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web posted July 5, 1999

Tiananmen Square reopens with tank-proof paving

Thousands of Chinese gathered at dawn on June 28 to watch China's red flag unfurl over Tiananmen Square, which reopened to the public after an eight-month facelift.

The square has new tank-proof paving and a temporary ban on one of the giant plaza's greatest charms: kite flying.

A decade ago, massive pro-democracy protests were staged at Tiananmen, the world's largest square. The square had been scheduled to open ahead of the sensitive anniversary of the June 4, 1989 government crackdown, when Chinese army tanks and armored vehicles crush the protests, killing hundreds.

But in recent months, the square remained barricaded as repairs dragged on. Two people were arrested for protesting on the anniversary, along the square's northern edge, but the barricades ensured that no defiant acts of commemoration could take place on the square itself.

Now, the square is ready for this year's 50th anniversary of the founding of Communist China on October 1.

Visitors find two strips of lawn planted on both sides of the square to break up the expanse. Also added are new lights and blue trash cans in environmentally friendly pairs: One for organic waste, the other for non-organic.

Police kept the square sealed off for an hour after the ceremony before finally letting the crowds through.

New regulations banned people from spitting chewing gum on the square's new granite paving and from taking stools onto the square to watch the flag raising and lowering ceremonies every morning and night, the state-run Xinhua News Agency said.

The 156 900 square meters of granite slabs that replaced concrete paving should last 50 years without a change, the official Beijing Youth Daily reported.

Communist China plans to celebrate its 50th birthday on October 1 with a military parade.

Tiananmen Square's new paving is so tough that if armored vehicles drive across it, they "won't have any effect," the Beijing Youth Daily report said.

Canadian teacher fined for disobeying union

A Canadian high school math teacher who refused to take part in a work-to-rule campaign last fall has been fined $1 400 by his union.

Richard Mitchell has also been declared ineligible to hold union office for five years.

The 54-year-old teacher continued to tutor students and run school clubs at Vankleek Hill Collegiate Institute, southeast of Ottawa, during last fall's strike.

Mitchell, who taught in the Bahamas, Bermuda and Jamaica before he began teaching in Canada 10 years ago, was charged with defying union orders when he refused to participate in a work-to-rule campaign while the union was in a legal strike position last fall.

In his four-page statement to the union disciplinary committee, he argued his actions during last fall's protest were justified under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Mitchell claimed it was his right to "remain true to his deeply held beliefs and to the heritage that developed those beliefs and principles.

He has refused to pay the fine.

China's leader urges socialism over capitalism on party anniversary

President Jiang Zemin launched a tirade against those in the Communist Party who "drifted with the money-worshipping tide" in a strong call for a return to socialist ideology, state media said on July 1.

"Some comrades' confidence about the final victory over capitalism by socialism and the future of the construction of socialism with Chinese characteristics has been weakened," Jiang said quoted by the People's Daily and most other major newspapers.

His speech coincided with the 78th anniversary of the founding of China's Communist party, the second anniversary of Hong Kong's return to Chinese rule and the launch of a long-awaited Securities Law governing China's equity markets.

He also warned there would be no all-out privatization of state assets.

"Some, pursuing personal interests, have drifted with the money-worshipping tide and even grabbed state property by taking advantage of their official positions," he said.

The government is struggling against rampant official corruption which it admits has robbed public coffers of vast amounts of assets.

"Some people, lacking spiritual ballast, have led a life of debauchery, or tried to find spiritual sustenance in feudalistic superstitions and other kinds of negative behavior," he said.

"A party member, especially an official, should firmly adhere to socialism and communism as his fundamental political conviction," he said.

"If he is diffident in regard to these factors, he will surely drift off the correct political direction."

Jiang stressed political education among party members to enhance their faith in the party.

"Otherwise, our ideological front will be occupied by non-proletarian ideologies. We must remember and pay full attention to this lesson that history has taught us," he said.

Sweeping reforms of state-owned enterprises and the establishment of state holding companies did not imply that there will be full-blown privatization, Jiang said.

"Some comrades have misunderstood the situation, which has led to certain deviations in the work in some localities," he said.

"China has state-owned assets worth over eight trillion, which belong to the people and form an important economic foundation for the country's socialist system."

If a large amount of state-owned assets finally end up in the pockets of a small number of people, then China's socialist system will lose its economic foundation, Jiang warned.

An editorial in the People's Daily, the party mouthpiece, backed Jiang, saying "The key is in the Party".

Some members of the party and a number of government officials are "in a unsatisfactory state of mind in terms of following the path of socialism" and are "falling down in their political qualifications and beliefs".

"Some of these officials have actually even failed the new tests on their beliefs and dogma," it added.

