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web posted December 27, 1999

Thousands of Cubans press for boy's return

Thousands of Cubans wearing T-shirts bearing a joyless portrait of political poster child Elian Gonzalez took to the streets to demand the United States return the 6-year-old boy.

"Fidel! Squeeze them, so Cuba is respected!" communist youth chanted to their president, Fidel Castro, as thousands of children, teens holding hands and adults staged a colorful demonstration 300 feet from the U.S. Interests Section on Havana's Malecon seaside boulevard.

Elian has become a symbol both for Cuba and anti-Castro Cuban-American exiles since he was rescued November 25 clinging to an inner tube off Florida and taken to the United States.

The boy was discovered after his mother died during an apparent attempt to illegally reach the United States. To Cuba's consternation, he was placed in the temporary custody of relatives in Miami while U.S. officials consider his Cuban father's claims on the boy.

Castro's call for renewed street demonstrations on December 20 suggested the communist leader was growing impatient waiting for a response from U.S. authorities. Members of Cuba's parliament -- which passed a resolution demanding the boy's release earlier that day -- attended the rally.

With a stiff sea breeze flapping thousands of paper flags hoisted in the air, a children's choir accompanied by Afro-Cuban percussion instruments sang a homage to Elian. Folk songs and numerous tributes to the child followed.

"Free Elian!" and "Fidel and Elian!" chanted the crowd.

Juan Miguel Gonzalez says his ex-wife took Elian from Cuba without his permission. Elian's relatives in Miami promise him a better life in the United States, and they want political asylum for the child.

"If we keep fighting, we'll win!" Rafael Cervantes, a 41-year-old university Marxism professor, said as he watched the demonstration.

"They have lawyers. We have the entire people," insisted Reinaldo Lopez, a 49-year-old teacher at a technical school, as he waved toward the crowd around him. "And we believe most of the American people are with us on this."

The new round of protests followed a 10-day respite, apparently to give U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service officials time to interview the boy's father and issue a decision. Gonzalez met with INS officials in his hometown of Cardenas on December 13.

The boy's great-uncle Lazaro Gonzalez and cousin Marisleysis Gonzalez -- who are seeking political asylum for the boy in the United States -- had their own meeting with INS officials in Miami.

The pair was invited to demonstrate why they think Elian should remain in the United States, INS spokesman Mike Gilhooly said.

Cuban officials say the longer Elian remains in the United States, the greater the risk he will suffer permanent psychological harm. They were infuriated by images of Elian being taken to Walt Disney World, shown a prospective classroom in a Miami school, and draped with an American flag.

A group of U.S. senators led by Florida Sen. Connie Mack sent a letter to President Clinton the day of the protest asking that Elian be granted American citizenship.

"Later in life, as an American citizen, he will have the freedom to choose where he wishes to live," said the letter, signed by Mack and four other Republican senators, including majority leader Trent Lott of Mississippi.

Juanita Broaddrick sues Clinton Administration over alleged 'smear campaign'

Juanita Broaddrick, the Arkansas woman who maintains she was sexually assaulted by then-Arkansas Attorney General Bill Clinton in 1978, filed suit on December 20, accusing the president's office and Justice Department of trying to "smear and destroy her reputation" by maintaining a file on her.

The civil suit, filed in U.S. District Court, is the first legal action Broaddrick has taken since she was interviewed earlier this year regarding her allegations of assault, according to her lawyer, conservative activist Larry Klayman.

Klayman, whose Judicial Watch has filed several lawsuits against the Clinton White House, said that the White House's action is a violation of existing privacy laws.

Broaddrick's suit requests that the White House and Justice Department be ordered to produce any records related to her and to stop "unlawfully disseminating information from Plantiff's FBI and/or government files."

"We want to find out what information they have on her in violation of the Privacy Act and how she's been damaged by that information," Klayman told CNN.

"We know based on the Filegate lawsuit that the White House keeps files of perceived adversaries and critics," he said. "Filegate" refers to a disclosure that the Clinton White House once had improper possession of approximately 700 FBI background files, including the files of many prominent Republicans.

There is no evidence on the public record that the White House does maintain information on Mrs. Broaddrick. Broaddrick wrote the White House on October 12 seeking documents related to her.

