News & Reviews

Issue: "Wedgwood shooting," Oct. 2, 1999

2,100-plus dead following Taiwan earthquake
Fear and trembling
As rescue workers plunged into their third major earthquake in a month, onlookers wondered again at the earth's frequent trembling. A Sept. 21 quake in Taiwan left more than 2,100 people dead. That toll, together with 139 dead from a Sept. 7 earthquake in Athens, Greece, and 15,600 dead from the Aug. 17 quake in Turkey, makes 1999 an exceptionally deadly earthquake year. Seismologists insist that the recent major quakes do not signify new activity below ground. Their data show that big earthquakes are not striking more often than usual, just in more vulnerable places. Scientists record an average of 18 major quakes per year, but most hit either deep beneath the earth's surface or out at sea. These quakes were particularly shallow, and struck heavily populated areas while most people were inside, asleep. The statistics are little comfort, however, to Taiwan residents. Rescue workers rode swaying buildings as more than 4,000 aftershocks rocked Taiwan's quake zone. Cell phones proved again to be emergency workers' most durable tool, summoning medical teams, heavy equipment, and rescuers on a moment's notice, while electricity and phone lines remained down all week in most of the area. As the death toll climbed above 2,100, there was brief good news when officials reduced the number of those listed as trapped beneath the rubble from about 2,000 to 400, as more people were accounted for. Many had been cut off in remote areas but were believed to be out of danger. The injured list swelled, meanwhile, to nearly 8,000. Earthquakes along Taiwan's eastern coast are relatively frequent, but this one struck the west coast, where the population is more dense. The earthquake, registering 7.6 on the Richter scale, was the strongest recorded in Taiwan and more intense than the 7.4 quake that devastated Turkey in August. Experts said there were fewer casualties in Taiwan because of greater adherence to building codes. Survivors face a multitude of structural challenges, however. Electrical fires burned beneath hotel rubble, creating a dangerous oven for rescue workers and those trapped inside. Heat and high humidity reduce chances for longer-term survival of those who might be buried alive. Major aftershocks create new fears and more damage and hamper rescuers tunneling beneath the rubble. One measured 6.8 on the Richter scale, centered just east of Sun Moon Lake Reservoir, one of Taiwan's largest waterworks. Workers found large cracks in the lake's dam and began lowering the water level as a precaution against further ruptures. Homes downstream from the dam-reservoir complex, including two villages in already damaged Yunlin County, were evacuated. Mudslides along Tsaoling Mountain in Yunlin County, a popular tourist area, were also reported, but with no information about possible casualties. In Turkey, tension is mounting as relief efforts stall and frustration with government ineffectiveness spreads in cities suffering quake damage. Homeless Adapazari residents staged street protests over the lack of tents and the poor quality of what has been issued by the government. Ankara officials, in reply, have clamped down on private relief efforts, demanding that fundraising accounts set up to receive aid be funneled through the government. They also insist that incoming supplies be turned over to the Red Crescent, the largest humanitarian organization in the region and the Islamic counterpart to the Red Cross. Some Christian relief workers are running into trouble. After providing full-time aid in quake areas for three weeks, Zekai Tanyar and members of his 20-year-old Protestant congregation in Izmir faced their own shake-up at home. On Sept. 12, Turkish police, accompanied by the crew of a private television channel, disrupted the worship services at Izmir Fellowship, arresting 40 adults and claiming that the church, which has owned its current property since 1994, was operating illegally. The group was held for 24 hours and released after the prosecutor's office threw out the charges. On Sept. 20 church leaders were granted a 25-minute appointment with Turkish Interior Minister Sadettin Tantan in Ankara to discuss the raid. Mr. Tantan agreed to investigate the case, but the Izmir church building remains sealed off by local police. Mr. Tanyar said the episode stung in light of efforts on behalf of quake victims. "We are extremely sorry and offended to be treated as though we are not citizens of this country," he said. The No-Comment Zone

  • In an appeal to homosexual voters, Democratic presidential candidate Bill Bradley called for expanding the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include gays and lesbians, and also said the Clinton administration's "don't ask, don't tell" military policy is too strict. Mr. Bradley told The Advocate, a homosexual magazine, that homosexuality "happens to be an attribute about as meaningful as having blond hair" and that "We ought to get to a time when gays can serve openly in the military."
  • "The Villain" wears a black trench coat, body armor, and a ski mask, carries a shotgun and rifle, and got kicked out of Sears. The 12-inch toy figure appeared in the company's holiday catalog and 15 were sold at $29.95 each before parents complained that they resembled Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who murdered students at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., last spring. Now the doll has been yanked and is being redesigned. California-based 21st Century Toys says "The Villain" was designed months before the shootings. "This thing was already being manufactured and shipped," said 21st Century vice president Scott Allen. "We were going to lose millions of dollars."
