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web posted August 2, 1999

TV anchor apologizes for calling Hillary Clinton an 'old battle ax'

Unaware that his microphone was on, an Orlando TV anchor called Hillary Rodham Clinton an "old battle ax" as he broadcast her arrival at the Kennedy Space Center.

"Just moments ago the first lady rolled in," WFTV anchor Steve Rondinaro said the night of July 21. "There she comes, the old battle ax. There she is with Chelsea in tow."

Rondinaro apparently wasn't aware that his microphone was still on as WFTV received NASA's video feed of the Clintons' arrival to watch the space shuttle Columbia launch.

Rondinaro apologized on the air within minutes, calling it "an offhand, flippant comment that slipped out."

"Please rest assured that I have the highest respect for the first lady and her role and am very pleased to see that Mrs. Clinton saw this launch as important enough to make a return visit," he added.

WFTV news director Mike Rausch said the remarks were inappropriate and inexcusable. But no disciplinary action was taken against Rondinaro, who left the station this month to run two radio stations in North Carolina.

McLellan sticks by gun registry

Federal Justice Minister Anne McLellan is sticking by her gun control registry, despite a legal loophole that critics say will allow people to avoid it by leasing or borrowing weapons.

"There's no loophole but for those who want to undermine the law they will go about finding ways to do it," said McLellan, in Edmonton on July 26 for the opening of a new RCMP headquarters.

"It's unfortunate because we know the support for this law grows in this country."

The day before, Alberta Reform MP Jack Ramsay said a provision in the gun legislation allows people to lease weapons instead of purchasing them.

Kathleen Roussel, spokeswoman for the Canadian Firearms Centre which is responsible for implementing the Firearms Act, confirmed that loans and leases are not considered transfers of ownership.

Therefore, there is nothing in the legislation to suggest that a person who rents or borrows a rifle would need to have it registered.

Red Deer Reform MP Bob Mills suggested the loophole could lead to the end of the gun registry.

McLellan said she doubts that, but added her department is looking into the ramifications of leasing.

"We did not want to require registration, for example, if a friend loans you a gun to go out hunting on a weekend," she said.

"If you have a gun that is registered to you and if you're going to loan it to a friend or a neighbour you want to make sure that person is qualified to use it. Otherwise, you might be liable if that person goes out and hurts someone else."

Some gun shop owners were leery about leasing for a number of reasons, including liability.

"I think the idea of the loophole demonstrates the inefficiency of the system," said Gordon McGowan, general manager of MilArm Company Ltd.

"It would cost us just as much in time and effort to set up a lease agreement as it would to sell."

$3-billion price tag puts kibosh on Sir John A. Day

Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada's first prime minister, missed out on having a national holiday declared in his honour because officials pegged the cost to the economy at $3-billion, federal documents show.

While Sir John A., a Conservative, will not be recognized with an official holiday, Sheila Copps, the Heritage Minister, is planning to declare November 20 a non-statutory holiday in memory of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, a Liberal.

Jean Chretien is a great admirer of Laurier, the first French-speaking prime minister, who served from 1896 to 1911 and won three consecutive majority governments.

Marjory Lebreton, a Conservative senator, accused the Liberals of seeking to airbrush Sir John A. out of the history books in favour of Chretien's political idol.

"Ever since the Grits took power in 1993, you would think the country started with Sir Wilfrid Laurier," Lebreton said "They are going to rewrite history so that it starts with a Liberal and not a Conservative."

Last year, the government gave consideration to a private member's bill presented by Byron Wilfert, a Liberal MP from the Toronto-area riding of Oak Ridges, that would have created Sir John A. Macdonald Day as a holiday to be celebrated each year on January 11, Sir John A.'s birthday.

Sir John A. was one of the driving forces behind Confederation and created the national railway. He served as prime minister from 1867 to 1873, and again from 1878 to 1891.

