Grandma, father both said to want Elian in U.S.
Elián case: Seeing past pro-Castro propaganda
Advocates for keeping Elián Gonzalez in the United States shifted into high gear after the case of the 6-year-old Cuban boy who washed ashore in Florida took ever more bizarre twists. Jeanne O'Laughlin, the Dominican nun and Barry University president who hosted a meeting between Elián and his grandmothers last month, ended weeks of public silence about the case. In an interview with The Miami Herald, she said she has filed an affidavit with Elián's Miami lawyers. It states her belief that Elián Gonzalez's maternal grandmother wanted to defect to the United States while she visited here in January, that the little boy's father knew all along that his ex-wife was taking his son to Miami, and that the father was abusive to Elián's mother. Ms. O'Laughlin refused to give her sources for the information, but denied media accounts that it came in a short conversation between her and Raquel Rodriguez, grandmother of Elián and mother of Elisabet Brotons Rodriguez, who died during the November boat passage from Cuba to Florida. Both Ms. O'Laughlin and Roger Bernstein, attorney for Elián's Miami relatives, say the sources will be revealed only in court; they are under orders from a federal judge not to discuss the case. At a Miami prayer rally over the weekend, another church leader came forward to announce support for Elián's remaining in the United States. K. A. Paul, a Houston pastor with Global Peace Initiative, said he had a change of heart after visiting with family members in Cuba. During a trip to Cardenas, Mr. Paul said the government prohibited him from speaking directly with Elián's father without Cuban security present and insisted on a government-appointed translator. Until then, Mr. Paul said, he believed that the boy should be returned to his father. "But I found the truth, that truly the father wants the boy to stay here, the grandmothers want the boy to stay here," he said. Other developments:
- Mariano Faget, 54, a Cuban-born Immigration and Naturalization Service supervisor, was arrested Feb. 17 in Miami and charged with revealing classified information to Cuban government officials.
- On Feb. 19, the State Department told Cuba it would expel Jose Imperatori, the second secretary for consular affairs at the Cuban Interests Section (barring diplomatic relations, the equivalent of an embassy), in Washington. Mr. Imperatori was ordered out of the country after an FBI complaint identified him as one of two Cuban diplomats and intelligence agents who met last year in Miami with Mr. Faget. Mr. Imperatori also met with the grandmothers of Elián Gonzalez during their visit to the United States. Miami-Dade police reported that Mr. Imperatori was at the airport when the grandmas arrived in Miami, took photographs of the scene, and was overheard speaking by phone to Cuban officials.
- A federal court date for the Gonzalez family was postponed after Judge William Hoeveler, who was set to hear a lawsuit filed by Elián's Miami relatives, suffered a stroke Feb. 19. He is to be replaced by U.S. District Court Judge Michael Moore, who said he would review all filings on the case and act on them during the week of March 6.
-Mindy Belz Me-first parenting and lonely children
One is the most convenient number
Just when you thought the Me Generation had receded into the misty archives of the 20th century, it's back-this time in the form of a new cohort of parents who put themselves before their kids. A spate of articles published last month lauded parents who routed their kids' lives around their own careers instead of the other way around. In Urbana, Ill., for example, when first-grader Annie Valocchi heads for after-school choir practice, she doesn't catch a ride with mom, dad, or even a friend of the family. Instead, she's ferried across town by Stacy McDade, owner of a local child-taxi service. Parents are increasingly using such taxi services to simplify their own lives. Annie's father Al first hired Ms. McDade when his daughter was in kindergarten. School let out at lunch, but Mr. Valocchi, a University of Illinois engineering professor, couldn't leave work to take Annie to daycare. The taxi service "enables me not to have my day all chopped up," Mr. Valocchi said. "I'm much more productive and Annie likes it." At least 100 such taxi services are listed in phone books across the country. So great is the number of parents in Denver who prefer that their children's schedules don't affect their own that demand outstrips taxi supply by more than 300 percent, one taxi service owner says. But a growing segment of the new Me Generation is finding a different solution to the scheduling problems presented by kids: Don't have more than one. The number of "only children" born to American parents is exploding, according to the U.S. Census bureau. But it's not just a matter of economics, late-in-life marriages, or unmarried people adopting a single child. It's also about "personal space." "With two children, I would be too scattered," California mom Fran Lantz told USA Today. Another child would mean "I would not have time for my own activities, and my husband feels that way, too." Susan Newman, author of Parenting an Only Child, puts it this way: "Women who want to have it all can have more of it by having only one child. With one child, you can still be the president of the PTA and advance your career." Naturally, a half-century's worth of child psychology is being rewritten to fit the new orthodoxy. The USA Today story trotted out a phalanx of "only" experts. All, of course, are themselves the parents of one child and all say data showing that children with siblings are more well-adjusted is old news. While such views may prove out, it's the underlying motivation that rankles: Now, it seems, one is no longer the loneliest number; it's just the most convenient.
