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'Dr. Laura' slams 'meaner' media

"Dr. Laura," who dispenses tough talk on morality in her top-rated radio show, has some advice for newspaper editors: Get away from gossip and rumours and raise the level of public discourse.

"Newspapers, magazines, radio and television have gotten meaner . . . and a lot more tolerant of vulgarity and viciousness," Laura Schlessinger told press executives the Newspaper Association of America convention on April 27.

"Your competition is your God," she said, urging publishers and editors to make business decisions that will attract readers "without selling your soul."

Schlessinger, 52, had a brush with unfavourable publicity in November when an Internet site posted nude photos of her taken two decades ago by an ex-boyfriend.

In her speech, she criticized newspapers for running the address of the Web site, where people could look at the photos for a fee. She also took a jab at 60 Minutes and the Washington Post for what she described as favourable profiles of the "Internet pornographer" who posted the pictures.

"I was roasted coast to coast as a hypocrite without anybody defining hypocrisy," Schlessinger said. She contended that "the relentless and often vicious treatment" she received was retaliation for her conservative views on day care, promiscuity, feminism, divorce and abortion.

She said her listeners were concerned about inaccurate reporting, a blurring of news and opinion and a lack of family oriented and positive stories.

NAA President Richard Gottlieb, who heads the media company Lee Enterprises Inc., conceded that Schlessinger had some points.

"We have to watch ourselves and be careful how we report the news," Gottlieb said. "But I don’t think anyone is trying to be mean on purpose. We fight daily for credibility and accuracy, and we care about the communities we cover."

Colorado lawmaker may quit over gun foe threats

A top Colorado lawmaker, who had pushed a bill making it easier to carry concealed weapons, said on April 28 he may quit politics due to angry calls from gun foes following the massacre at Columbine High School.

House Majority Leader Doug Dean, a Republican from Colorado Springs, said his family has received obscenity-laced telephone calls in the days since 12 students and a teacher were shot to death at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, even though he had withdrawn the proposed measure.

"The day after the tragedy happened, we started getting all these hate calls," the 38-year-old legislator said. "Every one of the calls relates to the tragedy at Columbine."

After somebody put nails and screws under the tires of his wife's car, his family became so scared that they slept at a friend's house.

"When someone is actually coming out to your house and doing those acts of vandalism ... you've got to consider as a father, what's my first responsibility," said Dean, who has three children, ages 9, 11 and 14.

Dean had sponsored a bill that would make it easier for Coloradans to get concealed weapons permits.

He and other state leaders, citing the need for the community to heal after the Columbine shooting, had the legislation killed.

He said he expected the tragedy would now spur many bills from anti-gun advocates.

"I think it's probably unlikely that you'll see the (concealed weapons) legislation next year. I'm sure that there will be tons of bills introduced on the other side," he said.

Dean said he will decide this summer whether to quit politics after his third term ends next year.

Basinger accused of 'Situational Ethics'

There's always a risk involved in loudly championing a cause, as Kim Basinger recently discovered.

Animal trainer Jim Stockwell tells New York magazine that the well-known animal-rights activist had no complaints against using elephants for her latest movie, I Dreamed of Africa, even though she's frequently campaigned against the animals' use in circuses.

"I did think that was strange, that an animal-rights activist who feels so strongly about the use of trained animals would agree to do this movie in the first place," Stockwell says.

A spokesman for Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus accused Basinger of "situational ethics," saying that the elephants used in Africa were trained "using the same methods she attacks us for."

Sources for the magazine also say a veterinarian anesthetized a dog whose motivation was "dead" in a scene with Basinger. Sedating animals, reported the New York Post, is a direct violation of guidelines established by the American Humane Society.

"If all this is true, then we are very concerned," says Gini Barrett, a representative of the society. "There are a lot of films being shot in other countries that aren't subject to [our] guidelines. "[However], we think that American actors and companies that operate here should meet the same standards everywhere." Africa was on a three-day shoot in South Africa when the alleged events took place.

Basinger's spokeswoman says no animals, from canine to pachyderm, were mistreated.

It's ironic that the topic of the film more than jells with Basinger's animal platform -- Africa tells the true story of wildlife conservationist Kuki Gallman.

Dems benefit from Hollywood elite

From Hugh Hefner to Martha Stewart, Michael Jordan to Michael Douglas, Steven Spielberg to Warren Buffet, the rich and famous of America are opening their wallets for the 2000 presidential campaign.

Among those giving to Vice President Al Gore: Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner, actors Jack Nicholson and David Caruso, director Robert Reiner, news company owner Michael Bloomberg and Martha Stewart, the doyenne of style.

