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web posted February 26, 2001

DNA tests for all will cut crime, says pioneer

The scientist who discovered genetic fingerprinting wants the entire population of Britain to be DNA tested to try to combat serious crime.

Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, who devised the system to identify criminals from the unique characteristics of their genes, said that he had changed his mind about the human rights implications of a universal DNA database.

Featured in the BBC's Midlands Report documentary on February 18, he said: "When this idea was first put forward about 10 years ago I had considerable concerns over civil liberties issues. On reflection, I'm now actually in favour of this."

Professor Jeffreys, 51, of Leicester University, who was knighted for his work on DNA fingerprinting, said: "The technology is there to make a DNA database for every single one of the 60 million citizens who make up the UK. I think the potential of this database to prosecute serious crime . . . is very substantial. This is a proposal that requires careful thought."

Few in state step forward, register assault weapons

Only 27 000 guns have been registered so far under a new California law that was hailed as the nation's most sweeping crackdown on combat-style assault weapons.

Yet the response -- a meager one in a state of 35 million people -- has not set off any alarms.

There are many plausible explanations for the low number. The guns can be modified, shipped out of state or rendered inoperable so they don't have to be registered.

And the National Rifle Association is being accused of not-so-subtly encouraging its members to ignore the law.

The state first banished some 60 high-powered semiautomatics more than a decade ago. A 1999 expansion of that law required owners of similar firearms to register them as assault weapons by January 1.

Another group of guns added to the outlawed list after a long legal fight had to be registered by Jan. 23.

Although so-called assault weapons can no longer be sold, manufactured or traded in California, owners of pre-existing models can keep them if they are registered.

Guns added under the 1999 legislation still may be registered until the end of this year, subject to a penalty of up to $500, if the weapons were purchased before Jan. 1, 2000, and the owner has no prior convictions under the assault weapons statute.

While some believed hundreds of thousands of guns would be covered under the new law, no one has any hard numbers. All firearms purchases in the state require background checks, a waiting period and an initial recording with the Department of Justice, but all such sales records involving rifles or other long guns must be destroyed by the state within days.

In addition, the new assault weapons law permitted gun owners to comply by removing qualifying characteristics, such as flash suppressors and forward pistol grips.

"No one knows how many assault weapons are out there," said Nathan Barankin, a spokesman for Attorney General Bill Lockyer. "The other thing you have to remember is, this law gave express permission to remove prohibited characteristics to avoid registration. Lord knows how many people did that or think they have done that."

Through the end of last week, the Department of Justice had tallied 27,000 new assault weapons. An estimated 10,000 registration cards remained to be processed. Each can contain an unlimited number of weapons, although in the past they have averaged about 11/2 guns per form, Barankin said.

According to the NRA and other leaders of the gun lobby, the paltry number of registrations stands as testament to widespread confusion and no small amount of outrage over the new law.

In a cover story of its latest America's 1st Freedom magazine, the NRA asked in bold type: "Is Massive Civil Disobedience at Hand?"

The anonymous report stated, "Through confusion or conscious decision, observers say, tens or even hundreds of thousands of Californians . . . may be quietly disobeying" the assault weapons law.

"Ignoring the law of the land," the story continues, "is never the advocated position of the National Rifle Association. Still . . . could this be the most massive act of civil disobedience in our country's history?"

Gun-control backers said the suggestion that there may be widespread defiance of the law, along with the curious qualification of the NRA's "position," appeared designed to send a message.

"I think it's closer than the NRA has ever come to advocating mass disobedience of law," said Dennis Henigan, general counsel of Handgun Control Inc.

"They need to find something serious to worry about," countered NRA spokesman Bill Powers. "I don't know anyone who would advocate anything other than (obeying the law). We certainly don't."

But Powers declined to say whether the NRA has any evidence of mass defiance of the law.

State Sen. Don Perata, D-Oakland, who carried the 1999 assault weapons bill, said the gun lobby benefits by raising doubts about the validity of the law, which the NRA has vowed to challenge in court.

"For every gun that they can prevent from being registered, their hand is strengthened," Perata said. "The irony is that they are sort of aiding and abetting, and in some instances conspiring to evade the law. . . . They have a very selective view of who should go to jail and who is a patriot."

At the American Shooting Center in San Diego, owner Marc Halcon said he distributed several hundred registration forms. But Halcon said some of his regulars apparently have chosen to ignore the law.

"I've tried to offer them registration forms and they said, 'No. I'm not going to do it,' " Halcon said. "During the registration period, a lot of people openly said they were not going to abide by it, and I don't blame them. That's a personal choice."

Failure to register an otherwise legal firearm puts the owner at risk of a fine, jail time and forfeiture of the gun, said Handgun Control's Luis Tolley.

"To the degree people are not registering their weapons," Tolley said, "that just hastens the day when these guns are taken off the street."

Poll: Reagan, Kennedy, Lincoln get nod as 'greatest presidents

Ronald Reagan has joined John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln as those mentioned most often in a poll that asked Americans whom they regarded as the greatest president of the United States.

