FAITH-BASED CHIEF QUOTED AS RULING OUT FUNDS FOR CHRISTIAN ANTI-ADDICTION PROGRAM
President Bush has consistently said that groups with a strong commitment to evangelism will not be discriminated against within his faith-based initiative. In his July 1999 speech in Indianapolis that laid out his understanding of compassionate conservatism, he promised, ÒWe will never ask an organization to compromise its core values and spiritual mission to get the help it needs.Ó He has said the same thing many times since, to groups large and small. Keeping those promises in mind, evangelicals on Feb. 27 were trying to interpret the statements of White House faith-based office head John DiIulio to a group of Jewish leaders. According to The Washington Post, one of the leaders asked about a Texas church-run anti-drug program that sees conversion to Christ as the best way to beat addiction: Would such a program be eligible for federal funding? According to the Post, Mr. DiIulio said, Òthe answer to your question is a strong no.Ó That statement, which the faith-based office said was taken out of a still unclear context, goes against pledges Mr. DiIulio has made to evaluate programs purely by effectiveness. He has told evangelicals that the federal government wonÕt fund proselytizing as such, but will fund effective programs that increase literacy, reduce addiction, and so on. Whether those programs achieve those objectives through evangelism or in other ways is not the governmentÕs business, Mr. DiIulio has said, as long as government funds are not paying for the religious instruction and worship itself. That left many questions hanging, some of which Mr. DiIulio was scheduled to address in a March 7 speech at the National Association of Evangelicals annual convention in Dallas (see also p. 66). Evangelical support for expanding tax deductions and instituting poverty-fighting tax credits appears to be strong, but debate continues on the idea of the federal government making grants to religious groups. Of course, Washington already gives money to lots of religious groups-as long as they donÕt talk about God. SPY SUSPECT KNOWN AS RELIGIOUS MAN
Never on a Sunday?
How could accused spy Robert Hanssen sell secrets to Russia for 15 years without arousing suspicions at the FBI? Turns out his well-known religious piety may have played a role. Friends remember Mr. Hanssen as a devout Catholic who scolded neighborhood children for using bad language and lectured his co-workers about the Ògodless CommunistsÓ whose teachings were antithetical to the teachings of Jesus. If it was all just a cover, he went to great lengths to maintain it. Complaining that his parish priest was too liberal, Mr. Hanssen found a church that still conducted the Mass in Latin (and that counted Sen. Rick Santorum and Justice Clarence Thomas among its number). He sent his six kids to expensive Catholic schools, and joined Opus Dei, a conservative Òfloating dioceseÓ under the direct purview of the pope. Still, there were limits to his devotion. Even while he was selling his countryÕs secrets for a reported $1.4 million, Mr. Hanssen gave only $2,690 to Opus Dei and even less to his church. ÒI can safely say he didnÕt donate,Ó his priest, the Rev. Franklyn McAfee, told The Washington Times. SEATTLE QUAKE
It could have been a lot worse. The strongest quake to hit the Pacific Northwest in 52 years shook the ground, damaged buildings, and panicked people from Seattle to Portland. At least 29 people were injured and about 30 people were stranded briefly atop a swaying Space Needle in Seattle. Many bizarre moments came during the 45-second quake. Screams erupted at a Seattle hotel where Microsoft founder Bill Gates was giving a speech. Bricks fell from the top of Starbucks headquarters. The dome cracked atop the state Capitol in Olympia. Similar earthquakes hit the region in 1949 and 1965. While California gets lots of publicity for being an earthquake zone, the upper regions of the West Coast are also considered at serious risk. SUPREME COURT: FIRST KEY CHURCH-STATE CASE SINCE FOOTBALL GAME PRAYERS WERE OUTLAWED
School board theologians
Anyone know the difference between Òreligious viewpointsÓ and Òreligious subject mattersÓ? Anyone know why it matters? It matters very much to the Good News Club and the Milford (N.Y.) School District. Now it matters to the Supreme Court, which last week heard the dispute between the two parties. HereÕs how the case began: In 1996, the Rev. Stephen Fournier and his wife, Darleen, requested access to MilfordÕs lone K-12 school, down the road from their church, to make Good News Club meetings more convenient for the children. When the school system turned them down, the Fourniers sued. They question why groups like Girl Scouts or the 4-H Club get to use the school while they do not. They contend they are being singled out unfairly. Simple, said the school district. The law allows for discrimination against Òreligious subject matter.