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web posted March 5, 2001

Hunting helps delinquent boys, researcher says

Proper initiation into hunting can curb teen violence, controversial American ethologist Randy Eaton said in Toronto on February 24.

Eaton, a recognized international authority on animal behaviour, wildlife conservation and human evolution whose research has come under fire, was the keynote speaker at the annual conference of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters.

"Hunting has an incredible influence on delinquent boys and we have proof that 85 per cent of them do not reoffend after a program of rehabilitation that includes hunting," Eaton told a few hundred of the federation's 83,000-strong membership at a hotel on the airport strip.

But Rob Sinclair of the Ottawa-based International Fund for Animal Welfare said his organization will oppose any attempt to import an American program to permit firearms training for teens with criminal records.

"Providing young offenders with firearms training is a horrible idea for both wildlife and people," said Sinclair, provincial issues co-ordinator for the fund.

Eaton spoke about a successful 13-year program in Idaho for wayward boys that teaches them the benefits of self-sufficiency.

"I know of three other such programs and I know they have turned around the lives of seriously aggressive young men.

"Going out into the wilderness connects a youth with nature in a profound way and it also engenders respect for life, paradoxically enough by taking a life," Eaton said.

"This is where the difficulty comes as anti-hunters believe that we are abusing innocent living things in the wild. None of us live without something else dying so that we may live."

Sinclair said he was concerned because 11 people died in hunting accidents in Canada involving underage hunters in the last four years.

"We are determined to ensure that the OFAH does not try to sneak this through as it did for guns for 12-year-olds hunting in wilderness preserves or firearm manuals for schools."

In 1998, under pressure from the federation, the Ontario government lowered the hunting age from 15 to 12. Last year, a hunting manual was shipped to Ontario high schools.

"Statistics in the U.S. back me up," Eaton said, "when I say that kids with legally owned firearms do not commit crimes, because they are trained through hunter education programs and act responsibly."

Al Gore still loses election

A review of 10,644 uncounted ballots in Miami-Dade County showed Al Gore would not have gained enough votes to overtake George W. Bush in Florida when those votes were combined with results from three other counties where the vice president requested manual recounts, a newspaper reported.

A Dade County voting form is shown during the recount process November 8
A Dade County voting form is shown during the recount process November 8

Gore would have gained no more than 49 votes in Miami-Dade, The Miami Herald reported in February 26 editions. When combined with Gore's gains in Broward, Palm Beach, and Volusia counties, he would have not have overcome the Bush lead.

The four counties used punchcard ballots, which state lawmakers are considering eliminating in favor of optical scanning equipment for the 2002 election in all 67 Florida counties.

The review, sponsored by the newspaper and its parent company Knight Ridder, studied undervotes, or ballots where machines were unable to read votes for president.

"There were many people who expected there was a bonanza of votes here for Al Gore, and it turns out there was not," Herald executive editor Martin Baron said the day before the report was released.

The newspaper found that 1,555 Miami-Dade ballots were marked in a manner that might be interpreted as a vote for Gore. An additional 1,506 bore some kind of marking that might be interpreted as a vote for George W. Bush. There were 106 markings for other candidates.

No markings for president were found on 4,892 ballots, and 2,058 ballots bore markings in spaces that had been assigned to no candidate. An additional 527 ballots were deemed to have markings for more than one presidential candidate.

The Herald used broad liberal standards, including counting every dimple, pinprick and hanging chad identified in the section for presidential votes on the ballots.

Republicans said the Herald's results indicated that Bush was always the legitimate winner.

"President Bush was lawfully elected on Election Day. He won after the first statewide machine recount," said Mark Wallace, a Miami lawyer for the Republican Party. "He won after the manual recount, and he won at the conclusion of all the litigation."

Democrats said the review shows neither side could have known how the recounts would turn out.

"This underscores how unpredictable the whole recount strategy was, on both sides," said Doug Hattaway, former Gore campaign spokesman. "This shows Bush's tactics of delaying and blocking vote counts didn't really benefit him."

The Herald and Knight Ridder retained a public accounting firm, BDO Seidman, LLP, to conduct the inspection, which took more than 80 hours spread over nearly three weeks.

A BDO Seidman accountant sat in the Miami-Dade elections office and recorded information about each undervote. The ballots were handled by elections officials. A Herald reporter also reviewed each undervote ballot and made a separate and independent assessment of its characteristics.

A research firm hired by several news organizations, including The Associated Press, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, also is reviewing 180,000 Florida ballots that did not register a vote for president during machine counts.

