News & Reviews

"News & Reviews" Continued...

Issue: "On Earth Peace?," Dec. 25, 1999
  • Justin Volpe, a white former New York patrolman, was sentenced to 30 years in prison last week for torturing a Haitian immigrant with a broken broomstick. His conviction was not for assault but for violating Abner Louima's civil rights. Police said Mr. Volpe mistakenly thought Mr. Louima had punched him from behind during a melee outside a Brooklyn nightclub. The case strained relations between the New York Police Department and minorities and sparked demonstrations against police brutality. 0Many cities and counties in Washington state are rushing to raise taxes before the new year begins. The reason: Starting next year they will be unable to do so without a public vote. Last month voters in Washington slashed the state's property tax and gave themselves veto power over all future increases.
  • Genetically altered "supersize" salmon may reach your seafood market by 2001. Canadian scientists can now inject hormones into the fish's eggs and accelerate growth by 200 percent. Such fast-growing salmon would enable fish farmers to increase production dramatically and reduce feed costs. The controversial "Frankenfish" awaits FDA approval.
  • Ten years ago, about 4,000 pro-abortion demonstrators and AIDS activists crashed Mass at Manhattan's St. Patrick's Cathedral, throwing condoms, lying in the aisles, and chaining themselves to pews. Over 100 were arrested, which is over three times more than the 30 who gathered to celebrate the event this month. ACT-UP still exists, but it is much quieter since the number of AIDS deaths dropped and numerous gays openly repudiated the idea of "safe sex." A hard core is still trying to force Roman Catholics to bend.
  • Kirk Fordice, the first Republican governor of Mississippi in 118 years, is getting ready to leave both his wife and his office. Mississippi's first family has filed for divorce, five months after Mr. Fordice's relationship with another woman focused public attention on his marriage. Kirk and Pat Fordice cited irreconcilable differences in their no-fault divorce petition, ending 44 years of marriage, just weeks after his relationship with Ann G. Creson, a Tennessee widow, became public. He will be out of office in January and his divorce should be final in that month as well. Mr. Fordice expects to remarry soon after. Mr. Fordice, who had harshly criticized President Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky, is ineligible to serve a third term in office. public-school effort promotes gay life
    The young and the impressionable
    If school administrators next year refuse to allow anti-homosexuality viewpoints to be heard, there's a reason: They're being threatened by those who say they favor diversity. Late last month activist groups, led by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), teamed with at least 10 mainstream public-education organizations to send a pro-homosexuality pamphlet to the nation's more than 15,000 public-school districts. The 11-page "factsheet" is authored by a consortium of unionists, gay activists, and educators. Bearing the cover-page imprimatur of influential education groups like the National Education Association, the American Counseling Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics (while keeping participating gay groups in the background), the booklet, Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation and Youth, is aimed at public-school administrators and teachers. The missive repeatedly tells school officials that homosexuality is normal and healthy, and insists that any contrary messages place students at risk of physical and emotional harm. Two sections of the booklet are devoted to deriding "reparative therapy" and "transformational ministry"-counseling programs for homosexuals who choose to leave the gay lifestyle-as discriminatory and dangerous. A section on "relevant legal issues" attempts to stifle dissenting voices by threatening litigation: Schools that provide information about resources for students who want to change their same-sex attractions "may cause harm to young people and [face] potential legal liability." "This is an attempt at normalization" of homosexuality, says former Secretary of Education William Bennett. "This is a very smart and able bunch of gay activists-they keep themselves in the background, and try to appear as middle-of-the-road as possible by enlisting the support of groups that pack a powerful punch with parents." Focus on the Family policy analyst Mike Haley called the pamphlet "completely political." Gay activists are "concentrating on 'educating' today's youth on the politically correct way to think about homosexuality," says Mr. Haley, an ex-homosexual. Mr. Bennett says several conservative groups are mobilizing to redress the pamphlet's erroneous conclusions. energy giant resists domestic partner benefits-for now
    Just following the law
    Homosexual politics topped oil spills last week on the petroleum industry's list of worst public-relations nightmares. Following an Exxon-Mobil merger, gay-rights activists screamed foul over the newly formed company's decision to limit domestic-partner benefits to legally married couples-effectively ending Mobil's previous coverage of same-sex couples (WORLD, Dec. 18). Exxon-Mobil spokesman Tom Cirigliano told WORLD the company has been barraged with mostly negative phone calls and emails regarding its benefits policy. He believes the reaction was spurred by the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay-rights lobby group. The current benefit policy is based on recommendations received from 1,500 employees from both companies, said Mr. Cirigliano, also citing a vote taken earlier this summer in which 94 percent of Exxon shareholders voted down domestic-partner benefits for unmarried couples. Mr. Cirigliano stressed that company policy goes no further than the letter of the law: "If the United States recognizes same-sex marriages, then Exxon-Mobil employees [same-sex couples] will be covered under this," he said, explaining that Exxon-Mobil will still cover same-sex couples in foreign countries where homosexual marriage is legal. man knows not his time: catch-22 author joseph heller
