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"I know this is hard," Clinton tells soldiers...

President Bill Clinton told crews flying bombing missions over Yugoslavia on May 5 that they are fighting for "the common humanity of every breathing, living person in this continent."

Clinton also mourned "two brave Americans" killed in Albania while training for helicopter warfare against Yugoslavia and rejoiced in the freedom of three U.S. soldiers held captive for a month.

"Right now, I’m just glad to have these people home - halfway home, anyway," Clinton said, greeting the freed soldiers and their families at Ramstein Air Base.

Earlier, the president, flanked by F-16 fighter planes and a stealth bomber at Spangdahlem Air Base, denounced Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, whom the West accuses of a campaign of murder and ethnic cleansing in Serbia's southern Kosovo province.

"This is wrong," Clinton said. "It is evil."

Clinton turned his first visit to Europe since the start of the bombing campaign into a day of pep talks for U.S. servicemen.

The president opened his trip at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, where he was assured that the allied air strikes are breaking Milosevic's military and industrial might.

"If I sound upbeat, it's because I am upbeat," NATO's top commander and Clinton pal, Gen. Wesley Clark, said. "And the reason I'm upbeat is because we're winning."

However, Clark said he could not predict when Milosevic would capitulate.

From NATO, the president flew on to Spangdahlem, a staging ground for air strikes by F-16 fighters, A-10 attack planes and F-117 stealth fighter-bombers. Later, he stopped at Ramstein, the hub for humanitarian refugee airlifts, and ate in the mess hall with U.S. air force personnel.

"I like having the opportunity to look our men and women in uniform in the eye," he said without a trace of embarrassment.

"I know this is hard," Clinton told them. "I know too many of these pilots are flying long hours with too little rest. I know the stress and anxiety must be unbearable."

He would know.

Fur flies as activists protest at Montreal fashion fair

The two sides of fur faced off in Montreal on May 5, as the annual fur fashion fair opened amid protests by animal-rights activists.

Industry spokespeople, including a cabinet minister from newly created Nunavut, believe they are gaining on the public relations front. The industry also officially launched a new pro-fur advertising campaign.

Peter Kilabuk, minister of sustainable development for Nunavut, was a star speaker at the four-day event. His region has been hit hard by a ban on seal products by several countries as a result of lobbying by animal rights movements.

"The Inuit were confused and deeply hurt by the efforts of people to ban seal hunting," said Kilabuk, sporting a sealskin vest.

He said his government will try to influence the United States to change a law that forbids imports of sea products like sealskins or whalebone carvings.

Alan Herscovici, executive vice-president of the Fur Council of Canada, said more than 1 000 copies of a video that shows the fur industry's side of the controversy have been sent out to schools. It's part of the council's fighting-back campaign to counter the bad image presented by animal-rights activists.

It is striving to present fur to potential buyers as a natural, ecological choice for a product that is more durable than other garments.

Fur retailer Paul Twigg said the advertising blitz "will position fur as a product people should be comfortable wearing."

He said it will involve more "in-your-face type of advertising, that tells our story with facts."

But André Plumbly, spokesperson for the Virginia-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said fur producers are wrong in saying they have an ecologically sound product.

"The fur industry oppresses and tortures animals," he said.

Plumbly was among a small group of protesters outside the show. Some wore fur coats and paper bags on their heads bearing red letters that spelled out SHAME.

The fur show is the largest of its kind in North America, with models showing off the fashions of 200 exhibitors from several countries.

Encryption rules struck down

In a blow to the Clinton administration, noted for its work in the field of civil liberties, a federal appeals court ruled that government limits on the export of computer encryption codes are a violation of freedom of expression.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, upholding a lower court ruling, said the codes -- which scramble data to prevent eavesdropping -- contain expressions of ideas and cannot be suppressed indefinitely by government officials.

"Cryptographers use source code to express their scientific ideas in much the same way that mathematicians use equations or economists use graphs," Judge Betty Fletcher wrote in the May 6 2-1 ruling.

The federal government limits exports of the most powerful encryption technology because it fears law enforcement agencies won't be able to read the messages of criminals or terrorists.

The high-tech industry wants relaxed restrictions so it can take full advantage of the booming market for encryption programs as Internet commerce increases.

An advocacy group for computer privacy applauded the ruling.

"It's a giant step forward in bringing down export controls," said Tara Lemmey, president of the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco.

The decision upheld the 1996 ruling in the case of Daniel Bernstein, an Illinois mathematics professor who wanted to post his encryption formula on the Internet.

Fletcher wrote that Bernstein and other scientists "have been effectively chilled from engaging in valuable scientific expression."

A court order preventing Bernstein from posting his code remains in effect pending the government's decision on whether to appeal further.

The ruling declares the regulations invalid in the nation's largest federal appellate circuit, which covers nine Western states. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati is preparing to review another judge's ruling upholding the same regulations.

The departments of Justice and Commerce, which reviews encryption licenses, had no comment.

"I do not expect that this battle is over," said Bernstein's lawyer, Cindy Cohn. But she said the ruling was "a huge, giant step along the road so that the government can't prevent people from developing this tool, this science."

Bernstein, now at the University of Illinois at Chicago, developed an encryption program called Snuffle as an undergraduate at the University of California at Berkeley in 1990.

Two years later, the State Department, which then ran the regulatory program, told him he could not post his code on the Internet without an export license, which he has been unable to get.