A year ago, Kennedy and Lincoln were mentioned most often in the Gallup poll asking that question, while Reagan was slightly behind along with Franklin Roosevelt.

Reagan moved up among the top three this year in the poll taken soon after news stories about his 90th birthday and his recovery from a broken hip.

This year, Reagan, Kennedy and Lincoln were followed by Bill Clinton, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, George Washington and Jimmy Carter, who were grouped together in the Gallup Poll. Others mentioned were George H.W. Bush, father of the current president, Theodore Roosevelt, Richard Nixon and Dwight Eisenhower. Others were mentioned by a combined 5 percent.

Reagan was mentioned by 18 percent, Kennedy by 16 percent and Lincoln by 14 percent in the poll of 529 adults taken Feb. 9-11. The poll had an error margin of 5 percentage points.

Two years ago, Lincoln was first, and Reagan, Kennedy, Clinton and Washington were grouped right behind him.

When people were asked whether they would prefer to see George Washington or Abraham Lincoln as president today, six in 10 said Lincoln and just under three in 10 said Washington.

Gallup released the poll data for Presidents Day, which was celebrated February 19. The holiday was originally celebrated on February 22 each year on the birthday of Washington, the nation's first president.

But, in 1968, Congress decided to make it a three-day weekend, setting the holiday marking the first president's birthday as the third Monday in February.

In 1971 President Nixon issued a proclamation declaring the holiday Presidents Day in order to also honor Abraham Lincoln, who was born February 12.

Carter calls pardon of Rich 'disgraceful'

Former president Jimmy Carter said February 20 that Bill Clinton abused his power and brought disgrace to the White House with his last-minute pardon of fugitive Marc Rich.

"I think President Clinton made one of his most serious mistakes in the way he handled the pardon situation the last few hours he was in office," Carter said during a speech at Georgia Southwestern State University. "A number of them were quite questionable, including about 40 not recommended by the Justice Department."

Of the pardon of Rich, Carter said: "I don't think there is any doubt that some of the factors in his pardon were attributable to his large gifts. In my opinion, that was disgraceful."

Clinton insists there was nothing wrong with his pardon of Rich. Until the pardon, Rich had been wanted by the Justice Department, which accused him of fraud, illegal oil deals with Iran and evasion of more than $48 million in taxes.

The pardon is the subject of congressional hearings and a criminal investigation by federal prosecutors in New York.

Carter said he pardoned about 500 people in four years in the White House -- most of those in the first three years, and none during the final weeks of his term. He left office in 1981.

"I never pardoned anyone whose pardon was not recommended to me after a complete investigation by the Justice Department," he said.

Former fundraiser for Hillary Clinton pleads guilty

Paul Adler, a former Rockland County Democratic chairman who was a fund-raiser for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, pleaded guilty on February 20 to mail fraud and tax evasion charges.

In exchange for the pleas, which relate to a 14-count indictment filed last year, federal prosecutors agreed to recommend 18 to 24 months in prison when Adler is sentenced in May.

Adler, 42, a real estate broker, was party chairman from 1996 until he was arrested in September.

He admitted in court that he "offered to use my political contacts" to get a government job for a local planning board member in exchange for approval of a subdivision. The subdivision was never approved and the board member did not get a government job.

Adler also admitted understating his income for 1996 and 1997 by more than $200,000. He said he took illegal deductions, including declaring as a charitable contribution the tuition he paid for his children's private schooling.

Attorney Murray Richman said the tax charge "seemed to break the camel's back" in Adler's decision to plead guilty. The other charges, he said, were "defendable."

Adler declined to comment.

His name surfaced on a list of overnight guests at the White House. Karen Dunn, a spokeswoman for Clinton, said the senator "knows that this must be a very painful time for the Adler family and her thoughts are with them."

Adler must refile his tax returns for 1996 through 1998. Richman said he would be paying $60,000 to $70,000 in additional taxes.

White House won't fight monument designations

Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton said February 20 that the Bush administration is not seeking to overturn any of President Bill Clinton's designations of millions of acres of federal land as national monuments largely off limits to mining and commercial activity.

Gale NortonNorton said the administration, western lawmakers and private property owners likely will attempt to adjust the boundaries of the new national monuments and alter the rules governing commercial activities within them, but that there will be no organized attempt to roll back Clinton's designations.

"I certainly disapprove of the process by which those monuments were generally created . . . [but] I have not yet heard any calls to repeal any of the monument designations," Norton said.

While Norton's spokesman, Clifford May, said the administration has not announced a final decision, the approach outlined by Norton is certain to disappoint some western governors, lawmakers and property owners who view Clinton's wholesale use of the 1906 Antiquities Act to make monument designations as a symbol of federal intrusion into their way of life. Coming just a month after President Bush took office vowing to review Clinton's actions, it suggested that the administration recognized that a battle with environmentalists over land designations would be unwise as the White House seeks to push through its tax cut plan and other legislative initiatives.

