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U.S. News Archive
July 14 - July 20, 2000





This page contains news for the period July 14, 2000 through July 20, 2000.


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Wednesday, July 19, 2000

Rich singles dominate Manhattan residential buyers

A story published today by Reuters reports that if you are buying an apartment in Manhattan these days, you probably need to be worth millions, New York realtors say.

Prices have risen so much that seven-figure status is now almost a prerequisite to getting into the real estate market of the city's best-known and most affluent borough.

In a report that estimates the average price for a Manhattan
apartment has risen 18 percent in the past six months to $788,000, real estate broker The Corcoran Group.

"Single millionaires continue to dominate the Manhattan buyers market, as the unmarried account for over 52 percent of transactions," it said. "The average buyer is also 38 years old, earns $402,000 and is worth $2.491 million."

Senate passes 'marriage penalty' tax relief bill

A story published today by the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the United States Senate approved a  measure yesterday to cut taxes for married couples by $248 billion over the next 10 years, setting up an election year showdown with President Clinton over how to spend the growing budget surplus.

Jubilent Republicans heralded the 61-to-38 vote as a step toward eliminating the so-called "marriage penalty,'' a quirk in the tax code that causes many married couples to pay more in taxes than they would if they remained single.

Warning Clinton that Democrats will pay a political price if he makes good on his veto threat, GOP leaders pushed through the bill in time for it to be on the president's desk before the Republican National Convention later this month.

Democrats said the bill goes far beyond providing relief for couples who pay a marriage penalty and accused Republicans of trying to reward their wealthiest supporters. They noted that billions of dollars in relief also would be directed to those who currently enjoy a "marriage bonus" from current tax law.

Clinton said he will veto the bill, unless Republicans agree to a $250 billion companion measure to provide prescription drug coverage to Medicare recipients.

The vote came less than a week after the Senate approved a measure eliminating the estate tax over the next 10 years. Later this week, the House of Representatives is expected to pass legislation expanding tax breaks for contributions to retirement accounts.

The Congressional Budget Office released new figures yesterday that estimate the budget surplus will be $2.17 trillion over the next 10 years, up from the $838 billion estimate in January.

As a political matter, Republicans hope to convince voters that Democratic intransigence is all that is standing in the way of meaningful tax cuts. Within hours of the Senate's vote, 10 Republican governors distributed statements applauding the legislation and calling on Clinton to sign it.

Democrats, including Clinton, have advocated smaller, targeted tax cuts and called for using the bulk of the surplus to pay down the debt and expand social programs. Democrats have been more receptive to tax cuts as estimates of the
surplus rise.

Eight Democrats joined 53 Republicans in supporting the marriage tax measure, including California Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

"I believe that if Congress only passes into law one piece of tax reform legislation this year, it should be the marriage penalty relief,'' Feinstein said.

Feinstein also supported a more limited Democratic tax cut proposal that failed.

Democrats offered an alternative that would allow married couples to choose to file together or separately, whichever was in their financial interest. Democrats said their plan would wipe out the ``marriage penalty'' for all couples earning less than $150,000.

Rather than costing $248 billion over 10 years, Democrats said their measure would have cost $54 billion. The Senate defeated the measure by a 50-to-46 vote.


Tuesday, July 18, 2000

House passes adoption treaty bill with compromise on gay and unmarried foreign adoptions

A story published today by the Associated Press reports that legislation needed to implement an international treaty on foreign adoptions passed the House on Tuesday after months of gridlock over whether it would allow gay adoptions.

The treaty, known as the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, was created to establish guidelines for international adoptions and include provisions to end smuggling and fraud.

The bill (H.R. 2909) as passed by the House would give various federal agencies the authority to implement the treaty once it is ratified by two-thirds of the Senate. The United States signed the measure in 1994.

Senate aides say lawmakers there may take up the measure soon and even ratify it before Congress leaves for its August recess.

The measure had hit a snag in recent months as lawmakers debated whether it would allow gay adoptions.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., successfully lobbied for a provision that requires the United States to adhere to the laws of countries that may have requirements that adoptive parents be married or guidelines prohibiting adoptions by gays and lesbians. 

Several nations, such as China, Romania and Bulgaria, prohibit gay adoptions.

More than 15,000 international adoptions are expected to take place this year. The majority of children adopted in the United States will come from China, official said.

Social isolation plays a role in heart disease

A story published today in the Detroit Free Press reports that to combat heart disease, doctors and their patients often focus on traditional coronary risk factors like cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, elevated blood cholesterol and, more recently, physical inactivity and obesity. New research, however, suggests that these factors explain less than half the heart disease in the United States.

