The Behrend beacon. (Erie, Pa.) 1998-current, September 24, 1998, Image 6

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    Page 6- The Behrend College Beacon - Thursday, September 24, 1998
may have triggered
Mexican slayings
By Molly Moore
The Washington Post
MEXICO CITY - The execution
of 18 people in the Pacific coastal
town of Ensenada last week may have
been the result of a feud between mid
level traffickers over a drug deal gone
bad, according to Mexican law en
forcement officials.
Police are investigating allega
tions that Perm in Castro - who sur
vived the attack in which 18 family
members and neighbors were dragged
out of bed and shot dead in a predawn
massacre last Thursday _ was ordered
killed by a Mafia money-collector
angered w hen Castro absconded with
a drug haul without paying for it, of
ficials said.
file assassinations, whose vic
tims included two infants, six other
children and a pregnant woman,
stunned Mexican authorities, who
said they fear the trend among Mexi
can drug cartels toward the kind of
indiscriminate violence associated
with Colombian drug Mafias.
Until the past year, Mexican drug
organizations generally were known
for targeting individuals for revenge
or retribution and usually - though not
always avoiding attacks on
uninvolved family members or shoot
outs in public places that could harm
innocent bvstanders.
But last year, shortly after the
death of the country’s most powerful
drug lord, assassins walked into a
New Queen’s
reign of power
By Michael Colton
The Washington Post
ATLANTIC CITY - Hours after
realizing dream No. 1 by winning the
Miss America crown, Nicole Johnson,
previously Miss Virginia, realized
dream No. 2.
Near the end of the competition,
Johnson, who plans to be a journal
ist, said the person she would most
like to interview is Elizabeth Dole, “a
woman of integrity.” When she finally
returned to her hotel Sunday morn
ing to catch two hours of sleep, there
was a message: Liddy Dole called;
call her back when you get a chance.
These things happen when you’re
Miss America. Pat Robertson, the
founder of the Christian Broadcast
ing Network and her employer, called
Sunday morning, too.
But Johnson, 24, is not going to
have much time to return the calls. By
afternoon she was whisked away to
New York, where she was to appear
on ABC's "Good Morning America”
and "The View” and pick out her trav
eling wardrobe for the next year from
the designers of her choice. Then to
California and “The Tonight Show
with Jay Leno” and the start of her
whirlwind tour of the country. She’s
big time now.
Johnson appeared at her first
news conference Sunday as Miss
America, but it will take some time
before the public really discovers who
she is. Though the theme of
Saturday's pageant was self-expres
sion. only after a winner is crowned
can she truly be herself and distin
guish her personality from those of all
the other good-hearted women. The
pressure is off. There are no more
judges to impress. The job interview
is over. Spontaneity can occur with
out the prodding of coaches and cer
tified image consultants.
For now, Nicole Johnson of
Roanoke, Va., is a typical pageant
winner, perky, earnest, likable and
conventionally pretty. She’s a 5-foot
9, 133-pound brunet with a nice fig
ure and a cute pinch of baby fat under
her chin. Not that it matters, of course,
because Miss America these days is
not a beauty queen but a socially mo
tivated activist. Which is why Johnson
refused to put on her crown for the
benefit of photographers Sunday
morning. “The crown is just a sym
bol. it’s not what Miss America is
about,” she said.
It’s about diabetes, for Johnson.
popular restaurant in the border city
of Ciudad Juarez across the river from
El Paso, Texas, and killed six diners
in a spray of bullets intended to kill
two drug associates.
Last week’s attack on three fami
lies that resided in a ranch compound
near the coastal town of Ensenada in
Baja California about 60 miles south
of the U.S. border was the largest
Mexican drug-related slaying on
record and the first in which entire
families were murdered as part of an
alleged revenge killing.
“There is a rule among the car
tels - the children are never touched,"
said one Mexican official with many
years of experience in observing the
country’s drug operations. He and
other Mexican authorities said they
have no explanation for the indis
criminate nature of last week’s mas
sacre, in which the victims were lined
up against a concrete wall and ex
Castro reportedly is hospitalized
in a coma after receiving bullet
wounds to the head. Among those
killed were his wife and two-year-old
son, and his brother-in-law and wife
and their five children.
Mexican authorities have de
tained 10 men whose weapons gen
erally match those used in the
slayings, but have not filed any
charges pending the results of ballis
tics tests.
Although law enforcement au
thorities from different agencies are
She’s more attached - literally - to her
social platform than most Miss
America contestants. For the past year
Johnson has worn an insulin pump to
treat the life-threatening disease,
which she has had for five years.
“People with diabetes need a role
model, a spokesperson, and an advo
cate to push for legislation for them,”
she says. Already Johnson has served
as the Virginia spokesperson for the
National Diabetes Association and
lobbied Congress for increased re
search funding.