Norton criticized the Clinton administration for its haste in designating monuments without adequately conferring with state and local officials and property owners. She said that while Clinton justified the designations as a means of protecting unique or historically significant stretches of the country, there is no money available to carry out the management plans.

"We're now cleaning up after the fact and doing things that should have been done before the monuments were designated," she said. "The monument designations were more show than substance. We now have to provide the substance."

Norton signaled that while there is nothing the Bush administration can do to reverse Clinton's actions, the Interior Department and Congress could work with local officials, property owners and business executives to address their concerns -- such as by allowing existing mining operations to continue.

"We may need to manage those plans in a way that takes into account current uses and that better tailors the monuments for local needs and circumstances," Norton said.

With minimal consultation with western lawmakers and business leaders, Clinton established 19 national monuments covering more than 5 million acres and expanded three others. Except for the 1.7 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which Clinton created in southern Utah in 1996, all the monuments were designated within the final year of Clinton's presidency.

Within hours of taking office on January 20, Bush delayed and promised to review scores of last-minute Clinton orders and regulations dealing with the environment, health, food safety and workplace conditions. As the White House and Republican leaders in Congress explored ways to turn back the environmental rule making, however, they concluded it would be difficult, if not impossible, to undo many of the orders. That's because of the cumbersome and lengthy procedures for reversing an executive order as well as the prevailing mood on Capitol Hill, where a strong pro-environment coalition would oppose any major changes.

House Resources Committee Chairman James V. Hansen (R-Utah), perhaps the severest critic of Clinton's use of the national monument designations, sent letters recently to Republican and Democratic House members with monuments in their districts urging them to introduce legislation challenging the monuments if they are unhappy with them.

However, Hansen said he does not intend to introduce legislation of his own and does not foresee a major effort in Congress to roll back Clinton's designations, noting that a "slashing and burning" approach would not work.

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) is drafting a bill that would require congressional approval of any monument larger than 50,000 acres.

Dick Gregory spearheads non-violent protest

Dick Gregory has experienced racism his whole life. Now the activist and Southern Illinois University graduate will starve himself in an effort to end police brutality against blacks in the United States.

On January 15, Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, Gregory began a hunger strike. He will not eat solid food until Congress enacts legislation forcing police officials, FBI and CIA agents to carry licenses with their guns.

"If the Ku Klux Klan call me a 'nigger,' I can call them a name right back," Gregory said. "If the Ku Klux Klan pulls a gun on me, I can snatch it away from them and either whoop or shoot them with it. I can't do this to a cop."

The 78-year-old former Saluki track star said he believes police brutality can only be curbed by putting police officers in a position where they would have something to lose, namely their gun licenses.

Gregory, Rev. Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King III and other black activists have founded a group called "Enough is Enough." The group travels to different cities in the United States independently investigating cases of police brutality. Gregory said the group has consistently found cases of discrimination against blacks in the different cities.

"White people aren't complaining about black cops shooting their family members," Gregory said. "Black cops know white people won't tolerate it."

In Chicago, the group protested the death of SIU graduate and black woman LaTanya Haggerty. She was killed in a traffic stop on June 4, 1999. Police said they thought she was carrying a gun, but it was actually a cell phone.

SIUC College of Engineering Administrator Bruce Chrisman remembers when Haggerty was killed. She graduated from the College of Engineering in 1996.

"We had students in the department who remembered her," Chrisman said. "There isn't anything worse for an educator than seeing one of your students killed."

Gregory and "Enough is Enough" also experienced police brutality in the community of Riverside, Calif. Gregory, Sharpton and King III were all thrown in jail there for protesting the death of Theresa Miller.

Police shot Miller 14 times when they said she went for her gun in her car. Miller was epileptic and in the middle of a seizure when police fired at her. Police said they saw drugs in the car causing them to search her vehicle.

The independent investigation conducted by the black community revealed the police planted a gun in Miller's car. Gregory said the family settled out of court for $10 million.

"That money won't bring back their daughter," Gregory said.

As a longtime friend of Gregory, Chrisman knows how serious he is about this protest. He said Gregory has tremendous will-power when he has a cause.

"He started the fast at 150 pounds," Chrisman said. "He'll lose 60."

Gregory, who is also a nutrition theorist, has participated in more than 125 hunger strikes. In 1967 Gregory began a hunger strike against the Vietnam War which lasted for more than two and a half years.

In an average day, he consumes eight lemons, four oranges and three grapefruits in their blended liquid forms. He also drinks a cup and a half of maple syrup and a gallon of water.

"As long as you get a gallon your body won't dehydrate," Gregory said.

Gregory, who lives out of various hotel rooms to accommodate his hectic travel schedule, is prepared not eat solid food for years.

He realizes that many more people will have to participate than just himself before Congress will feel much pressure. Gregory hopes big corporations will put pressure on Congress to pass the law. In the end Gregory said his cause will eventually accomplish its goal.

"What I am doing represents light," Gregory said. "Police brutality represents darkness. Watch a sunset. Sunlight knocks nighttime right out of the sky."

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