News & Reviews

Issue: "The first straw," Aug. 28, 1999

Tragic earthquake devastates Turkey
An enduring 45-second legacy
The main event lasted 45 seconds, but it left a long-enduring legacy of heartbreak and destruction throughout Turkey's most populous cities. At 3 a.m. on Aug. 17, an earthquake as powerful as the quake that destroyed San Francisco in 1906 rumbled beneath the industrial heart of Turkey. Two days later, the death toll had topped 7,000. More than 33,000 were reported injured, and thousands were still missing as the window of opportunity for rescue, by week's end, began to close. "The loss is huge," said Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit. "It is the biggest natural disaster I have witnessed.... May Allah help our state and our people." Hardest hit were coastal cities along the Sea of Marmara, particularly Izmit, a heavily industrial city of half a million. One in two casualties were reported from Izmit, and storage tanks at the country's largest oil refinery there caught fire. The blaze burned out of control for three days, threatening one-third of Turkey's fuel supply and forcing evacuations from much of the city, even as thousands of quake victims remained trapped beneath rubble. Firefighters were unable to pump seawater because electricity was out. International teams, including U.S. military forces based at Incirlik, dropped special chemical foam to try to control the blaze. Authorities feared the inferno could spill over to a nearby fertilizer plant with 8,000 tons of ignitable ammonia. Seventy miles northwest of the epicenter, in Istanbul, Turkey's largest city, dozens of newly constructed residential buildings collapsed. Death tolls were blamed on shoddy construction, as builders have raced to keep up with growth in Istanbul's western suburbs, where the population has doubled in less than 10 years. International rescue teams-including specialists from Israel and the United States that have honed their rubble-rousing skills in recent bomb wreckages in Kenya, Oklahoma City, and the Middle East-were quickly on the scene. But the widespread nature of the damage made coordinated efforts difficult. The U.S. Sixth Fleet dispatched three U.S. Navy ships carrying 2,100 Marines and 1,000 sailors, along with eight doctors, to quake areas. The U.S. Navy said it would support multiple medical evacuations, as well as fly in supplies. The philanthropy had at least one part self-interest. In recent years, Western nations have developed an increasing stake in the heavily industrialized-and, in many cases, newly privatized-area where the earthquake hit. At Izmit, work was shut down on the world's largest privately financed water-treatment project, a joint venture with British-based Thames Waterworks, and many workers were feared dead. The massive project, a 1,500-foot-long dam and three-mile waterway, is near completion and fully quakeproof, according to the company. A Pirelli tire factory at Izmit collapsed, and car manufacturers Honda, Toyota, and Hyundai reported some damage but no major casualties at plants in the region. Most of Turkey lies on an earthquake belt known as the Anatolia fault. Most recently, a 1995 quake in central Turkey at Dinar killed 95 people and injured thousands. Worst, a quake in 1939 in Erzincan killed an estimated 33,000 people. Yugoslavia, bosnia
A messy peace
For pro-democracy forces in Yugoslavia, the time for compromise is passed. On the eve of a downtown Belgrade rally against him, President Slobodan Milosevic announced he would hold early elections next year, rather than in 2001. Too little, too late. Former deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic, speaking for the opposition, said the groups want Mr. Milosevic's resignation, an immediate transitional government, and internationally monitored elections. Monitoring of the peace in Bosnia has not been as good a deal as advertised. Muslim, Serb, and Croat leaders who supervise the partition of Bosnia have stolen as much as a billion dollars in public funds, according to a report commissioned by the UN agency set up to oversee the Bosnian peace agreement. The No-Comment Zone