Her pump, a small black box
called the Mini Med 507 C, is attached
to a small catheter tube the size of a
woman’s fingernail. With the help of
a needle, she inserts the tube into her
hip or her stomach, taking it out only
to shower or swim. Or to walk onstage
in a turquoise blue bikini, as she did
Saturday night.
“I didn’t want it to be confusing
to the audience and the judges,” she
says. “Everyone thinks it’s a beeper.”
During the rest of the pageant the
pump was discreetly positioned un
derneath various gowns, like the black
Vera Wang with mock turtleneck she
wore during the evening-wear com
petition. Over the year, she will make
her pump more recognizable; during
the news conference, she gladly re
moved it and held it up for photogra
She also removed the tube for an
8 a.m. romp in the ocean this morn
ing, an annual Miss America tradition.
Johnson was bom in Florida but
moved to Virginia Beach in 1996 to
earn her master’s degree in journal
ism at Regent University. She failed
three times to earn the Miss Florida
title while studying English at the
University of South Florida, but be
came Miss Virginia on her second try.
(She doesn’t have a boyfriend, for the
On the religious-journalism
front, she’s been a writer and producer
for “The 700 Club” on the Christian
Broadcasting Network, and wrote for
a CBN show co-hosted by Terry
Meeuwsen, Miss America 1973.
During the pageant, Johnson
sang “That’s Life” and spoke with co
host Meredith Vieira about feeling
denial, depression and anger after her
illness was diagnosed. Now, she says,
“diabetes is the best thing that ever
happened to me,” because it’s taught
her to overcome obstacles.
World and Nation
continuing to pursue several lines of
investigation, federal drug investiga
tors said they believe that Fermin
Castro, 38, was one of the many
bajadores, or logisticians, responsible
for loading and unloading drug ship
ments under loose contracts with the
Tijuana-based Mafia run by the
Arellano Felix family, one of
Mexico’s two largest drug cartels.
Law enforcement officials said
informants have told them that Castro
worked for a mid-level “collector,” or
money man for the cartel, named
Ismael Higuera Guerrero and known
as “El Mayel.” Those informants al
lege that Castro snared a large load
of marijuana without paying Higuera
his cut for the shipment.
That scenario parallels the pat
tern of revenge killings in the Mexi
can drug underworld in which most
victims are murdered for double
crossing or threatening the power
structures within cartels rather than
because of battles between major
Mafias. The murder of drug trafficker
Rafael Munoz Talavera in Juarez two
weeks ago allegedly was ordered by
one of the most powerful leaders of
the Juarez Cartel who believed Munoz
was attempting to organize a shift in
the Mafia’s power structure, Mexican
authorities said. They dismissed early
reports that sought to link the
Ensenada slaying and the Munoz ex
ecution with a feud between the
Juarez and Tijuana cartels.
River pollution linked to widespread sexualdefects in fish
By Marla Cone
Los Angeles Times
In a surprising scientific discov
ery that suggests pollution is feminiz
ing animals throughout the wild, ev
eryday concentrations of sewage ef
fluent in rivers appear to contain
estrogenlike chemicals potent enough
to cause fish to be born half-male,
The finding by British scientists
provides strong new evidence that
hormone-altering pollution - one of
the most troubling and controversial
environmental issues of modem times
- could be a global ecological threat
Other recent studies had found
scattered populations of animals with
bizarre sexual defects living in highly
polluted waters, but the new research
suggests that the problems are more
widespread than previously detected.
The British researchers said they
uncovered “very compelling evi
dence” that sewage treatment plants
routinely release hormonelike com
pounds into rivers that are feminiz
ing “a surprisingly large proportion”
of wild fish. The fish were found in
eight rivers throughout Great Britain
that are considered typical in terms of
pollution, so scientists suspect dam
age to sex hormones is so pervasive
that it could be happening in many
rivers around the world.
“The incidence and severity of
intersexuality ... is both alarming and
intriguing,” researchers from Brunei
University and the British govern
ment reported in the September issue
of the journal Environmental Science
and Technology.
Some male fish have such mixed
up hormones that they are bom with
ovaries and eggs instead of sperm
ducts. In two of the eight rivers down-
Prison officers
By Mark Gladstone and Mark Arax
Los Angeles Times
former associate warden and five
other high-ranking officers at
Corcoran State Prison, disciplined in
a highly publicized inmate abuse
case, have had their jobs restored
with back pay.
A Sacramento Superior Court
judge on Friday set aside the disci
pline that followed the alleged beat
ing of 36 black inmates in 1995, say
ing prison officials failed to ad
equately spell out the charges against
the officers.
Department of Corrections of
ficials expressed disappointment that
the case was thrown out on what they
characterized as a technicality and
Switched-Baby support case dismissed
By Patricia Davis
The Washington Post
gan seven months ago as a routine
domestic-relations case. A mother,
Paula Johnson, asked a judge to or
der her former boyfriend, Carlton
Conley, to pay the $75 a week he had
promised to help support their daugh
ter, Callie Marie.
