News you may have missed...

First lady plans move to New York

No matter what her political plans after she leaves the White House, Hillary Rodham Clinton says she will make her next home in New York.

"The politic answer, since I do plan to live in New York no matter what I end up doing, is I'll root for both," Mrs. Clinton said in responses to a "60 Minutes II" question about which New York baseball team she would root for.

A spokesman for CBS said there was no significance to Mrs. Clinton's use of the word "I" rather than "we," commenting that in other parts of the interview she uses "we" to clearly include her husband, President Bill Clinton, in her plans.

The first lady was in her future home again May 24 -- this time to help raise money for a woman who has her eye on the same New York Senate seat for which Mrs. Clinton is considering a run.

The first lady attended a fund-raiser for Rep. Nita Lowey (D-New York). Lowey has said that she will run for the seat Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-New York) will be vacating in 2000 if Mrs. Clinton does not.

California cities gear up for lawsuits against gun industry

Several California cities, led by Los Angeles and San Francisco, plan to sue gun manufacturers and argue that the industry's sloppy marketing puts weapons in the hands of criminals.

The lawsuits were expected to contend that gun makers fail to put safety devices on guns to prevent shootings. The plaintiffs could seek fines and a share of industry profits that could total millions of dollars.

However, the goal of the lawsuits "is not so much money but reform of the industry," said Louise Renne, San Francisco's city attorney.

California has broad laws against unfair and deceptive business practices -- laws cited in several 1996 lawsuits by California cities against the tobacco industry.

Miami, Chicago, New Orleans and six other cities, along with Wayne County in Michigan, have sued gun manufacturers since November. Those suits were based on product liability laws and demand damages for police and medical costs associated with gun violence.

Sacramento, Oakland and Berkeley were expected to join San Francisco's suit while Compton, Inglewood and Los Angeles County also were considering suits.

More than 13 000 crimes were committed with guns last year in Los Angeles alone. The Los Angeles suit was expected to name more than 40 gun manufacturers along with dealers and firearms trade groups.

"Basically, the gun makers supply the illegal underground market by flooding the legal market with far more guns than it can absorb," city attorney James Hahn said.

He said manufacturers don't want to know that their weapons are winding up in the hands of shady dealers, a claim denied by an industry official.

"There is no way for a manufacturer to know a specific firearm is going to be used in crime," said Robert Delfay, president of the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute. "If there was, I'm certain all manufacturers would sacrifice that sale in a New York minute."

the following web posted on June 6, 1999

Alabama to consider ending ban on interracial marriages...how kind of them

Alabama voters will have the opportunity to end the nation's last remaining ban on interracial marriages.

The Alabama Constitution, written in 1901, contains a prohibition against a black person -- or any descendant of a black person -- marrying a white person.

A proposed amendment that would remove that language was approved by the state House in April and by the Senate on June 1 without a dissenting vote.

It now goes before Alabama voters in a statewide election October 12, along with a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize a state lottery.

"It sends a good message across the nation that Alabama is moving into the 21st century," said the bill's sponsor, Democratic Rep. Alvin Holmes.

In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Virginia law banning interracial marriages. Since then, laws such as Alabama's have been unenforceable.

South Carolina voters approved removing an interracial marriage ban from their constitution in November, and the state Legislature ratified the action in February.

That left Alabama as the only state that retained the remnant of segregation.

Cuba sues U.S. for billions, alleging 'war' damages

As Cuba's new foreign minister made his first appearance before the media, Cuba announced a multi-billion-dollar lawsuit against the United States, seeking damages for what it called a 40-year "dirty war" against Havana.

The Cuban Communist newspaper Granma published the lawsuit on June 1 saying that Cuba was seeking $181.1 billion from the U.S. government.

The massive claim, filed on behalf of 3 478 Cubans said to have been killed and 2 099 injured by U.S. "aggression," included those who died during the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, which was organized and financed by Washington.

The lawsuit states that the Cuban people were harmed by a forced over-spending on military defenses to cope with the constant threat from their northern neighbor. And it details a history of "terrorism" allegedly supported by the United States, from the 1976 blowing up of a Cuban plane, killing all 73 on board, to the 1997 bombing campaign at Havana hotels that killed an Italian tourist.

