News you may have missed...

Helen Mirren to star in biopic of Ayn Rand

On December 24 the Toronto Sun reported that British actress Helen Mirren will portray Ayn Rand in a biopic.

The film The Passion Of Ayn Rand, has set-up production in Toronto, and is taken from a 1987 biography by Barbara Branden.

"Mirren will play Rand from her youth in Russia during the Revolution to her rise to fame in America as the founder of a school of philosophy called Objectivism. The story will cover her tempestuous personal life, in which she wavered between a longstanding marriage and an affair with one of her 'disciples'," said Jim Slotnick in a piece on the film.

Film rights to The Passion Of Ayn Rand were purchased eight years ago, but the project has been in limbo since.

David Kelley to defend greed on ABC

David Kelley, Executive Director of the Institute for Objectivist Studies, will appear on an ABC special on February 3, 1998 at 10:00pm EST to defend greed.

Hosted by John Stossel, Kelley will refute Ted Turner's claim that philanthropy is morally superior to profit-seeking, will show why Michael Milken did more good then Mother Teresa, and he will explain why trade is not a zero-sum game with winners and losers.

Calgary Reform club to hold fund-raiser with Deb Gray

Generation R, The Reform Partys Student Club at Mount Royal College will be holding a fund-raising breakfast with Deb Grey on Friday, January 23, 1998.   It will be held in the Lincoln park room, at Mount Royal College at 7:00 am (door open at 6:30am).  Tickets are $25.00 or $20.00 for students.  For more information or to get tickets please call (403) 230-6060, or e-mail: mtroyal@reform.ca  (Due to the limited number of space, all tickets must be reserved ahead of time)

Reform Party Student Club
Mount Royal College - Calgary, Alberta
4825 Richmond Rd. S.W. Calgary, Alberta, T3E 6K6
E-mail: mtroyal@reform.ca
Phone: (403) 230-6060 / Fax: (403) 240-6668

Conference Board says corporations pay their share of taxes

For every dollar increase in profits during the last 30 years, taxes paid by Canadian corporations have increased 62 cents, says the Conference Board of Canada.

The board, an Ottawa-based think tank, released a study in early December that concluded corporations are paying their fair share in taxes. Despite popular perceptions, total tax contribution of Canadian corporations has increased substantially over the last 30 years, said the report by Mahmood Iqbal.

"The myth is that corporations pay only income taxes," he said. "What's missing from the picture is the fact that, in addition to income tax, corporations pay taxes on practically all aspects of, including capital, sales, property and payroll - and the share of all these taxes has been increasing."

Corporate income tax, which was applied at the rate of 50 per cent in 1965, decreased to 36 per cent in 1995. But employers' payroll taxes increased to 36 per cent from eight per cent in the same period. Total tax contribution of Canadian corporations - including payroll, sales, property and income taxes - increased by 144 per cent over the last 30 years.

Payroll taxes recorded highest growth at 341 per cent, followed by non-residential property tax at 151 per cent. Revenue from corporate income tax has increased by 138 per cent.

Canada outpaces all other countries belonging to the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development in the growth of taxes in relation to the growth of the gross domestic product. For every 10 per cent of growth in Canada, taxes in Canada grew by 13 per cent from 1965-1994.

Charges Delivered for UPS Strike Retribution; Teamsters Claim to Spend Only 66 Cents of Member Dues on Politics

Attorneys for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation filed charges against the national Teamsters union and its Colorado affiliate on December 3rd, alleging that the union participated in "illegal union retribution." The charges, filed with the National Labor Relations Board, were made on behalf of eight United Parcel Service (UPS) employees who chose to work rather than participate in the Teamster-organized strike against the shipping company last August.

According to the Foundation complaint, after the employees resigned their membership in the union, they formally objected to the use of their still-mandatory dues for political and other non-bargaining activities. They requested a refund of the portion of their dues payment that was not used to conduct bargaining-related activities. In response, however, union officials only reduced their forced monthly payment by 66 cents. Union leaders further violated the law by refusing worker requests for the union to provide financial disclosures of expenses.

