Migrant families desperate to flee gang violence and an administration determined to stop illegal immigration are adding up to a crisis on the border
Dispatches The Buzz
Old gray lady's annual pro-abortion campaign
Sign of the Times
With another anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision approaching on Jan. 22, The New York Times is beginning its annual campaign to kill more of the neediest by making abortion seem normal. Its Dec. 30 article, "As Abortion Rate Decreases, Clinics Compete for Patients," began with a description of a "spa-like" abortion business complete with "aromatherapy, candles and relaxing music," and then went over-the-top. It turns out that the major worry of abortionists these days isn't pro-life outrage or psychological trauma but other abortionists: "While women in rural areas must sometimes drive hundreds of miles to the nearest clinic, in cities and suburbs there are price wars and competition over amenities. Doctors have refused to train colleagues, fearing they will only help a potential competitor in a lucrative, often cash-only, business." The "problem," according to abortionists, is that "competition among abortion clinics has kept prices so low that an abortion in many cities costs less now than it did 25 years ago." With fewer women having abortions, one abortionist said, "the competition for patients is absolutely ruthless." Another abortion business owner said about a price war in Detroit, "We were not making it, we were just getting killed." The advent of RU-486, the "abortion pill" recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is adding a level of complexity. Abortionists worry that they won't be able to make a profit in that variety of killing; one said, "We probably will use it as a loss leader," something to draw clients to the business and perhaps sell them other services. Then there's the problem of Planned Parenthood coming to town and undercutting local businesses. One abortionist compared that to "Wal-Mart coming in and taking over from all the mom and pops." The Times reported that some abortionists are trying to beat the competition by specializing in second- and third-trimester abortions, yet "even that niche is starting to erode." One abortionist noted that 20 years ago only a handful of abortionists were doing late-term work, but a session on late-term abortions at a recent medical meeting was "packed." Another abortionist said "he made the perfect career choice when he began doing abortions nearly three decades ago. 'There is less work and more income.'" The Times concluded by noting that abortionists can "make several hundred thousand dollars a year working part time, a few hours a day." One abortionist said, "I find this to be a very rewarding practice. Emotionally rewarding and financially rewarding." Sure-like the medical work at the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. Man knows not his time
Peter Deyneka Jr., 69, founder and head of Peter Deyneka Russian Ministries, former president of Wheaton, Ill.-based Slavic Gospel Association, and a key strategist for evangelical missionary work in the former Soviet Union, died Dec. 23 following a six-month struggle with lymphoma. In addition to spearheading outreach and training programs throughout Russia with his own organization, Mr. Deyneka assisted scores of other ministries and churches, including many Russian ones, to help evangelize the country and build an evangelical infrastructure (education, publishing, broadcasting, care services for the needy, and the like). He was a leader of the CoMission, a coalition of Western-based ministries that coordinated work in Russia. Kenneth L. Pike, 88, internationally acclaimed linguist, one of the earliest missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators, and long-time president of SIL International (formerly Summer Institute of Linguistics, Wycliffe's name abroad), died Dec. 31 in Dallas of septicemia. A witty scholar, Mr. Pike completed the first New Testament translation by a Wycliffe worker, and taught linguistics at the University of Michigan from 1948 until 1979. He also was president of SIL from 1942 to1978, training legions of SIL workers and following many of them to remote places around the world to offer hands-on assistance in cracking tough unwritten languages. He was the first linguist to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Fed cuts interest rates, GOP calls for tax cut
Are we heading into a recession or not? Indicators point in both directions, but the Fed isn't taking any chances. After the Nasdaq composite index last week plummeted to its lowest point since March 1999, the controversial central bank announced an abrupt interest rate cut. It was the first decrease in two years, and it came before the Fed's scheduled meeting on Jan. 30, sparking an immediate rally on Wall Street. The Federal Open Market Committee, which includes Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, announced the unexpected move as an effort to reverse a falling economy. The bank cut the federal funds rate (the interest banks charge each other on overnight loans) from 6.5 percent, a nine-year high, to 6 percent. The Fed hiked interest rates repeatedly throughout 1999 amid Mr. Greenspan's complaints that the "wealth effect" created by an economic boom would ignite inflation. Now the Fed claims the biggest threat to the economy is recession, not inflation. Besides the stock market, other factors have economists worried: falling consumer confidence, a slowing manufacturing sector, and lackluster retail sales. On the other hand, the economy was on the rise in the third quarter of 2000 (the latest period with available data), growing at an annual rate of 2.2 percent. That's the slowest pace in four years, but still not disastrous. The incoming Bush administration believes the current conditions show the need for tax cuts as an insurance policy against economic trouble. "This tax relief is absolutely crucial to maintaining our prosperity," House Majority Leader Dick Armey said in a radio speech. House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt admitted that Congress may need to pass a larger tax cut than many Democrats have favored so far. Census numbers released
South by Southwest
Go west, young man, or south. Initial numbers from the 2000 census are out, and they show the U.S. population continuing to grow faster in the West and South than in the Northeast and Midwest. The disparity is enough to give Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and Texas two new House seats each, as 12 seats will be exchanged among 18 states. The total U.S. population now stands at over 281 million. But the numbers are generating some controversy. The Census Bureau may release an adjusted count based on projections to answer charges that the census undercounts minorities, rural residents, children, and the poor. Democrats prefer the altered count, since they expect it to give them more leverage in redistricting. Critics charge that such sampled data can be manipulated. "Counting real people is more accurate than a computer model," said Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. In March, the Census Bureau will release two sets of more detailed statistics that measure county and local-level populations, which lawmakers will use for redistricting. One set of numbers, if approved, will be sampled; the other will be "actual," unadjusted numbers. President-elect Bush has not said whether he will support release of the sampled data. The Constitution mandates that Congress redistribute House seats according to population among the states every 10 years following the census. Lawmakers in states that lose or gain congressional seats must redraw district lines. Groups fight over penny's future
Sixpence none the richer?
