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October 28, 1999 - Image 7

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-10-28

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The Michigan Daily - Thursday, October 28, 1999 - 7A

Federal government posts record budget surplus

WASHINGTON (AP) - After decades of
deficit gloom, the United States posted a record
$123 billion federal budget surplus last year,
marking the first back-to-back surpluses since
Dwight Eisenhower was president.
The good news announcement - exceeding all
estimates - sparked a battle for bragging rights
*erday between the White House and the
Republican-led Congress, with both sides hoping
to reap political dividends in next year's elections.
President Clinton said U.S. businesses and
workers have benefited from lower interest rates,
a shrinking national debt and a growing pool of
investment capital.
"We have closed the book on deficits and
opened the door on a new era of economic
opportunity," Clinton said. The president, bat-

Clinton, GOP battle for who takes credit

tling Republicans over spending, accused the
GOP of writing a budget that siphons SI18 billion
from the Social Security surplus.
"That is wrong and it doesn't have to be,"
Clinton said.
Republicans also claimed credit for the sur-
plus. "This is what happens when Republicans
take care of the government checkbook and hold
the line against tax hikes and more spending,"
said Rep. Bill Archer (R-Texas), chair of the tax-
writing House Ways and Means Committee.
The administration acknowledged the 1999
surplus came entirely from Social Security. The

huge benefit program is collecting more in pay-
roll taxes than it is paying out in benefits.
Without the Social Security cushion, the govern-
ment would have had a $1 billion deficit.
Despite the two surpluses in a row, the gov-
ernment still has a $5 trillion debt.
The United States was plagued by a long
string of budget deficits since 1931 in the wake
of the Depression and then World War II. In all
that time, there were only eight years of surplus.
The tide finally turned when the government
broke into the black in 1998, and now the gov-
ernment projects surpluses far into the future.

Democrats and Republicans have spent Social
Security surpluses for decades but both have
pledged this year to leave that money alone, try-
ing to cast themselves as protectors of the mas-
sive pension program.
Last year, before taking Social Security into
account, the government had a S29.9 billion
deficit but a $99.2 billion Social Security sur-
plus turned the overall deficit into a surplus of
$69.2 billion.
With the onset of surpluses, the government
has paid down the national debt by $140 billion
during the last two years, the largest debt reduc-

tion in U.S. history Clinton said. The shrinking
debt also has meant lower interest costs for the
government, Clinton said, and more investment
capital for businesses.
He said working families also have enjoyed
lower interest rates. "It means S2.000 less in
home mortgage payments for the typical fami-
l' Clinton said, talking with reporters on the
South Lawn as he left for an appearance on
Capitol Hill. "It means 5200 less in car pay-
ments and S200 less in college loan payments."
However. interest rates and mortgage rates
have been rising in recent months as the Federal
Reserve has tightened credit in an effort to slow
the economy and fight intlation.
The S123 billion surplus in fiscal 1999 was
almost twice the size of the previous year's.

House approves
bill to ban drugs
in assisted suicide

Where there's smoke, there's fire

N Legislation encourages
doctors to treat dying
patients' pain
stepped into the emotional debate of
physician-assisted suicide yesterday,
voting to bar doctors from using federal-
ly controlled drugs to help patients die.
*he House voted 271-156 for a bill
nsored by House Judiciary Chair
Henry Hyde that penalizes doctors who
aid in a suicide but encourages them to
treat the pain of dying patients.
Opponents said the bill would dis-
courage pain treatment for millions of
Americans. Doctors will be so worried
about losing their licenses to prescribe
drugs, and spending at least 20 years in
jail fot aiding in a suicide, that they will
d ine to dispense needed medication,
t said.
"For the first time we've got law
enforcement making medical decisions,"
said Rep. Darlene Hooley (D-Ore).
Hyde (R-I1.) dismissed suggestions
'that his bill would create a medical
"Gestapo," saying federal drug agents
already review prescriptions. He said
the bill adequately protects doctors who
treat pain, while authorizing $5 million
for more training and education to
i rove end-of-life care.
"Suicide is the ultimate act of despair
and facilitating the intentional killing of
a human life is the opposite of healing;
Hyde said.
The measure is a major setback for

