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web posted September 4, 2000

Obese toddler taken from parents

The parents of a 120-pound, 3-year-old girl say they have lost custody of the toddler because they couldn't control the girl's weight.

Miguel Regino and Adela Martinez say the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department took their daughter, Anamarie Martinez-Regino, after a doctor claimed the child's condition was life-threatening.

Family of Anamarie Martinez-Regino"They dragged her out of the room kicking and screaming," a grieving Martinez said after her daughter was taken from Presbyterian Hospital on August 25. "All she's known her whole life is me, Miguel, my mother, the family. She was terrified."

Anamarie weighs 120 pounds and is 31/2 feet tall -- three times heavier and 50 percent taller than an average 3-year-old, according to the girl's physician, Monika Mahal, who made the recommendation that she be removed from her parents custody.

Mahal was out of town and unavailable for comment.

But Irene Moody, who is in private practice with Mahal and has examined Anamarie, said the decision was done in the best interest of the child.

"I can't tell you what is causing her to be this large in absolute certainty," Moody told the Albuquerque Journal. "But we do know that her size is life-threatening."

Anamarie has been in and out of the hospital since she was 2 months old because of her weight problem, but doctors have not been able to determine a cause. Glandular tests have been conducted and nothing abnormal has been found, Moody said.

But the family says the problem has medical roots and is not caused by overeating or bad nutrition at home. And Martinez said tests done on Anamarie a month ago found the weight hasn't yet placed unhealthy stress on her heart.

No state agency or law enforcement office has accused the family with anything improper in the treatment of Anamarie, Martinez said. But the legal papers she received charged the family with not being able to keep the child's weight down.

"I can't believe that's what they're thinking," Martinez said. "How can I make her body grow the way it has? It's back to blaming us."

Dan Hill, a spokesman for the Children, Youth and Families Department, said it is against state law for the department's officials to comment on an open case.

Martinez has been told she will be allowed to visit her daughter but doesn't know when. A custody hearing has been set for September 5.

"I'm going to fight for her," Martinez said. "What else can I do? She's my baby. I just have to remember, I'll get her back someday. I'm just trying to clear my head of the last memory I have of her being pulled kicking and screaming from that room."

Clinton argues disbarment over Lewinsky case 'exceptionally harsh'

President Clinton has challenged an Arkansas Supreme Court disciplinary panel's recommendation that he be disbarred over misleading testimony that led to his impeachment -- with his lawyers calling the sanction "exceptionally harsh."

Clinton's attorneys filed papers with the court in Little Rock on August 29 afternoon, their deadline for defending the president's law license against a recommendation that it be stripped from him.

"On the basis of the relevant facts, the governing law and the applicable decisions of the Arkansas courts ... a sanction of disbarment would be excessively harsh, impermissibly punitive and unprecedented in the circumstances of this case," Clinton's lawyers told the court.

The Arkansas Supreme Court's Committee on Professional Conduct called for Clinton's disbarment in June, saying the president lied about his affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Clinton was asked about Lewinsky during a January 1998 deposition in a sexual harassment suit brought by Paula Jones, a former Arkansas state employee. His attempt to conceal the affair while under oath led to his 1998 impeachment, and acquittal by the Senate the following year.

Clinton's lawyers also argued that disbarment is excessive in cases that do not involve a felony conviction or legal malpractice.

"In Arkansas bar disciplinary cases which do not involve the practice of law or a felony conviction, the sanction of disbarment has historically been regarded as disproportionately severe and has not been imposed," the president's lawyers wrote.

The committee moved for Clinton's disbarment in June, saying the president's answers when asked about his relationship with Lewinsky constituted "serious misconduct" that warranted disbarment.

"The conduct of Mr. Clinton ... was motivated by a desire to protect himself from the embarrassment of his own conduct," the Arkansas State Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct declared in court papers.

The conservative Southeastern Legal Foundation filed suit in September 1998 to have Clinton disbarred. But the effort did not pick up steam until U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright, who oversaw the Jones suit, found Clinton in contempt for giving false testimony, and fined him $90,000. She referred his case to the Arkansas Supreme Court's professional conduct panel.

Clinton has argued that his testimony about his relationship with Lewinsky was "not false as he defines that term." His lawyer, David Kendall, called the disbarment suit part of a "long-running partisan mudslinging campaign against the president."

Southeastern Legal Foundation President Matthew Glavin said in May that Clinton was trying "to make a political argument out of a legal matter."