Is a penny worth anyone's thoughts? American currency years ago inflated to the point that one cent is practically useless. We need them for exact change, but the copper-colored coins eat up space in our cash registers, pockets, and money jars. Today, groups are battling for and against the penny's future. A business association, the Coin Coalition, claims pennies waste time for stores and customers. One member, The National Association of Convenience Stores, estimates that cashiers spend from 2 to 2.5 seconds handling pennies during each cash transaction. By getting rid of the hassle, the Coin Coalition says stores would save about $2,000 per store per year. The anti-penny plan would require stores to round up or down to the nearest nickel when ringing up a cash sale. The system would work the way filling stations sell gasoline in increments of thousandths of a dollar, and then round up. Credit, debit, and other electronic transactions would be unchanged. On the other side is the zinc industry, which has its own interest in the penny. Its group, Americans for Common Cents, commissioned a study by former Federal Reserve economist Raymond Lombra. He argues that elimination of the penny would create a "rounding tax" that would especially hurt the poor or those without checking accounts. Mr. Lombra claims three-fifths of sales would be rounded up, costing Americans $600 million per year. -Chris Stamper Venerable retailer closes doors
Ward of the court
Talk about a slow death. Montgomery Ward announced it was going out of business after decades of struggling in the fight for the Middle American retail dollar. The company that pioneered mail order is now a casualty of the dot-com era. Like Woolworth, it spent years trying to revive its fading brand. It passed from owner to owner and tried plan after plan, but it kept falling behind. In its last battle with death, it survived bankruptcy when General Electric bailed it out. A series of remodeled stores, dubbed just "Wards," were supposed to lead the Chicago-based chain out of trouble. This year's slow holiday season doomed those plans and sent the company back into bankruptcy. Montgomery Ward's problem was mostly that it tried to stand still while the rest of the world was moving forward. Founder Aaron Montgomery Ward started selling through the mail in 1872 and premiered the "Satisfaction Guaranteed or Your Money Back" promise. Later the company produced perhaps the greatest Christmas promotion ever, launching "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" in 1939. But the beginning of the end came in 1941, when CEO Sewell Avery stopped opening new stores, fearing a second depression. Competitors moved to suburbia, but Montgomery Ward punted until 1957. By the time the company finally expanded, competitors had gobbled up the best locations. Celebrity wax museum comes to New York
Wax isn't waning
Heads are rolling in Times Square. Madame Tussaud's has arrived in the Big Apple with a wax museum in midtown Manhattan. True to the times, the collection includes wax replicas of Woody Allen, Oprah Winfrey, and Harrison Ford, and Tussaud's expects a George W. Bush model to join the collection in time for inauguration day. The new Tussaud's is another part of New York's attempt to dress up Times Square. Manhattan's museum follows permutations in London, Hong Kong, Amsterdam, and Las Vegas. The strange art of wax portraits pre-dates the French Revolution. Voltaire was the first celebrity to be honored this way back in 1778. P. T. Barnum tried to buy Tussaud's collection and move it to New York. The process requires about six months of work to create each statue; sculptors take 250 precise measurements of a person's hands, body, and face using cloth tapes and calipers. Sometimes they take hair samples and use dental casts from the subjects' dentists. Tussaud herself supposedly dug through piles of bodies looking for the decapitated heads of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI.