• U.S.

The Week September 25 – October 1

8 minute read
Kathleen Adams, Robertson Barrett, Michael D. Lemonick, Michael Quinn, Alain L. Sanders and Sidney Urquhart


Health Care: Dead

Retiring majority leader George Mitchell reluctantly abandoned his Herculean efforts to craft a compromise health-care reform bill and pulled the plug on any such legislation for this year. “The insurance industry on the outside and a majority of Republicans on the inside proved to be too much to overcome,” said Mitchell. Senate minority leader Bob Dole countered that “democracy in action” defeated what he claimed was a bad, costly and overly bureaucratic set of proposals. President Clinton vowed to revive the fight next year.

Woolsey’s Woes

“One could almost conclude not only that no one was watching, but that no one cared.” Such was the frank admission of CIA Director R. James Woolsey regarding the most damaging security lapse in the agency’s history: the breach that let Aldrich Ames compromise dozens of cia operations and fatally unmask key U.S. agents behind the Iron Curtain. Nonetheless, Woolsey announced that no one would be dismissed or demoted as a result of the spectacular fiasco; 11 current and retired officials will get only reprimands. The wrist slap triggered an outburst of congressional anger, including one suggestion that the CIA chief step down. It also added momentum to a congressional move to subject the CIA to a sweeping reassessment.

A Routine Summit

Time was when a Moscow-Washington summit would have put the world on hold, and any disagreement would have sent cold war chills around the globe. Not so when Russian President Boris Yeltsin met President Clinton at the White House for a two-day display of warmth, cooperation and goodwill to emphasize how relations between the two countries have changed. The leaders agreed to speed up nuclear disarmament and push for smoother economic relations. They politely agreed to disagree over Bosnia and Russian arms sales to Iran.

Going Home Is Hard to Do

With members itching to hit the campaign trail, Congress slogged through a raft of last-minute legislative business, including a pile of spending bills, in order to adjourn as quickly as possible. The House approved and sent to the Senate for its expected approval a stringent ban on gifts from lobbyists. The Senate, unable to overcome bitter partisan differences, walked away from campaign-reform legislation but agreed to go back for a post-election lame- duck session in order to vote on global-trade legislation.

G.O.P. Puts Out a Contract

House Republican lawmakers and candidates paraded in front of TV cameras on Capitol Hill to sign a “Contract with America,” a midterm platform that, pace Reagan, promises tax cuts and increased military spending, as well as a balanced budget. President Clinton was quick to ridicule the plan as “the same old trickle-down economics.”

A Lottery for Cubans

Administration officials said they tentatively planned to conduct a lottery that would select about a quarter of the 20,000 Cuban immigrants that Washington told Havana it would accept yearly. In theory the lottery is supposed to create opportunities for currently ineligible emigres, as well as eliminate huge waiting lines at the U.S. diplomatic post in Havana.

A Plethora of Jurors

To the surprise of the judge, the first phase of jury selection in the Simpson murder case — the screening out of persons unable or unwilling to face the hardship of a possible six-month trial — rolled smoothly to a speedy conclusion with the selection of 304 prospective panelists. The candidates are to return in mid-October to undergo personal questioning for fairness and objectivity.

Teen Trauma

Kimberly Mays made another startling about-face. Last year the switched-at- birth teenager won the right in court to sever ties with her biological parents, only to turn to them months later in order to escape Robert Mays, the man who reared her and with whom she had fought to stay. On Monday Florida authorities revealed that after accusing Robert Mays of sexually abusing her, Kimberly had recanted the accusation. She could now face charges of filing a false police report.

Starr Panel Targeted

Two months after the fact, the selection of Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr continued to draw fire, as five past presidents of the American Bar Association criticized the objectivity of the judicial panel that picked Starr to replace Robert Fiske. Though the A.B.A. presidents were worried that political considerations may have influenced the panel’s decision to make the switch, they were careful to stress their “utmost confidence” in Starr’s integrity.

Disney Loses One

Yielding to the furious opposition of historians, environmentalists and even some members of Congress, the Walt Disney Co. abandoned its plans to build a sprawling American history theme park near hallowed Civil War battlefields in northern Virginia. The company said it would look for another site, also in Virginia.