The Palm Beach Post previously released the results of its own review of 10,600 Miami-Dade undervotes. In that count, the Post found Bush gained six more votes than Gore.

The Post, which used a more restrictive standard than The Herald, concluded that Bush would have gained 251 votes and Gore would have gained 245 votes. No overvotes, or ballots where machines detected more than one presidential vote, were counted.

The certified results in Miami-Dade were 328,808 votes for Gore and 289,533 for Bush, according to the Florida secretary of state's office. Statewide, Bush won Florida by 537 votes out of about 6 million cast.

Zundel's hate crimes case could set precedent for content on the Internet

A human rights case against notorious Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel could set a legal precedent about whether hateful information is permitted on the Internet in Canada. The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal is expected to rule this spring on a case launched in 1997 against Zundel over the contents of a Web site which opponents say exposes Jews to hate and contempt.

The "Zundelsite" contains a stylized logo that resembles a swastika and posts information that the Human Rights Commission says depicts Jews as liars who are corrupt and control governments.

Zundel has refused to attend the hearings. He moved to Canada in 1958 but never held citizenship, although he took his fight to gain it to the Supreme Court.

He moved to the U.S. a few months ago and is believed to be living in Tennessee with his second wife, Ingrid Rimland. Irene Zundel has testified in the past against her former husband, saying he's the author of the Web site despite a disclaimer on the site that Rimland is the Web master and editor.

Zundel's lawyer, Doug Christie, failed to attend closing arguments on February 26 in his client's case, saying the tribunal has no control over messages emanating from the California-based Web site.

But commission lawyer Mark Freiman said the tribunal does indeed have jurisdiction because the Web site can be accessed in Canada through telephone lines.

The tribunal possesses no power to influence Internet content in the United States, which supports a strong protection of constitutional rights to free speech. But the tribunal should consider enforcement secondary, said Freiman.

He added that France, Germany and Australia have laws about Internet content.

A ruling against Zundel could lead to his arrest and imprisonment for contempt of a court order should he return to Canada, said Edward Earle, a lawyer with the city of Toronto, which originally filed a complaint to the tribunal.

The case against Zundel poses wide-ranging implications for content on the Web. The human rights commission has argued that a section of the Human Rights Act that refers to telephonic devices should apply to the Internet as well.

If such a broadened definition is accepted, it forms an important precedent for future cases, says Marvin Kurz, national legal counsel for the Canadian B'nai Brith.

"This is the first Canadian case dealing with the jurisdiction of the human rights law to deal with hate messages on the Internet," he said. "This is a first step in dealing with that medium. It's not the last step."

Added Bernie Farber, executive director of the Canadian Jewish Congress: "This will become the map for how the Internet will be used in the future."

But Barbara Kulaszka, another Zundel lawyer, cautioned the tribunal against making a decision based upon a case she argued is moot because the messages emanate from the U.S.

"Potential Canadian respondents in future complaints about Web sites on the Internet should not be prejudiced by findings of fact and law in a case which has become moot due to changing circumstances," she wrote in a letter to the tribunal. She didn't attend the hearing.

Tribunal adjudicator Reva Devins acknowledged during the hearing that the potential impact of a decision on the Internet is "quite staggering."'

"It clearly will have very significant implications for future proceedings," she said.

Paul Fromm of the Canadian Association of Free Expression, a group sympathetic to Zundel, decried attempts to expand the definition of the Human Rights Act.

"This is a massive expansion of the power of the federal government as it more and more tries to shut down debate in this country," he said during a heated shouting match with Jewish leaders attending the hearing. Fromm presented his concluding comments to the tribunal the next day.

The two sides lobbed opinions at one another outside the tribunal court room during a break in the proceedings. A small group of Zundel supporters challenged comments made from a representative of B'nai Brith.

"Why can't we debate the Holocaust?" asked Alex Calder, a grandfather from outside Toronto.

"Unless you say that all the Jews are like Fiddler on the Roof people, you're an anti-Semite. I've got good Jewish friends and they sneer at you when you say this. I don't have them as a group," added his wife, Dorothy.

Fromm said his group's agenda is to protect freedom of speech against political correctness which prevents people from discussing anything controversial.

"Unless you are advocating violence, there shouldn't be limits on freedom of speech," he added.

U.S. Supreme Court weighs rights of landowners

In a case that could have broad implications for environmental and regulatory policies, lawyers argued before the Supreme Court on February 26 about whether governments are unconstitutionally "taking" someone's property when they pass regulations that effectively lower its value.

