Appeals court grants injunction as UN condemns Cuba
Rule of law, not politics
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals handed the Miami relatives of Elián Gonzalez a victory in their quest to keep the 6-year-old Cuban in the United States. The court last week upheld a temporary injunction requested by the Miami relatives pending their appeal against a federal court ruling last month. The same court will hear that appeal on May 11. Lazaro Gonzalez, Elián's great-uncle and temporary guardian, sought the injunction on April 13, after Attorney General Janet Reno ordered Mr. Gonzalez to deliver the boy to federal authorities. "Lazaro Gonzalez has broken the law," said Maria Cardona, a spokeswoman for the Immigration and Naturalization Service in Washington, after Mr. Gonzalez ignored the government deadline. The government submitted written arguments, asking that the injunction be lifted and that Mr. Gonzalez be ordered to turn over the boy to federal authorities. The federal appeals court did not agree with immigration authorities and Ms. Reno. "According to the record, plaintiff-although a young child-has expressed a wish that he not be returned to Cuba," the three-judge panel wrote. "It appears that never have INS officials attempted to interview plaintiff about his own wishes." The 16-page ruling bars anyone, including federal agents, from attempting to remove Elián from the United States. But it does not specifically forbid the INS to take custody, and it does not address government efforts to reunite Elián with his father. The court indicated that it is not ready to sign off on the Clinton administration's handling of the case. "The true legal merits of this case will be finally decided in the future.... We intend to hear oral argument," the court said in its ruling. "We need to think more and hard about this case." Meanwhile, at the annual meeting of the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, delegates adopted a resolution denouncing Cuba as a repressor of political dissent and religious expression. It said the Castro regime's human-rights record had worsened over the last year, with as many as 600 dissidents arrested in the last five months. The resolution was submitted by the Czech Republic and Poland and was backed by the United States. Passage of the resolution reinforced a new legal front opened by attorneys for the Miami relatives of Elián Gonzalez. They filed a separate suit in federal court in Washington last week, arguing that the boy should not be returned to a country with a poor human-rights record. Ups & Downs of the Week
The Nasdaq: It's up! No wait, it's down. And then up again. And then down again. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index has had more jumps and dips than a swing-era ballroom. Last month the Nasdaq peaked at 5,048.62. But during the week of April 10-14 it lost more than a quarter of its value, finishing at 3321.29. But the next week things started looking up again, with the Nasdaq gaining a record 254.41 points on April 18. The next day the Nasdaq was dropping again, though, down 87.16 points to close at 3706.41. U.S. Army officer retention: Scads of able young Army officers are ditching the military, and the top brass can't figure out why. According to Lt. Col. Russ Oaks, an Army spokesman, 6.4 percent of the force's captains left in 1988, while more that 10 percent left in each of the last three years. Army Secretary Louis Caldera and Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, the chief of staff, have ordered two study panels to determine causes for the exodus and recommend solutions. The Vermont Senate last week not only rejected a constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, it also voted 19-11 for a bill creating "civil unions" for homosexual couples. The measure, which now goes to the Vermont House for approval, would entitle homosexual couples to all of the 300 or so rights and benefits available under state law to married couples. Homosexual couples still would not qualify for federal marriage benefits. A year after the shootings at colorado high school, Grief has turned to bitterness for many
Some gifts keep on giving. Some grief turns into bitterness. On Thursday, April 20, Littleton, Colo., and the world remembered the deaths of 13 victims and the two perpetrators at Columbine High School a year earlier. The Los Angeles Times reported a sad residue: "In the early days, donations poured in from around the world and the community seemed energized to repair itself. Now, bickering has set in, and backlash, even as ghouls in tour buses shout at students in the Columbine parking lot to point out the school library." The "ceaseless wave of criticism and controversy" has soaked school officials, local police, and the shooters' parents. County Sheriff John Stone faces a recall drive. With state law requiring that lawsuits against the government be filed within one year of disputed actions, at least nine lawsuits against police had been filed by last week's deadline. One suit contends that police passed up a chance to shoot one of the gunmen during the rampage; another claims that a victim died from an officer's bullet. The lawsuits allege that sheriff's deputies failed to rescue students in a timely manner and that deputies, dispatchers, and 911 operators had not been properly trained. They also accuse deputies of ignoring advance warnings of the shootings. "We are confident that the claims are without any legal