7,000 troops slated for Kosovo
NATO peace wagon set to roll
What's a few thousand troops between enemies? That's what Secretary of State Madeleine Albright offered up last week when the United States signed on with seven other nations to staff another NATO-backed peacekeeping force. The Clinton administration will provide 7,000 American troops to help keep peace in Kosovo. As of June 9, the United States, Russia, and six other industrial democracies were moving to gain the UN Security Council's endorsement of the peacekeeping plan "as soon as possible," said Secretary Albright. Once a resolution is approved, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook of Britain said a Serb withdrawal and a suspension of the bombing could be accomplished in a "few days." About 50,000 troops are expected to make up the peacekeeping force, which would oversee the return of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanian refugees uprooted in the conflict. Defense Secretary William Cohen called the commitment of American troops an "open-ended mission." Some U.S. military analysts say yet another American peacekeeping contingent is a bad idea. "We're stretched to the maximum already-not only in terms of our people, but in terms of their patience," says Earl Tilford, a historian with the U.S. Army War College. "We've got to pick our commitments very carefully. This is a big-time strategic commitment to an area of dubious value. We're interfering in an 800-year-old family fight with people we just made extremely mad at us by bombing them for 75 days. Now we're going to put Americans on the ground where [the Yugoslavs] can get at them." war powers
So sue me
A lawsuit by 26 lawmakers accusing President Clinton of violating the War Powers Act by bombing Yugoslavia went down in flames. A federal judge last week granted a White House motion for dismissal. The suit alleged that Mr. Clinton broke the law by not obtaining congressional approval for the "introduction into hostilities" of U.S. forces for more than 60 days. Mr. Clinton ignored a 213-213 congressional vote on April 28 that fell short of authorizing U.S. participation in the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia and kept the bombing campaign alive. U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman said that "congressional reaction to the air strikes has sent distinctly mixed messages." He noted that on May 20 Congress passed an emergency spending bill to help pay for U.S. military involvement in the Yugoslav conflict. Parental notice ok'd in Texas
See you in September
Starting this September in Texas, unmarried girls under 18 won't be able to get an abortion until Mom and Dad find out. The new law does not require parental consent, and a judge may give consent in lieu of parental notification. Such a law "helps establish a general pro-life attitude on the part of people in the state," said Darla St. Martin of the National Right to Life Committee. It's a small step forward. Of the 84,870 abortions reported in 1997 to the Texas Department of Health, about 5,500 were performed on minors. It's also a step forward for Gov. George W. Bush, who signed the measure into law. He's been criticized by fellow Republican presidential candidates as soft on abortion. "This law both respects families and protects life," he said during a signing ceremony. He also said that it will "involve parents in this major decision of their minor daughters." In March, Mr. Bush said he would back a pro-life constitutional amendment if more voters supported it, but "America is not ready to ban abortions." Notting Hill: Talking Points
Depravity, meet common grace
Star Wars: The Phantom Menace by June 7 had sold $255 million worth of tickets, but last week the romantic comedy Notting Hill was running second. This Julia Roberts/Hugh Grant vehicle (plot: famous but unhappy American actress falls for witty British bumbler) took in $15 million over the June 5-7 weekend for a two-week total of $49 million. Is the success of Notting Hill (PG-13) a good or bad thing? It's easy to list its problems: One Christian group counted 41 obscenities and 12 profanities and noted also sexual discussion, a bedroom scene with implied fornication, and so on. Christians have many reasons not to see this film. At the same time, the box-office success of the movie offers a view into what our neighbors are watching and enjoying-and that view isn't entirely bad. Our neighbors are praising a movie that shows the benefits of family: Major characters desire true, permanent love, and appealing secondary characters (such as a paralyzed woman and her husband who lovingly stays with her and carries