The role of psychosocial variables in the development of heart disease and in the prognosis of cardiac patients has received increased attention in recent years.  In particular, anger-hostility, depression and social isolation have been suggested as potential risk factors.

Anger-Hostility: Are you one of those individuals who becomes visibly upset when you're cut off in traffic by another car? Do you become enraged by people who exceed the maximum number of items permitted in the express line at the supermarket? If you answered yes to some of these questions, you should know that such behaviors may be hazardous to your health.

Duke University scientists have now shown that hostile people -- those with high levels of cynicism, anger and aggression -- are at a much higher risk of developing heart disease and other chronic illnesses. Explanations include reduced social support, exaggerated responses when angered and increased indulgence in risky health behaviors.

Depression has been reported to precede heart attacks in 50 percent of all cases. It also is linked with an increased number of cardiovascular events after a heart attack or heart bypass surgery.

Social Isolation: Numerous studies show higher cardiovascular death rates among people who are socially isolated. One investigation found that people who live alone were more than twice as likely to die during the first year after a heart attack than those who lived with other people.

Another study showed that married patients with heart disease fared far better than their unmarried counterparts. But the people with the highest death rate were unmarried patients who had no close family or friends. These patients had a 5-year survival rate of just 50 percent, compared with 82 percent for those who had a spouse, a confidant or both.

The story says that it remains unclear just how social isolation harms health. Perhaps it's simply because of a lack of rapid medical assistance. Another possibility is that those without social ties may not seek medical attention, take prescribed medications or be encouraged to follow their doctor's advice.

The bottom line of the story is that people at risk for heart disease should learn strategies to defuse anger, fight depression, and develop and maintain strong social networks.


Monday, July 17, 2000

Couples over 55 embracing cohabitation

A story published today in the Bergen Record reports that millions of unmarried adults are living together as domestic partners rather than marrying, and many of them are older adults over the age of 55.

The story uses some couples as examples, keeping the identity of all but one of them anonymous because the couples were afraid of potential social disapproval from some friends or family members.

Raised amid the traditional family models of decades past, the story says that Fran balked when her college-aged daughter announced in the early 1980s that she was going to live with her boyfriend.

"Oh, it was an issue!" recalled Fran. "I was brought up believing that was something that good girls just didn't do."

Yet for the past 18 months, Fran -- now a 60-year-old Bergen County (NJ) divorcee -- has been living with her own boyfriend, a solution they devised after tiring of the commute to and from his Maryland home.

"I announced immediately that I would never again get married," she said. "I got burned so badly in my divorce -- financially, emotionally -- I wouldn't go through that again for anything."

The times have changed. Back when Fran was growing up, not only was cohabitation unheard of among older Americans, it was practically non-existent at any age. Today, 10.7 million unmarried sweethearts live together, and more than half of first marriages are preceded by cohabitation, according to Philip Cohen, a former demographer at the Census Bureau now teaching sociology at the University of California.

The trend is most obvious among the young, but it has definitely reached older generations, too. The number of cohabiting adults age 55 and over has doubled in the last 10 years, reaching more than 1 million -- a remarkable rise, although not enough to eliminate a certain social unease among many of them.

There's another difference between the younger cohabitors and the older ones. While many younger couples view living together as a transition to marriage, older couples are perhaps the more radical, seeing cohabitation not as an intermediate step but as a satisfying end in itself.

For many of the older couples, the ideal of marriage -- though not the glory of love -- has lost some of its luster. Some have rejected it after economic calculation, and others after remembering unpleasant experiences from the past.

"I'll never be under the thumb of a man again," said Joan Johnson, 73, of Englewood, when asked if she would ever marry her live-in boyfriend.

"I want to be independent. Men my vintage, they expect their wives to do whatever they tell them to do. And even though I knew he would promise not to do that, I also knew it would wind up that way anyhow, because that's the way men my generation were brought up."

In part, the increase cohabitation among older people is attributable to a rise in that population overall. But it's not just that. The sexual revolution has clearly reached them, and a greater proportion of those 55 and over, not just a greater number, now find themselves comfortable with a once objectionable idea -- sometimes to their own surprise.

"Considering where I came from years ago, so conservative about people being sexually involved without being married, it's quite amazing that I wound up where I did, but somehow it just felt right," said one Fort Lee woman, 73, who lived for 4 1/2 years with her companion until he died this year.

In 1976, one man in 20 age 55 or older lived with a girlfriend. Today, the number is more than one in 10, Cohen says. The figure for women, 3 percent, is lower, but it's still twice what it was in 1976.

