n e w s b i t . . s

Apple Takes A Big Byte Out Of History

In a sharp move for a company long admired for its forward-looking policies, Apple last week suddenly notified Voyager Co., the producer of an acclaimed American history CD-ROM, that it was discontinuing shipments to public schools. Apple cited complaints that the program mentioned the fact that abortions took place, people used birth control, and homosexual people existed at the turn-of-the-century, as the reason for its decision. Apple's notice came only a few days after Voyager Co.'s "Who Built America?" won the American Historical Association's biennial prize for "the most outstanding contribution to the teaching and learning of history." Steven Brier, the CUNY history professor who authored the original two-volume "Who Built America" and then adapted it for CD-ROM, said, "Some people may not like the fact there was abortion in 1910, but you can't deny it existed." Or can you? [New York Daily News]

Republicans Move to Eliminate Pell Grants

As House Republicans moved to eliminate $20 billion in federal aid for higher education, college presidents lashed out last week at the plan and expressed concern over House Speaker Newt Gingrich's suggestion that an additional $6 billion in college grants for the poor be replaced by work-study programs. Gingrich's remarks preceded the release of a national survey that indicated 89 percent of the 1,000 adults polled favored maintaining federal aid for higher education at current levels. The survey, conducted by KRC Research and Consulting, Inc., for the Alliance to Save Student Aid, showed that the only program receiving greater support was Social Security, for which 92 percent of the respondents said funding should not be cut. Congressional Republicans have said every federal program but defense and Social Security faces potential cuts in their quest to reduce the deficit and balance the budget. In the higher education budget, the GOP plan calls for ending interest subsidies while students are in college, a $12 billion program, and for eliminating $8 billion in grants that colleges provide to needy students. Speaking in Boston on Saturday afternoon at a conference of Northeast Citizen Action Resource Center, Jesse Jackson asked why, if the government is so concerned about eliminating the deficit, don't they "go out of the hole the same way they came in," referring to the doubling of military spending in real dollars from 1979 to 1986. Military spending is now about $260 billion, compared to about $30 billion on higher education. Then, Jackson pointed out that defense contractor Lockheed is a major employer in Gingrich's mostly rich and white suburban Atlanta district. [Boston Globe/Thistle Staff]

PLO Violates Human Rights in Territories

A report by the New York-based Human Rights Watch issued last week accused Palestinian authorities of allowing political arrests, press censorship and prisoner beatings, much like the Israeli military they are supposed to replace. Such abuses, it said, pose a "grave threat" to the peace process. "The Palestinian authority has failed to anchor its conduct in the rule of law," the report said. "It has often acted in an arbitrary and repressive fashion ..." Using travel bans and arrests, Israel retains strong influence over 800,000 Palestinians' lives and shares responsibility with the PLO for the "perilous state of human rights" in the autonomy areas of the Gaza Strip and West Bank region of Jericho, Human Rights Watch said. Its 50-page report, billed as the first detailed assessment of human rights under autonomy, criticized "indiscriminate roundups" of hundreds of Palestinians merely because they were suspected of belonging to opposition groups. Most were detained without warrants and held for days without going before a judge, it said. [Reuters]

Mexican Government Attacks Maya Indians in Chiapas

Maya Indian rebels reported brutal human rights abuses by the Mexican army last Sunday in its drive into the jungles of Chiapas. Rebel leaders in the southern state of Chiapas said four army helicopters bombarded areas around the towns of Morelia and La Garrucha Friday, and they accused President Ernesto Zedillo of lying when he said that the army was advancing peacefully. "You are lying, Mr. Zedillo. We are being bombed and machine-gunned," the Zapatista National Liberation Army said in a statement. "The government of Ernesto Zedillo is killing us; it is killing children, it is beating up women and raping." Hospitals are reported to be over-flowing with casualties. The National Defense ministry said 2,500 troops, 33 aircraft, 30 tanks and 32 armored vehicles were involved in the operation, which was launched last Thursday after Zedillo issued orders to arrest five Zapatista chiefs, including Subcommander Marcos. [Reuters]

