Dispatches > The Buzz

QuickTakes

Issue: "Hail to the Fox," Sept. 15, 2001

JOINED AT THE HIP: The close ties of the NEA, the country's largest education union, and the Democratic Party are at issue in a complaint filed with the IRS against the union by the Landmark Legal Foundation. The suit charges that the "NEA does not merely spend millions supporting candidates for public office, but that it sets national Democratic campaign policy as a member of the so-called 'Coordinated Campaign Steering Committee.'" According to Landmark, "Millions of dollars of tax-exempt funds were used by the NEA to finance and run coordinated political campaigns with the Democratic National Committee (DNC), several other Democratic campaign organizations, the AFL-CIO and Emily's List." Not only did the NEA spend the money, it failed to report those expenditures to the IRS. According to Landmark, since 1994 the NEA has reported "zero political expenditures." MEGAWATTS AND THEN SOME: After months of frenzy over power shortages, how many crisis-induced blackouts hit California this summer? Not one, wrote Thomas D. Elias of The Washington Times. He compared the whole thing to the Y2K scare. Experts predicted days and days of darkness, but the warnings didn't become reality. Elias cited analysts saying that mild weather and careful usage by consumers helped prevent problems. Whatever happened, electricity costs have quietly dipped. Wholesale power prices are down more than two-thirds from winter, averaging $67.42 per megawatt-hour over the last month, compared with a range of $200 to $400 per megawatt-hour in February and March. RAINES RANT: The New York Times promoted editor Howell Raines from the editorial page to managing the entire news staff, raising fresh questions about liberal bias. An outraged Robert J. Samuelson of The Washington Post noted Mr. Raines's liberal views on abortion, gun control, and Al Gore and asked: "Does anyone believe that, in his new job, Raines will instantly purge himself of these and other views? And because they are so public, Raines's positions compromise the Times' ability to act and appear fair-minded. Many critics already believe that the news columns of the Times are animated-and distorted-by the same values as its editorials. Making the chief of the editorial page the chief of the news columns will not quiet those suspicions." One option Mr. Samuelson doesn't discuss in his column is that newspapers simply admit their biases instead of trying to hide behind nostrums about objectivity. If the Times-or the Post, for that matter-simply confessed to its own liberalism, public debate would be much improved. NO CONTROLLING LEGAL AUTHORITY? A suburban Kansas City abortion clinic that marketed fetal tissue, according to acting U.S. Attorney Jim Flory, broke no federal laws. The announcement came after an FBI probe of contractors at Comprehensive Health, an Overland Park, Kan., clinic affiliated with Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. Clinic officers and doctors may charge "reasonable" fees for fetal-tissue removal and shipment to researchers, but it is a felony to purchase or sell the tissue for profit. The investigation began last year when Miles Jones was called before a congressional subcommittee and did not appear (WORLD, Oct. 23, 1999; April 1, 2000). He was to be questioned on remarks about selling fetal tissue that he made before a hidden camera on an episode of ABC's 20/20. Dr. Jones later apologized, but denied allegations that he had trafficked in fetal tissue. IS THIS YOUR FINAL WARNING? Whistleblower Jill Stanek apparently blew one whistle too many. Chicago's Christ Hospital fired the delivery-room nurse, whose complaints about the practice of live-birth abortions reached Capitol Hill. Ms. Stanek had complained for two years about the practice. In congressional testimony last July, she said "the goal always is to cause a pregnant woman's cervix to open so that she will prematurely deliver a baby who dies during the birth process or soon afterward." The babies can sometimes survive for hours outside the womb (WORLD, Oct. 7, 2000). Officials at the suburban hospital would not discuss the termination, but vice president Larry Easterling told the Chicago Tribune that it performs 15 to 20 labor-induced abortions per year. Ms. Stanek's revelation inspired an investigation by the Illinois attorney general's office, which found that the hospital violated no state laws. The whistleblower told the Tribune that she was once suspended for leaking information about the procedure to the media and given "final warning" probation for breaking her employment contract. She said that she returned from vacation, was told she was fired, then was escorted from the building.

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