  • Sen. Bob Smith's flirtation with the U.S. Taxpayers Party died in less time than an Elizabeth Taylor marriage. The second-term senator from New Hampshire (who resigned from the Republican Party in July) started dropping hints that he was going to dump his entire presidential campaign as well. Party founder Howard Phillips, who now will likely run himself, said the move came after reports surfaced that Pat Buchanan might hook up with the Reform Party.
  • Do young Americans believe that the Supreme Court's Brown vs. Board of Education decision, which desegregated America's schools, was much ado about nothing? Maybe so, according to a Hamilton College poll that was co-sponsored by Zogby and the NAACP. It showed that 50 percent of the 18-to-29-year-old respondents agreed with the statement: "It's OK if the races are basically separate from one another as long as everyone has equal opportunities." That's essentially the "separate but equal" worldview that drove the school segregation policy that was shot down back in 1964.
  • Good news: Teen drug use fell last year. Bad news: About one in 10 teens used marijuana and other drugs. That's the word from statistics released by Clinton drug czar Barry McCaffrey and HHS secretary Donna Shalala, who claimed that the United States has turned a corner after rising drug use through the mid-1990s. All told, 78 million Americans had tried illegal drugs at some point in their lives.
  • You've got mail-and you won't get sued for saying that either. America Online's lawsuit against AT&T over the similar phrase "You have mail" was tossed by a federal judge who said the service doesn't have exclusive rights to the popular expression. Ma Bell maintained that it is a commonly used English phrase-and won. U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton also refused to block AT&T from using "buddy list" and the abbreviation "IM" with its free instant messaging service.
  • Guns don't kill people. Sometimes, dogs kill people: A 51-year-old hunter was found dead next to his car near a town near Stuttgart, Germany. Local police say his pooch jumped onto a car seat, landing on the gun and accidentally causing the rifle to fire.
  • An airport employee in the world's raunchiest city was fired for showing part of a porno movie over a dozen giant TV screens in Bangkok airline terminals. The Airport Authority of Thailand said that an unnamed Bangkok employee interrupted a soccer tournament final with 20 seconds of smut. A spokesman for the concessionaire, Media Network Co. Ltd., said the company forbade workers from bringing porn to work and promised to screen an apology every hour for a week. florida's voucher program
    Escaping mediocrity
    At St. Michael Interparochial School in Pensacola, Fla., boys in dark slacks and girls in plaid skirts gathered Monday morning for the daily flag raising and prayer. Among them were 20 student refugees from the worst of Florida's public schools. Last week, 58 Florida children inaugurated America's first statewide school voucher program, starting classes at four Roman Catholic schools and one other private school. Under a law championed by Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, only children in schools deemed failures by the state are eligible. So far, the state standards are so low that student test scores have labeled only two schools, both in Pensacola, as failing. Under the program, voucher funds are taken from state government education funds. Private schools that participate in the program are permitted to charge no more than $3,389 per year per student. That means parents who participate do not have to pay the difference between the voucher amount and the tuition the private schools charge. Only five private schools have agreed to take voucher students. Back at St. Michael's, administrators have taken pains to protect the voucher kids. Teachers have not been told which students are on vouchers. "They're more interested in saying, 'Here's my new children, what can I do to help them read and write and spell and do everything well?'" said St. Michael's principal Sister Robert Ann. Public-school teachers unions are more interested in forcing the voucher kids back into the failed schools. Along with the NAACP and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, they've filed a lawsuit against the program. "back to normal," but some chafe under tight restrictions at colorado site of student murders
    Columbine: Back to school
    What was it like for students returning to school at Columbine? That depends on whose shoes you were standing in. For junior Caleb Newberry, it was all good. "I like how my schedule is set up and I already feel back to normal," he told WORLD. He also said he likes the structural changes completed at the school over the summer. The Jefferson County School District spent $1.2 million to repair bullet and shrapnel damage to the school, which was still nearly new on April 20, the day Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 people and wounded 23 others in the deadliest incident of school violence in U.S. history. "It feels different," said Caleb, "but it still feels like my school." Returning senior Andrew Lagerborg is a bit less sanguine. He feels the school district's extensive new menu of security restrictions undercuts the feeling of normalcy that district officials were trying to achieve. "There are cameras everywhere and we have to wear these security I.D. cards around our necks," said Andrew. "I'm hoping school will [begin to feel normal again], but with all this security, it seems like it's never going to happen." What has already happened is a fresh incident of hate. Parents inspecting the school grounds on opening day found three swastikas-two etched into bathroom walls and one scratched into the school's brick exterior. The ease with which the perpetrators marred the newly refurbished campus adds to Andrew's sense that, rather than beefing up school safety, the new restrictions amount to a continuing price for the actions of the Columbine shooters-a price being paid by those who survived: "I don't want our [students] to have to pay for what they did." In addition to the cameras and I.D. cards, armed guards now patrol Columbine. But neither Caleb nor Andrew feels the new measures will stop anyone bent on imitating Harris and Klebold. Nor does Paulette Newberry, Caleb's mom. Said Mrs. Newberry: "All the security measures in the world aren't going to stomp out evil." columbine media backlash
    ''Enough already''
    Littleton, Colo., residents know more about satellite uplinks, live video feeds, and boom-mounted microphones than they probably ever cared to. And the reopening last week of Columbine High School served to reignite the media glare that spread over the town like a nuclear blast wave after the school shootings there last April. One USA Today photo perfectly encapsulated the absurdity of some of the hype: It showed a mini-legion of print and broadcast photographers arranged in a semicircle by a makeshift memorial cross purportedly capturing a woman and her son kneeling in a solitary moment of mourning. One 1988 Columbine graduate, asked by a reporter about her participation in the "human chain" formed by parents and supporters on the first day of school, snapped: "Mostly, I'm just here to keep people like you away. These kids need their peace. Enough already." counselor sued over abortion
    Last laugh?
    A Pennsylvania high-school guidance counselor may have crossed every line but one: He allegedly sent a 17-year-old student to New Jersey to obtain an abortion on her own. A lawsuit filed by Howard and Marie Carter against Hatboro-Horsham High School counselor William Hickey claims Mr. Hickey not only arranged for the Carters' daughter to obtain a secret abortion, but also helped arrange financing for the procedure, lied to school attendance officials to cover for the girl's absence, and directed her to the out-of-state abortion clinic-helping her circumvent Pennsylvania's parental consent law. "He did everything but transport her himself," says Patricia Bast Lyman, a lawyer with the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which filed suit on the Carters' behalf. In Pennsylvania, says Ms. Lyman, minors lack the capacity to make decisions about abortions without a parent's assistance. "And parents do not expect an agent of the government to enter into a secretive plan with a teenager for the sole purpose of evading Pennsylvania law," Ms. Lyman told WORLD. "This case is about the parents' right to parent." When the Carters' daughter became pregnant in 1998 she sought advice from Mr. Hickey, according to the ACLJ. The Carters' lawsuit charges that over a period of weeks leading up to the abortion itself, Mr. Hickey counseled the teen to abort. She did so in May 1998. The suit also contends that when she told Mr. Hickey about her concerns and conflicts over abortion, he tossed off advice like "Time heals everything" and "Someday you'll look back on all this and laugh." But Mr. Hickey wasn't the only one conversing in clichés. Prior to filing suit, the Carters confronted school officials, but were told flatly that the administration stood behind Mr. Hickey's actions and that, should litigation result, the school district "has deep pockets." The Carters named the school district co-defendants in the suit. "Those deep pockets belong to the taxpayers," Ms. Lyman told WORLD. "And the taxpayers expect their money to go to education, not to pay a public employee to act as an abortion referral service for teenagers." Mr. Hickey and school district officials have declined comment.

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