Haiti: Occupational Hazards

Even with 20,000-plus U.S. troops deployed around Haiti and more on the way, officials at the Pentagon expressed concern that the country was slipping into chaos as violence between pro-Aristide forces and opponents continued. On Thursday an explosion near the seaport killed six bystanders and wounded at least 43, and on Friday, with U.S. troops standing by just blocks away, pro- junta gunmen fired on a rally of Aristide supporters; at least six died in the ensuing clashes. Meanwhile, in New York City, the U.N. Security Council voted to lift sanctions against Haiti, but the resolution will not take effect until President Jean-Bertrand Aristide returns.

Tragedy at Sea

It was one of the century’s worst maritime disasters. Heading across the frigid Baltic Sea from Estonia to Sweden, the passenger ferry Estonia capsized and sank just before dawn on Wednesday. Of the roughly 1,000 people aboard, more than 900 were confirmed drowned. The tragedy, believed to have been caused by water leaking in through the retractable front-loading door, provoked the London-based International Maritime Organization to question the stability of all “roll on, roll off” ferries.

India: The Plague Advances

After two weeks, the deadly pneumonic plague has spread from the port city of Surat to New Delhi and five other states, including West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. But officials claimed they had the epidemic under control. At week’s end the death toll topped 50.

Arms Embargo to Remain

As President Clinton prepared once again to fend off congressional demands for the lifting of the arms embargo against Bosnia, he got some welcome help from Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic, who announced he would agree to a six- month postponement of the embargo debate. Meanwhile, nato Defense Ministers approved a plan of intensified retaliation against Bosnian Serb violations of cease-fire and safe-haven agreements, a move that some fear may only widen the war.

North Korea Stonewalls

Talks in Geneva between the U.S. and North Korea reached an impasse. North Korean negotiators took a hard line, backing off previous commitments to halt reactor construction and permit full inspections of nuclear facilities in return for modern new reactors and other financial concessions from the West. The U.S., in turn, called its chief negotiators back to Washington, but they will return to Geneva for more talks this week.

Saudis Ease Up on Israel

Saudi Arabia and five smaller oil-rich Arab states announced a partial lifting of their economic boycott of Israel. The move is intended to support Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in his peace negotiations with Syria.


GM Strike Resolved

General Motors agreed to hire more workers, settling a dispute with 11,500 striking employees at its Buick City complex just as the walkout threatened to shut down many GM plants around the country. At issue: workers’ complaints that the company’s refusal to hire more permanent employees was causing illness and fatigue.

Japan Opens Markets — a Bit

Racing against a U.S.-imposed deadline, Japanese negotiators and U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor produced the first major market-opening agreement between the two countries since talks began in July 1993. The deal will lower Japanese trade barriers against a number of foreign products — but it does not include autos.


Embryo Research Allowed

Arguing that fertilized embryos up to 14 days old do not have the same moral status as infants and children, a National Institutes of Health advisory panel urged the nih to end a 15-year ban on funding of human-embryo research. Opponents have always contended that life begins at conception and that such research is therefore immoral, but the panel concluded that the possible benefits — including studies of fertility, cancer and birth defects — outweigh these arguments.


Elvis: It Really Was His Ticker

Once again it’s official: the king of rock ‘n’ roll died of heart disease. The Tennessee health department confirmed the 1977 coroner’s report and announced it had found no evidence of falsity on the singer’s death certificate. But the finding probably will not put an end to the theorizing that Presley’s death at age 42 was hastened by his fondness for prescription drugs — or, of course, that the putative father-in-law of Michael Jackson might not be dead at all.


First Baseball Now Hockey?

The N.H.L. season was put on hold for at least two weeks while the league debated a no-strike proposal from the players. The plan called for sweetened contract terms and an undertaking from the league to drop its lockout threat. “We have invited the players’ association back to the bargaining table,” said N.H.L. commissioner Gary Bettman. “I am hoping they want to negotiate in good faith and help make a deal.”

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