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web posted January 8, 2001

NH GOP chairman: Nashua legislator should quit House seat

The chairman of the state Republican Party on January 1 called for the resignation of a freshman legislator whose Internet writings advocated the killing of police officers.

"I find his comments extraordinarily disturbing and I think he should consider whether he should resign," New Hampshire State Republican Committee Chairman Stephen Duprey said.

Duprey also said Nashua Republican Tom Alciere's views are "antithetical" to those of the Republican Party and could prompt party officials to ask that he be censured at the annual committee meeting January 27.

"The Republican Party, based on our platform, completely disavows those views," Duprey said.

"The Republican Party is supportive of the role of the law enforcement community and the incredibly difficult job they do," he said.

Alciere, 41, who out-polled three incumbent Democrats in Nashua's heavily-Democratic Ward 4 last November, has taken credit for many online postings that advocated the killing of police officers.

He said he didn't discuss his views during the campaign because no one asked him about them.
Another freshman Republican legislator said Alciere's victory not only gives the entire party a black eye, but also taints the freshman class of legislators.

"This is an embarrassment to the Republican Party and especially to being public servants as a whole," said freshman state Rep. Rob Thompson, R-Manchester.

Alciere admitted he is a Libertarian, but ran as a registered Republican to get elected.

Some privately have attributed Alciere's victory, at least in part, to straight-party balloting in which a voter makes one mark on the ballot to select all of the party's candidates for office.

Duprey, however, defended the practice.

"Generally, it works pretty well. Every once in a while there is an aberration," he said.

Thompson, who called himself a conservative Republican, said he found Alciere's remarks about police "appalling."

Alciere dismissed his online comments as "barroom" talk and the "rantings" of an angry, private citizen. As a legislator, he said he wants to work "constructively" on the issue of how individuals can defend themselves against police officers who are violating their rights.

In response to the controversy, the Libertarian Party of New York announced that Alciere's membership had been revoked in 1993 and refunded his dues based on his antisocial rantings. The party also stated that Alciere ran as a Republican because the Libertarian Party would not have let him on their ballot "and he knows it."

Libertarian Party members sign a pledge certifying they "do not believe in or advocate the initiation of force as a means of achieving political or social goals."

New Michigan CCW law triggers an outcry

Opponents of a new law that makes it easier to obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon in most Michigan communities are preparing a petition drive to block the law's implementation.

Wayne County Prosecutor Michael Duggan, one of the organizers of People Who Care About Kids, said January 2 the campaign to short-circuit the measure and place the question before voters will kick off within two weeks.

The concealed-weapons bill, long sought by local and national gun-rights organizations, was approved by the Legislature in December and signed by Gov. John Engler on New Year's Day.

If it goes into effect, the law will make Michigan the 32nd state where residents are generally presumed to have the right to carry a concealed weapon.

Residents who want to obtain a permit could do so starting July 1, under the law.

Michigan's law, which Engler described as "much tougher ...than any other state," raises the age for obtaining a permit from 18 to 21, and forbids felons, mentally ill people and a long list of misdemeanants from carrying weapons. The law also bans weapons from an array of public places, such as bars, sports arenas and schools.

But it removes much of the discretion from county gun boards, many of which have traditionally denied CCW permits to almost anyone other than off-duty law-enforcement officials.

That provision has incensed gun-control advocates, who fear that increasing the number of permit holders will lead to increased gun violence.

Duggan said he does not anticipate any difficulty in obtaining the 151,000 signatures needed to suspend the law's implementation and place the issue before voters in 2002.

"People are pretty outraged that their Legislature and Gov. Engler didn't listen to them," he said. "By the weekend after next, we're going to be collecting signatures in every store, ice rink and movie theater in the state."

Backers of the measure, however, contend that the petition drive itself will be short-circuited because the law includes a $1-million appropriation which, in theory, means it cannot be blocked by referendum.

The issue of whether the law can be blocked appears likely to be decided in court, if the law's opponents submit signatures to state elections officials. They have until March 28 to collect the signatures.

Brad Foster, president of the Michigan Coalition of Responsible Gun Owners (MCRGO), a group that promoted the legislation, said he is disappointed but not surprised by the challenge.

"It's just remarkable to me that people are willing to spend so much time and effort and money to keep other people from exercising a fundamental right," he said.

Foster said he is confident the law will go into effect.

The final version signed by Engler is a compromise, he said, that includes many restrictions opposed by the backers of gun rights. The gun-free zones are especially odious, he said, the equivalent of "criminal safety zones."

Engler's office had touted the exclusions in a news release announcing that the governor had signed the bill.