"All too often, workers attempt to cut off the use of their forced dues for politics only to discover that union chiefs stonewall access to union books to continue diverting worker's payments into their massive political machine," said Stefan Gleason, director of legal information for the Foundation. "In this case, union officials are laughing off workers' legal rights altogether."

The Foundation complaint also alleges the Teamsters contract with UPS is invalid since it contains an illegal "union security" clause requiring employees be union members "in good standing," that fines levied against the employees are illegal and that the union attempted to assess illegal "re-initiation fees."

The new way to smear conservative governments...accuse them of eroding civil liberties! (okay, it's hardly new, but...)

From dismantling a police oversight agency to restricting welfare appeals, the Ontario government has overseen an unprecedented erosion of civil liberties in the last two years, a prominent watchdog group charges.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association says it used to focus on lobbying the province to improve laws.
But since the Conservatives began overhauling the public sector in 1995, the group has felt obliged to speak out against several alleged attacks on existing liberty safeguards, says chief spokesman Alan Borovoy.
As it makes massive spending cuts and restructures schools, hospitals and municipalities to try to improve efficiency, the province seems to be applying a sledgehammer to some problems, he said.
"One can only speculate about a combination of financial fixations and Neanderthal attitudes," said Borovoy.
"So often the response is not a measure carefully tailored to the problem but a kind of posturing that contributes little to safety and much to the erosion of basic safeguards."
It's never happened before in Ontario, whether the government was Conservative, Liberal or NDP, said Borovoy, who insists his assessment of this administration is non-partisan.
The association doesn't usually argue over the substance of government initiatives, but its antennae twitch if it thinks actions impinge on liberties.
It didn't object to a 22-per-cent cut in welfare rates but voiced concerns about a new appeal system. Under it, recipients can no longer get payments while they're appealing a decision to cut them off social assistance.
Now the association does have some legitimate gripes. The legislation that disbands the Police Complaints Commission and requires people to take their complaints about officers to the police chief first is dumb. If they're not satisfied, they can then go to an oversight agency. But unlike the complaints commission, it can't conduct its own investigation.

Also, a 90-day licence suspension for anyone charged with impaired driving, while laudable, does raise questions about the presumption off innocence. The association supports a brief suspension to get drunk drivers off the road, but considers the 90-day suspension serious punishment without a trial. The government says dramatic action was needed.
Bringing back the "spouse in the house" rule to cut off or reduce welfare to anyone who lives with a partner receiving some income. The province says the change helps tackle social assistance abuse, but Borovoy calls it a "cruel" intrusion on the privacy of intimate relationships. He apparently does not consider it cruel to rob people of their production to give to those who do not produce.

The association also cites a reluctance to meet with its critics. The association itself has always met with ministers in previous governments but has made four unsuccessful attempts with this one, Borovoy said. Of course, I don't recall the New Democratic and Liberal governments meeting with free marketers, anti-statists and liberty seekers.

Mowat compares animals to Holocaust victims

Proving -- once again -- that to become an animal "rights" activist one does not need to be in possession of any sense, respected author Farley Mowat compared the annual seal hunt in Newfoundland, Canada to the slaughter of millions by the Nazis.

"I don't think the word holocaust is too strong," said Mowat. "I do not make a distinction between the massive destruction of any kind of animal, whether it is human or non-human."

Oddly though, Mowat is in favour of some hunting of seals...just as long as it is not "massive". Does he also then support a cull of...well, you finish that sentence.

"I would hope that he would withdraw the comment and the analogy," Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre said from Los Angeles. "Failure to do so not only shows his complete and utter lack of understanding of the events of the Second World War ... it's a slap in the face to the (Holocaust) victims and it also muddies the waters on the issues he was trying to talk about."

Mowat's comments are yet another example of those in the animal "rights" community who see no difference in an animal and a human being.