Ó The club meetings, said school system lawyer Frank Miller, cross the line from moral instruction to religious proselytizing: ÒThis is no different than Sunday school.Ó Not so simple, countered the Fourniers. The law forbids discrimination against Òreligious viewpoints,Ó and government has no business making these distinctions. ÒIf youÕre going to allow school officials to do that,Ó said John Whitehead, whose Rutherford Institute is representing the Fourniers, Òthen they should be theologians.Ó A federal judge sided with the school district, as did the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year. But the 8th U.S. Circuit in 1994 ruled in favor of another Good News Club on free speech grounds in a similar case from Missouri. Thus, the Supreme CourtÕs involvement. A decision is expected by this summer. SUPREME COURT: NO PROBLEM WITH S.C. ABORTION REGULATIONS
Killing by the rules
The Supreme Court on Feb. 26 refused to hear the appeal of four South Carolina abortionists who claimed that health and safety rules imposed on abortion clinics violated a womanÕs Òright to choose.Ó South CarolinaÕs 27-page rulebook dates back to 1995, when the state legislature stepped in to regulate the largely autonomous abortion industry. The rules cover everything from doorway size to airflow and require procedures such as standardized bookkeeping and testing for venereal disease. State authorities said the regulations merely brought South Carolina in line with other states and helped to ensure a womanÕs safety. But four clinics immediately sued, claiming the real purpose of the rules was to make it harder for women to obtain an abortion. A federal judge agreed, but the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision, saying states could regulate the abortion industry just like any other industry. The Supreme CourtÕs refusal to hear an appeal by the abortionists means not only that South Carolina can enforce its rules, but also that other Southeastern states under the jurisdiction of the 4th Circuit may impose rules of their own. ÒI wonder what Constitution they are looking at,Ó griped Candy Kerns, the National Organization for Women coordinator for Greenville, S.C. ÒI donÕt have much hope that the Supreme Court will protect our rights anymore.Ó But Charlie Condon, the stateÕs Republican attorney general, called the ruling Òvery good news.Ó ÒSouth Carolina should be run by South Carolinians,Ó he said, Ònot by federal bureaucrats or federal courts.Ó SUPREME COURT: MONEY IS NO OBJECT
An unfettered EPA?
The grand dame of environmental regulation won the backing of the Supreme Court with a ruling that its stipulations must be followed, regardless of the cost. This means the EPA gets freer reign than ever before. A unanimous decision ruled against industry claims that regulators set standards without clear criteria and without counting the cost of compliance. Justice Scalia argued, however, that the agency can consider costs in its instructions for implementing the rules-just that the law doesnÕt require it. Now the Bush administration must figure out how to implement this new authority. To the chagrin of industry, EPA Administrator Christie Whitman lauded the decision as Òa solid endorsement of EPAÕs efforts to protect the health of millions of Americans from the dangers of pollution.Ó Many interpreted this to mean she would uphold the Clinton-era soot and ozone standards that brought this lawsuit. KUWAIT 10 YEARS AFTER THE GULF WAR
Dancing in the streets
Tension in the Persian Gulf over U.S.-led attacks on Iraq could not keep Kuwait from long-planned celebrations. Thousands of Kuwaitis and foreigners marched along the main Gulf road to mark the 10th anniversary of the stateÕs freedom from Iraqi occupation. Brits and Americans joined Egyptians, Yemenis, Jordanians, Syrians, Algerians, Omanis, Bahrainis, and others in the march. Former President George H. W. Bush, who led the Gulf War against Iraq, was the headliner at most events. Kuwaitis nicknamed him ÒAbu Abdullah,Ó or father of Abdullah, which makes him one of their own. Joining him were Colin Powell, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the war, and Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, who led the military effort that also included a multinational force from 30 countries. Those troops launched a massive ground offensive Feb. 23, 1991, against Iraqi troops. Saddam HusseinÕs soldiers quickly withdrew from Kuwait or surrendered, and the Gulf War ended in six weeks. The Kuwaiti government, together with its petroleum interests, exported the party feeling with public thank-yous in the United States. Print and radio spots from the Kuwait Information Office are appearing nationwide and on Armed Forces Radio Network. ÒKuwait thanks America,Ó they begin, Òfor our families, for our freedom, for our future.Ó Shafeeq N. Ghabra, director of the information office, says the campaign is intended to convey Òa straightforward, unadorned message of gratitudeÓ for his countryÕs liberation. Iraqi forces occupied Kuwait between August 1990 and February 1991. U.S. RAPS CHINAÕS HUMAN RIGHTS, BUT IT WONÕT AFFECT TRADE