her up the stairs) show the advantages of marriage. Notting Hill shows that we live in an ungodly world where people use bad language and make light of what God says is sacred-but also a world where we are still made in God's image and have some sense, although often buried, of what is right and what is wrong. The film would be a great point of departure for conversations with non-Christians about the distinction between God's principles and those commonly accepted now. Do a clever script and skillful acting make the film better, because it is funny and moving in parts, or worse, because they put lipstick on a pig? Is bawdy humor something we should always frown at? (If so, what do we do with Shakespeare's Falstaff and some of Luther's comments?) Should we take any comfort that Notting Hill is doing better at the box office than its more foul competitors? Good questions for debate, and the answer is not automatic either way. Lawsuit targets racial profiling
Driving while Hispanic
After attorney Curtis Rodriguez saw five different Hispanic drivers pulled over on a 10-mile stretch of Highway 152 in Northern California, he became the plaintiff in an ACLU-backed lawsuit that claims white cops use color to decide whom to stop. "It was immoral, it was racist, and it's high time these practices stop," said Mr. Rodriguez, who was pulled over himself. His suit against the California Highway Patrol and the state Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement came just days after the ACLU issued a report claiming that "racial profiling" in New York is a dismal side effect of the war on drugs. "If you're a young black man there's three things you can count on in your lifetime: death, taxes, and police harassment," said ACLU lawyer Reginald Shuford. The group has more lawsuits pending in Maryland, Illinois, New Jersey, and Oklahoma. What should be done? In the California suit, the plaintiffs asked for unspecified damages and an injunction forbidding profiling. The most controversial demand is that law enforcement collect data on the race and ethnic background of motorists stopped for traffic violations. A few police departments, such as the forces in San Diego and San Jose, are voluntarily keeping records. This has led to fears that cops might let dangerous criminals (including white ones) run free because an unstated racial quota is already full. Lawmaker wants to unplug Energy Dep't.
Danger: low voltage
Rep. Todd Tiahrt says that recent Chinese spying into American nuclear secrets is just one more reason to unplug the Department of Energy. The Kansas Republican has been targeting the agency for years, but his idea has received more attention since reports started flying about nuclear-arms secrets stolen from DOE labs. Mr. Tiahrt says that departmental waste and ineffectiveness have erupted into a national-security nightmare. He would dismantle the department by selling off some of its projects to private industry. More sensitive functions would move to various federal agencies; the nuclear-weapons complex would shift to the Defense Department. Prior to the China spy scandal, General Accounting Office studies detailed years of mismanagement. The Cato Institute estimates that the changes would save taxpayers $20 billion annually over the next five years. But even if Mr. Tiahrt's measure clears Congress, it faces a presidential veto. senator outraged by recess appointment of gay nominee
Bypassing the Senate's power to approve presidential appointments, President Clinton named James Hormel, meatpacking heir and homosexual philanthropist, ambassador to Luxembourg. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) was outraged and pledged to block "every single [pending] presidential nomination" until the White House reverses course. Scathing newspaper editorials ("boneheaded," yipped the Chicago Tribune) and critical news reports have battered Sen. Inhofe. Some even blamed him for the slippage of the U.S. dollar on international currency markets, supposedly spooked by the prospect that Sen. Inhofe's action threatens departing Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin's replacement. So what's the big deal about Mr. Hormel? The Washington Times details the new ambassador's gay advocacy:
- He helped start the Human Rights Campaign, the largest homosexual-rights group.
- He has joined lawsuits to open the military to self-proclaimed homosexuals and matched donations made to Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a group working to that end.
- He helped fund a new section of the San Francisco Public Library devoted solely to homosexual literature, including material condoning pedophilia.