  • Three Michigan teens face possible jail time for planning a murderous rampage a la Columbine. Other students overheard the boys discussing the plan and told administrators; now the schemers are awaiting trial. Daniel Fick, Justin Schnepp and Jedaiah Zinzo-ages 13, 14, and 15 respectively-are charged with conspiracy to commit murder, with Mr. Schnepp and Mr. Zinzo to be tried as adults. Meanwhile, the boys are banished from the Port Huron Area School District and are under 24-hour parental supervision until their May date in court.
  • Whenever Bill Clinton leaves the country, the bill stays home with taxpayers. When Republicans complained that the president spent more than $72 million on three foreign trips last year, his spokesman Joe Lockhart said critics didn't understand the payoffs that come back to America because of the visits. "The president traveled Africa like no U.S. president has traveled before," he said, trying to explain why the junket cost $43 million. Mr. Clinton has spent more overseas travel time-186 days-during nearly seven years as president than Presidents Reagan and Bush combined over 12 years. Senate report denies disaster
    Y2K? A-OK
    Don't expect disaster come Y2K day, say both Senate and House Year 2000 committees. In its final report before 1/1/00 the House panel announced that "disruptions will occur and in some cases those disruptions will be significant." Nevertheless, the committee says that federal agencies are ready, air traffic control systems are fixed, the power grids will work, and the banking system won't run out of cash. "I do not expect the four horsemen, armed with flood and catastrophe, to be riding in on Jan. 1, 2000," said Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., one of the first lawmakers to raise the Y2K issue. If Sept. 9 was any indication, Jan. 1 could be a breeze. The big All Nines day, 9/9/99, passed with few malfunctions. Some computer experts had warned of problems with old programs that interpret "9-9-99" as a command to shut down. Abroad, the Bank of Japan added $2.7 billion worth of Treasury bills in case of trouble, but none was reported. At a Tasmania technical college officials investigated reports of malfunctioning spreadsheets. On the same day, about 400 power companies conducted a nationwide Y2K drill monitored by U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson. The test simulated electric outages in different parts of the country and the results came up with another set of "9s"-as in 99 percent ready for the millennial date change. The Senate's report did warn that some problems could come, but warned people not to overreact. "One great area of concern is that panic buying and stockpiling of food might result in a self-fulfilling prophecy resulting in shortages and disruptions," it said. Peacekeeping?
    Terror in Timor
    Australian peacekeepers and relief workers in East Timor haven't brought an end to violence in the Indonesian province. A Dutch journalist for The Financial Times of London was killed and two other Western journalists were attacked by militia groups bent on keeping East Timor inside the Indonesian orbit. Those incidents raised fears that foreigners, including the peacekeepers, could become casualties, as well. Many Indonesians accuse the foreign media of conspiring with the United Nations to rig the outcome of an Aug. 30 referendum, in which East Timorese voted overwhelmingly to become independent from Indonesia. Hungry refugees looted storehouses and broke into relief supplies while remaining homeless. Human-rights groups warned that East Timorese faced danger in West Timor, to which many fled, and circulated reports that the Indonesian government and local militia groups intend to resettle them to other parts of the island nation in an attempt to squelch the independence bid. "It would appear that the militia have attempted to step up some activities as a show that all is not yet secure. Well, I would agree with that," said Australian Maj. Gen. Peter Cosgrove, commander of the peacekeeping force. WWW executive busted
    Infosick
    Patrick Naughton was days away from a posh new Internet job at Disney when the FBI busted him for planning a sexual encounter with a 13-year-old girl. Before his arrest, he was a top executive with Infoseek, which runs the Go network that includes ABC.com, Disney.com, ESPN.com, and Family.com. Mr. Naughton was arrested by FBI agents at the Santa Monica Pier and accused of interstate travel with the intent of having sex with a minor. He called himself "hotseattle" and traded dirty messages in a chat with a male FBI agent posing as a 13-year-old girl, and then planned a meeting. The undercover agent said in court documents, "He wanted to get me alone in his hotel room and have me strip naked for him." After his arrest, the 34-year-old, married Mr. Naughton was out of a job. "Patrick is no longer an employee of Infoseek," company president Harry Motro told employees. The Walt Disney Co. acquired a stake in Infoseek last year and announced it was buying the entire company in July. Neither company will say whether Mr. Naughton, who gained prominence by helping develop the Java programming language, resigned or was fired. Mr. Naughton leaves a dark mark on Disney's ongoing attempt to dominate family entertainment on the Web. Disney.com, Family.com, and its satellites are key elements in the company's future effort. Mr. Naughton was to have been a key player in those plans. Raisa Gorbachev dies
    Soviet Jackie O.
