The bullet-ridden and blood-stained diary of Malcolm X, which had been in his coat pocket when he was assassinated, turned up on the Butterfield & Butterfield auction block in May, much to the dismay of officials at the New York Municipal Archives, in whose custody it was supposed to be, says THE VILLAGE VOICE.
The FBI is now investigating the case to determine how the diary, part of a vast collection of evidence in the assassination case, was removed from the archive in the first place. The FBI was tipped off by the VOICE when the newspaper called the bureau about the planned auction. Butterfield’s, which refused to identify the seller of the diary, had planned to start the bidding at $50,000.
INS frees woman fleeing genital mutilation
A 29-year-old woman who fled Ghana for the United States to avoid ritual genital mutilation was freed by court order INS after spending two years in a INS detention cell, according to the ASSOCIATED PRESS. The INS had arrested Adelaide Abankwah when she arrived seeking amnesty in 1997.
Abankwah told INS officials that if she were to return to her home, tribal leaders would kill her or perform ritual genital mutilation as punishment for having lost her virginity before marriage.
The INS had threatened to deport Abankwah before it had even decided whether to grant her request or not. An appeals court ordered the INS to free her while it deliberated over her request. The court cited existing INS precedent which stipulates that genital mutilation is legitimate persecution and sound basis to grant amnesty. The INS still hasn’t decided on the case, and could still deport Abankwah.
Fuel economy makes for unsafe cars
A study just released by the Competitive Enterprise Institute reveals the bitter irony of the law of unintended consequences. According to the ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS NETWORK, the study reports that fuel economy standards adopted to reduce American dependence on foreign oil in the 1970s have opened the door for automakers to build small, unsafe cars that result in 2,600 to 4,500 deaths per year.
Environmentalists argue that the standards do not force the industry to build unsafe cars — they build them to reduce costs and increase profits. The study’s authors shoot back that building smaller cars are the easiest way to increase fuel efficiency — and a sure way to reduce safety.
The study may play a role in the debate over new fuel standards. Environmentalists support the standards because they say they will help prevent global warming. In fact, they are currently pushing policymakers to toughen fuel efficiency standards — demanding that cars get even more miles to the gallon. Bad idea, say this study’s authors. Raising the standards will further encourage the manufacture of small, dangerous cars and thereby increase auto deaths to between 3,800 and 5,700 deaths per year. If policymakers believe the study, they may find themselves directly between a rock and a very hard place.
Space nerds dreamed up SDI policy
The original idea for Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, a.k.a. Star Wars — which aimed to construct a virtual shield that would protect the U.S. from incoming missiles — was actually dreamed up by a bunch of science-fiction writers, writes Norman Spinrad in LE MONDE.
Spinrad, who is himself a science-fiction writer, recounts the early 1980s as a time when many space enthusiasts were frustrated by cuts in NASA’s budget and the possibility that space exploration would be confined to “low Earth orbit.” He claims that the Citizens’ Advisory Council on National Space Policy — headed by a politically-connected sci-fi writer named Jerry Pournelle and composed of other writers, space industry executives, and scientists — aimed to influence the Reagan administration’s space policy. At the time, Spinrad claims, Pournelle knew Reagan’s National Security Advisor Richard Allen. Through Allen, the Council was given “direct access to the highest levels” of the government.
According to the article, the Council managed to convince the Reagan administration that the Pentagon (which had a much larger budget than NASA) should fund the construction of a space shield to protect the country from enemy missiles. The idea was simple: The Pentagon gets a new defense toy, and the space geeks get a whole new shot at deep space exploration.