Federal court backs Reno's attempt to remove Elian
Castro sí, Elián no. Federal judge Michael Moore took nearly two weeks to side with the Clinton administration and Fidel Castro: He dismissed a lawsuit brought by the family of Elián Gonzalez to keep the 6-year-old in the United States. The judge upheld on March 21 Attorney General Janet Reno's January order that the 6-year-old Cuban be returned to his father's custody in Cuba. Judge Moore's opinion pays respect to the little boy's "survival and courage" and his American family's good intentions, but in the end characterizes the opposing arguments in the case as morally equivalent: "In the final analysis, a well-intended lawsuit filed on behalf of and for the benefit of Elián Gonzalez ran headlong into an equally well-intended attorney general, sworn to uphold the letter and spirit of the immigration law...." Judge Moore said his review of the case "found no abuse" that would warrant overturning immigration decisions. "Therefore," he concluded, "Plaintiff, now six years old, is an unaccompanied, unadmitted alien, subject to removal from the United States at the end of his period of temporary parole." Miami relatives of Elián, who believe that his father does not really want him returned to Cuba but is acting under coercion from the Castro regime, immediately announced their intention to appeal the decision. Despite the negative outcome, the lengthy decision by Judge Moore left open several windows of opportunity on appeal.
- The judge, for instance, rejected one of the Justice Department motions, which claimed that review of the case was outside the court's jurisdiction.
- He also affirmed the standing in court of Lazaro Gonzalez, Elián's great-uncle and present guardian, to represent the boy as "an appropriate next friend." That conclusion may invite a challenge on appeal from Elián's father, who maintains that he has sole custody of Elián but has thus far remained in Cuba and has taken no steps-legal or otherwise-to retrieve his son. In a footnote to the decision, Judge Moore stated, "The Court again observes that Juan Gonzalez has filed no motion to intervene, or other challenge to the ability of Lazaro Gonzalez to speak for Plaintiff in the context of the above-captioned action."
- In deciding the case, the judge accepted the testimony of INS officials, who concluded that Juan Gonzalez was not acting under duress during INS interviews with him in Cuba. That assertion went against an affidavit filed in the case by Jeanne O'Laughlin, the Dominican nun and Barry University president who hosted a meeting between Elián and his two grandmothers in Florida in January.
In the affidavit, which remained sealed until the judge's ruling, Sister O'Laughlin said her own position on the case, which she had viewed as "a straightforward custody issue," changed after "witnessing the fear which existed in the eyes of Elián's grandmothers." Sister O'Laughlin testified that the grandmothers were clearly intimidated after a private meeting with Odel Marichal, a member of the Cuban National Assembly and of the Cuban National Council of Churches, and with the former head of the National Council of Churches in the United States, Joan Brown Campbell. Sister O'Laughlin stated that current NCC head Bob Edgar admitted to her during the grandmothers' visit that "Castro himself was calling the shots" in the Gonzalez case. In Washington, lawmakers who support a bill to grant citizenship to Elián, which would overrule immigration decisions to send him back to Cuba, said they would not push legislation until court remedies were exhausted. According to Nancy Segerdahl, an aide to Sen. Connie Mack, chief sponsor of the bill, the court decision "just makes us review where it stands. At this point we are watching the legal scenarios and want the family to be able to exercise all its rights." '60s radical caught, charged with murdering police officer
Back in the 1960s, H. Rap Brown helped lead the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, but he didn't stay non-violent for long. He soon was the "justice minister" of the Black Panthers, telling his followers that "violence is as American as cherry pie." Ideas have consequences. And today a Georgia sheriff's deputy is dead. The current troubles of Mr. Brown, who now goes by the Muslim name "Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin," started last May. Police allegedly stopped him in a stolen car; he flashed a phony badge at them. When he didn't show up in court last January, an arrest warrant was issued. Mr. Al-Amin was charged with theft by receiving stolen property and impersonating an officer. Things got bloody when Fulton County deputies visited Mr. Al-Amin's Atlanta grocery store and tried to serve that warrant. As the deputies approached a black Mercedes-Benz, the driver got out and started shooting a high-powered assault rifle. When it was over, Deputy Ricky Kinchen was dead and fellow officer Aldranon English (who identified the shooter as Mr. Al-Amin) was wounded. Mr. Al-Amin was next seen 160 miles away near Montgomery, Ala., where he had Muslim contacts. He wasn't hidden long. On March 20, a team of U.S. Marshals spotted him; they say he began shooting and ran into a wooded area, where after more shots they apprehended him. Mr. Al-Amin's attorney, J. L. Chestnut, told the Selma Times-Journal that his client is a "black man framed by the system." He claims the ex-revolutionary is innocent: "He said he did not shoot anyone. He said he did not have a gun. He fled Atlanta to save his life. He said they had been trying to kill him for years. He said it was a real conspiracy." Members of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the American Muslim Council, the Islamic Society of North America, and the Muslim American Society said they would start a legal defense fund for Mr. Al-Amin. Ignoring Greenspan's yellow light
