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web posted June 17, 2002

High Court won't hear test of Bush gun stance

The U.S. Supreme Court said June 10 it will not hear two cases that would have tested the Bush administration's newly articulated position that the Constitution protects an individual's right to own guns.

Without comment, the court turned down requests to hear the cases of two men convicted of violating federal gun laws. The men had argued that the laws are unconstitutional because the Second Amendment gives Americans the right to "keep and bear arms."

The cases marked the first time the Bush administration had told the court it was reversing a decades-old policy on the Second Amendment. Until then, the government had said the amendment protects a collective, not an individual, right to gun ownership.

The administration also said its new position does not undermine gun laws because the Second Amendment right is still subject to "reasonable restrictions."

Using that rationale, the administration urged the high court not to accept the appeals of Timothy Joe Emerson and John Lee Haney. Both were properly charged under laws the administration considers reasonable limitations of the right to gun ownership, Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson said.

The high court interpreted the Second Amendment in 1939 as a protection of militia rights, not of individual ones.

"The current position of the United States . . . is that the Second Amendment more broadly protects the rights of individuals, including persons who are not members of any militia or engaged in active military service or training, to possess and bear their own firearms," Olson wrote in footnotes to the Emerson and Haney cases.

The cases are Emerson v. United States, No. 01-8780, and Haney v. United States, No. 01-8272.

GAO finds some vandalism by Clinton staffers

Congressional investigators found examples of vandalism, theft and pranks by Clinton administration employees as they prepared to turn over control of the White House in January 2001.

However, the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, said because the Bush administration failed to keep records on many alleged misdeeds, it was unable to corroborate some of the claims.

In a report obtained by The Associated Press on June 11, GAO investigators said they determined that some office products were stolen, although no specific dollar figure was included.

GAO also found some outgoing Clinton workers glued shut desk drawers and left prank voice mail messages. Several keyboards were missing their "W" keys.

"Any intentional damage at the White House complex, which is a national treasure, is both inappropriate and a serious matter," concludes the 220-page report by the investigative arm of Congress.

"The theft of or willful damage to government property would constitute a criminal act in violation of federal law."

The GAO also noted allegations of vandalism surfaced when the Clinton administration took over the White House in 1993, replacing President Bush's father.

Incoming Clinton staffers observed missing signs and doorknobs, excessive trash and words and initials carved into desks, the report said.

Former Clinton administration employees have acknowledged some pranks -- such as removing the "W" keys -- but say Republican claims of widespread vandalism and theft were overblown.

According to the Executive Office of the President and the General Services Administration, at least $9,324 was spent for repair and replacement of items and cleanup.

That included $4,850 for 62 keyboards, $2,040 for 26 cellular telephones, $1,150 for professional cleaning, $729 for two cameras, $221 for 15 television remote controls and $150 for repairing the arms of two chairs and the leg of a sofa.

"The Clinton administration treated the White House worse than college freshmen checking out of their dorm rooms," said Rep. Bob Barr, R-Georgia, who requested the investigation.

"They showed nothing less than a complete lack of respect for one of America's most sacred public monuments, and in doing so, they disgraced not just themselves, but institution and the office of the presidency as well."

The GAO suggested a checkout policy be established for outgoing administrations that would include listing government materials and their condition.

Singer says ABC's Jennings gave him the boot

ABC's Peter Jennings gave the boot to country singer Toby Keith after deciding the lyrics of his hit song, "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue," were too controversial for the network's July 4th special celebrating America.

At least, that's the version from the roughneck Oklahoma native. ABC, on the other hand, has said logistics and "a number of other factors" prevented the network from booking Keith for its three-hour special, being hosted by Jennings, who is Canadian.

How will this tune play out?

The controversy centers on the lyrics at the end of the song, a tough-edged tune that captures much of the patriotism and anger that swept the country in wake of the September 11 attacks.

"You'll be sorry you messed with the U.S. of A. 'cause we'll put a boot in your ass. It's the American way," the song says.

Keith, 40, wrote the song, initially titled "Angry American," soon after the attacks as a tribute to his father, an Army veteran who lost his right eye in a combat training mission. His dad, H.K. Covel, had died about five months before September 11 and taught his boy to "be a flag-waving patriot."

"I was real angry when I saw that second plane hit that tower and wondered what my dad would have thought about it. And the lyrics just fell out of me," he told CNN's TalkBack Live.

Keith never planned to record the song. But when he sang it at the Pentagon, the U.S. Naval Academy, and for troops serving in the Bosnia region, he knew it was his duty as singer and songwriter to release it.

"The response was so tremendous, I said, 'Hey, we're allowed to be angry.' I know how angry I was when I saw those towers come down, and this is my way of serving my country," Keith said in an interview on CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports.

Keith said he had no plans to discuss publicly the row with Jennings, but he was outraged after the network released its statement, which said the country singer had never been booked for the show. The statement didn't mention anything about Jennings' alleged objections.

"They're saying this isn't about lyric content, and it is. And I respect my right as an American to say what I want to say, and [Jennings] can say what he wants to say," Keith told CNN.

Keith said the network approached his agent about him opening the show -- "practically begged us" -- and that he agreed on May 16, sending ABC written confirmation that he would appear. But last Friday, the network informed him that "we'd been nixed from the show."

"They said Mr. Jennings didn't like the lyric content, and this wasn't going to be on his show," he said. "Let's make sure that everybody knows that it's not because we weren't booked on there. It was because of lyric content."

And let there be no doubt, Keith added, that he is a patriot.

"When nobody really thought you needed to fly a flag and patriotism was gone, we flew one in our yard," he said.

In ABC's statement, the network said its three-hour special is "to celebrate the history of America through its music," including country, jazz, rock, barber shop, and gospel tunes. Among those scheduled to appear are Sheryl Crow, Brooks & Dunn, the Boston Pops, the United States Air Force Band, and the Singing Sergeants.

"While we have cast a wide net searching for performers and considered adding Toby Keith to the lineup, unfortunately a number of factors, including logistical ones, prevented us from booking him," ABC said.

Castro seeks signatures to preserve his system

Cuban President Fidel Castro announced a nationwide campaign on June 13 to gather signatures endorsing Cuba's one-party communist system.

Critics said the signature drive was a move to squash a dissident attempt to seek guarantees of civil liberties through a referendum. A month ago, dissidents handed in to the National Assembly a petition calling for the vote.

Castro called on Cubans to sign a petition beginning June 15 to amend Cuba's constitution that would declare economic and political systems "untouchable."

He launched the drive a day after marches were held to reject demands by President George W. Bush that Cuba open up elections and the economy.

"This . . . step will be taken so that absolutely no one can doubt in the least how the Cuban people feel and think," he said.

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