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Canadian sportsmen take federal government to court

"What criminal is going to go out and register his guns?" asked Ted Morton.

Morton is the spokesman for the Coalition of Responsible Firearm Owners and Sportsmen (CORFOS) who have been granted intervenor status at the Supreme Court of Canada in the Alberta government's challenge of Bill C-68.

"Registration of every firearm in Canada is going to be wildly expensive and will have absolutely no effect whatsoever on their illegal use.” Morton declared. "Sportsmen are not against sensible and effective firearm control," stated Morton.

"We are however opposed to the methods used in C-68 -- they will not reduce firearms in the hands of criminals", Morton continued. "We believe that the provinces are the rightful perveyors of this type of program as they are more skilled at providing licencing and regulatory laws and administration at a reduced cost."

Coalition lawyer, Dallas Miller, of Medicine Hat, will argue that the licensing and registration provisions of Bill C-68 are an illegal invasion of provincial jurisdiction over property and civil rights. This is the same position taken by the governments of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

CORFOS is a coalition of ordinary Canadians -- hunters, shooters and collectors from a number of Canadian organizations -- The Alberta Fish and Game Association, The National Firearms Association, The Responsible Firearms Owners of Alberta, Alberta Civil Society Association, The Alberta Arms & Cartridge Collectors Association, The Responsible Firearms Owners Coalition of British Columbia, The Sporting Clubs of Niagara and The Responsible Firearms Owners of Ontario.

Ottawa initially estimated the costs of implementing Bill C-68 at around $85 million dollars. But it now admits, through March, 1999 it has already spent $200 million. The federal government is now projecting it will spend between $50 and $60 million per year in administrative costs alone each year into the foreseeable future.

"At a time when our healthcare and education systems are crying out for additional funding, it is shameful for Ottawa to be throwing away this kind of money," stated Morton.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear Alberta's challenge to Bill C-68 in the fall.

Starr: Investigations 'horrible' for Arkansas

Prosecutor Kenneth Starr said the decision by a Little Rock, Ark., jury to acquit former Clinton business associate Susan McDougal may be linked to the "horrible" effects his investigations of President Clinton and the first lady have had on the state.

"This was a Little Rock trial," Starr said on ABC's "This Week" on April 18. "This is difficult for the state of Arkansas. A sitting governor has been convicted and resigned. The president's business partners, the first lady's clients have been convicted."

Starr said his office has asked the Arkansas court for permission to interview the jurors in the McDougal case, and would not make a decision on a retrial on two remaining counts until after that is done.

Some jurors said they thought Starr's prosecutors were arrogant, and they acquitted her on an obstruction of justice charge partly on that basis.

"I would take that with a grain of salt," Starr said, noting that the comments were made only by a few jurors. "But I will say this," he said, "this has been horrible for Arkansas."

Starr's investigations into Clinton's Whitewater land dealings have led to former Gov. Jim Guy Tucker pleading guilty to fraud, convictions against McDougal and her late husband James McDougal and friend Webster Hubbell, and charges against other Arkansas bankers and businessmen.

The week before Susan McDougal was acquitted of the obstruction of justice charge stemming from her refusal to talk to Starr about her dealings with Clinton. The jury deadlocked on two criminal contempt charges.

A Newsweek poll of 751 adults found 35 percent said Starr did a good job in handling the Monica Lewinsky matter, and 54 percent said he did a bad job.

The poll released also found that 35 percent said the independent counsel law should be extended, while 58 percent supported its termination.

The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.

Tax evaders abound in Canada

The underground economy is still booming despite Revenue Canada's efforts to get tough with tax cheats.

Income of $38 billion went unreported in 1997 or 4.5 per cent of gross domestic product, Auditor General Denis Desautels said on April 20 in a report to the Commons. That's $12 billion lost in taxes.

"Tax evasion is not a victimless crime," said the report. "It puts honest businesses at a competitive disadvantage and it causes honest taxpayers to bear the tax load of those who cheat."

Canadians could lose faith in the system's fairness if evaders prosper without punishment, he said.

Revenue Canada devoted 1 200 staff starting in 1993 to fight the underground economy, but Desautels said reported results have been misleading.

The department recently said its efforts tracked $2.5 billion in unpaid taxes over five years. But those results include all crackdown measures, not just those specifically aimed at the underground economy, Desautels says.

"The results of the fight against the underground economy are less than shining," Desautels said at a news conference.

In fact, 1 000 auditors tracking underground earnings identified -- but didn't necessarily collect -- less than $500 million in unpaid tax.

"According to Revenue Canada's own recently released internal audit, the reported results of the initiative are inaccurate," said Desautels. "This is troublesome because inaccurate data could jeopardize the decision-making process and compromise the government's attack on the underground economy."

China's PM warns force an option in Taiwan

Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji rebuked Taiwan independence supporters on April 20 and warned that China has never ruled out force in regaining the island.

Zhu, on the final stop of a six-city Canadian tour, encountered about 300 demonstrators as he entered a lunch banquet in his honor.

While some of the protesters belonged to the Free Tibet movement that has dogged Zhu throughout the trip, he noted most were advocating independence for Taiwan.

But Zhu departed from the expected platitudes about Canada-China goodwill and mutual prosperity to give a history lesson on Taiwan, and a candid warning.

