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Clinton found in civil contempt for Jones testimony

U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright found President Bill Clinton in civil contempt of court on April 12 for his "willful failure" to obey her repeated orders to testify truthfully in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit.

Wright has referred her ruling to the Arkansas Supreme Court to see if any disciplinary action should be taken.

"Simply put, the president's deposition testimony regarding whether he had ever been alone with Ms. (Monica) Lewinsky was intentionally false and his statements regarding whether he had ever engaged in sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky likewise were intentionally false," the judge wrote of Clinton's January 17, 1998 deposition.

Wright also ordered Clinton to pay Jones "any reasonable expenses including attorneys' fees caused by his willful failure to obey this court's discovery orders," directing Jones' lawyers to submit an accounting of their expenses and fees within 20 days.

She also ruled Clinton must reimburse to the court $1 202 for the judge's travel expenses. Wright traveled to Washington at Clinton's request to preside over what she now calls "his tainted deposition."

"The court takes no pleasure whatsoever in holding this nation's president in contempt of court," the 32-page opinion read.

Referring to the professional rule that states it is misconduct for a lawyer to engage in conduct involving "dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation," Wright also referred matter to the Arkansas Supreme Court's Committee on Professional Conduct to review Clinton's action and impose any disciplinary action it thinks is appropriate, including possible disbarment as a lawyer.

In the deposition, Clinton said: "I have never had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky." He acknowledged August 17 before a federal grand jury -- and again in a nationally televised address -- that he had an inappropriate relationship with Lewinsky.

However, he has said that the statements he made in the Jones deposition were "legally accurate."

Clinton testified to the grand jury that he might not have been paying attention when his lawyer told the judge about Lewinsky's affidavit in which she said there was no sex of any kind with Clinton.

Starr: Independent Counsel Act is 'structurally unsound'

Independent Counsel Ken Starr told a Senate committee that the law that gave him his current job is "structurally unsound," "constitutionally dubious" and should not be reauthorized.

Starr told the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee on April 14 that the purpose of the Independent Counsel Act was to retain the confidence of the people in government when high government officials are accused of crimes.

"By its very existence the act promises us that corruption in high places, will be reliably monitored, investigated, exposed and prosecuted through a process fully insulated from political winds," he said. "But that is more than the act delivers and more than it can delivers under our constitutional system," he said.

Starr also laid out his constitutional objections: "The statute tries to cram a fourth branch of government into our three-branch system."

Starr's five-year probe of President Bill Clinton led to only the second presidential impeachment in the nation's history. The ongoing probe also cost taxpayers more than $40 million so far and sparked debate over the Independent Counsel Act.

Justice Department officials have testified before Congress in recent months saying the current law should not be renewed. Among them was Attorney General Janet Reno who also characterized the statute as "structurally flawed."

"After carefully considering the statute and its consequences, both intended and unintended, I concur with the attorney general, who has aligned herself with her predecessors," he said. "The statute should not be reauthorized."

The current law is set to expire June 30. It is widely disliked by members of both parties after independent counsel investigations of Republican and Democratic presidents and other government officials.

If Congress lets the law expire, as it did in 1992 before renewing it 18 months later, dozens of high-ranking government officials who now could be subject to an independent counsel inquiry would be investigated instead by the Justice Department.

Starr told the committee that he reached his conclusions because of numerous reasons, including that the "statutory trigger is unenforceable" and that the independent counsel is "vulnerable to partisan attack."

Starr has been attacked by supporters of the president as a out-of-control prosecutor who was politically motivated and out to get the president. That criticism is unfair, Starr said.

"A duly authorized federal law-enforcement investigation came to be characterized as yet another political game," he said.

Starr said independence can be misread as antagonistic and the Justice Department has no incentives to come to the aid the independent counsel.

"With no institutional defender, independent counsels are especially vulnerable to partisan attack," Starr said.

Starr also spoke of the "carnival-like atmosphere" that existed outside the federal courthouse last year as the Whitewater grand jury heard testimony. Witnesses cowered as they were pursued by TV cameras, he said.

"Other witnesses used the cameras for their own ends, including to disseminate falsehoods about what had transpired in the grand jury room," he said.

