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web posted April 17, 2000

McCain backs Giuliani but says Clinton would be Senate 'star'

On April 10, Sen. John McCain predicted that if Hillary Rodham Clinton is elected, she will be a "star" unlike any politician seen in Senate since Robert F. Kennedy. But he says she's still too liberal for his taste.

McCain made the comments a day after he campaigned for Clinton's opponent, Republican Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

"This is the first time in history a first lady has run," McCain told students at Columbia University. "She would be a star of the quality that has not been seen in the Senate since Bobby Kennedy was elected senator from the state of New York.

"Many of us believe in a scenario if (Vice President Al) Gore lost and she is elected to the Senate, she'd be running for the president of the United States."

Clinton has said that if elected she will serve her full term and that she is not interested in the presidency.

Asked by reporters to clarify his remarks about Clinton, McCain said, "I believe she'd be very liberal and I don't believe she'd be good for the country."

He told the Columbia students that Giuliani would bring "credentials to the Senate that are much needed and very sadly lacking. He understands the challenges of a major city."

During a campaign appearance the day before, McCain ridiculed Clinton's charge that Giuliani is in the pocket of right-wing zealots and joked that he himself is proud to be part of the "vast right-wing conspiracy."

Its members, he said with a laugh, might even help the Republican mayor win his Senate campaign against the first lady.

Before President Clinton admitted to lying about his sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky, his wife had blamed a "vast right-wing conspiracy" for her husband's problems.

Her Senate campaign spokesman, Howard Wolfson, said she has never called Giuliani or McCain part of the alleged conspiracy but simply pointed out that the mayor's campaign has accepted contributions from fund-raisers identified with ultraconservative causes.

While Giuliani endorsed George W. Bush -- not McCain -- for president, the mayor refused to criticize McCain and has welcomed the senator's support.

Census 2000 reaches first target

The 2000 Census has reached its minimum goal for responses with 61 percent of U.S. households completing and mailing back their forms as of April 10.

Census officials have said they hope to reach a national response rate of 70 percent, reversing a decades-long decline. In 1970, the response rate was 78 percent, but that fell to only 65 percent in 1990.

Census Bureau Director Kenneth Prewitt called the response rate encouraging, but said they still had a long way to go to reach a complete count.

"Census 2000 will succeed only if people cooperate fully," he said

A $168 million advertising campaign has been encouraging Americans to return the 115 million questionnaires that were mailed out early last month.

On April 27, the Census Bureau will begin sending workers to visit households that have not returned their census forms.

Currently, 7 percent of the nation's jurisdictions have met or exceeded their target response rate.

China rejects U.S. explanation for bombing

China rejected on April 10 a formal explanation by the United States on how Beijing's embassy in Yugoslavia was targeted and bombed by NATO warplanes in May, saying it was "hard to believe" the bombing was a mistake.

China brushed off the announcement by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that one mid-level official had been dismissed and sanctions imposed against six others over the incident.

Beijing repeated demands Washington investigate and charge those responsible.

"The Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia has unmistakable markings and is also clearly indicated on U.S. maps," Xinhua news agency quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao as saying.

"The U.S. claim that it did not know its exact location doesn't hold water," Xinhua quoted Zhu as saying.

The spokesman's comments mark the first public response by Beijing since it was informed by Washington on April 8 of the results of internal investigations into the incident.

The embassy bombing by an American stealth bomber occurred during NATO's 11-week air campaign to punish the Yugoslavian regime for its brutal treatment of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

Three Chinese people were killed in the blasts, sparking violent anti-NATO demonstrations across China and dragging China-U.S. ties to their lowest point in a decade.

The U.S. investigations reached the same conclusion as preliminary findings by Washington last year -- that the bombing was caused by flimsy targeting methodology at the CIA.

The officials had intended to blow up a Yugoslavian arms supply and procurement building, CIA officials have said.

"There is no indication that the Chinese embassy was intentionally targeted or that anyone involved in proposing or reviewing the target nomination package was aware that the site was actually an embassy," said CIA spokesman Bill Harlow.

China's spokesman Zhu expressed doubts that a few officers chose the wrong target and that subsequent target reviews failed to detect the error.

"This is hard for people to believe," he said.

"The Chinese government strongly demands that the U.S. government conduct a comprehensive and thorough investigation into its bombing of the Chinese embassy in Yugoslavia, bring the perpetrators to justice and give the Chinese government and people a satisfactory explanation," he said.

Poll: Bush remains ahead of Gore among likely voters

Texas Gov. George W. Bush now holds a 50 percent to 41 percent lead over Vice President Al Gore among all likely voters if the presidential election were held today, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released April 10.

One week before, Gore had closed to within one point among likely voters with Bush leading by a 46 percent to 45 percent margin.

Gore's ace in the hole has always been the belief that most voters prefer his policies, and the current poll indicates that is the case. But Bush's personal qualities trump that ace.

Sixty-two percent say that Bush has the personality and leadership qualities a president should have while only a bare majority say that about Gore. That explains why Gore is behind in a hypothetical match-up even though 56 percent of likely voters say that Gore's policies would move the country in the right direction. Just 51 percent say that about Bush's policies -- down significantly since last October.

Only one in five likely voters polled say that Gore's fund-raising activities were illegal, with another 30 percent saying they were unethical but not illegal, and 37 percent say they were not seriously wrong.

A majority say there has been nothing seriously wrong about Bush's fund-raising, with a quarter saying that he has done something unethical but not illegal. Just 3 percent say that Bush has done something illegal.

The poll was conducted April 7-9 and consisted of interviews with 1,006 adult Americans, including 502 likely voters. The sample error is plus or minus 5 percentage points, unless otherwise noted.