That request was turned down by the White House, according to documents filed with the lawsuit.

But Associate White House Counsel Meredith E. Cabe replied in an October 27 letter that federal laws involving disclosure "apply only to records maintained by 'agencies' within the Executive Branch."

"The President's immediate personal staff and units in the Executive Office of the President whose sole function is to advise and assist the President are not included with the term 'agency' under the FOIA and Privacy Act," she wrote.

Thus, Cabe concluded, Broaddrick does not have a statutory right to the records, "if such records exist."

Klayman disputes the White House's legal position. He says the administration has acknowledged in the past it is subject to the provisions of federal laws and that a recent ruling by U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth in the FBI files matter supports that position.

The White House had no comment on the suit.

Ohio school voucher program ruled unconstitutional

A federal judge on December 20 tossed out Ohio's taxpayer-funded school voucher program, but said that children already enrolled under the plan could remain in their private schools until appeals are decided.

U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver Jr. barred the program for violating the constitutional separation of church and state.

"Thus, the program has the effect of advancing religion through government-supported religious indoctrination," Oliver said.

Most of the 56 schools that participate in the voucher program are religious organizations. The program gives needy children in the Cleveland area, from kindergarten up to the sixth grade, as much as $2,500 to attend private school.

"I am very disappointed with today's ruling, because I believe it takes away a valuable option for Cleveland parents and students and it interrupts an experiment that can shed light on how to best move forward with education reform," said Republican Gov. Bob Taft.

Most of the 3,543 students enrolled in the program attend religious, rather than secular, private schools.

In his ruling, Oliver cited part of the mission statement of a participating Catholic school: "dedicated to the formation of youth according to our Catholic traditions."

Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, called Monday's judgment "a powerful rebuke to those who believe the government can force taxpayers to support churches or church schools."

Some constitutional law experts, however, believe that the Supreme Court could very well overturn Oliver's decision.

"You do have some conservative (justices) who believe past rulings were overly restrictive under the first amendment on people who want to assert certain religious rights like prayer in public schools and this is an issue of freedom of choice," said Dr. Larry Dubin, a professor at University of Detroit Law School.

Oliver issued a temporary order halting the program just before the start of this school year. Students participating in the program in the past were allowed to continue getting funds as the case was pending.

Florida lawyer runs TV ad that alleges Bush had alcohol, cocaine problem

A Florida lawyer who is running for president is airing a political advertisement on New Hampshire's biggest television news station, alleging Texas Gov. George W. Bush suffered from "alcohol abuse" and had a cocaine problem.

Andy Martin, a West Palm Beach lawyer and perennial candidate for various political offices, is running the ad on WMUR-TV, an ABC affiliate that has aired presidential debates.

The Bush campaign said it had not asked WMUR to stop running the ad. Spokesman Ari Fleischer said WMUR would have to decide that on its own.

"It's part of the unfortunate nonsense that can come with political campaigns," Fleischer said. "These things are as mean-spirited as they are inaccurate."

WMUR spokeswoman Julie Campasano, who handles media inquiries about the station's advertising policies, said the station never considered witholding the ad.

"It wasn't even an issue. The law is the law," she said today. "The FCC says clearly, a legally qualified candidate can say whatever they want to say in their message, and we as a station have no authority, permission or right to censor or otherwise edit any of the spots."

In the ad, Martin alleges: "George Bush had a cocaine problem. His brain suffered from alcohol abuse. Don't trust Bush with your vote until he trusts you with the truth about his past."

Bush has refused to answer some questions about his past, saying only that he has not used illegal drugs since 1975. No evidence has surfaced that he ever used cocaine.

Martin began airing commercials in New Hampshire before Thanksgiving, calling himself "New Hampshire's favorite son for president."

Forbes addresses students on school choice, economy, morals

Republican presidential hopeful Steve Forbes restated for budding journalists his support for publicly funded school choice programs and his opposition to new restrictions on guns.

Forbes took questions for nearly an hour on December 21 at a St. Anselm College forum with about 40 newspaper editors from 13 New Hampshire high schools and two colleges.

Zachary Sullivan, a 17-year-old junior at Souhegan High School in Amherst, asked how public schools would survive if Forbes allowed parents to use taxpayer-funded vouchers to send their children to private schools instead.

