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American actor Michael Moriarty ponders Canadian campaign

Michael Moriarty, American Republican and Emmy Award winning actor who practically fled the United States a few years ago for semi-exile in Halifax, blaming "creeping McCarthyism" and a power hungry Washington for disenfranchisement, says he may want to run as a candidate in Canada.

"In three years or whenever I get my citizenship I'm going to run for office," he says.

While living stateside, Moriarty was approached by Libertarians to run for office and once announced he was running for president on a talk show.

"I think the Reform Party is now buried under Reformese. People don't know what Preston is saying," Moriarty observed.

"I hear a rumour there's a bit of lunatic fringe in the Reform Party. You gotta kick 'em out," he recommends.

The steadfast Republican could picture himself running for a seat in House of Commons under a unified right banner and is undaunted by a lack of right-wing support in his adopted home of Nova Scotia.

"If I run on a Reform/Conservative ticket, I'd be the first MP out of the Maritimes who is realistic. Filled with reality -- not the hell of good intentions," he told the Sun on the fifth anniversary of his resignation from NBC's Law and Order.

Moriarty felt NBC was attempting to censor his political opinions during a public quarrel with U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno.

"I should celebrate. I should send Janet Reno a thank you note. I would have never met [wife] Suzy [Cabrita] and I would never have found my real vocation, which is politics," he said.

Conservative activist Bauer announces run for presidency

Conservative activist Gary Bauer, saying he has a vision for the country that will excite the American people, announced his intention to run for the Republican nomination for president.

Bauer, 52, admitted that "a lot of Americans probably don't know me yet" but said he has the conservative credentials and money-raising skills necessary for a viable candidacy.

"I'm anxious and enthusiastic about getting into this debate and seeing if we can elevate it, see if we can put some real issues on the table for the American people," he said.

In preparation for his presidential bid, the former Reagan administration official took a leave of absence in January month as head of the Family Research Council, which under Bauer has come to rival the Christian Coalition as the voice of grass- roots conservative activism.

He said banning abortion would be a major plank in his platform and that as president, one of his first legislative goals would be making it unlawful to perform abortions in the second or third trimester of a pregnancy.

Bauer said he supports a flat tax with an across-the-board 16 percent rate for all Americans.

He also said he supports removing President Clinton from office over the Monica Lewinsky affair. He said he doesn't understand how any senator could decide the charges against Clinton were not serious enough to convict him of the impeachment charges, perjury and obstruction of justice.

"Senators who vote to acquit just naturally in many states will end up facing challengers in primaries," Bauer said.

Texas judge bans law software...payoff to lawyers? Duh!

Apparently helping people help themselves is sometimes illegal.

At least that's what a Dallas federal judge thinks. He recently banned software company Parsons Technology from distributing consumer self-help legal software, on the grounds that it amounts to unauthorized practice of the law.

US District Judge Barefoot Sanders issued a summary judgment on 22 January preventing Parsons from distributing future copies of Quicken Family Lawyer and Quicken Family Lawyer 99. The decision was first reported on February 1.

The Parsons products offer dozens of legal forms on matters like employment agreements, real estate leases, and marital agreements. The Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee, an organization of six lawyers appointed by the Texas supreme court, argued before court that Parsons was violating the state's statute barring the unauthorized practice of law.

The Parsons software helps users fill out legal forms by asking questions in plain English, instead of legalese. Parsons argued that it can't be violating the statute, because software can't be construed as a person practicing law. Furthermore, Parsons lawyers argued that the statute would infringe on the company's right to free speech under the Texas and US constitutions.

Parsons said it will appeal the decision.

Nolo Press, a groundbreaking publisher of legal self-help books based in Berkeley, California, also faces an investigation by the UPLC. The company's Texas-based attorney, Pete Kennedy, has been following the Parsons case closely.

"I'm concerned that opinions labeling self-help legal software as a 'cyber lawyer' over-simplifies and distorts the way the publications are used by individuals," Kennedy said. "People who buy software publications realize that they're not hiring a lawyer."

Nolo has sued the Texas supreme court to obtain information about who is backing the UPLC and whether the organization is looking out for lawyers' interests.

"The UPLC seems hellbent on trying to eradicate legal self-help publications," Kennedy said.

Rep. King claims he was threatened by GOP leadership

GOP Rep. Peter King of New York has written some constituents that "threats were made against me by the Republican leadership" in connection with his vote on an impeachment-related roll call in the House last year.

"I regret that Congressional Republicans were so blinded by their opposition to President Clinton that they voted to impeach him rather than stand by the traditional principles of their party," the independent-minded New York lawmaker wrote near the beginning of February. "I also regret that threats were made against me by the Republican leadership in an attempt to keep me from voting my conscience."

The Associated Press obtained a copy of one letter written to a correspondent who had evidently contacted King to express his support for the congressman's vote against impeachment.

King volunteered that he believed that House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., had played no role in the threats.

Instead, he indicated that Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas, the GOP whip, had sought to retaliate.

King said his claim of threats rested on the publication late last year of a story in which an unnamed GOP leadership aide was quoted as saying the next two years would be difficult for the congressman if he bucked the party on a key procedural vote.

"The next day a congressman who is a representative of the leadership came to me and said they were expecting me to vote with the party," King said in the interview. "I said I wouldn't, it was a matter of conscience and if there was ever any thought there was a chance, it ended" with the published comment by the unnamed leadership aide.

"No one ever took the threat back," he said. "They had three or four days after that to say it was inaccurate. So as far as I was concerned they were sending a threat and I was sending it back to them."

King said that he subsequently heard that DeLay had sought a few weeks later to deny him a subcommittee chairmanship he was in line for. He said he had been told that DeLay tried to change seniority rules to allow Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, to jump ahead and claim the subcommittee post.

"As far as I'm concerned (it was) a direct shot from DeLay," he said.

Mike Scanlon, a spokesman for DeLay, said, "Pete King has a reputation as making things up, and this is no different."

He added, "It's not worth it to approach Pete King on anything, whether it be a procedural vote on impeachment or a vote on a tax bill."

Scanlon did not deny, however, that DeLay had interceded on behalf of Paul, a fellow Texan.

The roll call vote at issue concerned a Democratic proposal to permit a House vote on censure as an alternative to impeachment of President Clinton. Republicans used their majority muscle to deny Democrats a censure vote, but on a key procedural vote, King sided with the Democrats.

Harvard economist Feldstein says Social Security bailout is a gimmick

U.S. President Bill Clinton's plan to save Social Security is nothing but a "phony gimmick," a Harvard economist said February 1.

Instead of using the federal budget surplus to delay the bankruptcy of the federal retirement system, the government should use a large portion of that money to fund individual accounts for taxpayers, economist Martin Feldstein said.

"It's a sham because the president is claiming to put money into the trust fund that he just doesn't have. He claims that he's going to put $5.5 trillion over the next 15 years into the trust fund and spend another nearly $2 trillion," Feldstein said on Moneyline News Hour with Lou Dobbs.

"So, a total of $7.5 trillion to be financed out of a budget surplus that's only $4.5 trillion by his reckoning. That doesn't add up."

"I think the right thing to do is to create individual accounts and put that surplus, a large part of that surplus, into individual accounts, which will supplement future Social Security. So it's a tax cut, but it's also a way of really saving Social Security, unlike the phony gimmick that the president has come forward with," he continued.

Afraid of Gore? Gephardt decides against Democratic nomination

House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt decided not to seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2000. Gephardt instead plans to remain in his Missouri House seat with an eye on regaining a Democratic majority in the House and winning the speaker's gavel in 2001.

Gephardt informed Gore of his decision at a breakfast meeting the morning of February 3 before stopping by the White House later to tell President Bill Cinton, plans to officially announce his decision to his Democratic House colleagues.

The minority leader was less inclined to make a presidential run in 2000 after Democrats gained seats in the House in 1998, putting him closer to the speakership. But his decision was complicated after several Democrats urged him to run late last year following his passionate floor speech against the articles of impeachment facing Clinton.

Gephardt, who ran unsuccessfully for president in 1988, is credited with helping shape the 1998 election as a referendum on the Republicans' handling of the Monica Lewinsky sex-and-perjury investigation.

I was "too hasty" says Washington D.C. mayor, rehires aide

A white aide to Washington Mayor Anthony Williams who resigned after using the word "niggardly" in a conversation returned to city government, ending a flap over what critics derided as political correctness run amok.

On February 4, saying he acted "too hastily" in accepting David Howard's resignation, Williams offered Howard his job back as director of the Office of the Public Advocate. Howard agreed to come back to city government, but he asked the mayor to find him a different job.

"While it is important for a mayor, or any leader, to act decisively, make bold decisions and create a sense of urgency, it is not always necessary to act hastily," said Williams, who was elected mayor in November.

On January 15, Howard used the word "niggardly" -- a synonym for "stingy" -- in a conversation with two aides. Eleven days later, he resigned as rumors were spreading that he had used a racial epithet.

Howard now says he was too quick to resign.

"At the time, I thought it was the best thing for the city and the administration," he said.

But columnists and commentators pounced on the incident as yet another example of the ludicrous state of politics and race relations in Washington.

Williams, who is black, had promised to bring a new era of respectability after decades of excess under his controversial predecessor, Marion Barry. But Howard's resignation led to accusations that the new mayor was kowtowing to remnants of the Barry regime.

Both aides who heard Howard use the word "niggardly" were holdovers from the Barry administration, and one was a candidate for the job Howard was given.

"The recently completed review of the incident confirmed for me that Mr. Howard did use the word 'niggardly' but did not use a racial epithet," Williams said, adding that the employee who complained misunderstood Howard to have use a racial slur.

As for Howard, he says that in the future, he'll use the word "parsimonious" instead.

Beverly Hills considers warning tags for furs

An anti-fur strategy approved for the Beverly Hills ballot -- but possibly facing a legal challenge -- would tell shoppers in the trendy Southern California city how the foxes, minks and other animals that keep them stylishly warm may have been killed.

Voters will decide on May 11 whether to force merchants to tag fur items with labels stating that the animals may have been electrocuted, gassed, poisoned, clubbed, stomped or drowned.

If approved, it would be the nation's first law requiring such labels.

The credit-card sized tags would be attached to coats, stoles, hats or any other fur-made product over $50 sold in Beverly Hills, which is home to Rodeo Drive, one of the world's most expensive shopping districts.

Those in violation could be fined $100 per item.

The issue was forced onto the ballot by a local animal rights group called Beverly Hills Consumers for Informed Choices.

It gathered more than 3 300 signatures, forcing the city council to place the measure on the ballot, despite questions from some council members about its legality.

Among the celebrities who signed the petition are Jack Lemmon, Jay Leno, Vidal Sassoon, Pat Boone, Buddy Hackett and Sid Caesar.
"Consumer notice: This product is made with fur from animals that may have been killed by electrocution, gassing, neck breaking, poisoning, clubbing, stomping or drowning and may have been trapped in steel-jaw leghold traps."  

Mayor Les Bronte was the only member of city council to vote against putting the issue on the ballot. He dislikes the $60 000 cost of the special election and worries about a "pelt posse" of police having to check tags in stores.

The Humane Society of the United States has endorsed the measure, but opponents say the tags will be misleading because they do not describe how the animals in a specific coat were killed.

"Is the waiter in the restaurant able to give you the information about what bait was used to catch the fish you're eating?" asked Keith Kaplan, president of the Southern California Fur Association. "That's an unreasonable burden."

Montgomery countered: "We're saying that these are methods the fur industry uses and letting people decide if they want to support that."

Clinton presses for crackdown on gun shows

U.S. President Bill Clinton threw his support on February 6 behind legislation to require background checks on all firearms buyers who visit the nation's 4 000 or more gun shows each year.

The new national policy, Clinton said in his weekly radio address, should be: "No background check, no gun. No exceptions."

The National Rifle Association derided his proposal as a "public relations stunt" and argued that the federal government is not enforcing the gun-control laws it already has on the books.

Clinton said the Brady law's requirement for background checks -- meant to bar felons from owning guns -- no longer must exempt gun-show sales by nonlicensed collectors and private hobbyists.

Such sellers make up one-quarter or more of gun-show vendors, leaving the current exemption a loophole "wide enough that criminals reach right through it, grabbing, collectively, thousands of firearms that disappear without a trace," the president said.

The proposed legislation, to be introduced in Congress by Rep. Rod R. Blagojevich, D-Illinois, and Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-New Jersey, also would broaden the statutory definition of "gun show" to include flea markets and any other venue where two or more people are engaged in the sale of at least 50 firearms.

The administration also wants federal registration of all gun show promoters and federal record-keeping requirements extended to nonlicensed firearms vendors.

The collection of information from these vendors would be "strictly limited" to data about the guns -- not the buyers or sellers -- so that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms could trace guns sold at gun shows if they turn up at a crime scene, said Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder.

According to Gun Show Calendar, a periodical, 4 442 gun shows were advertised around the country during 1998. The highest number, 472, were in Texas. The National Association of Arms Shows says these weekend markets draw up to 5 000 people per show, at admission fees starting at $5.

Clinton's call for new legislation follows a joint report and recommendations by the Treasury and Justice departments.

Responding to Clinton's address as just another whack at gun owners, Wayne R. LaPierre Jr., chief executive officer of the NRA, said the federal government is not prosecuting felons already identified under the existing Brady bill provisions.

"This is public relations masquerading as substance," LaPierre said. "It's hollow and it means nothing to felons on the streets. This is an attempt to put the federal government on the backs of more people."

LaPierre and NRA lobbyist James Baker called a news conference in Las Vegas the day before to launch their preemptive strike on Clinton's proposal.

Baker said in the last two years there have been only four prosecutions of illegal dealings at gun shows. "If they know about them, why aren't they arresting them?" he asked.

"There is no reason to pass one more law that the Clinton administration has no intention of enforcing. Their own data doesn't support the changes if they've had only four arrests and prosecutions," Baker added.

China releases veteran dissident

Chinese authorities have granted early release to a veteran democracy activist imprisoned after the government crushed pro-democracy protests in 1989, a human rights group said February 7.

Sun Weibang, 57, was released three days earlier from Weifang prison in eastern Shandong province, having served nearly 10 years of a 12-year sentence, the Hong Kong-based Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China said.

His sister, Sun Weixian, confirmed the release and said Sun Weibang got back to his family's home in the eastern port city of Qingdao the day after his release.

"His health is good," she added.

Sun's release came amid an aggressive government crackdown on dissent that has seen other democracy campaigners given lengthy jail terms in recent months.

It also came four months before the 10th anniversary of the crushing of the pro-democracy protests centered in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

Sun, who ran a small restaurant in Qingdao, provided free food to protesting students in 1989 and was given a 12-year jail term for "counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement" after the protests were crushed, the Information Center said.

New York-based Human Rights Watch has said Sun ran a broadcasting station for student protesters in Beijing, and was arrested on charges of spreading rumors, blocking traffic and disturbing social order.

Sun also was jailed for three years without trial or sentence in the early 1980s after participating in China's Democracy Wall movement, which the government also crushed, according to Human Rights Watch.

The Information Center quoted another dissident who was in the same prison as Sun as saying that Sun earned early release this time through a system where prisoners can get their sentences reduced by exceeding prison work quotas.

Americans may not trust lawyers... but TV certainly does

From National Center for Public Policy Research

If Americans don't like lawyers, and they say they don't, they aren't getting these ideas from television.

According to a January 1999 report from the Media Research Center, TV portrays lawyers as very upstanding citizens. Lawyer characters committed only 1 per cent of TV crimes, compared with businessmen (29.2 per cent), career criminals (9.7 per cent), doctors (4.1 per cent), government officials (3.9 per cent), police officers (3.5 per cent), soldiers (2.1 per cent), blue collar workers (1.8 per cent), and teachers (1.2 per cent). Even scientists are portrayed as less ethical than lawyers (1.4 per cent).

ABA ends 20-year support for independent counsel law

In the wake of the Watergate crisis 20 years ago, the American Bar Association helped craft an independent counsel law to restore public confidence in the investigations of politicians.

But after watching the statute evolve into what one lawyer called "the pursuit of the hunted," the group ended its support of the law in an overwhelming vote on February 8 by its House of Delegates.

"It was designed to remove politics from the investigation of public officials," said Philip Anderson, who heads the 400 000-member group. "The majority of Americans would say that politics has not been removed."

Anderson said the delegates' 384-49 vote should not be seen as a referendum on Kenneth Starr and his investigation into President Clinton.

"I don't believe this was reflecting on any one investigation or any one prosecutor," he said.

But other ABA members seemed to have Starr on their mind when expressing their opposition to the law. Miami lawyer Neal Sonnett, a speaker at the House of Delegates session, called Starr "the poster boy for the independent counsel statute."

