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web posted February 5, 2001

Kentucky cashier falls for fake Bush $200 bill

A $200 bill bearing the likeness of President Bush would seem to be an obvious fake. But it seemed real enough to fool one fast-food cashier.

Police are looking for the person who used the bill to buy $2.12 worth of food at a Dairy Queen, and drove away after getting $197.88 in change.

In addition to the Bush portrait on the front, the treasury seal is marked with the phrase, "The right to bear arms." An oil well appears on the back of the bill.

Whoever passed the bill on January 28 could be charged with failure to pay for a purchase, Danville, police said. It was such a clear fake that police say it can't be considered a counterfeit.

Cameras scanned Super Bowl crowd for suspects

Police videotaped fans passing through stadium turnstiles at the Super Bowl and used computers to analyze the images in a check for terrorists and other criminals.

No arrests were made as a result of the face-matching surveillance system -- apparently used for the first time at a major sports event, the St. Petersburg Times reported.

Each facial image of the 100,000 fans and workers entering through the turnstiles at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday was digitized and checked electronically against computer files of Tampa police, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, the paper said.

Had the system found a match, officers could have detained the person.

Images caught by the system are not stored permanently, but they could have been used on game day had any crimes been committed at the stadium.

"I find it disturbing. It smacks of Big Brother societies that keep watch over people," said Christine L. Borgman, a professor of information studies at the UCLA.

"If these surveillance systems spread, there may be a considerable margin of error in determining the identity of people who get snagged. And that is a big price to pay for your civil rights."

Security officials said the system is no more intrusive than videotape cameras used at malls and convenience stores.

The FaceTrac system runs on software by Viisage Technology of Littleton, Mass.

Jackson group OK'd funding ex-aide's house

The woman who had an out-of-wedlock child with the Rev. Jesse Jackson was authorized to use funds from one of his tax-exempt charitable organizations to buy a Los Angeles house, The Washington Post said February 1.

The paper cited a letter published the next day by supermarket weekly the National Enquirer, which first amassed evidence of Jackson's affair.

The Post said a Jackson aide confirmed the existence of the letter Wednesday but said it had not been acted on. Jackson spokesmen have consistently denied that Karin Stanford, 39 -- former head of the Washington office of the civil rights activist's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and the mother of his child -- used money from Jackson-affiliated charities to buy her $365,000 house in Los Angeles, the paper said.

In the Sept. 10, 1999, letter from a top Jackson aide to Stanford, Jackson's Citizenship Education Fund approved a $40,000 "draw" for Stanford against future consulting fees "for the purpose of acquiring residential real estate financing," according to the Post.

But a Jackson spokesman in New York said the amount was later changed to $35,000 and "therefore the letter was never acted upon," the paper reported. It said the spokesman provided a copy of a CEF disbursement record showing separate payments to Stanford of $15,000 and $20,000, which he described as covering moving expenses and contracted research work.

Stanford gave birth to a daughter in May 1999, months after Jackson began counseling then President Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Senate confirms Ashcroft for attorney general

Former Missouri Republican Sen. John Ashcroft was confirmed for the post of attorney general on February 1, placing the 13th and final piece into the puzzle of new President Bush's Cabinet.

The 58-42 vote became official when Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Delaware, returned to Washington from attending a funeral to cast a late 'no' vote after a roll call that lasted about an hour.

John AshcroftAshcroft secured the 51-vote simple majority needed for confirmation just minutes after the roll call began on the floor at 1:40 p.m. EST.

Eight Democrats joined all the Senate's Republicans to confirm Ashcroft. They included: Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, John Breaux of Louisiana and Zell Miller of Georgia.

The Senate's most strident voices against the nomination said -- while awaiting Biden's arrival -- they expected Ashcroft to pass muster, but the 42 votes against their former colleague should be viewed as a sign that they will watch the Justice Department under Ashcroft.

"These are the most votes against a nominee for attorney general who has been confirmed," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"The vote is a shot across the bow in terms of the Justice Department and how it conducts itself, in terms of upcoming Supreme Court nominations, and the push-and-pull within the Bush administration," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York. "Will it be bipartisan or will it be pulled to the right?"

Democrats in the Senate and a host of advocacy groups have accused the newly inaugurated president of bending to pressure exerted by the far right in choosing Ashcroft as the nation's highest ranking lawyer.

Republicans have consistently described these and similar assertions, as well as characterizations of Ashcroft's record, as ridiculous. Ashcroft, they say, may be the most qualified person ever tapped for the post.

"I was just happy to get to the 51 votes," Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said following the vote.

Hatch said he was bothered by the work of many of the outside groups that tried to influence the Senate's duty of advice and consent on presidential nominations, saying they had too much pull with too many Democratic senators.

"Will we get along better after all this?" Hatch said of relations with his colleagues. "Yes, because we're big people, and we'll gradually put this behind us. But it was disgusting."

"I think we're all going to be lucky to have a good attorney general," Hatch then said of Ashcroft. "You can go to bed feeling a little more safe in the next few months, because we're going to have an attorney general that is going to get tough as heck on crime."