Lesbians and Locusts Storm Anti-Queer Agency

The San Francisco Lesbian Avengers, known for their dynamic actions, released 1,000 crickets during a protest at the offices of Exodus International, an organization that claims to "cure" people of their homosexuality. The demonstration, held February 8, called attention to Exodus and its conversion programs that, Avengers said, are a largely invisible form of Christian Right organizing that has profoundly devastating effects on lesbian, bisexual, and gay people. "If anyone deserves a plague of Biblical proportions right now, it's the Radical Right," said an Avenger. The locusts were released, in an apparent attempt to hinder operations, inside the offices by activists who climbed onto the reception desk and shouted "We don't need to be cured." An Exodus staff person dialed 911 and told the dispatcher, "There are lesbians here with bugs." [in newsweekly]

Congress Threatens Major Cut in Student Aid

As part of its federal budget reduction discussion, Congress is considering eliminating the in-school interest exemption for undergraduate and graduate/professional student loans. Currently, the federal government pays the interest accrued while students are enrolled, and for the first six months after they graduate. Proposals under consideration by Congress would add this interest to students' loan principals, which could increase graduate/professional student indebtedness by up to 50 percent. This would result in the largest increase in the cost of graduate/professional education in the nation's history. Eliminating the interest exemption has a greater negative effect on students the longer they stay in school, and as such most severely affects graduate and professional-degree-seeking students. For example, Student A attends school for four years to earn a bachelor's degree and attends graduate school for an additional two years to earn a M.A. degree. Upon graduation, this student would owe $34,125. If the interest exemption is eliminated, the student would owe an additional $9,167, or a total of $43,292. This represents a 27 percent increase in educational indebtedness, increasing monthly payments from $409 to $520. The extra cost over the life of the loan would come to about $14,000. Student B receives a four-year undergraduate degree and then spends six years earning a PhD in engineering. This student would owe $68,125 in the cost of loans and an additional $33,028 if the interest is charged. This 48 percent increase in educational debt would leave the student owing $101,153 at the start of repayment. This student's monthly repayment would increase from $818 to $1,214 as a result of eliminating the interest exemption. The extra cost over the life of the loan would be about $48,000. The Alliance to Save Student Aid, a group of 29 national organizations representing undergraduate, graduate, and professional education, have set up the "SAVE STUDENT AID HOTLINE." By dialing 1-800-574-4AID, you will be connected with the Washington, DC office of your Member of Congress. The first 250 calls are free. After that, a $3.65 charge will be billed to your major credit card for each call.

CIA Blocks Release of Documents Detailing US Interference in Japanese Politics

The Central Intelligence Agency refused to release Kennedy Administration documents detailing covert operations to undermine popular politicians in Japan, State Department officials said last week. This illegal aid was used to help ensure the election victory of candidates who would support US interests and undermined the campaigns of independent and locally popular leaders as Japan was rebuilding after the second world war. The documents describe secret operations during the 1950's and 60's in which the CIA spent millions of dollars to support the leaders of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party. The Liberal Democrats' ensuing 38 years of one-party governance ended in 1993, when they fell from power after several corruption cases-many involving secret cash contributions. Some politicians who are still prominent benefited from this CIA assistance. Other documents obtained previously through the Freedom of Information Act indicate that this technique of illegally financing election campaigns is likely a common CIA method for controlling the actions of foreign governments. [The New York Times]

House Republicans Vote Down the Fourth Amendment

During the debate in the House on February 7 over the House Republicans' Bill about the Exclusionary Rule, the House Black Caucus introduced an amendment to the bill that the Republicans promptly voted down. The amendment turned out to be the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, verbatim. The House Republicans were "chagrined." The vote was 303-121, meaning that a number of Democrats joined the Republicans. The Fourth Amendment reads: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
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