Presidential hopeful Bill Bradley challenged Vice President Al Gore last night to press President Clinton to issue an executive order banning racial profiling. It was the sixth and final debate between the two Democratic presidential candidates before the first votes are cast in the Iowa Caucuses one week from yesterday. Bradley seized the offensive at a debate sponsored by the Iowa Brown/Black Presidential Forum, a group that promotes black and Latino issues, after Gore pledged to sign an executive order himself banning profiling, the practice of singling out African Americans for police questioning. Bradley said, “You know, Al, I know that you would issue an order to end racial profiling if you were president of the US. But we have a president now. You serve with him. I want you to walk down that hallway, walk into his office and say, ‘Sign this executive order today.’”
Meanwhile, the fight over the Confederate flag flying at South Carolina’s State House has shifted inside after a demonstration at which more than 50,000 people called for the banner’s removal. Only the legislature can remove the flag raised over the State House in 1962 during the Civil War centennial. Many demonstrators from out of state honored a tourism boycott by the NAACP and slept on cots in church basements instead of checking into hotels. Some lawmakers have said they will discuss a compromise only after the NAACP backs off the boycott. But NAACP President Kweisi Mfume said the boycott will remain until the flag goes. While South Carolina is the only state still flying the Confederate flag from its capitol, Georgia incorporated the symbol into its state flag in 1956. The Reverend Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition now wants tourists to boycott Georgia until the emblem is removed. Activists are threatening to begin the boycott on January 30th, the day the Super Bowl will be held in Atlanta.
Glaxo Wellcome’s planned acquisition of rival drug maker SmithKlineBeecham would do more than create the world’s largest pharmaceutical company. The deal announced yesterday and worth about $76 billion in stock is a clear sign that the merger trend now reshaping other industries is accelerating in the drug business. Just last week, Pfizer emerged as the likely winner in a battle with American Home Products for US drug maker Warner-Lambert, while Monsanto is in the process of merging with Pharmacia and Upjohn. Industry analysts predict other blue-chip names, including Eli Lilly, Schering-Plough, Novartis, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and even merger-averse Merck won’t be far behind.
Despite opposition from human rights campaigners, the European Union yesterday lifted a four-month-old arms embargo imposed on Indonesia during the violence that followed East Timor’s vote for independence. The ban was lifted despite objections from the human rights group Amnesty International. The arms embargo was introduced to pressure Jakarta into accepting international peacekeepers in East Timor, where pro-Indonesia militias rampaged after the country voted overwhelmingly for independence. The European Union banned all sales of arms, munitions, military equipment and other goods “which may be used for internal repression." It also suspended military cooperation.
Cuban mental health specialists say Elian Gonzalez could suffer emotional problems from his stay in the United States. The psychiatrists and psychologists contend the boy has not had time to properly mourn the loss of his mother. In addition, they say constant attention, especially from the news media, has over-stimulated the six-year-old. The experts say they reached their conclusions after studying hours of footage of the boy recorded by TV crews in the US. Elian has been staying with his Miami relatives since being rescued off the Florida coast in November.
Spain is throwing the issue of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet back into Britain’s hands. Spanish officials have sent London a judge’s request that Pinochet undergo another round of medical tests, after initial tests determined the eighty-four-year-old wasn’t medically fit to stand trial. The letter comes just one day before Britain’s deadline for opinions on whether Pinochet should be extradited to Spain. British officials say they considered canceling the extradition but have asked Spain, France, Belgium and Switzerland for their thoughts on the matter. Four groups, including Amnesty, are calling for a second medical exam for Pinochet. Pinochet is accused of massive human rights abuses during his seventeen-year reign.
And there is a hearing today in Los Angeles in the case of former Symbionese Liberation Army member Sara Jane Olson. Olson, formerly known as Kathleen Soliah, is accused of placing bombs under police cars in the mid-1970s. She was a fugitive until her arrest in Minnesota last year. Olson’s lawyers want her trial to be postponed.
A gay rights group has produced a television ad that goes after Republicans who would keep gays out of the Armed Forces. The ad responds to a campaign by the Republican National Committee spotlighting the controversy surrounding Vice President Gore’s position on gays in the military. The thirty-second spot says the GOP presidential candidates are so busy fighting about who should serve that they may have forgotten the values we actually fight for. The human rights campaign ad airs this week in Iowa and New Hampshire.
And this news from Toronto: local officials and environmental groups are protesting a Canadian government agency’s decision to fly weapons-grade plutonium across 300 miles of southern Canada. In a surprise move Friday, 4.2 ounces of plutonium was transported by helicopter from Sault Ste. Marie on the US border to Atomic Energy of Canada Limited’s plant in Chalk River, Ontario. The shipment was part of the Parallax Project, a joint American-Russian experiment to determine whether commercial nuclear reactors in Canada can use material from decommissioned Russian nuclear weapons as fuel.