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web posted September 11, 2000

Castro speech reflects Marxist roots in call for change

Cuban President Fidel Castro threw down the gauntlet at the United Nations on September 6, decrying what he said was domination and exploitation by "three dozen developed and wealthy nations" over the rest of the planet.

He also called on the "wealthy and powerful nations to compensate their former colonies for the harm done to them over the centuries," and said it is the job of the United Nations "to save the world; not only from war, but also from underdevelopment, hunger, disease, poverty, and the destruction of the natural resources indispensable to human life."

Fidel CastroOne of 60-some leaders invited to speak during the first day of the U.N. Millennium Summit, Castro, speaking in Spanish, painted a bleak picture of the health of the planet. "Chaos rules in our world, both within borders and beyond. Blind laws are offered up as divine norms that will bring the peace, order, well-being and security that our planet needs.

"This is what they would have us all believe; three dozen developed and wealthy nations that hold a monopoly of economic, technological, and political power, have joined us here in this gathering to offer us more of the same recipes that have only served to make us poorer, more exploited and more dependent."

Castro, founder of the first communist state in the Western hemisphere, was quick to take the U.N. itself to task, saying there has been no effort in its 50-year history "to turn it into a body which is truly representative of the interest of all the peoples of the world."

Referring to the United States, with which Cuba has had constant political conflict since the 1959 revolution that brought him to power, Castro said, "the principal of sovereignty cannot be sacrificed to an abusive and unfair order in which a hegemonic superpower, backed by its own power and strength, attempts to have its say on everything. That, Cuba will never accept."

But he was willing to spread the blame for the many sins he says have been inflicted on Third World nations.

"It cannot be forgotten that current underdevelopment and poverty have resulted from conquest, colonization, slavery and plunder ... by the colonial powers, and from the emergence of imperialism and the brutal wars motivated by new divisions of the world."

Reminiscent of his 1979 U.N. speech reporting the Havana conference of non-aligned countries, Castro again called for a worldwide economic realignment: "There is nothing in the existing economic and political order that can serve the interest of humankind. It is therefore unsustainable. It must be changed."

He also blamed the world's wealthy nations for the failure to eradicate disease and poverty.

"Age old diseases of the Third World nations such as malaria, tuberculosis and others equally lethal have not yet been eradicated, while new epidemics such as AIDS threaten to exterminate the population of entire nations. This while wealthy countries continue to invest enormous amounts of money in the military, and in luxury items, and while a voracious plague of speculators exchange currency, stocks and other real or fictitious values amounting to trillions of dollars a day."

Earlier that day, Castro and U.S. President Bill Clinton met briefly following a luncheon. Witnesses said Castro initiated the encounter, approaching Clinton as he was preparing to leave the luncheon ballroom. A senior administration official said the two men "exchanged a few words," adding that it was "not a substantive encounter."

Canadian leader slams opposition over lack of faith in UN

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien mixed international affairs with domestic politics on September 6 by attacking Canada's official opposition for mulling whether to quit the United Nations.

Chretien -- always happy to try to portray the right-wing Canadian Alliance and its telegenic leader Stockwell Day in a bad light -- said any move to withdraw from the world body would be unacceptable.

In its foreign policy strategy document, drawn up before Day became leader, the Alliance says Canada should consider withholding resources "and even withdrawing from an organization" in order to induce change.

"The declaration in their program and the fact that we might pull out of the United Nations is an absolutely unacceptable proposition for Canadians," Chretien told reporters during a special United Nations Millennium Summit.

"We are considered among the best troops in the United Nations...the day Canada leaves there won't be many other people left."

Universities unwilling to review FBI's 'Carnivore' system

Academic institutions will likely pass up the chance to audit the federal government's Internet monitoring system, citing strict controls that would prevent an independent review, researchers said September 6.

Known as "Carnivore," the FBI's e-mail monitoring system has drawn fire from electronic freedom activists who see it as an excessive intrusion on individual privacy.

The Justice Department approached teams of researchers at major universities to make sure that the controversial eavesdropping technology does not violate civil rights.

But a daunting list of requirements and restrictions for the review seems to have prompted numerous university research teams to forego the opportunity to take a peek at the secretive Carnivore code.