Lawyers for Rhode Island plaintiff Anthony Palazzolo argued that the state, which has for 20 years prevented him from developing a pond-side plot of land because it is protected wetlands, should pay the retired auto wrecker because its value is diminished by the regulation.

"Declaring something an environmental issue is a way for the government to effectively deprive the owner the use of the property without paying the price for it," said R.S. Radford, an attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation, a property rights law firm representing Palazzolo in the case.

"The outcome of this case could have broad implications for the protection of our coastal ecology and our nation's environment in general," said Rhode Island Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse, who argued the state's case before the high court.

Whitehouse argued that Palazzolo was not, in fact, totally deprived of his property. "There is value in this property," he said, because a home could be built on the higher-ground area of the land.

If Palazzolo prevails, governments could be forced to rethink the way they issue regulations that impact the value of private property, including monumental laws such as the Endangered Species Act and clean air and water rules.

Palazzolo bought the land in 1959 as an investment, intending to develop it piecemeal over the years. The 18-acre parcel was zoned for residences or a beach club and Palazzolo planned to fill in the marshy lots and sell them to make some money on the side.

"I'm not a developer," the 80-year-old Palazzolo said. "All I wanted to do was improve my land and sell the lots occasionally as I went along."

A series of environmental restrictions enacted in 1971 and 1977 made his plans impossible, though. He later sued the state for $3.15 million in lost value.

His attorneys argued that the government in essence "took" the land from him by blocking his proposals, violating the Fifth Amendment clause that states if a government takes a person's property, it must pay just compensation.

"If we look at the history of environmental regulations in this country, especially in the last 10 or 12 years, it has been proceeding on the assumption that the government can deprive owners of the rights of their property at the stroke of a pen," Radford said.

The case is being closely watched by organizations on both sides of the property-rights debate. Among those supporting Palazzo are Defenders of Property Rights, the National Association of Home Builders and the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Supporters of Rhode Island include the National Wildlife Federation, the National Conference of State Legislatures and 18 states.

Casinos in Ontario must tell customers that police are scanning faces

Casinos must tell patrons they could be subject to face scanning by police, Ontario's privacy commissioner says.

Privacy watchdog Ann Cavoukian ruled on February 26 that face scanning by the Ontario Provincial Police is a legitimate law enforcement activity at casinos to help catch cheats. But the controversial face-recognition must never be used in secret.

Ontario law requires notification to the public when personal information is being collected, along with instructions about how to access your file.

Cavoukian launched an investigation after The Hamilton Spectator reported the OPP secretly scans faces at all Ontario casinos for match-ups with criminal mug shots.

A second report by The Spectator triggered an inquiry by Canada's privacy commissioner into RCMP use of face scans at Pearson Airport. That investigation is still under way.

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, which oversees the eight casinos where the scans are done, said it will comply with Cavoukian's ruling on public notification.

"We will be dealing with the casinos and working out some type of graphic suitable to meet the request of the privacy commissioner," said Ab Campion, a commission official.

Current signs only say patrons may be subject to video surveillance.

The OPP and the commission originally said they did not have to tell patrons about the controversial system because there is no expectation of privacy in a casino.

But Cavoukian said no one expects to "surrender complete control over their physical autonomy and personal information when they enter a casino."

"There are strong reasons for requiring government institutions to provide notice if they are surreptitiously using biometric technologies to capture personal information."

The OPP may temporarily store images of a person under investigation, for example, even though the person is never proven guilty.

No image is kept of a person found not to have done anything wrong. But the public should know data could be collected, she said.

Many U.S. casinos and a few in Canada use private photo databases and face recognition to keep undesirable customers out and identify good ones. This is thought to be the first time in Canada that police have used a system on casino premises to find "hits" in their own criminal files.

Cavoukian said the OPP does not scan everyone who enters a casino, only suspected cheaters.

About 200 images were on file in the OPP casino system at the time of her investigation in February.

Face scans are a form of biometrics, a technology that identifies a person by measuring distinctive physiological characteristics, such as facial features or fingerprints.

Cavoukian said all Ontario agencies must resist the "temptation to go further with this type of technology."

"The prospect of covert surveillance encroaching into more and more public spheres of activity poses a serious threat to our fundamental right to privacy," Cavoukian said.

Clinton phoned CBS on friend's behalf

While still president, Bill Clinton talked to the chief executive of CBS on behalf of two Hollywood friends involved in a billing dispute with the network.

CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves confirmed the discussion on February 27 but denied that Clinton's intercession on behalf of TV producers Harry Thomason and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason played a role in the dispute's resolution.

"I've had numerous chats with President Clinton over the past few years," Moonves said. "He is a friend of mine. No business decision has ever been made on the basis of a conversation with him."

Moonves said he and Clinton had talked about several subjects, one of which was Thomason. He said Clinton told him something like, "Harry's our friend, be nice."

"That was the extent of it," Moonves said.

The former president has been dogged by controversy since he left office over his presidential pardons and the way friends and relatives sought to influence him on behalf of cases.

The Thomasons, known best for the 1980s comedy "Designing Women," have had a long relationship with the Clintons and produced a video about the Arkansas native, "The Man From Hope," that was shown at the 1992 Democratic convention.

Thomason, co-owner with his wife of Mozark Productions, declined to comment on a Wall Street Journal story saying Clinton placed the call to Moonves. A spokeswoman for Clinton did not return calls seeking comment. The former president, who spoke to media executives the same day as Moonves, did not take questions on the subject.

The Thomasons had been seeking a penalty fee of more than $1 million from CBS for canceling "The Good Life," a series about single women in New York, before it was broadcast. CBS was trying to defer payment of the penalty while it sought another idea from the couple.

The Journal reported that soon after Clinton and Moonves spoke -- while Clinton was still president -- CBS paid the Thomasons around $1 million. Neither Moonves nor the newspaper specified when the call was made.

But a source close to negotiations between the network and producers, who asked not to be identified, said the payment was actually much less.

In addition to getting a penalty fee, the Thomasons were freed to make deals with other networks for programs.

Canada's Auditor 10-year review finds culture of secrecy, government unaccountability

After a decade auditing Canada's books, Auditor General Denis Desautels says the fiscal house may be in order but the role of Parliament is diminished, the civil service is a mess and there's a culture of secrecy that could take years to break.

"Overall, the federal record is far from perfect," said Desautels, whose 10-year appointment ends March 31. He called his final report, tabled February 27, "a useful summary of the office's main messages" taken from several hundred audit reports.

"It is key that the government make meaningful accountability a priority, improve the management of its employees and its finances, and initiate a continual review of programs," he said.

The auditor did praise Ottawa for turning around the budget deficits of the early 1990s and for giving Canadians better information on the state of federal finances.

But he said overly pessimistic revenue projections that helped carve down the deficit are today being used "to create big pots of money that sit until the end of the year."

"Then there is a mad scramble to spend them."

While he was careful not lay blame, many of Desautels' criticisms land at the door of the Prime Ministers Office.

One of the year-end spending sprees he cited was the $2.5 billion Millennium Scholarship Fund, the pet project of Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

The same fund was also singled out among a troubling trend of the Liberals to create new agencies "just outside the government's orbit," which the auditor general is not permitted to investigate.

"They're still spending public money and they should receive the same scrutiny as government departments," Desautels told the standing committee on public accounts.

Asked by a Bloc MP if more power is being concentrated in the Prime Ministers Office at the expense of Parliament, Desautels hedged before conceding, "Yes, it does affect the power of the legislative branch."

Desautels also said the government has "a tendency to play for time and to avoid hard decisions."

Three examples of what he described as resultant policy drift: the lack of a sustainable fisheries program; "frustratingly slow" improvements in the lives of First Nations; and deep cuts that have left National Defence clinging to an army its budget can't support.

Desautels also singled out Canada's environmental record, saying the government "is better at setting targets than working to reach them."

He also used the environment to emphasize a wider criticism: "Reporting environmental information is no better than the reporting of other results in the federal government. In other words, it is rudimentary at best."

Indeed, the reporting and accountability of government departments came in for the harshest of Desautels' parting shots.

He said he sees little hope of the culture of secrecy and unaccountability changing "for a long time," because it is so deeply ingrained.

"There is a reluctance to let Parliament and the public know how government programs are working, because if things are going badly you may be giving your opponents a stick to beat you with," said his report.

Stockwell Day, leader of the Canadian Alliance, said all MPs are "hindered when proper reporting isn't happening and there's little incentive to do it. There's fear on the part of public servants."

Desautels said the auditor general does get results over time.

He said his successor, who has yet to be named, must have "patience and persistence."

"You have to keep coming back at these issues," said Desautels.

"Fortunately, the auditor general has a 10-year mandate and we have a good memory."

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