Shepard judge
threatens to bar
'panic' defense
LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) -The judge in the Matthew
Shepard murder case threatened yesterday to bar the man on
trial from employing a "gay panic" defense.
District Judge Barton Voigt told Aaron McKinney's
lawyers that he is not sure such a defense is allowed under
Wyoming law and criticized the defense for invoking it with-
out consulting him first.
"I am concerned about this and where it is going," Voigt
said outside the presence of the jury. "We do not have a gay
panic defense. I don't know if I'm going to allow it."
McKinney is charged with murder in the beating death of
the gay University of Wyoming student.
The "gay panic" or "homosexual panic" defense is built on
a theory that a person with latent homosexual tendencies will
have an uncontrollable, violent reaction when propositioned

Oregon, the only state that has legalized
physician-assisted suicide for patients
with less than six months to live. All 15
patients who died under the law during
its first full year in 1998 used con-
trolled substances to end their lives.
During the House debate, some
members spoke of the debate in person-
al terms - a child who died of
leukemia, a parent who died from can-
cer - but used those experiences to
draw opposite conclusions.
Some Hyde supporters compared
physician-assisted suicide to euthanasia
and abortion and invoked the name of
Jack Kevorkian.
Oregonians painstakingly tried to
point out the protections in their law
that limit the circumstances when peo-
ple can take their lives. "Please read the
Oregon statute before you vote," plead-
ed Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.)
With the House passage, attention
now turns to the Senate.
The Senate version by Sen. Don
Nickles (R-Okla.) has not yet cleared a
committee, but Nickles said he hopes to
pass the bill this year. Oregon Sen. Ron
Wyden (D-Ore.) has pledged a filibuster
if the bill reaches the Senate floor.
Senate action, previously thought by
many to be unlikely in 1999, becomes
more of a possibility because of a fed-
eral budget fight that is expected to
keep lawmakers in the nation's capital
into next month.
Wyden said he faces a "very uphill"
battle, citing Nickles No. 2 position as
the majority whip.

by a homosexual
McKinney's lawyers
have argued that
McKinney snapped dur-
ing a drunken, drug-
induced rage after a sex-
ual advance by Shepard
triggered memories of a
childhood homosexual
The lawyers are try-
ing to save McKinney's
life by convincing the
jury he is guilty only of
Voigt said the closest
defense he could find

The lawyers are
trying to save
McKinney's life
by convincing
the jury he is
guilty only of

Firefighters remove hoses and gear from the roof of the Electrical Specialists Company in Lufkin,
Texas, yesterday. The fire was quickly brought under control with most damage smoke-related.

Russian troops bomb Grozny, 116 left dead

in Wyoming law is the "battered woman" defense, for those
who kill a spouse in self-defense.
Defense attorney Dion Custis denied he was using a "gay
panic" defense. But he said: "The fact that Matthew Shepard
made a sexual advance has a relevance in this case. It's some-
thing Aaron McKinney responded to." He added that
Shepard's behavior helps explain McKinney's state of mind,
"which is a defense."
The judge ordered Custis to provide a legal basis for his
arguments and said he would make a decision later.
McKinney's accomplice, Russell Henderson, pleaded
guilty to kidnapping and felony murder in April and received
two life sentences.
Gay rights activists praised the judge, saying it is wrong to
try to blame Shepard for McKinney's actions.
"The only person at risk here was Matthew Shepard," said
Wayne Besen, spokesperson for the Human Rights
Campaign, a gay lobbying group in Washington. "If Aaron
McKinney felt threatened, all he had to do was walk away."
Although no state has adopted a gay panic defense, it has
been used by defense attorneys in some cases involving gay
victims. Experts warned that employing the defense is per-
ilous since it can amount to blaming the victim.
Brian Levin, director of the California-based Center on
Hate and Extremism, also said the strategy hasn't worked
recently because Americans have become more tolerant of
homosexuals. "I feel we've turned a very big corner in that
nearly everyone agrees that violence against them is com-
pletely wrong," he said.