He rejected suggestions, also raised during the U.S. leg of his North American visit, that the island was never part of China.

"I think these people have betrayed or have forgotten their ancestors," Zhu said through an interpreter.

"We have all along been saying that we will do our best to achieve a peaceful reunification, but we have not undertaken to renounce the use of force, and I think the aim of that is to achieve a peaceful reunification," Zhu said.

Successive emperors fought to regain or maintain control of Taiwan, he said.

It was Zhu's last public stop before he returned to China after a barnstorming-style trip across Canada and the United States to promote trade and China's inclusion in the World Trade Organization.

Zhu surprised an audience in Victoria, British Columbia, the evening before with a pointed complaint that pro-Tibetan independence protesters outside that event were "Canadian white people" who might not know where Tibet is.

In a reference to complaints about China's human rights policies, Zhu reminded the audience Canada did not end discriminatory laws against Chinese until 1947 or formally guarantee them equal civil rights until 1967.

"This is what I learned from the textbooks of history in middle school and I'll never forget that because I am Chinese," he told an applauding audience of about 1 000 at the banquet.

Zhu suggested reunification would bring little interference in Taiwan's interests from the mainland government.

"On the contrary, the mainland of China will provide a larger market for the Taiwan people and for the business community," he said.

Espionage boosted China's weapons program, says CIA

An internal CIA report presented to lawmakers on April 21 revealed that China's theft of U.S. nuclear secrets has directly benefited its weapons program.

"China has obtained by espionage classified U.S. information. We think it has influenced China's program," a senior intelligence official said.

"We expect that future Chinese weapons will look more like ours," said the official, who asked not to be named

The report concluded that China obtained at least basic design information on a number of U.S. weapons, including the W-88 miniaturized warhead used on Trident II missiles.

China also obtained information on the neutron bomb, the report said.

But analysts were unable to conclude the full extent of the thefts, such as whether the Chinese obtained any design documentation or blueprints.

It is also unclear how much of China's technological progress was the result of espionage and how much was the result of open scientific exchanges and its own research.

CIA Director George Tenet briefed congressional intelligence committees on the report.

"I think it's a big loss for the United States," said Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Alabama).

He criticized the Clinton administration for its failure to be "more aggressive in recognizing the seriousness of the lab problems ... several years ago."

Both the CIA and Energy Department have carried out damage assessments that focus on espionage at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico during the 1980s.

Much of the focus has centered on Taiwanese-born American Wen Ho Lee, who was allowed to continue working in classified areas long after he was suspected of spying for China.

Lee was placed in charge of updating computer software for the weapons systems in the spring of 1997, months after he became the focus of an FBI investigation.

Lee was removed from his post at the lab, but has not been charged with any crimes.

Energy Secretary Bill Richardson refused to say whether the CIA report uncovered additional thefts. However, he did acknowledge "there was a problem, there was a theft, it was serious."

He added: "I can tell the American people that the potential for the theft of nuclear secrets at our labs is now non-existent."

Sure.

Bauer officially jumps into 2000 race

Conservative activist Gary Bauer declared his official candidacy on April 21 in the 2000 horse race for the Republican presidential nomination, saying he wants his pro-family agenda to help eliminate the U.S. "virtue deficit."

Throwing out much of his prepared remarks, Bauer concentrated his words instead on the shootings a day earlier at a suburban Denver high school where 15 people were killed and 24 injured in America's worst instance of school violence.

"American children are dead. Not in Kosovo, but in Colorado," Bauer said. Such a tragedy forces Americans to ask "ourselves whether or not America can still be a shining city on a hill or if we are going to continue to sink into the violence and despair."

Bauer said it was this kind of event that brought him into politics because he wants a say in what direction the country was going: "In spite of the Dow Jones industrial average over 10 000, a growing economy, in spite of all those things to our credit, you and I know that there is something wrong in America."

"This country can be better than it is today, and I intend to make it better," Bauer, 52, pledged kicking off his long-shot White House bid. He made the announcement in his hometown of Newport, Kentucky at the Newport High School where he graduated in 1964.

Despite a large GOP field that already includes several social conservatives, Bauer believes he can set his candidacy apart through his blue-collar roots, tax cut plan and especially his message of moral values.

Decrying what he called a "culture of death" that has emerged in American, Bauer pointed to abortion as its strongest symbol. Despite criticism from some Republicans who say the abortion issue has proved too divisive for the party, Bauer said: "I am not going to go away from this issue or ignore it."

"Twenty-six years ago the highest court in this land did an incredible thing. They issued a Supreme Court decision that really boils down to one simple and profoundly evil idea: They said that our unborn children have no rights that the rest of us are bound to respect," Bauer said. "And when they made that decision they unleashed on America an unbelievable event that has undermined who we are and what we believe."

Bauer also advocates replacing the current tax code with a 16-percent flat tax. He called the plan a "pro-growth, pro-pocketbook, pro-family policy."

"I believe America can be a special place, Bauer said, one "where our schools are safe, where virtue counts; A country where motherhood and fatherhood is revered as much as any career; Where criminals are behind bars, not law-abiding, decent American families.

"These are the things I am about. These are the values I think are important. This is the good fight I am ready to wage with all my heart and soul," the presidential candidate said.

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