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web posted February 12, 2001

Report: Jesse Jackson's protests aid friends

The Rev. Jesse Jackson's efforts to lobby major corporations to steer business toward minority entrepreneurs have at times aided his close friends and family members, a newspaper reported.

Those corporations also have contributed heavily to Jackson-led not-for-profit groups that foster contact between Fortune 500 companies and minority-owned businesses, the Chicago Sun-Times reported February 4.

Jackson's Citizenship Education Fund has received more than $3.5 million in pledges from SBC-Ameritech, AT&T, Viacom, GTE and Bell Atlantic, the Sun-Times reported.

Jackson opposed the 1999 merger of Ameritech and SBC Communications until Ameritech agreed to sell part of its cellular business to a minority owner.

Ameritech sold it for $3.3 billion to a partnership that includes Chester Davenport, a longtime friend of Jackson, and owner of Georgetown Partners.

"Clearly these companies want to penetrate underserved markets," Jackson said at the time. "If you expect us to do business with you, do business with us."

Doug Whitley, former president of Ameritech's Illinois operations, praised Jackson's Wall Street and LaSalle Street projects -- offshoots of the education fund -- for coaxing major corporations into deals with minority businesses.

"Part of the theme of the Wall Street and LaSalle Street projects is to make the big corporations, which are primarily controlled by white guys, aware of the need to reach out to minority partners," Whitley said. "I think companies need to be reminded, and that's a role Jesse Jackson plays."

Jackson is currently lobbying Viacom to sell its UPN television network to Davenport or another minority businessman.

Last May, the Federal Communications Commission approved the merger of CBS and Viacom. The companies must sell some television stations to comply with federal rules prohibiting one company from owning stations that reach more than 35 percent of the national audience.

Current rules also prohibit one company from owning two networks, which would apply in this case to CBS and Viacom's fledgling network UPN.

The newspaper said Jackson applied pressure to AT&T and TCI before their 1999 merger, but backed off after they agreed to give contracts to minority business owners. One of the contracts went to Blaylock & Partners L.P., a minority firm with ties to Jackson, to co-manage an $8 billion bond offering.

In 1998, Jackson's sons, Yusef and Jonathan, won the exclusive right to distribute Anheuser-Busch Inc. products in part of Chicago's North Side, the newspaper said. Sixteen years earlier, Jackson organized a boycott of the St. Louis-based company because of its lack of a minority distributor. The Jackson distributorship has about $30 million to $40 million in sales annually.

EU plans to issue 'identity number' for every citizen

Ambitious plans to help European Union citizens move more freely between countries during the course of their working lives may include giving every person an individual "EU social security number".

A task force to be set up at next month's summit of European leaders in Stockholm is to study the proposal as part of a drive to sweep away barriers stopping people from moving easily between member states.

Senior EU officials are pressing for a feasibility study into a common social security coding system for Europe. This would enable entitlements to benefits and insurance contributions to be "portable" for each person, regardless of which country they might live in.

Officials stressed that the move would not be designed to win new powers for the EU, and that the levels of state benefits and insurance contributions would continue to be fixed by national governments. But a more unified system would enable those who pay social security contributions while working in another European country to claim benefits when they returned home.

If adopted, the controversial plan would bring American-style mobility to the European employment market. In America, people readily move from state to state to look for jobs, but only a tiny minority of EU workers are prepared to migrate to another country for work. In the EU, 0.5 per cent of the working population moves abroad each year compared with 2 to 3 per cent of Americans who move states to find work.

Officials in Brussels acknowledge that Europeans encounter more problems in changing countries, including language difficulties. However, they point out that while states in America have different benefit rules, every American has a nine-digit social security number, which records contributions throughout the country.

The British Government, which wants to encourage freer movement of workers within the EU, is keeping an open mind about the proposal until it sees the details. Ministers would oppose any move towards common EU benefit levels but do not believe Brussels is trying to achieve this.

However, an EU-wide coding system would be politically sensitive, fuelling Tory claims that Britain was being sucked into an EU superstate.

A spokesman for Anna Diamantopoulou, the social affairs commissioner, said the remit of the task force remained under discussion but added: "It will look at the A to Z of legal, administrative and practical problems for people living and working in different countries which obstruct mobility, with a view to removing these obstacles by 2005."

Frits Bolkestein, the European commissioner responsible for the internal market, will discuss plans to improve labour mobility with Gordon Brown, the Chancellor.

