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Castro visits Grenada

What an island. Refuge for American medical students who couldn't get into a real university...the backdrop to a stirring Clint Eastwood war movie...and Fidel Castro lost a "war" there.

Best friend of Ted Turner and leader of Cuba Fidel Castro received a warm welcome as he returned August 2 to Grenada, the only Cold War battleground where U.S. and Cuban forces met face-to-face.

As Castro got off his airplane, the audience began to sing a revolutionary hymn, "Forward march, forward march against imperialism!" Castro clasped his hands over heart.

Castro spoke out, saying it was time for Cuba and Grenada to put the past behind them.

"It is a source of special satisfaction for the Cubans to observe the Grenadian people's willingness to leave behind that chapter of their history and to look with their eyes to the future," he declared. "We are, and will forever, be brothers."

But Grenada also has been the site of the most visible protests against Castro in his three-nation tour of the Caribbean.

Opposition politicians, who were persecuted and jailed after the 1979 revolution that brought the pro-Cuban government of Maurice Bishop to power, have protested against alleged human rights abuses in Cuba.

"We experienced what happened to us here during 1979 to 1983, when brave Americans came here and gave their lives to set us free. So we are saying Castro must change," opposition leader Herbert Preudhomme said recently.

U.S. troops were sent to Grenada in October 1983 after Marxist hard-liners staged a bloody coup against Bishop's government. The hard-liners executed him and his cabinet.

Armed Cuban construction workers fought for three days invading U.S. soldiers, who were accompanied by a token force of Eastern Caribbean troops. Forty-five Grenadians, 29 Cubans and 18 Americans were killed.

Castro also received warm welcomes in Jamaica and Barbados, even from past foes, and won strong support for his demand that the United States drop its 38-year economic boycott against Cuba.

He reciprocated by attacking Washington's challenge to the European Union's preferential trade terms for Caribbean bananas -- a benefit seen as a lifeline for many of the vulnerable island economies. Coming from Castro, the denunciation exemplified a seductive anti-capitalist ideology: Powerful nations owe smaller ones a slice of the world market, whatever the free markets might dictate.

"Countries with different degrees of development cannot be treated equally," Castro told thousands of cheering Jamaicans at Kingston's Nelson Mandela Park. "It would not be fair, it would not be humane."

He would know about that I guess.

It's enough to make you not care anymore...

Special interest groups spent $1.17 billion last year to lobby Congress, the White House and
federal bureaucrats, according to a joint study by the Associated Press and the Center for Responsive Politics. Companies, unions, interest groups and municipalities reported hired 14 484 lobbyists, or 27 lobbyists for every member of Congress.

Environmentalists aren't terrorists, right?

Police believe a group of militant environmentalists is behind bombings of oil and gas equipment in northwestern Alberta, Canada.

A sweet gas well and a sour gas installation belonging to Alberta Energy Co. were damaged in separate explosions July 31 and August 2 in the Beaverlodge area, 560 kilometres northwest of Edmonton. Total damage has been estimated at $20 000.

No one was hurt, but injury or death is inevitable if the attacks continue, RCMP Sgt. Don MacKay said, adding he is convinced the perpetrators are trying to protect the Peace River’s natural resources.

"The reality is these are the actions of perverse people and criminal minds," he said. "The environment is just an excuse to satisfy an evil and self-serving bent."

County councilors are so concerned they’ll discussed asking police to establish an anti-terrorist squad.

No one has claimed responsibility for the weekend bombings or for more than 100 previous acts of sabotage including well damage, roadblocks, nails on roads and pipes punctured by drills over the past two years.

But while denying responsibility for the attacks, some in the area haven’t denounced them.

"It’s good to see somebody taking action," said farmer Ben Ludwig, whose relatives have repeatedly criticized nearby gas drilling, saying it harms their health and their crops.

Ludwig’s brother was convicted of trying to vandalize a gas well. His father was convicted of mischief after he dumped oil on the carpet of Alberta Energy’s offices.

"This vandalism has been going on for about 18 months. The RCMP have been working at it, but they can’t seem to come up with anything," he said.

Beaverlodge Mayor Esdale Gaudin said the 2 100 townfolk are fearful in the wake of the blasts.

"Their jobs and their lives are on the line. Someone has to do something to apprehend this person and put him away."

Yet another Democratic fundraiser is charged with something...and shockingly pleads guilty

Two months after pleading guilty to conspiring to illegally contribute to congressional campaigns, Democratic fund-raiser Gene K.H. Lum was charged with falsely claiming more than $7.1 million in tax deductions for him and his wife. Ten days later he pleaded guilty. Under terms of the plea agreement the government said it will not seek an indictment against his wife Nora Lum.

A two-count criminal information was filed August 3 against Lum, who already has pleaded guilty to illegal contributions to 1994 congressional campaigns.

The information, filed in U.S. District Court in Tulsa, accused the former Tulsa resident of preparing fraudulent income tax returns for himself and his wife, Nora, in October 1995.

