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White uses farewell to lash out at Liberals

In his farewell address on May 3, outgoing Canadian Labour Congress president Bob White continued to attack corporations and governments for failing to defend working people.

While workers and their unions have made progress in bringing about better living standards in the past century, child poverty and homelessness are on the rise, White said.

"We live in a country in a world in which more wealth has been created than at any time in our history. Stock markets are breaking through new barriers," he said.

"The real contradiction in our society, side by side with all that wealth, (is that) we see more homeless people on our streets than we have since the Great Depression," White said, adding more Canadians are forced to cobble together a living through part-time jobs.

Incomes of working families are less than they were a decade ago, he charged, and that is combined with incredible cuts to social programs, health care, employment insurance and public housing. White didn't explain why his union members weren't living in the spirit of helping one's brother and donating a bigger portion of their incomes to help with the poor.

White, who has been president of the labour congress since 1992, blasted Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and his government for introducing tough restrictions on when and how long out-of-work people can collect benefits.

"We ought to charge the Liberal government with theft," White told more than 2 500 delegates at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. "They have stolen $20 billion of workers' money from the UI fund."

He also attacked both federal and provincial governments for bringing in back-to-work legislation against striking workers, and, in some cases, imposing settlements without going to arbitration.

He made specific references to federal government employees, postal workers and nurses in Saskatchewan and Newfoundland.

"We live in a democracy. Workers' rights are human rights. No government of any political stripe has a right or the moral authority to use its majority to legislate away those rights."

Canadian foreign policy "sophomoric bunkum," says Black

Canadian newspaper mogul Conrad Black says Canada's foreign policy is nothing more than "sophomoric bunkum" that undermines the nation's potential.

On May 4, about 1 000 people in this New Brunswick port city paid $100-per-plate to hear one of the world's most powerful newspaper owners rail against the Canadian government and its inability to craft a useful foreign policy.

Black, chairman of Hollinger Inc., which controls more than 400 publications in Canada, the United States and overseas, seemed to relish the opportunity to pick apart the performances of people like Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy and Heritage Minister Sheila Copps.

He called Axworthy's "soft power" initiatives to quietly bring pressure to bear in such areas as nuclear policy and the United Nations "absurd" and "pandering."

Black said Canada should put its own house in order and utilize its relationship with the United States as a fulcrum for leverage rather than as an opportunity for grandstanding.

He said Canada should be playing a decisive role in broadening trade relationships, including extending an invitation to Britain to join a revamped North American free trade organization, rather than fretting about first-strike nuclear policies or land mines.

"This, or something like it, not this sophomoric bunkum about soft power, would be an imaginative foreign goal for a serious country in Canada's position," Black said, to polite, if restrained, applause.

The newspaper magnate was equally rough on Copps. He ridiculed her belated attempts at cultural protectionism, pointing out the overwhelming domination of Canadian television, movie screens, book and newstands by U.S. products.

"Yet Sheila Copps, who purports to be the official guardian of Canada's culture - yet I'm afraid Mordecai Richler is correct when he said she resembles nothing so much as the captain of the women's industrial league bowling team - says that if American magazines are allowed easy access to Canada, television will be next."

Black also took aim at U.S. President Bill Clinton, blaming him in large part for the lack of success in the NATO bombing campaign against Serbia.

"It reinforces the suspicion that there are some hazards in having a draft avoider as commander-in-chief," Black said of Clinton, who managed to dodge military service during the Vietnam War.

Black said Canada will not be a force in international affairs until it gets its domestic situation under control.

He said there are two major problem areas operating against Canada: the ongoing threat of Quebec separation and high tax, low productivity economic policies.

Black said Canada should take a clear position on the secession issue and stick to it.

"Any Canadian government wishing to maximize Canadian influence in the world should start by making it clear that there will be no secession in Quebec unless Quebec votes to secede by a substantial majority on a clear question and, in that event, all parts of Quebec that vote not to secede from Canada will then remain in Canada and secede from Quebec."

Black said Canada's high-taxation policies are ruining the country, helping to drive away its best and brightest to the lower-tax, higher-wage haven of the United States.