Forbes said competition was key. "When schools know they're going to be judged on performance, by God, they will raise their standards," he said.

He noted that in Milwaukee, Wis., which has been experimenting with school choice, the public schools have pledged to offer free tutoring if a child is not reading at grade level by year's end. A federal judge in Ohio, meanwhile, has ruled that the state's voucher program unconstitutionally uses tax money for religious instruction.

Another student asked Forbes about school violence.

Forbes said there already were about 20,000 laws on the books and he accused the Clinton-Gore administration of doing a "poor job of enforcing" them.

"The killers at Columbine violated at least 17 different laws," he said, referring to the April shooting that killed a teacher and 14 pupils, including the two student gunmen.

Forbes also claimed that though there have been 12,000 cases in the past two years of students bringing guns to school, only about 14 have been prosecuted.

"What message does that send?" he asked.

Asked his opinion of the Vermont Supreme Court decision one day earlier that gay and lesbian couples should have the same protections and rights as married heterosexual couples, Forbes said it was "another instance of the courts stepping over the bounds."

"Courts are not supposed to make law," said Forbes, who, like most of his rivals, opposes same-sex marriage. "Elected officials are supposed to make law."

Canada files tobacco lawsuit

The federal government filed a $1-billion lawsuit on December 21 in U.S. Federal Court against tobacco companies, alleging a conspiracy to smuggle cheap smokes into Canada. Justice Minister Anne McLellan said the lawsuit against RJR-Macdonald Inc., related companies and the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers Council is intended to curtail smuggling, force them to surrender huge profits and recoup damages.

McLellan said RJ Reynolds companies set up "an elaborate network of smugglers and offshore shell companies to ensure an abundant supply" of cheap cigarettes in Canada, undermining Canada's policy of high taxes to restrict tobacco use.

Canada doubled taxes and duties on tobacco in February 1991 as part of a national strategy.

"These increases were designed to act as a deterrent to young people becoming addicted to cigarettes," said McLellan.

"However, this policy was frustrated by pervasive tobacco smuggling. In 1994, the problem became so acute that Canada had to take action and the government was forced to significantly reduce its taxes and duties on tobacco."

The justice minister said Ottawa didn't have enough evidence to file the lawsuit in Syracuse, N.Y., until charges were laid in the United States. More evidence will come out during the case, she said.

The suit is being launched under a U.S. racketeering law covering organized crime. Many of the defendants are U.S.-based, as are witnesses and documents relating to the case.

Ottawa alleges that high-level executives were involved in encouraging and authorizing the smuggling conspiracy.

"The tobacco companies cannot and will not be permitted to frustrate public policy in Canada, and that in large part is what this lawsuit is all about," said Health Minister Allan Rock, who expects to bring in tougher cigarette labelling requirements.

Rock also said he wants to increases taxes as much as possible.

The ringleader of a multimillion-dollar smuggling operation in northern New York was sentenced the day before McLellan's announcement to 17 years in prison.

Authorities say Larry Miller's ring smuggled $687 million worth of cigarettes and alcohol onto the Canadian black market from 1991 to 1997.

Hillary Clinton says Giuliani "gets angry quite often"

Hillary Rodham Clinton said on December 22 that Rudolph Giuliani "gets angry very often," raising the issue of the New York City mayor's temperament for the first time in their expected Senate campaign.

"I can't be responding every time the mayor gets angry about something because that's all I would do," she said after visiting a Salvation Army food distribution center.

"I don't see the point in getting angry all the time and expending all the energy when we could be figuring out a better way to take care of people," the first lady said.

Giuliani campaign chief Bruce Teitelbaum dismissed her comments, saying that "in this campaign there's only one person who as an elected official has worked with other elected officials from another political party and done so very effectively."

Teitelbaum also said Clinton's campaign "should be more concerned about the abuse of the campaign finance law and the use of soft money" on her behalf.

That was a reference to a New York Times report that same day that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee had set up "victory funds" to channel unlimited campaign donations into states with competitive Senate races, such as New York.

Clinton defended the funds during her Syracuse stop, saying she understood that they are "perfectly legal and have been used by the Republicans."