Under a May 21, 1997, plea agreement with the U.S. Justice Department's public integrity section, the Lums pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy to illegally contribute $50 000 to congressional campaigns. They were each sentenced to 10 months in prison and fined $30 000.

Their daughter, Trisha C. Lum, also pleaded guilty that day to a misdemeanor violation in a separate campaign finance incident. She was sentenced to probation and community service and fined more than $12 000.

The new tax charges stemmed from information uncovered by independent counsel Daniel S. Pearson during his investigation of Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown. Pearson closed his inquiry when Brown was killed in an airplane crash. He transferred his findings about other people to the Justice Department for continued investigation and prosecution.

Each count carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $250 000 fine.

Sampling for census defeated

After heated floor debate on the merits of different methods proposed for conducting the 2000 census, House Democrats failed to pass a measure August 5 allowing "statistical sampling" to be used for counting Americans. The measure was narrowly defeated, 227-201.

The amendment was offered by Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) to the massive Commerce, Justice, State and Judiciary appropriations bill. The amendment aimed to eliminate language limiting the use of money by the Census Bureau to "actual enumeration," or actually counting each person.

The Democrats wanted to allow the census to also use an averaging method -- "statistical sampling" -- for counting Americans.

Opponents of the measure, primarily Republicans and anyone who knows anything about statistics, argued that statistical sampling is inaccurate. They fear that sampling would have the net effect of increasing the number of Democratic congressional districts, by boosting population counts in inner-city neighborhoods, where the Census officials believe there have been under-counts in past years.

Supporters of the amendment argued that enumeration is a time-consuming process that is equaled in accuracy by statistical sampling -- except for the fact that its not allowed in the Constitution.

Lewinsky testifies about sexual encounters

Two sources familiar with Monica Lewinsky's testimony before a federal grand jury told CNN that Lewinsky said she had more than a dozen sexual encounters with the president over an 18-month period beginning in November 1995.

The president previously denied under oath that he had sexual relations with the former White House intern.

The sources also said Lewinsky told grand jurors that she and Clinton discussed various ways to conceal their sexual relationship. But she denied that he ever directly asked her to lie under oath in a legal proceeding.

The sources also said Lewinsky indicated she participated in a certain kind of sex act that, in the president's mind, may have stopped short of what he considered to be sexual relations.

After six months of speculation and anticipation, Lewinsky completed a full day of testimony before Independent Counsel Ken Starr's grand jury, which is investigating allegations of perjury and obstruction of justice centered around her alleged relationship with Clinton.

CNN has reported that Starr's office may bring her back for more testimony, but that no additional appearances before the grand jury have been scheduled.

Amidst a media frenzy, Lewinsky left the federal courthouse without comment. Her spokeswoman, Judy Smith, met with reporters afterward to make a short statement on her behalf.

"Monica Lewinsky testified before the grand jury today," Smith said. "She answered each question truthfully, completely and honestly that was posed to her by the independent counsel and also questions that were posed to her by members of the grand jury. Monica and her family are relieved that this ordeal finally appears to be coming to an end."

That day, the president and his aides were trying to project an aura of business as usual at the White House. A White House spokesman insisted Clinton was not dwelling on the Lewinsky testimony.

"His mood is great," said Barry Toiv, deputy White House press secretary. "We do know that he agrees with us and probably all Americans that if this means that we are coming to the end of this four-year, over $40 million investigation, then that would be a good thing."

What's Bush hiding?

On Wednesday, August 5, Greg Ericson of Free Press International Went to the Texas State Capitol Building to speak with Bush's Press Secretary, Karen Hughes about how to get an Interview with Gov. George Bush, Jr. He was told that in order to obtain a press pass, he
would have to speak to the House Speaker. He went to speak to the House Speaker,
and was told that in order to interview anyone, he did not have to have
a press pass.

He video-taped and audio-taped both inquiries for documentation. He returned to Karen Hughes office and was immediately escorted out of the building. (Which he also got on video and audio).
Where is the Freedom of the Press?

From Free Press International

Canadian Taxpayers Federation targets MPs who opt back into gold-plated pension

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) announced August 5 at news conferences in Ottawa and Penticton, British Columbia that it would launch a radio advertising campaign aimed at seven MPs who are considering opting back in to the gold-plated MP pension plan. Pensions for these seven MPs are estimated at $6.8-million.

In 1995, 61 MPs voluntarily opted out of the gold-plated MP pension plan. Now, the passage of Bill C-47 allows 48 of those sitting MPs (38 Reform, 6 Liberal, and 4 Bloc) a 90-day window to opt-back in. In response, the CTF sent a survey to those eligible MPs asking them to declare their intention. The responses were as follows:

  • 32 MPs will not opt back in (all Reform)
  • 13 MPs did not respond (3 Reform, 6 Liberal, 4 Bloc)
  • 3 MPs have not made a decision (all Reform).