Banks have no right to profits, say activists

Canada's major banks smashed all previous profit records in 1997 when the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce reported $1.5 billion in net earnings.

That pushed the total profits for the Big Six banks in 1997 to a record $7.5 billion.

Stock market analysts say economic factors are in place to keep the major banks' profits growing even larger in 1998.

But the record profits are angering many Canadians.

"The banks' profits look outrageous," said Peter Bleyer, executive director of the Council of Canadians, which staged protests in Vancouver, Toronto and Winnipeg in December.

"They are making profits beyond the needs that any bank CEO or shareholder should have" at a time of rising poverty and government cuts to pensions and other social programs, he said.

"There's one and a half million kids living in poverty," said Matthew Behrens. "If there's that much profit around, why don't we take care of the problem of child poverty."

Behrens, who said he is part of a Toronto social action group, carried a placard labeled "Balance Sheet" during a early December lunch hour protest that compared the banks' $7 billion in net earnings to the estimated $7 billion cost of eliminating child poverty.

Analyst Sherry Cooper, chief economist at Nesbitt Burns securities, said the profits are likely to continue.

"We continue to view the financial services industry as one that will outperform other sectors of the economy," she said.

Along with the $342 million annual profit announced by the National Bank of Canada, the CIBC's results gave the Big Six banks combined net earnings that surpassed all previous records. The $7.5 billion total was 19 per cent higher than the $6.3 billion in profits recorded in 1996 and 43 per cent above 1995's $5.2 billion total.

CIBC, the country's second-largest bank, said the buoyant stock market and increased business from average bank customers propelled its rising profits, which in the year ending Oct. 31 were up 14 per cent over the $1.3 billion recorded in 1996.

"CIBC's results were powered by robust financial markets and increasing consumer demand for retail banking products such as mortgages and personal loans," said CIBC chair Al Flood.

In Ottawa, Duff Conacher, chair of the Canadian Community Reinvestment Coalition, used the bank results to again call for the government to force the banks to divulge more information on their operations and how they make their profits.

"Are they making their money by serving Canadian consumers and small businesses well, or are they making money from financing corporate takeovers and gouging consumers?" he asked.

While analysts say bank profits are likely to rise again in the next 12 months, they point out that the increases may not match the huge gains of the past two years.

Largely this is because the financial crisis that has battered Asian nations from Thailand to Japan since July may take a bit of steam out of North American economies as exports from Canada and the United States to Asia taper off. This could cut corporate earnings and in turn keep the value of stocks from shooting up as they have in recent years.

Because they are now heavily involved in selling securities, banks might see their profits grow less quickly if the stock market boom subsides.

"It's difficult to see huge continuing gains in the stock market forever," said the Royal Bank's McCallum. "I think in that respect this year's probably been exceptional." But he said he did expect profits among the Big Six banks to rise again in 1998.

FTC decides not to change "Made in USA label"

The Federal Trade Commission, ending a two-year controversy with a decision favored by labor and some business groups, said on December 1 it will not tinker with requirements for the "Made in USA" label.

The commission twice in 1997 had proposed expanding the amount of foreign content that a product could contain and still use the label, but ran into a tidal wave of protest each time.

The 50-year-old rule will essentially stay the same. "When a product is labeled with an unqualified 'Made in USA' claim it should contain only a de minimis, or negligible, amount of foreign content," the FTC decided, responding to strong pressure from Capitol Hill and an organized outpouring of public sentiment.

Jody Bernstein, director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, said the guidelines marked the first time the FTC "has articulated its interpretation of how the standard will be applied."

In the end, the FTC had little choice. Outraged members of the House and Senate from both parties, backed by more than 200 members of Congress, had prepared legislation in case the FTC changed its rules.

The commission said it had received "more than 1,000 written comments ... the majority of which strongly supported" the existing standard, along with a petition signed by more than 9,000 people.

