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Cleveland sues the gun industry

Cleveland joined several cities that have sued the gun industry, accusing firearms makers on April 8 of failing to incorporate safety features and making an unreasonably dangerous product.

The suit seeks unspecified damages from 17 gun manufacturers and three trade associations.

"The industry has failed in its duty to make a safer gun and as a direct result, the city of Cleveland has been forced to spend tremendous amounts of money dealing with the gun industry's failure," Mayor Michael R. White said.

New Orleans, Chicago, Miami/Dade County and Bridgeport, Conn., are among the other cities that have filed similar lawsuits.

A representative of one trade association named in the lawsuit said safety devices such as gun safes and locking systems are available for consumers if they want them.

"It's hard to fathom why the industry is responsible if the consumer chooses not to use devices that are currently -- and have been -- available," said Jack Adkins, director of operations for the American Shooting Sports Council Inc.

Clinton and old-buddy Zhu meet

President Clinton and Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji met at the White House on April 8, then sparred -- sometimes good-naturedly -- at a joint news conference that ranged from trade to human rights.

Zhu denied that China's spies have stolen secrets from American research laboratories or that its agents funneled campaign contributions to Democrats. He said he would help the Americans investigate such reports -- "so long as you can provide some clues."

"I don't believe such a story," he said of the allegations of Chinese espionage at top-secret American research laboratories.

He added pointedly: "Don't underestimate the ability of the Chinese people to develop their own technology."

In opening remarks, Clinton said that in their private talks, the two sides had made progress on thorny trade issues. Despite China's efforts at political reform, it must "give citizens greater freedom" to enhance their lives, he said.

"It is troubling that in the past year China has taken some steps backward on human rights and arrested people" for expressing their views, Clinton said, calling on China to give greater latitude to the Dalai Lama.

Zhu gave short shrift to such talk. "President Clinton mentioned all of these in his opening remarks. I think we have enough time to argue about these questions, so I don't want to delve into them now," he said.

But when talk turned to Taiwan, Zhu invoked Abraham Lincoln as a "model" to justify China's policy of refusing to rule out military force to reunite with that island.

"Abraham Lincoln, in order to maintain the unity of the United States and oppose the independence of the southern part, resorted to the use of force and fought a war for that, for maintaining the unity of the United States," he said.

Clinton stood by, a bemused expression on his face, as he heard his Chinese guest's words translated into English.

The president said he had raised the allegations of Chinese espionage and campaign contributions in a private meeting the night before, and that Zhu had given him the same answer he gave reporters.

As for trade issues, Clinton stressed that the two leaders had made progress, and said he hopes obstacles blocking China's entry into the World Trade Organization could be cleared away by year's end.

Zhu, who sprinkled his remarks with a few words of English, said his visit should not be measured by the number of agreements the two sides reach.

"What is the key is that the PRC [People's Republic of China] delegation has the opportunity to meet people in different walks of life," he said.

In a curious comment for the leader of a Communist power, he added, "We believe that maybe the friends that are maybe able to say 'No' to you are the best friends for you."

Clinton and Zhu fielded questions in an auditorium across the street from the White House.

The two men met privately earlier in the day after a formal welcoming ceremony at the White House. There, Clinton said the United States can best achieve its hopes for the next century through creation of a "strategic partnership" with China on issues such as nonproliferation, free trade and the mutual embrace of political freedom."

With Zhu standing at his side on a sparkling early spring day, Clinton made only passing references in his formal remarks to the long list of issues that divide the two countries.

In his comments, Zhu spoke effusively about Chinese-American relations, asserting that the friendship between the two countries "cannot be undermined by anybody."

There is no Sino-American problem "that cannot be resolved through friendly consultation," he said. Or at least a hefty contribution to the Democratic National Committee.

Like Clinton, he used the term "strategic partnership" to express his hopes for future ties with the United States.

Efforts by the two countries to achieve closer trade ties were set back when an administration official said they had been unable to resolve differences on eliminating Chinese trade barriers. This apparently means further delays in China's hopes of joining the World Trade Organization, the body that governs international commerce.

Zhu was given full military honors after his arrival at the White House. He drew cheers from the large gathering when he concluded his remarks by saying, in English, "I love Chinese people. I love American people."

Human rights is one of a number of divisive issues in Chinese-American relations, and Clinton touched on the subject only indirectly.

"America has a stake in China's success, in a China that has overcome the challenges it faces at home, a China that is integrated into the institutions that promote global norms on proliferation, trade and the environment, a China that respects human rights and promotes peace," he said.

During the half-hour ceremony, about 200 protesters gathered across the street demonstrating against continued Chinese control of Tibet.

Clinton said in a speech the day before that his policies of engaging -- as opposed to isolating -- China have yielded benefits for the United States.