The story predicts that cohabitation among older people is sure to become even more common in coming years, given the more liberal views of Baby Boomers and the fact that they're so much more likely to be cohabiting already. Although only 4 percent of unmarried people age 60 or over live with partners, the figure climbs to 14 percent among those age 40 to 59, Cohen found.

According to demographers, the main reason for the rise is the nation's shifting mores, even in just the last few years. In 1994, 58 percent of Americans age 55 to 64 believed people should not live together before marriage, but just four years later, only 44 percent held that view, a study by the University of Chicago found.

"I've got my own business, I've got my own friends, and I want to keep my own identity," explained a cohabiting 66-year-old from Englewood, who long ago divorced a man who was not only her husband but her partner at work.

Even advocates promoting marriage more easily accept cohabitation among mature adults than among younger ones.

"It certainly doesn't have any of the problems that cohabitation among young people does, where it sets a very bad standard for what a relationship is and sends the message that relationships are easy in and easy out," said David Popenoe, head of the National Marriage Project, an initiative at Rutgers University devoted to developing strategies for "revitalizing marriage."

"On the other hand," Popenoe said, "it makes cohabitation that much more acceptable, and over time, could perhaps help to weaken the institution of marriage."

Nonetheless, Popenoe noted that his older brother moved in with a companion years back, both of them widowed parents in their early 60s who wanted to avoid the financial entanglements of marriage.

"It's like a marriage, but it's just not organized legally," he said. "If I were in his situation, it's very possible I would do the same thing."

The story explains that some couples, like Popenoe's brother, skip marriage to avoid commingling finances for inheritance reasons. Others worry that remarriage will prompt increased taxation on their Social Security income, or a reduction or elimination of public assistance or private pension survivor benefits.

"It's economic," said Janet, 71, whose 70-year-old companion moved in three years ago. "He doesn't have many resources, and if he gets sick, he's eligible for Medicaid. But if we were married and he were to get a long sickness, I would have to pay for everything -- sell my apartment, pay out my savings -- before he could get Medicaid. I could be wiped out."

Still, after being questioned about "the man" living in her apartment by the curious adolescents she tutors, she and her beau bought wedding bands.

"We kissed in the jewelry shop to make it official," she said, adding that they now refer to one another as "husband" and "wife."

But for many people, money isn't the issue at all. Rather, tying the knot has simply lost its draw.

"To me, frankly, marriage is irrelevant," said a 67-year-old, who lived alone for 25 years after her divorce before moving in with her 75-year-old boyfriend in May. "When you are young and the possibility of children looms, the idea of refusing to make a commitment, of refusing to guarantee the security of those children, is unfair. But at my age, marriage is a big 'so what.' "

The story noted that despite their common reluctance to be identified in this article, older people say they have rarely been badgered about their living arrangement.

"Without exception," said one, "the reaction has been one of jubilation, a sense of: How glorious! How romantic!"

"I keep wondering when my grandchildren are going to say something," mused Johnson, whose live-in partner has been welcomed by her whole family. "But so far, no one -- including my 100-year-old mother -- has ever said a word."


Sunday, July 16, 2000

Hillary Clinton denies ever having made a 'Jew bastard' slur

A story reported by Reuters and published today by many newspapers throughout the nation says that U.S. Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton Sunday angrily denied having uttered an anti-Jewish slur 26 years ago, calling the allegation "politics of the worst kind.''

Clinton, who is running for the Senate representing New York against Republican Rick Lazio, was reported in a new book to have blamed Bill Clinton's 1974 Congressional race loss on his campaign manager Paul Fray, supposedly calling him a "Jew bastard.''

"It did not happen,'' Clinton told reporters at a news conference outside her home in suburban Chappaqua, which she and the president purchased to establish residency in New York for her Senate run.

"I've never said anything like that in my entire life,'' the first lady said.

The alleged quote, contained in the upcoming "State of the Union: Inside the Complex Marriage of Bill and Hillary Clinton'' by former National Enquirer reporter Jerry Oppenheimer, was confirmed by former Clinton campaign worker Neill McDonald, according to the Daily News.

It was first reported on Friday by Internet gossip writer Matt Drudge, who made his name documenting details and unsubstantiated rumors of Monica Lewinsky scandal that led to President Clinton's impeachment.

McDonald told the newspaper the remark, which he said he heard, was made "in the heat of battle'' and was not a reflection of anti-Semitism by Clinton.

Sen. Charles Schumer, who is Jewish, issued a statement saying ``I've known Hillary Clinton for eight years, and she doesn't have an anti-Semitic bone in her body.''