Alan Greenspan said it was coming. The Federal Reserve raised the cost of borrowing-again-in its latest attempt to protect the American economy from overheating. The central bank raised the rate that banks charge on overnight loans from 5.75 percent to 6 percent in the name of stopping inflation. That boost pressed commercial banks, led by Bank of America and Wells Fargo, to raise their prime lending rates-the benchmark for millions of consumer and business loans-to 9 percent, the highest level in five years. Still more hikes are threatened for May 16 and June 28 if the prospect of inflation remains. Mr. Greenspan's argument boils down to a claim that the economy is growing dangerously fast. The Fed's big enemy is the so-called "wealth effect," where the technology-driven boom lets people have more money to spend. "People see the value of their stocks going up consistently," said Alan Skrainka, chief economist for Edward Jones in St. Louis, describing the wealth effect. "They don't mind spending a little of that money with the local retailer." Investors took the news of the rate hike and sent the stock market up, not down. Mr. Greenspan's threats have already spawned a few market corrections, which means bargain-hunting time on Wall Street. The supposedly out-of-control technology stocks were a little shaken, but still strong. The average Joe, however, will face higher mortgage rates and jacked-up credit-card interest.
Ups & Downs of the Week
Political momentum for a Palestinian state: Not only did Palestinians receive the blessing of Pope John Paul II, who was visiting Yasser Arafat and opined that the Palestinians have a "natural right to a homeland"; that same day they received their own Internet suffix, ".ps," a two-letter country code that is similar in function to ".com" in U.S. Internet addresses. The Commerce Department OK'd the suffix after a recommendation from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a newly established private group overseeing the world's Internet address system. The Buzz tosses an environmentally friendly tomato at the Environmental Protection Agency, which was zinged by the General Accounting Office for fudging its Paperwork Reduction Act paperwork. EPA chief Carol Browner misled Congress late last month when she boasted of cutting 26 million hours of paperwork over the past four years. Which is true, but only in a Clintonesque way. She calls it a cut because if it had not been for changes, the paperwork requirement would have been even higher than it is now. The overall paper chase is up: The amount of time citizens spent reporting to the EPA rose by 10 million hours-or 9 percent-between 1995 and 1998. It's projected to grow by another 5 million hours by the end of this fiscal year.
Shootout re-creation inconclusive
A reenactment of the last deadly day of the Branch Davidian standoff in Waco, Texas, in 1993 was supposed to resolve a contentious question: Did FBI agents fire on the home? Special counsel Jack Danforth, appointed by the Justice Department to investigate possible wrongdoing on the part of federal law enforcement, last week oversaw a simulation at Fort Hood of the last hours of the siege, complete with aircraft equipped with infrared cameras, soldiers firing weapons, and rumbling tanks. But the results were apparently inconclusive. Both sides claimed vindication. The chief lawyer for the Davidians, who have filed a civil suit against federal officials, said the reenactment proved that federal operatives fired on the remote side of the Davidians' retreat, Mount Carmel, as it burned. The Feds said the reenactment showed the opposite. And Mr. Danforth isn't talking until he reports the results of his probe. At least until then, the public won't be able to see tapes of the reenactment to make up their own minds. News organizations sued to see the tapes, but the judge's order will keep the footage sealed, for now. Conservative students must fund left
Pay up & shut up
Some conservative students at the University of Wisconsin didn't like the way the school administration was using their activity fees, so they sued. Their complaint made it all the way to the Supreme Court, where they were rebuffed last week. The court voted unanimously to uphold the University of Wisconsin's student-fee system. That means that public colleges and universities can use money from mandatory fees to finance special-interest groups-even if students find them objectionable. Several law students objected to having some of their money funneled to hardline activist groups like the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Center and the International Socialist Organization. A federal judge and a federal appeals court ruled against the university, but the nation's highest court overturned those decisions.