The sharply divided chamber wrapped up its debate the previous morning on Ashcroft's nomination, while Ashcroft's office at the Justice Department awaited his arrival for his first day of work.

Ashcroft's long-standing conservative political and religious views have been highlighted by his regular critics, who say they do not think he will adequately enforce civil rights laws, and argue that his religious beliefs simply will not allow him to enforce standing laws with which he may philosophically or morally disagree.

A number of left-leaning advocacy groups have expressed specific alarm that Ashcroft could attempt to incrementally roll back statutes guaranteeing abortion on demand.

"Sen. Ashcroft has a deeply disturbing record on issue after issue of vital importance to millions of Americans," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, on Thursday.

In two days of testimony in January during his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings, Ashcroft pledged to uphold all standing laws, despite his personal points of view. The rule of law, Ashcroft insisted, would always trump his personal interests as long as he leads the Department of Justice.

Debate opened on the Senate floor on January 31, with Republicans saying Ashcroft's qualifications for the job make him one of the best ever for the position. Prior to his six years in the Senate, Ashcroft was the twice-elected governor of Missouri, and also served as the state's attorney general.

Democrats, with only a few notable exceptions, said Ashcroft was not fit for the post due to his record on civil rights, labor, gun control and women's issues.

Those lines or argument continued unbroken into the second day of floor discussion.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, former Vice President Al Gore's running mate on the 2000 Democratic presidential ticket, stood on the Senate floor the morning of February 1 and said he would oppose the Ashcroft nomination, even though he has known his former Senate colleague for 40 years, stretching back to their years in college.

"I have to oppose his nomination," Lieberman said after first heaping praise upon the nominee. "This is awkward and uncomfortable."

Lieberman, who often promoted his own Jewish Orthodox faith while stumping for the vice presidency, said he was not voting against Ashcroft because Ashcroft was a conservative Christian, but because Ashcroft's record as a politician raised some red flags.

"Based on his record, I will vote against his confirmation," Lieberman said.

Ashcroft's political dealings were highlighted by Minnesota Democrat Paul Wellstone, who soon followed Lieberman on the floor and pilloried the nominee for, while in the Senate, opposing the appointment of Missouri Supreme Court Justice Ronnie White to the federal bench, and the nomination of James Hormel to be the Clinton administrationís ambassador to Luxembourg.

Hormel, who is openly gay, was unfit to serve as an ambassador because of his own political activism, Ashcroft argued as a senator, and White, an African-American judge, was not a good fit for a federal judgeship because he was soft on criminal candidates for the death penalty, according to Ashcroft.

But critics have accused Ashcroft of displaying subtle forms of discrimination in both cases, and of damaging the careers of both men to further his own political interests.

"I would like to say to Sen. Ashcroft, if he is confirmed I wish him the very best," Wellstone said. "But I would also like to say that this is, in my 10 1/2 years in the Senate, as close as I can remember coming to a basic civil rights vote, a basic human rights vote.

"I cannot support John Ashcroft to be attorney general," he said.

One Democrat stepped forward to express unexpected support for the nomination. Connecticut's Dodd said he thought White and Hormel were treated shamefully, but he was not willing to punish Ashcroft in the same way. Thus, Dodd said, Ashcroft would get a 'yes' vote.

Republicans, meanwhile, accused Democrats of subtle prejudices of their own.

Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, said Ashcroft's opponents were opposed to the nomination because the former senator has been open about expressing his dependence on his religious faith.

"It says 'In God We Trust" on our coins, but it isn't that way in our hearts," Gramm said.

The "ugly caricature" presented of Ashcroft, Gramm continued, was undeserved.

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, said Ashcroft could be taken at his earlier word.

"I believe he will enforce the law without prejudice," Shelby said.

At the White House, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said that Bush has impressed on Ashcroft the importance of improving and enforcing civil rights statutes.

"The Department of Justice enforces civil rights laws and is sensitive to civil rights concerns," Fleischer said. "The president thinks John Ashcroft is a man of integrity. He is a good man and he will enforce the civil rights laws. He said he talked to John Ashcroft about this when selecting him."

Shock in England! Raising taxes leads people to try and get around them!

England's high tax on cigarettes has been blamed on an increase in smoking for the first time in 25 years.

The government's decision to increase tax on cigarettes has backfired, according to The Daily Mail.

Instead of prompting smokers to quit, more people are taking up the habit because Britain is being flooded with cheaper illegal imports.

Total consumption rose to 107.6 billion cigarettes last year from around 101 billion in 1997 - an increase of 6.5%.

The rise follows a tax increase of almost £1 on a packet of cigarettes over the past four years.

The black market in smuggled cigarettes is now worth £4 billion a year.

A packet of 20 Benson & Hedges can cost as little as £2.50, compared to the shop price of £4.22.

A spokesman for the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association told The Mail: "These smuggled cigarettes are being sold cheaply out of the back of vans and in housing estates. A lot are going to youngsters.

"While the official price of cigarettes has risen sharply because of tax increases, the real price of cigarettes has dropped because something like a third of the market is met by cheap imports.