- He gave money to pay for the distribution of It's Elementary, a gay propaganda film aimed at young children. The documentary was too hot for PBS, which refused to carry it systemwide. Utah husband of 15 busted
Utah's polygamist population is estimated to be between 20,000 and 30,000-and every once in a while one of them, like David Ortell Kingston, gets busted. After a trial in which plural marriage was scarcely discussed, he was convicted of incest and unlawful sex after he made his 16-year-old niece into his 15th wife. The girl, who kept trying to avoid her husband-uncle's advances, is now living in foster care. Her own father performed the marriage ceremony in 1997 as Mr. Kingston's other wives watched. The girl claims her uncle even gave her a ring with 15 diamonds, though defense lawyers claim there never was a wedding and the marriage never happened. The Kingston clan is said to have as many as a thousand members and business assets worth up to $150 million. Former members say this group differs from others in condoning incest. The niece said she and her husband-uncle had four sexual encounters, and that she would stay out late with friends when she knew he planned to "visit." Mr. Kingston, who does the books for his family's business empire, was convicted on two of four felony counts, each carrying a penalty of up to five years in prison. He was not charged with polygamy. Even though the Latter-day Saints Church (which claims 70 percent of Utah's population as members) renounced polygamy in 1890, many hyper-Mormons have held on to the practice. Followers of such practices live in secluded communities and try their best to lie low. Large-scale prosecution of polygamists has not taken place in Utah for more than four decades. school choice
Is the Ohio Senate finance committee talking out of both sides of its mouth? In a move voucher activist David Zanotti called "political doublespeak," the Republican-led committee of the Ohio legislature OK'd funding for Cleveland's school-choice program-but lopped off money for 700 current voucher children in the process. Cleveland's pilot voucher program was spiked last month by the Ohio state Supreme Court on a technicality called the "single-subject rule," which requires controversial legislation to be passed in a stand-alone bill. By funding vouchers in a separate education bill, rather than in complex, multi-topic legislation, the finance committee revived the program-or so it would seem. But since senators approved program funding only for kindergarten through fifth grade, the new legislation "actually throws kids at the upper end of the current program out of school," said Mr. Zanotti. When Cleveland's voucher program was established in 1995, it was approved to expand by one grade each year. Before the court killed school choice in May, this fall would have been the first in which voucher students would enter sixth grade. Mr. Zanotti said the senate is bowing to pressure from the powerful Ohio Education Association, which, he says, is "working furiously to kill both the voucher program and charter schools in the state." Some Republican leaders have promised voucher supporters that the fifth-grade cap will be "fixed" when the Senate and House meet later this month in closed-door joint conference sessions. Mr. Zanotti wonders, "Who will prevail behind closed doors without public records? Will it be Republican leaders who are for school choice, or those who are supporters of the OEA?" background checks for moviegoers
I'll need to see some ID
President Clinton last week told theater owners that typical Americans will see 40,000 dramatized murders by the age of 18, and that having guns around might make them mindlessly repeat what they see on the silver screen. Mr. Clinton called on the House to add to a Senate-passed gun-control bill provisions to raise the age of handgun possession from 18 to 21 and require background checks for explosives purchases. The proposal already mandates background checks for gun-show purchases, bans the import of large-capacity ammunition clips, prohibits violent juveniles from owning guns as adults, and establishes a requirement for child-safety locks. The president also chided Hollywood for the Columbine massacre and called on the industry to stop showing guns in ads or previews children would see. He persuaded the National Association of Theater Owners to promise to check IDs of kids going into R-rated movies. The movie-rating system has been in effect since 1968, but has only been loosely enforced. Collectibles
While the Beanie Babies craze is calming down, some people are still willing to risk life and limb for the collectible toy, especially when Beanies cover two lanes of an Atlanta freeway. A vehicle headed for a local McDonald's lost its load and left Beanie Baby road kill all over Interstate 285. In rush-hour traffic, drivers leaned out of their cars to scoop up the Beanies with one hand while they kept moving, the other hand on the wheel. State highway officials aren't sure which vehicle dropped the stuffed animals or how many were snatched by motorists. The No-Comment Zone
- Florida motorists can now have a new, "Choose Life," design on their license plates. The $20 specialty plate shows a crayon drawing of children; proceeds will support groups that help pregnant women place their babies for adoption. New governor Jeb Bush signed the bill after it was vetoed last year by the late Gov. Lawton Chiles.