Monday, that judge awarded cus
tody of 3-year-old Callie to Johnson,
31, and set visitation for Conley, 34.
But he dismissed the child-support
case of Johnson vs. Conley , pointing
to what has since become a fact
known nationwide; Conley is not
Callie’s biological father.
“I can’t enforce it,” Juvenile and
Domestic Relations Judge F.W.
Somerville told Johnson Monday at a
hearing in this picturesque town of
250. “I can’t order him to pay child
Somerville’s ruling brought an
anticlimactic end to a child-support
case that led to the revelation that
Callie was not the daughter of Conley
and Johnson but had been swapped
with another baby girl just after birth
at the University of Virginia Medical
Center in Charlottesville.
The case was played out in news
papers and on television sets across
America, as details of the swap
emerged. It turned out that Johnson’s
baby, who became Rebecca Grace
Chittum, had been given to a teen-age
mother named Whitney Rogers and
that the baby Johnson had taken home
was actually the daughter of Rogers
and her boyfriend, Kevin Chittum.
stream of sewage treatment plants,
100 percent of the male fish sampled
had feminized reproductive tracts,
ranging from severe to slight. The
other six rivers had rates from 20 per
cent to 80 percent.
Hundreds of widely used man
made chemicals - including pesti
cides, industrial compounds, dioxins
and ingredients of plastics and deter
gents - are believed to mimic estro
gen or block testosterone, disrupting
the endocrine system that is critical
to sexual development.
In their report, the scientists
called their findings “the first docu
mented example of a widespread
sexual disruption in wild populations
of any vertebrate.” Hormonal havoc,
however, has previously been re
ported in alligators, birds, river otters,
carp and other U.S. wildlife in isolated
locations .
The phenomenon of “intersex”
animals was first discovered in the
19705, but it was dismissed as a fluke
until the early 19905, when biologists
found feminized alligators in a highly
polluted Florida lake and began to
suspect that man-made chemicals
were altering sex hormones.
The British work “is an ex
tremely important study for many rea
sons,” said Theo Colbom, a World
Wildlife Fund scientist and activist
who was one of the first to notice a
pattern of hormonal problems in ani
mals. The sexual damage the re
searchers found “is pervasive, it’s
widespread,” Colbom said. “That’s
juuiui rveis, a isuigeis university
marine biologist who studies the im
pact of pollution, said the British re
search “lends more support to endo
crine disruption as being a very seri-
ous issue.”
in abuse case get j
said they might appeal
Pam Smith-Steward, the
department’s chief legal counsel, said
Judge Cecily Bond found that the
notice of charges filed against the of
ficers “didn’t specifically cite” the
procedures and regulations they were
accused of violating.
According to the department’s
investigation of the June 21, 1995,
incident, shackled inmates were
kicked, punched and slammed into
walls by dozens of baton-wielding
officers as Associate Warden Bruce
Farris and other supervisors watched
at the prison south of Fresno. The in
cident occurred as the inmates got off
a bus from Calipatria State Prison in
the Imperial Valley.
A few inmates suffered broken
bones, and two dozen others were
Rogers and Chittum were killed
in a traffic accident in July; they died
never knowing that Rebecca was ac
tually Paula Johnson’s biological
The search for Paula Johnson’s
biological baby began after
Somerville ordered genetic tests to
determine whether Conley was
Callie’s father. The tests revealed not
only that he was not the father but also
that Johnson wasn’t Callic’s mother.
Subsequent testing indicated that
Rebecca was Conley and Johnson’s
Somerville cited the initial test
results Monday in ruling that he had
no legal authority to enforce any
child-support payments. Instead, the
judge said, Johnson and Conley could
enter into a contractual agreement to
provide for Callie, a pact that could
be enforced through civil courts.
Johnson, whose relationship with
Conley has warmed during the past
few months, patted him tenderly on
the back Monday as they stood close
together at the bench. After the court
hearing, they wrote out a contract on
a piece of yellow paper, which they
then had notarized. They both agreed
that Conley, a construction worker,
would pay $75 a week to Johnson to
help support Callie, she said.
The single mother of four also
dropped a petition for a restraining
order to keep Conley, who once
served time for assaulting her, away
from her. She said he had been strug
gling to make the payments - $4O
here, $5O there - but that it had been
financially difficult for him.
“We’re a lot closer,” Johnson said
Adult animals are unharmed by
hormone-imitating pollutants; in
stead, the damage is inflicted on the
next generation. Mothers pass the
excessive amounts of estrogen to their
embryos or fetuses, which cannot dis
tinguish between fake estrogens and
real ones. When this estrogen boost
comes during a critical phase of
sexual development, genetic signals
go haywire and males are bom with
feminized genitalia or other reproduc
tive problems.