"It does not promote confidence in our system of justice when the individual chosen to conduct an investigation of the president of the United States has never been a prosecutor or tried a criminal case," Sonnett said.

The law was part of the 1978 Ethics in Government Act that sprang from the Watergate scandal of President Nixon's administration.

Among the toughest critics speaking against retention of the law was Benjamin Civiletti, attorney general under President Carter, who said it "has produced unintended and terrible consequences."

The concept deteriorated into "a pursuit of the hunted" and has become "a Jean Valjean nightmare," he said.

The ABA resolution recommends that the statute be allowed to expire in June. A clause urges drastic changes in the law should Congress decide to retain it.

Anderson said the ABA Government Affairs Office in Washington will quickly begin lobbying Congress to allow the independent counsel law to die.

"Congress listened to the ABA 20 years ago," he said. "I have every reason to believe they will listen to us now."

No one recalled if the ABA asked for the law to be dropped while Lawrence Walsh investigated Ronald Reagan for seven years, at greater cost than Ken Starr's investigation, with no charges resulting.

Gun industry wins key battle in Georgia fight over liability suits

Following heavy lobbying by the National Rifle Association and others, the Georgia Senate approved a bill that could bar Atlanta from pursuing its liability lawsuit against the gun industry.

By a 44-11 vote, lawmakers on February 8 approved legislation that would prohibit local governments from suing gun makers. The bill is expected to be passed by the House, which already approved a similar measure in January, and signed into law by Gov. Roy Barnes.

The vote followed an intense lobbying effort by the NRA and the Senate's Democratic leadership. The gun industry is lobbying other states to pass similar legislation.

Opponents of the Georgia bill called the legislation anti-Atlanta and unconstitutional.

"We do not believe it is legal for the Georgia General Assembly to prohibit cities from filing lawsuits designed to protect the public's interests," Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell whined. "We still believe the Senate and the House have sent the wrong message to the public."

Atlanta filed its lawsuit against 17 gun manufacturers in early February as the city hosted the nation's largest gun show. It joined four other municipalities -- Chicago, New Orleans, Bridgeport, Conn., and the unified Miami-Dade County government in Florida -- in seeking reimbursement for the costs of gun-related violence.

The Chicago suit claims gun makers and dealers purposely flood the suburbs with guns, making it easier for criminals in Chicago, which has tougher anti-gun laws, to bring one into the city. Other suits seek compensation for costs incurred from gun violence.

State Sen. Mike Egan of Atlanta, the only Republican who voted against the measure, said the bill unfairly singles out Atlanta for special action.

"The NRA comes along and says, 'Tell the city it's gone too far,' and we seem to be jumping to their signal," he said.

James Baker, chief lobbyist for the NRA, said some Republicans were contacted to support the measure. "We were trying to convince them that we needed to get this thing passed, particularly because the mayor of Atlanta decided last week to go ahead and file suit," he said.

Falwell's newspaper outs 'Teletubbies' character

The Rev. Jerry Falwell's magazine tried to out Tinky Winky last month, suggesting that the purple, purse-toting character on television's popular "Teletubbies" children's show is gay.

A spokesman for Itsy Bitsy Entertainment Co., which licenses the Teletubbies in the United States, said the purse is actually Tinky Winky's magic bag.

"The fact that he carries a magic bag doesn't make him gay," Steve Rice said. "It's a children's show, folks. To think we would be putting sexual innuendo in a children's show is kind of outlandish."

The February edition of the National Liberty Journal (NLJ), edited and published by Falwell, contained an article warning parents that the rotund Teletubby with the triangular antenna may be a gay role model.

To support its claim, the publication stated thatTinky Winky has the voice of a boy but carries a purse. "He is purple -- the gay- pride color; and his antenna is shaped like a triangle -- the gay- pride symbol."

The NLJ contends the "subtle depictions" are intentional.

The British show aimed at toddlers began airing on U.S. public television stations last spring. The Teletubbies are portrayed by actors in oversized, brightly colored costumes. They all have television screens on their tummies.

Pataki compared to Wallace by Jackson

Jesse Jackson, weighing in February 9 on Gov. George Pataki's prospects as a candidate for president or vice president, likened him to Southern segregationists George Wallace and Orval Faubus.

The civil rights leader, in Albany to testify at a legislative hearing in opposition to the governor's budget plans for education, said the New York Republican is spending too much on prisons and not enough on schools.

Asked about Pataki's national aspirations, Jackson said Pataki is following in the footsteps of the late Govs. Faubus of Arkansas and Wallace of Alabama as well as former California Gov. Pete Wilson, who turned against affirmative action and cracked down on illegal immigrants.

"We see Pataki in that tradition," Jackson said. "There's Faubus and there's Wallace and there's Wilson and now here is Pataki.

"But America deserves leadership of hope and healing. And whether you're blocking school doors in Alabama and Arkansas or simply locking kids out of closed school doors in New York is not the wave of the American future."

Pataki spokesman Michael McKeon said Jackson's "partisan attacks are so outrageous they don't even merit a response."

One Pataki political ally, state Assembly Minority Leader John Faso, said he was outraged.

"It really shows he isn't interested in genuinely contributing to the debate here in New York about the budget," Faso said. "He's more interested in throwing political Molotov cocktails."

Faubus, who died in 1994, called out the National Guard in 1957 to try to block the desegregation of a Little Rock high school. Wallace, who died last year, stood in the schoolhouse door in 1963 in an attempt to keep blacks from enrolling at the University of Alabama.

Jackson, a two-time Democratic presidential contender, said he has not decided whether to run again next year.

No word whether Jackson called Jews "hymies" again either.

Arrested homelessness protesters have homes

All 11 of the protesters arrested on Canada's Parliament Hill February 10 during a violent demonstration against homelessness gave police home addresses. All belonged to a group of veteran anti-poverty activists and one was a paid leader in the group.

Volunteers with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty visited downtown Toronto soup kitchens and shelters to "recruit" 144 protesters for an overnight bus trip to Ottawa, promising participants food and shelter on the journey.

But those recruited to exemplify the social injustice represented by homelessness were not among those arrested.

"There was a combination of people who came of whom some would be truly homeless," conceded John Clarke, the paid OPAC organizer who was arrested. While none of those arrested was in fact homeless, Clarke explained, "the bulk . . . would fit into the description of low-income tenant."

All of those arrested identified themselves to police as members of OPAC, and all had home addresses, said RCMP Sgt. Mike Doucet.

"We had to be convinced it was a home address or somewhere they could be reached," he said.

Clarke has a history of organizing aggressive campaigns that attract both television news cameras and criminal charges. Last December, a Toronto judge found him guilty of mischief for forcing open two downtown Toronto buildings, but let him go free because he was "genuinely motivated."

Clarke acknowledged that he had threatened before the protest to use force in his attempt to meet directly with Jean Chretien, the Prime Minister. "I have no apologies for saying we were going to absolutely insist on a meeting."

Advance publicity about the demonstration, coupled with the coalition's reputation for confrontation, prompted the RCMP to ask the Ottawa-Carleton municipal police force for back up, said Sgt. Doucet.

Ottawa-Carleton police charged a Montreal man with assaulting a police officer and breach of probation after the crowd of nearly 200 tried to crash through a police barrier, and pushed Joe Clark, leader of the Conservative party.

The other 10 protesters arrested were from Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa and the Tyendinaga Mohawk First Nations reserve near Belleville, Ontario.

He said all those arrested were members of the Toronto-based Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.

A bulletin on the group's Web site encouraged members to join the march in Ottawa, declaring: "It's time to go to the highest levels of government and make them take responsibility for people who suffer every day."

Using large groups of people in a protest orchestrated by only a few people is a legitimate practice, said Clarke. "The charge of professional agitators stirring up people who would otherwise be passive . . . it's been going on since Spartacus led the rebellion for the slaves in Roman times."

Clarke, who turned to professional activism when he was laid off his factory job in London, Ont., in 1982, runs the $50 000-a-year lobby group with one other paid staffer. The group receives funding from unions, including the Canadian Auto Workers, and church groups.

NBC pays $10 000 to settle Geraldo Rivera sex perjury challenge

NBC agreed to pay $10 000 to a lawyer who claimed Geraldo Rivera reneged on a promise to pay that sum to anyone who could prove a person had been prosecuted for lying about sex.