The FTC considered changing the rule after earlier public comments that followed its crackdown on a company that allegedly misused the "Made in USA" label. Dozens of people contacted the commission to suggest it loosen its standard in a world of increasing global trade.

Multinational companies widely favored the change, but many others did not. More than 100 groups -- including the Consumer Federation of America and labor and agricultural groups -- banded together as the "Made in USA" coalition to oppose any change.

"The FTC deserves praise for listening to the American people before it finalized its proposal to water down the 'Made in USA' label," David Flory, a spokesman for the group said.

Any FTC decision was bound to cut a broad swatch across most companies in America, and even have disparate effects within individual companies.

Four members of Congress who had led the fight to retain the label standard praised the FTC.

"This ruling to keep the current standard is great news for every company that now puts the 'Made in USA' label on its products and every consumer who purchases these products," Sen. Fritz Hollings, D-S.C., said in a statement.

"American consumers have come to rely on this label as insurance that these products are made in the USA," he said.

Democrat Rep. John Dingell of Michigan said the FTC had "wisely" decided the issue, while Republican Sen. Spence Abraham of Michigan called it a "victory for American workers and consumers."

Rep. Bob Franks, R-N.J., said the decision showed that "customers and consumers have prevailed."

The FTC decision appears to put the controversy to rest after the two earlier misfirings.

In May 1997, the commission proposed loosening the requirement so products could display "Made in USA" labels if 75 percent of their value in labor and materials came from the United States. But the proposal did not fly.

This past fall the FTC suggested permitting the "Made in USA" label if products were 90 percent U.S.-made. That proposal angered bipartisan opponents on Capitol Hill, who said the FTC was still trying to compromise the existing standard.

By not changing anything, the commission said, "there is no 'bright line' to establish when a product is or is not" able to qualify for the label.

Without such specific guidelines, the FTC said, it would consider whether final assembly took place in the United States, the portion of a product's total manufacturing costs attributable to U.S. parts and processing, and how far removed from the finished product any foreign content was.

Commission rejects charter schools...less freedom for parents

A government-appointed commission has warned Ontario away from charter schools, saying the concept would mean less accountability to the public and unequal access for students.

Alberta has tinkered with the idea, which allows groups of parents to obtain a charter to open a school more or less independent from school boards - but still funded with tax dollars.

Some members of the governing Conservative caucus in Ontario also favor the approach.

The Education Improvement Commission took the opposite view in a report released in mid-December.

"The strength of our system is that all 11.5 million people in this province believe they have a stake in public education," said commission co-chair Dave Cooke.

"If we start getting to the point where a school is funded with a charter and the only people who feel they have a stake in that school are those students and those parents, where does that leave the rest of us?"

The report also mapped out what it sees as a new role for trustees after the number of boards in Ontario was halved on January 1, 1998 and sweeping new changes to school management are implemented.

Trustees must be accountable for the academic results of their schools, the commission said, and draft plans when a particular school falters.

Critics of the government's education legislation, Bill 160, say it gives the province too much control over schools.

The commission's support of a continued strong role for trustees was welcomed by Liz Sandals of the Ontario Public School Boards Association.

"I think it's particularly helpful because there has been so much concern about the centralization of power with the ministry," she said.

But Marshall Jarvis of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association warned the commission may be setting up trustees to be accountable for things they now can't control.

Charter schools have more freedom to choose how to operate and whom to hire than other taxpayer-funded schools.

Alberta has granted charters to a dozen schools. More than 800 have opened across the United States over the past decade.

Supporters see them as necessary alternatives to a publicly funded system they say has been slow to respond to parents' demands.

Critics see charter schools as opening the door to school privatization and a two-tier education system.

In Ontario, some critics claimed Bill 160 would lead to charter schools and vouchers - direct payments to parents to choose their children's public or private school.

