Family Styles

The week's big news, and how's it's being spun.
Nov. 25 1999 3:30 AM

Family Styles

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Hillary Clinton confirmed her Senate candidacy. Responding to a question at a teachers' union meeting in Manhattan, she said she would make an official announcement early next year. Everyone has assumed that she's running since this summer. She also confirmed that she will move to the house in Chappaqua, N.Y., that she and President Clinton recently purchased (but did not confirm that he will). She said the announcement came in response to public "excitement" about her candidacy and her need to address the issues "vigorously." Skepics said it was an effort to bounce back from recent public missteps and to prevent further erosion of support.

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The Labor Department proposed new workplace ergonomic regulations. Roughly 27 million workers at 2 million companies would be affected. The regulations focus on repetitive-motion injuries and require employers to: 1) identify and inform employees of musculoskeletal risks; 2) eliminate hazards after a single incident; and 3) pay injured employees' wages and benefits during recuperation. Labor's spin: The protections are long overdue. Business' spin: The costly regulations are excessive.

Fewer American households are made up of married couples with children. A University of Chicago study found that this type of household declined from 45 percent to 26 percent of the total between 1972 and 1998. Fifty-one percent of children now live with their two parents, down from 73 percent in 1972. The changes were attributed to: 1) increased cohabitation; 2) later marriages; 3) greater acceptance of divorce; and 4) aging baby boomers with "empty nests." Newspapers said the statistics signaled the decline of marriage and "traditional" families. But researchers said that Americans are increasingly recognizing that these "modern" households can work.

A mediator was appointed in the Microsoft lawsuit. Both sides agreed to let federal appeals court Judge Richard Posner oversee settlement talks. The negotiations must adhere to Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's recent "findings of fact," which ruled that Microsoft was a monopoly and had used its power to harm consumers. Investors agreed that the appointment of Posner, who has long opposed aggressive government intervention in antitrust cases, was good news for Microsoft. Legal analysts called the selection astute, saying Posner's sterling reputation and conservative credentials would increase the chances of settlement and decrease the likelihood that a resolution would be overturned on appeal. (Click here to read an assessment of Posner in Slate.)

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Texas A&M University is investigating the fatal collapse of a log pile. The collapse of the 40-foot pyramid, which was being set up for an annual bonfire, killed 12 and injured 27. Underclassmen were working high on the pile-- contrary to safety procedures--but officials don't yet know whether this contributed to the collapse. Aggies called it an unfortunate tragedy, but argued that the tradition was too important to abandon. Outsiders said the mishap was predictable and the tradition should be scrapped.

Serious crimes decreased 10 percent in the first half of 1999. An FBI survey, which tabulated violent and property crimes reported to police, showed declines in every category in cities of every size. Crime has now declined for seven and a half years. The reduction was variously attributed to: 1) more policing; 2) harsher prison terms; 3) fewer teen-agers; and 4) sustained economic growth. The optimistic take: The drop is " astounding … enormous and encouraging." The pessimistic take: Then why do we feel less safe than ever?

The NTSB chairman criticized investigators for leaking information on EgyptAir Flight 990. He said some leaks were false--including reports that co-pilot Gamil al-Batouti said, "I've made my decision now" before switching off the autopilot--but he refused to say what was on the cockpit voice recorder. The NTSB had planned to relinquish the probe to the FBI for a criminal investigation into whether Batouti intentionally downed the aircraft, but the Egyptian government requested more time to analyze the recordings. Batouti is suspected because: 1) he uttered a prayer 14 times as the plane dived; 2) his controls were in the "nose down" position, while the captain's were in "nose up"; and 3) the captain pleaded with Batouti to help him pull the plane out of its dive. The Egyptian spin: Investigators are rushing to judgment based on anti-Muslim bias. The American spin: There's still no evidence of any other cause.

D. C. United won the Major League Soccer Championship. The 2-0 victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy gave United its third title in the league's four-year existence. Washington fans hailed United as the league's " first and only dynasty." Skeptics said MLS must vastly improve marketing, telecasts, and the level of play before anyone else will care.

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Congress approved a final budget bill. The $385 billion compromise measure, which President Clinton has agreed to sign, passed 296-135 in the House and 74-24 in the Senate. Clinton gained: 1) additional funding for teachers and police; 2) environmental protections; and 3) money for international relief and foreign relations. The Republicans won: 1) a 0.38 percent across-the-board budget cut; 2) increased spending on defense and veterans' health; and 3) the ability to claim to have protected the Social Security surplus. Optimists hailed it as a restrained and responsible measure that "limits spending in a booming economy." Skeptics called it a pork-ridden sham, based on bookkeeping gimmicks.

A federal judge suspended California restrictions on ATM fees. The temporary injunction will allow banks in San Francisco and Santa Monica to continue charging non-customers for ATM use until a trial takes place. Last week, Bank of America and Wells Fargo barred non-customers from their Santa Monica cash machines in response to the city's ban on ATM surcharges. Banks' spin: We're winning in the courts. Consumer advocates' spin: But you've already lost in the court of public opinion.

Matt Alsdorf is a Slate editorial assistant.

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