-Lynn Vincent Have an inattentive 3-year-old? Slip him a quick fix
The Journal of the American Medical Association last week published an article showing that use of mood-altering drugs for preschoolers jumped in the early 1990s. Among children under five, the investigators found that the use of drugs like Ritalin and Prozac doubled or tripled from 1991 to 1995. The drugs are sometimes given because small children are inattentive, but Julie Magno Zito, who led the research, said, "My fundamental problem is how do you define inappropriate inattentiveness in a 3-year-old? It's part of being three to be inattentive." She noted that the increase may have come because some parents are too rushed to discipline children or to pursue time-consuming non-drug therapies for youngsters who are truly troubled. The increased use of non-family child care could also have led to the increase. In an editorial accompanying the study, Joseph T. Coyle of Harvard Medical School in Boston wrote that the new research supports earlier work, and indicates that children are being subjected to "quick and inexpensive pharmacologic fixes." The Presidency
Generations of school children grew up learning that George Washington was "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen." For two generations the Washington Senators, a usually terrible baseball team, were known for being first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League. If 58 historians surveyed by C-SPAN for President's Day are correct, future generations will consider Bill Clinton close to first in supervising the economy and pursuing "equal justice," but dead last when measured for "moral authority." The historians, mostly liberal, gave the current president a middling rating overall, placing him 21st out of the 41 presidents. They saw Abraham Lincoln as No. 1 and then placed Franklin D. Roosevelt ahead of George Washington; Theodore Roosevelt and Harry Truman rounded out the top five.
The No-Comment Zone
- Alabama last week narrowly avoided having its electric chair unplugged. The Supreme Court voted 5-4 to turn away the appeal of a death-row inmate who claimed Alabama's only execution device produced cruel and unusual punishment. Thirty-eight states use the death penalty. Three-Alabama, Georgia, and Nebraska-use the chair as their sole means of execution. The Georgia House, fearing a ban, voted to phase out electrocution and execute inmates by injection.
- Idaho joined the ranks of states with parental consent abortion laws when Gov. Dirk Kempthorne signed a law requiring girls under 18 to get permission before aborting their unborn children. According to the National Abortion Rights Action League, 21 other states have parental consent laws, but in four states-Arkansas, Arizona, New Mexico, and Tennessee-a court or the attorney general has declared them unenforceable.
- Pope John Paul II's three-day visit to Egypt was meant to bring religious reconciliation. But his point man in Egypt was raising the hackles of Coptic Christians even before his arrival. "Egyptians do not discriminate and there is no persecution," said Egyptian Catholic Bishop Youhanna Kolta. "I can't deny that there are some problems. But I can say that all the people of Egypt, Muslims and Christians, they feel they are one." Muslim attacks against Coptic Christians in Upper Egypt since the beginning of the year have cost at least a dozen lives.
- Moderates are poised to take control of the legislature from Iranian hard-liners for the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution ousted the pro-U.S. shah and brought the Shiite Muslim clergy to power. The slow tally of votes from Feb. 18 elections shows moderates have won at least 141 seats nationwide, five short of a simple majority in the 290-member house.
