News & Reviews

Issue: "The fall(en) TV season," Sept. 18, 1999

Hillary plays both sides of clemency controversy, as nationalists go free
The terrorist two-step
About a dozen radical Puerto Rican terrorists are on their way home after accepting a clemency deal offered by President Clinton. Many pundits and political activists criticized the deal as a blatant attempt to bring the Hispanic vote to Hillary Clinton's senatorial campaign, but if so, she's blown it. Mrs. Clinton first favored the clemency, then-under fire from police groups and some local politicians-she reversed course and opposed the release. Now Jose Serrano, New York's congressman of Puerto Rican descent, has denounced her flip-flop. The goons in question were part of the Armed Forces of National Liberation, or FALN, an IRA-style nationalist group whose reign of terror included 130 bombing attacks in the United States from 1974 to 1983. A year later FALN was on a roll, bombing targets in Chicago, New York, and Washington. In March 1977 it detonated bombs near the FBI's New York offices. In November 1979 it bombed military recruiting centers in Chicago, and in 1980 it stormed Jimmy Carter's Chicago campaign headquarters. The imprisoned nationalists were never convicted for any of the bombings, but a jury found them guilty of seditious conspiracy and possession of weapons and explosives. While they may be leaving jail, they haven't renounced their beliefs. "These men and women went to prison for the same thing that Nelson Mandela went to prison for," said lawyer Jan Susler. Mr. Serrano (D-N.Y.) calls the terrorists "political prisoners" and says he's angry at Mrs. Clinton for turning her back on them. Mr. Serrano says he's rescinded his encouragement of her candidacy. Cisneros cuts 11th-hour deal
Oh, Henry
When Henry Cisneros was receiving his routine FBI background check for his job as secretary of Housing and Urban Development, he hid an embarrassing detail: that he gave over $250,000 in hush money to former mistress Linda Jones between 1979 and 1984. During jury selection for his trial on 18 federal felony counts last week, Mr. Cisneros cut a deal and had the charge reduced to a misdemeanor count of lying. That means a $10,000 fine, no jail time, no probation, and the chance for a political comeback. For now, instead of doing time in a jail cell, Mr. Cisneros stays as president of Univision, the Spanish-language cable network. Federal Judge Stanley Sporkin, who accepted the plea deal, denied the deal was too soft: "This case cried out for early resolution." At the same time, Judge Sporkin said it was crucial to get at least a quarter-pound of flesh: "We cannot permit an individual to lie his way into public office." Drug abuse
Stoned servants
Is your waitress, bus driver, or construction foreman on drugs? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that about 8 percent of full-time workers have used illegal drugs in the last month. Those 6.3 million Americans are more likely to be found in restaurants, bars, construction, and transportation than in other fields. One in five cooks, waiters, waitresses, and bartenders used illegal drugs, and one in seven construction workers. White House drug czar Barry McCaffrey said the image of druggies as social burnouts is completely false. In fact, more and more users are working for major corporate employers whose human-resource costs could go way up if they follow the White House's advice to start in-house rehab programs. The No-Comment Zone