    How many people can name the wives of Leonid Brezhnev or Nikita Khrushchev? Not many. To the public eye, the Soviet Union had no first lady until Raisa Gorbachev came on the scene. In the 1980s she was as well known for her red hair and silver tongue as Nancy Reagan for her red dresses and china settings. Mrs. Gorbachev died Sept. 20 of leukemia at age 67, in Germany. Born in Siberia to a railroad engineer, she did well on exams and made it to Moscow State University. When she married a law student named Mikhail Gorbachev in 1954, she was so poor she had to borrow shoes. Mr. Gorbachev became the last Soviet leader in 1985, beginning the end of Communist rule. Fighting russian terrorists
    Crackdown
    Russian officials looked to Israel for help in fighting terrorist attacks that have overwhelmed the capital over the last month. Police detained more than 11,000 people, mostly residents from the embattled Caucasus region, in an attempt to end fear that Chechen rebels were planting bombs throughout Moscow apartments. Police also seized 74 bombs in two days last week. Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov ordered that non-Muscovites living in the capital re-register with the police or face expulsion. Moscow has been shaken by two bomb attacks this month that killed more than 200 people. Explosions have also rocked two other Russian towns, with officials blaming Chechnya-based guerrillas who are fighting Russian rule in the North Caucasus. Worst disaster in North Carolina history
    Floyd's floods
    Pelican Spit was a 37-acre chunk of sand dunes off the Georgia coast-until hurricanes Dennis and Floyd swept through and pushed it back into the Atlantic Ocean. The small island will probably re-emerge, but its sinking shows the power of the late-summer megastorms. In North Carolina, state officials call Floyd the worst environmental, agricultural, and human disaster in the state's history. They estimate at least 100,000 hogs, 2.4 million chickens, and 500,000 turkeys perished in floodwaters. The horror story includes rivers fouled by human waste, hog waste, and debris of all kinds; a wrecked shrimp harvest; farm losses expected to exceed $1 billion; millions in uninsured home and car losses; and at least 41 people in the state dead. One North Carolina hospital that had its water knocked out cannibalized its swimming pool to keep toilets flushing and medical machines operational. Cemeteries saw the dead rise; coffins popped up like corks and floated down roads submerged from overflowing rivers. For farmers, hit with hundreds of millions in damage, Floyd was the latest blow after a summer of heat waves, drought, and plunging commodity prices. "We lost everything we had," said Carolyn Whitehead of Greenville after she moved into a state-built trailer. "But we've still got our health and now we've got a place to stay. I just want to take a hot bath." Altogether, the storm killed at least 69 people from the Bahamas to New England-and the death toll will likely rise. "There's no doubt there are individuals out there who were swept off roadways and whose bodies have not been recovered," said North Carolina chief medical examiner, John Butts. Canadians fear new embassy
    Glass houses
    For Canada's National Gallery of Art, 5,307 panes of glass were something to brag about. That was before the new U.S. embassy arrived 200 yards away. Now gallery officials and nearby businesses in downtown Ottawa just see shards when they think about suicide bombers and other terrorists the edifice could attract. U.S. embassy officials admit the diplomatic headquarters does not meet the recommendations of a commission established after 1998 bombings at two embassies in Africa. It does not even meet a 1983 rule (after the embassy bombing in Lebanon) that the embassies be at least 100 feet from the street. It fronts two busy streets, in fact, as well as a shopping district and the historic Chateau Laurier hotel. Merchants are installing plastic sheeting over storefronts in case the embassy should become a target. The gallery won't bother. "It's a wall of glass," spokeswoman Karen Spierkel told The Wall Street Journal. "So whether it comes down in panes or shards of glass won't make much difference." Puerto Rican nationalists free
    Terrorists go home
    Sixteen Puerto Rican nationalists returned home last week from incarceration in the United States after President Bill Clinton granted them clemency. Mr. Clinton portrayed the decision as an act of courage, casting himself in the mold of Teddy Roosevelt and Jimmy Carter, earlier presidents who sent home foreign criminals. But the president's top crimefighter did not see it that way. The Federal Bureau of Investigation "unequivocally opposed" the offer of clemency to 16 Puerto Rican nationalists. A letter released by the agency said freeing the prisoners would reinvigorate their terrorist movement and would likely "return committed, experienced, sophisticated and hardened terrorists to the clandestine movement" for Puerto Rican independence. The FBI was referring to the militant FALN, a group that killed five people and injured dozens at the height of its activities 20 years ago. The letter was prepared for FBI director Louis Freeh but not signed. A spokesman for the director, however, said it accurately presented his views on the case. Man knows not his time
    George C. Scott
    Actor George C. Scott, best known for his role as the explosive Gen. George S. Patton, died last week. During a career spanning five decades, Mr. Scott won an Oscar, two Emmys, and numerous theater awards. Theater was Mr. Scott's first love. He disdained moviemaking, saying he only did it for the money. He refused to accept his 1970 Oscar for Patton. As tough off screen as on, Mr. Scott had his nose broken five times, four in barroom fights, and was married five times. He was 71 years old.

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