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News Briefs, part 2

High Court Weakens Use Of Third-Party Witnesses

The Washington Post

The Supreme Court Tuesday weakened the ability of prosecutors to introduce some incriminating statements at child abuse trials.

The 5 to 4 ruling limits third-party testimony that might be used to rebut a charge that a child or other witness lied on the stand. The statements at issue backed a 4-year-old girl's claim that her father had sexually abused her. But the scope of the ruling, interpreting federal rules of evidence, goes beyond such allegations to other federal criminal and civil disputes.

Indritz, whose office represented Matthew Wayne Tome, accused of sexually abusing his daughter, hailed the ruling and reversal of an appellate decision affirming Tome's conviction. The justices said a federal trial judge had wrongly allowed the girl's mother, baby sitter, social worker and pediatricians to testify that she had said her father sexually abused her. The court said her potential motive in making the complaint and the timing of statements to people caring for her should have precluded the testimony.

The Historian and the Holocaust: Revisiting the Past

The Washington Post

Christina Jeffrey, hired and sacked as House historian in a matter of days, fell because she complained eight years ago that a Holocaust course failed to present the Nazi point of view. But it does.

Jeffrey, then a professor at Kennesaw State College in Marietta, Ga., where House Speaker Newt Gingrich used to teach, gave a lousy grade to a junior high school course called "Facing History and Ourselves." The problem, Jeffrey told the Department of Education in 1986, was that the course "lacks balance. Will former Nazis etc. be asked to speak?"

In fact, former Nazis were indeed included in the course.

So why did Jeffrey oppose the course? Why did her vehement opposition lead to congressional hearings and outraged headlines back then? And why did the rediscovery of that controversy lead to one of the quickest firings in recent history?

"Facing History" was an attempt to rise above the political battles that have watered down a generation of American textbooks. "We believe in a strong point of view," the course's executive director, Margot Stern Strom, said Tuesday. "We believe there is a difference between right and wrong. Textbooks for the most part avoid the question. We decided to look at one piece of history in depth and then say, Where are the universal connections?' "

So the course includes the original writings of Nazi ideologist Alfred Rosenberg and the speeches of Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.

What "Facing History" did not do is what Jeffrey wanted: give equal weight - "balance" - to the Nazi view.

No serious historian objects to teachers telling kids that the Holocaust was wrong. But Jeffrey and other conservatives were offended that the course sought to draw connections between the Holocaust and contemporary questions of race relations, homelessness and other hot issues.