Jiang's comments come amid a government-supported stock market rally, with some analysts calling for a larger free float of state enterprises and greater private sector participation to turn around the ailing state sector.

Rumors were also rife in China's stock markets the day before that Premier Zhu Rongji, known as the economic czar of China for his push towards market reform and opening-up, had tendered his resignation, but which was not accepted.

China's State Council dismissed the rumors as groundless.

Orrin Hatch enters White House race

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch announced on July 1 he is joining the already crowded field of candidates vying for the Republican presidential nomination for the 2000 election.

"I'm officially in the ring and I'm going to do everything I possibly can to carry the message ... Ronald Reagan carried," he told CNN's "Larry King Live."

Hatch had been hinting about his plans to enter the race in recent weeks. He said he officially filed for an exploratory committee for president earlier in the day.

"I'm gonna give it every chance, every shot I have," said Hatch, "something that I think I have got to do in the best interest of our country, even though I'm a little late."

Sources close to Hatch said he decided to join the race out of concern that the other candidates in the GOP field are not strong enough to step into the front-runner position in the event of a stumble by Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

Asked about his chances against Bush, Hatch said that in 1976, when he first ran for Senate, U.S. News & World Report said he was running against someone who was "unbeatable." Hatch won that election.

As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Hatch played a crucial role in the months leading to the impeachment trial of President Clinton. Aides say the experience left him with "a really bad feeling" toward Clinton, and a determination to see a Republican presidential victory in 2000.

Hatch says his top issues are fighting crime, especially juvenile crime, bridging racial and class divisions, and rebuilding the U.S. military.

"This election is ... about a vision for America, " Hatch said, "A vision that looks at how we can help Mom and Pop ... empower the parents to make sure their kids have a future."

Hatch, who is opposed to abortion rights, said the next president will have a chance to reverse what he sees as a liberal drift on the U.S. Supreme Court, where he expects three justices to retire during the next presidential term.

Gore campaign shuffles staff

A Democratic political consultant and longtime confidant of Vice President Al Gore is being added to the vice president's campaign team in a move that several Gore insiders described as a clear rebuke of senior strategist Bob Squier.

Carter Eskew, who worked on President Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign and is a partner in the New York advocacy firm of Bozell Eskew, is joining the campaign team. Democratic pollster Celinda Lake also is being added to the Gore 2000 team to help hone its message on women's and family issues.

Both new additions are causing internal tensions within the campaign as Eskew and Squier are former partners who had a bitter falling out. Penn and his partner Doug Shoen have often feuded with more liberal Democratic strategists like Lake over the party's positioning on issues like welfare, as well as budget and spending priorities.

Several sources familiar with the Gore campaign's inner workings said Eskew would take over as the campaign's lead strategist, and Squier would produce the campaign's television and other media spots while also continuing to be part of the strategy team.

Eskew and Lake were recruited by new Gore campaign chairman Tony Coelho and sources said they are but two of several veteran Democratic strategists Coelho has talked to in recent weeks as he tries to put his stamp on the Gore campaign.

Treasury Department official Lauren Choi also is joining the Gore campaign as a senior policy adviser, and several sources said at least one other major addition was imminent.

Former partners Eskew and Squier have had a tense relationship since Eskew left Squier's firm. His hiring by the Gore campaign comes despite friction within the Clinton administration over Eskew's leading role in an advertising campaign attacking federal anti-smoking legislation. The legislation was strongly supported by the Clinton-Gore administration.

Gore was described by aides at the time as miffed that his friend had agreed to take a leading role in such a campaign, and Squier was quoted as saying Eskew would not have been allowed to work for the tobacco industry had he remained at Squier's firm.

These sources said there was already internal tension about the move, but several likened it to the 1996 Clinton re-election campaign. Squier produced the ads then but was one of several senior campaign advisers who had tense relations with Dick Morris, who was the lead consultant until he was forced to resign during the Democratic convention in the midst of a personal scandal.

Fish and Wildlife Service to compensate whistle-blower

Earlier this month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) agreed to an out-of-court settlement with Jim Beers, a biologist the FWS tried to oust from his job after he refused to go along with a plan to divert fish and game funds to animal rights activists. Beer will receive $150 000, 168 hours of annual leave, attorney's fees and a letter of apology from the agency. Beer's story first came to public attention thanks to the efforts of the Virginia-based National Wilderness Institute (NWI), which has been investigating FWS mismanagement for more than a year.

Investigators learned that a portion of Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act and Federal Aid in Fish Restoration Act monies - which are supposed to go almost entirely to state fish and wildlife departments for conservation efforts - instead ended up in the "Director's Conservation Fund." Investigators have branded the account a "slush fund." NWI has also been championing the cause of FWS computer security specialist Bonnie Kline, whose security clearance was withdrawn and regular duties own-graded after she disobeyed an order to be uncooperative in an administrative court hearing investigation.