No one knows what threat, if any,
these man-made estrogens pose to
human health and fertility. Some sci
entists suspect that men exposed in
their mother’s womb might have de
pleted sperm counts that lower their
fertility; it also might explain a recent
surge in testicular cancer.
Hormones play the same vital
sexual role in humans as they do in
fish and other animals. Although
people are exposed through food and
water to the same pollutants as wa
ter-inhabiting animals, they encoun
ter much lower doses, so any human
effects may be subtle.
One of the most surprising as
pects of the British findings is that fish
are suffering so many sexual defects
in a part of the world with sophisti
cated environmental laws and tech
nologies. Scientists wonder how
minute concentrations of fake hor
mones in the environment - which are
hundreds of times less potent than
natural estrogen - could have such a
severe impact.
The scientists do not know which
chemicals are to blame, since sewage
is a mix of wastes from homes and
industries - everything that is washed
down drains.
The culprits could be anything
from the urine of women excreting
forced to their knees and had their hair
In December 1996 the State Per
sonnel Board upheld disciplinary ac
tions against the six officers. It agreed
with the findings of an administrative
law judge who sat through two
months of hearings.
But Friday, Bond reversed the
demotions of Lt. Robert Dean, Sgt.
Reginald Parra and Sgt. John Misko
and the 60-day suspension without
pay of Lt. Harold McEnroe.
The judge also overturned the
dismissal of Farris and the demotion
of Lt. Raul Garcia.
Michael Rains, a Walnut Creek
attorney who represented most of the
officers, said charges against Farris
and Garcia involving minor violations
were upheld and sent back to the per-
of Conley after the court hearing, not
ing all that they had been through to
gether. Johnson said they are both try
ing to forge a relationship with their
biological daughter, Rebecca, who is
being raised by the parents of Rogers
and Chittum. Both families have
agreed to keep Callie and Rebecca in
their current arrangements and to raise
the girls together.
The two families have become
one, Johnson said. Rebecca calls
Conley, her biological father, “that
boy,” and calls Johnson “other
mommy Paula.”
“There’s no reason to adopt”
Callie, Johnson said. “Nobody is
adopting nobody.” Johnson said she
has not told Callie, who just started
preschool, that she is not her biologi
cal mother. But Johnson said that she
does not prevent Callie from watch
ing television and that the girl’s fa
vorite thing to watch has been “my
mommy, my daddy and my lawyer.”
As their story has played out,
Johnson says, it upsets her when she
is not referred to as Callie’s mother
in media reports.
“That is my child,” she said in
an interview Monday. “That upsets
me that people say I’m just raising her.
She’s my daughter, (and) Rebecca is
my daughter.”
Johnson said that she saw
Rebecca most recently on Sept. 15
and that Rebecca and Callie are just
typical, happy 3-year-olds. Conley,
who declined to comment Monday,
will see Callie twice a week and ev
ery other weekend.
artificial hormones from birth control
pills, to pesticides or plastics.
“It’s really anybody’s guess as to
what is causing this,” said Weis, who
serves on a U.S. Environmental Pro
tection Agency task force developing
a national plan to screen chemicals for
hormonal effects.
Evidence is emerging that wild
life is being feminized in waters
where modern environmental prac
tices and laws are followed and the
ecosystem appears outwardly healthy.
“The rivers we studied are typi
cal rivers in Great Britain and are not
particularly known for contamination
or industrial dumping,” said Brunei
biologist Susan Jobling, one of the
authors of the fish study.
The reproductive damage might
have dire consequences for an ecosys
tem, because if males are sterile, an
entire animal population might gradu
ally be depleted. Fish, in particular,
are an important link in the world’s
food chain.
So far, the fish in the British study
- a species called “roaches” - remain
abundant, even in the Aire and Nene
rivers, where 100 percent of tested
males were feminized. Apparently
some of the males still have enough
of their systems intact to reproduce.
“What we still don’t know is if
these intersex fish are reproductive or
not. That’s the bottom line,” Weis
said. “Some of them have no sperm
ducts, so obviously they can’t repro
Because females are more criti
cal to reproduction than males, popu
lations can regenerate themselves
even if only a few males are fertile.
Over the generations, though, if femi
nization remains unchecked, fisheries
could collapse.
obs back
sonnel board for action. Rains could
not immediately estimate how much
back pay the officers would receive.
The attorney said the officers
were carrying out the instructions of
former Corcoran Warden George
Smith when he ordered the inmates’
hair cut if they did not remove their
Rains described the Corrections
Department investigation as “a sham
and a farce,” saying the agency “took
the stories of the inmates at face value
... when there was not physical evi
dence to support their stories.”
But Bond’s ruling is not likely to
quiet the controversy that has sur
rounded the case for more than three