Rivera issued the sex-perjury challenge September 24 on the CNBC television show "Rivera Live" that was devoted to analysis of the investigations of President Bill Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

NBC spokesman John Brine said the network will pay Mark Bogatin rather than slog through a lengthy legal fight, even though it "continues to believe that none of the claims have satisfied the challenge."

"This is purely a business decision," Brine said. "Geraldo strongly disagrees with NBC's decision to settle."

Bogatin said after about five hours of research in a law library, he found five cases and sent them to Rivera. The show failed to pay, and he sued.

Bogatin sid the network's decision to settle "represents an acknowledgment that Rivera was wrong to deny my claim."

Rivera, a lawyer, contended the investigation of Clinton for allegedly lying about his sexual conduct was unprecedented and that criminal prosecutions are simply not brought for lies about sex.

NBC has paid $10 000 to Joe DiGenova and Victoria Toensing, a husband-wife lawyer team in Washington, because cases they submitted met the criteria of the challenge, Brine said.

DiGenova, a former U.S. attorney, and his wife, a former Justice Department official, frequently appear on television as conservative commentators.

The couple donated the money to the Ronald McDonald House, Brine said.

U.S. official defends export to Canada of high-risk prison blood, or why Canadians have reason to dislike Americans

U.S. prisoners were permitted to donate high-risk blood plasma for export partly because it was felt this would help in their rehabilitation, says a spokeswoman for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Business factors may also have played a role in the decision to permit the shipment of prison blood to Canada after its use within the United States was halted in 1982, the official said in an interview February 11 from Washington with the Ottawa Citizen.

"During that time . . . it was seen as a way for prisoners to rehabilitate themselves, they were giving something back to the community by donating their blood," said the official who asked not to be named.

The official expressed regret that Canadians may have been infected after receiving blood products made from plasma collected in prisons in Arkansas and Louisiana.

"It's always so difficult when you're talking to consumers who have been directly affected by something so life-altering. It's too flimsy an excuse, but we didn't have a lot of information back in the '80s.

"There was some sort of consensus building that they (prisoners) were high-risk donors, but we had no way to prove that they were."

Canadian tainted-blood victims are demanding an inquiry into why the FDA continued to license prison blood centres despite evidence that prisons were hotbeds of HIV and hepatitis C infection.

There have been numerous reports about irregularities in the blood collection program at the Arkansas Department of Corrections Cummins Unit, in Grady, Ark.

"The FDA found these guys (at the Grady prison) were destroying records and committing serious violations and somehow they got relicensed every time," says Mike McCarthy, an Ontario hemophiliac infected with hepatitis C.

"Everybody knew - the FDA knew these were not good areas for production of fractionated products. They turned a blind eye to repeated violations."

Michael Galster, a doctor who worked in the Arkansas prison system in the mid-1980s has said prisoners were permitted to donate blood even when they were visibly ill with the symptoms of AIDS and hepatitis C.

The Krever Report on the tainted blood scandal says that on December 13, 1982, Dennis Donohue, director of the FDA Office of Biologics, asked major U.S. fractionaters to stop using blood from high-risk areas, including prisons.

But the FDA official interviewed insisted the agency never asked the fractionaters to stop using prison blood.

She said fractionaters made that decision voluntarily and the FDA continued to license a few small prison centres which were exporting product "overseas."

The convenience of prison collection may have appealed to manufacturers of blood products, she added.

"It might have been a very businesslike decision too. This is a group of people who are willing to donate and donate regularly, and you have to go to one site to pick it up. So it might have been an economic issue as well."

Arkansas officials have said the prison centres produced 300 to 500 units of blood every weekend. Since blood plasma is pooled for fractionation, a single contaminated dose can infect thousands of units of final product.

Republican slams microradio plan

On February 11, the top Republican in the House overseeing communications policy blasted a plan to allow thousands of new low-powered radio stations on.

Representative Billy Tauzin of Louisiana said the Federal Communications Commission plan for so-called microradio would reduce the audience and advertising revenue of current stations and possibly create severe interference. I wonder who his contributors are.

The FCC "is an agency out of control that demands congressional action to straighten it out," Tauzin said at a luncheon meeting of the National Association of Broadcaster's group of top radio executives.

Tauzin chairs the House Commerce Committee's communications subcommittee. The luncheon meeting, in a private dining room of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Arlington, Virgina, included billionaire Lowry Mays, co-founder of Clear Channel Communications.

Tauzin argued that new Internet and satellite radio broadcasters were adding new voices to the airwaves, while current radio and television stations were being underutilized, possibly providing outlets for unheard viewpoints.

"Are the stations we have now enough? Are they utilized properly?" Tauzin asked. In some television markets, the children's program Barney was shown on public television 15 times a day, Tauzin said.

But FCC chairman William Kennard urged Tauzin to talk to educational, religious, and community groups that support the microradio plan before opposing the idea.

"There is enough room for the voices of churches, schools, and neighborhood groups, as well as established radio companies," Kennard said in a statement released after Tauzin spoke.

"I'm sure that Chairman Tauzin does not want to limit Americans' choices to whom or what they can hear on the radio. I hope that when he speaks with the church and community leaders who I have spoken with, he will see the benefits of low-power FM."

"There's a disconnect between yesterday's rhetoric and today's," said Andrew Schwartzman, president of the Media Access Project, a nonprofit law firm backing the microradio supporters. "I would have thought that the FCC's use of the Communications Act to end protectionism and permit the entry of hundreds or thousands of new businesses into the most dynamic and growing part of our economy is something Billy Tauzin would be pushing not stopping."

In January, the FCC proposed creating hundreds or even thousands of new FM radio stations broadcasting at 1 000 watts down to as little as one watt. Commercial stations typically broadcast at 6 000 watts or more, requiring expensive equipment and massive antenna towers.

Kasich announces plans for presidential candidacy

Rep. John Kasich, a ninth-term Republican from Ohio known for his zeal as a budget-cutter, said February 14 he has decided to take the first step toward running for his party's 2000 presidential nomination.

Kasich, speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press," said he would file papers the next day with the Federal Election Commission to set up a presidential exploratory committee.

Kasich, 46, stressed his blue-collar origins as the son of a mailman and said he is running because "I think we need to renew the spirit that everyday people can move America. I'm a different kind of a politician, particularly in my party, and I'm going to try to build a better America."

Chairman of the House Budget Committee, Kasich has sometimes created friction within his own party because of his adamant support for smaller government, budget cuts and reduced taxes. He is a leading advocate of a plan for a 10 percent across-the-board tax rate cut.

"I like to have fun, I have a lot of good ideas, I have a proven track record, and you know, what it comes down to, I'm just a little different, a little fresher than a lot of the politicians today," Kasich said. "It's time for our generation to step up to the plate and make the big changes for America."

Case of the noisy flapping flag

Roger Gardner's Canadian flag has landed him in a flap.

The retired school principal has been charged under a local noise bylaw with disturbing inhabitants "by flapping and snapping a flag or banner."

He has a date in Meaford court on March 4 and, if convicted, faces a fine of between $250 to $2 500.

"It's outrageous. It contravenes my right as a proud Canadian citizen to fly a Canadian flag," Gardner said at his home at the base of Blue Mountain, near Collingwood.

Gardner put up the flag, which is about a metre wide by 3 metres high, in his front yard in December. Within days, town bylaw officer Harvey Reekie called to say he had received a complaint that the banner was flapping too loudly.

A month later, the flag was still waving, so Reekie returned and charged Gardner under the town's noise bylaw. But Gardner is standing by his flag.

"I checked flag etiquette. It's completely acceptable to fly a flag day or night," he said.

"I took a drive around and there are flags flapping everywhere . . . even the Town of the Blue Mountains office has three."

Gardner speculates the noise complaint stems from a feud with a neighbour. That neighbour was out of town and not available for comment.

"I live right across the street and I don't hear it," another neighbour, Jay Lapetina, said. "This is Canada and it's a Canadian flag. So what's the problem?"

But a man who lives about 100 metres away is bothered.

"That's not a flag, it's a banner and it shouldn't be in a residential area. You can hear it flapping and cracking from here," said the man, who didn't want his name used.

Whatever happens, Gardner says he has no intention of paying a fine. "I'll go to jail to defend my right to fly my country's flag."

Independent Counsel Act likely to die in June

The Independent Counsel Act that grew out of the Watergate scandal and culminated in Kenneth Starr's investigation of President Clinton is headed for extinction in June, lawmakers from both parties say.