He called for lower income taxes for everyone.

"One of the inevitable consequences of Canada promoting itself as a place of more generous social programs than the United States is that many of Canada's most talented people depart for that very accessible country where they will be more widely acclaimed, more generously rewarded and less highly taxed, while all those who have any fear or expectation of being welfare recipients attach themselves to their Canadian nationality like limpets."

Black's speech, the highlight of a fund-raising campaign for a scholarship program at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John, offered rare insight into Black's personality and thoughts.

He managed to coax chuckles from his audience simply by mentioning the name of union leader Bob White.

Black, noted for his conservative views, had nothing good to say about the labour movement or the New Democratic Party.

"The New Democratic Party," Black said, emphasizing the word "new."

"After 40 years, the novelty is wearing off a bit."

Willey says 'forceful' Clinton had 'hands all over me'...mistrial announced

Kathleen Willey told a federal jury on May 4 that President Clinton "was very forceful and he had his hands all over me," as she recounted details of her disputed assertion that he made an unwanted sexual advance in the White House.

The former White House volunteer testified for Independent Counsel Ken Starr's prosecutors in their case against Julie Hiatt Steele. Steele faced four felony counts for giving false grand jury testimony and lying to Starr's investigators after Steele changed her version of events relating to Willey's claims that she was "groped" by the president.

Clinton has emphatically denied the claims under oath, which of course carries weight these days.

Willey quietly, and at times haltingly, described in graphic detail her recollections of the alleged November 29, 1993, encounter near the Oval Office.

"He had me backed into a corner in a private study," Willey said. "His hands were on my breasts, his hands were up my dress. And he put my hand on his genitals."

The packed courtroom was silent, and the jury attentive but without visible reaction as Willey continued.

"I told him I needed to get out of there. I was shocked at his behavior. I couldn't believe what he was doing," Willey said.

Willey's testimony closely followed her claims made in an interview with CBS's "60 Minutes," which aired March 15, 1998.

Under questioning from Starr's lead prosecutor, David Barger, Willey said she attempted to resist Clinton's advance.

Willey also said she remembered seeing Linda Tripp as she left the White House.

In testimony most directly relevant to the charges against Steele, Willey said she went to Steele's home that evening and told her what had happened in the White House. Willey described Steele as "a very good friend."

Willey testified: "I know I was there because Julie reminded me that I was there and that I told her about what happened with the president."

Steele initially backed Willey's account, but later said she had lied at Willey's request. Steele said under oath, and still insists, that she knew nothing of the alleged incident until 1997, when Willey called her to say a Newsweek reporter was heading to Steele's house and asked her to back Willey's story that she had been "groped" by the president.

Willey described her desperation as she appealed to the president for a paying job instead of a volunteer position because of a "financial crisis."

Willey's husband, Ed Willey Jr., a prominent Democratic fund- raiser in Richmond, Virginia, had just revealed to her two days earlier that he had embezzled $250 000 from his firm.

What Willey did not know until she returned to Richmond was that her husband had committed suicide while she was in Washington seeking a job from Clinton.

A former Steele attorney testified that day Steele had voluntarily decided weeks later to sign the document admitting she initially lied and "now just wanted to tell the truth."

The result of all of this? A mistrial. Ken Starr is just having no luck.

Gore says Internet limits 'honor the lives' of school victims

In the wake of the Colorado school shooting, Internet companies have "agreed" to provide new tools for parents to restrict and monitor online material such as violent video games and hate group sites, Vice President Al Gore said. We all know when a federal politician "suggests" something, it's a "voluntary" action in response. The week before, top Justice Department official Eric Holder said he'd like to see new "regulations" controlling how Americans use the Internet, and President Bill Clinton warned of its dangers. Sounds voluntary to me.

The effort will "honor the lives" of the victims at Littleton, Colorado, Gore said May 4.

Gore joined by consumer activists, Internet company executives and lawmakers of both parties to announce an agreement calling for the online providers to offer new aids for parents to keep youngsters away from "inappropriate" Websites with violent or hate-filled content.