Screenwriter Joe Eszterhas takes on Gore-Lieberman

Joe Eszterhas, the once high priced screenwriter behind such sexually charged films as "Showgirls" and "Basic Instinct," wants Hollywood to withhold support from Democrat Al Gore because of the anti-media rhetoric of his running mate, Sen. Joseph Lieberman.

The Hungarian-born Eszterhas, whose own work has often been critically panned for its lurid nature, comes out swinging against Gore and Lieberman in an open letter published August 29 in the entertainment trade paper Daily Variety.

"No more Hollywood money for Al Gore," Eszterhas admonishes in the full-page advertisement. "I'm a writer who likes pushing the envelope, and Joe Lieberman frightens me."

Citing Lieberman's past comments accusing TV producers and movie executives of "mainlining murder, mayhem, sex and vulgarity into the minds of our children," Eszterhas implored: "Let's make Joe Lieberman accountable for his rhetoric. Not a penny more until he 'clarifies' his position to the satisfaction of our creative freedom."

Doug Hattaway, a spokesman for the Gore-Lieberman campaign, said neither candidate favored censorship, but both remained convinced that Hollywood and parents should take more responsibility for the material available to children.

"Neither Al Gore nor Joe Lieberman advocate censorship. They support voluntary guidelines for entertainment industry and giving parents tools such as the V-chip so that they can have more control over what their children watch," he said.

Lieberman has long been one of Capitol Hill's most vocal critics of the entertainment industry, often linking what he sees as a moral decline in American culture to depictions of violence and sex in film, TV shows and popular music.

In an interview with Variety last June, the Connecticut senator suggested that shows like the hit NBC comedy "Friends" be shown only in movie theaters or on late-night TV.

Lieberman insists he does not favor government censorship of the media, but he has discussed the possibility of requiring TV stations' content to be reviewed as part of their license renewal and making it illegal for retail outlets to sell "inappropriate" video games and other materials to minors.

And he has said that a law might be passed making it illegal for minors to be targeted in advertising of R-rated movies and other products deemed inappropriate for kids.

The open letter from Eszterhas follows the recent publication of his best-selling book "American Rhapsody," a mix of racy Hollywood anecdotes and his own perspective on the White House sex scandal, capped with a monologue written in the imaginary voice of President Clinton's penis.

Eszterhas's screenplays are frequently no less ribald, featuring heavy doses of sexually provocative images, as in the infamous leg-crossing scene that made actress Sharon Stone a household name in "Basic Instinct."

Several of his more steamy films were flops both critically and commercially, including "Sliver," "Showgirls" and "Jade." His latest, the 1997 Hollywood satire "An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn," bombed at the box office and was derided by critics.

Steven Gaydos, executive editor of Variety, said he doubts Eszterhas' letter will do much to dampen financial support for the Gore campaign in Tinseltown.

"Everyone I talk to in the creative and business community indicates that they don't love the Lieberman Hollywood bashing, but they're not ready to go Republican," Gaydos said. "I have not detected one scintilla of slippage."

Gaydos said the entertainment industry has long grown accustomed to politicians who "beat up on Hollywood" and place little stock in such criticism.

"I think if 'The Matrix 2' comes out and doesn't do very well at the box office, Hollywood will be more upset than they are over what Joe Lieberman says," Gaydos added.

The Eszterhas letter comes at a time when Lieberman appears to have toned down his criticism the media, coinciding with his selection as Gore's running mate and the Democrats' recent wave of Hollywood fund-raising.

Mixed-gender crews aboard Canadian navy ships having sex, poll suggests

Men and women aboard Canada's navy ships are making love, not war, more often than their commanders may be aware, new survey results suggest.

"I have served on two mixed-gender ships," said one male sailor. "While for the most part, people behave professionally, it has always been the case that sex occurs." Said another: "After serving on a mixed-gender ship for two years I know for a fact that sailors become intimate despite what policies and leaders dictate."

The responses, released under the Access to Information Act, suggest a hidden level of forbidden sexual activity within the narrow confines of Canada's warships, where men and women work closely at sea for months at a time.

The anonymous poll of 826 navy men and women was conducted last year. Only summary results have previously been made available - the military refused to release detailed comments from respondents.

But after a complaint by The Canadian Press to the Information Commissioner of Canada, National Defence last week provided the verbatim written responses.

The survey was conducted to help determine whether Canada should allow female sailors to serve aboard Canada's new Victoria-class Upholder submarines, the first of which arrives in Halifax on Oct. 22.