"One thing we can do in this Congress is not extend the life of the independent counsel statute. It was a post-Watergate liberal notion and it was a disaster," Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., said February 14 on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"This law needs to terminated. I don't want it to be amended. I want it to be ended," Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on CNN's "Late Edition." He noted that he was one of 21 senators who had voted against reauthorizing the act after it lapsed in the early 1990s. It will die on June 30 unless Congress and Clinton renew it.

Congress passed the law in 1978 as a post-Watergate means to ensure that investigations into the president, his Cabinet and other top officials would be free of politics. Under the act, the attorney general can ask a court to appoint an independent counsel when there is compelling evidence that a senior federal official is guilt of wrongdoing and a Justice Department investigation might give the appearance of a conflict of interest.

But Republicans were displeased with the independent counsel's treatment of the Reagan administration during the Iran-Contra affair and Democrats have accused Starr of abusing his powers in his four-year, $40 million probe of the White House. It started with the Whitewater land deal and proceeded through the White House travel office firings, the handling of FBI files and finally the Monica Lewinsky affair.

Both parties have questioned the Office of Independent Counsel's nearly unlimited powers to spend money. Prosecutor Donald Smaltz spent $17 million in a four-year corruption case against former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy, who was acquitted of the charges.

Attorney General Janet Reno has sought the appointment of seven independent counsels to investigate Clinton administration officials, but Republicans have criticized her refusal to use the act to look into Clinton's and Vice President Al Gore's possible links to alleged Democratic fund-raising violations.

"It's either going to be rewritten significantly or it will be allowed to lapse -- in all likelihood the latter," Senate Republican Whip Don Nickles of Oklahoma said on ABC's "This Week."

Congress is expected to hold hearings on the act in the coming weeks, but McConnell said Congress might simply kill it by failing to act on its reauthorization.

China releases dissident journalist from prison...how kind of them

Prominent Chinese dissident and journalist Gao Yu was released from prison February 15, suffering from high blood pressure, heart disease and kidney problems.

"Her health is not good," her son Zhao Meng said of his 55-year-old mother, jailed in 1994 for publishing articles overseas containing what Chinese officials said were state secrets. Gao, winner of UNESCO's 1997 Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, pleaded innocent to the charges.

Human rights activists have pushed for Gao's release -- along with that of at least 13 other journalists still imprisoned in China -- for some time. But Gao's son, who has been dreaming of this day, harbors no illusions that China has gained a new respect for human rights.

"The government should be able to tolerate people who criticize it," said Zhao.

Gao's release follows the December arrest and sentencing of veteran dissident Xu Wenli and several other pro-democracy activists, prompting harsh criticism from the United States government.

Xu's wife said she thinks Gao's release is nice, but not meaningful.

"China treats its own citizens like hostages," said He Xintong. "It's tragic. They imprison them, then they send them abroad. Then they (the dissidents) hold dialogue with foreigners. Why can't they have dialogue with their own people?"

Hillary Clinton confirms she is considering Senate bid

First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton confirmed February 16 that she is considering running for the New York Senate seat being vacated by Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

In a statement, Mrs. Clinton said she was "deeply gratified" by the interest her potential candidacy had generated and would decide later this year whether to make the run.

"Up until now, I have not been able to do so, but I will give careful thought to a potential candidacy in order to reach a decision later this year," Mrs. Clinton said in her statement.

Clinton is scheduled to be in New York in early March and is expected to discuss the pros and cons with political leaders there.

Her major concerns include whether she would be more influential outside the Senate and the potential hostility of the New York news media.

Another factor for the first lady is her family's long-term financial situation, including enormous legal bills.

"She's always been concerned about the financial security of her family," said Mandy Grunwald, a former Clinton aide. "I think that will continue to be a concern and I assume that will continue to be one factor in how she makes up her mind about this."

The first lady was described as encouraged by remarks the week before by Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who predicted she would win.

New York Democratic politicians are telling the first lady she would have no trouble raising the millions necessary to run and would not face serious opposition in the Democratic primary.

They also say the first lady could win the general election against New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani or any other Republican candidate.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) predicted, "If it's a matchup with Giuliani, it would be a battle of the titans but I'd give the edge to Hillary."

Mrs. Clinton has also been told that Giuliani may not even run if she does, perhaps preferring to wait for the governor's race in 2002. But if he does run, she has been told her chances would be enhanced by the possibility that a third-party, conservative anti-abortion candidate would take away votes from Giuliani.

Canadians support private health care

Next time Bill or Hillary Clinton tell Americans to look to Canada for the future of health care delivery, Canadians and Americans should tell them to look at their own system. The majority of Canadians who believe they should be able to buy treatment outside the public health care system appears to be holding firm, while confidence in the structure's ability to do more with less has begun to sag, according to a recent countrywide survey.

Fully 60 per cent of those interviewed in February for a National Post/COMPAS poll said Canadians ought to be entitled to obtain services outside the government medicare system, while 39 per cent disagreed with the idea.

A powerful sense of disillusionment underpinned almost all the respondents' views: Some 79 per cent said health care services have declined over the last few years, with 46 per cent judging they have become "much worse." Just six per cent said they thought the system had improved. A vast majority of young adults -- 74 per cent -- supported the right to purchase medical service.

COMPAS Inc., an Ontario-based polling firm, gathered the responses from 1 014 people across the country starting February 11 and ending February 16 -- the day Paul Martin, the Finance Minister, announced a five-year, $11.5-billion cash injection meant to restore medical services across the country.

Previous polls have found a similar level of support for treatment outside the health-care system.

The results are considered to be accurate to within 3.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

CNN's Turner apologizes to Poles and Catholics

CNN founder Ted Turner apologized to the people of Poland for telling an ethnic joke that Polish officials found offensive.

"Mr. Ted Turner deeply regrets offending the Polish people during a speech he made in Washington D.C., last week," a statement released by his office in Atlanta said. "He has great respect for Poland and its people and extends his heartfelt apologies to them."

Officials in Poland had demanded the apology, saying Turner displayed "racism" and "bigotry" in a speech he gave to the National Family Planning and Reproductive Center in Washington on February 16.

During the speech, Turner suggested that Pope John Paul II, who is Polish, was out of touch when it came to the issue of contraception. When asked what he would say to the pope, Turner kicked his foot in the air and said, "Ever seen a Polish mine detector?"

Poland perceived the response as an ethnic slur that suggested its soldiers are stupid and implied they cleared land mines with their feet. Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski, calling Turner "one of the most powerful men in the world," demanded an apology.

"This is racism and bigotry. Would Turner make the same sort of joke about other minorities such as blacks, homosexuals or Jews?" Sikorski asked.

The apology to Poland was the second issued by Turner for that night's speech. His remarks also offended some Catholics, and the next day the Catholic League, a civil rights group that defends U.S. Catholics against defamation and discrimination, demanded and received an apology that was posted on the Internet the day afterwards.

Cuba cracks down on political opponents, common crime

Cuba's communist leadership pushed through harsh new penalties to curb internal political opposition and roll back a worrying increase in common crime.

Cuba's National Assembly on February 16 approved setting prison terms of up to 20 years for political opponents judged to be "collaborating" with the U.S. government's economic embargo policy toward Cuba.

However, the wide, catch-all wording of the measures against "counter-revolutionaries and annexationists" suggested that it could be interpreted to cover any form of criticism of the government, whether it was linked to the United States or not.

A second law directed against common crime introduced the death penalty for some drug-trafficking offenses and life imprisonment for offenses like armed or violent assaults on persons and property.

President Fidel Castro, explaining the new legislation, said Cuba had the right to defend itself in what he called "this war against the Yankee empire and its servants inside the country." He added: "We are defending a trench in Latin America and the world."

Castro said Cuba's enemies, principally the U.S. government, were trying to take advantage of "internal weaknesses" such as crime, which had increased as a result of Cuba's economic opening after the collapse of the Soviet bloc.

The moves were likely to be interpreted by human rights organizations and many foreign governments, even those with friendly ties with Cuba, as a sign of ideological retrenchment by a one-party communist government.

The anti-subversion law appears to be aimed especially at independent Cuban journalists, many of whom are in regular contact with the U.S. government's Radio Marti, which opposes the Castro government.

The measures would ban the introduction of "subversive" materials into the country, along with the importation of equipment designed to disseminate such information. The law also restricts collaboration with the news media if such work furthers the trade embargo, or related U.S. policy toward Cuba.

Clinton warns against across-the-board tax cut

President Bill Clinton moved to enlist young peoples' support February 17 in a looming showdown with the Republican-controlled Congress over how to use future budget surpluses.