Jewish voters, the majority of whom traditionally support Democrats, make up a significant voting group in New York. Clinton leads Lazio among Jewish voters in polls, but the two have run about even overall since Lazio entered the race after the withdrawal of New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

It is noteworthy that all of the news reports about this alleged incident focus solely on the anti-Semitic aspect of the slur and totally fail to ignore that the term "bastard" is a word that stigmatizes children born to unmarried parents.


Saturday, July 15, 2000

Tug-of-war over military divorce rules for retirees

A story published today in the Daily Herald reports that bitter differences between military retirees and ex-spouses have caused a decade of delay in passing a proposed Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act.

Thousands of retirees and ex-spouses view the law as grossly unfair and look to Congress for relief. But the likelihood of meaningful change remains slim. And this seems true even as the Defense Department struggles to complete a report for Congress on the legislation that has taken almost three years to complete and is nine months overdue.

Lt. Cmdr. Catherine Wdowiak, of Tucson, Ariz., is one retiree who favors reform. Because of the law, she said, the Navy each month sends 18.5 percent of her retirement pay to a man she divorced in 1996 after he revealed he was having an affair.

Her ex-spouse remarried and that couple now earns more than $100,000 per year, said Wdowiak, while she struggles to keep a fledgling business afloat on what remains of her retirement pay, about $24,000 a year.

Her ex-spouse gets part f her retirement pay, Wdowiak said, even though it was her military pay and benefits that gave him the freedom to earn a degree during their 11-year marriage. But the Arizona judge, she said, refused to consider fault in dividing marriage property. "He said his hands were absolutely
tied by the (law)," Wdowiak recalled.

"I'm not saying the law is 100 percent wrong. There are people who deserve (a share of retirement pay) and, in some cases, even more than is being awarded," said Wdowiak. "But I don't think the law was intended for someone who gets a degree (using a member's pay), chooses to leave you and now makes more money than you do. I think it's intended for persons who sacrifice their careers to support the military person."

Edward C. Schilling III, a retired Air Force colonel and lawyer in Aurora, Colo., is an expert on the ex-spouses protection law. Each year he advises hundreds of attorneys and their clients throughout the nation, mostly ex-spouses but also retirees and service members, on how to get the best deal when dividing pensions in divorce.

The problem with the law, Schilling argues, is not how it treats military retirees; they enjoy more protections in divorce settlements than other Americans. The problem with the law is it allows so many military retirees to shield from divorce settlements some or all of their retired pay, by accepting veterans disability compensation instead, often for injuries or illnesses unrelated to combat or even military service.

Schilling, former head of the Air Force's legal assistance program, said he sees "an enormous volume of cases involving long-term marriages that end when the husband dumps the wife and kids, and runs off with some young skirt."

Pending before Congress is legislation to reform the ex-spouses protection act from a retiree's perspective. Key provisions of House Resolution 72, sponsored by Rep. Bob Stump, R-Ariz., would end division of retirement pay when an ex-spouse remarries and would stop windfall payments to ex-spouses resulting from promotions or longevity raises earned after the divorce. It also would limit to two years the time an ex-spouse has to seek a share of retired pay following
divorce, and tighten the law's restriction on sharing of disability retirement.

In 1997, Congress decided to delay consideration on Stump's bill, in the face of conflicting pressure from retirees and ex-spouse groups, by ordering the Defense Department to study the existing law and to deliver a report, with recommendations, by Oct. 1, 1999.

The deadline passed with no report and little complaint from Congress. Stump, chairman of the House Veterans Committee, believes the law treats military retirees unfairly, but few colleagues in leadership roles want to join that fight. They see only a legislative hornets' nest that, when bumped, spews clouds of horror stories from both retirees and ex-spouses.

But Schilling, who has advised on more than 2000 divorce cases since retiring in 1989, said Stump and many retirees are mistaken to believe the law is unfair.

"Each state makes its decision on how pensions will be divided. The same rules apply to everybody, whether they work for the post office, the FAA, Lucent Technologies, the Teamsters union or as a school teacher," said Schilling.

Some of the extra protection for military retirees, Schilling said, include the law's definition of disposable retired pay and its 50 percent limit on retired pay that can be divided as property, even when multiple ex-spouses are involved.

By ordering the Defense Department to study the law, Schilling said, Congress made "a blatant attempt to try to punt, and hope the game plays out."

The game continues, although, it seems, in slow motion.

Comments and suggestions are welcomed. Write to Military Update, P.O. Box 231111, Centreville, VA 20120-1111, or send e-mail to milupdate@aol.com .