Copps was dissuaded from supporting the private member's bill on the advice of the Ministry of Finance, the Treasury Board and the Human Resources Ministry. These departments oppose new statutory holidays, including a recent move by Copps to declare a day in February as Heritage Day.

A July 22, 1998, memo to Copps from Suzanne Hurtubise, then the deputy heritage minister, outlined strong objections to new national holidays.

"The Department of Finance and Treasury Board have estimated that the cost of an additional national holiday would result in the decrease in Canada GNP (gross national product) of 0.4 per cent (approximately $3-billion) and may be seen as inconsistent with the government's current message of fiscal restraint and economic growth," Hurtubise wrote.

"Adopting Sir John A. Macdonald Day would bring pressure for adopting other specially declared days. A multiplication of specially declared days would lose the impact of the message."

The memo was obtained by Ken Rubin, an Ottawa researcher, under the Access to Information Act.

Wilfert, a former history teacher from Richmond Hill, Ont., said bureaucrats misrepresented his bill. He says it did not call for a statutory holiday and therefore no businesses or government offices would have been closed. The bill never won the unanimous consent needed to begin the process of voting in the House of Commons.

"I was not proposing to close businesses. I was simply trying to create an educational awareness of the role that people like Sir. John A., our first prime minister, or Laurier, the first French-speaking prime minister, played in the history of Canada," said Wilfert, who decried the ignorance among young Canadians about the country's past.

"When you read the polls, 75 per cent of Canadian young people in high school can identify Ronald McDonald [the McDonald's restaurant mascot] but they can't recognize Sir John A. To me, we have a very exciting history and a very exciting past," he said.

Wilfert, who had a similar bill on Laurier that died on the order paper, said Copps has recently assured him that she intends to declare a non-statutory holiday for Laurier on November 20, the date of his birthday.

"I did meet with Sheila, certainly on Sir Wilfrid Laurier, and Sheila did agree on a proclamation, through ministerial order, to declare November 20 as Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day. It will cost a few dollars, of course, if you are going to develop an education campaign," he said.

Wal-Mart employees allege union falsified vote results

A group of employees at the first unionized Wal-Mart store, in Windsor, Ont., claim the United Steelworkers of America "falsified the results" of a union ratification vote on a contract agreement.

But the union intends to ask the Ontario Labour Relations Board to dismiss these allegations at three days of hearings which began on July 26 in Toronto.

The group of 79 Wal-Mart employees, 71 of whom have given sworn affidavits, say they had voted against a tentative contract agreement reached between the Steelworkers and Wal-Mart.

This goes against the union's assertion the contract was ratified, with 109 in favour and 39 against the contract agreement, says Kimberly Michaelis, one of the lawyers acting on behalf of the employees.

However, Michaelis said the union has indicated it wants the board to not allow the affidavits to be admitted into the hearings.

A representative of the Steelworkers could not be reached for comment.

"The union falsified the results of the vote in order to achieve a ratified collective agreement in the face of an overwhelming rejection of the first tentative agreement," say documents filed by the employees with the Ontario Labour Relations Board.

As well, the employees contend the wording on the ratification ballot meant the "true intentions and wishes of the associates of the employer could not be accurately obtained."

For example, those employees who wanted to vote "no" to the agreement but did not support a strike "had to either vote to accept the [second agreement] or vote in favour of a strike."

Michaelis said if the affidavits are allowed, her clients want the board hearing into the substance of their complaints to be held in Windsor, to better accommodate the interested parties.

PC cops get to Crayola

Indian Red is out. Chestnut is in.

After sifting through more than 250 000 suggested names, Crayola has renamed its reddish-brown crayon to avoid misunderstandings over the color's origin.

The color indian red, which Crayola said was based on a reddish-brown pigment commonly found near India, was dropped because teachers complained students thought it described the skin color of American Indians.

The new name will appear on 15 million crayons each year beginning in September. It is only the third time in the company's 96-year history that a color has been changed.

"We were looking for a name that would be helpful to teachers working in the classroom, and we thought chestnut was appropriate," company spokeswoman Stacy Gabrielle said.