"Basically (the federal government) can edit the report, omit sections of the report and decide never to release it," said Jeffrey Schiller, a computer security expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who was contacted to participate in the review.

The contract would allow the government to veto researchers from the review and possibly pursue criminal charges against researchers who disclose sensitive information.

Tom Perrine, a computer specialist affiliated with the University of California, San Diego, said such stipulations discourage academics from taking part.

Like MIT and UCSD, researchers at Dartmouth College, the University of Michigan and Purdue University rebuffed informal or formal requests from the Justice Department, given the tight controls, Perrine said.

"They came to the exact conclusion that we did, that this would not constitute an independent review," Perrine said.

Nevertheless, the assistant attorney general said he did not expect a complete no-show from potential bidders.

"We have received multiple queries from universities so I would be shocked if that were the case," Stephen Colgate said, just hours before a deadline to submit proposals.

Responding to academic critics, Colgate said that the bid application includes standard contract language and that limits on publishing concern only the code itself.

"All we're asking about is the source code. All we're trying to protect is the tool from very smart hackers," he said.

Several Internet security specialists suggested corporations that often perform government work could bid on the contract.

"Various beltway bandits might be interested," said David Sobel of the Electronic Privacy Freedom Center, referring to major information technology corporations based in Washington, D.C., that perform defense department and related contracting work.

"That's not an independent review. That's work for hire," Perrine said.

Carnivore would work as a "black box" attached to the core of ISP networks. Based on a court order, the FBI would use it to monitor and retrieve e-mail messages of criminal suspects.

The FBI and the Justice Department maintain that strict oversight by federal courts would prevent abuses of the system. The pledge has failed to assure electronic privacy activists that only legitimate uses would take place.

House attempt to override Clinton estate tax veto falls short

House Republicans failed Thursday in their bid to override President Clinton's veto of a GOP-backed measure to repeal estate taxes, as Democrats rallied enough support to prevent the two-thirds majority needed to keep the election-year legislation alive.

By a vote of 274-157, the override failed in a September 7 afternoon vote. A successful veto requires a two-thirds majority of those present and voting in the House.

Sixty-five Democrats and one independent joined all Republicans in the House to pass the repeal in June by a 279-136 vote, slightly more than the two-thirds margin required to override a presidential veto. But Democratic leaders garnered support from members who missed the June vote and those who reversed themselves.

Republicans had conceded that prospects for an override were indeed dim, but nonetheless argued forcibly for a repeal of the 84-year-old tax.

Tom Delay"We have a final chance to save family farms and small businesses that will be sacrificed to pay the unfair 'death tax,'" argued House Majority Whip Tom Delay, R-Texas. "The death tax punishes Americans who achieve their financial dreams. What's worse is it targets American farmers and these small business owners who are trying to sustain what they have worked to build."

Democrats contended that if Republicans were eager to pass estate tax legislation before the November elections, they would seek a compromise with the White House on a smaller, targeted plan.

"The moment of truth has arrived," said Rep. Charles Rangel, D-New York. "Do we want to give relief to small business people in connection with estate taxes and to farmers or are we really looking for a campaign issue?"

The bill would have eliminated what Republicans dubbed the "death tax" -- which affects about 2 percent of all estates -- over the next 10 years at a cost of $115 billion. After 2010, the Treasury Department estimates the loss of the estate tax revenue would cost about $70 billion per year.

The measure would cut the top marginal tax rate of 55 percent in 2001, then gradually phase out all rates at or below 50 percent until the final repeal.

Clinton vetoed the measure the week before, calling it an irresponsible break for the rich at the expense of other taxpayers. The White House and most congressional Democrats favor a smaller, $64 billion plan that would raise exemptions from the current level of $675,000 per individual to roughly $1 million by 2001. It would also gradually increase the family-owned business exemption from the current $2.6 million per couple to $8 million per couple by 2010.

Republicans argued Thursday that the tax is inherently unfair to all Americans. In particular, GOP leaders argued, it hinders investment and job creation, forces millions to do costly estate planning, and especially hurts family farms and small business owners.

"You hear from these farmers that they're not rich. They go out and work some long hours with hopes of someday leaving what they've established over their lifetimes to their kids and grandkids," said Rep. J.C. Watts of Oklahoma.

