Elián described as sad
After the raid
Two homeschoolers from Muscle Shoals, Ala., got a glimpse of Elián Gonzalez that news cameramen only dreamed of in the days following the Easter weekend government raid. Six-year-old Ashlie Fristoe and her sister Brittanie, 9, asked to meet the boy after learning that he was staying with his father at the same hotel on Andrews Air Force Base. Juan Miguel Gonzalez agreed, and offered the girls pizza while they spoke through an interpreter to Elián. Brittanie said the boy was nice but quiet, and told the Florence (Ala.) Times Daily that he looked sad. In the meantime, a Cuban delegation was set to arrive at the Elián compound. The group will not include Cuban psychologists, provoking a protest from Fidel Castro and one proposed member of the group, University of Havana psychologist Aurora Garcia, who said professionals needed to be on the scene to help the boy "restore his historical memory." But the armed assault on Lazaro Gonzalez's home in Miami was the continuing focus of controversy. NBC complained that its soundman Gustavo Moeller was ordered away from the house at gunpoint and struck in the head with the muzzle of an automatic weapon. Cameraman Tony Zumbado was knocked to the floor inside the house and told he would be shot if he tried to get up (no photos were available to determine whether the safety was on). Washington-based Judicial Watch asked a U.S. district court judge to order Attorney General Janet Reno to release all documents relating to the April 22 raid. U.S. District Judge James Robertson denied expedited release and instead told the Justice Department to file a schedule for releasing the items by May 12. That deadline is one day after a U.S. Court of Appeals takes up the question of whether Elián should be granted asylum. signs of the times
Here's an example of post-Columbine campus tension: When a police officer found a cardboard fireworks tube at Roland-Grise Middle School in Wilmington, N.C., the facility was evacuated. When seven teenagers wouldn't tell officers what the tube contained, frightened parents ran to pick up their kids. Then the bomb squad showed up and discovered the tube was a pipe used for smoking marijuana. "What we have is a B-O-N-G, not a B-O-M-B," said sheriff's Capt. David Smithey. That's a sorry sign of the times that officials breathe a sigh of relief that students are "only" involved in illegal drugs. Vermont advances gay agenda
The Vermont Supreme Court's shotgun wedding between the state legislature and the gay agenda is consummated. Gay marriage, in everything but name, has arrived. Vermont governor Howard Dean approved the infamous bill giving homosexual couples all the benefits of marriage without the word marriage. "We need to value people for who they are, not what they are," he said after the measure passed the state legislature. These couplings won't be called marriages, but "civil unions" that give gay and lesbian partners the property and other legal rights of spouses. They become legal July 1. The state Supreme Court unanimously ruled last December that the couples were unconstitutionally denied the rights and benefits of marriage. The legislature decided to establish a parallel system for homosexual couples rather than change the current marriage statutes-for now. GAO finds "no corroberating evidence" of wrongdoing
IRS dodges a bullet
Back in 1998, numerous charges of misconduct and abuse were hurled at the IRS at high-profile Senate hearings. Now congressional watchdogs say there's little evidence to support the claims. IRS employees Ginger Jarvis, Michael Ayala, Maureen O'Dwyer, and Minh Thi Johnson testified about various alleged misdeeds by senior managers: They mistreated taxpayers. They forgave taxes for big companies as favors or to improve their own status. They even allowed former IRS agents who now work for private companies to influence audits. Yet a formerly secret General Accounting Office report doesn't support the charges. "Generally, we found no corroborating evidence that the criminal investigations described at the hearing were retaliatory against the specific taxpayer," the report's authors concluded. The finance committee hearings in April 1998 helped lead to the passage of an IRS reform law that was supposed to curb agency enforcement abuses and remake the agency into one that treats taxpayers more like customers. The agency has been on an image-improvement campaign ever since.
- Michael and Angel Eads aren't typical third-year college students. Not only are the home-school graduates straight-A students at the University of Hawaii-Hilo, but Angel is only 14 and Michael is 16. In March, the Hawaii State Legislature recognized the siblings for outstanding academic performance. In addition to their studies, Michael, an astronomy major, works at an observatory and Angel, a theater major, works as a reporter for the university newspaper.