Her comments about Giuliani's temperament came a day after federal Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo, one of her supporters, said he was taking control of money for homeless services away from New York City.

Cuomo, citing a court ruling against Giuliani's administration, said the Republican mayor unfairly kept money from going to providers who had been critical of him.

Giuliani accused Cuomo of playing politics, and noted that Cuomo's chief New York deputy recently signed on as Mrs. Clinton's campaign manager.

Aides to the first lady encouraged reporters to ask her about the controversy.

"I know it made the mayor angry, but the mayor always gets angry about things," she quickly answered when asked the housing funds.

Clinton ducked questions about whether she believed Giuliani's personality made him unsuitable for the Senate.

"I can only talk about what I would do in the Senate and that would be to work with people on a daily basis, some of whom I will disagree with rather significantly," she said.

"When you go to the United States Senate, you're one of a hundred. If they don't vote for the position you want them to vote for, you can't fire them ... You have to work with people," she said.

Neither Mrs. Clinton nor Giuliani are official Senate candidates, though the first lady has said she will announce her candidacy early next year.

On the campaign finance issues, Clinton said that while she would like to see unlimited "soft money" donations banned from political campaigns, she would not forgo it "unilaterally." The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee already has spent several hundred thousand dollars on TV ads promoting her in upstate New York.

"I would certainly entertain a complete agreement on the part of any opponent in my race that everyone would avoid the use of soft money and not permit any independent expenditures on a candidate's behalf," Clinton added.

Clinton: 'Instinct' is not to seek legal fee reimbursement

President Clinton says he might be entitled to government reimbursement for his legal expenses, but "his instinct" is not to seek it.

Clinton addressed a recent report in The Washington Post that he and Hillary Rodham Clinton were strongly considering requesting taxpayer reimbursement of several million dollars in legal costs.

"I may be entitled to it. But my instinct is not to do it. But I've never really had a discussion about it," he said in an interview on CNN's `Larry King Live" that aired on December 23. CNN made available a transcript of the interview after the taping Wednesday.

"I've been very fortunate, I've had this legal defense fund. People have helped pay for my legal fees."

The president's lawyer David Kendall, has called the report "entirely premature" because there still was an independent counsel, and said it was hoped the legal defense fund "will be sufficient."

Clinton announces $900 million gift for homeless

President Clinton gave a Christmas gift to America's homeless on Christmas day, $900 million in grants to help them with housing, job training, mental health services and drug abuse treatment.

"Here at home, we're reaching out to the poorest among us -- to those who do not yet share in America's growing prosperity," Clinton said in his weekly radio address. "We're making new efforts to reach out to the homeless, to help them find housing, medical care and jobs."

The homeless grants are from the Housing and Urban Development Department and are aimed at funding more than 2,000 projects in all 50 states and Washington D.C. The White House estimated the grants will help 245,000 homeless people.

The announcement came as Clinton enjoyed a quiet Christmas Day at the White House with his wife Hillary, daughter Chelsea and other family members.

The Clintons wished Americans a merry Christmas and a happy New Year in a videotaped Christmas card taped earlier in the week.

"At the dawn of this new millennium, let us reflect on our hopes, our dreams, and the gifts we can give to the future," said Mrs. Clinton, who is running for a New York Senate seat. "Let us all cherish the gift of every child among us and pledge to build a world worthy of all our children."

The president thanked American men and women serving in the military at duties around their world for their service.

"Thank you for the greatest gift of the season, for protecting our nation and safeguarding the blessings we all hold dear," he said.

The release of the homeless grants, which was already in the federal budget and approved by the Republican-led Congress, was timed to coincide with the traditional season of giving, when many Americans make charitable donations.

A total of $750 million of the HUD assistance is targeted for programs to provide homeless people with transitional and permanent housing, and fund social services such as job training, child care, substance abuse treatment and mental health services.

Non-profit organizations receiving money include chapters of the Salvation Army, Volunteers of America and Catholic Charities.

The other $150 million comes from the Emergency Shelter Grants program for 311 local jurisdictions in all 50 states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico.

The money can be used to improve the quality of existing emergency shelters and make available additional shelters and transitional housing.

"The tragedy of homelessness can be reversed, one person at a time, when we give homeless people the opportunity to turn their lives around," said HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo.

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