Taiwan 'still outguns the mainland'

Taiwan will retain military superiority over the mainland for at least four years despite Beijing's persistent build-up of arms, it was reported on January 2.

The army should be able to fight off the communists if they invade, the Liberty Times said, quoting a defence ministry report to the Taiwanese cabinet.

"Western military analysts think Taiwan can keep its military superiority up to the year 2005 because of a quality edge, although the Chinese communists overwhelm the Taiwanese forces in quantity," the report was quoted as saying. The Taiwanese military has 400,000 soldiers as compared with three million in the ranks of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

Sketching a likely invasion scenario, the ministry said the PLA could launch missiles to paralyse the island's political and economic establishment, followed by a blockade, and air and amphibious attacks.

The major threat, the ministry believes, would come from the mainland's 300 short-range ground-to-ground missiles, fleet of 60 submarines and 50 Russian Sukhoi fighter planes.

The PLA fired ballistic missiles into the shipping lanes off Taiwan in 1996 to try to scare voters away from backing then-president Lee Teng-hui for another four-year term. The attempt failed and Mr Lee was re-elected.

The ministry also warned the cabinet of the mainland's increasing military capacity in other areas, such as in cyberspace, strikes on the island's command and control centre, psychological attacks, and covert operations.

Canadian police unsure how to enforce new gun law

January 2, the day after Canada's newest gun law came into effect, gun owners tried to get rid of their now illegally held weapons and police struggled to cope with the new legislation.

Wes Bellmore, a spokesman for the Edmonton Police Service, said more than 100 firearms were turned in and many police officers were confused about the legislation and their role in its enforcement.

"A lot of [enforcement] for the first few months is going to be entirely at the discretion of the officers," Bellmore said.

Under the new legislation, residents of Canada must have a possession licence in order to own or hold firearms and to purchase ammunition. They must also apply for a possession and acquisition licence to purchase new weapons.

Bellmore said members of his police force were displeased that the role of interpreting the rules of Bill C-68, the Firearms Act, fell to them.

"In general, police would hope that any law they have to enforce would be easily understood both by the police and the public," he said. "I don't think I need to say that [Bill C-68] does not meet that requirement."

The controversial legislation has been the subject of heightened criticism in the months leading up to its enactment on Jan. 1. Critics say the law turns gun owners who fail to apply for a licence into criminals.

David Austin, a spokesman for the Canadian Firearms Centre, the federal agency responsible for administering the new law, said that gun owners have had plenty of time to apply for their new licences and have only themselves to blame for failing to do so.

"We put out ads from late November through late December telling people what their options were," Austin said. "You have to either license yourself, deactivate [your gun], sell it or dispose of it. But hanging on to it in the basement and not doing anything is not an legal option."

Allan Kerr, owner of MilArm Co. Ltd., an Edmonton gun shop, said that in the final three days of December, he and his employees had purchased more than 100 guns from owners who had yet to apply for a new firearms possession licence, and deactivated many more.

"There was a lot of people who hadn't used their guns in years and instead of getting an ownership licence, they decided to sell them," he said.

Jim Hinter, the president of the National Firearms Association, chastised the federal Liberal government for implementing "bad legislation." He said that gun owners were being forced to surrender firearms that had become family heirlooms or face prosecution under the criminal code.

"Isn't that a shame?" Hinter asked.

"Here's somebody's heritage, something that Grandpa owned and maybe gave to them, and the government has put laws in place that is forcing them to give that up."

Besides the deadline, there would appear to be other problems. Bungled attempts at photography were the reason that some Canadians had to reapply for their gun licences under the new firearms law. But that was just one of the problems facing tardy Canadians who faced long lineups as they tried to apply for their licences just ahead of the new year's deadline.

An official from the Canadian Firearms Centre in Ottawa said there were problems with photos that accompanied the first batch of firearms licence applications from temporary centres set up in the fall.

Janet Long, a public affairs officer with the centre, said registration staff had trouble with instant cameras and many of the applications had to be resubmitted.

That was the case for Ernest Haynes, whose head filled only a tiny fraction of the Polaroid photo taken at the government site he went to.

What was supposed to be a simple $10 transaction turned out to be an extended headache for the Saint John, N.B., resident.

On Oct. 15 Haynes pointed out to the person taking the Polaroid snapshots that the composition made his face so small in the frame that it was hardly recognizable.

Months later, Haynes received a notice in the mail explaining that his application had been rejected - and he had to re-apply.

An exasperated Haynes did just that, but only after spending another $15 to get a passport portrait taken and processed.

"How much did the government waste on this? How many thousands of people were affected by this?" he asked.

