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web posted February 19, 2001

Legislator tries to expand Oregon hate crime laws

A legislator has introduced a bill that could make it a hate crime to smash a Starbucks window or sabotage a timber company.

While the bill would expand hate crimes to include eco-terrorists, Sen. Gary George, R-Newberg, says his real target is political correctness.

The bill calls for an additional five years in prison for an offender whose crime is motivated by "a hatred of people who subscribe to a set of political beliefs that support capitalism and the needs of people with respect to their balance with nature."

The idea for the bill came from Eric Winters, a Portland lawyer active with a group of Libertarians called the Mainstream Liberty Caucus. He took his proposal to Richard Burke, the 1998 Libertarian candidate for governor who is now on George's staff.

"You should be punished for the harm you cause, and you shouldn't be punished extra just because you don't like someone's racial background," Burke said. "We shouldn't put people in jail for being bigots or for being environmentally conscious or for not liking the WTO."

Randy Blazak, a Portland State University sociology professor who spoke at the Oregon Hate Crimes Conference, counters that society routinely takes into account an accused criminal's intent.

Copies of George's bill were circulated through the Capitol two days before a statewide conference on hate crimes in Eugene. The keynote speaker was Judy Shepard, the mother of Matthew Shepard, the gay Wyoming college student beaten to death in 1998. Two young men received life sentences in 1999 for Shepard's death, which led to demands for tougher state and federal hate-crime laws.

China warns of space arms race

A Chinese state newspaper on February 13 fired a new attack against U.S. plans to build a missile defense system, warning that it would set off an arms race in space.

The China Daily suggested attempts to build such a system are linked to what it said was a computer simulation Jan. 22 by the American military of a battle between satellites in which China was the presumed enemy.

"The consequence will be a dangerous arms race in space," the newspaper quoted Yao Yunzhu, an analyst at the Chinese army's Academy of Military Science, as saying.

The comments echoed previous Chinese protests that plans outlined by the new Bush administration for a system to knock out incoming ballistic missiles would upset arms-control efforts.

President Bush has said the system would be aimed at stemming the threat of nuclear attack by such "rogue nations" as North Korea. Critics note that it isn't clear whether such a system could be built, because Washington still faces numerous technical obstacles despite having spent billions of dollars on research.

China fears U.S. anti-missile technology could undermine the effectiveness of its nuclear arsenal. Some in the United States have proposed extending its protection to Taiwan, which China regards as a renegade province and has threatened to capture by force.

Other countries would be forced to compete, leading to the "militarization of space," the newspaper said.

The criticism coincides with efforts by Washington to placate Russia, which has joined China in condemning the project as a threat to arms control.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said the previous day that he expected Russia to relent and eventually accept the system. That would leave China diplomatically isolated on the issue.

Indiana church seized for back taxes

Federal marshals seized an Indianapolis church on February 13, carrying out a judge's order to confiscate the property because of $6 million in years of back taxes and penalties.

Dozens of marshals swarmed the Indianapolis Baptist Temple around 8:30 a.m. (9:30 a.m. ET) and a helicopter hovered overhead during the peaceful seizure.

The Rev. Greg Dixon was holding a prayer service with about five members of the congregation -- including some who had been holding a vigil for nearly three months -- when the raid began.

Dixon and the others refused to walk away from the church, so the officers carried them out on stretchers.

"The purge has started," said Dixon, the church's founder, as he was wheeled away on a gurney. "Forgive them, oh God, for what they have done today."

Dixon, who in the 1980s began the church's fight with the Internal Revenue Service, placed blame on the Bush administration, which he said had agreed to "dismiss the case. We had a deal."

U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker in Indianapolis ordered the confiscation because the church owes $6 million in taxes, penalties and interest for its failure to withhold employee income taxes, Social Security taxes and Medicare taxes.

She had ordered the church to vacate its 22-acre campus by Nov. 14, 2000. In the following months, federal officials met with church leaders about trying to resolve the situation as peacefully as possible. The church has about 2,000 members.

A recent message on the church's Web site said the church appreciated the "great patience and restraint" of the federal marshals and disavowed "unsolicited actions" proposed by regional militia groups.