The United States has long denied any involvement in the hotel explosions and the airliner bombing over the Caribbean, for which a Cuban exile was convicted by a Venezuelan court.

The lawsuit came on the heels of two U.S. court actions: a Miami ruling that families of three pilots shot down by a Cuban plane in 1996 are entitled to compensation and a judgment in New York allowing the liquor firm Bacardi to use Cuba's famous rum label, Havana Club.

New Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said the compensation claim had no special significance, although a certain "climate" had been created by the recent U.S. rulings.

"It's not our style to do nothing when we are attacked," Perez told reporters. "So these court cases undoubtedly stimulate us to take an action that was already in the works for some time."

If Havana's Popular Provincial Tribunal agrees to press the claim and, as expected, the United States refuses to pay, "we will pursue it over and over, and will deafen them in search of justice," he added.

No word whether the Cuban government would pay the trillions in compensation that its own citizens deserve for the imposed economic and political slavery, jailings, beatings, show trials, murders, purges and general suffering it has imposed on them. Nor was any signal given that Fidel Castro would give himself and submit to a war crimes trial.

Solzhenitsyn: No difference between NATO's actions and Hitler's

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Russian writer and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said on June 2 that NATO's bombardment of Yugoslavia was morally no different than Hitler's actions.

"I don't see any difference in the behavior of NATO and of Hitler," he was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

"NATO wants to erect its own order in the world, and it needs Yugoslavia simply as an example: 'We'll punish Yugoslavia, and the whole rest of the planet will tremble,"' he told reporters.

Solzhenitsyn spoke after being presented with the Lomonosov gold medal for his contribution to literature and history at Russia's Academy of Sciences. The academy had announced that it would give the medal to Solzhenitsyn in December, on the writer's 80th birthday.

Solzhenitsyn was held in Soviet prison camps for eight years, and he turned his experiences into his life's work: books including the classic "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" and the three-volume "Gulag Archipelago," which chronicled the atrocities in the Soviet Union's prison camps.

Your money's worth from MS trial

In an open letter to President Clinton published on June 2 over 230 economists warn of the dangers of antitrust lawsuits that are designed to help rival firms instead of consumers.

US antitrust officials should avoid lawsuits like the suit against Microsoft that are designed primarily to benefit the software company's competitors, says the letter published in full-page ads in The New York Times and The Washington Post.

"We urge anti-trust authorities to abandon antitrust protectionism and refrain from such speculative enterprises when actual consumer harm cannot be shown," says the ad, which was organized by the Oakland, California-based Independent Institute.

"It seemed the public debate was not focused on the fact that there's little consumer harm," said David Theroux, the institute's president. He said his group published a similar ad critiquing the Clinton health care plan's proposal for price controls.

Separately, a taxpayer watchdog group on June 1 said it wants to know how much the US government is spending on its lawsuit against Microsoft.

"The Department of Justice owes it to its client -- the American taxpayer and consumer -- to make this information available to the public. If it were a law firm, it would be accountable to its clients," says Aaron Taylor, a spokesman for Citizens Against Government Waste.

But the Justice Department isn't telling. A spokesman said the government does not keep track of how much time its lawyers spend on cases -- and even if the info was available, it wouldn't be released until the case was over.

"I am requesting all paperwork detailing costs incurred by DoJ in its investigation of, and litigation against, the Microsoft Corporation from 1989 to the present," said the letter from CAGW to Attorney General Janet Reno.

"Your department has stonewalled every attempt by our organization to obtain this data," the letter said. The Justice Department denied an earlier request from the group.

Accurate data on the cost of the trial is near-impossible to obtain. One estimate is that costs for just US District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson and his staff might be US$6 000 a day -- which would mean that proceedings since last October might total some $500 000.

But the biggest price tag comes from the government lawyers who have spent thousands of hours litigating the case. Government economic witnesses are usually paid hundreds of dollars an hour plus travel expenses. Attorneys must fly across the country to depositions.

The Justice Department is requesting a $21.09 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning October 1999, an increase of $317 million. Of that additional money, $6.37 million will be used to hire new attorneys for civil antitrust suits.