"We commend the majority of these MPs who remain principled, true to their word and respectful of taxpayers who will save $13.5-million," said CTF federal director Walter Robinson. "We hope our campaign will urge the 16 other MPs to do the same and save taxpayers an additional

The radio ads highlight public statements made by MPs when they opted-out in 1995 and encourage constituents to call their MP and remind them of the principled stand they made before the last election. Ads will run in the following constituencies:

  • Jim Duncan Reform Vancouver Island North British Columbia
  • Bill Gilmour Reform Nanaimo—Alberni British Columbia
  • Jim Gouk Reform West Kootenay—Okanagan British Columbia
  • Jim Hart Reform Okanagan-Coquihalla British Columbia
  • Allan Kerpan Reform Blackstrap Saskatchewan
  • David Kilgour Liberal Edmonton Southeast Alberta
  • John Williams Reform St. Albert Alberta

The CTF’s campaign was dubbed "Principles Before Pensions" and ran the week of August 10.

Global warming not to blame for heat wave, temperature data shows

Contrary to statements by both President Bill Clinton and Vice President Albert Gore, the recent heat waves afflicting the south and west do not demonstrate that global warming is underway, according to a new report released by The National Center for Public Policy Research.

At a speech before the American Federation of Teachers on July 21, 1998, President Clinton blamed the recent heat waves on global warming, saying, "As you can see from this sweltering heat the Vice President is right: The climate of our country and our globe is changing. The globe is warming."

But according to the just-released paper, "Don't Like the Weather? Don't Blame it on Global Warming," there are at least two major problems with the President's assertion. First, local weather events don't say very much about the global climate. Because it is unusually warm in one area of the world does not mean the entire planet is warming. In fact, according to NASA's Tiros series of weather satellites, the temperature of the planet actually dropped slightly between 1979 and 1997.

Second, the heat waves in the south and west are not particularly unusual, nor have the high temperatures this year been record-breaking. Los Angeles hit 109F on July 12, 1891, ten degrees warmer than this year's high; Little Rock broke 112F in July 1986, eleven degrees warmer
than this year's top temperature; and Death Valley hit 134F on July 10, 1913, five degrees warmer than this year's high.

"President Clinton has seen the 1998 heat wave as an opportunity to generate fear and play on the American people's emotions to promote his global warming policies," said David Ridenour, Vice President of The National Center for Public Policy Research and author of the paper. "What makes 1998 different than other years is not that there is a heat wave, but that a President of the United States would use the human suffering resulting from a heat wave to promote his own political agenda."

At this writing more than 130 people have died from heat-related causes in the south and west since the heat waves began.

The paper also shows that a number of the reports calling the summer of 1998 the warmest on record were based on incomplete temperature records and thus inaccurate. It also shows why claims of a link between global warming and other extreme weather events ­ including this year's Florida fires, 1996's Northeastern blizzard and 1995's hurricanes ­ are false.

Lewinsky not hurting Democratic fundraising

Surprisingly, Monica Lewinsky hasn't hurt the Democrats' fund-raising efforts one little bit.

Some Democrats had feared donations to the Democratic party would dry up because of the president's troubles from the sex-and-perjury inquiry. It hasn't happened, though. Democrats are rolling in money.

Latest reports show the Democratic National Committee [DNC] raised $80.6 million during the 18 months ended June 30, up 39 percent from the same period four years ago.

Soft money -- unregulated donations from corporations, unions and the rich -- made up 45 percent of the total.

The DNC needed the money badly to pay for legal bills stemming from the Asian money scandal of '96. It's been digging its way out of debt.

Meanwhile, thanks partly to nonstop money-raising by the president, the party is stockpiling big money for House and Senate campaigns.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised $25.5 million between January 1997 and June 1998 million, up 56 percent from four years ago. Thirty-eight percent of that was soft money.

Democrats say $8 million of that was raised at a dozen events featuring the president. He's still the fund-raiser-in-chief.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $30.5 million in the same period, an 81 percent increase. More than one dollar of every three was soft money, illegal for direct use in Senate or House elections.

Nevertheless, both parties are gorging on soft money to finance so-called "issue ads."

Republicans say they are raising $37 million in soft money for "issue ads" this fall.

Despite Lewinsky, national Democratic party committees have raised $137 million overall, up 50 percent, between January 1997 and June 1998. But Republicans raised $215 million, up 49 percent. The arms race continues.

Republicans are hoping the president's Monica troubles will discourage Democratic voters on Election Day, holding down turnout. But so far, the money is holding up.

Exile was to have killed Castro in August...and?

A Cuban exile linked to acts of violence against Cuba's government planned to assassinate President Fidel Castro during his visit last month to the Dominican Republic, the Miami Herald said on August 8.

"The plan was to kill him any way we could -- explosives on the road, grenades in a meeting, shots on the street. We would have strangled him if we had to," the Herald quoted one exile involved in the plot as saying.

Luis Posada Carriles, a shadowy figure who has claimed responsibility for several bombings in and around Havana last year, met other Cuban exiles in Guatemala July to discuss smuggling guns and explosives into the Dominican Republic, the Herald said, quoting exiles with direct knowledge of the talks.

The plot was betrayed to U.S. authorities and fell apart, the newspaper.