For more information, contact Rob Gordon of NWI at 703/836-7404 or visit their web site at http://www.nwi.org.

Courtesy of the National Center for Public Policy Research

Congressmen fight for public not to have right to know

For more than 30 years, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has helped the American people hold federal officials accountable for their actions by granting them access to government documents that might otherwise have been hidden from public view. It wasn't until last year, however, that this law applied to government-funded scientific research. During the waning days of the last Congress, Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) successfully attached an amendment to the 1999 omnibus spending law subjecting research developed under government contracts -- except research affecting national security, commercial data, trade secrets, medical and personnel records, law enforcement information and geological data -- to FOIA.

The FOIA requirement is important because research data is used by the federal government to develop and defend federal policies, findings and regulations. Prior to approval of the Shelby amendment, members of the public who objected to these policies or wanted to challenge them in court couldn't examine the science the government claimed justified their policies and rules.

Now Representatives James Walsh (R-NY) and David Price (D-NC) want to repeal the Shelby amendment. They apparently believe that government-funded science should be subject to even less rigorous scrutiny than federal agencies. Under normal circumstances, the Walsh/Price initiative, which is expected to go to a vote after Congress' July 4 recess, could be expected to go down to a crushing defeat. After all, the Shelby Amendment protects the public's right-to-know and was thus a "good government" initiative. But these are not normal circumstances: Eager to preserve their privileges and limit their responsibilities, universities - which are the largest employers in some congressional districts - have been lobbying Members of Congress hard on behalf of the Walsh/Price bill. For more information, contact David Ridenour at 202/371-1400 or Dridenour@nationalcenter.org, or visit http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA237.html.

Courtesy of the National Center for Public Policy Research

House OKs financial privacy measure

The House voted on July 1 to give consumers the right to block banks and other financial companies from sharing their personal data with outside firms.

The vote on the privacy measure, proposed by House Republican leaders, was 427-1. It was attached to sweeping legislation that would allow banks, securities firms and insurance companies to merge. The bill was passed, 343-86.

"These are strong new protections for consumer privacy," said Rep. Michael Oxley, R-Ohio, who sponsored the amendment with Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio.

Disgruntled Democrats, who had pushed a stricter privacy provision, tried earlier to scuttle the vote on the financial overhaul legislation but failed on a party-line, 227-203 vote. The lone vote against the Republican-written privacy measure that did pass was from Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas.

The Senate passed a substantially different version in early May. The two bills must be blended into one by House and Senate negotiators before legislation can be sent to President Clinton.

"We face some very high hurdles, and negotiations will require a tremendous effort," said Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.

"The bill must benefit consumers by making the broadest array of financial services available at the lowest possible price," Gramm said. "If it doesn't do that, then it's not worth having."

The White House supports in principle the proposed dismantling of Depression-era barriers to the combination of banks, brokerages and insurers, and while it objects to parts of the House bill, it has not threatened a veto over the privacy measure.

The desire for privacy "runs through the veins of the American people," Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-California, said on the House floor.

President Clinton recently urged Congress to bolster consumers' rights when banks and other financial companies seek to share information about them.

Consumer activists, including Ralph Nader, have maintained that the financial overhaul legislation would create serious privacy risks for Americans as banks, brokerages and insurers compiled profiles of customers' buying habits, hobbies and health information.

Privacy protection has emerged as a key element of the sweeping legislation to restructure the financial service industry, which has come closer to enactment this year than in 20 previous years of efforts.

Proponents of the financial overhaul legislation, led by Wall Street and the banking and insurance industries, maintain it is needed to keep the U.S. financial industry competitive in global markets and that it would save consumers millions by providing one-stop financial shopping.

House Democrats, led by Reps. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and John Dingell, D-Mich., had pushed a provision that would enable consumers to stop banks, securities firms and other financial companies from sharing their personal data with either affiliated or outside companies.

The House Commerce Committee, in a surprise move, adopted the provision. But it was removed from consideration by the House Republican leadership, which controls the rules of debate.

The GOP-backed alternative, preferred by the financial industries, would let consumers block companies from selling their data to outside firms, such as telemarketers, but not from sharing it with affiliated companies under the same corporate parent.

Sharing of customer information, such as addresses, phone numbers, birth dates, Social Security numbers, and checking and credit card account information, is a major reason why financial companies want to merge. The data sharing opens numerous opportunities for the companies to market their services.

The House bill also would make it a federal crime for anyone to misrepresent himself to obtain someone's private financial data.

The Senate passed a financial overhaul package in early May on a mostly party-line vote of 54-44. It contains only the narrower privacy provision making misrepresentation, a practice known as pretext calling, a federal crime.

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