Slap and trade
The Bush administration singled out communist China in releasing the State DepartmentÕs annual review of human rights. ÒThe bottom line is that the government strives to suppress any activity that they perceive as a threat to the government,Ó said acting secretary Michael E. Parmly. Underscoring the importance of that finding, Mr. Parmly said the Bush administration had decided to sponsor a resolution on ChinaÕs human-rights practices at the annual United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, which meets later this month. The report cites government destruction of thousands of unregistered religious institutions this year. The rebuke was a sting after last year, when the Clinton administration-speeding toward trade accords that would smooth the way for ChinaÕs entry into the World Trade Organization-decided not to introduce or support a similar resolution at the UNÕs human-rights forum. Reversing that trend, the Bush administration looks ready to de-link trade and human rights. ÒI think what you see is both phenomena happening at the same time. ItÕs not for us to reconcile the two; itÕs for the Chinese government and the Chinese people,Ó said Mr. Parmly. WORLD IN BRIEF
- Beijing continues ÒsubstantialÓ proliferation of missile technology to Pakistan and rogue regimes, according to a new CIA report. The CIA report says firms in China have provided missile-related items, raw materials, and training to Iran, North Korea, and Libya. Gary Milhollin, director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, told The Washington Times, ÒThe Clinton administration refused to sanction China even in the teeth of overwhelming evidence of violations. The question now is whether the Bush administration will do anything about it.Ó
- Indonesian soldiers detained Steve Snyder, president of International Christian Concern, after he met with Christian refugees in IndonesiaÕs strife-torn Maluku islands. They questioned Mr. Snyder for five hours before he was ordered to a boat and taken to another island where he was held briefly. He believes authorities were concerned about his investigation because, in some cases, the military itself has participated in attacks on Christians. Mr. Snyder said 200,000 refugees are concentrated mostly in northern Halmahera; 7,000 remain in the custody of jihad warriors, imported to the island last year in an attempt to ÒcleanseÓ its majority Christian population.
FED: SLOWDOWN ÒHAS YET TO RUN ITS FULL COURSEÓ
More to come
That nasty R word-recession-keeps lurking over discussions of the American economy. Declining exports and spending on durable goods hit the Gross Domestic Product hard. It recorded an annual growth rate of only 1.1 percent in the last quarter of 2000, the weakest performance in five years. Consumer confidence in February fell to its lowest level in more than four years. With thousands of layoffs hitting major industries, observers wonder if the longest economic expansion in American history is out of gas. ÒWeÕre dancing with recession. ItÕs very close. The economy threatens to stall out completely and if the stock market continues to head down and take consumer confidence with it, the possibility of recession rises significantly,Ó said economist Mark Zandi of Economy.com in West Chester, Penn. Two other Commerce Department reports add to the negativity: Factory orders for big-ticket items plunged in January to their lowest level in 19 months. New home sales plummeted 10.9 percent, the biggest drop in seven years. Fed chairman Alan Greenspan told Congress that the slowdown Òhas yet to run its full course.Ó He said much of the problem is due to businesses that cut back quickly on production in the face of falling sales. The process of realigning supply and demand may take more time. Mr. Greenspan also hinted that another interest rate cut lies ahead-just not right away. The day of the Fed chiefÕs remarks, the Dow plummeted 141 points and the tech-heavy Nasdaq recorded its lowest close since Dec. 22, 1998. The trouble with forecasting based on indicators is that it looks through a rear-view mirror. When the economy does turn north, the change will take time to build. So negativity could dominate for months. One bit of economics is holding nearly steady: oil prices. The average price of gas at the pump nationwide was about $1.50 per gallon, according to the Lundberg Survey of 8,000 stations. ThatÕs about four cents above last yearÕs prices. NASDAQ: SOME CALL IT A GREAT BUYING OPPORTUNITY
Rock bottom yet?
