• U.S.

The Week August 21-27

8 minute read
Robertson Barrett, Leslie Dickstein, Christine Gorman, Steve Mitra, Romesh Ratnesar, Jeffery C. Rubin, David Seideman and Sidney Urquhart


The Cubans Keep Coming

The largest Cuban migration to Florida since 1980 topped 20,000 as 13,000 more boat people were intercepted by Navy and Coast Guard ships and sent to the | refugee camp at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station. At a cost of $100 million, the Pentagon is more than doubling the camp’s 25,000 capacity. President Clinton agreed to discuss immigration issues with the Castro regime; the economic sanctions, he insisted, are non-negotiable.

Crime Bill Passes

Weeks of simmering partisanship in the Senate came to a boil with the passage of President Clinton’s crime bill by a vote of 61 to 38. The $30 billion measure provided funding for 100,000 more cops — a centerpiece of Clinton’s campaign. Most Republicans who voted against the bill opposed the ban on assault weapons and demanded a $5 billion cut in prevention programs, which they dismissed as pork. Senate majority leader George Mitchell prevailed by warning his colleagues that they risked going home in an election year without dealing with voters’ No. 1 concern.

Health Care on Hold

Mitchell vowed to keep the Senate in session until it acted on health-care reform. But 11 months after Clinton promised to guarantee health coverage to all Americans, the Senate left him in limbo because there was no consensus on any bill.

Whitewater Drips

New independent counsel Kenneth Starr expects his investigation of the Whitewater affair to take at least a year, although he has not decided whether he will review parts of the probe concluded by his predecessor, Robert Fiske. Meanwhile, the Resolution Trust Corporation requested that a federal court enforce subpoenas for documents relating to Arkansas Governor Jim Guy Tucker, a Democrat and heavy borrower from the misbegotten Madison Guaranty S&L for his political campaigns in the early 1980s.

DNA on Trial

O.J. Simpson’s lawyers called for new DNA tests to determine whether the first ones, tying him to Nicole Brown Simpson’s murder, were compromised by contaminated blood samples and improper handling. Judge Lance Ito ruled that the prosecutors would not have to share blood evidence with the defense, even though they had been “less than exemplary” in handling it.

Chavis Still Out

A judge refused to issue a temporary restraining order reinstating Benjamin Chavis, former executive director of the N.A.A.C.P. The civil rights group ousted him two weeks ago over allegations of financial mismanagement and personal misconduct. If Chavis fails to reach a satisfactory out-of-court settlement, he threatens, he will return to court “in a full-blown legal battle.”

Rampaging Elephant

Tyke, a 21-year-old female African elephant, trampled her trainer to death and stomped her groom at a circus in Honolulu. She then barreled down a city street before police shot her repeatedly and a zoo worker administered a lethal injection. Circus officials had promised to retire Tyke after she went berserk at a Pennsylvania circus last year, according to the Humane Society.

Heart to Heart

For four years, Chester Szuber, 58, of Berkley, Michigan, waited in a long line for someone to provide a heart for the transplant he desperately needed to survive. He finally won a new lease on life last week, but from a singularly tragic source. His daughter Patti, 22, was fatally injured in a car crash, long after signing an organ-donor card, thus allowing surgeons to put her compatible heart in her father’s body.

Fatal Fire Mistakes

A federal investigation into the blaze on a Colorado mountain in July that claimed the lives of 14 firefighters concluded that they and their supervisors committed crucial mistakes and ignored standard safety procedures. Among the errors in judgment cited were failures to plot an escape route and to guard against extremely dry vegetation and volatile winds.


Ruling Party Wins in Mexico

The Institutional Revolutionary Party (P.R.I.), led by economist Ernesto Zedillo, won the presidency of Mexico and an overwhelming legislative majority as well. With voter turnout at an impressive 77%, the election was generally regarded as clean, despite accusations of fraud from diehard rebels in the southern state of Chiapas.

