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In Brief

News highlights from around the world

Issue: "When liberals seize a state," Aug. 31, 2002

Lear shifts gears

Norman Lear is 80 years old and planning a new show, but this one won't be on TV. Instead, he wants to send a rare 1776 copy of the Declaration of Independence on tour around the country.

The once-dominant TV producer is planning what he calls "a red, white, and blue revival," starring the document. He and a partner put up $8.14 million for the historic heirloom two years ago.

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Mr. Lear is most famous for steering American TV into a far-left turn. Shows like All in the Family, Maude, and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman openly attacked conservative values and portrayed Middle America as an unenlightened, bigoted backwater. Mr. Lear also founded People For the American Way to do the same things in the political arena and oppose religious conservatives. When President Clinton gave him the National Medal of Arts in 1999, he said that the producer "has held up a mirror to American society and changed the way we look at it."

Mr. Lear's Declaration of Independence Road Trip starts in October with school kids as the target audience. (Scholastic is an "education partner" in the tour.) While the document will appear at libraries, museums, and state capitols, Mr. Lear will send to schools videotapes of it being read by actors Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Mel Gibson, Whoopi Goldberg, and Renee Zellweger.

Going national

When 9-year-old Amber Hagerman was kidnapped and killed in 1996, her case sparked a wave of concern about child abductions. Texas and California implemented "Amber Alert" systems to mobilize law enforcement and emergency service against such abductions. The term became a national buzzword because of radio and TV news coverage, and now Amber Alerts may go national.

The system aggressively publicizes kidnappings, with broadcasters and journalists receiving a flurry of bulletins. Meanwhile, freeway emergency signs flash a description of the suspect's car and license plate number.

Authorities credit Amber Alerts with helping rescue at least 26 children since 1996. Thanks to several recent high-profile abductions, politicians, police, and broadcasters are scrambling to set up more systems. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) jointly proposed legislation to create a national alert network.

"The underlying premise is that time is the enemy in child-abduction cases. In 74 percent of cases, the child is dead within three hours," explained Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Yet even Amber Alert proponents fear too much of a good thing. Without strict guidelines, they could become like car alarms, creating a lot of noise that most people ignore. "We don't want the Amber Alert to be the new millennium's milk carton," said California Assemblyman George Runner, a Republican who wrote a bill to fund a statewide system.

Political science

Donna Harrison is a homeschooling mother of five children, but they are not her only years-long labor of love. She also spent 12 years as a practicing OB-GYN, and she chairs an RU-486 subcommittee for the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists. When pro-life groups filed a citizens' petition with the Food and Drug Administration on Aug. 20 to revisit the rushed election-year approval in 2000 of the abortion-drug combination, she said, "It's like telling me 'it's a boy.'"

Based on 22 months of investigation, the 90-page petition from AAPLOG, Concerned Women for America, and the Christian Medical Association calls on the FDA to suspend its decision to approve Mifeprex-one half of a two-drug abortion regimen. The reason: evidence that Bill Clinton's FDA ignored its own laws and procedures for drug approvals, including:

  • Railroading the approval through the accelerated review process known as "Subpart H," designed by the FDA only for drugs intended to treat life-threatening illnesses where there is no safer remedy.
  • The creation of a regimen for Mifeprex that does not reflect safeguards used in the FDA's clinical trials. For example, while the trials used sonograms to determine the age of the fetus, FDA regulations do not require an ultrasound before usage-even though the drug is not recommended for pregnancies beyond 49 days' gestation and does not terminate ectopic pregnancies. In one case, an American woman bled to death because of a ruptured tubal pregnancy that wasn't distinguished from the normal heavy bleeding typical of an RU-486 abortion.
  • The failure to test the drug on adolescents-even though they represent a target market, since clinics advertise it as an abortion method that increases privacy. (Pro-lifers fear that school-based clinics could become a major source of the drug, since it evades a surgical procedure.)
  • The lack of objective research methods. The FDA normally requires that the selection of patients be random, that some patients receive a placebo to create a control group, and that participating physicians do not know who is and is not receiving the actual medication. In FDA trials for Mifeprex, the selection of subjects was not random, and no one received a placebo.

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