News & Reviews

Issue: "Is McCain able?," Aug. 21, 1999

Scholars credit abortion for lower crime rates
Eugenics: 1990s style
Killing children ahead of time may reduce the need for more prisons. Or so say researchers from Stanford University and the University of Chicago. Stanford law professor John Donohue III and Chicago economist Stephen Levittand last week made public the outcome of their study of the relationship between abortion and falling crime rates. Their conclusion? Falling crime rates in the 1990s may be a direct positive result of Roe vs. Wade. The study suggests that since a disproportionate number of poor, minority, and teenage mothers-whose homes produce statistically more young adult criminals-aborted their children right after the Supreme Court gave the nod in 1973, large numbers of would-be criminals were killed before they could rape, murder, or steal. The study is drawing fire from both liberals and conservatives. Liberal commentators are calling the study racist. Conservatives, particularly pro-life activists, say the research smacks of eugenics. "The notion that it's appropriate to solve any of society's problems by killing unborn children is completely unfounded," said National Right to Life Committee's April Holley. But according to Iain Murray, a senior analyst with the Statistical Assessment Service, a nonpartisan research group in Washington, D.C., both sides may be taking aim at a straw man. Mr. Murray notes that while the study's conclusions have been made public, the study itself has not yet been released. And, when research outcomes are leaked prior to the publication of the research, "it's often because the research methodology is weak and would fail peer review," said Mr. Murray, citing as examples recently debunked studies on global warming and cell phone-induced brain tumors. In regard to the Donohue-Levittand study in particular, Mr. Murray points out a likely flaw: Researchers appear to have examined only the abortion rate-crime relationship in the United States. According to Mr. Murray, a true causal relationship between legal abortion and a falling crime rate would hold true across international borders. But it doesn't. In Great Britain, for example, extremely liberal abortion laws coupled with the same abortion demographics and time periods studied by Mr. Donohue and Mr. Levittand produced vastly different results: Crime in Great Britain has risen so much throughout the 1990s, Mr. Murray says, that, per capita, the British Isles are now more violent than the United States. Vermont's black eye
Eugenics: 1920s style
In the 1920s some government leaders planned to eliminate "degenerate" bloodlines and replenish "old pioneer stock." But they weren't German Nazis; they were Vermonters. Hundreds deemed "unfit" by the Vermont government were sterilized, according to doctoral student Nancy Gallagher, who uncovered the Vermont Eugenics Survey and plans to write a book on it. The 12-year survey studied groups of "good" and "bad" Vermont families and gave a list of those that should be wiped out. The report influenced state lawmakers to pass a sterilization law in 1931 for the handicapped or "feeble-minded." Vermont's laws weren't entirely rolled back until the 1970s. Back in the 1920s and 1930s, eugenics was far more mainstream than today, largely because the fires of the Holocaust had not yet been lit. Writers such as Madison Grant, Lothrop Stoddard, and Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger decried "the passing of the great race," claiming that undesirables were polluting America's racial stock. Eugenics supporters claimed they wanted to manage the misery of the poor, citing studies saying genetics and inbreeding caused domestic abuse and alcoholism. Ms. Gallagher said she initially hesitated pursuing her thesis because she knew some families would find their relatives among those the scientists considered unfit. "Every step of the way, I wondered if I should even be writing it," she said. shooter wanted to be in mental hospital
Rampage of hate
He certainly had the wherewithal to create a greater tragedy than the one we had," Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard Parks said. Buford O. Furrow fired more than 70 shots, but failed to kill anyone at the North Valley Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles last week. Four children and receptionist Isabelle Shalometh were wounded in the attack. Many kids were away on a field trip. The 68-year-old Mrs. Shalometh tried to hide by diving behind the reception counter as bullets grazed her back and arm and hammered into the walls. "She saw him coming at her-and he just started firing," Mrs. Shalometh's daughter, Lucille Shalometh Goldin, told the Daily News of Los Angeles. "She knew enough to get down and crawl into the back office." Mr. Furrow left the Center and, a few miles away, shot and killed a Filipino-American postal worker. After surrendering himself to authorities, Mr. Furrow told investigators that he wanted to send a wake-up call to America to kill Jews. The gunman is connected to various white power groups in the Northwest. He finished a jail term last May for pulling a knife on staff members at a suburban Seattle mental hospital where he tried to have himself committed. Following the shootings at the Center, frightened parents huddled nervously behind yellow police tape, waiting to find out if their children survived the rampage. Others marveled that more people weren't hurt, especially since the police found bullet holes at the same level as the little desks used by children. The center is often used for swimming lessons, art classes, and other summer activities for kids. Report attacks daytrading
Nothing for money?
Quit your job, sit behind a computer all day, and trade stocks until you're rich. That's a dangerous fantasy, according to a new report from the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA). The group says that 70 percent of all daytraders end up losing money and are fooled by shady dealers who promise easy riches and offer improper loans to keep people playing the market. The report said 62 daytrading firms now operate with hundreds of offices around the country. They serve roughly 4,000 to 5,000 traders, who are given high-speed hookups to trading networks and charged commissions for each trade. Daytraders often ditch their day jobs to ride the tiniest ups and downs of the stock markets, squeezing profits by buying and selling shares rapidly. Daytrading firms attacked the report, arguing the sampling was too limited and that its findings could be used as an excuse to bring more government regulation. The study was released just 11 days after Mark O. Barton killed nine people at two Atlanta daytrading firms after losing thousands daytrading. Drug officer's wife charged
Strange bedfellows
It has all the trappings of a third-rate mystery novel-cocaine, a colonel's wife, and mysterious brown-paper packages. But the latest military scandal isn't fiction. The wife of Army Col. James Hiett, who oversaw anti-narcotic operations in Columbia, surrendered to authorities on charges of cocaine trafficking. Federal officials say Laurie Anne Hiett, 36, mailed six packages of cocaine to New York from the U.S. Embassy in Bogota. A package containing $30,000 worth of cocaine bearing Mrs. Hiett's return address tipped off investigators to five others mailed during April and May. Her arrest has created unwelcome embarrassment for Washington drug-control officials, who just requested an extra $1 billion for anti-drug efforts in Columbia. Already receiving $289 million to fund its war against drugs, Columbia currently ranks third among U.S. foreign-aid recipients. Authorities also arrested Jorge Ayala, a Columbian chauffeur for U.S. military commanders, who told officials that Mrs. Hiett "abused cocaine" and asked him to buy it for her. Released on $150,000 bail without a passport, Mrs. Hiett could face up to 12 years in prison. When confronted by investigators in June, she said she didn't know what was in the packages when she sent them, but investigators said she became flustered in a second interview and "stated, in substance, 'I'm afraid they'll kill me.'" Although cleared of any connection to the activities, Col. Hiett has requested reassignment from Columbia. The No-Comment Zone

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