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web posted April 10, 2000

Helms diagnosed with neurological disease

Sen. Jesse Helms says a neurological disease has forced him to use a cane but is not causing him serious trouble.

Helms, 78, has been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy and received treatment last fall at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center.

The disease affects the nerves that run from the brain or the spine to the arms, hands, legs and feet by breaking down the sheath that covers and protects nerve endings. The exposed nerves become inflamed, interrupting their ability to conduct brain signals to the extremities.

The disease has multiple causes and no certain permanent cure.

"People have a numbness or a no-feeling situation in an extremity," the North Carolina Republican told The News & Observer of Raleigh in an interview. "I happen to have it in my feet. But it doesn't bother me at all."

However, the numbness causes difficulty with balance and forces him to use a cane, Helms said.

Helms underwent eight treatments using an experimental therapy called intravenous immunoglobulin, or IVIG. The therapy, overseen by the National Institutes of Health, replaces antibodies whose absence is thought to cause the deterioration of the nerve insulation.

Helms' doctors don't know the cause of the condition and his physician wouldn't comment.

Helms said he has recovered from earlier double knee-replacement surgery and feels no knee pain.

Over the last decade, Helms also has undergone surgery for prostate cancer and a quadruple heart bypass. He has suffered from Paget's disease, a degenerative bone disorder, in his hip.

Independent Counsel: No indictment of Labor Secretary Alexis Herman

The independent counsel investigating allegations that Labor Secretary Alexis Herman solicited illegal campaign contributions while working as a White House aide announced April 5 that he will not seek an indictment in the matter.

In a brief statement, Independent Counsel Ralph Lancaster announced that "he will not seek an indictment of Secretary Herman" and that he has completed his investigation of criminal allegations concerning her.

"I am gratified personally and for my family that the independent counsel has terminated his investigation," Herman said. Her lawyer, Neil Eggleston, said Herman "cooperated ... in every way possible" with Lancaster.

In response to the news, President Bill Clinton issued a statement repeating his insistence that Herman had done nothing wrong. "I am proud to call her my friend, and am honored that she is the one to work in this administration on behalf of working people everywhere," he said.

Two friends of Herman who also came under investigation, sisters Vanessa and Caryliss Weaver, have been cleared as well, according to their lawyer.

"We have been advised by the independent counsel's office that this decision not to prosecute includes my clients as well," said Lawrence Barcella.

The sole indictment in Lancaster's two-year investigation was against Singapore businessman Abdul Rahman for making $200,000 in illegal contributions to the Democratic Party through the Weaver sisters.

African businessman Laurent Yene, a former partner of Vanessa Weaver, alleged that Rahman made political donations to help obtain a Federal Communications Commission license for a company to which he had ties. The company obtained an FCC license in 1997 to develop a telephone satellite system.

Yene also alleged Herman played a role in illegal campaign contributions to the Democratic National Committee.

Herman had been introduced to Rahman by Vanessa Weaver, with whom she is close friends, on one or two occasions. Rahman was introduced to President Clinton during the 1996 presidential campaign.

During her tenure as head of the White House Office of Public Liaison before becoming labor secretary, Herman took Caryliss Weaver on a trade mission.

In 1998 court papers requesting a three-judge panel appoint an independent counsel, Attorney General Janet Reno acknowledged that a Justice Department investigation "has developed no evidence clearly demonstrating Secretary Herman's involvement in these matters and substantial evidence that she may not have been involved..."

At the time, Herman said, "In their own filing today the Justice Department said that neither they nor the FBI concluded that I had done anything wrong and that is because I have not. These allegations have been false from the very beginning."

Elian showdown intensifies with father in U.S.

After more than four months of "agonizing" separation, the father of Elian Gonzalez arrived April 6 in the United States saying he wanted U.S. authorities to hand over his son as soon as possible so he could hug Elian and take him back to Cuba.

But the boy's U.S. relatives, fighting to retain custody of the 6-year-old, showed no open willingness to obey the federal government and turn him over. The father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, faces the possibility of a long wait in the United States as the custody dispute unfolds.

Elian's father, making his first trip to the United States, read a statement to reporters shortly after arriving at Dulles International Airport near Washington with his second wife and their baby.

"I've just arrived in Washington where I hope I will soon be able to embrace my son ... for the first time in over four months. I am here with my wife and 6-month-old son. This is Elian's true family and we love him very much," the father said.

The sometimes combative words were met with defiance in Miami.

"From here begins the battle," said Bienvenido Comas, a 27-year-old convention coordinator. Comas was in a group of about 25 people gathered near the police barrier outside the home in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood where Elian has been living following his rescue at sea last November.

Ramon Saul Sanchez, leader of the anti-Castro Democracy Movement, mounted a police barricade and used a bullhorn to announce the father's plan to reunite with his son.

"We have to be prepared to defend what is just," Sanchez said. "And also we have to be prepared to understand this family, support this family because they are facing moments of hard decisions."

The father has said the only way he was willing to travel to the United States was if he could be assured that he would be able to take temporary custody of the boy from Elian's great-uncle in Miami, Lazaro Gonzalez, pending the outcome of legal appeals.

Juan Miguel Gonzalez alleged in his statement that anti-Castro elements in the United States had been trying to "obtain political advantage from this tragedy."

In another indication of the bitter custody fight yet to come with Elian's Miami relatives, protesters shouted over the father's remarks. "Welcome to freedom," they said.

Their shouts could be heard by Juan Miguel Gonzalez, but he did not acknowledge them.

"It's been an agonizing experience to see my son submitted to cruel psychological pressures," Gonzalez said.

While criticizing the Miami family, characterized by Juan Gonzalez as 'distant relatives," the boy's father expressed gratitude to average Americans, who he said have been in favor of his reunification with his son.
Although some U.S. politicians have been eager to offer Gonzalez permanent residency status and thought he might want to stay in the country once he left the nation ruled by Cuban President Fidel Castro's communist regime, the father did not appear to have anything like that in mind.

He said Castro has been "like a brother, giving me advice and support during these days of uncertainty."

Castro personally saw Gonzalez off as he left Havana in a private jet about 4 a.m., saying afterward, "This is undisputedly the final stage" in the fight to bring Elian back to Cuba.

Klein chides Hill in Microsoft case

The Justice Department's top antitrust enforcer said April 6, one day after Microsoft chairman Bill Gates visited Capitol Hill, that politics had no place in the enforcement of antitrust laws.

The day before, Republican leaders called for an investigation of whether the Justice Department had gone too far in prosecuting Microsoft in a landmark antitrust case, after they met privately with Gates.

Justice Department antitrust chief Joel Klein took on Capitol Hill in remarks to the American Bar Association at its annual spring meeting in Washington.

Klein also thanked the ABA for its "courageous" support of full funding for the Justice Department Antitrust Division, after Microsoft reportedly lobbied last year for a cut in its appropriation.

Then Klein said: "If Americans are to have confidence in our legal system, the laws must apply to everyone and politics can have no place in the enforcement of the antitrust laws."

Republicans talked about the lawsuit in political terms and linked it to the presidential campaign of Democratic Vice President Al Gore.

Rep. J.C. Watts of Oklahoma, fourth-ranked member of the House Republican leadership, issued a statement saying, "the dive in the Nasdaq market is a direct result of the Clinton-Gore administration meddling with the private sector."

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi said the administration's prosecution of the case deserved a close look by a congressional committee.

"This should be looked into by Congress," Lott said.

During Gates' visit to Washington, he also appeared with President Bill Clinton and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan at a White House conference on the new economy.

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