In a speech in London, Mr Bolkestein will welcome the British Government's support for moves to create an EU single market but accuse ministers of failing to match their words with actions.

The European Commission wants the Stockholm summit to look at other issues such as the mutual recognition of professional qualifications throughout the EU, another barrier to free movement of labour.

Canadian gun-licensing rules violate owners' privacy, right to fair trial, experts say

Canada's controversial gun-licensing rules violate the privacy of gun owners and could jeopardize their right to a fair trial, legal and privacy experts say.

Highly personal questions asked of potential gun-owners under the 1995 Firearms Act have prompted Federal Privacy Commissioner George Radwanski to consider launching an official review of Canada's gun-licencing process.

"I personally find the invasive nature of these questions disturbing," he told The Canadian Press in a recent interview.

"I feel these questions should be reviewed afresh.... Our informal review indicates there is sufficient concern to justify conducting another review."

Recent criticisms of the two-year-old process for getting a gun licence - its high cost to the public, its maze of bureaucracy, and its alleged inefficiency in identifying safety risks - have missed a significant flaw in the law, other legal and privacy experts say.

Under the act, gun owners and potential owners are asked to surrender sensitive personal information about their mental health history, marital and divorce status, and bankruptcy status - details that are stored in a federal database and may then be further investigated by firearms officers and even local police.

"The issue of violence is being used to justify a huge invasive grab of personal information," said Valerie Steeves, a law professor at Carleton University and privacy expert specializing in human rights and technology.

"These practices are open to a Charter challenge."

Under the current rules, gun owners and potential owners are required to state on a form whether, in the past five years, they have: "threatened or attempted suicide," "been diagnosed or treated by a medical practitioner for: depression, alcohol, drug or substance abuse, behavioural problems, or emotional problems," or "experienced a divorce, breakdown of a significant relationship, job loss or bankruptcy."

If they answer "yes" to any of the questions, applicants are asked to provide written details on a separate page.

David Austin, spokesman for the Canadian Firearms Centre in Ottawa, said a "yes" answer means the form is referred to the regional firearms office, where an officer further investigates by calling anyone associated with the applicant to determine whether that person is a risk. That could include calls to neighbours and former spouses.

If not fully satisfied, the firearms office can then ask local police "to act as agents of the firearms centre" by conducting an investigation to assess whether the applicants are dangerous.

Information gathered is used to decide whether to grant a licence, and it is accessible only to firearms officers, Austin said.

He added the privacy protections are stringent.

"Personal information like this is restricted - only a firearms officer could access it," he said.

Austin said the questions on the form are not new - they were developed in consultation with psychologists, sociologists and criminologists and were included under the old Firearms Acquisition Certificate application of 1991.

Bruce Phillips, the former privacy commissioner, "vetted" the questions, Austin said.

But one privacy commission official said that decision has been under unofficial review for some time.

"We did in fact meet with officials of the Department of Justice initially under the former commissioner, and protested vigourously when the certificates were introduced years ago," said Donna Vallieres, director of communications.

"The questions were of an extremely personal nature, and we felt (they were) an invasion of the privacy of the individuals registering."

Eventually though, the Justice Department provided "extensive rationale and expert testimony," which Phillips accepted, Vallieres said.

Steeves argues the security of federal government databases has proven faulty in the past, and said the large number of bureaucrats with access to the information should be questioned.

"I don't think there's a culture of privacy at all," she said.

Providing such information isn't voluntary, as it's been characterized by the law's chief advocates, Steeves added.

"To be voluntary, there has to be an equality of bargaining power," she said. "For example, if I'm a bankrupt farmer, and I need a gun for my livelihood, I'm forced (by this legislation) to reveal these details or lie. Is this an appropriate use of state power? No, it's not."

The potential use of sensitive information during a criminal trial is another flaw in the legislation, said David Paciocco, a law professor at the University of Ottawa.

Paciocco said the way in which the personal information about mental health divorce status or bankruptcy is collected could violate people's rights not to incriminate themselves if they're ever charged with an offence.

"All those pieces of information may assist in presenting a case, or establishing a motive," he said. "It definitely undermines self-incrimination issues ... anybody who gives this information should know that they're forfeiting privacy interests, and it can have implications for them."

Powers granted to police by the legislation which allows them to investigate individuals as "agents of the centre" is also cause for concern, he said.