Clinton told a series of satellite-linked town meetings for youth that the nation can shore up the Social Security and Medicare systems and help middle-class families save for retirement, if lawmakers resist the temptation of an across-the-board tax cut favored by many Republicans.

"There is fundamentally a very simple choice," Clinton said. "Will our first priority be spending the budget surplus that we have worked so hard to create on a terrifically appealing tax cut in the moment, or will our first priority be investing whatever the necessary amount of the surplus is for at least the next 15 years to strengthen Social Security and Medicare?"

Clinton told a gathering of college students in the White House's East Room they have an interest in preserving Social Security and Medicare because it will help as first their parents, and then they, get older.

"For 200 years, the test of each generation of Americans has been not simply how well they did in their own time but whether they left our country in better shape for future generations," Clinton said. "Because of the size of the Baby Boom generation ... we have a special responsibility to the generation represented by most of you in this room."

Clinton wants to earmark 62 percent of expected federal budget surpluses over the next 15 years for the Social Security system. Without reform, the Social Security program is expected to run short of cash come the year 2032.

Clinton also has proposed investing up to 15 percent of the Social Security trust fund in the stock market.

Arthur Levitt, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, sees a risk in that.

"If you use a fund as large as the trust fund is likely to be on behalf of investors, as large as the numbers of investors will increase, you run a very serious risk in terms of government interference," Levitt said.

There also is a risk the government could be hamstrung in how it invests.

"Should the federal government be owning tobacco stocks?" asked Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute. "Or companies that bust their unions? Or companies that make R-rated or X-rated movies? You can find your social problem and it's going to turn into a financial problem if the government's investing."

Another problem is that there is no guarantee that the current bull market will continue, with hefty gains for investors.

Still, the administration believes its approach will work.

"Over a long period of time, there's every reason to believe that people will get higher returns," said Gene Sperling, Clinton's national economic adviser. "In terms of interference, we are concerned about that. That's why we put in protections to ensure that there is competitive bidding ..."

Labor leaders plan to pour $40 million into 2000 campaigns

Organized labor leaders, hoping to reclaim the House for Democrats and influence other political campaigns, agreed February 17 to pour more than $40 million into the 2000 elections and start spending the money earlier than ever.

A measure approval by the AFL-CIO executive council at its winter meeting requests each affiliate union to donate $1 per member -- about $13.5 million a year for two years -- to mobilize union voters. Coupled with political money in regular budgets, the federation's spending for 2000 campaigns would total $40 million to $46 million, union officials said.

Scott Hatch, executive director of the GOP House campaign committee, said the labor federation's action "should be a wakeup call to every working American and every business owner."

"... If they don't participate in the 2000 election cycle, the liberal elite and unions will attempt to buy the next Congress to install their agenda of backroom politics," Hatch said.

A AFL-CIO spokesman told reporters after the private vote that none of the money will go to candidates or political parties. Instead it will pay for telephone banks, flyers at workplaces, newsletters, mailings and television advertising to educate union and minority voters about key legislative issues in a drive that will start almost immediately.

Labor spent nearly as much money in the 1996 presidential election cycle. This time, however, the effort is starting a year earlier, creating a continuous campaign cycle for labor's political operations.

Even as they talked boldly about winning back the House for Democrats, some union leaders said they won't shy away from supporting moderate Republicans who support their issues.

Teamsters President-elect James P. Hoffa interrupted a hallway interview to shake the hand of GOP Rep. Peter King, a moderate from New York. Turning away, Hoffa called King the kind of Republican labor can't avoid supporting, saying, "We're certainly aware of who our friends are."

House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri, who bypassed a presidential bid to seek the speaker's chair, addressed a private session of the executive council, looking for early money and organizational support.

"We are definitely trying to get on this quickly and it's not just because there's a presidential campaign," Gephardt said at a news conference. "I believe ... work on all of these challenges -- recruiting good candidates, helping them run a good campaign, helping them raise the resources they need to run -- is a long process."

"I also believe get-out-the-vote efforts have suffered in the past because they're (organized) at the end" of too many campaigns, he said.

With organized labor's help, House Democrats gained five seats in the November elections and need to net just six more to reclaim the chamber in 2000. Democrats also hope to narrow the Senate gap -- now at 55 Republicans, 45 Democrats -- and retain the White House.

The $1-per-member goal would give the AFL-CIO $27 million over two years to mobilize union voters. The effort would begin in about 35 marginal congressional districts and 20 states, said a top political adviser for the unions.

The states were chosen because of their strategic importance in the presidential campaign and the once-a-decade redistricting process, where governors and state legislators redraw the political maps. Ohio, Illinois, New Jersey, Wisconsin and Michigan are among the states targeted.

Unions in the targeted areas will launch massive communications efforts to tell voters how their politicians stand on labor's laundry list of issues, such as education, health care, Social Security and the minimum wage.

Smith joins race for 2000 GOP nomination

Saying America needs "a leader who will make a difference," Sen. Bob Smith of New Hampshire announced February 18 his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000.

"It is without hesitation and with a deep respect for the promise of America that I declare my candidacy today for the presidency of the United States of America," Smith told the a auditorium full of students at Wolfeboro high school where he used to teach history and civics.

A staunch conservative, Smith promised to support during his campaign anti-abortion efforts, military funding, tax cuts and gun owners' rights.

Smith, 57, also spoke out for the first time about President Bill Clinton's impeachment trial. Decrying the "prevailing values in America," he pledged not be a political "deal maker" but to restore "character, integrity, commitment, (and) principle" to the office of the presidency.

Saying his life's goal is to "protect all children, born and unborn," Smith said, if elected, he would nominate only anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court and send a bill to Congress "defining life as beginning at fertilization."

"Abortion is the moral outrage of the 20th century and I'm going to end it too because it is wrong," Smith, a catholic and the father of three children, said.

The two-term senator also pledged to increase support for the U.S. military, promising to "develop and deploy" a missile defense system to protect U.S. interests; to never send troops into military action under a leader from another country; and to ensure "there will be no military personnel on food stamps ever again."

"We need a strong, forceful commander in chief with the background, the credibility, and the knowledge and the passion to lead and inspire our troops and someone who cares about them and appreciates their sacrifices. And I'm prepared to meet that challenge if I'm president of the United States," Smith, a Vietnam veteran, said.

Turning to one of the GOP's top policy issues this year, Smith supported a Republican plan for an across-the-board tax cut.

"I'd throw out the existing tax code and I'd start over," Smith said. "I would offer an across-the-board 10-percent tax cut for Americans, cut the capital gains tax, double the personal exemption and fire any IRS agent in America who harasses an American citizen."

Although the so-called "character issue" was not a winning campaign issue for either George Bush or Bob Dole, the president's impeachment seems to have inspired the New Hampshire Republican to try it again.

"I voted to remove the president of the United States from office," the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Ethics said. "I believe that perjury and obstruction of justice is wrong. And I think the president's acquittal is a sad commentary on the prevailing values in America today and I'm going to try to do something about it."

"We're not going to save our country with deal makers, we're going to save our country with people with commitment, and passion and patriotism," Smith told the enthusiastic students. "Political leadership ... is not about who gives the best speech, it's not about who has the most money, it's not about who the media thinks is the front-runner, and it's not about political resumes. It's about character, integrity, commitment, (and) principle."

Smith was re-elected to the Senate in 1996 with 49 percent of the vote. His Democratic competitor Dick Swett ran a close race, capturing 46 percent of the vote. Smith also served six years in the House of Representatives.

Secret Service aided license photo database...don't worry, it's the only government abuse of privacy that ever happened

While a plan to build a national database of driver's license photographs is being opposed in some states on privacy grounds, the U.S. Secret Service provided money and technical assistance to help the New Hampshire company at the center of the controversy.

Nashua-based Image Data LLC, which has bought millions of driver's license photos, confirmed a story that appeared February 18 in the Washington Post.

The company said nearly all of the $1.46 million in federal aid it received was used for its database project and a small portion was used by the Secret Service to pay travel and other expenses.

Image Data is trying to build an anti- fraud database to help prevent check and credit card fraud that costs retailers an estimated $25 billion a year.

But congressional leaders who helped arrange federal assistance for the project also envisioned using the photo file to combat terrorism, immigration abuses and other identity crimes, according to the Post.

The newspaper quotes a letter from eight members of Congress in September 1997 thanking Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colorado, "for including $1.46 million for a pilot program to combat identity-based crimes."