Nearly 100 000 people from age 3 to 90 submitted names, including 155 people who suggested chestnut. Other popular suggestions included red clay, clay red and Mars red.

Other rejected names included ginger spice, crab claw red, old penny and baseball mitt. One person even suggested "the crayon formerly known as indian red," in honor of the rock musician formerly known as Prince.

The 155 people who suggested the winning name will be awarded a Certificate of Crayon Authorship and a 64-color crayon box containing the renamed crayon.

Crayola has renamed only two other colors. In 1958, Prussian blue was renamed midnight blue because children could no longer relate to Prussian history, according to teachers. In 1962, flesh was renamed peach to recognize that not everyone's skin is the same shade.

Indian red -- with a lower-case "i" -- debuted in the Crayola lineup in 1958, when the 64-crayon box was introduced.

Conservatives win majority in Canada's Nova Scotia

Nova Scotians elected a majority Conservative Party government on July 27, marking a third successive provincial victory for the Tories in a month, following wins in Ontario and New Brunswick.

The Conservatives won 29 of the 52-seat legislature, the New Democratic Party won 12 and the former ruling Liberals captured 11.

Conservative leader John Hamm rallied from behind and leaped from last to first in opinion polls last week after an all candidate televised debate. Before the debate many observers pegged the left-leaning New Democrat Party to win.

Nova Scotia's Tories finished third in last year's election, and last winter Hamm fought for his leadership amid a caucus revolt.

"I have gone in just six short years from being a somewhat shy rookie MLA to being premier elected," Hamm said election night.

The election came just over a month after Conservatives ousted the Liberal Party government in neighboring New Brunswick, and won reelection in Ontario -- Canada's wealthiest and most populous province.

Hamm's victory leaves Conservatives in control of six of ten provinces, including all except Newfoundland in Atlantic Canada.

Hamm, 61, a former country doctor, ran on a platform filled with more than 240 campaign promises, included the closing of the large, money-losing Sydney Steel facility, cutting the civil service and reducing personal income taxes.

The minority Liberal government of Premier Russell MacLellan, which was elected in March 1998, collapsed in June when the Conservatives and New Democrats refused to support his budget proposal to borrow C$600 million for health care spending.

Clinton gets street named after him - sort of

The city fathers of Little Rock, state capital of President Clinton's native Arkansas, have agreed to name a street after him -- but only two blocks of it.

The Little Rock board of directors first decided two years ago to rename the entire 21-block length of Markham Street after Clinton as of January 1, 2000.

But in recent days Clinton critics and some radio talk show hosts mounted a protest blitz against the change. Many Markham Street retailers lamented the expense of changing their stationery and mailing addresses.

A divided board of directors agreed a compromise on July 27, voting that only the two blocks of Markham Street nearest a planned Clinton presidential library will be renamed, not the entire 11 miles of the busy east-west thoroughfare.

The change is due to take effect when Clinton leaves office in January 2001, but the decision could come up for public debate again this fall.

"I'm not a supporter of President Clinton and never have been, but this isn't about him," said Brad Cazort, a Republican member of the Board who drafted the compromise.

"The people who've contacted me say they're interested in preserving the city's historical legacy," Cazort said. But he acknowledged that historians have not been able to identify who the original Markham was.

That says something about Clinton though, doesn't it?

FBI Davidian conclusion challenged

Evidence stored by the Texas Rangers may contradict the U.S. government's claim that no pyrotechnic devices were fired into the Branch Davidian compound the day it burned, The Dallas Morning News reported July 28.

Branch Davidian leader David Koresh and about 80 followers died in the 1993 inferno at the compound 10 miles east of Waco, Texas. Authorities have denied using any incendiary devices during the assault that ended when the compound was consumed by fire.

Investigators concluded that sect members set the fire.

A probe by the Texas Rangers became the backbone of a 1994 criminal trial in which eight Branch Davidians were convicted of charges ranging from manslaughter to weapons violations. More than 12 tons of evidence were gathered and much of it is stored in Waco.