Posada recently sparked controversy by saying his long-running anti-Castro activities were funded by Jorge Mas Canosa, the late founder of the powerful Cuban American National Foundation (CANF).

The CANF, which lobbies Washington for tough anti-Castro legislation, denied the allegation, made by Posada in an interview with the New York Times. The Times stood by its story, though the CANF has threatened to sue.

Posada later said the New York Times story was false and that he had deliberately misinformed the newspaper to draw attention away from the real sources of his funding.

The Dominican government in July stepped up security at the country's airports after receiving warning of possible "terrorist actions" against a plane of the Cuban state airline Cubana de Aviacion.

U.S. authorities said though that there was no link between the warning and Castro's upcoming visit.

Posada, who says he was trained in sabotage methods by the CIA in the 1960s, spent nine years in a Venezuelan prison after allegedly planting a bomb that blew up a Cuban airliner off Barbados in 1976, killing all 73 people aboard, including teenagers from Cuba's national fencing team.

During a visit to Barbados last week, Castro laid a wreath in memory of the victims of that explosion.

Posada, 71, has lived in hiding, mostly in Central America, since escaping from prison in Venezuela.

Gore once again declares hottest month "ever"

Despite the fact that most scientists didn't have enough time to review July's temperature data, on August 10, U.S. vice-president Al Gore once again declared that July was the hottest month "ever."

"You don't have to be a scientist to know it's been hot this summer," Gore said. "It was the hottest month on record. Period."

Of course, once a problem has been identified, time to spend the money. Gore called on Congress to pass a new multi-million-dollar initiative to combat global warming.

That initiative, included in the 1999 budget currently before Congress, calls for $6 billion to be spent over five years. Congress has not yet acted on the proposal.

The administration would like to see a package of tax incentives for companies to adapt to new technologies that cut greenhouse gasses, which are believed to have contributed to global warming. Other money would go into research.

Meanwhile, Gore's claim the month before that June was the hottest "ever" required later qualification. Dr. John Christy of the Earth System Science Laboratory, University of Alabama, Huntsville, took a look at the June temperatures over the United States.

It turned out that, despite the heat wave in Texas, June was cooler than average, as many people across the country have noticed. Summer temperatures in Washington, D.C., were typical. According to Bob Ryan, local NBC weathercaster and former president of the American Meteorological Society, D.C. temps are running nearly 2F cooler than average for this time of year.

Did you hear that in the media? Shocking!

Capitalism? It means death to people, says Greenpeace

As hearings on Ontario's Energy Competition Act began on August 10, Greenpeace covered the legislature's lawn with 1 800 white crosses to symbolize the number of premature deaths caused every year by pollution.

The environmental organization fears that ending Ontario Hydro's 92-year-old monopoly would lead to cheaper but dirtier energy.

"We don't have any problem with energy choice but the government should not be gambling with life and death. That's why we are erecting this memorial," said Greenpeace atmosphere and energy expert Kevin Jardine.

Greenpeace volunteers, all ceremonially wearing black pants and white shirts, were later ordered to remove the planted crosses and lay them on the ground instead.

"It could damage the sprinkling system, it's not a matter of symbol," said Queen's Park inspector Ernie Beale.

But the matter was symbolic for Greenpeace, who wanted to reproduce the visual effect of another protest, held in Germany by a group against nuclear weapons and nuclear energy, to commemorate those who died in the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Ontario's Energy Competition Act, introduced on June 9, calls for the creation of a competitive market beginning in the year 2000. Consumers will then be able to choose their energy supplier.

Foreign companies will have to get a license and meet environmental standards. But, according to Greenpeace, the bill does not set specific air pollution regulations.

"It's an empty shell, a regulatory vacuum," said Jardine.

"The consumer will be the king. So, he will be granted some powers and some responsibilities. That will be up to people to go for the cleanest energy," ministry spokesperson Jean-Pierre Maisonnneuve told Reuters.

Under the Energy Competition Act Ontario Hydro will be restructured and become two separate companies. The Ontario Electricity Corporation will generate electricity while the Ontario Electric Services Corporation will deliver electricity and offer services to customers.

Hong Kong democracy 'flawed' says UK MPs

The reduction by one million of those eligible to vote in Hong Kong elections since the UK returned the former colony to Chinese rule is raising concern among MPs.

The Commons Foreign Affairs Committee said democracy in Hong Kong is "seriously flawed" and elections to the legislative council and the chief executive should be conducted on the basis of universal suffrage.

MPs want free elections for chief executive, currently held by currently Tung Chee Hwa
But MPs praised the Chinese authorities for "the clear continuation of the right of free demonstration in Hong Kong.

The committee added that "the actions of the police and the civil authorities do not appear to have altered since the handover".

Hong Kong became a Special Administration Region of China on 1 July 1997.

MPs noted in their report on Hong Kong's first year under Chinese rule that two-thirds of the seats on the legislative council are decided by just 140 000 voters out of an electorate of 2.8 million.

"It manifestly does not result in a Legislative Council which accurately reflects the popular will," said the report.