  • The unborn baby of two University of Chicago law school students was purportedly put up for sale to the highest bidder on the eBay website. The seller offered "intelligence scores of parents... upon request." This and similar listings, including a kidney for sale, were ripped down by company officials. Whether the deal was real or not, bids for one of the ebabies reached $109,100.
  • Democrats and conservative Republicans rejoiced about the same announcement: New Jersey Gov. Christie Whitman won't run for the Senate seat being vacated next year by Democrat Frank Lautenburg. Since she's held back from running again for her own office by term limits, her political future isn't certain. The pro-abortion Republican is giving back the $2.23 million war chest she raised for the Senate bid. Her surprise departure throws into doubt a seat Republicans believed they could take away from Democrats.
  • Dan Rather, meet the Rugrats. In the biggest media merger since the ABC-Disney deal, Viacom announced it was gobbling up CBS for about $36 billion. This puts together a massive array of properties, including 60 Minutes, Paramount Pictures, MTV, Nickelodeon, Simon & Schuster, and Jeopardy!, as well as America's largest chain of radio stations. This merger, like any such union, means that more massive media outlets will be in fewer hands.
  • Police officers, metal detectors, student ID cards, and surveillance cameras are popping up in Columbine-conscious schools this fall, along with routine backpack searches, increased use of drug tests, stricter dress codes, and harsher punishment of schoolyard threats. The ACLU is up in arms about some of these policies, saying they violate students' First Amendment rights. Said the ACLU's Nadine Strossen: "We're seeing the equivalent of Fortress America, and students' privacy rights and freedom of speech are under attack from within."
  • Three children and an adult were standing in a Lancaster, Pa., park when what was left of Hurricane Dennis struck. They sought shelter under a tree, but it was struck by lighting. Their next shelter was the hospital, where they were in fair to serious condition. That's only part of the fallout from the on-again, off-again monster storm that belted the East Coast and rained $43 million in damage on North Carolina. It caused dozens to evacuate and kept schools from opening due to flooding. Dennis attacked the coast, then went out to sea and returned as a tropical depression, pelting already damaged areas with 40 inches of rain. Field of democrat dreamers
    All is vanity
    "You're so vain," Carly Simon could sing to Warren Beatty, "you probably think 'Hail to the Chief' is about you." The 62-year-old actor seems serious about running for president, and he even had the support of 9 percent of Democrats in a mid-August ABC poll. Mr. Beatty does face long odds; as his friend (and fellow California radical) Tom Hayden notes, "Trying to go from the world of entertainment to the world of politics is not like catching a first-class flight from L.A. to Washington." Meanwhile, Bill Bradley went to his old high school in Crystal City, Mo., to announce formally his candidacy and outline his grand plan to wipe out child poverty and provide health care for all by increasing the power of government. The former Fellowship of Christian Athletes member once outlined his Christian belief in an American Tract Society tract; now he strongly favors "abortion rights." Danforth to head Waco probe
    St. Jack to the rescue?
    Can John Danforth solve the mystery of the Waco tragedy? Attorney General Janet Reno asked the former Republican senator (and ordained Episcopal priest) to conduct an independent investigation of the debacle that turned the Branch Davidian standoff into a deadly inferno. Congressional Republicans hope Mr. Danforth will inquire into the Feds' role in the disaster, why evidence about the siege (including videotapes) was withheld from the public for years, and whether the FBI lied about firing potentially flammable tear gas into the North Texas cult compound before the fire started. The high price of independence in East Timor
    Taking the heat
    UN officials ordered the evacuation of their post in East Timor after a UN-sponsored referendum for independence in the tense province set off violence and bloodletting. But with Indonesian police refusing to intervene and militias on a rampage against East Timorese, UN employees refused to leave their compound in Dili, the capital. Compound administrator Luiga Faumui said local staff and more than 2,000 East Timorese who took refuge in the compound could be massacred after a pull-out. Militias backed by the Indonesian government have killed hundreds of East Timorese, destroyed large parts of Dili, and driven thousands from their homes in an effort to derail a move toward independence for the former Portuguese colony. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Carlos Belo, a Roman Catholic bishop who publicized human-rights abuses in East Timor and lobbied for independence, was evacuated and flown to Australia after his office and home were torched and destroyed. Twenty-five people who took refuge in the bishop's office were killed. The Aug. 30 referendum, in which nearly 80 percent of voters chose independence, was the result of a 10-year campaign begun by Mr. Belo. Indonesian forces took over the province after it gained independence from Portugal in the 1970s. The province is over 80 percent Roman Catholic, while Indonesia at large is over 80 percent Muslim. earthquake rocks greek capital
    Rescue workers move from Turkey to Greece
    For rescue workers and Mediterraneans, scenes from a Sept. 3 earthquake in Athens, the Greek capital, went beyond déjà vu. International rescue teams, fresh from pulling people from rubble in nearby Turkey after an earthquake there last month, took the next flight out to Athens and immediately began again. The death toll in Athens rose above 75, hundreds were injured, and more than 16,000 Athens residents slept in soccer stadiums and parks while aftershocks rolled through the city. The Acropolis sustained some damage, with small chunks of rock falling off a gate and one of the Parthenon's columns. Friendship between Greece and Turkey, traditional foes who have nearly gone to war against each other three times in the last 25 years, warmed as each has supplied rescuers in quake areas. Scenes of heroism were repeated, too. Rescuers dug out alive a 10-year-old boy from under a collapsed apartment building after his father held up a beam for over 24 hours to stop it from crushing him. The father was also pulled free but died later from his injuries. UN pulls CSI's credentials
    Sudan silences Christian group
    Christian Solidarity International, a human-rights group based in Zurich, lost its UN status last week after the government of Sudan lodged a complaint against the group. Sudan successfully pressed its case against CSI after it allowed a Sudanese opposition leader to use CSI's name and UN credentials in a public appeal. CSI admitted the infraction, but the United States and other Western countries protested that the UN's Economic and Social Council, which heard the case, violated its own procedures and failed to demonstrate a "clear pattern" of violations of the UN charter by CSI. Voting against CSI-in addition to Sudan-were China, Cuba, Algeria, Pakistan, Senegal, India, Russia, Turkey, Tunisia, and Lebanon. Since 1995, CSI has been instrumental in buying back slaves taken by Muslim-backed militias from southern villages in Sudan, which are largely Christian. "It is deplorable that Sudan has been allowed to extend its policies of repression and persecution against Christians to the halls of the United Nations," said Nina Shea, director of the Freedom House Center for Religious Freedom. Thugs kill priest in run-up to elections in India
    Anti-religious violence
    Violence against believers continued in the lead-up to September elections in India. An angry mob in Orissa murdered a Catholic priest on Sept. 2, using bows and arrows. The priest, Arul Doss, was killed while ministering to a group of Christian converts in Keonjhar district, where Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons were burned to death by a mob in January.

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