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web posted March 11, 2002

Condit loses in California primary

Battered by the political fallout of his relationship with missing Washington intern Chandra Levy, Californian congressman Gary Condit lost the Democratic primary by a wide margin to state assemblyman Dennis Cardoza, according to figures posted on the state government's Web site.

Gary Condit

Before the initial results were in, Condit spoke to reporters late March 5 outside his home in Ceres, California, thanking the voters and speaking fondly about his seven terms in office representing California's 18th Congressional District.

"It's been a great opportunity to be in public service and represent [the voters] ... and I'll never forget it," Condit said, with his family and campaign volunteers behind him. "I'm going to work hard the remaining time that I have there and do everything I can do to make the valley a better place to be."

In the early hours of March 6, the final results were posted on California's secretary of state's Web site: with 100 percent of the precincts reporting, Cardoza won with 55.3 percent of the vote to Condit's 37.5 percent.

The Condit race was one of several contests in the California primaries that drew national attention.

In a race with the most significant political implications, conservative Republican Bill Simon pulled off a dramatic come-from-behind victory to defeat former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan in the state's GOP gubernatorial primary. Riordan, a moderate who had been encouraged to run by President George W. Bush, had been the heavy favorite in the early stages of the campaign.

During the March 5 night news conference, Chad Condit accused Cardoza, his father's former aide, of using the Levy situation to his advantage.

"Gary helped Dennis, Dennis backstabbed Gary," Chad Condit told reporters. "He took advantage of a tragedy ... he saw an opportunity to win an election, and he did it."

When asked if he was referring to the Levy situation, he said "yes."

However, he noted his father was not bitter about the results.

Levy, 24, was last seen in Washington this past spring, shortly after completing an internship. Police have said they've found no evidence of wrongdoing and have never named any suspects in the case.

Still, Condit, 53, emerged as a pivotal figure because of his relationship with Levy. He has refused to publicly describe it, but police sources say the married congressman and grandfather admitted to an affair with the young woman during an interview with investigators. Her family has charged that Condit impeded the investigation by initially holding back details about the relationship.

Condit and his supporters insist the decision on his re-election should be based on his record as a public servant, not the media frenzy surrounding the Levy case.

Dennis Cardoza

Meanwhile, Cardoza gave his victory speech in Modesto, California, announcing, "It's great to have friends."

"Today the people of the central valley stood up for their values, the values that are central to our lives," he said, recounting the story of his grandparents' struggle to realize American dream.

"Just two generations later, I stand here tonight as a member of the California state assembly and as the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Congress," he said.

Bureaucrats seize framed papers from Ayn Rand heir's office wall

A three-year battle between the United States government and Dr. Leonard Peikoff, founder of the Ayn Rand Institute, ended with a Federal agent entering Peikoff's home, cutting two original Rand manuscript pages out of their frame, and handing them over to the Library of Congress, the Los Angeles Times reported on March 5.

Peikoff, who donated eleven boxes of papers he inherited from Rand to the Library of Congress in 1991, kept the first and last handwritten pages of her novel The Fountainhead as a memento, replacing the originals with photocopies -- a fact made known to the Library in 1991 by an appraiser.

In 1998, however, after Peikoff joked to the Times that the pages were "stolen," Library officials demanded that he hand them over as government property. When Peikoff refused, the Library threatened to sue him for $1.1 million.

After a lengthy struggle, Peikoff finally capitulated earlier this year.

"I'm 68 and a heart patient," he said in the Times article, "and could not accept the prospect of being further weakened physically by the stress, and perhaps even bankrupted in a fight against what is now, it seems, a virtually omnipotent government."

Rand, an ardent champion of individual rights, often warned of the government's increasing arbitrary power. When asked what she would have thought of the current situation, Peikoff replied: "Ayn Rand, I feel sure, would have said: 'The whole case is another outrage by looting bureaucrats so drunk with power that they must possess and flaunt even the very pages in which I have denounced them.'"

Counsel: Ample evidence against Clinton

A final report by Independent Counsel Robert Ray concluded March 6 that prosecutors had ample evidence for criminal charges against President Clinton in the scandal involving former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

"The independent counsel's judgment that sufficient evidence existed to prosecute President Clinton was confirmed by President Clinton's admissions," the report stated. "President Clinton admitted he 'knowingly gave evasive and misleading answers"' about his sexual relationship with Ms. Lewinsky.

It wasn't until Clinton's next-to-last day in office that he finally put the investigation of allegations of perjury and obstruction in the Lewinsky matter behind him.

The president's lawyers cut a deal with Ray that spared Clinton from criminal charges in the Lewinsky controversy. The president admitted that he had made false statements under oath about his relationship with the former White House intern and surrendered his law license for five years. Ray's report was released by a three-member panel of federal appeals court judges who appointed Ray and his predecessor, Kenneth Starr, to investigate the president and the first lady in 1994.

The independent counsel's report on the perjury and obstruction probe involving Clinton and Lewinsky is to be followed soon by Ray's last report, on Whitewater. It involves the business partnership of Clinton and now-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton with the owners of a failing Arkansas savings and loan in the 1980s.

Starr's investigation of possible perjury and obstruction by the president regarding his sexual relationship with Lewinsky led to the impeachment crisis that threatened Clinton's presidency and resulted in serious political damage to his second term in office.

Clinton was impeached by the House, but the Senate acquitted him. Senators split 50-50 on an obstruction of justice charge and voted 55-45 to acquit the president of perjury. The congressional battle followed up the detailed findings of Starr that there was "substantial and credible information ... that may constitute grounds for impeachment." The Lewinsky controversy grew out of a sexual harassment lawsuit by former Arkansas state employee Paula Jones. Testifying in the lawsuit, Clinton denied having sex with Lewinsky and said he didn't recall being alone with her.