Elections for the legislative council in 1998 were based on the model set up by the UK in 1995.

But MPs noted the electoral structures were changed, resulting in a reduction in voters from 1 064 041 to 10 918.

"We believe that the structure is fundamentally flawed," the report said.

However, the committee welcomed the Hong Kong government's attitude towards personal freedom, noting that the annual candlelit vigil to mark the Tiananmen Square massacre passed off peacefully.

"While it is clear that a structure for repression of this freedom exists (some of it inherited from colonial times) it is not used," the report said.

Although there was some self-censorship, independent media outlets prospered and newspaper editors "did not appear constrained" by the likely official reaction to stories.

Freed minks take revenge

In what must have seemed like a brilliant idea at the time, British animal-rights activists sneaked onto the grounds of a mink farm during the weekend of August 8-9, cut through wire fences and gave 6 500 mink their freedom instead of a future as fur coats.

But the illegal act has backfired as few British animal-liberation missions ever have. Released into the rich countryside of England's southern coast, the thousands of mink have gone on a rampage driven by insatiable hunger and equally insatiable mink-like curiosity.

Domestic pets and farm animals—including cats, hamsters, chickens, guinea pigs and hens—have been pursued and killed. Wild animals—including the endangered water vole, a type of water rat—are under attack. Local fisheries are threatened.

And local residents, including the owners of a wild-bird sanctuary where three birds were killed in mink attacks, have taken up arms. One of the dead birds was a beloved 14-year-old kestrel named Spitfire who made countless educational trips to local schools.

The bird sanctuary "has become a restaurant for mink," said angry sanctuary manager Chris Milsom, who has armed himself with a shotgun to join other residents on mink hunts.

A group called Animal Liberation Front is claimed they were responsible for the mink release from the Crow Hill Farm, although no one has stepped forward to formally claim the action.

Robin Webb, the group's press spokesman, defended the release—even though hundreds of the freed mink are now being gunned down by locals, except for those that are being run over by cars. Hundreds more have been returning on their own to the mink farm, though about 3 000 were believed still on the loose.

Webb said the released mink could be expected to "disperse" among an existing British wild mink population already numbering in the tens of thousands.

But rather than mix with local wild mink, the newly freed mink seem to have minds all their own.

Several have wandered nonchalantly into local homes, including that of Crow Hill resident Christine Pinder. She was shocked one morning when a mink—which she at first thought was a kitten—appeared in her bedroom and jumped at the throat of her pet dog.

"I took my husband's walking stick and I whopped it," she said.

In the charming thatched-roof village of Burley Lawn, resident Ed Gurd was alarmed to find a mink inside his house intently studying the cage of his daughter's pet hamster, Honey, as if it were contemplating lunch.

But few actions have upset the British as much as this one. "Wanted Dead or Alive: 3 000 Vicious Killers" said the headline in the August 11 Daily Telegraph.

Officials and police were advising residents in the Crow Hill area to keep small domestic pets indoors—though they were quick to assure locals that children are safe from mink attacks unless they grab at the long, thin animals, which have sharp teeth.

The greatest threat from the rampaging mink has so far been to the already endangered gentle, water-bank-dwelling water vole.

Ex-Nixon aid offers advice to Lewinsky

"Life may get worse before it gets better" for former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, wrote former Nixon aide John Dean in an open letter published by The New York Times on August 9.

Dean, who played a key role in the Watergate hearings that ended the presidency of Richard Nixon in 1974, said he decided to write the letter to offer Lewinsky advice. Dean said he based his letter on his own less-than-pleasant experience after he spoke out against the most powerful figure in the country.

"If you think your privacy has been invaded already, you will find that the grand jury room was like a confessional booth compared with your visit to Capitol Hill to talk about your relationship with the president," Dean wrote in reference to Lewinsky's grand jury testimony about her relationship with President Bill Clinton.

"I understand you want to get on with your life. That won't be easy, however, until Congress decides what it is going to do with your life," Dean wrote.

He recommended that Lewinsky refrain from speaking publicly as long as possible to avoid attacks from pro-Clinton parties and groups, which would "come roaring to his defense."

"Monica, as long as your testimony remains in the grand jury, and you do not go on television, you cannot be effectively attacked by the president's defenders.

"At this stage, they really don't know what you have said and can only speculate. But once you make public statements, everything will change," Dean said.

Dean, now an investment banker and author of the autobiography "Blind Ambition," wrote in his letter that the only parallels between his case and Lewinsky's was that "we both had information about a president and that investigators wanted it."

Dean warned Lewinsky that she could "count on being attacked by the jackals; but if they hurt you with false information, please go after them. Otherwise they will try to devour you. I know."

He told the 25-year-old Lewinsky that her decision not to go public was "very, very smart. You have no idea how much grief you are saving yourself."

Dean said he received his share of "nut mail" during Watergate and had to live "under the full-time protection of the Federal Witness Protection Program."

He recommended that she report all such mail or communication to the "independent counsel or the Federal Bureau of Investigation."