new urgency to an old dispute
China bullies Taiwan
Declaring that "Taiwan is an inalienable part of China," the communist government of China said Taiwan must immediately begin reunification talks or risk an attack from China. The ultimatum was part of a lengthy statement released in Beijing on Feb. 21, less than a month before Taiwan holds presidential elections. Taiwanese officials responded with defiance, even as stock markets plummeted on both sides of the Taiwan Strait and politicos were called into emergency session. "Since 1949, the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have been under separate rule, neither subordinate to the other," said Taiwan government spokesman Lin Chong-pin. The confrontation recasts a debate as old as both states. China contends that the democratically elected government in Taiwan is a "local authority" in Chinese territory that must be brought back under the control of Beijing. Taiwan's officials have said they favor reunification, but only after the mainland embraces democracy. The ultimatum reflected China's jitters about Taiwan's upcoming elections. Four years ago, missile tests and threats from China provoked a landslide for the current president, Lee Teng-hui. But the latest flare-up is also related to military buildup. Two weeks ago, Taiwan asked to buy U.S. attack submarines and long-range radar to counterbalance China's growing naval arsenal. Chinese officials also disapprove of a U.S. House-passed measure, the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act, which would strengthen U.S.-Taiwan military ties. Two weeks ago, China's ambassador to the United States, Li Zhaoxing, wrote a letter to all 100 senators urging them to vote down the measure. Already the Clinton administration has said it would be vetoed. Truckers jam Capitol Hill
"Will work for fuel." So said signs carried by independent truck drivers on Capitol Hill as they protested the price of gasoline last week. About 200 truckers convoyed to Washington and chanted, "If you bought it, we brought it," when they arrived there. Fuel prices have risen steadily since March, when the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) cut crude oil production to boost prices that had dropped dramatically the previous year. Truckers have been hit especially hard, with the average price for a gallon of diesel increasing from $1.07 to as high as $2.00 in some areas. The truckers called on Washington to repeal or suspend the 24¢/gallon diesel fuel tax and to release oil from the government's 600-million-barrel oil reserve onto the market. (The increased supply would lower prices.) Congress seemed ready to act. Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.) proposed a six-month suspension of the federal tax on diesel fuel. And Rep. Jim Saxton (R-N.J.) wrote a letter to President Clinton calling rising fuel prices "a national emergency." But a White House spokesman said repealing the fuel tax was "not a viable option." Meanwhile, economists noted that while the increase in fuel prices has been dramatic, the price of gasoline, when adjusted for inflation, is still well below historic highs. An Automobile Association of America official told The Washington Post that 1981's average gasoline price of $1.38 per gallon equaled $2.38 in today's dollars. NHL punishes attack; criminal charges coming?
Boston Bruins defenseman Marty McSorley, who played alongside NHL legend Wayne Gretzky and was lifted to two Stanley Cup championships in the 1980s, has only one all-time record within his reach: career penalty minutes. Now, even that is in jeopardy. Last week, Mr. McSorley, with just seconds remaining in a hockey game his team had no hope of winning, skated behind Vancouver Canucks forward Donald Brashear, drew back his hockey stick, both hands on the shaft, and slashed the unsuspecting Brashear in the side of the head. Mr. Brashear fell, banged the back of his head on the ice, and lay unconscious, his body twitching and his nose bleeding. Mr. Brashear is out for two to three weeks with a concussion, but likely will play again. Mr. McSorley may not. He is done for the year-and maybe forever, because the 36-year-old is in the last year of a contract and what skills he once had are in serious decline. The NHL immediately suspended Mr. McSorley for the rest of the regular season and the playoffs, should the Bruins even qualify. If Mr. McSorley attempts to return to the game next year, he will first have to face a hearing with league brass. After the game, the third most-penalized player in the history of the game was contrite; he offered no justification for his action and, on the verge of tears, told reporters he was sorry. Said Vancouver defenseman Mattias Ohlund, who witnessed the attack as it occurred away from the play, "If McSorley plays another game in this league, then this league is a ... joke. It was the worst thing I've ever seen. That guy should be treated the same as if he tried to kill a guy on the street." He may be. Vancouver police are investigating the attack and will turn over results of the probe to a prosecutor. "It's not a good night to be a hockey player," said embarrassed Boston teammate Ray Bourque, an all-star defenseman.
- Darryl Strawberry is in trouble again. The New York Yankees designated hitter tested positive for cocaine in January and could receive his third suspension from baseball. Mr. Strawberry is tested two or three times a week as part of his May no-contest plea to charges of cocaine possession and soliciting a prostitute. At Mr. Strawberry's sentencing, Florida Circuit Judge Jack Espinosa Jr. ordered him to stay out of bars and asked police and prosecutors to supply Mr. Strawberry with a map of Tampa "hot spots" to avoid.
- John and Patsy Ramsey say they know about other suspects who might have killed their daughter JonBenet. But they won't say who until their new book is released in mid-March. JonBenet, 6, was found beaten and strangled on Dec. 26, 1996, in the basement of her family's home in Boulder, Colo. Religious publisher Thomas Nelson/Word, whose roster includes bestselling authors like Charles Stanley, Max Lucado, and Charles Swindoll, is publishing the book.