The money, part of the fiscal 1998 federal budget, went to Image Data LLC, which has been testing its "TrueID" system to confirm a customer's identity with a driver's license photograph when a credit card or personal check is used.

The letter said Image Data's "TrueID technology has widespread potential to reduce crime in the credit and checking fields, in airports to reduce the chances of terrorism and in immigration and naturalization to verify proper identity."

It also said "the Secret Service can provide technical assistance and assess the effectiveness of this technology." Among the lawmakers signing the letter were two New Hampshire Republicans, Sen. Judd Gregg and Rep. Charles Bass, and Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-South Carolina.

Secret Service agent Cary Rosoff told the Post that while the agency did not seek to be included in the project, it saw a chance to help Image Data improve its technology.

Public outrage mounted in at least three states after it was revealed that Image Data had contracted to buy drivers' photo images in South Carolina, Florida and Colorado.

One week before, a South Carolina judge rejected that state's attempt to have the pictures returned. A Florida judge blocked a similar Image Data deal there, and Colorado's governor wants to do the same.

In South Carolina, where the state legislature originally approved the deal, 3.5 million driver's license photos were sold to Image Data for $5 000 to test "TrueID."

The state, citing privacy concerns raised by the public, then sued the company to get out of the contract.

South Carolina Attorney General Charles Condon said that states should have been told that the Secret Service had a hand in the project and was considering law enforcement uses for the technology.

He called for an investigation into why Image Data didn't tell state officials about the federal interest in the database.

"We now find out that this out-of-state operation was really busy getting nearly a million-and-a-half-dollar grant from the Secret Service to develop technology for anti-terrorist techniques and to discover immigration violations," Condon said in a statement. "Why were state officials not told?"

Image Data denied that it misled states about how it intended to use the photographs.

"The facts are that Image Data use of information is governed by both law and by contract," said a company statement. "We sign contracts with states to limit our use of the information only for fraud prevention."

Heston sounds off on Clinton

William Jefferson Clinton may have survived impeachment, but actor and NRA president Charlton Heston doesn't think he's got the right stuff to succeed in Hollywood.

Rumors have floated for months that Clinton is considering pulling a Ronald Reagan in reverse and becoming the first chief executive to go from the White House to Sunset Boulevard.

And if you think that would fly, Heston wants to sell you some beachfront property in Colorado.

In an interview which ran in the February 20 edition of TV Guide, the actor best known for playing Moses and Judah Ben-Hur scoffs at rumors that Clinton is cooking up a deal to go to work for Steven Spielberg at DreamWorks.

"A [former] president can't have a boss," says Heston. "He couldn't go around town saying, 'Hey, read this script. See what you think.' I mean, it is just awkward."

United Alternative wants new party to replace Reform and Conservatives

The United Alternative convention voted February 21 to create a new right-wing political party to replace the Reform and Conservative parties in Canada.

Reform Leader Preston Manning, whose push to unite the right inspired the convention, will now take the recommendation to his own party to decide whether it wants to proceed with building a new party.

The convention debated four options on ways of uniting the right for about 90 minutes before the vote.

The ballot asked delegates whether they support uniting behind an existing party; merging two or more established parties; co-operation on choosing candidates on a riding-by-riding basis; and the creation of a new political party.

Support for a new party was the only option that received a majority of the votes.

All the options were aimed at finding a way to end right-wing vote-splitting that has cost votes.

Despite the outcome of the convention, the proposal to form a new party faces many hurdles. Conservative Leader Joe Clark hasn't been willing to discuss any form of merger with Reform and spent that weekend in Quebec pushing his own Canadian Alternative initiative.

Former Tory cabinet minister John Crosbie told the 1 500 delegates they were doing things "ass backwards."

The weekend convention was basically organized by the Reform party without any official Tory participation, he said. He told the hooting crowd the two party leaders should have met beforehand to discuss common ground.

The questions before the delegates didn't address key issues such as a Triple-E Senate or equality among provinces, neither of which he said the federal Tories will ever agree to.

After Crosbie finished with the declaration that the federal Tory party "will not be taken for granted," Rod Love, a Conservative member of the convention steering committee, responded.

"I don't need anyone's permission to be considered official," said Love. "My generation of federal Progressive Conservatives is not reflected in those remarks."

Reform MP Deborah Grey said Manning has repeatedly approached Clark, his old university chum, over uniting the right.

Said Grey: "Preston has offered and offered and offered very recently to say: 'Joe, let's just talk.' It's just a big blank wall of a man who is living in the rear-view mirror, in the '70s. I feel sorry for Joe."

Manning has a lot riding on the United Alternative. If he is unable to find a way of ending the vote-splitting with the Tories that costs conservatives seats in the House of Commons, especially in Ontario, his own political future is thrown into doubt.

Reformers have been planning this convention for months after the June 1997 federal election didn't provide the breakthrough in seat-rich Ontario they'd hoped for from their Western base.

Tories were in the minority at the convention, although there were some high-profile cabinet ministers from Ontario and Alberta in attendance, including Premier Ralph Klein, Alberta Treasurer Stockwell Day and Ontario Transport Minister Tony Clement, the convention's co-chair.

Clinton aide warned of risk on eve of Cuba air attack

The evening before Cuban MiGs shot down two planes of a civilian rescue group from Florida, an advisor to President Bill Clinton warned the White House national security deputy of such a possibility.

In the February 21 edition of The Miami Herald, Richard Nuccio said he never received a reply to the e-mail memo he sent February 23, 1996, to Samuel Berger, now Clinton's national security advisor. He also tried several times to speak to Berger by telephone, but got no response.

White House spokesman P.J. Crowley told The Herald that Berger did receive Nuccio's memo, "but he did not have a chance to read it that evening."

He added: "Rick was acting on his intuition. In point of fact, we had no intelligence to suggest that the Cubans would act in a hostile manner."

Nuccio said the day before the report from his home near Washington that he included the shootdown scenario to get Berger's attention. He said that he did not believe a shootdown was imminent and that he considered it unimaginable unless the Miami-based Brothers to the Rescue group overflew Cuba.

Nuccio said he was worried because he couldn't get the Federal Aviation Administration to stop Brothers founder Jose Basulto from flying.

Nuccio, who left the administration in February 1997, told the Herald his message read in part:

"Reports by Miami police have raised suspicions that a Cuban- American group, Brothers to the Rescue, may be planning another in a series of violations of Cuban air space tomorrow. Previous overflights by Jose Basulto have been met with restraint by Cuban authorities. Tensions are sufficiently high within Cuba, however, that we feel this may finally tip the Cubans toward an attempt to shoot down or force down the planes."

Upon learning of the Nuccio memo, Basulto said its disclosure bolstered his argument that "somebody high up in the Clinton administration must have put their hands in there and made it possible" for his planes to be shot down.

"The State Department never sent a note to Cuba saying, 'Don't you dare shoot down those airplanes over international waters,'" he told the newspaper. "I was sentenced to death by the U.S. government, and Castro was given the opportunity to execute me."

Basulto and his Cessna escaped the MiGs, but Carlos Costa, Pablo Morales, Mario de la Pena and Armando Alejandre were killed in two other planes.

The downings prompted international condemnation of Havana and led to a tightening of the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba.

Brothers to the Rescue flies missions in small planes over the Florida Straits looking for Cubans in small boats escaping the communist-ruled island.

Clinton cabinet members held in contempt

A federal judge held two Clinton Cabinet secretaries in contempt on February 22 over the government's delay in producing records of Indian trust funds.

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth issued the contempt order, saying Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt failed to produce documents related to a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of Indian trust funds.

The secretaries and Assistant Interior Secretary Kevin Gover were ordered to pay legal fees and other expenses that resulted from their delay in complying with Lamberth's November 1996 order to produce documents.

"I have never seen more egregious misconduct by the federal government," Lamberth said in his order.

The judge's ruling followed a contempt hearing in January that grew out of a class-action lawsuit over the mishandling of 300 000 Indian accounts worth an estimated $500 million.

Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs was ordered two years ago to turn over statements, checks and other documents on accounts held by five Indians who are the lead plaintiffs in the suit against the Interior and Treasury departments.

So far, only a small number of the documents have been produced.

"The court is deeply disappointed that any litigant would fail to obey orders for production of documents, and then conceal and cover up that disobedience with outright false statements that the court then relied upon," the judge wrote. "But when that litigant is the federal government, the misconduct is even more troubling."