He also recommended two books to Lewinsky: "Undue Process" by Elliot Abrams and "The Gift of Fear" by Gavin de Becker.

The latter, he said, "could save your life."

Dean's final words for Lewinsky: "Good luck.

Proving that government programs appeal only to the honest

U.S. Federal agents have broken up a $60 million food stamp fraud ring, one of the largest in New York City history. The scheme involved Chinese-owned takeout restaurants and Hispanic-owned grocery stores, The New York Times reported August 11.

Investigators said the case was unusual not only because of its scope, but also because it included different ethnic groups. How politically correct.

The Chinese restaurants, which are not supposed to accept food stamps for meals, would somehow obtain the coupons for less than face value.

The restaurants would then sell them to small grocery stores, or bodegas, which are legally allowed to accept the stamps.

The bodegas would illegally cash them in for their full value.

Some of the bodegas claimed only hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual sales but cashed in millions of dollars' worth of food coupons, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors have charged 18 people with conspiring to defraud the federal food stamp program and launder money.

According to the Times, four suspects who appeared in court in Manhattan were held without bond, including a Reynaldo Cespedes and his wife, Ibaniris, who were described in court records as managers of numerous grocery stores.

Authorities said large sums of the scam money were dumped in banks in the Dominican Republic.

The charges followed a two-year investigation by the FBI and other federal agents. None of the Chinese restaurant owners were charged, but prosecutors would not say why.

Nighthorse turns back conservative in primaries

Republican Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, who may have the coolest name in politics, turned back a more conservative primary challenger August 11, capturing 70 percent of the vote to lawyer Bill Eggert's 30 percent.

But GOP voters turned to a conservative in the fight for the open Colorado governor's seat. Democrat Roy Romer is ineligible to run again because of term limits.

In the day's other balloting, Georgia Democrats made it official and selected state legislator Roy Barnes in a runoff to face millionaire businessman Guy Millner in the fall. The winner will succeed Democratic Gov. Zell Miller.

In Colorado, it was Campbell's first time running as a Republican since he switched parties in 1995. But he had no trouble beating Eggert, who built his campaign around opposition to abortion and gun control.

"It shows the moderate voices within the Republican Party are dominating, and that they want experience and what I've tried to stand for -- smaller government and fewer taxes," Campbell told The Associated Press. "And it sends an important message to me, because I am sick to death to hear my opponent saying Republicans don't trust me. They do trust me, in landslide proportions."

In the November general election, Campbell, 65, will face former newspaper columnist Dottie Lamm, the wife of former Gov. Dick Lamm. She captured the Democratic nomination, beating state Rep. Gil Romero 58-42 percent.

In the governor's race, GOP voters turned to state Treasurer Bill Owens, who took 59 percent of the vote against more moderate state Senate President Tom Norton, who got 41 percent.

In the fall, Owens will face Democratic Lt. Gov. Gail Schoettler, who beat Senate Minority Leader Mike Feeley. She is the first woman ever nominated for governor in Colorado. Schoettler had 56 percent to Feeley's 44 percent.

Turnout was a low 20 percent.

In two Colorado congressional districts where incumbents are leaving office, there were lively primary contests for the open seats.

In the 2nd district, including Boulder and some Denver suburbs, Democratic incumbent David Skaggs' retirement drew six candidates. Democratic state Rep. Mark Udall and Republican Bob Greenlee, the mayor of Boulder, will compete in the fall.

In the 6th district, covering the Denver suburbs, former state Rep. Tom Tancredo beat out four other Republicans and will face Democrat Henry Strauss in November. The winner succeeds retiring Republican incumbent Dan Schaefer.

After the Georgia runoff, state Rep. Roy Barnes is officially the Democrats' choice for governor. His opponent, Secretary of State Lewis Massey, withdrew and threw his support to Barnes two days after the July 21 primary, so the outcome was no cliffhanger.

Barnes will face Millner this fall, with the winner succeeding Miller, who was ineligible to seek a third term.

Wentz study criticizing satelite data is all wet, says NCPPR

A study released August 12 suggesting that satellite data showing a drop in the earth's
temperature over the past 18 years is wrong is fatally flawed, says the National Centre for Public Policy Research. The study thus has no impact on the ongoing global warming debate.

The study, written by Frank J. Wentz and Matthias Schabel, claimed that because NASA's orbiting
satellites can lose altitude as they circle the globe, temperature data collected by these satellites has been inaccurate. Wentz and Schabel further suggest that, with these altitude drops factored in, the temperature of the planet has warmed 0.13 degrees per decade rather than declined by 0.09 degrees per decade.

But there are several key problems with Wentz's and Schabel's conclusions, among them:

  • The satellite measurements showing no global warming have been corroborated by weather balloon measurements. If this satellite data were significantly off, satellite and weather balloon
    measurements should have diverged.
  • While Wentz and Schabel adjusted their data to take into account "false cooling" due to declining satellite altitudes, they failed to adjust their data for "false warming" caused by other factors.
  • Wentz and Schabel used adjusted data in their study instead of raw data, overstating the impact of the satellite orbital decay in the process.

