December 26 1994


December 26 1994


Turbulence in the skies

U.S. Transportation Secretary Federico Pena ordered a special examination of safety procedures at every airline in the United States after the second fatal crash in six weeks of an American Eagle airline passenger plane. Last week, a British-built Jetstream Super 31 crashed in North Carolina on its approach to Raleigh-Durham International Airport, killing 15 of the 20 people aboard. On Oct. 31, an American Eagle European-built ATR72 crashed in Indiana, killing all 68 people aboard, including four Canadians. After that accident, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration ordered ATRs grounded in icy weather.

Announcing that the FAA will hire an additional 300 safety inspectors, Peña set a timetable of 100 days to bring commuter airlines into line with the tougher standards that already apply to large airlines. Placing commuter flights—planes with 30 or fewer seats—under the same rules as larger carriers will bring more safety inspections of the smaller planes, reduce the number of hours pilots can fly and require dispatchers to assist crews in checking weather, determining the weight and balance of the plane, planning routes and other ground duties.

The new rules came as holiday travelers scrambled to cope with the suspension until Jan. 4 of all American Eagle flights from Chicago’s O’Hare airport. The airline cancelled its service to 32 Midwestern communities after a pilots union complained that pilots brought to Chicago from the southern states were insufficiently trained to handle December weather in the north.

Campaign ’96

Facing a Republican-controlled Congress in January—and a possible Democratic challenge to his renomination in 1996—President Bill Clinton offered voters an $83-billion tax cut as part of what he called “a middle-class Bill of Rights.” In a televised 10-minute speech from the Oval Office designed to portray the President as the true champion of working Americans, Clinton proposed a four-point package of tax breaks for families with annual incomes of up to $166,000 to help offset childrearing, college tuition, home-buying and catastrophic medical expenses. Clinton said that the five-year plan will be paid for with deep cuts in government bureaucracy.


Ending a month-long political crisis, the Irish Parliament elected former finance minister John Bruton, leader of the centreright Fine Gael party, prime minister. He will govern in coalition with the Labour Party. Bruton, 47, succeeds Albert Reynolds, leader of the Fianna Fail party, who resigned on Nov. 17 amid a furor over his government’s handling of an extradition request from Northern Ireland involving a child-abusing Roman Catholic priest.


French police detained 42 people suspected of being disciples of a doomsday cult that claimed 53 lives in Switzerland and Canada in October. Swiss investigators say that some members of the Order of the Solar Temple committed suicide but that others were murdered.


The ruling SWAPO party won Namibia’s first post-independence elections, taking 53 of the 72 seats in parliament, 11 more than it had in the previous house. SWAPO led the fight for Namibia’s independence from South Africa in 1990.


Ousted Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam and 66 of his military deputies went on trial for murder 20 years after their Marxist revolution. Mengistu remains in exile in Zimbabwe and will be tried in absentia. The defendants are charged with ordering the strangulation of Emperor Haile Selassie and the executions of thousands of opponents during a 17-year reign of terror. The trials were adjourned last week until March to allow defence attorneys time to prepare.


Despite a healthy lead in opinion polls, European Commission head Jacques Delors announced that he would not run as the Socialist candidate in France’s 1995 presidential race. Former Socialist prime minister Michel Rocard also took himself out of contention. The lack of strong leftist candidates boosts the prospects of the main conservative hopefuls, Prime Minister Edouard Balladur and Paris Mayor Jacques Chirac.


Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter accepted an invitation from Bosnian Serbs to fly to Sarajevo to discuss their latest peace proposals. Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic said that his side was willing to “compromise in some way” on territorial and other questions.