casinos, lotteries on the rise in many states
Gambling wins big
After two years of rapid growth across the country, the surge in gambling continues as several states contemplate new lotteries and casinos in order to keep up with the Joneses. "Mississippi got one, Georgia got one. We're surrounded by states that are prospering from some type of gambling," argued Tennessee state Sen. Ward Crutchfield, who wants to amend the Volunteer State's constitution to allow a lottery. If current pro-gambling campaigns succeed, South Carolina and Alabama will also enter the lottery business, while Massachusetts, Kentucky, and West Virginia will have casinos for the first time. Other states are working to expand their gambling operations. Rhode Island's state lottery is defending its decision to allow new slot machines at a jai alai court and a dog track. In Illinois, legislators discussed a plan to allow a riverboat casino near Chicago. And in California, leaders of more than 60 American Indian tribes are pressuring the state legislature to allow gambling. A few signs of resistance are sprouting up. A federal commission may recommend a moratorium on new gambling operations, and Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Scott McCallum called for a statewide moratorium on more Indian casinos. It's time to declare "enough is enough," he said. IRS shows restraint under new law
IRS employees are so afraid of being fired under new taxpayer-rights legislation that property seizures have slowed drastically. "Very few people are going to take the risk that if you make a mistake you'll be fired," said Robert Tobias, president of the National Treasury Employees Union (which represents 92,000 IRS workers). He said that while seizures are down, no one has been fired under the new rules and no action has been initiated that could lead to a dismissal. Under a 1998 reform law, employees can be fired immediately with no appeal for such things as failing to obtain required approval for a property seizure, violating a taxpayer's constitutional rights, falsifying or destroying documents, and concealing information from Congress. As a result, IRS agents are becoming more cautious. Agents seized property for overdue taxes 108 times in the six months that ended March 31, compared with 1,150 during the same span last year and 5,000 seizures two years ago. Garnishments of wages and levies on bank accounts both decreased by at least two-thirds. Report documents China's spying
China has made substantial gains in modernizing its nuclear weapons program because of U.S. secrets obtained in a pervasive campaign of espionage and unauthorized military use of legally obtained technology. A long-awaited government report, produced by a special House committee headed by Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.), concludes that there is little question that China has obtained critical information about an array of U.S. warheads. The report says China stole from U.S. nuclear weapons labs and meticulously scanned publicly available infomation. Security at weapons labs has been the subject of intense scrutiny since early March when a scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico was fired after being suspected since 1996 of having provided China with warhead secrets. film: Latest shakespeare adaptation semi-enchanting
Grade 'B' bard
During the weekend of May 14-16 The Mummy, a gross movie, grossed $25 million from showings on 3,000 screens, pushing its two-week income to over $80 million. A Midsummer Night's Dream was the biggest new-release money-maker, but it brought in only $4.4 million from showings on 1,000 screens. The critics tended to give a "B" to director Michael Hoffman's Shakespeare adaptation, and that's about right. The 1890s Italian setting is lush and the production lavish, with stars such as Michelle Pfeiffer and Kevin Kline strutting through fanciful roles. Parents should probably leave kids home, not primarily because of violence or sex (although a ripe sensuality pervades several scenes), but because they would most likely be bored by lengthy wanderings in a romantically enchanted forest. Moviegoers who have liked grade-A bard films such as Henry V and Much Ado About Nothing will probably enjoy this as well. carneal's parents deposed in paducah shooting civil suit
Shooter a 'different' person
Michael Carneal's parents can't explain why their son opened fire on a student prayer group in West Paducah, Ky., in December 1997. All they can say is that that he suffered from a mental illness that lay hidden until the rampage. "The boy that I see now is not in any way, shape, form, or fashion the boy who lived in my house," John Carneal said in a deposition for a civil suit brought against him and his wife by the parents of Michael's three victims. "They are entirely different people." He believes Michael suffers from some type of schizophrenia. Michael Carneal pleaded guilty (but mentally ill) to murder. He was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. His parents said their 15-year-old son seemed kind, and even dropped out of karate lessons after he accidentally hit a friend too hard and knocked his breath out. "He was a person who enjoyed people but was an observer of life rather than a participant," Mr. Carneal said. After the shooting, Ann Carneal said she was shocked to find pornographic and violent material in her son's room. She said she occasionally "snooped" there but had not seen those items. The Carneals are among 10 defendants in the suit. The victims' parents have also filed a $130 million federal lawsuit against 25 entertainment companies, including producers and distributors of the film The Basketball Diaries, alleging the media led Michael Carneal to murder. The No-Comment Zone
- Planned Parenthood is pushing an "emergency contraceptive" pill called Preven, but the group hit a brick wall with Wal-Mart: The nation's largest retailer refuses to stock the so-called morning-after pill at its 2,400 pharmacy counters. So Planned Parenthood is threatening a boycott. Some pro-lifers say Preven causes early abortion by altering a woman's uterine lining so that a fertilized egg doesn't implant and develop into an embryo. Wal-Mart, however, says its choice was about economics, not ethics. The chain, with its base in suburbs and small towns (which tend to be more conservative than urban areas), said it doesn't expect Preven to sell well.