- Following the fatal American Airlines crash in Little Rock, Ark., the FAA plans to enforce crew rest rules. Federal law prohibits pilots from flying more than eight hours in a 24-hour period. Some pilots say this rule is repeatedly broken, leaving them without enough rest.
- The NCAA is considering new rules that would keep freshmen from playing basketball and would tie scholarship limits to a school's graduation rate. NCAA president Cedric Dempsey admitted that such measures may drive some high-school talent directly to the NBA. "College isn't for everybody," he told USA Today.
- Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop's stock value soared by $31.5 million when his brainchild, DrKoop.com Inc., started trading on NASDAQ. The company started as Empower Health Corp., but the name was changed to capitalize on Dr. Koop's name and the magic ".com" tag. DrKoop.com resembles many a Net startup in that it hits big on the market while still losing a fortune. The company lost $4.1 million on revenue of $404,000 in the first quarter of 1999. During 1998, the company lost $9 million on revenue of only $43,000.
- Former President George Bush celebrated his 75th birthday by jumping out of a plane from 12,500 feet above his presidential library at Texas A&M University. Mr. Bush deployed his parachute after a free fall of about 4,500 feet, then landed feet first. The ex-president's first jump was during World War II, when he bailed out of his torpedo plane after it was disabled by Japanese fire. He jumped again two years ago in Arizona. Paula Jones's husband seeks divorce
Jones vs. Jones
After four months of separation, Paula Jones's husband Stephen has filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences with the woman whose sexual harassment suit against President Clinton played a role in the president's impeachment. Mrs. Jones has said the couple disagreed about how to handle the case. There were no reports of church discipline in the matter. Last March, she admitted that she and her husband were living apart, but claimed they would soon be reunited in Arkansas-and that their marriage wasn't in jeopardy. "It is now," said Susan Carpenter-McMillan, Mrs. Jones's friend and former adviser. The Jones's two sons, Stephen, 6, and Preston, 2, currently live with their mother in Cabot, Ark. Now Mrs. Jones's soon-to-be-ex wants joint legal and physical custody and joint visitation. Mrs. Jones received $201,000 from an out-of-court settlement of $850,000 in November, with the rest paying lawyers' bills. Right now, her lawyers-both the Dallas law firm of Rader, Campbell, Fisher & Pyke and the Rutherford Institute-are trying to get Mr. Clinton's lawyers to cough up $438,000 in fees they incurred as a direct result of Mr. Clinton's lying under oath about his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Last April, U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright found Clinton in contempt for giving false testimony in his January 1998 deposition and ordered him to pay Mrs. Jones's lawyers any "reasonable" expenses they incurred as a result. Mr. Clinton never admitted wrongdoing, and these reimbursements would be added to the originally agreed-upon settlement. "Had Mr. Clinton chosen not to lie about his illicit sexual activity with Ms. Lewinsky, we would not have needed to take the depositions of Monica Lewinsky, Linda Tripp, Betty Currie, Vernon Jordan, and other related witnesses," the Dallas firm argued in court papers. IRS ruling forces evangelical group to split
The Christian Coalition, one of the country's most powerful conservative groups, has been forced to give up its tax-exempt status and will split into two entities. The IRS first denied the organization tax-exempt status last year in a ruling kept under wraps pending appeal. The decision to reorganize came after the group learned it would lose the appeal, sources said. Christian Coalition International, one of the two new groups, "will operate much like a for-profit corporation," said spokesman Mike Russell, allowing it to be openly partisan and endorse and contribute money to candidates. The other entity, the tax-exempt Christian Coalition of Texas, will be renamed Christian Coalition of America and will engage in nonprofit "voter education." Y2K: Big systems OK, but local disruptions possible