The Clinton administration recently liberalized its rules to allow encryption of some electronically posted credit card information. But in most cases, the regulations still treat encryption codes like military weapons and forbid their export without a license.

Two shooting groups back parts of Clinton gun-control plan...the NRA isn't so bad after all....

Two firearms industry groups have told the Clinton administration they might support some of its gun-control proposals, their leaders said on May 8.

Both denied, however, a report that they told President Clinton's chief domestic adviser he could count on their backing for five of the proposals.

Among them are measures raising the age eligibility for buying a handgun from 18 to 21, holding parents criminally responsible for allowing children access to guns and forbidding juveniles convicted of violent felonies from ever buying a gun, The Washington Post reported.

Robert Ricker, executive director of the American Shooting Sports Council, said the industry groups had not seen final versions of the administration proposals.

And, he said, "we told the White House we have to see the language before we can make any commitment."

The Post said Ricker and Robert Delfray, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, also agreed on measures requiring people who sell guns at gun shows to make background checks on the buyers, the Post said.

It said the organizations refused to endorse White House proposals to require three-day waiting periods for buying guns and allowing people to buy only one gun a month.

"We did not agree to anything," he said. "We indicated -- and this is the absolute bottom line here -- what our position might be. The White House certainly acknowledged that the devil would be in the details."

Lewinsky satirizes "big creep" on 'Saturday Night Live'

Monica Lewinsky poked fun and took a shot at President Clinton during a "Saturday Night Live"appearance on May 9.

The former White House intern appeared in a skit as ex-President Clinton's Malibu housemate in 2001. Clinton, portrayed by actor Darell Hammond, is about to slip out for lunch with Vernon Jordan when Lewinsky arrives.

Hammond gives Ms. Lewinsky a slightly lewd embrace and asks about her day at work.

"Everyone gets so mad at me when I turn the wrong letters," Ms. Lewinsky replied, a self-mocking reference to a job on "The Wheel of Fortune."

Hammond, dressed in a bathrobe, gives Lewinsky a gift: a copy of "Leaves of Grass." Lewinsky points out that he's already given her the book a couple of times.

Hammond tells Ms. Lewinsky that he has to get going, and she is suspicious.

"Don't you trust me?" he asks.

"In your dreams, you big creep," Ms. Lewinsky replies, followed by the traditional show-opener: "Live from New York, it's Saturday night!"

Lewinsky referred to Clinton as "the big creep" while Linda Tripp secretly recorded her.

Yeah, I thought it was funny too...

And these cats regulate the broadcasts of Americans?

Imagine that someone e-mails you a dirty joke. A really dirty joke. One that has been making the rounds for a month.

It comes in on your office account, but you decide to pass it along to a group of friends on a personal address list.

Only, you work in public relations for the Federal Communications Commission. And part of your job is to send out, by e-mail, a daily report on actions taken by the government agency. You know, the one in charge of keeping the airwaves decent.

You click the wrong button.

That's exactly what happened on May 7 and 6 000 people, including journalists and government officials, were forwarded a copy of a raunchy joke titled "Nuns in heaven" rather than the FCC's Daily Digest, a comparatively bland summary of news, speeches, commission orders, public notices, etc.

The embarrassed agency issued another e-mail, offering "profuse apologies" for the mistake and calling the joke highly offensive. It promised to take disciplinary action. Stacey Mesa, the public affairs specialist listed as the sender of the joke, apologized in a separate e-mail.

Joy Howell, director of the Office of Public Affairs, said a decision would be made about what action would be taken.

In addition, Howell said, FCC Chairman William E. Kennard will issue a "sternly worded" e-mail to employees on May 10 reminding them of the agency's policy against using computers for personal e-mail.

Freedom reigns...Cuba jails three dissident journalists

Last month Cuban authorities jailed three dissident journalists found guilty of "disrespect" towards officials including President Fidel Castro, one of the island's independent news agencies reported on May 8.

The dissident agency Cuba Press said Manuel Castellanos, 41, Leonardo Gonzalez, 24, and Roberto Rodriguez, 27, were convicted at a court in the eastern province of Holguin.

Castellanos, a Cuba Press reporter, received a sentence of two years and seven months' imprisonment for showing "disrespect" towards Castro and the Cuban police, it said.

Gonzalez, who works for another dissident news agency Santiago Press, was given one year and four months in jail, while Rodriguez received one year and five months. Cuba Press did not say where Rodriguez worked.

The agency added that various relatives of the defendants were rounded up and temporarily detained during the trial, presumably to prevent disturbances. They were later freed.

The Cuba Press report, issued via the Internet, could not be immediately confirmed with relatives or Cuban officials.

Cuba Press is the largest of various, self-styled "independent" news agencies on the communist-run Caribbean island, which employ around 40 reporters and work without official authorisation outside the state-controlled media.

The reporters, who include disillusioned former state journalists and opposition activists, send their work abroad for publication, mainly via the Internet.

The Castro government labels the independent journalists as "mercenaries" and "counter-revolutionaries" in the pay of its foes in the United States and often in search of a ticket out of Cuba as political refugees.

Havana also rejects the word "dissident," saying there is no repression of free speech in Cuba, only legitimate punishment of "counter-revolutionary criminals."

Prior to the convictions, several other independent journalists were also being held in Cuban jails. Press rights groups around the world have appealed unsuccessfully on their behalf to Castro.

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