"I think it is fair to say that the Act has been a worthwhile experiment. Like most experiments that are professionally conducted, it has yielded significant results," Starr says. "The results, I believe, support this conclusion: Jurisdiction and authority over these cases ought to be returned to the Justice Department. And who will oversee them? The Congress, the press and the public."

Clintons, Gores release income tax returns

President Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton paid $89 951 in federal income taxes for 1998 on an adjusted gross income of $504 109, according to tax returns released by the White House last month

Separately, the released returns of Vice President Al Gore and his wife, Tipper, show they earned $224 376 in 1998 and paid income taxes totaling $52 951.

The Gores, criticized last year for only making $353 in charitable contributions, reported making $15 197 in charitable contributions in 1998. Most of that money went to organizations assisting the homeless and the mentally ill, as well as religious and education organizations.

The main sources of income for the first family were the president's $200 000 salary, $74 289 from sales of Mrs. Clinton's books and nearly $200 000 from the family blind trust.

The Clintons' reported $161 938 in charitable contributions, including a carryover of more than $62 000 from last year from donated profits of Mrs. Clinton's book, "It Takes a Village."

They overpaid their taxes by $4 267 in 1998, according to the returns. Instead of taking a refund, the Clintons applied the sum toward their 1999 income taxes.

The Clintons' 1998 return closely mirrored their taxes from the previous year. The first family reported $569 511 in adjusted gross income for 1997, and they paid $91 964 in federal taxes.

The returns show that the Clintons also reported $16 665 in interest, $16 736 in dividends and $1 329 in taxable refunds or credits. The dividend and interest income includes $12 000 from a trust fund established in 1912 for whomever is the spouse of the president. Mrs. Clinton will contribute that money to charity, as she has in prior years, the White House said.

The lion's share of the Gore family income in 1998 came from the vice president's $175 000 salary. In addition, the Gores reported $16 800 in income from renting their home in Arlington, Virginia, and $20 564 in profits from the sale of Gore's book.

Gore's meager charitable giving in 1997 raised some eyebrows. The $353 figure was less than one-tenth the typical contribution amount for someone with the Gores' adjusted gross income.

Quayle formally kicks off 2000 bid

Saying it is time to "reclaim the values that made America great," former Vice President Dan Quayle officially launched his bid for the 2000 Republican nomination on April 14.

"Today I announce that I will seek and I will win the presidency of the United states of America," Quayle said, pledging to restore integrity to the White House after "a dishonest decade of Bill Clinton and Al Gore."

"In your hearts you know that prosperity without values is no prosperity at all," Quayle told a crowd of supporters in his boyhood town of Huntington, Indiana. "I am here to tell you that I will lead the fight for our values and our families."

The former Indiana senator kicked off his presidential campaign at Huntington North High School, where he graduated in 1965.

In his first bid for elective office since President Bill Clinton defeated the Bush-Quayle re-election ticket in 1992, Quayle is expected to concentrate much of his criticism during the campaign on Vice President Al Gore, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination.

Quayle, a social conservative, pledges that so-called "family values" will still be a focus of his 2000 campaign, as it was in 1992. He has attacked Gore for defending Clinton during the impeachment process, accusing the pair of showing "contempt for the values parents try to teach their children."

The vice president made headlines during the 1992 campaign when he questioned the morality of TV sitcom character "Murphy Brown" for having a child as a single mother. At the time he was criticized for that by Democrats and mocked by late-night comics.

On other key campaign issues, Quayle is pushing a proposed 30 percent across-the-board tax cut, calling it as a boon to middle-income families.

He also says he is the best qualified potential commander-in-chief in the 2000 field due to his participation in White House war councils and his service on foreign policy committees in the House and Senate.

He also has no chance in hell.

Tibetan flag flown before Zhu's visit

The mayor of St. John's lowered the flag of China's troubled Tibetan territory at City Hall on April 24 following reports Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji wasn't amused.

"I was advised through contacts in the business community that if the flag was not lowered, Mr. Zhu would cancel his trip to St. John's," said Andy Wells.

"It shows how insecure they must be that they'd be sensitive to a flag flying in a city of 150 000 people 50 000 miles from China."

The day before, Wells granted a local group permission to fly the Tibetan flag at City Hall for the duration of Zhu's visit as a show of protest against the country's human rights record.

In Ottawa, Sean Rowan, a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs, confirmed the Chinese delegation complained about the flying of the Tibetan flag.