Demonstrators raid buffet, more than 100 arrested

Police scooped up 108 anti-poverty demonstrators on December 3 after a mob cleaned out a buffet in Montreal, Quebec's landmark Queen Elizabeth hotel.
The protesters invaded the hotel's lobby-level restaurant as it was packed with 200 lunchtime diners.
They rushed the laden tables, grabbed bowls full of food, plates, cutlery and even a plant, then rushed out to hold an eat-in in front of the hotel's main entrance.
They were arrested while marching and munching to denounce growing poverty and hunger in Montreal.
The demonstrators, mostly young people, did not shout any slogans or break anything as they swarmed the buffet, which included salad, fruits, meat and eggs.
"They just came in and came out," said hotel spokeswoman Caroline Des Rosiers.
Restaurant patrons were hardly disturbed, she said.
"It happened so quickly, and our staff remained calm, that no one got upset. People remained in their seats and no one moved."
She couldn't say how much the hijacked food cost. The buffet goes for $12 a person.
The hotel does not intend to press charges, Des Rosiers said.
But Const. Ian Lafreniere, spokesman for the Montreal police, said the arrested will be charged with public mischief.

He said it was the third such action in 1997 by the Comite des sans-emploi Montreal centre, which translates as the committee of the unemployed.
The group had twice earlier orchestrated shop-ins, whereby demonstrators burst into supermarket, grabbed food off the shelves and then made a run for it without paying.
Police made no arrests on those occasions, but decided to act this time.
"We will not tolerate public disorder in Montreal," Lafreniere told reporters while hotel staff shoveled the protest leftovers off the sidewalk.
He said police had known the group planned an action but not where. They tracked three protest school buses for about an hour around town before two of the vehicles headed towards the hotel and one took another direction as a decoy.
Lafreniere said the protest was widely publicized, even on the Internet, and aimed for a confrontation with authorities.
"They said it would be good publicity for them to get arrested," said Lafreniere.
Police wearing riot gear surrounded the unresisting protesters and arrested all of them, handcuffing and bundling them into paddy wagons one by one.
A demonstrator who was seven-months pregnant was taken to hospital in an ambulance when she complained of feeling ill, Lafreniere said.
Leaflets found at the scene denounced the gap between rich and poor which continues to grow in Montreal "contrary to the garbage spewed by governments."
The group denounced the "hypocrisy which takes over each year before the holidays" and which leads to crumbs being given the poor.
"We want more. We want to eat all year long and we will find ways to do so," the leaflets proclaim.
Des Rosiers sounded hurt that her hotel was targeted despite its charity work.
"We're known in Montreal for our work for the homeless," she said.
Among other good deeds, Des Rosiers noted the Christmas dinner the hotel feeds 200 people every year, its help to two battered-women shelters, and its donation to a mission which helps street youths.
"We're surprised they chose us because we do a lot," she said. "But we're also aware that the situation is very difficult in Montreal."

U.S. officials reportedly try to muzzle VOA

According to Slate magazine, U.S. officials apparently tried to stop a Voice of America interview with the recently released Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng from airing.

The officials reportedly argued that the taxpayer funded VOA shouldn't be in the business of hurting the interests of the U.S., and further, that the U.S. had promised the Chinese that they would not exploit Wei's release.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. ambassador to China called National Security Council officials, who called the U.S. Information Agency director, who urged VOA administrators to cancel the broadcast. VOA aired the interview anyway.

Former player sues NFL...for not stopping him from taking steroids

Not a political item, but interesting none-the-less.

Former offensive lineman Steve Courson is suing the NFL, claiming the league did not enforce its policy against taking steroids, which have left him with a heart condition. His contention is is that because he made the choice to take steroids, the NFL should be punished.

The lawsuit, which was filed December 29 in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh, argues that Courson should be entitled to a larger benefit reserved for disabilities directly related to football activities.

The NFL retirement board rejected Courson's plea to boost his monthly disability pension of $1 750 and turned down his appeal on Aug. 11.

Courson, who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1977 to 1985, was hospitalized in 1988 with a heart condition that he attributes to his combined use of anabolic steroids and alcohol.