Dr. Death receives humanitarian award

Relatives of a man who Dr. Jack Kevorkian helped to commit suicide accepted a $50,000 humanitarian award the night of April 10 on behalf of the doctor, who is in prison after being convicted in the man's death.

Melody and Terrence Youk accepted the Gleitsman Foundation's Citizen Activist Award for Humanitarianism during a ceremony here. The foundation is a nonprofit group formed in 1989 that rewards social activism.

In 1998, Kevorkian helped Melody Youk's 53-year-old husband, Thomas, take his own life by lethal injection, and the videotape of his death was later aired on CBS' "60 Minutes."

Kevorkian, 71, was convicted of second-degree murder in Youk's death a year ago and is now serving 10 to 25 years in prison.

Melody Youk said she and her brother-in-law attended the ceremony to show her support for Kevorkian and his cause.

"He risked his personal freedom ... and today he is in a very small cell, alone but not forgotten," she said. Her husband had been suffering from the progressive and fatal disease ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.

In a letter read at the ceremony by his attorney, Kevorkian expressed gratitude for the award.

"I certainly wish I could be there tonight, but in a real sense, I am," the letter read. "In spirit, I'm joining kindred souls in a ceremony celebrating the defense of a fundamental human liberty."

Kevorkian will share the $100,000 award with Alabama lawyer Bryan Stevenson, who was recognized for his career-long fight against the death penalty. Stevenson has been quoted as saying he was unhappy about sharing an award with Kevorkian.

Nearly 20 demonstrators opposed to assisted suicide gathered outside to protest the choice of Kevorkian for the award. Among the panelists who chose the award's recipients were actor Ted Danson and feminist Gloria Steinem.

"I know of no other humanitarian award that's been awarded to a serial killer like Jack Kevorkian," said Tom Cagle, 48, of Laconia, N.H.

White House: Clinton would not pardon himself

His spokesman says President Clinton would not pardon himself to avoid prosecution in the Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky investigations.

White House press secretary Joe Lockhart said "yes" when he was asked April 11 whether he could rule out the possibility Clinton might pardon himself before he leaves office on January 20.

Lockhart also said he knows of no discussion between Clinton and Vice President Al Gore about a possible presidential pardon should Gore succeed his boss as president.

Whitewater Independent Counsel Robert Ray's continuing investigation has raised the possibility that Clinton could be indicted on perjury or other charges after his term is over.

A Little Rock, Ark., federal judge fined Clinton $90,000 after concluding a year ago that he gave "false, misleading and evasive answers that were designed to obstruct the judicial process" during a deposition in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit.

Judge Susan Webber Wright found Clinton in contempt of court, citing 10 specific instances in which Clinton denied that he had sexual relations with Lewinsky and said he could not recall being alone with her.

Clinton attends Maryland gun bill signing ceremony

With the stroke of a pen as President Bill Clinton looked on, the governor of Maryland on April 11 signed into law a bill making his state the first in the nation to require that sidearms be manufactured and sold with child-proof locks.

"The Maryland legislature has once again made history," Clinton told Gov. Parris Glendening, the state's lieutenant governor, several legislators, and members of student-run gun safety groups at the signing ceremony in Annapolis. "Congress should follow Maryland's lead," he added in a reference to federal lawmakers' inability to pass comparable gun safety legislation.

"Starting today, Maryland will lead America in ending the tragedy of handgun violence," said Glendening, a Democrat. "In the months and years to follow, I predict that ceremonies like this will take place all across the country as state after state listens to the will of the people."

Maryland's legislative success on the gun issue may indicate a shift in the policy battleground from Congress to the state legislatures.

The president's attendance at the event marked the first time he has witnessed a state-level signing ceremony, and served to reinforce his commitment to enacting federal gun legislation before the end of his term. Initially, the president had called on Congress to pass legislation before the first anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings.

That date, April 20, is likely come and go without congressional action.

"I hope the United States Congress is paying attention to this event today, because every child in America deserves the protection that Maryland children will be given today," the president said.

"It's time for us to get together," he said in a reference to the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other gun lobby groups that have historically opposed any legislation that they say would infringe on Americans' constitutional right to bear arms.

The state legislature passed the bill on April 3. By October 1 of this year, external locks must accompany all handgun sales, and by January 1, 2003, all new handguns sold in the state must have built-in gun locks.

The law's other provisions include:

  • Gun manufacturers must provide a ballistic fingerprint of shell casings of every new gun;
  • Gun purchasers must pass a two-hour safety course;
  • Individuals convicted of a violent crime as a juvenile are barred from possessing a handgun until the age of 30;
  • Police agencies are prohibited from selling confiscated guns, and;
  • Mandatory minimum sentences of five years will be imposed for illegal firearms possession by felons convicted of a violent or drug crimes.

William F. Buckley says he's done with speeches

Conservative author and analyst William F. Buckley Jr. says he's given his last speech.

Buckley, who ended his political talk show in December, told 700 Republicans at the Allen County Lincoln Day dinner on April 11 they were hearing his last public address.

"Let me begin my final comments with a reference of zero historical importance to you but of some historical importance to me, which is that tonight's speech is my final speech in my career which began as a public speaker about 50 years ago," said Buckley, 74.

"After tonight's engagement, I will accept zero engagements for public speaking except to speak at my granddaughter's wedding."

The audience gave him thunderous applause and a standing ovation. Buckley declined to discuss his decision following the speech.

In December, Buckley -- who also founded National Review magazine -- called a halt to "Firing Line," a political discussion program that began in 1966 and ran for 1,429 episodes.

"You've got to end sometime and I'd just as soon not die onstage," Buckley said at the time. "That it ends at the millennium gives it a poetic touch."

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