Rwandan Repatriation on Hold

The U.N. temporarily suspended its Rwandan refugee repatriation effort in the camps surrounding Goma, Zaire. The move came after Hutu extremists assaulted a group of big-game trackers who had asked to be taken back to their homes in Rwanda’s celebrated mountain gorilla reserve. The violence escalated when Zairian gangs looted aid supplies from an air base near Goma. “We seem to be operating in a virtual state of war,” said a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Nigeria’s Unions Struggle On

Striking members of Nigeria’s powerful oil unions, whose leaders have been in hiding after the country’s ruler, General Sani Abacha, ordered their removal two weeks ago, stated in a newspaper advertisement that they would remain loyal to their union executives and continue the struggle for democracy. The declaration, carried in full-page newspaper ads in Lagos, came amid rumors that Washington is considering a trade embargo and a freeze of Nigeria’s assets in the U.S.

China: Unwilling Organ Donors

A report released last week by the human-rights organization Asia Watch details the traffic in transplant organs taken from executed Chinese prisoners. Each year 2,000 to 3,000 organs are removed from inmates, and executions are often deliberately botched so that the condemned person remains alive while the organs are removed, according to the study. “That is vivisection,” said an Asia Watch researcher. The report comes at a sensitive time — just as U.S. Commerce Secretary Ron Brown is preparing to escort a group of top U.S. ceos on a whirlwind tour of China. Hours before his arrival on Saturday, police detained prominent dissident Wang Dan, a leader of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and an outspoken critic of Beijing’s policies.

Back to (Palestinian) School

Israel took a step toward broadening Palestinian self-rule by handing over a large West Bank school system — Ramallah — to Palestinian control. All West Bank schools are to be in Palestinian hands by Sept. 1, the start of the school year.

Morocco: Pilot Terror

Investigators looking into the air crash that killed all 44 people aboard a Royal Air Maroc passenger flight concluded that the accident was intentionally caused by the pilot as he committed suicide. Transport Ministry officials said the pilot disconnected the automatic controls and pushed the aircraft into a dive while his female co-pilot screamed out Mayday signals over the radio. But the Moroccan Pilot’s Union contested the suicide finding, saying that the pilot was a cheerful, well-balanced man and there was evidence of technical failure.


More Drama at Disney

Jeffrey Katzenberg, the enormously successful head of Disney’s studio division, abruptly resigned after losing a bid for the company’s No. 2 post. Hailed as the mastermind behind such blockbusters as Aladdin and The Lion King, the mercurial Katzenberg sought the post after the April death of Disney president Frank Wells. Katzenberg’s exit augurs more uncertainty for Disney, which this year has already weathered Wells’ death and chairman Michael Eisner’s quadruple-bypass heart surgery.

Stocks Soaring, for Now

In a startling late-summer rally, the Dow Jones industrial average surged to its highest level since March 18, gaining 125.94 for the week. The rise was attributed largely to indications that the economy continues to grow moderately while inflation remains under control.

Telecom Races Heat Up

Merger mania continued in the telecommunications industry. Long-distance phone company LDDS Communications proffered $2.5 billion in cash for WilTel, the long-distance unit of Williams Cos. The deal bolsters LDDS’s ambitions to challenge AT&T, MCI and Sprint. Meanwhile, AT&T received federal court approval for a $12.6 billion plan to buy McCaw Cellular Communications, the country’s largest wireless-phone company.

Derivative Devil Strikes Again

A Minneapolis-based financial-services firm disclosed that its investments in the arcane derivatives market could saddle investors with more than $700 million in losses. The debacle at Piper Jaffray Cos. stemmed from investments made by a single portfolio manager.


A Deadly Virus Is Let Loose

A researcher at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, was quarantined and put under treatment for a potentially fatal infection he contracted after a lab mishap exposed him to a rare virus he was studying. To avert the spread of the microbe known as Sabia virus, health officials are keeping under observation at least two dozen people in Connecticut and Massachusetts with whom the unidentified researcher had contact after the accident.


Pilfered Picasso Reclaimed

Police in Brussels recovered Picasso’s Woman with Dark Eyes, one of seven artworks stolen last November in a $75 million heist from Stockholm’s Modern Art Museum. Three Swedes reportedly tried to sell the painting, worth an estimated $7 million, to undercover agents posing as prospective buyers.


At Least the Kids Are All Right

Negotiations between striking baseball players and team owners broke off acrimoniously with no timetable for future talks, further dimming prospects for resumption of play. As the stalemate entered a third week, neither side showed flexibility on the most divisive issue, which is a proposed cap on players’ salaries. As the grown-ups squabbled, kids could at least watch the Little League World Series final between Venezuela and the U.S.

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