The No-Comment Zone
- When the federal government breaks its own rules, it's the taxpayers who pay. More than 1,000 women who didn't get jobs at the now-defunct United States Information Agency (USIA) sued the agency for sex discrimination back in 1977. This alleged violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act was settled after 23 years-and the typical plaintiff will receive almost half a million dollars (before taxes), plus back pay and interest, plus legal fees. All told, taxpayers are on the hook for $508 million in settlement money, about $23 million for the back pay, and $12 million in lawyers' bills.
- Prison workers dug a long trench and a bulldozer shoveled charred corpses into a common grave, the final resting place for hundreds of members of a religious cult led by a former prostitute. The death toll in the blaze may be as high as 600. Interior Minister Edward Rugumayo inspected the burned hulk of the church hall just outside Kanungu, 215 miles southwest of the Ugandan capital. He said that in addition to the 330 bodies found after last week's fire in the church, five bodies were spotted through a hole in a nearby pit latrine.
- Inmates don't have the right to peek at Playboy. That's what the Supreme Court said when it ended an Arizona jail's inmates' fight to have the skin mag delivered to their cells. The justices upheld without comment a 1993 Maricopa County ban that keeps inmates from possessing sexually explicit material. Inmate Jonathan Mauro's lawyers tried a cultural attack, saying that the Phoenix-area jails allow the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and Victoria's Secret catalog, but not Michelangelo's "David" or concentration-camp photographs.
- A judge awarded the Montana fishing retreat of the late CBS correspondent Charles Kuralt to his mistress of 29 years. A judge agreed with Patricia Shannon's claim that a letter Mr. Kuralt wrote to her two weeks before he died in 1997 was a valid will giving Ms. Shannon the property, valued at $600,000. The decision rejected a claim by Mr. Kuralt's two children.
- A unanimous Senate voted to quit taking Social Security benefits away from people who continue to work through their late 60s. The change would be made retroactive to Dec. 31, 1999, boosting the income of 800,000 workers 65 through 69 by thousands of dollars. For folks like Clarence Plante, 68, a Wal-Mart employee from Manassas, Va., those extra dollars are sorely needed: "Today, it's not a luxury to work after 65." Many seniors are raising their grandchildren, he said, and after bills are paid, "nothing is left over."
Voters defy China, elect pro-independence candidate
Taiwanna be free
In the days leading up to the March 18 presidential election in Taiwan, communist authorities in China campaigned heavily and heavy-handedly against the frontrunner, who had called for formal independence from communist-led China. Vote for Chen Shui-bian, they warned frankly, and risk war. Taiwanese voters said to Beijing: Go ahead, make my day. Mr. Chen's victory marked the first national win for the Democratic Progressive Party and the first defeat of the Kuomintang, or Nationalist Party, which has ruled Taiwan since 1945. But after the election, both Mr. Chen and the Chinese cooled it. Mr. Chen, 49, sparked dissent in his own party by announcing his willingness to meet with Beijing hardliners. For its part Beijing, which has threatened to reunify Taiwan with the mainland by force, was officially quiet about the election results. Delicate maneuvers to gain entrance to the World Trade Organization and efforts to expand trade with the United States evidently make this no time for saber rattling.
- Big lies have big consequences. That's what seven Maryland sixth-graders are now finding out. When six girls and a boy accused a male teacher of sexual misconduct, the teacher, who has taught for 32 years, was suspended with pay and ordered to leave the school. The children claimed that the teacher watched the girls undress and fondled one of them. But the story collapsed under questioning. So all seven of the children were arrested, fingerprinted, photographed, booked, and then released to their parents. They were charged as juveniles with making false statements to police. The teacher has been reinstated. Why did all this happen? "We thought it would be fun," one of the girls who was arrested told The Washington Post. "The whole idea of being the center of attention, going to the office, and everyone in school knowing. Everyone thought it would be cool."