The Supreme Court denied a final appeal by the church last month, clearing the way for the raid.

"A lot of patience, consideration and planning has led to this moment," said U.S. Marshal Frank Anderson, who led the raid.

Church officials said they don't pay taxes and, thus, cannot be regulated by the federal government. They claim church workers pay taxes on their own.

As news of the raid spread, dozens of congregation members, many crying and holding hands, gathered outside the sealed off perimeter of the church.

"This is a great, devastating blow to religious freedom in America," said one church member. "Our children and grandchildren will never know the same religious freedom that we've known."

Added another, "They stole this church. I stood with them for 92 days. I just don't want it to happen in this country."

Rev. Greg Dixon Jr., who was taking his daughter to school when he learned of the raid, said the church is still "unified preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. ... Our building has been seized and we've been kicked out. Jesus Christ is still Lord."

At hearing, consultants call election coverage 'seriously flawed'

Consultants who conducted investigations of television network coverage of November's election told a House committee on February 14 they found a seriously flawed system.

"Television news organizations staged a collective drag race on the crowded highway of democracy, recklessly endangering the electoral process, the political life of the country and their own credibility, all for reasons that may be conceptually flawed and commercially questionable," said Ben Wattenberg of the American Enterprise Institute, reading from the report he and two other experts prepared on CNN's election coverage at the request of the network.

Wattenberg and other consultants told the House Energy and Commerce Committee they recommended a series of steps to correct problems found in their study, including using exit polls for analysis rather than to project winners, waiting until a significant number of votes are actually counted and "taking more time to get it right."

Wattenburg also said federal grants given to states to improve their voting procedures should require that they no longer release vote counts until all polls are closed nationwide. "It seems to me this offers a simpler form of getting at this problem," he said.

Joan Konner of the Columbia University School of Journalism, also a member of the independent CNN review, said the panel found that the networks' reliance on the same source, the Voter News Service, for data led to much of the problems.

"We believe that relying on a single source of information contradicts well-known, deeply entrenched, best journalistic practices," she said. The study recommended an overhaul of VNS and the addition of a competing source of voting data.

Billy TauzinIn opening comments, committee Chairman Billy Tauzin, R-Louisiana, said an investigation by the committee's staff found "VNS modeling is seriously flawed" and resulted in unintentional bias in favor of Democrats.

Tauzin was critical of the practice of calling winners in some states before polls had closed nationwide, saying it has been shown to discourage people from voting. "Exit polling data produced from VNS may have had a serious effect upon the outcome of elections in some local and other races out West," he said.

Tauzin is offering legislation to make a uniform poll closing time across the country, 9 p.m. ET, and he said he would count on the networks voluntarily holding off projecting winners until after that time.

On Election Night, the news organizations used VNS data to declare Democrat Al Gore the winner in Florida, only to later retract that prediction and much later give Florida and the presidency to Republican George W. Bush -- a call that also had to be retracted. Bush eventually was declared the winner in the state, but only after weeks of recounts and court fights.

The initial call for Gore was made before polls had closed in the state's Panhandle, which is in the Central Time zone.

In his opening comments, Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., read a press release put out by the Florida secretary of state a week before the election asking the networks not to call any races in Florida until after the Panhandle polls had closed.

Tauzin has said his investigators have not found any "intentionally misleading or biased reporting" on the part of the networks but said networks need new procedures to prevent a similar situation from happening again.

In their opening statements, Democratic members of the committee repeatedly expressed concern about what they called the "flawed voting process," including poor ballot design and bad counting procedures.

Rep. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, accused Republicans of taking actions to reduce minority voting in Florida, and said there is a pattern of "voter intimidation, suppression and harassment created and carried out by the Republican Party at the highest levels." He criticized what he called the "conservative, corporate-owned" media for not fully investigating such allegations.

Powell: Bush won't send global court pact to Senate

U.S. President George W. Bush will not send to the Senate for ratification a treaty creating the world's first global criminal court that was signed by his predecessor Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Colin Powell said on February 14.