Clinton promises to veto the death-tax repeal bill

A story published today by the Associated Press reports that President Clinton pledged Saturday to veto an ''irresponsible'' repeal of the estate tax passed by a Republican Congress he said was bent on reckless spending. The bill is H.R. 8.

But Republicans said they were ready to approve even more tax-break legislation.

The Senate opened debate Friday on a 10-year, $248 billion measure that would essentially cut taxes for all married couples by adjusting their tax brackets and by increasing their standard deduction to twice that of single taxpayers.

While Clinton had left no doubt that he would veto the bill repealing estate taxes, he has conditionally pledged to sign the marriage tax measure, but only if Congress approves separate legislation creating Medicare prescription drug benefit.

On Friday, senators voted 59-39 to pass the ''death tax'' elimination bill, ignoring Democratic arguments that it was a tax cut for the very richest Americans. Sponsors portrayed the measure as a matter of basic fairness and a remedy for a tax that punishes success, and most Republicans were joined by nine Democrats in voting for it.

The Senate vote fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto.

The story says that estate tax collections of about $25 billion represent only about 1.5 percent of the federal government's overall yearly tax revenue, but rising incomes have forced more people to worry about them.

Massachusetts high court is asked to overturn sodomy laws

A story published today by the Boston Globe reports that after numerous unsuccessful attempts in the Legislature to repeal the state's centuries-old sex statutes, a gay rights group has filed suit asking the state's highest court to declare the laws prohibiting sodomy unconstitutional.

The suit was filed by Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders and several individual gay and straight plaintiffs -- since the laws apply to both. It asks the Supreme Judicial Court to make a declaratory judgment that the sodomy laws violate state constitutional rights of privacy and dignity.

The laws make Massachusetts one of only 17 states in the nation that criminalize certain types of homosexual and heterosexual behavior, including oral sex.

Massachusetts has two sodomy statutes, one prohibiting ''the abominable and detestable crime against nature,'' which case law has defined as anal sex, and one prohibiting ''unnatural acts,'' which various court rulings have applied to both oral and anal sex.


Friday, July 14, 2000

Marital status nondiscrimination laws no longer at risk from religious freedom bill in Congress

A story published today in the Washington Blade reports that Senators Orin Hatch (R-Utah) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.)
yesterday introduced a revised version of the Religious Liberties Protection Act that has been stripped of language that threatened to override state and local civil rights laws prohibiting marital status and sexual orientation discrimination by businesses.

The revised bill, renamed the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, calls for restricting government agencies from imposing a "substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person" through land use regulations and in prisons.

The story explains thata n earlier version of the bill, introduced last year, included sweeping language that imposed "religious exercise" standards on virtually all state and local laws. The language was so broad that it could enable businesses and landlords, under certain circumstances, to deny employment or housing to gays or to unmarried couples on grounds that sex outside of wedlock was was contrary to their religious beliefs.

Hatch and other supporters of the earlier version of the bill said their aim was to eliminate workplace, zoning, and other restrictions that interfere with citizens’ rights to engage in religious practices and beliefs. Zoning laws barring the construction of churches in certain places and work rules prohibiting the wearing of yarmulkes were cited as examples of unfair restrictions against the religious freedom that supporters wanted the legislation to correct.

The original RLPA started out with widespread support from Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives. But when civil liberties groups sounded the alarm over the bill’s potential impact on civil rights laws, more than a dozen liberal and moderate organizations withdrew their support for RLPA. Among them were People for the American Way, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, and the National Council of Churches.

Despite these developments, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed RLPA in July 1999 by a vote of 306-188. The Republican-controlled Senate, which has a greater percentage of moderate Republicans than the House, chose not to schedule a vote on the bill after Senate Republican leaders determined the bill did not have enough vote to pass.

Since that time, Kennedy, who opposed the earlier version of RLPA, and Hatch, who supported that version, have worked with each other and their respective supporters to reach a compromise version of the legislation. The two senators reached that compromise during the past month and agreed to jointly introduce the new bill, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000.

With Kennedy and Hatch in support of the revised bill, the moderate and liberal organizations that withdrew their support from the previous version are expected to endorse the new version.

According to the story, Capitol Hill observers say the revamped bill will be placed on a fast track in both the Senate and House, with the bill expected to be sent to the floor of both bodies for a vote without first being sent to a committee for a hearing.

David Lachmann, legislative assistant to Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), said Nadler plans to serve as chief co-sponsor for an identical House version of the revised bill with Rep. Charles Canady (R-Fla.), a staunch conservative who initially backed the earlier version of the legislation.


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