News & Reviews

Issue: "The new school year," Sept. 11, 1999

Clinton and congress ready to rumble over tax relief
A taxing showdown
Poor President Clinton. Between all the house-hunting and fundraising for Hillary, there wasn't time for as much golf as usual during the First Family's summer vacation in New York and Massachusetts. And then, to come in from a hard day's schmoozing, flip through the channels in search of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and end up catching a glimpse of those pesky ads: "Mr. Clinton ... won't you take a moment from your vacation to talk about real tax relief with Hillary and Al? You'll be glad you did when you're living in New York or whatever state you decide to call home." That would be Jim Nicholson, chairman of the Republican National Committee, driving home what the GOP sees as its No. 1 issue: cutting taxes. Whether in Martha's Vineyard or Skaneateles, N.Y., the president got the same message on TV and radio. With Congress returning to Washington after its long summer nap, Republicans are holding their collective breath to see whether the ads did any good. Both chambers passed the tax cut-$792 billion over 10 years-before adjourning. But they delayed sending the bill to the president, for fear he'd quietly veto it while its supporters were back home in their districts. Now, the waiting is almost over. GOP leaders promise that confronting the president with the tax bill will be one of their first matters of business. "We've done our job, now we're just waiting for the president to either sign or veto," says a spokesman for House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas. Republicans spent much of the recess trying to convince voters that they should oppose a veto. In more than 600 town hall meetings around the country, they presented a unified message: that budget surpluses mean the IRS is collecting too much money in taxes, and that taxpayers should have that money back to prevent the government from spending it on new programs. President Clinton, however, has continued to insist he can't wait to veto the measure because it will endanger existing programs, including Social Security and Medicare. Mr. Armey's spokesman says that the Republicans' educational efforts have paid off, with private polls showing growing support for the tax cut plan. But most political observers say polls and ads will have no effect, since the president can't afford to back down on his long-promised veto. unclean fast food
Bad karma
Siva Rama Krishna Valluru and his wife Sailaja have a beef with Taco Bell. After they found meat in the rice they were served at a Lincoln, Neb., Taco Bell, they complained that the fast food made them unclean. They demanded that Taco Bell pay $2,100 each to have them sent to India for a purification rite in the Ganges River. The company refused and the Vallurus went to small-claims court. The judge dismissed the claim because the rice was fit to eat and, besides, the vegetarian couple was never promised meatless rice. The pair still plans to make a run for the border on their own dime. "It's a must for me that I do it," Mr. Valluru said. military officer held to military standards
Follow the leader
Air Force Capt. Douglas Bass had sex with two enlisted women, lied to an investigator about it, and disobeyed orders to end his relationship with one, whom he later married. Now he's going to jail for four months after pleading guilty to nine counts of violating military law. Since this military officer is held to a much higher standard than is his commander-in-chief, Capt. Bass will be kicked out of the service upon release. His wife Krystal has already served 50 days for her conduct. The No-Comment Zone