"With respect to a suspect, they may be able to pose questions that sound innocent (under the guise of working for the firearms centre), but that aren't."

Wendy Cukier, president of the Coalition for Gun Control and professor of justice studies at Ryerson Polytechnic Institute, argued the questions are valid.

Six inquests into firearms-related deaths across the country found the personal factors queried by the application forms played a significant role in each one, she said.

"A huge body of research indicates both violence against others and suicide are linked to (these) risk factors," she said.

But Steeves argues the evidence that gathering such information on a large segment of the population - 2.5 million by some estimates - actually increases the likelihood of stopping gun violence is slim.

"Is this going to make a hill of beans of difference? No," she said. "It's highly questionable whether there will be any effect on crime."

As of last April, Bill C-68's implementation was said to have cost the country $327 million.

In 1995, the original five-year estimate was $185 million, including a one-time start-up cost of $85 million.

Since the new application process began in 1998, 2,238 firearms licences have been refused or revoked -more than 21 times the total number of revocations in the previous five years, according to the Canadian Firearms Centre.

Fears over moves to extend powers of U.K. military police

England's Ministry of Defence police force is to be transformed into a rapid response squad ready to intervene in strikes and protests across the country under the new Armed Forces Bill. The sweeping powers of arrest and investigation contained in the Bill have raised concerns about the creation of a national force of paramilitary riot police.

The move comes after MoD police were forced to refuse Home Office requests for help during last year's fuel protests. The Chief Constable of the force told Ministers that his officers could not be used to aid fuel convoys or pickets at oil refineries under existing legislation.

Defence Minister John Spellar has informed senior MoD police officers that he supports moves to give them similar powers to other police officers. But campaigners are worried that police officers working for the military are not subject to the same controls as local forces. The MoD police force is the tenth largest in the country with 3,700 officers. They are not soldiers, but are employed by the MoD rather than the Home Office and answerable to a special MoD committee rather than the local police authority.

The legislation will also extend MoD police powers to allow them to investigate crimes that take place away from the perimeters of military installations. At present police working at military bases are not allowed to intervene in the wider community. The new powers would allow the force to be used as back-up in large demonstrations or protests. They would also be able to intervene on their own initiative to save life or injury.

MoD police spokesman Mervyn Dadd said the public should welcome the new powers. He said: 'No one could complain about the intervention at the extremes of an emergency in a life-threatening situation. Surely that can only be of benefit to the community.'

Senior officers in the MoD have argued that constraints allowing MoD police to operate only 'in the vicinity' of military bases puts officers travelling between bases in police vehicles in an impossible situation if they are flagged down by the public or witness a serious crime.

Former Lieutenant-Colonel Nigel Wylde, who was arrested two years ago by the MoD police on official secrets charges, said he was 'horrified' that their powers were being extended. 'This is a national police force controlled by the MoD that reports to a police committee staffed by employees of the MoD. There is no independent control of this force,' he said. Wylde, who is leading the campaign against the new Bill, was acquitted last November and is now taking the MoD police to the Police Complaints Authority.

Members of the House of Commons defence committee have also voiced concerns about the new powers. Conservative MP Robert Key told The Observer : "There are clear civil liberties issues involved in extending the jurisdiction of the MoD police."

Surgery ban on smokers in Melbourne, Australia

Doctors are refusing smokers potentially life-saving surgery until they quit their habit.

Physicians and surgeons at Melbourne's top hospitals told the Herald Sun they are denying smokers elective treatment such as lung and heart transplants, lung reduction surgery, artery by-passes and coronary artery grafts.

Greg Snell

Alfred Hospital respiratory physician Associate Professor Greg Snell said reasons for the ban were medical and moral.

"There's not enough health dollars to go around," he said.

"It is within our mandate to ration services and smoking is one way to define the patient population.

"It is common practice to not do elective surgery, and certainly some lung operations, on people who smoke."

Austin and Repatriation Medical Centre senior respiratory physician Associate Professor Lou Irving said it was left to each doctor how to deal with smokers.

"Why should taxpayers pay for it? It is consuming resources for someone who is contributing to their own demise.

"We'd be better off putting the money into the prevention and treatment of tobacco addiction."

Prof. Irving said he knew of many vascular and cardiac surgeons who would refuse treatment based on a patient's smoking status.