Violence on the Internet has been a hotly debated topic since the April 20 shootings at a Littleton high school left 15 dead, including two shooters linked to hate groups who were said to have played violent video games.

"It is important that we address all of the factors that have been identified as potential causes of that tragedy," said Gore. "No one single cause can take all the blame."

Under the "agreement", Internet companies have agreed to include on their home pages a link to a new site featuring a long list of aids for parents.

Included will be technology that allows parents to restrict their children's access to Internet sites and keep tabs on which sites youngsters are visiting. It also would allow them to limit the time children spend online, and would provide access to a "guide to good content" and safety tips for youngsters and parents interested in surfing the Internet.

That access means "parents and kids will be just one click away from a comprehensive resource guide," said Gore.

While many sites on the Internet promote child safety, backers say the link from major Internet company sites and the push from Gore mean the site is likely to be widely used.

"Only by making changes can we honor the lives of those who were killed," Gore said in an interview. "Where Internet is concerned, this will give parents more tools to employ the latest blocking and filtering technologies to limit access to sites that are run by hate groups, violent games and other materials."

Most of the major Internet companies have agreed to the plan, and Gore aides said the deal would cover Internet sites that account for 95 percent of all Internet traffic. Those familiar with bargaining that led to the agreement said the plan also includes a campaign to market the new guide, financed largely by Internet companies themselves.

Gore was immediately ripped by critics who said the vice president was taking credit for a plan which had been created by the companies themselves before the Littleton shootings.

Parents can name baby anything they want in Quebec...well, not really

The province of Quebec is moving towards giving parents a free hand in choosing their baby’s name. A bill tabled on May 4 would amend Quebec's Civil Code, especially the article which protects newborns from being given ridiculous names.

The changes would remove the power of Quebec's registrar of civil status to refuse to record names officials feel could be humiliating to a child.

The registrar has in the recent past refused to allow names like Ivory, Stormy and Spatule (French for spatula) as first names and C'est-un-Ange (It's an Angel) as a second name.

But children will still have some protection against total parental whimsy.

"What this does is recognize the choice of the parents," said Robert Perreault, minister of relations with citizens.

"But it also maintains the possibility that, in the interest of the child who has been given a ridiculous name by their parent, that the Attorney General could bring the issue before the courts."

The bill would only allow the civil registrar to bring a questionable name before the Attorney General "if the name chosen clearly invites ridicule."

But the name would be registered while it is being challenged.

Most other provinces do not regulate first names.

FCC investigating mass faxing of gun survey

Federal regulators in the United States are investigating whether a British company illegally faxed a gun control survey to individuals and businesses that didn't request it.

The Federal Communications Commission is reviewing the matter to determine whether the company, 21st Century Fax Ltd., violated a U.S. law that bars unsolicited faxes that contain advertisements to businesses and residences, said Dorothy Attwood, chief of the Common Carrier Bureau's enforcement division.

The FCC has received about 25 complaints specifically on the matter, she said.

The company faxed out a survey seeking people's views on whether more effective gun control is needed and asked that their answers be faxed back to a 900 telephone number for a $2.95 a minute charge, with most of the money going to 21st Century Fax Ltd., Attwood said. She indicated that this appears to fit the definition of an advertisement.

The fax was sent out shortly after the Columbine High School shootings in Littleton, Colo.

Attwood said the fax may have been sent out to as many as 3 million machines.

The FCC is also looking to determine the extent to which people and companies received the fax but didn't request it.

If the FCC determines a violation of the law occurred, it could fine the London-based company or impose other penalties. The FCC is not sure when it will issue a decision in the matter, Attwood said.

The Federal Trade Commission also is looking into whether the company violated its rules pertaining to the billing of 900 telephone calls.

The company could not immediately be reached.

The Washington Post, in its May 5 editions, reported that 21st Century Fax's director Gordon Ritchie said the company did not violate the law. The FCC's rules "only apply to unsolicited faxes to the U.S.," the Post quoted Ritchie as saying.

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