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The Right Answers.

Q. What exactly is "ecstasy," and what are its medical consequences?

W.B., Beech Grove, Ind.

A. Ecstasy is an illegal drug that has become associated with "raves," or all-night parties, because it can overpower the need to eat, drink, or sleep -- thereby enabling the user to party for extended periods of time. It affects a brain chemical called serotonin, which regulates sleep, appetite, mood, emotion, memory, and sexual behavior. Ecstasy, sometimes called XTC or E, reportedly induces euphoria and sexual arousal. The scientific name of the drug is methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or MDMA. The evidence indicates that heavy use of the drug can cause kidney and heart failure, and sometimes death. According to a study published in the British medical journal The Lancet, the drug may cause significantly more brain damage to women than to men.

Q. What happened to the McDonnell Douglas case in which the company was accused of selling sophisticated equipment to Communist China?

S.G., Keller, Texas

A. In 1995, McDonnell Douglas told the Commerce Department that aerospace equipment it had sold to Communist China had been found in a military facility in the city of Nanchang. The firm sold $5.4 million worth of sophisticated machine tools to Beijing in 1994.

In May of 2001, after a six-year investigation, the state-run China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corp. pleaded no contest to a violation of U.S. export laws and paid a fine of $1 million for its role. A California subsidiary of the Chinese company also paid $1.3 million.

Last November, McDonnell Douglas -- which is now owned by Boeing -- also paid a fine but admitted no wrongdoing. In one of the largest civil penalties ever involved in an export-control case, reported the Wall Street Journal, the Commerce Department "fined McDonnell Douglas $2.1 million for selling China aerospace equipment that wound up improperly in use at a military plant there."

The Justice Department, as part of the settlement, consented to drop all criminal charges.

Q. How many combat veterans are in the Congress these days?

L.L.A., Maryville, Tenn.

A. According to USA Today, 30 congressmen in the 435-member House of Representatives have combat experience. In the upper chamber, 12 of the 100 senators have combat experience.

The total number of military veterans -- with or without combat experience -- is 133 in the House and 38 in the Senate, says retired Rear Admiral James Carey, chairman of the National Defense Political Action Committee. The admiral has compared present-day figures on military veterans in Congress -- roughly one-third of the total -- to those of several generations ago when 70 percent of congressmen were veterans.

This change is significant. Armed Forces Journal International paraphrased Paul Arcari, director of government relations for the Retired Officers Association, as saying that "lawmakers who have not served have a harder time understanding the problems of multiple deployments, or dissent within the ranks concerning homosexuality in the military. Arcari said that much time has to be spent explaining issues that seem basic to the average career military person."

Q. Is the milk cartel in the Northeast really dead?

A.P., Woonsocket, R.I.

A. The Northeast Dairy Compact, which guaranteed a floor for the price of milk, expired last fall. But price-fixers don't give up that easily. As we write, farm legislation before Congress includes new price-fixing provisions that carry a price tag of $2.1 billion annually -- including $1.8 billion in higher prices and $300 million in higher nutrition costs. In essence, the legislation, which is being championed by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), would work like the old milk cartel -- but on a national scale.

Leahy, says a spokesman for the National Taxpayers Union, "has made a bad farm bill worse by essentially proposing to resurrect the Northeast Dairy Compact and apply it to every region of America."

Q. Were children in New York City's public schools allowed to celebrate Ramadan in school this past year?

K.V., Cayce, S.C.

A. That, at least, was the intent. As the New York Post reported on November 15th: "Muslim students will be permitted to pray in school during the holy period of Ramadan." That move was praised by William Donahue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, who also commented: "It is only fitting that the New York City public schools extend to Jews and Christians the same respect for their religious traditions and observances that they now extend to Muslims."

Rather than extend such religious freedoms to Jews and Christians, Harold Levy, chancellor for New York City's public schools, canceled the privileges that had been granted to Muslims.
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Article Details
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Author:Hoar, William P.
Publication:The New American
Date:Jan 14, 2002
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