"We have always acknowledged that price is a crucial factor and the lower prices of the smuggled tobacco has increased consumption."

Clintons will pay for some gifts received in last year

Former president Bill Clinton and his wife, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, announced on February 2 they will pay more than $85,000 for gifts given to the first family during the president's last year in office "to eliminate even the slightest question" of impropriety.

"As have other Presidents and their families before us, we received gifts over the course of our eight years in the White House and followed all of the gift rules," Bill Clinton said in a statement. "While we gave the vast majority of gifts we received to the National Archives, we reported those gifts that we were keeping."

Those gifts included $7,375 worth of furniture from the ex-wife of financier Marc Rich, who Clinton pardoned in the final hours of his presidency. Also listed on the statement was a china cabinet, chandelier and a copy of Lincoln's "Cooper Union" speech -- together valued at $9,433 -- from Walter and Selma Kaye of New York.

An aide to Sen. Clinton said the decision to reimburse the gift-givers was part of a concerted effort to deflect a raft of bad publicity following the Clintons' departure from the White House January 20.

The gifts being repaid include flatware, televisions, clothing, china and artwork.

Also among the people to be repaid are Hollywood moviemaker Steven Spielberg and actress Kate Capshaw for $4,920 worth of china; actors Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen for $4,787 worth of china; and actor Jack Nicholson for a golf driver worth $350.

Also to be repaid is Brain Ready, of the Clintons' adopted hometown of Chappaqua, New York, for a portrait of their dog, Buddy, valued at $300.

Bill Clinton said the only gift he would not return is a photograph of seminal jazz composer Duke Ellington, valued at $800. Instead, he donated it to the Duke Ellington School for the Arts in Washington, D.C.

The photo was a gift from Ken Burns, who recently produced a documentary series on jazz.

The statement quoted Hillary Clinton as well, a reflection of stinging suggestions that accepting the gifts in the period between her election and her swearing-in was improper.

As New York's junior senator, I intend to focus all my energies on the interests of my constituents," she said. "I believe the step we are taking today reaffirms that I am fully committed to being the best senator I possibly can be for New York."

Report: FBI may question Wen Ho Lee again

The U.S. federal government is considering seeking court approval to further question former nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee because they are not satisfied with the answers he gave during questioning last year, the Washington Post reported on February 4.

The newspaper quoted sources close to the investigation as saying that answers Lee gave during 60 hours of questioning in November and December had raised new questions about his relationships with nuclear scientists from China and Taiwan.

Lee agreed to the interrogation as part of a plea deal in September that ended the government's criminal case against him for allegedly illegally downloading nuclear weapons design secrets at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

U.S. prosecutors agreed to drop all but one of 59 felony charges against Lee if he would tell them what happened to seven missing computer tapes that they alleged contain nuclear weapons designs secrets. Lee has said he destroyed the tapes but never publicly disclosed what happened to them.

Lee also had not yet provided a verifiable explanation of why he downloaded U.S. nuclear weapons secrets to portable computer tapes while working at Los Alamos and what he did with the tapes, the Post quoted its sources as saying.

During the questioning Lee disclosed having further dinner meetings with Chinese and Taiwanese nuclear weapons scientists. He also revealed a modest bank account in Taiwan into which he put part of a $5,000 fee he received in 1998 from that country's leading military research center, the Post reported.

Many of the details revealed by Lee were not known to prosecutors at the time they arranged the immunity deal.

Most prominent among them was his disclosure that in 1998 he received $5,000 from the Chung Shan Institute of Science and Technology, outside the Taiwanese capital of Taipei. The institute allegedly was involved in past efforts by Taiwan to develop nuclear weapons, the Post reported.

It said FBI investigators and Justice Department prosecutors were trying to decide whether to request that U.S. District Judge James Parker in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to authorize additional time to question Lee under oath.

Because of Lee's new disclosures, the government has been looking into the possibility that Lee may have accumulated numerous nuclear weapons secrets from computers at Los Alamos with the intention of aiding Taiwan, the country of his birth, which has long feared an attack from the communist mainland, the Post reported.

Further fueling the U.S. government's suspicions, Lee also said he had reviewed on his office computer classified data about the three newest U.S. nuclear warheads: the W-87 warhead used on the Peacekeeper ICBM, the W-88, used on the submarine-launched Trident missile, and the W-80, used on the Tomahawk cruise missile, the sources said.

Lee, a nuclear scientist at Los Alamos, was arrested in December 1999 and spent the next 278 days in jail, much of it in solitary confinement, on charges of illegally copying and storing what prosecutors called "the crown jewels" of U.S. nuclear weapons design secrets.

Sources in the U.S. government and Congress accused the Taiwanese-born U.S. citizen of being a spy for China but he was never charged with espionage.

Despite the new information about Taiwan, sources close to Lee told the Post nothing new emerged to challenge Lee's insistence that he never knowingly showed or gave classified information to any foreign individuals.

In any event, his statements "all came under immunity and can't be used against him to build a criminal case," the Post quoted one source close to Lee as saying.

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