A researcher for a 1997 documentary critical of the government's conduct was allowed access to the evidence last spring, the Morning News reported.

The researcher, Michael McNulty, who is preparing a new documentary on the standoff, said he found that at least six items listed in Texas Ranger inventories as silencers or suppressors were actually "flash-bang" devices, commonly used by law enforcement to stun suspects.

McNulty said the devices sometimes ignite fires in enclosed spaces because they emit a loud bang and flash driven by a small pyrotechnic charge.

Texas Rangers' evidence logs indicate the devices were found in areas of the Davidian compound in which the fires broke out, McNulty said.

"It's our belief that these pieces of ordnance could and probably did have an impact on the fire on April 19th," he told the Morning News.

That conclusion was buttressed by James Francis, chairman of the Texas Public Safety Commission, who also believes that the FBI may have fired incendiary devices into the compound on April 19, 1993.

The Texas Public Safety Commission oversees the Texas Rangers, which, at times, has had a tense relationship with the FBI. The Rangers and the Justice Department are currently squabbling in federal court over custody of the evidence used in the Waco investigation.

Justice Department spokesman Myron Marlin called the conclusion "nonsense."

"We know of no evidence to support that any incendiary device was fired into the compound on April 19, 1993," Marlin said.

The Davidians and authorities became locked in a 51-day standoff after agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were fired upon when they tried to arrest Koresh on Feb. 28, 1993.

The compound erupted in flames April 19 when federal agents punched through the walls and fired tear gas inside.

Congressional hearings have pointed to mistakes by the law enforcement officers, but none has been charged with a crime. A lawsuit filed by surviving Davidians and the relatives of the dead challenges the conclusion that the Davidians started the fire and also shot first during the raid.

The next day Attorney General Janet Reno also weighed in.

"I have found no basis for concluding that the FBI was in any way responsible," Reno told reporters. "We have reviewed it, and reviewed it," she said.

Clinton ordered to pay more than $90 000 for contempt in Jones case

A federal judge has ordered President Bill Clinton to pay $90 686 for giving false testimony in the civil sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him by Paula Jones.

U.S. District Court Judge Susan Webber Wright's office issued the fine on July 29. She had held the president in contempt of court in April, ruling that Clinton intentionally gave false testimony during his deposition in Jones' suit.

Clinton did not elect to fight the ruling, agreeing instead to pay the court $1 202 for expenses associated with a deposition and for "reasonable costs incurred by plaintiffs" as a result of his actions.

The firm of Radar, Campbell, Fisher and Pike, which represented Jones, asked for $437 825. In addition, John W. Whitehead and the Rutherford Institute, a conservative group that paid some of Jones' legal bills, asked for $58 533.03. Clinton's attorney, Bob Bennett, objected saying the amounts were excessive.

Wright ruled that in addition to the $1 202 paid to the court, Clinton will pay $79 999 to Radar, Campbell, Fisher and Pike. He was also ordered to pay $9 484.93 to Whitehead and the Rutherford Institute.

In her order, Wright said Jones' lawyers' claims were "excessive and must be reduced." Clinton's lawyers had argued that he should pay them no more than $33 737.

"Sanctions are being imposed, not only to deter others who might consider emulating the president's misconduct, but to compensate the plaintiff by requiring that the president pay her any reasonable fees and expenses caused by his willful failure to obey this court's discovery orders," Wright wrote in her order.

The payments are in addition to the $850 000 Clinton paid to Jones earlier this year to settle her lawsuit, which alleged he made an unwanted sexual advance to her at a Little Rock hotel in 1991. At the time, Clinton was Arkansas' governor and Jones was a state employee.

Wright ruled April 12 that Clinton gave "false, misleading and evasive answers" in the January 1998 deposition in which he denied having sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky. She also referred the matter to the Arkansas Supreme Court's Professional Conduct Committee, which could revoke Clinton's law license or impose other sanctions.

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