The Nasdaq stock exchange closed February as its third-worst month ever, leaving traders wondering when prices will finally hit bottom. The Standard & PoorÕs 500 Index was down almost 20 percent from its peak. Nasdaq finished the month at just over 2,100; it had peaked at 5,132. Recovery to those heights could take years. Some see this as a terrific buying opportunity, while others say many hot stocks are still overvalued. Some investors have wound up dumping high-tech stocks bought over the last two years, thus winding up in the unhappy position of buying high and selling low. Those investors keeping their fists tight around their shares, even after 40 percent to 60 percent drops, are surely seeing their patience tested. The economic slowdown has seen weeks of dismal corporate results and profit warnings that tanked high-flyers. Many observers expect the next bull market to come in like a lamb, not a lion. The bad news must slowly subside before good news can spark another market fever. Meanwhile, thousands of people will have lost major chunks of their net worth. TAXPAYER-FRIENDLY IRS: AUDITS DOWN BY HALF
Lean, less mean
With the IRS in turmoil, it hasnÕt been auditing as many people as usual. The number of audits dropped by half between 1999 and 2000 to 0.49 percent of all returns. IRS Commissioner Charles Rossotti attributed the drop to a staffing shortfall and old computer systems. A major cause is a 1998 taxpayersÕ rights law aimed at making the IRS become more taxpayer-friendly. Mr. Rossotti played down the drop: ÒPeople need to remember that the IRS still has an extensive system to catch people who donÕt report their income.Ó Cutbacks are taking their toll on the IRS, according to Treasury Secretary Paul OÕNeill. He complained that the agency only answers 65 percent of its phone calls. ÒIf you called the airlines and they only answered two out of three times, you would stop calling,Ó he said in a speech. Pete Sepp, spokesman for the National Taxpayers Union, says the decline in audits is a welcome improvement. ÒItÕs simply a change in the way the IRS is doing business,Ó he said-and it beats the bad old days when IRS agents had greater power. MOVIE THEATERS: IF YOU BUILD ONE, THEY MIGHT NOT COME
No screen savers
Is Hannibal worth 10 bucks? Movie tickets in Manhattan hit this high just days after major chain Loews Cineplex filed for bankruptcy. Manhattan is usually the most expensive ticket in America. When prices go up there, other towns often follow. As its stands, moviegoers pay $9 in Los Angeles, $7.50 in Fresno, and $6.50 in Jackson, Miss. Meanwhile, chains are shutting down hundreds of movie screens. Several chains are bankrupt, including United Artists, Edwards Cinemas, Carmike, and General Cinemas. Operators are crying in their popcorn. HereÕs what went wrong: Chains went crazy throughout the 1990s building giant theaters, including stadium theaters, with lots of screens. Competitors would build these monstrosities near one another, thus siphoning off business. Recently built cinemas had few customers and older theaters were crumbling with years left on their leases. Throw in the fact that movies themselves were getting shorter runs, thus cutting into the operatorsÕ share of the proceeds. But even after the surplus screens are shuttered, new issues will crop up. Foremost is digital cinema, which eventually means that theaters must replace expensive film equipment with new technology. In addition, thereÕs the usual threat of home video. With the availability of HDTV, home theaters and movie theater quality will converge. XFL FUMBLES AWAY EARLY RATINGS
Are you ready for some football?
Is the XFL a joke? Fans arenÕt paying much attention to the new professional football league, giving it lousy ratings. This creation of the World Wrestling Federation and NBC brought football back to Los Angeles, but some wonder if it will go the way of the old USFL. Viewership for the second weekly broadcast was half that of the debut. The third week put NBC in last place on Sunday night. USFL fans remember numbers like this, with strong ratings on opening day that quickly evaporated, followed by a slow decline over three years. And the XFLÕs talent base isnÕt nearly as strong as what the USFL provided. After one game went into a double-overtime, the league promised it would make games shorter. When the NFL runs long, the networks gladly delay later programs, but the XFL must change its rules to guarantee that Saturday Night Live starts on time. The return to Los Angeles faced its own problems. The first significant pro football game since the Raiders and Rams left following the 1994 season was hit with a power generator problem. NBC lost its feed from the Los Angeles Coliseum just 1:45 into the contest and finally returned with 4:30 left in the first quarter. ÒWe remain a work in progress,Ó said NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol, referring to the ratings slide. As combination sport and spectacle, the XFL is confusing to viewers. Why is the WWF messing with football?