- One month after the shooting at Columbine High School, Senate Republicans offered fresh concessions on gun control, agreeing to background checks on all purchasers at gun shows. Meanwhile, executives at one broadcast network said Columbine prompted them to rethink TV violence. CBS announced it would drop a drama about mobsters, Falcone, from its fall prime-time schedule. "It's not the right time to have people being whacked on the streets of New York," said CBS President Leslie Moonves. "[Columbine] did affect us. It really did."
- The Supreme Court made it tougher for federal judges to battle racial gerrymandering. In a unanimous ruling the Supreme Court reversed a lower court's conclusion that North Carolina's 12th congressional district was unlawfully drawn specifically to include a large number of black voters.
- Al Gore has added to his stump speech public education pork: new teacher tests, recruiting bonuses of up to $10,000, and "second-chance schools" for students. Mr. Gore says he wants 2.2 million new teachers hired and said preschool programs should be extended "for every child, in every community in America." Barak prepares for office
Though not yet officially Israel's prime minister, newly elected Ehud Barak already faces pressure over a possible peace plan with the Palestinians and Jewish settlement building in Jerusalem. The day after his victory over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mr. Barak visited the tomb of slain former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and placed a small stone on the gravestone as a gesture of remembrance. He said, "A possibility has been opened to fulfill the legacy of Yitzhak Rabin, and I am committed to that path." Palestinians are calling on him to halt construction in the contested neighborhoods of Ras al-Amud and Har Homa when he takes over. Mr. Barak, a career soldier and former army chief of staff, has 45 days from his election to form a new government, with Mr. Netanyahu remaining as a lame duck. Within six months, Mr. Barak is expected to participate in a Middle East summit with President Clinton and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Mr. Barak has vowed to get Israeli troops out of Lebanon by June 2000. World in brief
Japan bans child porn
Japan's lower house of Parliament banned the production and sale of child pornography and outlawed sex with anyone under 17. The new law comes after international criticism that Japanese inaction on sex tourism and Internet child pornography was allowing the crimes to persist at home and abroad. Until now, the law only banned sex for money with those 13 or younger, and offenders could be charged only if the victim filed a criminal complaint. Russia gets new prime minister
The Russian Duma overwhelmingly approved President Boris Yeltsin's choice of Sergei Stepashin for prime minister. The former interior minister has given only a few hints of the direction he would take Russian economic and foreign policy. He says, for instance, that he wants to continue market-oriented reforms, taking "a new, more resolute, more energetic approach" to reviving the economy and smoothing its transition to a free market, but says that he would take "tough measures" to regulate the economy. He also said he would push for a package of bills demanded by the International Monetary Fund as a condition for granting new loans. Mr. Stepashin wants to increase defense spending from 2.8 percent of Russia's gross domestic product to 3.5 percent and supports Russia, Belarus, and Yugoslavia joining forces in a Slavic Union. He said, however, that the war in Yugoslavia must end first. fewer americans favor air strikes
Support for war slipping
While most Americans say they still endorse the war in Kosovo, the long bombing campaign appears to be eroding public support. A May ABC News-Washington Post poll reported 59 percent of those surveyed supporting the air war, and just over half, 52 percent, supporting use of ground troops. More than half of those polled favored negotiations to settle the conflict. Approval of President Clinton's handling of the Kosovo war had slipped to 53 percent from 60 percent in early April. Support for the air war has slipped nine percentage points since early April, with support for ground troops dropping five percentage points at the same time.