News & Reviews

Issue: "Forbes," Nov. 20, 1999

House votes to investigate fetal-tissue trafficking
'It should make us all angry'
As WORLD reported on Oct. 23, the abortion industry has spawned a grisly trade in which medical researchers pay middleman firms for the body parts of dead babies. The U.S. House last week voted to drag that dark business into the light. House Resolution 350, which calls for an investigation into fetal-tissue trafficking, passed by a voice vote. Reps. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.), and Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) led a bipartisan group of 32 sponsors. While current law permits the exploitation of aborted children for research, it prohibits any person "to knowingly acquire, receive or otherwise transfer any human fetal tissue for valuable consideration if the transfer affects interstate commerce." The term valuable consideration means financial compensation. In a letter to pro-life House Commerce Chair Thomas Bliley (R-Va.), H.R. 350 co-sponsors wrote that baby-parts traffickers "appear to hope that the definition of 'valuable consideration'-which excludes 'reasonable payments associated with the transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue'-provides them legal cover. If it does, it is hard to conceive that the law has any real meaning or value." Abortion-rights advocates said those breaking the law should be prosecuted but questioned the aim of the resolution. H.R. 350 sponsors, said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) "are attempting to corrupt medical research with the politics of abortion." Rep. Dianna DeGette (D-Colo.) called language used in the measure-including the phrase baby body parts-"inflammatory and imprecise." H.R. 350 co-sponsor Rep. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said the measure's language calls the baby-body-parts business what it is. "It is inflammatory, but what abortionists are doing is far more inflammatory," Mr. Coburn told WORLD. Abortion-rights supporters "don't want those words used because the abortion industry doesn't want us to know what they're doing, which is ripping babies from their mother's wombs and selling their body parts for profit. It should be inflammatory; it should make us all angry." Court allows new vouchers
Back to school
In a 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a judge's order that barred new students from participating in Cleveland's 4-year-old voucher program. U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver Jr. is presiding over a suit that challenges the Cleveland Scholarship Program (CSP), as the voucher plan is known. The suit, brought by anti-voucher groups, involves attorneys for the National Education Association. In August, just one day before school was to begin, Mr. Oliver yanked tuition aid from all CSP students. He quickly rescinded a portion of that injunction, enabling students enrolled in CSP in previous years to start school. But he still barred new enrollees from receiving vouchers. More than 500 low-income and predominantly minority kids, new this year to the program, were not receiving tuition aid as a result. Last week's high court ruling postpones the effect of Mr. Solomon's order until the 6th U.S. Court of Appeals rules in the case. Court hears activity-fee case
Compelled speech
Should colleges force students to subsidize campus activists? The Supreme Court last week heard oral arguments on that question (see WORLD, Sept. 11, 1999). Several University of Wisconsin law students sued their school in 1996, objecting to their mandatory activity fees being used to fund extremist groups like the International Socialist Organization and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Campus Center. The First Amendment establishes freedom from such "compelled speech," according to Jordan Lorence, attorney for the law students. If they prevail, most students who attend state-run schools may be eligible for refunds. The No-Comment Zone