"My policy is to very strongly discourage smoking and to encourage them to quit because smoking will reduce the effectiveness of the treatment," he said.

"I would not give treatment if I felt ongoing smoking would make the risk of the procedure too great."

Alfred Hospital patient Steve Marwick admitted that not even multiple injuries from a car accident could stop his craving.

"I know the people at the hospital are right but it's a pretty hard thing to give up," he said after sneaking out to smoke.

Prof. Irving said strong scientific evidence had shown smokers risked complications such as lung infections during operations requiring anaesthesia.

Austin policy meant smokers were strictly denied long-term supplemental oxygen to improve blood oxygen levels because it was too dangerous.

Prof. Irving said it disappointed him when patients refused to help themselves in avoiding tobacco-related diseases.

The Alfred's criteria on eligibility for lung transplants require a patient to have been smoke-free at least six months.

It says candidates must have been free of all substance addiction -- including alcohol, tobacco and narcotics -- for six months.

Prof. Snell said many other specialist treatment units, including heart and vascular, had more informal criteria.

Austin director of vascular surgery Andrew Roberts said research had proved smoking was risky in many types of surgery.

He said studies had shown the long-term results of bypass reconstructive surgery in smokers was deplorable. Unless someone risked losing a limb to gangrene or ulcers, he would refuse to perform the operation.

"Most vascular surgeons will not operate because they know the operation is likely to fail."

Royal Australasian College of Surgeons president Bruce Barraclough agreed some surgery was futile for smokers.

"Lung reduction surgery, for example, where the problem has been caused by smoking, well, there's not much point doing something that is life-threatening if the patient continues to smoke," he said.

Director of the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute ethics program Julian Savulescu said singling out smokers was inconsistent. Many illnesses could also be blamed on a patient's lifestyle, such as obesity and heart disease.

"In principle, the idea of making people responsible for their illness by paying for the consequences of their actions is attractive to some," he said. "But in practice it will ultimately lead to selective discrimination."

He said smokers theoretically paid for extra health care costs through tobacco taxes.

Gifts were not meant for Clintons, some donors say

Among the gifts that former president Bill Clinton says he is keeping as personal presents he accepted last year are $28,000 worth of furnishings that documents and interviews indicate were given to the National Park Service in 1993 as part of the permanent White House collection.

The Park Service serves as a steward for the White House and, according to the White House curator's office, is the only unit with the legal authority to accept gifts for the White House. A gift meant for the current White House occupants, by contrast, is routed through the White House gifts office, a separate unit.

Two of the furniture makers whose donations Clinton took with him on leaving the White House last month say they gave them to the White House as part of a widely publicized, $396,000 redecoration of the executive mansion and not to Clinton personally.

"When we've been asked to donate, it was always hyphenated with the words, " 'White House,' " New York manufacturer Steve Mittman said of his family-owned business, which gave two sofas, an easy chair and an ottoman, worth $19,900 and listed by Clinton as part of the gifts he took with him. "To us, it was not a donation to a particular person."

A spokesman for the Clintons, Jim Kennedy, rejected the notion that the gifts in question had been made to the White House rather than to the Clintons. He said it was his understanding that the furnishings in question were on the White House gifts office list and that the Clintons were entitled to rely on that in deciding each year which gifts they were going to keep.

In the case of the furnishings, Kennedy said, the Clintons postponed a decision until 2000. He said "all of the items" listed on Bill Clinton's final financial disclosure report "were considered by the gifts office to be gifts to the Clintons that they could keep or leave behind."

When the redecoration project was completed in the fall of 1993, the White House distributed a four-page summary of the work, saying it had been "financed by private donations of money to the White House Historical Association, including a donation from surplus funds of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, as well as donations of goods and services to the National Park Service."

Attached was a National Park Service list of "contributors to the National Park Service" and what they had given. In addition to furniture from Mittman, the document listed "Mr. and Mrs. Lee Ficks, Cincinatti, OH., furniture; David Martinous, Little Rock, AR., rug; Mr. Brad Noe, High Point, NC., furniture; and Stuart Schiller, Hialeh, Tx., furnishings."

Clinton also listed these five in his January 19 disclosure report, saying he was keeping a kitchen table and four chairs, worth $3,650, from Lee Ficks; a sofa, worth $2,843, from Noe; lamps, worth $1,170, from Schiller; and a needlepoint rug, worth $1,000, from Martinous.