W ROZNY, Russia (AP) - Russian jets
screamed over the Chechen capital yesterday,
bombing houses and killing scores of people
as ground forces fought to approach the city
from three directions.
The attacks were some of the heaviest
:against Grozny since Russia launched its
campaign to wipe out Chechnya-based
Islamic militants.
President Boris Yeltsin said Russian troops
would not stop their offensive until they
"destroy the center of international terrorism
Chechen military headquarters said 116

people, mostly civilians, were killed in
yesterday's air and artillery attacks, but
the figure could not be confirmed.
Streams of desperate civilians fled to the
Huge plumes of smoke rose over Groznv
as pairs of Russian jets roared over the city.
Bombs and rockets destroyed houses and
apartment buildings, including the home of
warlord Shamil Basayev.
Basayev's fighters were among those who
twice attacked the neighboring Russian
republic of Dagestan in August and
September, prompting Russia to launch the

campaign to eliminate them. Russian offi-
cials also blame the militants for apartment
bombings in Russia last month that killed
some 300 people.
Russia has repeatedly said its military
actions are limited to attacking rebel
Air Force Chief Anatoly Kornukov said
yesterday that "peaceful civilians both in and
outside Grozny are spared missile and bomb-
ing strikes."
But Chechen Vice Premier Kazbek
Makhashev called yesterday's raids "state ter-
rorism ... a slaughter of the people."

Scores of civilians, including women
and children, have been killed by the
attacks on Grozny and other Chechen
towns in recent weeks, according to inde-
pendent observers.
Yeltsin said yesterday that Moscow was
determined to press ahead with its campaign.
"Russian soldiers and officers are bringing
peace back to the long-suffering Chechen
land," he said in his most extensive com-
ments yet on the fighting.
Yeltsin left Moscow yesterday for a vaca-

tion, apparently content
handle the war

to let his officials

Tales of brutalities
by Contras in 1980s
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Los Angeles Times

EL AGUACATE, Honduras -
Carlos. Fransisco.- Rene Pinto Polaco.
Prisoner Sauceda. Mario was here.
Carved roughly into the bricks of an
abandoned jail cell a few yards from an
airstrip that U.S. forces built in 1983,
the names symbolize the mystery of El
The United States used this air base
in eastern Honduras to supply and train
Nicaraguan counter-revolutionaries,
known as Contras, fighting their coun-
try's leftist Sandinista government in
the 1980s.
But many questionable activities are
also believed to have taken place here.
Are the names merely the scrawlings
of bored soldiers thrown in the cala-
boose to sober up? Or were they the last
desperate attempts for recognition
made by Honduran guerrillas or by
Sandinista supporters dragged back
from Nicaragua to be tortured here?
And are the bodies of Prisoner Sauceda
and others like him buried in the

Contras, an intervention that both U.S.
and Honduran officials first denied.
then minimized and even now will not
completely reveal.
Her investigation is proceeding slowly,
prompting one California family, which
believes that a brother might be buried
here, to press for guarantees of progress.
During a trip to Honduras last month, rel-
atives of Father James Francis Carney
delivered to Honduran authorities a letter
signed by several U.S. senators, urging
exhumations of the graves.
As the investigation takes shape,
slowly, cautiously, soldiers once sta-
tioned here and peasants who lived in
the shadow of the base are beginning to
talk about what they saw and heard.-
Their tales of brutality raise issues of
how the United States chooses its for-
eign allies and what behavior
Washington will tolerate in order to
accomplish its objectives abroad.
"The concern now is not about the left,
but about drugs and instability," said
Peter Hakim, director of Interamerican


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