Long said she couldn't specifically answer that question, but that problems with photos occurred at Outreach 2000 centres across the country initially.

"People were new with the cameras," she said.

Any person whose application has been rejected because of a problem with the photo or other lack of necessary information has until the end of June 2001 to resubmit their application, she said.

Gephardt says bigger tax cut may be needed

House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt said January 3 that because the economy is slowing, Congress may need to pass a larger tax cut than many Democrats have favored.

However, Gephardt predicted, Democrats will continue to resist the $1.3 trillion plan proposed by President-elect Bush, whose benefits would be tilted sharply in favor of those with higher incomes.

"I think we need a tax cut," Gephardt, D-Mo., said on NBC's "Today." "I've felt that and Democrats have felt that way for a long time. I don't know the exact size. It may be that it has to get bigger because the recession is looming and we've got economic worries out there."

Although various private and government statistics indicate the economic is slowing from its record 10-year expansion, there is no consensus that a recession is on the horizon.

With the closely divided 107th Congress convening that day, Gephardt said the parties are "going to fight over the complexion" of a tax cut. "Who gets it? How much do they get? We think hard-working middle-income families -- people trying to get in the middle class -- are the ones who really need this tax cut -- not the ones at the top.

"I think we can work out a compromise where everybody gets some of what they want" from a tax cut, Gephardt said.

Republicans tried to push a large tax cut through Congress last year but were blocked by President Clinton.

English Labour minister criticizes assault on firearms

The post-Dunblane ban on handgun possession has done nothing to stop criminals getting their hands on firearms, according to Kate Hoey, England's sports minister.

Kate HoeyShe accuses fellow Labour MPs of taking "a very unfair attitude" towards legitimate shooting activities and says it is an activity that young children should be encouraged to participate in. The minister, a farmer's daughter who enraged the anti-shooting lobby with her praise of British winners at the Olympics and Paralympics, also reiterates support of foxhunting in an interview in the January edition of Sporting Gun magazine.

Defending properly organised shooting activities, she says: "I have never accepted the link between legal holding of firearms and illegal weapons. I represent Vauxhall in London where there's a substantial number of illegal weapons on the black market, very easily available, and I'm not sure that the handgun ban has done anything to prevent illegal weapons getting into the wrong hands.

"Obviously, after Hungerford and Dunblane, there was a kind of attitude that somehow there must be something slightly wrong with anyone who was involved in shooting. I knew this to be untrue and I thought even some of my colleagues in the House of Commons took a very unfair attitude."

She says it is important that legitimate shooting be protected in any future legislation. "I will continue to do what I can to show people who are cynical and unsupportive of competitive shooting that it is a very good and disciplined sport that actually would be of benefit to many young people, in the right circumstances and with the right supervision," she adds.

On foxhunting, the minister states that she is opposed to a ban and will vote against one, but she says: "I'm afraid there will be a lot of people who have a complete and utter fixation on getting rid of hunting."

Apartment smoking may be banned

Two years after California expanded its toughest-in-the-nation ban on workplace smoking to cover all bars and restaurants, both bar profits and the law's popularity are on the rise — and a new movement to expand smoking restrictions into the home has begun.

The new move began in the ultraliberal Los Angeles suburb of West Hollywood, where the City Council in November passed an ordinance allowing nonsmoking apartment dwellers to file complaints when tobacco smoke drifts into their windows or doors from a neighbor's unit. Tenants who refuse city arbitration will face fines and eviction.

So far, densely-populated West Hollywood is the only California city with such a law, but city councils in other liberal bastions like Santa Monica and San Francisco say they'll monitor how the measure works and may imitate it soon.

"Smoke is a serious health hazard to people who have health problems and can't take being next to that smoke," said West Hollywood Councilman Paul Koretz. "But many of these people are on relatively low, fixed incomes and can't afford to move when they're bothered by their neighbors."

Democrats push conditions for free-trade areas

Democrats warned Republican President-elect Bush on January 3 that a proposed free-trade area of the Americas and other market-opening initiatives will stall in Congress if he refuses to address their concerns about workers' rights and the environment.

On the first day of the 107th Congress, leaders of the pro-trade New Democrat Coalition, representing nearly 90 centrist lawmakers in the House and the Senate, said they hoped to broker agreements with the Republican administration on trade policy as well as on tax cuts and education reform.

Like Bush, the New Democrat Coalition said one of its top priorities is completion of the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas and passage of other major market-opening initiatives, including trade deals with Jordan and Vietnam. But they said these initiatives are threatened so long as Bush refuses to address Democratic demands that new trade deals include standards protecting labor rights and the environment.