All were merchants and manufacturers whose high-end gifts, according to those contacted, had been solicited by the interior decorator for the 1993 project, Kaki Hockersmith of Little Rock. Hockersmith, who used a Park Service pass at the time, did not return phone calls.

Like Mittman, Joy Ficks, whose late husband headed the Ficks Reed Co., said she thought the custom-finished rattan chairs and breakfast table installed in the private quarters would remain there as government property. She was puzzled when she learned the Clintons had taken the set with them.

"We gave it to the White House," she said. "I wondered what happened to it."

Noe, who worked at Henredon Furniture Industries at the time, and Schiller, who heads Cambridge Lamps Inc. of Hialeah, Fla., did not respond to phone calls. Martinous, who operates an Oriental rug company in Little Rock, said he wanted the Clintons to keep the handwoven needlepoint he gave.

Two former Internal Revenue Service commissioners, one a Republican and the other a Democrat, said that Clinton's taking the furnishings under such circumstances would appear to be an improper "conversion of government property" that could require the Clintons to pay taxes on them. They said they were not suggesting criminal wrongdoing by the president.

"It's the intent of the giver that counts," said Sheldon S. Cohen, who headed the IRS under president Lyndon B. Johnson. "If it was given to him [Clinton], it's his. But if it was given to the United States, then it is improper for it to end up in his hands unless he buys it."

Donald C. Alexander, who was IRS commissioner under Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford, said: "If someone gave something of value to the White House as the White House and not to the president, that is a gift to the government of the United States . . . a charitable contribution." The Clintons, he said, "have no business taking it with them. That is conversion of government property and income to them."

In the report, which Clinton signed January 19, his last full day in office, the departing president said he was keeping $190,027 in gifts. The former president and his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), have announced they would pay for nearly $86,000 in gifts, covering those given to them in 2000.

Thank-you notes to the Fickses suggest the gifts were understood to be for the White House. In a June 28, 1993, note "on behalf of the President and Mrs. Clinton," White House usher Gary J. Walters said he wanted to express "my deep appreciation for the donation of a table and a breakfast set to the Executive Residence at the White House."

In an August 10, 1993, letter signed "Hillary," the then-first lady expressed appreciation "for your generous contribution to the White House."

"That sounds like an acceptance of the United States," Cohen said. "That's what I would have understood if I were the recipient of that letter."

Asked whether any items the Clintons kept were taxable to them, the IRS declined to comment. The IRS reportedly launched an inquiry in 1989 into former first lady Nancy Reagan's borrowing of designer dresses, gowns and jewelry -- valued at more than $1 million -- to see whether her use of the items might be taxable as interest-free loans. The IRS has refused to discuss the case, citing privacy laws.

It was not clear how the Clinton furnishings might have been included on the White House gifts office list when the Park Service had them on its list. A former White House aide who asked not to be named said inclusion of the items may have been a clerical error by someone at the gifts office, but not one for which the Clintons should be faulted.

White House curator Betty Monkman and Capricia Marshall, a personal assistant to the first lady in 1993, said they were confident that the process of sorting out gifts to the president and gifts to the White House was reliable. But neither they nor Kennedy could account for the Park Ser- vice's 1993 contributors' list.

Whatever the answer, Kennedy protested that "from the perspective of the Clintons, all they know is that these were gifts to them. . . . Given that Hillary Clinton helped raise more than $25 million for the benefit of the White House and that all the proceeds from her new book, 'Invitation to the White House,' will also go to the White House, it is a little silly and small to be talking about these few furnishings."

Former White House curator Clement Conger, however, said it was "outrageous" for the Clintons to take expensive items that were designated for the White House unless they "did not fit into the permanent collection."

"I was shocked to read about it," Conger said of Clinton's January 19 gift list. "I was dumbfounded that they would pick up all kinds of things. I can see ordinary things, but certainly not anything of value."

In his January 19 disclosure statement, Clinton said that "[n]o reportable gifts were accepted in 2001." Hillary Clinton was sworn in as a senator on January 3, bound by Senate rules prohibiting her and her spouse from accepting a gift worth more than $50.

Alexander said that what he viewed as the transfer of government property may have taken place, as a legal matter, whenever the property was removed from the White House, "when the moving vans took it away."

Asked what that date was, Kennedy said, "As far as we're concerned, the question is moot because there was no conversion."

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