Watts and other GOP leaders contend that thousands of farmers and small business owners are considered millionaires based on assessments of their property and machinery although many actually earn modest incomes.

This week, the House will decide whether to sustain the president's veto of the 10-year, $292 billion marriage penalty tax cut, for which 53 House Democrats voted.

Pentagon attacks Bush on military readiness facts

On the same day Defense Secretary William Cohen warned the nation's top military brass against politicizing the issue of military readiness, the Pentagon returned fire from the Republican presidential nominee over the same issue.

A top Pentagon official reacted after George W. Bush used big guns from the Gulf War to take shots at the Clinton administration, accusing it of running down the military.

During campaign stops in Michigan and Ohio, Bush was flanked by retired four-star generals, including former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Colin Powell and Desert Storm Commander Norman Schwarzkopf.

Bush said Vice President Al Gore and President Clinton had neglected the U.S. armed forces.

"The signs are disturbing: recruitment goals aren't being met, we're short of equipment, we've got (military) people on food stamps," said Bush.

Less than two hours after Bush left the stage, Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon, a Clinton administration appointee, told reporters the Texas governor had his facts wrong:

"Recruiting is on an upswing. In the last couple of months, the services have exceeded their recruiting goals," Bacon said.

The Pentagon spokesman also took a shot at Bush's running mate and Bush's father over how many servicemen and women needed government help putting food on their families' tables.

"The good news is that the percentage of force on food stamps is far less today than it was when President Bush was president and Secretary Cheney was the Secretary of Defense."

Bacon agreed with Bush's opinion that the military of the future should be "easier to move, harder to find, more lethal, able to strike long distances in short times."

"We're doing all that," Bacon said. "We think it's good that Governor Bush wants to continue these programs."

Bacon also corrected Bush on a case the candidate put forward as illustrative of "readiness problems" in the military.

Bush claimed a Navy ship had cut short training because of lack of fuel. But the Navy said the ship simply finished early and returned to port to save money give the crew a break, according to Bacon.

"I don't think completing your training early qualifies in most people's minds as a readiness problem," Bacon said.

Bacon said Defense Secretary William Cohen met with the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines as well as the commanders in chief of the major warfighting commands around the world,.

"Acknowledging that this is a tricky political time, (he) said to them that he expected them to play straight on the readiness issue, to give the facts, not to beat the drum with a tin cup in hand to try to generate more pressure for defense spending, but, on the other hand, to talk honestly about pressures they face," Bacon said.

The service chiefs are scheduled to testify before Congress later this month on military readiness, a complex issue which Bush has sought to use against his Democratic rival Gore.

Bacon said Cohen favors a vigorous public debate on military issues but wants to ensure that it be conducted in a context recognizing that the United States remains the largest military power in the world and spends more each year on defense than its NATO allies combined.

Bacon also noted there is a natural tendency for military leaders to want bigger budgets, larger forces and more benefits for their troops.

"Enterprising generals and admirals will always find ways -- very good ways -- to spend more money," Bacon said.

Cohen, who is a Republican and has been defense secretary since the start of President Clinton's second term, told reporters the day before in Norfolk, Virginia, that he wanted to keep the military out of the political debate over readiness.

"I am determined not to allow the military to be drawn into this type of political debate during the course of the campaign in the final two months," Cohen was quoted as saying.

White House spokesman Lockhart leaving next month

White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart has informed his boss that he will leave the administration after September.

White House Press Secretary Joe LockhartLockhart took over the White House press secretary's duties in 1998, at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Earlier, he served as a deputy to then-Press Secretary Mike McCurry and as a spokesman for President Clinton's 1996 re-election campaign.

Lockhart will pursue private sector ventures and the lecture circuit after leaving the White House and plans to spend more time with his wife, Laura Logan, and 6-year-old daughter Clare.

He announced earlier this year he would leave at the end of the congressional session, which is expected to wrap up in early October. His exact departure date is still undecided.

Lockhart's heir apparent is White House Deputy Press Secretary Jake Siewert, who joined the press office from the National Economic Council.

Before joining the political world, Lockhart held journalism positions at SKY Television, CNN and ABC News. He also worked for numerous presidential campaigns: Michael Dukakis in 1988, Walter Mondale's 1984 bid and the 1980 Jimmy Carter campaign.

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