- Laverne Barker of Fort Wayne, Indiana, announcing that she had become a Christian, renounced her 18-year career as a stripper. Speaking at a rally earlier this year, she called on the city council to close neighborhood strip bars. "I know I am making a lot of people angry, but I want the community to understand that this really does hurt families," she said. Quicktakes
- The OPEC-orchestrated surge in oil prices may mean Americans pay more for gasoline, but it has helped at least one American industry-oil. Last week Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Texaco, and Conoco all reported stronger profits for the quarter than Wall Street analysts had expected. Oil companies are gouging drivers, according to Joan Claybrook, president of the Naderite group Public Citizen. She is calling on Congress to impose tax penalties on oil-company profits. But Severin Borenstein, director of the University of California, Berkeley's Energy Institute, said oil companies are essentially playing a game of "catch-up" as they seek to recoup earlier losses. Meanwhile, the American Petroleum Institute said the government was the true cause of high gasoline prices, pointing out that excise taxes contribute far more to the price at the pump than do oil industry profits.
- Is it bad news that the economy keeps doing well? Wall Street reacted that way when the Commerce Department announced last week that orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket items-or "durable goods"-rose during March. The report sparked a sell-off in an already highly volatile climate. The Dow shed 179.32 points and the Nasdaq lost 81.14 points on April 26, the day the news broke. Wall Street's fear: News of economic strength will cause the Federal Reserve, concerned about inflation, to raise interest rates again to slow down the economy. Higher interest rates cut into company profits, and the Fed has already raised rates five times since June. The markets' drop came only one day after they had each gained more than 200 points. The Nasdaq in particular has been erratic all year. All of the Nasdaq's 10 biggest daily point losses have been this year, and its two largest point gains were in April.
MOTTO RAPPED AS "UNIQUELY CHRISTIAN"
Ohio's state motto, "With God, all things are possible," has been junked by a federal appeals court because it expressed "a uniquely Christian thought" and therefore is unconstitutional. A Cleveland Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) minister fronted an ACLU lawsuit that doomed the Bible reference. "This is maybe the blandest statement about God that has ever been struck down," said Douglas Laycock, law professor at the University of Texas. State officials said they would appeal. U.S. District Judge James Graham of Columbus ruled back in 1998 that the quote from Matthew was acceptable only in a context that would be compatible with other religions. Following the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, the Council on American-Islamic Relations denounced the reasoning. "The statement 'With God, all things are possible' is not, as the court states, 'a uniquely Christian thought,'" the CAIR statement said. "In fact, a similar phrase is used many times throughout the Koran.... For example, verse 106 of chapter 2 states: 'Know you not that God is able to do all things?'" S.C. GAMBLING INDUSTRY SMACKED DOWN
Hit me again, dealer
South Carolinians are banning video gambling as of July 1, but the gambling industry is planning to roll the dice again in the courts. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the ban, but the industry is considering a new lawsuit. "We still have some hope of something happening," said Rhea McCary of Fast Freddies, which owns 300 machines across South Carolina.
No Comment Zone
- Authorities plan to charge as an adult a 16-year-old boy accused of shooting seven children at the National Zoo. Antoine Bernard Jones, who police say is the son of a convicted drug enforcer, faces charges of assault with intent to commit murder while armed in the shooting of an 11-year-old boy. The boy, in critical condition with a gunshot wound to the head, was wounded when Antoine allegedly opened fire on a group of young people outside the zoo on April 24. Police have said the shooting stemmed from a quarrel between two groups of youths.
- Congressional Democrats, increasingly wary of following the Clinton administration's lead to grant China permanent normal trading status, warned that Beijing's arrest of dozens of Falun Gong practitioners in Tiananmen Square last week raised another red flag. Their resistance is matched by a May 1 report from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. The bipartisan panel says China's current crackdown on religious freedom violates the standards of the international human-rights accords to which China has agreed to subscribe. The panel said that given the "sharp" deterioration in freedom of religion in China during the last year, "an unconditional grant of permanent normal trade relations at this moment may be taken as a signal of American indifference to religious freedom."