"The Wentz/Schabel study is fatally flawed and is thus of little use in the current global warming debate," said David Ridenour, Vice President of The National Center for Public Policy Research. "The bottom line is that satellite data -- which has consistently shown no warming trend -- remains the most reliable means of measuring the earth's temperature. Satellites cover 99 per cent of the surface of the planet. By contrast, reliable ground temperature data over the past 100 years covers just 18.4 per cent of the planet."

How do you react to someone's criticism? Accuse them of being a criminal!

A senior Liberal cabinet minister accused two taxpayers’ rights groups of running a "fundraising scam" that targets politicians.

Canada's Government House Leader Don Boudria attacked the National Citizens Coalition and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation for recent advertising campaigns.

Both groups launched ads against pay hikes and the federal pensions given to MPs and senators.

Boudria has taken issue with the ads, which also call for donations.

"Every one of their ads purporting to defend this great cause has in the bottom right hand corner a little block that says: Cut over here and send us your cash," he said.

"It’s a scam. It's a fundraiser. That’s all it is."

Boudria insisted both organizations have no real membership but claim to have thousands of supporters who contribute money through the ads.

"Whoever gives them money, they call a member. If that’s the criteria for membership, the panhandler on the street must have an awful big membership," said Boudria.

President Walter Robinson of the taxpayers federation angrily denied the ad campaign is no more than a scam. He said the federation and citizens coalition have obviously "touched a nerve" by attacking the benefits enjoyed by MPs.

"The only scam here is the fact Canadian taxpayers still put in $4 for the MPs' pension plan for every $1 that MPs put in," he said, noting Boudria stands to collect $1.5 million from his MP pension.

"We still have a group of men and women who believe they are privileged and give themselves special deals that Canadian taxpayers can’t have."

The taxpayers federation and citizens coalition both said they rely on the support of "free-will contributions" from Canadians, which unlike donations to political parties are not tax deductible.

And in a related story, MP quits Reform inner circle...then wants to rejoin

Reform Party (Canada) MP Jim Hart said August 12 leader Preston Manning has taken the party as far as he can and has to go.

"I have lost confidence in the leadership of the party," the MP for Okanagan-Coquihalla said in a statement.

Hart said he will stay in the 59-member caucus but will resign from Manning's shadow cabinet. He had been justice critic.

Hart, 42, also announced he is opting back in to the controversial MPs' pension plan, an issue that has split the party.

Hart will collect $22 000 a year beginning at age 55.

He joins fellow Reformer John Duncan (Vancouver Island North) in returning to the plan.

Both were first elected in 1993 and were among those who opted out of what Reform called the "gold-plated" MPs' pension plan.

Now, after changes which tightened up the plan, 38 Reformers, four Bloc Québécois MPs and six Liberals who opted out in 1995 have until September 18 to opt back in if they wish.

The alternative is to take an enhanced severance package whenever they leave Parliament.

Hart said a severance package isn't good enough and the pension plan - while it still needs change - is now significantly smaller, and therefore more acceptable, than it used to be.

But rookie Reformer Jason Kenney, elected only last year, has said any MP who backs down on the 1995 decision is a liar and a hypocrite.

A spokesperson for Manning played down Hart's decision, saying the vast majority of Reform MPs will stay out of the pension plan.

"Eighty to 90 per cent of the caucus has publicly stated they are out, and last time I checked 80 to 90 per cent is a pretty good grade," said Phil Von Finckenstein.

"On the question of leadership, the overwhelming majority of grassroots Reformers had a chance to vote on Manning's leadership and did so positively (80.9 per cent in favour) in London on May 29."

Hart said a vote by a relatively small number of delegates in London is not good enough and that every one of the roughly 70 000 members should get to vote on Manning.

Hart said Manning is the main stumbling block to taking the party to power.

Canadians like the Reform party's message of tax cuts and getting tough on crime but don't like the leader, he said.

"I think many Reformers share that same concern, that we have gone to the Official Opposition status and we don't feel under the (current) leadership we can actually win an election campaign without having this renewal process."

Hart said he is also upset at Manning's leadership on the pension issue.

That didn't end the story though. On August 24, Hart asked to be taken back into the party, saying his comments were in reaction to memos and statements by others in the party, not the leader.

"At the time, I had concluded by logic that the leaderís message was being delivered by others and after reflection and after the events of the past couple of weeks, I regret jumping to this conclusion," he said.

"It was a mistake, it was my mistake and I sincerely apologize to people who have been affected."

It will be up to the Reform Party caucus to decide whether Hart will be let back in.

Proving that the media really has gone to hell

Candice Bergen may not be a reporter, but she's played one on TV, and that may be enough in this era of news as entertainment. The actress, who recently ended a 10-year run as fictional FYI correspondent Murphy Brown on the CBS sitcom, is reportedly in talks to turn make-believe into reality on the network's 60 Minutes.