Powell meets with Kofi Annan earlier that day
Powell meets with Kofi Annan earlier that day

"As you know, the United States, the Bush administration, does not support the International Criminal Court. President Clinton signed the treaty but we have no plans to send it forward to our Senate for ratification," Powell told reporters during a visit to U.N. headquarters.

Bush's team had criticized the treaty even before taking office, with spokesman Ari Fleischer calling it flawed "in its current form."

Some Republicans advocated that Bush should even somehow attempt to revoke Clinton's signature, contending the treaty violated U.S. sovereignty or might be used against American soldiers abroad.

Clinton signed on December 31, hours before a deadline after which countries could no longer sign the document but had to move directly to ratification.

Clinton, when he signed the treaty, said he did so to "reaffirm our strong support for international accountability and for bringing to justice perpetrators of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity."

U.S. officials said the former president affixed his signature knowing it was not a perfect document, so Washington would have a voice in addressing its concerns about the court during future discussions on its procedures.

Don't be fooled: DCS1000 still a 'Carnivore' at heart

Carnivore now goes by the less beastly moniker of DCS1000, drawn from the work it does as a "digital collection system." The investigative agency built the tool to monitor the Internet communications of suspects under its surveillance, but the system, housed on computers at Internet service providers, also can collect e-mail messages from people who are not part of an FBI probe.

A spokesman for the FBI denied that the name change stemmed from worries that the name Carnivore made the system sound like a predatory device made to invade people's privacy. But the Illinois Institute of Technology, which last fall issued an analysis of the system at the request of the Justice Department, recommended that the name be changed for just that reason, according to an IIT analyst.

"We had a concern that it wasn't a good name for the system," said the IIT's Larry Reynolds. The group thought the name should be dumped, he said, "because of the very definition of the word."

The name change is the latest development in the controversy surrounding the surveillance tool, which came under public scrutiny last summer when privacy advocates began to decry it. In September, the Justice Department picked the IIT Research Institute to perform a government-sponsored technical review of the software.

The rechristening is part of an upgrade that incorporates other recommendations from the research group, according to Paul Bresson, a spokesman for the FBI. "It isn't because we were worried about negative privacy publicity. If it was, we would have changed (the name) months ago," he said. "This (system) is not something that remains static."

The upgrade was supposed to be coordinated with a Justice Department report on DCS1000 scheduled for release prior to Janet Reno's departure last month as attorney general, Bresson said. He did not say when that report will be made public.

Chretien refuses to see Hong Kong's top democrat, a stern critic of Beijing

Although Prime Minister Jean Chretien says he supports democracy and human rights in China, he has undermined his own position by refusing to meet with one of China's few elected legislators, the snubbed politician says.

Martin Lee, one of 24 elected members of Hong Kong's 60-seat Legislative Council, said February 16 he wanted to give Chretien a contrasting view of China and Hong Kong from what the prime minister has heard out of Beijing.

Hong Kong President Tung Chee Hwa and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien
Hong Kong President Tung Chee Hwa and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien

But Chretien refused to meet with Lee, saying his schedule on the 10-day Team Canada trade mission to China was too full.

Lee said that calls into question all the speeches and statements Chretien has made during this trade mission, which began in Beijing last weekend and wraps up with this two-day visit to Hong Kong.

"I think when the Canadian government says that it has committed itself to the development of democracy and human rights and the rule of law, it sounds rather hollow when (Canada's) prime minister comes to Hong Kong, he doesn't see somebody who is democratically elected by the people," said Lee.

"When he cares for all these things, yet he doesn't see me, it sounds pretty odd," added the prominent politician, who is not popular with the leadership in Beijing because of his outspoken defence of democracy and human rights.

Chretien, who met Lee in April 1997 in Ottawa, insisted two xmain speeches he delivered in the past week focusing on human and legal rights have proven his commitment. The prime minister said he has also raised these issues with senior Chinese leaders, including Premier Zhu Rongji and President Jiang Zemin.

And Chretien - who wrapped up his trade mission on February 17 with more contract signings - denied he has avoided Lee so as not to offend Beijing.

"Listen to my speech I made in Beijing. Listen to my speech I made in Shanghai. I'm not very shy" about speaking out on human rights, Chretien told reporters after a lively question-and-answer session with students at the Canadian International School in Hong Kong.

