Dispatches > The Buzz

QuickTakes

Issue: "Welfare to work," March 16, 2002

DISCREDITING CREDIT: Robert Novak found another problem stemming from the Enron debacle: a looming credit crisis. Big banks are leery about lending to one another and the result is a liquidity crunch. "The situation has been building since 2000, but this is not the kind of problem that government officials cope with easily or even understand," he writes in his nationally syndicated column. The Enron headlines feed the reluctance, because lenders are terrified about being caught in another such boondoggle. Off-the-balance-sheet transactions are sure to set off alarms these days, even legitimate ones. "There is no sign that either the administration or Congress has even diagnosed the ailment, much less prescribed a remedy," Mr. Novak argues. "Meanwhile, the nation's money centers remain quiet in their distress that Capitol Hill's reaction to Enron indeed is becoming a prolonged inquisition with lamentable consequences for the country. Self-restraint is a lot to ask of politicians." ABORTIONIST APPRECIATION DAY: March 10 was designated Abortionist Day on the liberal activist calendar. Known officially as the National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers, groups including the National Organization for Women, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Ms. magazine say they "honor those who continue to save women's lives and protect women's health by providing safe abortion care." The date's significance comes from the day in 1992 when abortionist David Gunn was murdered. The groups encourage their followers to celebrate by organizing their friends, sending cards and letters to hospitals and clinics, and becoming a clinic escort. "Even in the face of this anti-choice terrorism, providers remain dedicated to ensuring that women have access to quality abortion care," gushed a statement from the National Abortion Federation. "Now more than ever, providers need and deserve our support and appreciation for the courageous work they do every day." CODE BREAKERS: Some Americans' homes may no longer be their castles. Although the federal Americans with Disabilities Act doesn't require it, National Public Radio reports that two communities have ordered that all new private homes must be "visitable" by those in wheelchairs. Reporter Cheryl Corley said officials in Naperville, Ill., and Pima County, Ariz., are using visitability codes to require developers to make changes to new single-family homes. These include wider doors, reinforced bathroom walls, and raised electrical outlets. "This is not one of these nice-to-do things if you want to," Naperville City Councilman Richard Furstenav, the lone dissenting voice, told NPR. "This says 'whether you like it or not, Mister, you're going to do it. And if you don't do it, you're not going to build a house in this town, period.' I just think that's wrong." The Chicago Tribune reports that builders in Naperville plan to fight the measure, saying it will drive up housing costs. The New York Times adds that several other cities, including Chicago, Atlanta, and Austin, Texas, have similar laws but they apply only to homes built with public funds. CANNING CLONING: The Bush administration is quietly urging the United Nations to pass a global and comprehensive ban on human cloning, Colum Lynch reports in The Washington Post. "Human cloning is an enormously troubling development in biotechnology," U.S. delegate Carolyn L. Willson said at an anti-cloning committee meeting. This could lead to a time where "human beings are born for spare body parts, and children are engineered to fit eugenic specifications." Ms. Willson's remarks received the expected criticisms from cloning defenders. "It's bad enough that the administration would seek to impose its views on the American people, let alone the entire world," Sean Tipton, spokesman for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, told the Post. "We need to keep these avenues of research open." Mr. Lynch notes that the UN is still debating what to do about cloning: "In August, France and Germany proposed a global treaty that would prohibit the cloning of babies but permit the production of human embryos for scientific research. But the United States said it did not go far enough and presented an alternative proposal today. The General Assembly is to decide in August whether to begin negotiations on a treaty."

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