Courson, 42, attended the University of South Carolina and admitted to taking steroids to build his 6-foot-1, 270 pound frame. He said he first took the anabolic steroid Dianabol while with the Gamecocks.

He estimated he consumed 56 ounces of steroids a week during his peak usage and said the drug allowed him to gain 30 pounds.

He went public with his steroid use in 1985 and was cut the next season by Tampa Bay. Numerous heart ailments followed.

Courson has been campaigning against steroid use and has been a critic of the NFL's steroid testing program.

We'll get pornographers like we did Waco! says Reno

U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno promised that federal agencies would intensify their efforts to crack down on pornography and child abuse on the Internet.

"The Department of Justice is currently working with state and local law enforcement and with industry to identify additional measures designed both to identify predators who lure children away from homes, as well as purge the Internet of child pornography," said Reno.

Reno's comments were made at a summit which concluded in early December, a summit which brought together government officials, the on-line industry, and public interest groups both pro- and con Internet regulation. The summit was looking for a way to regulate Internet content without new legislation by the U.S. federal government.

The Attorney General also said that joint efforts between government and industry were the ones most likely to succeed in combating child abuse on the Internet.

The summit also saw Representative Bob Franks (R-New Jersey) argue for extending child abuse laws to Internet service providers, laws which would require any ISP to report any evidence of child abuse to police.

"I believe it is appropriate to put the affirmative burden on Internet service providers when they come upon evidence of abuse to report it," Franks said.

Despite voluntary efforts by on-line providers like America Online to police their services, the Christian Coalition, the Family Research Council and the American Family Association attacked the summit as a "love-in" for the Internet.

"What a waste that the summit sponsors' primary goal is to do damage control for Internet service providers and not focus on the damage being done to children," said the new voice of Christian conservatism, president of the Family Research council Gary Bauer.

And despite all the talk of voluntary action, Senator Dan Coats (R - Indiana) introduced a bill in November that would require all commercial Web sites carrying material judged harmful to minors to block their access or face criminal penalties.

The conference came about after the Supreme Court in June struck down portions of Coats' earlier effort, the Communications Decency Act, that prohibited the display of indecent material on the Internet where kids could see it.

In July, President Clinton organized a meeting at the White House to find new solutions and warned the private sector to act fast or face new legislation.

Is is volunteering when your choice is do it yourself or we'll do it for you?

Jihad against Microsoft continues

Attorneys general from nine states met secretly in Chicago to plan possible coordinated antitrust action against Microsoft Corp., a source close to the talks said in December.

The states involved were New York, California, Texas, Illinois, Minnesota, Florida, Wisconsin, Connecticut and Massachusetts, the source said.

The three-day meeting was led by New York.

The sessions were ending just as a federal judge issued a ruling that temporarily blocks Microsoft's practice of requiring computer makers to use its Internet software along with its operating systems. Microsoft is appealing the preliminary injunction.

The order came in the Justice Department's suit alleging that Microsoft violated a 1995 antitrust consent decree.

The meeting of the state attorneys general is the latest example of states' coordinated efforts on "behalf of consumers".

Forty states recently reached a proposed settlement with the tobacco industry to resolve mounting smoking litigation and provide health protection. The accord is currently pending before Congress.

"Shockingly", some of the same attorneys general who were key players in the tobacco talks are also involved in the Microsoft discussions.

What's prompting all of this action from governments? According to a director of a Ralph Nader group, the fact that the company is actually defending itself.

"...Microsoft is radicalizing the entire Justice Department with its in-your-face, brass knuckles attitude. All of this was avoidable, but they've raised the stakes by giving everyone a tutorial on what arrogant bastards they are," said James Love.

Microsoft took aim at Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig, who has been serving as advisor to U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson over the anti-trust case.

In court documents filed on December 23, Microsoft alleged that Lessig may be biased against the company.