Unlike surface ships, accommodations on the cramped subs would likely be co-ed.

The problem of sexual temptation is a recurring theme in the compilation of more than 300 often-blunt comments from both males and females:

- "With mixed accommodation on a sub I have no doubt that fraternization would take place when the sub is deployed. It happens quite a lot at sea - more than people are willing to admit."

- "It will not be failure of leadership nor guidelines for conduct when boys and girls get together in close quarters and high-stress conditions and do what they are genetically predisposed to do."

- "My observations and personal experiences showed mixed-gender ships were not always successful . . . and led to . . . several broken marriages."

- "It would be unrealistic to make a close environment like a submarine mixed gender and not expect a lot of fraternization and sexual misconduct."

The navy began a concerted effort to put women sailors aboard surface ships after a 1989 human rights tribunal ordered the integration of females within the Armed Forces. All of the surface fleet is now integrated to some extent.

But the human rights panel specifically excluded submarines because of the cramped, difficult conditions.

However, with the April 1998 purchase of four surplus submarines from the Royal Navy, the Canadian Forces announced it would study the feasibility of adding females to the ranks of submariners. No decision has been made.

The navy forbids sexual activity of any kind aboard ships but recognizes that personal relationships will develop, says Maj. Lynn Bradley, who has recently completed interviews for a study on mixed-gender crewing.

"Personal relationships onboard ships between members of the same crew is an issue that gets raised fairly frequently in discussions," Bradley said from Ottawa.

Navy rules require personnel to report their personal relationships with other crewmembers.

The pair are then typically sent to separate ships so as not to disrupt morale and cohesion, a policy that could induce some crew to keep their relationships a secret. The rules are currently under review.

Bradley said she knows of no statistics estimating the frequency of illicit sex aboard Canada's surface ships. The military's prosecution office says it does not keep summary statistics on sex in the navy.

The women-on-submarines survey found that two-thirds of 256 submariners who responded were opposed to allowing women to serve aboard their boats. Many said their wives would be upset about the sexual temptations.

Many also warned about the frequent exposure of private parts in cramped quarters.

- ". . . some woman gets undressed in the same (area) as I am in, how do you expect me not to look?"

- "Very often we must dress-undress often just inches from each other, and certainly in front of many others."

- "I as a male hope they (women submariners) sleep in the raw. I'll always have my bunk curtain open."

Only Australia and Norway currently permit women to serve on their submarines.

The Canadian navy has already rejected a proposal for an all-female submarine, estimating it would take at least 15 years to train the captain and crew.

The Upholders, ordered in 1998 for $750 million, have two decks unlike the older Oberon subs which Canada has decommissioned. But the living space remains as cramped.

The navy is also examining whether to refit the Upholders to segregate the sleeping quarters, a potentially expensive solution.

Uprising by Chinese peasants rocks Mao's ex-stronghold

In one of China's biggest civil disturbances in recent years, thousands of farmers near the cradle of the Communist revolution are in revolt over harsh taxation levels.

According to officials in Jiangxi province contacted August 30, armed paramilitary police were dispatched to the region this month after rampaging farmers smashed government offices and looted homes of the rich, highlighting a threat to the government from peasant discontent simmering around the country.

The officials largely confirmed a report on August 28 by a Hong Kong-based human rights group, which said more than 20,000 peasants had staged violent protests against harsh taxes.

No deaths or injuries were reported, but scores of peasants were arrested and it took five days to control the rioting and looting, officials said.

Ironically, the area around the city of Fengcheng is in mountainous territory where Chairman Mao Zedong and the Communist Red Army set up the first "revolutionary base" in the 1920s, drawing on support from downtrodden peasants.

The revolt by farmers armed with sticks and clubs quickly enveloped towns and villages over 10 days starting Aug. 13, the officials said.

"The farmers attacked government buildings, rushed into the offices and smashed up the furniture," said an official in Yuandu, which has a population of about 100,000. "They also broke into the homes of the rich and made off with what they wanted."

But while order has been restored, the officials said nothing has been done to address root causes of the violence, and they saw little prospect of a solution. They said farmers are still upset about being gouged by local authorities to fill tax quotas imposed by Beijing.

"The farmers misunderstand us, and even hate us," said one official. "Our work is becoming more and more difficult these days, and we can see no signs of any change from the higher level policy-makers."

Rural discontent is spreading in China, due to stagnating incomes and a widening gap in living standards between city and countryside.