merit and we will defend them vigorously," said Jefferson County Attorney Frank Hutflies. Meanwhile, some residents complain that much of the $5 million spent by a victims' compensation fund administered by the United Way went to pay for community counseling. Some parents of injured students say that, because of continuing medical costs, they should receive more than families of dead students. Students who survived the nightmare are more concerned about safety than money. "Before everything happened, I had kind of like my kid-protected bubble, that nothing bad was ever going to happen to me," said sophomore Katie Beer. "Now, I still feel safe at school with my teachers and my friends, but I feel like my bubble is gone." On the national front, more than a half-dozen Columbine-related books have come off the presses, including two that memorialize Cassie Bernall and Rachel Scott, two of the Christian students killed in the attack. And national politicians are still using the disaster as a political pressure point to push anti-gun legislation. The Clinton-backed gun-control bill stalled in Congress, but the administration decided to mark the anniversary by touting a Housing and Urban Development gun buyback program. Owners get cash or gift certificates ranging from $25 to $150 for each firearm. This "Buyback America" program has attracted 84 cities so far, but many others passed it up because it drains money from local housing agencies. "One of the lessons of Columbine is that we have to stand up to the NRA and the gun industry and get guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them," said Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore. His opponent, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, countered that though "strict enforcement is important, ultimately the safety of our children depends on more than laws. It depends on the values we teach them, and the kind of culture we create and condone." Faces
- Seven years ago John Bird and his wife, Marty, exchanged their 160-acre Missouri farm for a tiny Jefferson City apartment to start Exodus Ministry-a Christian prison-release program. Today, the program boasts 35 graduates, only two of which returned to prison. In exchange for furnished apartments, participants must maintain a full-time job and attend church, budgeting classes, and private counseling sessions.
- Last August, Jane Smith, a teacher at R. Max Abbott Middle School in Fayetteville, N.C., complained to one of her students, Michael Carter, about the look of his baggy jeans. Michael explained that he wore the loose-fitting jeans because he was undergoing dialysis and was waiting for a kidney. "I looked at him and said, 'I've got two, do you want one?'" Ms. Smith said later. "He said, 'What's your blood type?'" A dozen of Michael's relatives and friends had been tested as potential kidney donors but were rejected. After weeks of tests Ms. Smith was found to be a good match. Doctors this month successfully transplanted one of her kidneys to Michael. They expected both patients to be able to leave the hospital in Chapel Hill this week. Character (sort of) counts in draft
A league of their own
While strength of character played a role on NFL draft day for some teams, there is still a place in the league for those of questionable repute. Courtney Brown's integrity probably nudged the Cleveland Browns to choose him first over the equivalent talents of Penn State teammate LaVar Arrington (chosen second overall by Washington) and Florida State speedster Peter Warrick (chosen fourth by Cincinnati). Analysts expected Mr. Warrick to be drafted first, but legal problems last year probably reduced his draft value slightly. The New York Jets drafted Mr. Warrick's accomplice, Laveranues Coles, in the third round. Florida State coaches threw Mr. Coles off the team in 1999 for breaking team rules and for brushes with the law. The Oakland Raiders, famous for claiming rascals that others reject, drafted another alleged lawbreaker from Florida State to do their kicking: Sebastian Janikowski. The Polish immigrant and self-described partyer awaits a decision on a charge that he bribed a police officer, and may face either prison or deportation. Florida State also produced upstanding citizen Corey Simon, drafted sixth overall by Philadelphia. U.S.-backed resolution rejected
China wins UN vote
The UN Commission on Human Rights, at its once-a-year meeting in Geneva, failed to agree to a resolution criticizing China for human-rights abuses. The United States sponsored the measure, citing the arrests of members of the meditation group Falun Gong, along with government suppression of religious activity and free speech. Delegates from China followed a familiar script at the meeting, forcing a "no-action" motion that blocked debate and put the resolution to an up-or-down vote. The vote on April 18 was 22-18, with 12 abstentions. Russia, Cuba, India, Indonesia, and Pakistan joined China. Canada, Japan, and seven EU members (Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, and Spain) backed the U.S. resolution. No-comment zone
- Jane Fonda visited Salt Lake City early this month and spoke at a fundraising banquet for Utahns for Choice, a lobbying and political arm of Planned Parenthood. The Deseret News reported that Miss Fonda "urged the crowd to petition national government leaders to support the United Nations' decision to acknowledge females' rights to have abortions regardless of parental consent."