- Men are trumpeting the results of a new study that shows they can often find the way out of unfamiliar places more quickly than women. But the study leaves unanswered the key question: When men truly are lost, will they ask for directions? The April issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience describes how researchers scanned the brains of 12 men and 12 women as they tried to escape a three-dimensional virtual-reality maze. The volunteers pushed buttons to move their virtual selves left, right, or ahead. Men got out of the maze in an average of two minutes and 22 seconds; women averaged three minutes and 16 seconds. Perhaps more significant than the time was that men and women often used different parts of the brain; that might reflect differences in how men and women handle information about the space around them. Previous studies suggest that women typically rely on landmarks to navigate ("Turn right at the drugstore") but men often use their sense of the lay of the land ("The museum should be over that way"). Faces
- Liberty University student John Reyes launched a Lynchburg, Va., jail revival in December. While serving a 92-day sentence for preaching the gospel and sharing pro-life views in front of a public school, he led a nightly Bible study for 24 cellmates. Twelve said they became Christians. "The hardest part was being strip-searched," said Mr. Reyes.
- Texas father of three Mark Nusbaum and his wife Diane spend their Saturdays on foot visiting over 700 South Dallas housing project families. Dubbing it "Operation Nehemiah," the Nusbaums use church volunteers to help meet individuals' spiritual and practical needs. Mr. Nusbaum also coaches an inner-city children's football league, providing free uniforms and halftime Bible studies.
J. Edgar Hoover's list celebrates its 50th anniversary
FBI: Help wanted
On March 14, 1950, J. Edgar Hoover launched perhaps the greatest publicity stunt in law enforcement history: the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. The FBI director hit on the idea after a news story about the "toughest guys" on the lam made great waves. The goal was to get the media to cooperate with the feds in helping catch crooks. The Ten Most Wanted concept is a perennially spicy story and the attention puts stress on the bad guys. It replaced the 1930s term "public enemy" to refer to organized crime thugs and fugitives. Looking back on the list's 50 years, the FBI reports that 458 fugitives were added and 429 found. Of these, 137 were located because of tips from private citizens, who can receive a $50,000 reward for their efforts. The crimes dominating the list have become worse, a trend the FBI says reflects its changing priorities. The 1950s version was full of bank robbers, burglars, and car thieves. The 1960s were more revolutionary, and the list focused on destruction of government property, sabotage, and kidnapping. Later years filled the list with terrorists, organized crime figures, and drug criminals. Two men on the list, James Charles Kopp and Eric Robert Rudolph, are wanted for attacks on abortionists. Other nasties include Mexican drug kingpin Ramon Eduardo Arellano-Felix, suspected bomber Osama bin Laden, and organized crime figure James J. Bulger. The actual effectiveness of the Ten Most Wanted list as a crimefighting tool is a little murky. How many of those 137 were caught because of the list? And how would it stop a guy like Osama bin Laden? Nevertheless, it will probably carry on another 50 years at least. -Chris Stamper Dressing down at work: a new national addiction
Uptight, but 'casual'
What started as "Casual Friday" has developed into a national addiction. Sometime during the 1990s, cubicle dwellers dropped their pinstripe shirts and dress pants for polos and chinos, or something even more informal. But today corporate casual is no longer really casual; it has become a dress code unto itself. The modern employee winds up with two sets of clothes: corporate casual and real casual, like the difference between what school kids wear to impress their classmates and what they run around the backyard in. Comfort isn't the real goal anymore. Stylishness is. So in a work environment that is supposedly more open and human, wearing clothes to fit in actually becomes harder. In the old days, a man could buy coats, ties, shirts, and shoes-and that was that. Now the blueprints are gone. Workers are faced with a cornucopia of fashion decisions crucial for projecting a personal image. Don't just dress casual, dress cool. Or else. -Chris Stamper Photojournalism magazine dies again
Life passes away
Life is dead. Once one of the most powerful magazines in the world, the bastion of photojournalism will die for the second time in May. A version of it will survive through the Lifemag.com website, special issues, and books. Life's first death in 1972 marked a huge change in the publishing industry-the end of the dominance of mass-circulation magazines and the final victory of television over American pop culture. Now its second death comes as its keepers at Time Inc. are being absorbed into the multimedia world of America Online. The old Life, which Henry Luce launched in1936, was a powerhouse. It showed people what the rest of the world looked like, and they read by the millions. The new Life wandered around looking for a purpose and trying to find the glory of the old days. It took on a sort of curious staleness, reminiscent of Smithsonian or National Geographic. Its concept was simply too wrapped up in the Luce era to be cool today. -Chris Stamper