The criminal investigation of Clinton in the Lewinsky matter began in January 1998. Former White House employee Linda Tripp, a friend of Lewinsky, turned over to Starr secretly taped phone calls in which the ex-intern confided her relationship with Clinton. The tapes contradicted Clinton's sworn testimony in the Jones case, which the president gave just days after Tripp had turned the tapes over to Starr.

The sequence -- first turning over the tapes, then Clinton testifying in the Jones case -- led Clinton and his defenders to accuse Starr's office of setting a perjury trap for the president.

Starr's prosecutors and the FBI looked into whether Clinton had tried to silence Lewinsky by getting presidential friend Vernon Jordan to find a job for her. Besides opening doors for her job-hunting efforts, Jordan arranged to hire a Washington lawyer for Lewinsky so that she could file an affidavit in the Jones case. In the affidavit, she denied having had a sexual relationship with Clinton.

When Lewinsky eventually agreed to cooperate with investigators in the summer of 1998, she turned over a stained blue dress from an encounter with Clinton, making it impossible for the president to deny a sexual relationship. Lab tests showed Clinton's DNA on the garment.

World awash with nuclear weapons, report

International researchers have compiled what they say is the world's most complete database of lost, stolen and misplaced nuclear material.

It depicts a world awash in weapons-grade uranium and plutonium that nobody can account for.

"It truly is frightening," Lyudmila Zaitseva, a visiting fellow at Stanford University's Institute for International Studies, said on Wednesday. "I think this is the tip of the iceberg."

Stanford announced its database as U.S. senators held a hearing in Washington to assess the threat of "dirty bombs," or radioactive material dispersed by conventional explosives.

The Stanford program, dubbed the Database on Nuclear Smuggling, Theft and Orphan Radiation Sources, is intended to help governments and international agencies track wayward nuclear material worldwide, supplementing existing national programs that often fail to share information.

The project took on added urgency following the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, which spurred fears that extremists might seek to use nuclear weapons in the future.

"It blows the mind, the lack of information," said George Bunn, a veteran arms control negotiator and a member of the database group. "What we're trying to say is: 'What are the facts?"'

The facts, even on cursory examination, are chilling. Zaitseva said that, over the past 10 years, at least 40 kg (88 pounds) of weapons-usable uranium and plutonium had been stolen from poorly protected nuclear facilities in the former Soviet Union.

While most of this material subsequently was retrieved, at least 2 kg (4.4 pounds) of highly enriched uranium stolen from a reactor in Georgia remains missing.

Other thefts have included several fuel rods that disappeared from a research reactor in the Congo in the mid-1990s. While one of these fuel rods later resurfaced in Italy -- reportedly in the hands of the Mafia -- the other has not been found.

The Stanford group, led by nuclear physicist and arms control researcher Friedrich Steinhausler, decided to form its database after becoming alarmed over the patchy nature of most of the available information.

Combining data from two existing unclassified databases and adding new information from sources ranging from government agencies to local media reports, the team has evaluated each entry for accuracy and probability.

An expert at the Federation of American Scientists, the oldest U.S. arms control group, welcomed the establishment of the database, saying it could play a crucial role in helping governments ascertain the real level of nuclear threat.

"This is a smart step," said Michael Levi, director of the group's Strategic Security Project. "Knowing what's out there is the first step to bringing it back in."

The database includes illicitly obtained weapons-grade nuclear material as well as "orphaned" radiation sources -- scientific or medical material that may have been lost, misplaced or simply thrown away but which still poses a health and security threat.

Steinhausler said the database would be open only to approved researchers, and that the Stanford group was beginning to contact government agencies in the United States and Europe about sharing information to build more effective international supervision of nuclear material.

"We cannot supply the means to improve the situation," Steinhausler said in a statement.

"We're pinpointing weaknesses and loopholes and saying, 'Do something about it." Zaitseva, visiting Stanford from the Kazakhstan National Nuclear Center, said the database was helping to build a dim picture of the market for stolen uranium, plutonium, and other dangerous materials.

But she added that while in many cases those behind nuclear thefts can be identified, the ultimate destination of the nuclear material has remained a mystery.

"We haven't found a single occasion in which the actual end users have been caught," Zaitseva told Reuters.

"We can only guess by the routes where the material is going. We can't say for sure if it is Iraq, Iran, North Korea, al Qaeda or Hezbollah. We can only make assumptions."

She added that the dangers of an unsupervised, underground market in nuclear material were likely to grow, noting that a U.S.-sponsored program to secure nuclear components in the former Soviet Union thus far had only locked up about a third of an estimated 600 tons of weapons-usable material.

"It's just not protected," she said. "This is hot stuff. If you steal 20 kilograms of that material, you can build a nuclear weapon."

GOP's Thompson won't seek re-election to Senate

Sen. Fred ThompsonSen. Fred Thompson, R-Tennessee, has decided not to run for re-election for what would have been his second full term, his office confirmed March 8.

Thompson, a former prosecutor and sometime actor, came to the Senate in 1994 to fill the last two years of the Senate term of Al Gore, who had vacated the seat to run for the vice presidency.

The senator's office released a short written statement from Thompson announcing his planned retirement from the chamber: "I just do not have the heart for another six-year term."

Thompson, a key moderate on Capitol Hill, had been considering retirement last year, but decided to stay on in the Senate after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

His decision could be crucial this election year, when both parties are fighting for control on Capitol Hill. Thompson's retirement could give Democrats hope of regaining the former Democratic seat at a time when they are hoping to hang on to a slim one-seat majority in the Senate.

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