He said federal officials explained that Canada is a free country and that flying the flag was a decision of the City of St. John's and in no way represented Ottawa's policy.

In response, Zhu told about 200 Newfoundland businesspeople and members of the local Chinese community that perhaps Wells needed to be better educated about China.

He pointed to a story he heard during a recent trip to the United States, in which the mayor of a large city was asked his opinion about Washington and responded by saying: Where is Washington?

"So I guess in Canada there must be similar mayors who ask similar questions," said Zhu.

"What is China? Is China porcelain?," Zhu said to the amusement of the crowd.

Unabomber praises environmental activists

Radical environmentalists are getting nothing but praise -- from the Unabomber.

Theodore Kaczynski told Gear magazine that he applauds people in groups such as Earth First! He says they take what he calls "radical direct action to protest the desecration of nature."

Even so, he says most of them don't go far enough.

Kaczynski is jailed for life after a 20-year bombing campaign that killed three people and maimed 29.

His letter to the magazine is being published in the May-June issue as part of a larger article about eco-terrorism. I wonder if Earth First! will use it in their recruit and fundraising packages...

Readers think America's newspapers are biased...yet they still read them

Americans sharply criticized newspapers in a national survey released on April 15 that accuses the media of chasing sensationalist stories in order to sell papers.

The report, delivered at the American Society of Newspaper Editors' annual meeting, found that 78 percent of the public believes there is bias in the media. Another 42 percent thinks there is bias in TV news, 23 percent in newspapers and 17 percent in magazines.

In addition, nearly 50 percent of the respondents believe editorial decisions are made by executives who want to sell more newspapers.

"I'm not surprised," said Jan Schaffer, executive director of the Pew Center for Civic Journalism in Washington. "I think it echoes other research. It suggests that what we're doing is ineffective and even hurtful to our credibility long term."

The survey by Urban & Associates also found that:

  • Newspaper stories include too many factual errors and spelling or grammar mistakes, which are blamed on deadline pressure.
  • Newspapers fail to consistently show respect or knowledge of readers and their communities.
  • Values of journalists and their editors sometimes conflict with the priorities for their newspapers.
  • Reporter biases influence what stories are covered and how.
  • Those most critical of the media were members of the public interviewed by a reporter or the subject of a story.

Church leader preaches 'joy of paying taxes'

Thou shalt love thy taxman.

That is the good word from a leading church leader as Canadians prepare to ship millions of tax forms and billions of dollars in tax payments to the federal government in Ottawa before the April 30 filing deadline.

Rev. Bill Phipps, the controversial moderator of the United Church of Canada, says Canadians should embrace "the joy of paying taxes" rather than grumble about the aching heads and empty wallets that follow the annual chore.

The United Church, a collection of Methodists, Presbyterians and Congregationalists, is Canada's largest Protestant denomination. With more than three million members, it is also an influential liberal voice in Canadian society.

Phipps, who stirred the wrath of many Christians less than two years ago when he questioned the divinity and resurrection of Jesus, says taxes are one of the best ways for individuals to care for each other collectively.

He has been preaching the heretical message for 15 years and does not appear dissuaded by growing calls for lower taxes and less government intervention in the Canadian economy.

"As Canadians, we must remember that our taxes are what pay for services like Medicare (Canada's publicly-funded health-care system), the social programs that our parents and grandparents fought so hard to establish," Phipps said.

"So yes, as you fill out your tax return, you should be joyful you are contributing to a proud tradition that is worth preserving and protecting."

While tax season usually sees Canadians reaching for the aspirin, Phipps' message had many breathing fire and brimstone.

Canada strips more in personal income taxes from its economy than any other Group of Seven country.

Both the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the International Monetary Fund have warned Canada on the perils of high taxation.

Canada's top marginal tax rate, which clicks in at an annual income near C$62 000 (US$41 722), is about 54 percent. In contrast, the top U.S. rate is about 39.6 percent on those making roughly more than $200 000 a year.

"He's totally discounted the arguments of value, results and of individual desire and need to build for our own futures," said Walter Robinson, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Association, a lobby group.

Robinson, who argues there is "tax rage" in Canada, said Canadians will dutifully file their tax returns this year, but not joyfully.

"It's going to be with some degree of anger and resentment."

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