Microsoft noted that Lessig had predicted the government would become more deeply involved in regulating computer software. And Microsoft said Lessig recently wrote an article in a legal journal "implying that the company is a threat to political freedom" because of its tight control over software code.

"These preconceived notions that Professor Lessig apparently has about Microsoft and the government's proper role in the development of software products present a compelling basis for objecting to Professor Lessig's appointment as a special master," Microsoft said in the filing, which was also posted on their website.

In the filing, Microsoft asked U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson in Washington to revoke the December 11 appointment of Lessig, who was given broad authority to gather facts in the case and ordered to report back to the judge by May 31, 1998.

Microsoft argued that the appointment of a special master is permitted only in "exceptional" conditions not found in the current case.

Microsoft also said it was typical for both sides to get a chance to nominate special master candidates or at least review their background and object before an appointment.

Microsoft suggested that instead of a special master with broad powers, Jackson should "seek the assistance of a technical expert with experience in the design of operating system software."

Either way, all that money that Microsoft, Bill Gates and Microsoft employees donated to the Democrats is coming back to haunt them, isn't it?

Noted crypto booster sells out to government supporters

Phil Zimmerman, who gained fame by fighting against government efforts to promote key recovery and boosted cryptography for the masses, is now working for a company which actively argues for the right of the government to have access to your encrypted data.

In early December, Zimmerman's PGP Inc. was sold to Network Associates for $35 million. Network Associates is a member of the Key Recovery Alliance, an organization that lobbies Congress for key recovery that would grant law enforcement agencies back-door access to private encrypted communications. The company promotes key recovery because it would allow them to sell strong crypto without bothering to make a separate nonrecoverable version for the domestic market.

Guess that means that we'll have to stick using PGP 2.6.2. To find out where to get it, click here.

Judge orders feds to stop wolf reintroduction program

A federal judge in Wyoming on December 13 ordered the removal of wolves released in the northern Rockies as part of a controversial program to reintroduce the animals to an area where they had been wiped out in the 1930s.

In an ironic twist, U.S. District Judge William Downes said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's wolf recovery program -- designed to fulfill a goal of the federal Endangered Species Act -- actually ended up violating that act.

Under the program, wolves released into Yellowstone National Park and the mountains of central Idaho could be shot if they were found preying on livestock. But native wolves, who might wander into the area, are protected from hunting by federal law. So Downes said the reintroduction plan was illegal because it would allow those native wolves to be shot.

"Congress did not intend to allow reduction of protections to existing natural populations in whole or in part," the judge wrote in a ruling.

Downes ordered the wildlife service to remove the transplanted wolves and their offspring, a population of about 160 wolves. However, the judge stayed his ruling pending an expected appeal.

He said after the removal process was complete, all native wolves remaining in the Rockies would be protected from hunting by federal law.

A number of environmental groups blasted the decision.

"It is a tragedy even to discuss dismantling the greatest wildlife restoration effort in our nation's history," said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of the Defenders of Wildlife.

Phil Kavits, a spokesman for the National Wildlife Federation, the nation's largest conservation group, said the decision was "dead wrong and violates common sense."

"We simply will not stand for it. We will appeal," Kavits said.

Wolves roamed the mountains of Wyoming and Idaho until the 1930s, when they were eradicated under a federal program. Today, native populations exist mostly well to the north, in Montana and Canada.

The Endangered Species Act, passed in 1973, calls for federal agencies to develop recovery plans for wolves and other threatened wildlife. But the program to reintroduce them drew strong opposition from area ranchers, who feared the wolves would prey on their livestock.

To appease opponents of the program, the wildlife service designated the wolves as an "experimental" population, which meant they could be hunted if they became a menace to livestock. In 1995 and 1996, 66 Canadian grey wolves were released into the wilds.

Downes' ruling came in a suit brought by the Wyoming Farm Bureau, which was joined as a plaintiff by the National Audubon Society, which was concerned that the program might set a precedent that would weaken protection for endangered species.