Americans blame Clinton for impeachment mess

According to a U.S. News Online poll released last month, 56 percent believe Clinton is the least moral president, compared with 14 percent who hold similar beliefs about Nixon. A poll taken in 1988 shows that at that time, Nixon was considered by 48 percent of Americans to be the president who has set the lowest moral standard.

Other findings of the U.S. News poll:

41 percent of Americans feel "disgusted" by the impeachment process.
64 percent feel that the scandal and subsequent impeachment will have some kind of negative effect on our country's moral fiber.
61 percent believe that the scandal and subsequent impeachment will cause children to have less respect for the country and the office of the presidency.
46 percent of Americans blame Clinton for the controversy the country is in, while 20 percent blame Kenneth Starr.

Poll results also looked ahead to the 2000 elections. 47 percent of Americans believe a candidate's behavior in his or her personal life will be more important than it has been in the past. 43 percent said they will be less likely to vote for candidates who refuse to answer questions about their personal lives.

The U.S. News poll of 800 registered voters was conducted by Celinda Lake of Lake Snell Perry & Associates and Ed Goeas of the Tarrance Group on February 7-8, 1999. Margin of error: Plus or minus 3.5 percent.

Gov. Ventura makes noise on Letterman

Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura took swipes at single mothers, back-room politics and St. Paul, Minn., in his appearance on CBS's "Late Show with David Letterman."

Letterman asked about Ventura's recent confrontation with a college student who is a single mother. She complained about high tuition and wondered why "we weren't helping her more," the new governor recounted on the February 23 show.

Ventura said he told her: "It's not my problem you became a single parent."

He said he got a lot of support for those remarks at the National Governors' Association meeting earlier that week in Washington.

As for Minnesota, Ventura said he'd like to switch to a unicameral Legislature so lawmakers don't have to meet in small groups "where the dirty work is done" on pending bills.

Letterman asked which city Ventura liked best: Minneapolis or perennial rival, St. Paul.

The wrestler-turned-governor picked his hometown hands-down.

"Minneapolis. I was born in Minneapolis. Have you been to St. Paul? Whoever designed St. Paul must have been drunk. I think it was those Irish guys."

Two days later, after an uproar over the Irish comment, Ventura apologized.

"If I offended anyone, I apologize," he said. "The David Letterman show is a show of comedy. It's a show that has Top 10 lists and is generally considered comedic and that's the light in which I did the show."

Man files claim against Iowa to help him quit smoking

Government wanted to act like Big Mother when it came to smoking and here is the inevitable result. An Iowa man wants to force the state to help him quit smoking.

Stephen Fuller has filed a personal injury claim that asks the state for $100 -- enough to pay for a 24-day supply of a prescription patch.

Fuller argues the state is directly involved in the distribution of cigarettes and benefits by setting a 22 percent wholesale tax per pack. But the state offers no health services for people who can't kick the habit.

State officials have announced a nearly $18 million anti-smoking plan. It would be funded with money from last year's national tobacco settlement.

Fuller says even without the settlement, the state already collects enough money from cigarettes to pay for treatment.

30 000 friends of Bill help cut legal debt in half

Friends of Bill Clinton have already raised half the money needed to pay off the U.S. president's $9-million in legal bills, helped by a host of donors ranging from Tom Hanks and Robert De Niro to a California man who lists himself as being in the "adult entertainment" business.

Donations range from $2 to $10 000 -- the maximum Mr. Clinton would accept -- and are coming in so fast the president may be able to pay his entire legal debt before he leaves the White House in 22 months.

Settling the bill is a major concern of Hillary Clinton, who is thinking of running for the Senate and has told advisors the couple's debt is a factor in her decision.

The Clinton Legal Expense Fund released a list of more than 30 000 donors on February 24.

The list covers only the months since last August, when the president acknowledged he'd misled the country and his own family about his relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Most donations are for $10 or $20, but the list includes a healthy smattering of larger donations from well-known figures in the TV and movie industry, who have been among the president's most loyal supporters.

Former Universal studios boss Lew Wasserman and his wife, Edith, gave $10 000 each, as did Robert Johnson, chief executive of Black Entertainment Television.

De Niro and author Stephen King each gave $5 000, while James Garner and hair-dressing mogul Vidal Sassoon contributed $1 000 apiece. Roger Mayer, chief executive of Turner Entertainment, anted up $200.

Not included because they made their contributions before the list began in August are Hollywood directors Ron Howard and Steven Spielberg, and stars Tom Hanks and Barbra Streisand. All gave the maximum $10 000, according to U.S. press reports.

The list does include D. Owen Robinson of Oakland, California, who describes himself as being in "adult entertainment" and gave $100.

The success of the fundraising drive has been helped by a highly effective direct-mail campaign that blames independent prosecutor Ken Starr and the congressional impeachment process for pursuing the president, forcing him to spend heavily to defend himself.

"The effort to impeach President Clinton is only the latest in a series of legal actions that have left the first family with a staggering personal debt," Clinton's supporters said in a fund-raising letter.

It continues: "If you are disturbed by the way politics is conducted today, then what better response than to offer the first family your own gesture of support . . . It will be of enormous comfort to President and Mrs. Clinton to know that so many Americans appreciate their work and have come to their aid."

The $4.5-million raised so far has eclipsed the most optimistic projections of the president's supporters, who say there is a strong chance the entire legal bill will be paid by the time the president leaves office.

"No president, especially a president who has worked as hard for the American people, should be burdened with this kind of debt when he leaves office," said Terence McAuliffe, one of Clinton's closest friends, who raised much of the money for the trust.

Clinton is the first president to accept donations while in office to help pay his lawyers. Former president Richard Nixon accepted donations to help defray legal bills after he resigned, but he paid most of his bills himself.

Clinton's defence at House impeachment hearings and a Senate trial cost at least $2-million, and was just the most recent legal battle he's had to wage.

Feminist professor ordered to teach men

Boston College professor Mary Daly is running out of ways to keep male students out of her classes. The Jesuit institution said February 25 her women-only policy for classes on feminism violates both federal laws and school policy.

"For us it's a fairness issue, it's a justice issue, and it's a legal issue," said college spokesman Jack Dunn.

The women's studies scholar has said if she loses the right to keep young men out of the class on feminism she has taught since the 1970s, she won't teach it anymore.

"What the women do is become caretakers for the men," Daly explained as her reason for excluding all males. "In those circumstances, I decided, and many others have, that there's a reality called women's space. There has to be a separate space for women."

Daly, a tenured associate professor, took a leave of absence this semester rather than admit senior Duane Naquin into her feminist ethics class. The college said Daly used the same technique to avoid a similar controversy a decade ago.

But this time, Dunn said, the university won't let Daly continue "her archaic and stereotypical notion that men shouldn't have access to her perspective."

If a male professor at BC tried to bar women from his classes, Dunn said, "we'd be run out of town."

The college may be taking a tougher stance with Daly this time because Naquin has threatened to sue with the backing of the Center for Individual Rights, a conservative law firm in Washington whose previous lawsuit ended affirmative action at the University of Texas.

Daly's female students are rallying around her, and 14 have written a letter to college administrators. One senior from Greenwich, Connecticut, said the women-only policy is simply about strengthening women by keeping the subject on them. And perhaps showing the intellectual weakness it takes to believe in the philosophy.

Daly has offered to teach young men on an independent study basis, giving them one-on-one instruction.

She views the controversy as an attack on academic freedom and an assault on feminism by "an extreme right-wing organization" trying to "assert white male supremacy."

Ironically, Daly taught only men when she first arrived at the Newton campus in 1966. The college of arts and science did not begin admitting women until 1970.

Daly, who abandoned her Catholic roots in the early 1970s, describes herself as a radical feminist, which she defines as "going to the roots" of societal problems.

Her seven major books include: "The Church and the Second Sex"; "Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism" and "Outercourse," a theological autobiography.

Boston College said it expects the 70-year-old professor to retire.

Sen. Kerry decides not to run for president

Massachusetts senator Bob Kerry announced on February 26 that he would not be seeking the Democratic nomination.

Kerry has served in the Senate for three terms, building a reputation as an independent-minded liberal.

House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri, decided earlier this year not to seek the nomination.

Kerry, a decorated Navy veteran, was co-founder of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. After serving as a county prosecutor and lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, he won the Senate seat vacated by the late Paul Tsongas in 1984.

Kerry graduated from Yale University in 1966, enlisted in the Navy and served in Vietnam as an officer on a gunboat in the Mekong Delta. During his service he received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts.

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