Senate Y2K point man Robert Bennett has two messages about Y2K: that it is an "unpredictable event" but it "will not be the end of the world as we know it." Such a message is necessary because nothing can be known for certain, although optimism is up. Clinton millennium bug czar John Koskinen says sending such a mixed message is difficult: "It is confusing, but we are trying to make it as clear as we can." While the big systems-power grids, telecommunication networks, air traffic-are safe, according to Mr. Koskinen, people may see some localized, temporary disruptions: "I told some of the doomsayers from the start that sometimes people in a well-meaning way drive the argument to the extremes." The world is still getting ready for the day when two-digit dates may start causing problems. The FDIC, for example, wants several dozen financial institutions it considers unprepared for Y2K to use more backup measures. The Federal Reserve is preparing an additional $50 billion of new currency to put into circulation in the event people make a run on banks and automated teller machines late in the year. Major U.S. stock markets announced this month that they would close early on New Year's Eve as a precaution against any Year 2000 computer glitches. Trading on the New York Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq Stock Market, and the American Stock Exchange will end at 1 p.m. on Dec. 31. Richard Grasso, chairman of the NYSE, says closing a few hours early is a prudent decision but that he doesn't expect problems. "We have the utmost confidence that our systems and the systems of those who use the markets have been remediated or will be in perfect shape for the millennium change." Rare public protest in Cuba
No speech, no bread
Sporting anti-abortion T-shirts and posters of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi, about 25 Cuban dissidents launched a hunger strike in Havana demanding free speech and the release of their comrades. They said that most were prepared to live only on water and other liquids for up to 40 days. "We are calling this public protest to draw attention to the violation of human rights in Cuba and to ask for the freedom of all political prisoners," said organizer Oscar Elias Biscet. "There is no freedom of expression or of association in Cuba." Cuba's opposition is often quite timid. Four dissident leaders who held a news conference with foreign journalists two years ago were convicted on sedition charges and sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to five years. The communist government says there are no political prisoners in Cuba and the opposition groups involved in the hunger strike are illegal under its law. "The Foreign Ministry has no knowledge of this event," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Alejandro Gonzalez. terrorist makes FBI's top ten
The $5 million man
Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden made the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list because of his connections to the Aug. 7 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed more than 200 people. The feds are offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest. Mr. Bin Laden is said to have had a falling out with his former cronies, the Taliban militia in Afghanistan, and may be in Somalia, Chechnya, or even Iraq. Robertson business venture dumped
The Bank of Scotland dumped plans to do business with a Pat Robertson-owned financial services company because he said politically incorrect things about homosexuals. Last month, Mr. Robertson on his TV show criticized Scotland for its tolerance of gay activity, calling it a "dark land." He said, "In Europe, the big word is tolerance. Homosexuals are riding high in the media.... And in Scotland, you can't believe how strong the homosexuals are. It's just unbelievable." The bank complained that it had lost 500 accounts due to the publicity, so it decided to buy out Mr. Robertson's interest in a telephone banking service. Some politicians threatened to ask Parliament to pull its money out of the bank. Both parties issued a terse statement saying that "the changed external circumstances made the proposed joint venture between Robertson Financial Services (RFS) and Bank of Scotland unfeasible." Mr. Robertson says the remark was taken out of context. "This deal is not about Pat Robertson, the religious leader," spokesman Gene Kapp said, referring to the Bank of Scotland link. "This is about Pat Robertson, the businessman." Even so, the former cable TV mogul stands by his statement. "Like many places in Europe and in the United States, what really needs to happen is a return to the more traditional values, period," Mr. Kapp said. "It really had nothing to do with the homosexual issue." Secularizing north of the border?
A left-wing member of the Canadian Parliament submitted a petition that all references to God be deleted from the country's constitution-and received jeers and catcalls from his colleagues. Svend Robinson, a member of the opposition New Democratic Party, read the petition from about 1,000 of his British Columbian constituents. The petition says that reference to God is "offensive to millions of Canadians who are non-Christian and non-religious." Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms was especially targeted for saying the country is "founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law." Mr. Robinson said he only proposed it as a favor to his constituents and doesn't even support it himself. No action on it is expected.