    Voice of a cynical generation stilled
    Joseph Heller gave baby boomer disillusionment about Vietnam and Watergate its buzzword: "Catch-22." That was the title of his first novel, which eventually sold more than 10 million copies in the United States alone. Mr. Heller, 76, died last week of a heart attack at his home on Long Island. Mr. Heller wrote in the novel very loosely based on his World War II experience as a bombardier: The way to escape combat was to feign insanity, but "a concern for one's safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind." Critics said he worked in the tradition of Jewish authors from Kafka to Amos Oz, raging against a god who supposedly did not respond. Mr. Heller's suggestion that the only way to be sane was to go crazy fit the mood of the 1960s. Mr. Heller wrote five more novels after Catch-22, but none had the same success. Every new book painted a gloomier picture of a world where God never intervenes. "I tend to see my people as living in a vacuum, not anarchy, but living in a void of meaning-even my King David, who despairs because God doesn't talk to anyone," he said. "It used to shock me and alarm me and discourage me that there was a general decline of everything of value. But it doesn't surprise me anymore. It seems inevitable and natural and there's no way to resist it." beating a Dec. 31 giveaway deadline, u.s. turns over the "big ditch" to the panamanian government
    A man a plan a canal Panama
    Teddy Roosevelt's "big ditch" left U.S. hands, nearly a century after American workers began digging a 50-mile waterway between the Atlantic and Pacific. A ceremony keynoted by former President Jimmy Carter symbolically gave to Panama jurisdiction of the Panama Canal two weeks prior to a Dec. 31 deadline for handing it off, outlined in a 1977 treaty negotiated by Mr. Carter. The Panama Canal-considered an engineering marvel when construction began in 1903-was critical to moving U.S. naval forces during World War II. Five thousand Americans lost their lives building or defending the canal. Schoolchildren have long ceased using the canal story to learn about anagrams. And experts say the canal's heyday has passed in other ways, too. U.S. aircraft carriers have not been able to navigate the canal since the 1970s. Many commercial container ships are also now too wide to make it through 110-foot-wide locks. Points of controversy remain. Can Panama protect the canal without an army to call its own? Can it maintain unfettered access to Atlantic and Pacific shipping lanes? U.S. lawmakers have criticized a contract award to operate cargo terminals to Hutchison Whampoa, a Hong Kong firm with ties to China's military. china: more religious repression; Los alamos spying update
    Bible study, Beijing style
    Four members of the banned Chinese meditation group Falun Gong were arrested and charged with illegally disclosing information. The four publicized news of a reportedly fatal beating of a sect member while in police custody. Government sources deny that Zhao Jinhua was mistreated; they maintain he suffered a heart attack while in custody. Liu Jinling, Li Lanying, Chi Yunling, and Chen Shihuan, who were arrested last month, could be sentenced to more than 10 years if convicted. Falun Gong, denounced as a cult by Chinese authorities, was banned by the central government in July after members protested outside the leadership compound in Beijing, claiming ill-treatment by police. Chinese police arrested and beat Guangdong province evangelist Li Dexian again, according to Newsroom sources in Hong Kong. Public Security Bureau officers arrived at the 45-year-old church leader's regular Tuesday Bible study in Huadu, west of Guangzhou, and detained him for the sixth time since October. No other details were available. The current wave of arrests began on Oct. 11 when about 200 police arrived at Mr. Li's meeting place in Huadu and destroyed a shelter attached to the building. Mr. Li was arrested the next day and on the following two Tuesdays. Police also arrested him on Nov. 9 and Dec. 7. Each time he was held for 24 hours. Wen Ho Lee, nuclear weapons lab scientist, was charged Dec. 10 with 59 felony counts. The FBI charges he downloaded a wide array of classified nuclear weapons design and testing information from secure lab computers, and then removed it from Los Alamos on computer tapes, over several years' time. The indictment offered no evidence he shared information with China or other foreign countries, a key finding for the case. Gov't warns of New Year's terror
    'Worldwide Caution'
    The State Department issued twin warnings to U.S. citizens planning holiday travel abroad. A Dec. 11 "worldwide caution" said the agency "has credible information that terrorists are planning attacks specifically targeting American citizens." Those could occur during the new year and throughout Ramadan, the Islamic festival that ends in mid-January. On Dec. 14, the government also warned travelers and residents to be prepared for Y2K-related disruptions overseas. It said problems related to computer systems could affect the infrastructure of countries not yet considered Y2K-compliant, and would be compounded in tourist areas where extensive celebrations are scheduled. U.S. officials have worried that Italy, among others, may not be ready to cope with glitches during a midnight celebration in Vatican Square that is expected to draw 100,000 pilgrims. An Italian commission on Y2K compliance did not begin meeting until Sept. 8. Bureaucrats have found one way to compensate for the late start. Italy's state-run railways will interrupt train service for about 15 minutes at midnight so that the system may be checked. Passengers will be served champagne while they cool their heels.

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