As a result of these links, the Clinton administration was able to negotiate a nuclear freeze with North Korea five years ago and it also persuaded China to stop selling weapons-related nuclear materials to Pakistan and Iran.

Zhu, known for his sense of humor, joked about the allegations that China stole nuclear secrets from the Los Alamos research lab in the 1980s.

He said in Los Angeles days before his meeting with Clinton that China would celebrate the 50th anniversary of communist rule this year by parading weaponry "developed by China itself, not by technology stolen from the United States."

Dole bobs and weaves on abortion

GOP presidential hopeful Elizabeth Dole took her first forceful public stand on abortion on April 9, calling herself "pro-life" but acknowledging that a constitutional amendment banning abortion "is not going to happen because the American people do not support it."

She called upon the Republican party to "recognize that good and honorable people disagree on the subject of abortion, and we should agree to respectfully disagree."

Dole outlined her position in a letter to an Arizona supporter which was released by her presidential exploratory committee. And while clarifying her views on abortion, she also criticized "many in the media" for pressing Republican candidates to declare a stand on a human life amendment, which she views as an "irrelevant and highly divisive argument."

The letter, released while Dole was making a California campaign stop, notes that other important women's issues, such as domestic violence, child care, sexual harassment, women's health and financial security are "nearly ignored" while differences over abortion policy command media attention.

Dole's position mirrors that of the GOP front-runner, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who in an interview acknowledged there was no public support for a constitutional amendment banning abortion.

Bush's comments drew criticism from other candidates in the field, including commentator Pat Buchanan and activist Gary Bauer, who are appealing more directly to the concerns of social conservatives.

Dole concludes her letter by calling on party activists to "unite around issues that define our beliefs," like improving public schools, addressing rising drug use among children, and reducing taxes.

Gore tells Boy Scout there are no plans for draft

Vice President Al Gore told a young Boy Scout on April 10 there were no plans to reinstate the draft, despite the NATO bombing campaign in Yugoslavia.

The draft question by 14-year-old Joe Wiesneski, who was wearing his scout uniform, was the most pointed about the conflict in Kosovo posed to Gore at a campaign fund-raiser for Rep. David Obey (D-Wisconsin).

"There is very little support for moving away from the volunteer Army," Gore told the teen-ager and about 800 others at the event.

"I think the volunteer armed services has been extremely successful."

President Clinton has repeatedly said he had no plan to send ground troops to fight in Kosovo.

Gore defended the policy, arguing 19 countries have joined an alliance against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

"I don't think we are policing the world but there are situations where the world naturally looks to the United States for leadership," Gore said.

Gore attended a $150-a-person reception attended by about 200 people before the $75-a-person forum at the Grand Theater.

The only question Americans should be asking themselves is this: Who exactly isn't supporting the idea of a volunteer army, Bill Clinton and his administration, or the American people? Feel better now?

This time the Communists are right...

The Communist Party of Canada is urging the federal government to drop its appeal of an Ontario Court ruling that lowered the number of candidates a party must run in an election to maintain official status.

"Abandon it. Accept the decision. Do the right thing," said party president Miguel Figueroa.

"We haven't changed our view that the 50-candidate rule is undemocratic, unconstitutional and indefensible," he said.

Tthe federal justice department argues Madam Justice Anne Molloy erred when she ruled it unconstitutional to require a party to field a minimum of 50 candidates to remain registered,

In striking down sections of the Canada Elections Act, Molloy lowered the threshold to two. Fielding only two candidates would allow a party to become registered and enable it to issue tax receipts for political donations, she wrote in her March 10 decision.

The Communist Party of Canada launched the original court challenge when it failed to meet the 50-candidate threshold in the 1993 federal election. It had nominated only eight candidates.

As a result of losing its official party status, the 78-year-old party could not run candidates under the party banner in both the 1993 and 1997 federal elections.

Figueroa said the 50-candidate threshold, if allowed to stand, would protect large, established parties and hinder smaller, grassroots parties.

"Continued efforts to bleed us financially and to prevent us, and all of the small parties, from participating in the political life of the country, will not dissuade us from pursuing such fundamental rights," he said.

"Madam Justice Molloy was not wrong.

"It is outrageous that the government is continuing to make the Communist party devote resources and energy to pursuing such fundamental constitutional rights," he continued.

Meantime, the government has chosen not to challenge other parts of Molloy's ruling to strike down sections of the Canada Elections Act.

Its acceptance of her ruling in this regard is a "significant victory as the battle continues," Figueroa said.

"(It's) an admission by the government that the stricken sections of the legislation were not only unconstitutional, (but) indefensible from any point of view," he charged.

They included one section, described by Molloy as "draconian," that allowed the government to seize the assets of deregistered parties.

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