Clinton notifies Congress of decision to extend China's trading status

In what's expected to trigger a heated debate this summer with Congress, especially amid allegations of Chinese espionage, U.S. President Bill Clinton sent Congress on June 3 his decision to renew normal trade relations with China for another year.

Clinton justified the renewal saying it "will promote America's economic and security interests" despite recent tensions between the two nations.

"We pursue engagement with our eyes wide open, without illusions," Clinton said. "A policy of disengagement and confrontation would only strengthen those in China who oppose greater openness and freedom."

The battle over China's trade status has become an annual Washington event, but Clinton has so far had his way. This year, that fight will be tougher, particularly in light of allegations that China stole U.S. nuclear secrets. There is also congressional anger over the violent Chinese protest outside the U.S. Embassy in Beijing following the mistaken bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade.

Clinton's move would maintain China's status as a normal trading partner. Last year, at the request of Clinton, Congress passed a law formally changing the name from Most Favored Nation (MFN) status to Normal Trade Relations (NTR). However, it is still widely referred to as MFN.

The renewal of MFN/NTR status will go into effect unless both chambers of Congress pass resolutions of disapproval within three months of the announcement. If that happened, Clinton could veto the resolution, meaning a two-thirds majority would then be necessary to block renewal.

A coalition of liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans is likely to lead the opposition. Though it would be possible in the current political environment for them to succeed, it more likely that Congress will go along with a one-year extension.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California) criticized the president's timing, that came on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre: "This administration's China policy, like that of the administration before it, has not succeeded in making trade fairer, people freer, or the world safer."

And some conservatives point to the growing trade deficit with China as a sign that the policy is not working. The United States exported $14.3 billion in goods to China last year and imported $71.2 billion.

Clinton hopes that this annual debate could soon be a thing of the past, saying he wanted to work with Congress to secure permanent trade status for China as part of negotiations aimed at winning US support for China's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO).

"NTR with China is good for Americans," Clinton said in a statement released by the White House Thursday. "Our exports to China have quadrupled in the past decade. Exports to China and Hong Kong support some 400 000 American jobs. Revoking NTR would derail ongoing negotiations to increase our access to China's market and to promote economic reforms there."

NEA tramples internal movement for political choice

National Education Association (NEA) delegate Ed Weber, with the reported support of at least 50 others, recently proposed an amendment to the union's bylaws to allow members "to designate where the political contribution portion of their dues money is to be allocated." An NEA committee ruled it "out of order" because "no dues money is used for that purpose." Financial disclosures to the U.S. Supreme Court, however, indicate as much as 40 per cent of the NEA's general fund is spent on activities unrelated to collective bargaining - including politics. The Education Intelligence Agency's Communique newsletter noted, "By quashing Weber's amendment, [the] NEA avoids what would have been a very interesting secret ballot vote on the conduct of its political activity."

Courtesy of the National Center for Public Policy Research.

Teachers unions required to be honest With members

A combination of eight California school districts and local teachers union affiliates are presently barred from collecting any union membership dues until completely audited financial disclosures are completed to ensure that teachers who are not union members but still pay compulsory dues are not overcharged.

Previous court opinions protecting the rights of workers who do not wish to officially join a union require union leaders to provide audited financial disclosures to those workers detailing how their mandatory dues are spent. These workers cannot be forced to pay for union expenses involving political action, lobbying or anything not directly related to collective bargaining. In this case, the union affiliates argued they did not need to provide disclosures because they were part of the statewide California Teachers Association (CTA) union.

In his ruling, however, Judge Charles Legge of the U.S. District Court for Northern California said the union affiliates could not use "local presumption" to get out of the audit requirement. Furthermore, he said the school districts were liable because they are obligated to protect teachers' constitutional rights.

"These teachers are entitled to an accounting of the union's books before their paychecks are raided by the political operatives of the CTA and its affiliates," said Stefan Gleason of the National Right to Work Legal Foundation, which represented the teachers in this case.

Courtesy of the National Center for Public Policy Research.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9


Current Issue

Archive Main | 1999

Musings - ESR's blog

E-mail ESR