Denny Smith, a rancher and state legislator from Powell, near Yellowstone Park, was all smiles after hearing the ruling.

"I'm not anti-wolf. But the extremists have pushed this down our throats," he said. "I believe we should have the right to protect our livestock and not fear repercussions from our federal government."

Sharon Rose, a spokeswoman for the Fish and Wildlife Service, said the agency was still reviewing Downes' decision and the Justice Department would decide whether to appeal.

89 per cent of Charities Report That Government Regulations Hurt Their Ability to Help the Needy

A ground-breaking new research study surveying 441 charities serving low-income communities has found a whopping 89 per cent report that government regulations impede their ability to serve the poor.

The two-year study by the African-American leadership group Project 21 is an in-depth research survey cataloging the substantial burden borne by charities that find themselves caught between the competing needs of low-income communities and the demands of government bureaucrats. The report, Black America 1997: How Government Harms Charities... and How Some Are Succeeding Anyway, also highlights groups that are effective despite regulatory roadblocks.

Black America 1997, the fourth annual Project 21 report, focuses much-deserved attention on the problems local charities must endure when dealing with government. Until now, it has not been widely known that humanitarian groups suffer from government's regulatory harassment. Whether it be funding applications that take a hundred hours to complete, requirements that consider credentials in drug dependency counseling more important than a counselor's effectiveness, or a mandate for metal over plastic wastebaskets, the absurdity and sheer volume of government regulations are impeding the ability of local charities to help those in need.

The report hopes to illustrate and help correct the problems faced by often selfless people who seek to serve America's disadvantaged communities. Here are just a few of the examples chronicled in the report:

  • Carmen Bermudes of the Upper Bronx Neighborhood Association for Puerto Rican Affairs in New York City: "Because of [government] regulations that govern the eligibility of the youth, we have had to turn away 30 per cent of the youth that are attracted to our program."
  • Dr. Maria Washington of the East Baltimore Community Corporation: "The Federal Government does not understand the true nature of the drug problem in East Baltimore. It comes with a fixed mindset and makes no adjustments for the specific needs of localities, making the innovation and implementation of practical solutions less likely."
  • Theo "Doc" Benson of the Education and Employment Ministry of Oklahoma City: "We agreed to take on a transportation project with city, county and federal money... but soon gave up the public money because of the requirements to hire homeless drivers. The van was wrecked three times and the paperwork was beyond description."
  • Terry Meyers of the Oasis Shelter in Arkansas: "Half my time is spent filling out paperwork for our $12,000 Emergency Shelter Grant."

Black America 1997 includes stories from 131 of 391 groups reporting problems with government rules. It also provides program descriptions of 44 charitable efforts that are worthy of special recognition.

An abridged copy of the Black America 1997 is available online at http://www.nationalcenter.org/BA97.html, and copies are available from Roderick Conrad at 202/543-1286.

So Clinton believes in less spending does he?

President Clinton is pledging to seek a record $1.15 billion in next year's budget to help homeless people get off the streets and into permanent homes and self-sufficient lives.

"As long as there are children waking up in America on Christmas morning without the comfort of a warm home, we have more work to do," the president said on December 24.

The federal budget request — a $327 million increase over current spending — must be approved by Congress. Clinton said his aim was to "help move the homeless from the streets to self-sufficiency."

Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo said the influx of federal dollars would boost the administration's Continuum of Care program, which provides emergency shelter before then trying to move homeless people to transitional and permanent housing.

Most of the requested funding, $958 million, would be used for grants to local communities to provide job training, child care, treatment for drug and alcohol abuse and mental health services with the aim of accomplishing more than just sheltering the poor. The rest, $192 million, would be for rental assistance vouchers to make 34,000 apartments available to the homeless.

"America for the first time is doing more than addressing the symptoms of homelessness; we are addressing its causes," said Cuomo, who created the Continuum of Care program in Clinton's first term.

Freeing the economy would do the same thing, for far less money.

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