- A Southern California school district won the right to ban an ad bearing the Ten Commandments from a fence at a high-school baseball field. The Supreme Court, without comment, last week let the ban stand. Edward DiLoreto had paid $400 to have the verses displayed on a 4-foot-high outfield fence. He claimed the school district's refusal to post the verses discriminated against religious speech and violated religious freedom.
- Media mogul Rupert Murdoch is starting several weeks of radiation treatment for prostate cancer. Doctors say his prognosis is good, and the Australian-born News Corp. chairman plans to keep up his workload. His company's holdings include the New York Post, the Fox television network, and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
- A New York doctor who attacked a woman with a syringe faces the rare charge of second-degree abortion. Dr. Stephen Pack shouted, "I'm giving you an abortion!" as he struggled with a pregnant woman and forced her to the ground near a Bronx hospital's parking garage. He promptly disposed of the needle and surrendered to police. Dr. Pack's lawyer said the physician has been "showing certain symptoms of depression." He reportedly had been romantically involved with the woman, a nurse, who suffered six stab wounds from the attack. While her life was not in danger, according to the New York Post, the effect on the unborn child was unknown.
- A Swedish study says socially isolated elderly people are 60 percent more likely to develop dementia than those with better social contacts. At risk are those who live alone, have no friends, or don't get along with their kids. In fact, a poor relationship with children doubles a senior's chances of becoming demented. The study of 1,200 people aged 75 or older could not determine whether mild, undiagnosed brain decline could have prompted the people to withdraw socially. Protests disrupt traffic, not finance meetings
They came. They protested. They got arrested. Police nabbed about 1,300 people who brought Washington, D.C., traffic to a standstill during meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Taxpayers may pay the cost of much of this mess, since the D.C. government plans to ask Congress to help pay more than $5 million in police overtime costs. Officials say they didn't have "another Seattle," since the meetings went on as scheduled. But protesters made life in the nation's capital much messier. "We didn't lose the city," District of Columbia Police Chief Charles Ramsey said. "So as far as I'm concerned, it was worth it. I make no apologies for anything anybody did." Protesters claimed victory as well and said their constitutional rights were violated, arguing that police did not distinguish between peaceful activists and hooligans. The scene itself was like a movie set: Hundreds of protesters crowded up to a barricade separating them from rows of police in riot gear and gas masks in the cold afternoon rain. D.C. police had studied the Seattle debacle where the WTO's fall meeting led to chaos, riots, and looting. Hundreds of officers took crowd-control training, and many were issued body armor to protect themselves from rocks, bottles, and sticks. On the heels of Seattle, the D.C. protest raises the specter that left-wing civil unrest may be on the comeback trail. While many conservatives disagree with the agendas of groups like the IMF, WTO, or World Bank, they rarely take part in such protests, which seem to be aimed mainly at capitalism itself. Army Colonel pleads guilty
Army Col. James Hiett fought the drug war in Columbia while his wife was busy laundering drug money. Now he faces three years in prison and $250,000 in fines for looking the other way. Laurie Anne Hiett was part of a small narcotics ring that shipped cocaine from Bogota to New York. The group even used her return address on some of the shipments. The colonel admitted that he knew what was going on but didn't turn her in. When caught last year, investigators said Mrs. Hiett "became extremely agitated and accused Army investigators of making up a story to get her in trouble." She pleaded guilty herself in January. Col. Hiett, a 24-year Army veteran, remains on active duty at Fort Monroe, in Hampton, Va., and has filed for retirement from the Army. government loses laptop
U.S. Sieve Department