-Chris Stamper CHRISTMAS TOYS ARRIVE EARLY
GI Joe, robots, and board games. What more could a kid want? The toy industry showed off this yearÕs goodies at the American International Toy Fair in New York, trying to get the latest creations in stores, on shelves, and under your Christmas tree. One of the biggest developments this year isnÕt a toy, but logistics. Toy companies plan to release products earlier in the year, making them available sooner and moderating the scramble to the shelves that comes every Christmas. A big part of the new release cycle this year is robots, following the big release of HasbroÕs Poo-Chi. Tiger Electronics is following up with I-Cybie, a fully motorized dog, and Shelby, an interactive fuzzy clam. Along these lines is an interactive doll, MattelÕs Miracle Moves baby, with fleshlike skin and a realistic gurgle. New permutations of familiar names like Barbie, Hot Wheels, and Tickle Me Elmo are also on the way. Right now the industry is worried that the $20 billion U.S. toy business will be hit by an economic downturn. With a possible recession looming, talking robots may not take a prominent place in the family budget. Will belt-tightening parents still shell out dollars for expensive goodies?
FLASH TRAFFIC Political buzz from Washington
President Bush's $1.6 trillion across-the-board tax cut is in serious trouble on Capitol Hill ... The reason? ... liberal Republicans ... Sen. James Jeffords (Vt.) and Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R.I.) are breaking ranks ... say they'll vote against the president ... also going wobbly is Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) ... currently, the only Senate Democrat supportive of the Bush tax cut is Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia ... But with the U.S. economy weakening, public support for Bush's tax cut is rising dramatically ... polls by John McLaughlinÑthe pollster, not the TV commentatorÑfind that on Election Day, support for the Bush plan was 52 percent ... now the number has climbed to 68 percent ... more than half of all Democrats (54 percent) now support the Bush tax cut ... White House political strategist Karl Rove implores conservative leaders to unleash a blitzkrieg of phone calls, letters, and e-mails to Congress supporting the president's plan ... "We need a massive outpouring of grassroots enthusiasm," Rove tells friends, noting that "the left came unglued" when it saw the intensity of conservative support for former Sen. John Ashcroft ... Responding ... the United Seniors AssociationÑwith 600,000 membersÑis preparing a $2 million TV and radio ad campaign in targeted statesÑincluding Vermont and Rhode IslandÑin support of tax relief ... the strategy is the brainchild of U.S.A.'s new president and CEO, Charles Jarvis ... a former Reagan and Bush political appointee ... and a former top executive at Focus on the Family ... Jarvis and U.S.A.'s Honorary Chairman Art Linkletter will meet with top White House and congressional leaders in early March to announce the "USA Tax Freedom" campaign ... Liberal Democrats like Rep. Dick Gephardt complain Bush tax cuts will let the rich save enough to buy a Lexus, while "working families" will save only enough to buy a muffler ... but former Reagan Treasury Department economists Gary and Aldona Robbins ask: "What if a typical family took their annual $1,600 tax cut and invested it in a mutual fund each year, every year, for 10 years?" ... with an average 12 percent rate of return, such a family could build a little nest egg of $25,746 ... forget the muffler ... buy a mini-van ... Danger ... the weak U.S. economy could soon slip into a recession ... Steve Forbes, CNBC's Larry Kudlow, and the Club for Growth's Steve Moore urge President Bush to be sure to include a capital gains tax cut to boost economic growth quickly ... As Bush battles to carry on the Reagan legacy, a new poll finds former President Ronald Reagan the most popular president in American history ... now Flash Traffic learns that Peggy NoonanÑWall Street Journal columnistÑhas been hard at work on a new book on Reagan for Viking Penguin ... due out this fall ... Democrats for Social Security privatization? ... the leadership says no ... but the rank-and-file say yes ... a new poll by John Zogby finds 70 percent of all Americans want personal retirement accounts ... including 52.5 percent of Democrats and 65.6 percent of union households ... Action ... Linda ChavezÑBush's first nominee for labor secretary, and president of the Center for Equal OpportunityÑjoins the red hot Fox News Channel rather than the imploding CNN to be a political analyst ... Reaction? ... the new AOL/CNN/Time Warner starts reaching out to Republicans ... hires former Reagan/Kemp/ Dole aide John Buckley as a vice president, "with responsibilities in the areas of corporate positioning and public policy communications" ... Buckley starts March 12 ... now the big question: Who will replace Mary Matalin on Crossfire? ... Who can boost the network's sagging ratings and morose morale? ... Stay tuned ... Would you like >> FLASH TRAFFIC << delivered to your desktop via email? CLICK HERE to subscribe.