- Authorities in China's southern Guangdong province released Protestant house-church leader Li Dexian April 26 at the end of a 15-day sentence. But they warned the evangelist to stop holding his regular Tuesday morning Bible study meeting in the village of Huadu or "we will come after you." Li has been arrested at the site of his meeting 13 times since October. The day before his release, Public Security Bureau officers told Christians who gathered in Huadu without Li that their meeting is illegal and they must register with the government.
- New York Mayor and U.S. Senate candidate Rudolph Giuliani has prostate cancer, but he said last week the outlook is hopeful: "It's a treatable form of prostate cancer. It was found at an early stage." The second-term Republican, 55, is running for the Senate against first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. Mrs. Clinton last week denied that she would use a Senate seat as a platform to run for president in 2004. 0A Louisville jury couldn't figure out whether a defendant who shot his girlfriend was guilty of murder or manslaughter. To avoid a hung jury, they flipped a coin and found him guilty of murder. When word spread to the judge, he declared a mistrial. "Realistically, I didn't think we had anything to lose," jury foreman David Melton told The Courier-Journal. Phillip J. Givens II faced life in prison if convicted of murder in the death of Monica Briggs last May. A new trial was scheduled for Sept. 12.
James Dale wants to be a Scoutmaster. Never mind that he's homosexual, while the Boy Scouts he wants to lead must promise to be "morally straight." The Scouts are a "public accommodation," his lawyer argued before the Supreme Court last week. As such, they must accommodate anyone. "In your view, a Catholic organization has to admit Jews," said Justice Stephen Breyer to Mr. Dale's lawyer, "and a Jewish organization has to admit Catholics." Not to mention that Hell's Angels would have to admit guys without beer bellies. Here's WORLD's short list of what America would look like if the court accepted Mr. Dale's very broad view of public accommodations:
- The Girl Scouts would have to admit boys. (This might be an attractive option to some boys, because braiding hair looks much easier than tying knots.)
- University Women's Studies departments would have to admit conservative Christian professors.
- The Los Angeles Clippers would have to be awarded the NBA championship, the Boston Red Sox declared the World Series champion, and the St. Louis Blues given the Stanley Cup.
- Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) would have to admit second cousins of ex-gays, which would make for a very awkward acronym-PFSCLGAX, perhaps.
- The Republican Party would have to admit voters who don't believe in low taxes, small government, and the right to life. Wait, never mind. Too late. Christine Todd Whitman is already a Republican. And House Speaker Dennis Hastert, by his latest pronouncements on the GOP pro-life platform, appears to be looking to recruit more like her. SUPERMAN DOES BATTLE WITH EMBRYO RESEARCH BAN
Not superhuman, not human at all
Paralyzed Superman star Christopher Reeve last week urged Congress to lift the ban on taxpayer funding of research that destroys human embryos. Backers believe the research could lead to effective treatment for degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Opponents point to the killing of human beings. Appearing before Congress, Mr. Reeve made it clear he doesn't believe human embryos are human. At a Senate hearing last week, Mr. Reeve asked whether it was "more ethical for a woman to donate unused embryos that will never become human beings, or let them be tossed away as so much garbage when they could help save thousands of lives." The hearing was led by subcommittee chair Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.). At issue are embryonic stem cells or "master cells" that in very early embryos generate all other tissues of the body. Discovered in late 1998 by private researchers, the cells are seen by many scientists as the new fountain of youth. Backers claim that biotech engineers could learn how to control the cells, and then create the equivalent of cellular Band-Aids, generating new cells and tissues for patients with degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, maybe even repairing broken spinal cords, like Mr. Reeve's. Backers want to kill developing embryos to get the cells. That's illegal under a Reagan-era congressional ban that prohibits federal funding of any research that destroys human embryos. Sen. Specter is pushing a bill that would permit taxpayer funding of stem-cell research. Opponents of the research, like Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), call that both immoral and unnecessary. They also worry that any scientific boon (and thus financial boon for biotech firms) derived from the destruction of embryos would create a hot new market for the products of abortion. At the hearing, Sen. Brownback urged scientists to use the stem cells that roam inside adults' bodies as a research alternative. Meanwhile, Sen. Specter is trying to build support for his legislation by retooling the definition of "human." "The embryos to be used here are discarded ... if not used for the research, they will not be used at all," he explained at the hearing. Thus, "no human life is to be taken." Author predicts eight more years of prosperity