- Former Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr says President Clinton stalled his investigation for years and cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. "It could all have been [avoided] simply by saying, 'There was this activity, I shouldn't have done it, let's get it behind us as reasonably as we can," he said at Northwestern University. Mr. Starr's successor as independent counsel, Robert Ray, is closing out the six-year, $50 million investigation that led to the convictions of 14 people.
- Timothy Boomer fell out of a canoe on Michigan's Rifle River and launched into a three-minute stream of profanities. A woman and her two young children were nearby. So was the sheriff's deputy who testified against Mr. Boomer when he was charged under an 1897-vintage statute that bans swearing in front of children. A district court jury last summer convicted the 26-year-old computer programmer, who was fined $75 and, oddly, ordered to work four days in a child-care program; will all of his utterances be taped for possible future prosecution? The ACLU fought for Mr. Boomer on free-speech grounds, but a judge last week upheld the conviction. "Every noise or utterance does not constitute protected free speech that falls within the ... First Amendment," Arenac County Judge Ronald Bergeron said.
Benetton ad campaign uses killers as models, sparks protests
Few companies in the world have as crassly marketed left-wing politics for profit as Benetton. Various ad campaigns have featured priests kissing nuns, AIDS patients, and war casualties-all to sell perky pastel-colored women's clothes. But the Italian company's latest ad campaign is sparking a flood of bad publicity: It begs readers to sympathize with death-row killers. In the bits that appeared in Talk magazine and the corporate website, an interviewer asks softball questions like, "Do you consider yourself a lucky person?" "Are you afraid of dying?" and "Do you have any dreams?" That these people committed horrible crimes is brushed past as the ad campaign pictures perpetrators as victims. Benetton claims this campaign is just "giving back a human face to the prisoners." Yet the backlash is on. The state of Missouri, whose inmates are used as spokesmodels, isn't happy. Attorney General Jay Nixon is suing Benetton, claiming the company lied about the nature of the interviews in order to get access to prisoners. He says Potosi Correctional Center was conned into thinking the research was for a project sponsored by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. The killers' victims' families fought back in their own way: They picketed Sears stores in New York and Houston. Within hours, the department store chain yanked the entire Benetton USA line from its stores nationwide. Sears spokesman Tom Nicholson said that the death-row campaign has "reopened wounds and brought back a lot of painful memories and people are hurt by it." Benetton is vowing to fight on, but mostly by expanding the ad campaign to Europe and Asia. By losing Sears, the company is essentially reduced to only its faltering chain of retail stores in the United States. This may be one instance where someone tries to push the envelope and someone else pushes back. -Chris Stamper Decline of the city of dreams
The tinsel is tarnished in Tinseltown. Hollywood is falling apart-the real town, that is, not just the metaphor for the movie industry. Sure, that famous sign is still there, as is Mann's Chinese Theater, the Walk of Fame, and the Hollywood Bowl. But so are tattoo parlors, souvenir stands, and check-cashing joints. Some say being part of the big L.A. metropolis is part of the problem, so they're trying to make Hollywood an independent city. A citizens group (VOTE, or Voters Organized Towards Empowerment) plans secession, with a petition that says L.A. "has become too large, causing the city to become too costly, inefficient, distant, and unresponsive." Therefore, the 160,000 residents would be better off if they looked after their own affairs. Honorary Mayor Johnny Grant was the first to sign the petition. Naturally, there's a gantlet to run before a new Hollywood could be created. First, VOTE must get 15,000 local signatures on petitions. Then the whole thing would go to a Los Angeles County Commission for a "feasibility study." If the campaign survives that hurdle, voters must wait until at least 2002 to decide the issue at the polls. -C.S. Man knows not his time
Guinness marketer dies
David Boehm was digging through some unsold books in a Boston warehouse in 1956 when he struck gold. He found some copies of the Guinness Book of Superlatives, a book published by the Guinness Brewery aimed at helping bar patrons resolve arguments. Authors Norris and Ross McWhirter collected all sorts of obscure data about who had done this or topped everyone else at that. Mr. Boehm, who died last month at age 86, was intrigued, got the rights to the book, and started cranking out the Guinness Book of World Records. Soon more people knew the name Guinness for the record book than for the Irish beer. No longer a creature of the barstool, the book is now billed as the "world's most authoritative family reference." Mr. Boehm sold his rights to Guinness back to the brewery in 1989. -C.S.