All three partners in the Dreamworks entertainment empire -- Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg -- gave the maximum to Gore but Geffen also gave $1 000 to Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

Former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, Gore's sole challenger for the Democratic Party nomination, also picked up some famous financial backers, including investor Warren Buffet, movie director Barry Levinson and Apple Computer chief Steven Jobs.

Bradley, a former basketball star with the New York Knicks, also received some professional backing, with $1 000 from retired superstar Michael Jordan and another $1 000 from his Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson.

Actor Michael Douglas gave $1 000 to Bradley but hedged his bets -- he gave $1 000 to Gore as well.

"Hollywood is a major source of money, especially for the Democrats. They have received huge amounts from the 90210 zip code over the years," said Larry Makinson of the Center for Responsive Politics.

House withholds support for NATO airstrikes, restricts use of ground troops

A divided House of Representatives refused to endorse NATO airstrikes on Yugoslavia on April 28, after voting earlier to limit President Bill Clinton's authority to introduce ground forces into the Kosovo campaign.

In what was intended to be a largely symbolic vote, a Democrat-sponsored resolution to lend after-the-fact support to the airstrikes failed in 213-213 tie, despite the backing of House Speaker Dennis Hassert (R-Illinois.)

In another disappointment for the White House, the House voted 249-180 to require Clinton to get congressional approval before sending ground troops to Kosovo.

The votes came despite appeals from Clinton that the United States must speak "with a single voice" on the crisis, as he said NATO had done.

Democrats suggested the president might veto the measure if it was enacted. Clinton has maintained that ground troops will not be necessary in Kosovo.

However, lawmakers said Clinton had promised several hours earlier at a White House meeting of congressional members that he would not attempt to put combat troops into Kosovo without first seeking congressional consent.

Clinton later sent a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois saying he "would ask for congressional support before introducing U.S. ground forces into Kosovo in a non-permissive environment."

White House officials emphasized that Clinton would only ask for support, not approval or authorization from Congress about ground troops.

Clinton, speaking to reporters at the White House, also urged Congress to avoid any legislation that could be misinterpreted by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. He said the 19 nations of NATO are speaking with one voice on the Kosovo issue. "America must continue to speak with a single voice as well," he said.

Democrats attacked the House measure as aiding Milosevic by telegraphing U.S.intentions.

"We tell Milosevic, just hunker down, wait us out and you'll win, because we're announcing ahead of time what we won't do. This, in my estimation, aids and abets Mr. Milosevic," said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-New York).

Democrats also said the measure was so vaguely worded that it could hamper NATO's ability to use Apache attack helicopters that were recently sent to Albania.

"This will hamstring our troops in the field," said Rep. Martin Frost (D-Texas).

"The language in this legislation is unnecessary," said Democratic leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri. He said the bill "would be harmful to our effort" by suggesting mixed resolve.

However, a fair number of Democrats said the resolution does not go farther than the requirements of the 1973 War Powers Act, which says the president must get congressional approval for keeping combat troops deployed for more than 60 days.

Republicans, who hold a slight majority in the House, said Congress is simply exercising its constitutional responsibility and forcing Clinton to keep his word on not sending in ground forces. They also said the measure was intended only to apply to ground combat missions.

"If Mr. Milosevic should ever see American ground troops on the ground, he should have no doubt that that has been the product of a unified decision between the presidency and the Congress prior to those troops being present on that soil," said House Majority Leader Dick Armey.

Other Republicans simply oppose the president's policy outright.

"We should not even be in the Balkans," said Rep. Floyd Spence (R-South Carolina), chairman of the Armed Services Committee. "The national security of this country is not at stake."

The measure was backed by Hastert and the Republican leadership. Two other proposals -- one demanding the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the region and another other for a declaration of war against Yugoslavia -- were rejected by wide margins.

The proposal to bring all U.S. forces home failed by a vote of 290 to 139. The measure to formally declare war on Yugoslavia was rejected 427-2.

Rep. Tom Campbell pushed for the resolutions to test the terms of the War Powers Act. The California Republican said ground troops are imminent in Kosovo. "The framers (of the Constitution) were quite clear that war was too important to be commenced by the action of one single individual," he said.

Campbell opposes the Kosovo action and believes U.S. forces should be removed from the region.

The debate over the resolutions exposed the mixed feelings held by some members of Congress about the Kosovo campaign.

"In fact, to put troops on the ground reinforces a failed policy that is frankly a sign of arrogance? What should we do? Mediate," said Rep. John Kasich (R-Ohio).

"As kindly as I can, let me say that Neville Chamberlin rose up and said, 'let us mediate,'' said Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland), referring to the former British prime minister who tried to negotiate with Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.

Democrats attempted to block further debate but the Republican majority overcame that effort, on a 213-210 party-line procedural vote. The vote was closer than it would have been otherwise because some Republicans had not returned from a White House briefing on Kosovo.

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