Nazi looting saved art, says gallery director

The Nazis may have unwittingly ''served the greater good of mankind'' by stealing art from Jews and protecting it from the ravages of war, says the director of a prestigious Canadian gallery.

Ian Lumsden, executive director of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton, told the Ottawa Citizen ''it's not the worst thing in the world'' that some art works stolen from European Jews have ended up in galleries and museums around the world.

''I don't really believe that people have right to ownership of a major work of art.''

Lumsden said he thinks ''the greater good of mankind might have been served inadvertently by the Nazis by virtue of the fact that, possibly, if some of these works had been left in homes in Amsterdam and God knows where, they'd have been bombed and the works might have been destroyed.''

Lumsden's comments outraged the Canadian Jewish Congress, which is involved in part of a growing global effort to restitute Nazi-looted art works to their original owners and their descendants.

''I find it an incredibly unacceptable comment by anyone who would think, in any way, that looting, theft and murder would be a route to saving or popularizing art or putting art in the public domain, inadvertently or otherwise,'' said Jack Silverstone, the organization's national vice-president.

Lumsden's remarks came during an interview about the lack of money his private gallery has to research the history of ownership of up to 25 European works purchased after 1933.

He called on the federal department of Canadian Heritage to give smaller museums such as his the money to better research their entire collections.

Lumsden said he is more concerned with Canadian native works that have been absorbed into non-native collections.

''I think we really, really should have done a lot more work on . . . the repatriation of works to First Nations communities in this country that have been totally, wrongfully expropriated. And these are things that are seminal to their understanding of themselves as a nation.''

The European works plundered during the Nazi regime, he said, are ''not important pieces of Judaica, they don't say anything specifically about the Jewish people. They happen to be upper middle-class, bourgeoisie, central European families who invested rather astutely in a market that hadn't, in the early '30s, started to burgeon the way it has now.''

The National Gallery of Canada has identified 110 works in its European collection with gaps in provenance between 1933 and 1945.

After electoral count, Gore declares Bush next president

Vice President Al Gore, the Democratic nominee for president of the United States declared George W. Bush the next president on January 6 after the formal count of the electoral vote.

Al Gore"May God bless our new president and vice president, and may God bless the United States of America," Gore, as president of the Senate, declared after the votes were tallied.

Bush and Republican vice president nominee Dick Cheney received 271 electoral votes. Gore and Democratic vice president nominee Joe Lieberman received 266 electoral votes.

The announcement came after members of the Congressional Black Caucus and several House colleagues walked out in protest as the joint session of Congress counted each state's electoral votes.

Reps. Peter Deutsch and Alcee Hastings, both Florida Democrats, made the first objections to the session based on parliamentary procedure, a symbolic protest over alleged voting irregularities in the Sunshine State.

"What we intend to accomplish is to make sure that history records that we did not go silently," Hastings told CNN shortly before the session. "And I perceive that silence is consent. And I feel in Florida there was substantial disillusionment and frustration and there is outrage in the constituency."

Congressional Black CaucusOther similar objections were voiced on the floor by Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., D-Illinois, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California, and Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Georgia, among others.

For more than a month after Election Day, Florida's ultra-close ballot count to win its essential 25 electoral votes was undecided, as Bush and Gore engaged in a legal battle over disputed ballot recounts in several counties.

Hastings said his objection on the House floor was to protest alleged activities that he said kept African-Americans, many of whom supported Gore, from casting ballots in Florida.

All of the objecting House members belonged to the Congressional Black Caucus, except Rep. Bob Filner, D-California. After the objections were made, members of the Congressional Black Caucus walked out of the chamber.

Gore, who as vice president serves as president of the Senate until Bush's inauguration on January 20, presided over the joint meeting.

Deutsch and the others objected to the counting on the grounds that a quorum -- at least half the members -- was not present. Most lawmakers missed the ceremony because they returned to their districts Friday.

"Our country just witnessed the closest and most controversial presidential election in our nation's history," said Deutsch before the session.

One by one, each House member was denied his or her objection, ironically by Gore himself, who repeatedly referred to federal law, which requires that each objection be signed by a senator. None of the objections had been signed by a member of the Senate.

Deutsch was one of Gore's leading supporters during the dispute over the Florida vote count. "We as members of Congress have an obligation to be present to count the Electoral College's votes and declare the next president of the United States."

However the Deutsch and Hastings objection failed because, under the rules of Congress, objections to the process are discounted unless they are raised by members of both the House and Senate, and neither Deutsch nor Hastings had senators that would join their protest.

Under a section of the U.S. Code enacted in 1887, if at least one senator and one representative object, the two chambers must convene separately to deal with the objection.

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