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National

Issue: "Reaping the whirlwind," July 20, 2002

Monitoring the Monitor

The great ironclad USS Monitor sank into the Atlantic 140 years ago-and the Navy still wants to recover it. The ship sank about nine months after its famous battle with the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia (also known as the Merrimac). Duke University marine archaeologists discovered the Monitor's remains in 1971. Navy divers are preparing to retrieve the ship's gun turret, and they expect to find human remains in the process and hope to make identification. "The turret was the only way out and all the other hatches were sealed tight," said John Broadwater, manager of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. The turret's recovery is a major part of an ongoing campaign. The Monitor's engine was lifted last summer-at a cost of $4.3 million. Previous dives brought back items like the anchor, propeller, some glass bottles, and cannon balls.

Turning off the spigot

Someone is finally holding a public-school system accountable. Three private foundations are suspending $3 million in grants to Pittsburgh's public-school system because of mismanagement. The three foundations-the Heinz Endowments, the Pittsburgh Foundation, and the Grable Foundation-said in a joint letter that improvement efforts are "put at risk by the bickering, distrust, and chaotic decision making that now seem endemic to the top echelons" of the school board. They also noted a "sharp decline of governance, leadership, and fiscal discipline." Pittsburgh's school board has been plagued by complaints about credit-card abuse and criticisms of a $1 million fund for board use. But school board President Jean Fink suggested that the foundations should just show her the money. "I can't tell them what to do and they shouldn't tell me what to do," she told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "They shouldn't use money as a threat. I don't like being blackmailed."

Fornication: a civil right?

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The ACLU is continuing its quest to define liberty in libertine terms. The group is now fighting one of America's surviving anti-fornication laws, filing a brief with Georgia's Supreme Court challenging a statute forbidding sexual intercourse between unmarried couples. The court case that may overturn the law involves an unnamed 17-year-old convicted of fornication earlier this year. His 16-year-old girlfriend's probation officer had filed a complaint after the pair was caught in what the ACLU calls "consensual sexual intimacy." "We hope this case finally gets the state of Georgia out of our bedrooms," said Georgia ACLU attorney Beth Littrell. "Most unmarried people would be outraged if they knew that their private, consensual expressions of intimacy turned them into criminals." Nearly 150,000 Georgians live together as couples, according to the 2000 census. The ACLU claims that these people should have the same rights as married people. The law's defenders note that while the law may seem antiquated, it protects traditional marriage. Living together outside of marriage "is a social experiment with little history, but what little history we have shows it's doomed to failure," said attorney Bryan J. Brown of the American Family Association. -Chris Stamper

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