Laptop, laptop, who's got the laptop? The FBI is trying to find a notebook computer with highly sensitive information that vanished from the State Department. It purportedly disappeared from a secure conference room. The missing laptop contained data classified at a level higher than "top secret," and Congress may investigate its disappearance. "The missing laptop is the latest in a long string of security failures at the State Department," House International Relations Committee Chairman Benjamin Gilman (R-N.Y.) said. "It is obvious that the department lacks a professional environment that is sensitive to security concerns." Last year the State Department's inspector general found the agency's Bureau of Intelligence and Research "not in compliance" with many department security procedures. An internal department audit, issued in December, found that the department let visitors, contractors, and maintenance workers roam the building unescorted. Last December the department expelled a Russian diplomat, Stanislav Borisovich Gusev, who was accused of gathering information from the department with an eavesdropping device. Mr. Gilman recalled that in 1998, a man walked into the office of the executive secretary to the secretary of state and removed a sheaf of papers, which still haven't been found. U.S. decides to sit out the 2000 world's fair in Hanover, Germany
One of the pioneering examples of global culture is falling by the wayside. For the first time in 149 years, the United States is sitting out a World's Fair. These events, noted for people traveling great distances to eat cotton candy, stand in long lines, and see grandiose visions of the future, have been money losers for a generation. Even though theme parks are booming all over the world, no sponsor could be found for a U.S. Pavilion at Expo 2000 in Hanover, Germany. So the U.S. Commissioner for Expo 2000, William Rollnick, is commissioning a website instead, which is akin to looking at pictures of Six Flags instead of going to Six Flags. This beats the disaster of two years ago, when the United States built a pavilion at the Lisbon fair, only to leave a scandal back home as the State Department raised charges of financial improprieties against former congressman Tony Coelho, the 1998 U.S. commissioner. If they can ever find a way to stop losing money-the Portuguese event lost nearly $340 million-World's Fairs could go on indefinitely without us. The trouble is that most of the pavilions (except ours) are socialist affairs that rah-rah various regimes. That produces a staid, public television- style globocult that isn't nearly as fun as the version found in any shopping mall. Who wants a taxpayer-funded theme park? World's Fairs are usually given themes ("Progress without Pollution," "Coexistence of Nature and Man," and "Progress and Harmony for Mankind") that put most people to sleep. This sort of nonsense lurks in the background of the Olympics, but it only pops up during opening and closing ceremonies. Would you travel around the world for an event with this year's theme: "Humankind-Nature-Technology"? World's Fairs gave us the Space Needle, the ice cream cone, and the hot dog, but their time is probably done. -Chris Stamper home-improvement chain opens 24-hour stores
What do you do when you need to replace a light switch at 3 a.m.? Home Depot wants you to pay a visit. The Atlanta-based chain is experimenting with 24-hour stores. In 1999, Home Depot sold $38.4 billion worth of products in 883 U.S. stores. What started with one store in 1979 is now a behemoth. Each measures about 150,000 square feet with its familiar warehouse décor and labyrinthine supplies of do-it-yourself products. Here, aggregation is king. The theory: If shoppers can find anything they want at a reasonable price, they'll keep coming back. Instead of going to separate stores for home-improvement building materials and hardware, you go to the strategically placed store nearest you. People can build an entire house piece by piece with Home Depot purchases. It's a modernized model of the great department store. People tend to like big stores with mammoth selections, and Home Depot has mastered the art. And soon we'll know: Do people really need to be able to buy lumber and caulk at 4 a.m.? -Chris Stamper Book excavates a piece of americana
Before Wal-Mart, there was Woolworth's. Founded in 1879, the store pioneered the middle-American chain: deep discount prices in a bustling atmosphere. Remembering Woolworth's, by pop culture writer Karen Plunkett-Powell, excavates this neglected piece of Americana. From F.W. Woolworth's rags-to-riches story to the Woolworth Building to the green turtles sold in the pet departments, she writes of the landmark that lived on every Main Street. But time managed to kick Woolworth's in the teeth. The chain imploded during the 1970s and 1980s, with stores deteriorating as corporate managers focused on such subsidiaries as Foot Locker and Kinney Shoes. In 1997, the last American Woolworth's closed, leaving behind spun-off divisions in England and Germany as remnants of a once great name. The lesson of Woolworth's is that no company can rest on its laurels. The mother of all chains died a slow death, as K-Mart, Wal-Mart, and Target took its place on the landscape. What once was a familiar landmark is now erased from memory. -Chris Stamper