"I'm not to see everybody that wants to see me," added Chretien. "I'm here with Team Canada and with a mission on developing trade."

But trade and human rights are not exclusive issues - foreign investors would be more comfortable doing business with a country that respects the rule of law, said Lee.

Lee, who made his request to meet Chretien less than two weeks before, said he fears that Hong Kong is "going down a dangerous and slippery road . . . fast becoming just another Chinese city."

The Hong Kong government's recent harsh criticism of the spiritual movement Falun Gong - still legal in the former British colony but banned in the rest of China - proves Hong Kong is coming under increasing pressure from Beijing, said Lee.

Observers have called the Falun Gong issue in Hong Kong one of the biggest tests yet of the "one country, two systems" form of government put in place when Britain returned Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty in July 1997.

The system gives Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy and citizens enjoy western-style personal liberties unheard of on the mainland. Falun Gong members are allowed to practise their beliefs in Hong Kong but the government has recently stepped up its denunciation of their protest campaign against Beijing.

Lee was invited to a dinner on February 16 hosted by the chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administration given in honour of Chretien, but Lee later said there was no time to talk with the prime minister.

"There cannot be any opportunity for me to tell him the sort of things I want him to know about Hong Kong," Lee said.

"Some people really fear that if they talk about human rights and the rule of law, that somehow, it's bad for business," Lee said earlier in the day.

"But what's the advantage of an engagement policy (with China) if you can't take advantage of it and therefore . . . push China to do more for the people."

Bush takes aim at unions

President Bush took aim at organized labor on February 17, issuing orders effectively reducing how much money unions can spend for political activities and opening up government contracts to non-union bidding.

At his central Texas ranch for the weekend, Bush issued four executive orders that White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said were based on the principles of "fair and open competition" but that labor union supporters denounced as a "giant step backward."

The moves represented a reversal of policy of the previous Democratic administration and were a shot across the bow to organized labor, which vehemently opposed the orders.

One order requires federal contractors to post notices on bulletin boards informing employees who are not in a union but are still required to pay union dues that they have a court-ordered right not to pay the portion of union dues used for political activities.

The order seeks to enforce a 1988 Supreme Court ruling, Communications Workers of America vs. Beck. The ruling guaranteed a right not to pay any union dues that go for political purposes. Bush's father had issued a similar order as president but it was revoked by President Clinton.

Republicans have long sought to limit the influence of organized labor on political campaigns. The labor movement has been a prime source of get-out-the-vote drives for Democratic political campaigns, including that of Vice President Gore last year.

The order drew a sharp rebuke from one Democratic lawmaker.

"It is meant to have a chilling effect on the ability of working men and women to organize and bargain collectively for decent wages and benefits, and basic job security," Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota said in a statement.

"This is no way to set the tone for bipartisanship," he added.

While Bush's order was limited to federal contracts, he would like to take it a step further as part of campaign finance reform legislation. He would like to include a provision giving all union workers the right not to have their dues spent for political activities.

A second order Bush signed reversed a Clinton policy that gave unionized construction companies priority on federal projects. It allows non-union companies to compete for bids on federal projects. This restored another policy of Bush's father.

"Government contracting decisions should be neutral, neither requiring nor prohibiting project labor agreements, seeking the highest quality at the best price to ensure that government is a responsible steward of the American people's hard-earned tax dollars," Fleischer said.

Bobby L. Harnage, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, called Bush's action "hasty, foolhardy" and "a giant step backward."

"In one day, President Bush has torn apart what has taken years to craft -- the development of a government workplace that is people-driven, highly flexible, creative and responsive to the changing needs of the American people," he said.

Bush signed a third order that "immediately dissolved" the National Partnership Council, which Clinton had set up as a way for government managers and unions for federal employees to try to settle their differences.

The Bush White House felt the council's work had become too cumbersome and bureaucratic, aides said.

And the fourth order Bush issued effectively eliminates job protections for employees of contractors at federal buildings when the contract is awarded to another company.

Fleischer said the order allowed federal contracts to be awarded on the basis of fair and open competition, neutrality in government contracting and efficient use of tax dollars.

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