Bumper harvests have driven down grain prices, while Jiangxi has been hit this year by drought. And this month, the region was battered by a powerful storm, which began as a super-typhoon in the South China Sea.

Despite this - and repeated promises by Beijing to lighten the farmers' burden by reducing a host of levies and fees - taxes on peasants in Jiangxi are rising, officials said.

One reason is that rural enterprises, once key to the economy, are faltering due to lack of funding, poor management and backward technology.

Pentagon says forces are ready for one war, but maybe not two

Most U.S. combat forces are ready to perform wartime missions, but if the country had to fight two major conflicts at the same time it would run a high risk of increased casualties because of shortfalls in the ability to move, supply and protect troops, the Pentagon said August 30.

In an assessment required by Congress every three months, the Pentagon said the military services are facing training problems, personnel shortages and aging equipment. Even so, it concluded that "America's armed forces remain capable of executing" the military strategy of the Clinton administration.

The report comes amid growing debate between the presidential campaigns of Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush about whether the Clinton administration has sapped the U.S. military of the strength it needs to maintain the nation's status as the world's lone remaining superpower.

Just last week, Defense Secretary William Cohen disagreed with Bush's assertion that the military is "in decline" and that morale is low.

"Things are on the upswing," Cohen said August 21, noting recent improvements in the services' ability to recruit and retain troops. "While there's always room for improvement, we've got the best in the world."

The latest Pentagon assessment is nearly identical to the one it provided to Congress three months ago, except that it judged the military's readiness against a somewhat more stressing theoretical baseline — fighting two major wars at the same time, rather than one war and one small-scale crisis.

Thursday's Pentagon report to Congress was a summary of a classified report and covered the period April-June 2000. It includes an assessment of the Pentagon's ability to execute a notional scenario in the context of U.S. military commitments as of March 15, which included peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and Kosovo, plus Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps air patrols over northern and southern Iraq.

The scenario postulated that war broke out between North and South Korea, followed by war in the Persian Gulf.

The conclusion drawn was that "most major combat and support forces are ready to meet assigned taskings under this scenario, although there are force readiness and capability shortfalls that increase risk in executing operations."

The term "risk" in this context means the risk of not meeting field commanders' timetables for moving forces to a theater of war and executing the war plan. It does not mean the risk of failing to win the war, but rather the risk that longer timelines for starting combat operations would mean higher U.S. casualties.

The assessment said there was a "moderate" risk associated with responding to the first war — in Korea, under the scenario — and a "high" risk for the second war, in the Gulf. The report offered no more precise definition of these ratings.

Congress was given more detailed assessments in the classified version of the report.

The non-classified report cited several areas of "strategic concern," all related to the military's ability to build up forces where war had broken out and to initiate a counteroffensive. These include shortfalls in mobility and logistics; deficiencies in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; limits in dealing with threats from terrorists and weapons of mass destruction, and the vulnerability to cyberattacks.

The report included specific assessments for each service, including:

  • Army personnel readiness is a concern. It has shortages in some critical enlisted skills and at the rank of captain, but it has shown recent improvement in retaining soldiers and finding new recruits.
  • The Navy's limited aviation equipment is a concern. It would experience shortfalls if its air wings and carriers had to support the second of two nearly simultaneous major theater wars. Also of concern is the availability in sufficient numbers of the EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare planes that jam enemy radars.
  • The Marines are meeting their recruiting goals. Its land warfare equipment is ready for operation, but there are questions about its ability to sustain that equipment in the longer term because of aging and corrosion.
  • The Air Force faces shortages in many critical job skills. Shortages of spare parts and skill-level mismatches in many personnel areas are creating problems that hurt the Air Force's ability to train.

Charges dropped against boy arrested during Elian protests

Charges have been dropped against the youngest person arrested during protests over the government's April seizure of 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez.

Christopher Quintana, 11, was accused of blocking traffic and inciting a riot, a felony. The charge was later dropped, but the sixth-grader still faced one count of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor.

On August 30, the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office dropped the misdemeanor charge. Prosecutors also dropped the same charge against his 16-year-old brother.

Don Ungurait, state attorney's office spokesman, said the charge was dropped because the arresting officer gave prosecutors a conflicting story about Christopher's actions.

More than 350 people were arrested when Cuban-Americans took to the streets and burned debris after the April 22 raid that removed Elian from his Miami relatives. None served jail time and most of the felony charges were dropped.

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