  • Free-range Chicken McNuggets? Right after launching a campaign to convince the world that Jesus was an animal-rights activist, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is going to war against McDonald's. PETA complained for two years about the treatment of animals used for Big Macs and Chicken McNuggets. But the company's reforms weren't good enough, so PETA plans to deluge the chain with demonstrations, ads, and leaflets. The animal-rights activists want McDonald's to let its chickens roam free, make animal slaughter quicker, and sell more veggie burgers.
  • Western wildfires burned more than 200,000 acres, forcing firefighters to brave hot weather and frequent lightning strikes. Nineteen large fires burned in California, Nevada, Oregon, and Texas, with a 7,000-man force fighting just the Northern California flames. A week's worth of effort contained the largest fires as crews turned their attention to the rest. The fires took up most of California's firefighting budget only two months into the fiscal year.
  • The Arizona Supreme Court took to the phones to make sure a 14-year-old orphan would be transported to another state for a late-term abortion. In a rare conference-call Sunday Session, the court voted 3-2 to overturn appeals court judge Michael Ryan's decision the day before to bar the girl from having her 24-week-old unborn child slain in Kansas. Chosen to carry out the abortion: Wichita late-term specialist George Tiller. In 1993, a girl he tried to abort survived and lived until age 5 before dying from complications from being poisoned in the womb.
  • Hot on the heels of Alan Greenspan's interest-rate hike to cool the economy, consumer confidence fell in August four-tenths of a percentage point. That's less than expected but still significant, because it marks the second month in a row confidence has dipped. Signs that the economy is still strong came from the National Association of Purchasing Management, which reports economic activity in the manufacturing sector grew for the seventh consecutive month. The Federal Reserve has raised key interest rates twice this summer in an effort to cool consumer and business spending, which could drive up prices.
  • A Texas beauty queen was forced to abdicate after she violated her school's zero-tolerance policy on violence and threatened the cheerleading squad. Roni Lowe relinquished her Miss Lubbock Teen USA title and withdrew from Friendship High School after she allegedly declared in the lunch room: "All of the cheerleaders will disappear from the face of the Earth and everyone will know who did it." Texas cheerleading has its own history of murderous intentions, drawing headlines in 1991 when a mother was charged with trying to kill the mother of her daughter's rival for the squad. Congress wants truth about Waco
    Credibility in flames
    The federal government has always denied any wrongdoing in its handling of the 1993 Waco, Texas, disaster. Now FBI director Louis Freeh wants to know why it took six years for agents to admit they tossed tear gas canisters into the Branch Davidian compound just before the fatal assault. To save the credibility of the bureau, he asked Attorney General Janet Reno to find an independent investigator to uncover just what happened during the 51-day siege. This comes as congressional committees prepare a new series of hearings after the FBI's claim that agents used only non-burning tear gas was disproved. The hearings will cover the tear gas controversy, the Army's use of the secretive Delta Force, and whether federal agents fired shots into the compound on the siege's final day. The Justice Department is also hurting from the admission about the tear gas, especially since the Attorney General had assured Congress that only non-burning tear gas was used during the assault. "I don't think it's very good for my credibility," Miss Reno said of the FBI's reversal. Danny Coulson, the former senior FBI official who made the about-face, said the Justice Department "has no business" investigating itself, called congressional hearings political theater, and backed the proposed independent investigation. SAT scores
    Call 511
    Did you think America's kids were getting smarter? SAT scores dropped this year, causing the administrators at the College Board to call for more support for public schools. After climbing for seven straight years, the national average math score fell by one point to 511 out of a possible 800. Average verbal scores continued at 505. Of this year's high school graduates, 43 percent took the SAT. Election violence in East Timor
    Bystanding police
    A referendum for independence in the Indonesian territory of East Timor led to brutal street fighting even before the ballots had been counted. Street gangs and militiamen battled outside the UN compound in East Timor, trapping journalists and UN vote-counters inside on Sept. 1. One man was clubbed with a rifle butt and hacked to death with machetes a few yards from the UN gate. Indonesian police, long criticized by international groups for failing to bring order in the territory, were slow to arrive and mostly stood aside during street brawls. East Timor is a predominantly Catholic island territory that was a Portugese colony until Indonesian troops invaded in 1975. The referendum is a culmination of a democracy movement designed to give East Timor independence or autonomy within Indonesia. WORLD in brief
    China rounds up eight house church leaders
    Chinese police arrested eight Christian house church leaders in the province of Henan. Police entered the home of Chao Dexin and took him away along with seven others who were holding a meeting, according to a human-rights group based in Hong Kong. They may be sentenced to a labor camp, the source said. Chinese authorities have cracked down on fringe religious groups since outlawing the cult Falun Gong last July. Officials also denied a visa to Pope John Paul II, who had planned to make a visit to Hong Kong later this year. A line in the sea
    North Korea announced that it considered the Yellow Sea border with its enemy to the south to be invalid. Officials said the communist government would defend its own unilaterally demarcated line "by various means and methods." North and South Korean warships exchanged fire in the Yellow Sea June 15 in the worst confrontation since the 1950-53 war. Mideast brinkmanship
    U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright arrived in Egypt hoping to bridge differences between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators over a revised agreement on West Bank territories. With an hour to go before the scheduled signing, however, both sides refused to budge late last week in what became a game of brinksmanship over the release of a few dozen Palestinian prisoners. Turkey suffering aftershocks
    More tremors
    Turkey's earthquake survivors continued to be rocked by aftershocks in the quake-prone western region. On Aug. 31 the most serious aftershock-5.4 in magnitude-shook the Izmit area, the epicenter of the 7.4-magnitude Aug. 17 quake. The tremor killed one man and injured 166 others. Dozens of already shaken buildings in the area toppled. Turkey's death toll from the disaster stood at 14,202 by week's end, with 25,254 wounded. Officials said over 17,000 buildings had been destroyed; 25,000 more are so badly damaged they will likely be condemned. Police detained 16 contractors on charges of using shoddy materials in building construction. A dozen private lawsuits against contractors are also pending. In Georgia, a sixth member of the Kilic family died from the earthquake. Turkan Kilic, 77, died after her injuries led to pneumonia and a stroke last week. Her husband, Nizam Kilic, and four grandchildren were killed in the Aug. 17 quake while visiting family in Yalova, Turkey. Daughter-in-law Jan Kilic remains hospitalized with neck, head, and back injuries received in the quake that killed four of her five children. The two injured women were trapped under rubble for more than 12 hours after the quake. Turkan and Nizam Kilic, both pediatricians, came to the United States in the 1950s to complete their residencies, and they set up a practice in Birmingham, Ala., that they maintained for more than 30 years. The couple moved to Atlanta to retire and to be closer to their three sons, all anesthesiologists.

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