr. Haskell began his multi-part, three-day abortion technique. The mother suffered abdominal pains and was rushed to Bethesda North Hospital, where the child-named Baby Hope by nurse Shelly Lowe-was born. But the nurse was not permitted to provide care; she was allowed only to comfort and rock the newborn. "I named her Hope because I had hoped she would make it," Ms. Lowe said. But the controversy concerns whether emergency room physicians shared her hope. Officially, they ruled the baby's lungs were not developed enough to permit them to place her on a respirator. Gene Rudd of the Christian Medical and Dental Society was not buying it. "Babies at this same age-22 weeks-can and have survived outside the womb. The difference that apparently led doctors to let 'Baby Hope' die is that she was the product of a failed partial-birth abortion.... This clearly crosses the line into infanticide-just like that practiced by the ancient Romans, who left their undesired babies out in the elements to die." the education evidence is in
Follow the money
The debate over whether poor parents are dissatisfied with American public schools seems to be over. The Children's Scholarship Fund, which begins this year offering privately funded vouchers to 40,000 low-income schoolchildren, announced last week that there were nearly 1.25 million applicants for the scholarships. Theodore Forstmann, who along with Wal-Mart heir John Walton founded the fund in 1998, explained that parents applying for the vouchers had to be willing to supplement the voucher with $1,000 of their own money. "Think of it: 1.25 million applicants asking to pay $1,000 a year over four years," Mr. Forstmann wrote in The Wall Street Journal. "That's $5 billion that poor families were willing to spend simply to escape the schools where their children have been relegated and to secure a decent education." federal court establishes secularism as dominant religion
A federal appeals court declared last week that "nonreligion" must be the dominant worldview in public schools. In a 2-1 decision, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Beaumont (Texas) Independent School District's "Clergy in the Schools" program is unconstitutional. Beaumont schools began the program in 1996 in an effort to teach students morality and civic virtues. The district invited religious leaders to counsel elementary and secondary students during school hours. Ministers could not pray with the students or discuss religion, sex, or abortion. But even this wasn't watered down enough for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Anti-Defamation League, and several parents. The parents sued the district and the groups submitted briefs against the program. The appeals court, in overturning a lower federal court's ruling in support of the program, said the school district's "creation of a special program that recruits only clergymen to render volunteer counseling makes a clear statement that it favors religion over nonreligion." The judges also objected because the school district disproportionately selected Protestant ministers. Parents were not notified or asked to give consent, though students could decline to participate. drunk-driving atheist doesn't have to attend aa meetings
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, siding with a lower federal judge, ruled that a county probation department cannot force an atheist to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings as part of his probation following an impaired-driving conviction. Robert Warner had sued the Orange County (N.Y.) Department of Probation, saying that its order meant he would have to participate in AA's "religious" exercises in violation of his First Amendment rights. U.S. District Court Judge Gerard Goettel agreed that Mr. Warner cannot be forced to attend, but he also awarded him a token $1 settlement. This month an appeals court agreed, saying the tiny damage award was "just about right." Orange County wants to fight back and take the case to the Supreme Court. Attorney Richard Golden, representing the community just north of New York City, claims the spiritual aspect to AA meetings does not rise to the level of an establishment of a religion. The No-Comment Zone
- Sculptor Richard Knight's plan to erect an 18-foot-tall stainless-steel foot along the San Francisco waterfront was booted by city officials. The proposal named "Embark" would have featured a pulsing light coursing out at night over San Francisco Bay. Residents complained about the monstrosity, which would have cost taxpayers $500,000.
- Eight-year-old Leung Man-Chun plunged 17 stories from a Hong Kong apartment-and lived. He hit four clotheslines along the way and landed on a canopy just above ground level. Police described his survival as a "miracle escape" after he was hospitalized with a broken arm and leg but no life-threatening injuries.
- Former Waffle House waitress Tonda Dickerson, who won a $10 million jackpot with a lottery ticket left as a tip, must share the wealth with four co-workers who sued her. She denied that she had agreed to split any winnings, but her co-workers testified that they had a share-the-wealth plan. "It was always stated that if we hit, we split," one of the four co-workers, Matthew Adams, told the jury.
- Wisconsin Attorney General James Doyle tried to name Publishers Clearing House's Robert H. Treller in the state's anti-sweepstakes lawsuit. Then he found out the spokesman didn't even exist. The company had given Treller a personality to fit whatever product was being pitched. The company claims he had flown combat missions in the Air Force and enjoys trains, sports cars, coins, stamps, the 101 Strings Orchestra, and kitschy porcelain figurines. Mr. Doyle says this is just another example of Publisher's Clearing House's misdeeds. hardware makers' loss, software makers' gain
Technology is hot right now, but not for Eckhard Pfeiffer. As CEO of Compaq, he saw the price of PCs fall sharply. Cheap computers are great for customers, but deadly for his business. Now that one in five PCs purchased in the United States costs less than $600, profits in the hardware business are hard to find. So Mr. Pfeiffer was forced to resign from the company he built into the world's largest maker of personal computers. The resulting shock wave on Wall Street even briefly shook high-flying Internet stocks. Compaq isn't alone. IBM and Hewlett-Packard are also sweating. Intel, whose chips supply the brainpower for 90 percent of the world's personal computers, saw its first-quarter revenues fall below expectations and reported that the future could be worse. Their competitor, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), reported that its losses doubled because of production problems. The software world looks much brighter. Microsoft's profits jumped 43 percent in the first quarter to $1.92 billion. While some manufacturers suffered due to falling computer prices, increased PC sales bring more purchases of Windows 98 and other programs. safer surfing
Citigroup is suing the managers of a pornographic Web site that tried to hook its online customers. Webmaster Rafael Fortuny grabbed an Internet address that was a misspelling of citibank.com and shot it to his smut site. By ripping off corporate names, porn sites can lure in the unsuspecting. Bloomberg reports that Morgan Stanley Dean Witter has sued Mr. Fortuny and that PaineWebber has won an injunction against him. This is just one instance of countless sites that use innocent typos to direct users to pornography. Even kid surfers looking for sites about beanie babies or video games can get an unintentional eyeful. portion of communications decency act upheld
Fight flame with flame
While most pornography can be sent across the Internet without fear of prosecution, the Supreme Court ruled that smutty e-mail cannot be used to harass people in cyberspace. In a unanimous ruling, the high court upheld one part of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996. ApolloMedia, a San Francisco Web design firm, sued over the clause, saying it threatened its Annoy.com site. At that address, users can send nasty e-mail anonymously to public officials. The upheld provision of the law makes it a crime to transmit a "communication which is obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy or indecent with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass another person." Back in 1997, the Supreme Court threw out most of the CDA, which banned indecent material from the Internet. white house reports on millennium bug
Yankee stay home
Only Americans traveling overseas will face major disruptions due to Y2K, according to a White House report. The upbeat assessment from the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion highlights U.S. efforts to fight the bug in some of the most important areas, including electricity, telephones, banking, broadcasting, and transportation. According to the council, the domestic food supply is likely to be safe because most large grocery chains already carry several weeks' inventory in case of delivery problems or bad weather. Oil and gas may only be affected by "minor disruptions which may impact consumers minimally." Overseas travelers may have their hands full, however. The administration expects that failures are all but certain in some foreign countries. "It now appears that a number of countries will experience Y2K failures in key infrastructures such as electric power, telecommunications, and transportation," says the report.