  • The U.S. Army has a few good men and too many missions, according to one top Pentagon official. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official told reporters that the Army reached a historic low when two of its 10 divisions received the lowest possible ranking for combat readiness this month. The divisions at issue-the 10th Mountain Division in Fort Drum, N.Y., and the First Infantry Division in Germany-both sent roughly half their troops to peacekeeping missions in Bosnia and Kosovo.
  • Cyberwar isn't just science fiction anymore. A Department of Defense report says the United States and other nations can use computers to hack or injure military enemies-and that no international treaties will be able to cover such actions anytime soon.
  • Chicago's public-school administrators say Junior ROTC riflery training and competitions don't fit in with their post-Columbine "tough on violence" message. "We don't want to send a contradictory message," said public-schools chief Paul Vallas, announcing that riflery was abolished. The military preparedness course has been a staple at 41 Chicago high schools, with 9,000 students joining this year. The training used high-performance air rifles rather than real rifles.
  • Senate Republicans by a 54-44 vote won approval of a bill to outlaw pay below $6.15 per hour. Sound odd? It's a minimum-wage increase. Democrats voted against it because President Clinton has his own version of the same idea, but if the GOP bill becomes law, the minimum wage will rise by 35 cents in each of the next two years and 30 cents in 2002. About 11 million workers-mostly those under age 24 or in part-time jobs-earn the minimum wage. Economists warn that for budget-squeezed employers, forced raises could lead to layoffs.
  • Is Donald Trump a socialist? The real estate mogul, who is considering a Reform Party presidential bid as an anti-Buchanan spoiler, said he hopes to soak the rich with an enormous new tax. Mr. Trump, whose own net worth is about $5 billion, would impose a one-time 14.25 percent tax on the net worth of people and trusts worth more than $10 million.
  • Former Democratic Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun will be ambassador to New Zealand following a 17-1 endorsement by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Only Chairman Jesse Helms held fast as the lone "no" vote, saying his former colleague was under an "ethical cloud" due to questions about misused campaign funds and travel to Nigeria. Government report: Y2K as WWII
    Millennial jitters
    Life as we know it is not expected to end on Jan. 1, 2000, but all may not be calm on the Y2K horizon. That's the word from the President's Year 2000 Conversion Council report released on Nov. 10. Financial, telecommunications, air and rail, oil and gas industries, and federal agencies report at least 90 percent readiness. Even so, The White House is calling Y2K "the greatest management challenge the world has faced since World War II." Thousands of locally controlled rescue services dependent on 911 systems are causing the greatest concern. Only 50 percent of the 2,700 emergency call centers surveyed so far have reported Y2K compliance. No need for panic though, insists the National Emergency Number Association, which sets protocol for the 911 industry. "In the last month, we have had several entire states come into compliance," says the group's executive director. "In no case are we talking about major 'brownouts.'" Hospitals and schools are also listed as possible trouble spots. With just 40 percent of health-care providers reporting Y2K readiness, medical equipment and billing systems may be disrupted. Also, the Department of Education warns that more than one-third of the nation's schools have yet to prepare for Y2K glitches. Lottery believed a good investment
    Get rich slowly
    Why is gambling so popular? A survey sponsored by the Consumer Federation of America and the financial services firm Primerica may hold part of the answer. The poll found that 28 percent of Americans believe their best chance for building long-term wealth is to play the lottery, not to patiently save and invest. Among households with annual incomes of $35,000 or less, 40 percent put their faith in gambling. Fewer than a third of respondents said that $25 invested weekly for 40 years at a 7 percent annual yield would amount to over $150,000. The correct answer is $286,640. "If Americans understood that their chances of winning a big lottery jackpot were 10-to-20 million to one but that they could accumulate hundreds of thousands of dollars through regular saving, more families would put $50 away rather than spending it on gambling or unneeded consumption," claimed Primerica Chairman Joseph Plumeri. 10 years ago: wall toppled by a wave of freedom
    Remembering the wall
    As a cold drizzle fell, stringed instruments recalled the music of hammer blows, as Berliners celebrated the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Former East and West Germans joined parties all along the former dividing line between free and communist worlds. Celebrated Russian cellist and Soviet dissident Mstislav Rostropovich performed in concert before thousands at the Brandenburg Gate, where revelers a decade ago tore chinks from the wall in symbolic deathblows to the Cold War. Then-presiding heads of state George Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev addressed parliament in the German Reichstag to mark the occasion. "Freedom was literally cascading over the wall," said Mr. Bush, recalling the night popular pressure forced Soviet-allied East Germany to open checkpoints in the Berlin Wall and let its people go on Nov. 9, 1989. "Almost overnight the bodies politic in eastern and central Europe began to reject the alien regimes that had been grafted on to them," he said. Notably absent from the Berlin Wall celebrations was the prophet of its demise, Ronald Reagan. The former president, who now suffers from Alzheimer's disease, famously declared in 1987: "General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" President Bill Clinton acknowledged Mr. Reagan's contributions in a speech Nov. 8, saying Mr. Reagan "said so plainly what many people on the other side of the wall had trouble understanding, that the Soviet empire was evil and the wall should be torn down." World in brief
    India's killer cyclone
    Water levels began to recede along India's cyclone-stricken coast, allowing helicopters to land in some areas for the first time with food and medicine. Sick and injured were also airlifted to hospitals. With new access, the death toll from the Oct. 29 cyclone climbed to more than 7,600, and Red Cross officials said it may go as high as 10,000. The storm swept in from the Bay of Bengal with wind gusts up to190 miles per hour, leaving millions homeless and flooding vast areas of Orissa state. Settlers' standoff
    The give and take in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations took place on rooftops and sandbanks this week, as illegal Jewish settlers took a defiant stand against Israeli troops. The soldiers are under orders to clear disputed settlements in the West Bank as a key part to the peace agreement. Israeli settlers, about 100,000, want to remain in the West Bank, while 2 million Palestinian refugees say it is their rightful homeland. The settlers say it is theirs as part of ancient Israel. Deposed Pakistani Premier charged
    One month after a military coup, new rulers in Pakistan charged the deposed head of state with treason and kidnapping. Army chief Pervaiz Musharraf filed a formal complaint against Premier Nawaz Sharif for his refusal to grant landing rights to a plane carrying the general Oct. 12. A standoff between Mr. Sharif and Pakistan's top military officer led to the bloodless coup. Mr. Sharif has been in military custody since the overthrow. NYT's Rosenthal retires
    Farewell, Jeremiah
    The New York Times told columnist Abe Rosenthal it was time to call it quits, 56 years into the assignment. Two weeks ago, the Times announced it was turning its long-time workhorse out to pasture. In the last three years, Mr. Rosenthal had endeared himself to supporters of a campaign to highlight Christian persecution, devoting more column inches to the subject than anyone else in the dominant media (see World, March 14, 1998). Those fans suspected that his special interest was sufficiently out of sync with the Times' liberal establishment to cost him the op-ed space. But insiders say the surprise dismissal was partly about changing the guard and partly about style. The 77-year-old Mr. Rosenthal was pushed out by the 50-something Arthur Sulzberger Jr. in the same way long-time columnist Russell Baker was sent into retirement earlier this year. And, just prior to his dismissal, Mr. Rosenthal publicly castigated another Times editor, Max Frankel, in an interview with Vanity Fair. The two former colleagues berated each other in print over editorial style, with Mr. Frankel favoring a features-oriented coverage to Mr. Rosenthal's hard-boiled reporting. Oddly, it was writing from the heart that characterized Mr. Rosenthal's latter-day Times columns and made him "a Jeremiah," according to former colleague and now Columbia University journalism professor Samuel Freedman.

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