The good times
Are we living in the "Roaring 2000s"? Futurist investment guru Harry S. Dent thinks so and has written a book with that title. Mr. Dent predicts that the period from 1998 to 2008 will be "the greatest boom in history." He claims that our current prosperity has several more years to go. While the Internet is a big deal for him, he thinks the big force behind this growth is demographics. Baby boomers feed the prosperity as their spending and investing power increases. Hello, bull market. Where we live and shop is also changing, with two revolutions hitting their stride in the 1990s. Discount companies (think Home Depot and Wal-Mart) that go to great effort to keep costs down and increase customer value are on one side. Premium companies (think Starbucks and Intel) that can charge more for a growing, popular product are on the other. Putting the two together means economic growth and higher standards of living. Mr. Dent sees the future of business in a world of "generalized specialists," where people work as contractors hopping from company to company. He also sees population shifts out of urban and suburban areas toward "boom towns" that offer more growth or a nicer standard of living. So what happens in 2008? A global depression, according to Mr. Dent. All the major forces at work now will have played out and start to consolidate into a corporate shakeout and deflation. Naturally, Dent spends most of his effort on the boom and little on the bust. What about the culture? Mr. Dent's ideas are useless here. He dismisses anything traditional as a "return to simplicity" and gets lost in jargon about organizational structures and "the next leap in human evolution." What Mr. Dent doesn't realize-or refuses to realize-is that the immediacy of positive trends in the foreground masks negative ones in the background. When they clash, things will get interesting. -Chris Stamper Gardner brothers' book advises new investors
The Internet boom didn't just inflate stock markets. It also generated an explosion of financial hype, advice, and data. David and Tom Gardner got in on the ground floor and created a bustling business called The Motley Fool. The brothers are perhaps the best popularizers of personal finance and investing around. Their latest book, The Motley Fool's Rule Breakers, Rule Makers, is a guide to basic stock market strategy. Their "Rule Breaker" technique is growth investing, or putting your money in companies you hope will dominate their markets for a long time. If the company succeeds, you could make a big return. If it doesn't, losses could pile up fast. Their "Rule Maker" approach is value investing, or investing in stable companies that are likely to stick around. The goal is not to ride a huge boom (and risk a huge bust), but to beat the typical mutual fund. For kings of the online stock world, the Gardners are surprisingly conservative. They discourage treating the market like a big gambling casino or trying to jump on bizarre stock tips. They themselves have been hit-and-miss with their stock picks: A model portfolio called "the Foolish Four" is a famous underperformer of late. -Chris Stamper Burials change with the culture
Would you like fries with your casket? As our culture changes, the way we mourn our dead changes-and the funeral industry is slowly jumping on the trend. You're as likely to hear Elton John or Celine Dion played at a memorial service as Bach. "Years ago, people would purchase a funeral like it was their last gift to the deceased. Today, people purchase funerals for the benefit they receive," said Frank Forastiere, president of the Massachusetts Funeral Directors Association. And they're still expensive: An average funeral cost $5,020 in 1998 and burials can drive the price to $7,520, according to the Senate's Special Committee on Aging. Even online funeral deals are popping up. A site called Eulogy International will help you comparison-shop for a whopping $300 fee. Funeralservices.com offers prepaid funeral planning; caskets range from $510.00 to $12,265.00 and vaults from $122.00 to $14,393.00. Another destination called Celebrate A Life doesn't do services, but will custom-make an online obituary-charging $1,000 for a 300-word essay! -Chris Stamper