Don Hewitt, the executive producer of the venerable newsmagazine, has revealed that he's approached the multiple Emmy-winning actress with a job offer. "Now that she is no longer doing Murphy Brown, it dawned on me that she may want to do a story or two for us," Hewitt told New York magazine last month. "Once we make the determination that there is a story worth her doing, we'll give her a chance to do it, and we'll see how she does."

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Hewitt came up with the idea of hiring Bergen after 60 Minutes interviewed her last season. "Having done a story with her and seeing how she lights up the tube, it dawned on me that maybe we can explore whether she wanted to go back into journalism," Hewitt tells the trade.

PETA drops supermodel after wearing fake fur...then doesn't

The New York Post reported August 13 that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals may no longer want Cindy Crawford as a spokesmodel. The reason? Well, it seems the recently married cover girl, who in the past has bared all in ads for PETA's "I'd Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur" campaign, is shown wearing a fur wrap in a new print ad for Revlon.

Has Crawford become a fur traitor? Not quite. Turns out there's a disclaimer in the corner of the ad explaining, "Cindy is wearing the latest in faux fur," but the paper says the explanation is "too small to be seen by impressionable consumers flipping the pages," or the ever-vigilant members of PETA.

"We've called her office, but we haven't gotten a response," PETA spokeswoman Jenny Woods tells the Post. You'll may recall that last year the animal rights organization gave spokesmodel Naomi Campbell the boot after she hit the runway at a Fendi show wearing a sable coat. At the time, a PETA spokesman said, "Campbell has shown that she has more beauty than brain cells" and "has certainly given models their brainless reputation."

So was Crawford dropped? It certainly seemed that way until the end of the month when PETA announced that there was "no bad blood" between the two and that they "hope and expect to be working with Cindy again."

Greenpeace sees environmental crisis...in just three years!

At least 25 000 plant and animal species could become extinct and 20 million hectares (50 million acres) of ancient forest destroyed worldwide by 2000, the environmental group Greenpeace said on August 13.

"Significant steps must be taken before year 2000 to reverse these trends," executive director Thilo Bode said when presenting the group's annual report which recommends at least six "minimum" measures.

"It is undeniable that the use of renewable resources-- including land, forest, fresh water, coastal areas, fisheries and urban air-- is beyond their natural regeneration capacity," he added.

Greenpeace said the Larsen B ice shelf in Antarctica may collapse by the millennium. The 15 000 sq km structure, located on a northern peninsula of the continent, would be the biggest ice shelf to crumble.

The ice shelf has suffered from a rise in global temperatures, which some "experts" attribute to a "Greenhouse effect" resulting from by-products of human activity.

Temperatures in the region have risen an average 2.5 degrees Celsius since the 1940s, scientists say.

Greenpeace, with its international headquarters in Amsterdam, documented initial cracks in the Larsen ice shelf in February and said the situation demonstrated the need to shift from fossil fuels to sustainable energy.

Nearly 80 percent of the world's large areas of ancient forest have already been destroyed, and Greenpeace said its forecast for 2000 is based on the amount of forests currently being logged.

These forests are home to a wealth of biodiversity and thousands of species, mostly insects, are thought to be going extinct each year as their home disappears, the group said.

The organization also said the catch of the world's industrial fishing fleet would exceed the recommendation of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization by about 20 million tons in the 505 days before the turn of the century.

An additional 30 million tons of fish and other forms of marine life would be caught, killed and thrown back in the sea, it added.

More than 115 tons of highly radioactive plutonium will be produced, increasing risks of lethal discharges, and another 35 million tons of the polluting plastic polyvinyl chloride (PVC) will have been introduced into the environment, Greenpeace said.

Experts say the manufacture and incineration of PVC cause health and evironmental problems because the plastic contains chlorine and produces toxins when exposed to organic molecules.

The group called on the world community to take six steps.

It urged governments to ban all PVC, halt the licensing of new oil exploration, phase out nuclear energy, stop logging in ancient forests, cut the large scale industrial fishing fleet by half and stop the commercial release of genetically engineered crops.

"These demands are the absolute minimum to protect the planet for the future generations," Bode said.

Halting new exploration for petroleum would be the toughest goal due to the economic power of the industry, he added.

"The PVC makers and the nuclear industry are in retreat and the fishing industry are killing themselves since there won't be any more fish left," he told Reuters.

Have you noticed that all of these actions taken in concert would eliminate a good hunk of human economic activity? I'm sure Greenpeace has.

Alexander the Great responsible for global warming!

Scientists have conclusively proven that men like Alexander the Great and Artaxerxes III were responsible for an early heat wave which hit Africa between 350BC and 450AD.

If you accept the premise that humans are responsible for changes in the climate, then you have no choice but to believe that Alexander not only conquered kingdoms, but he also caused changes in the Earth's climate!

A heat wave suddenly moved across Africa some 2 000 years ago and lasted for centuries before relenting, according to a study of ancient sediments dredged from the bottom of a mountain lake in Kenya.

Weizmann Institute researchers who did the study said their findings show the global climate naturally goes through cycles of warming and cooling. A current warming trend has been blamed on greenhouse gasses dumped into the atmosphere by industry and transportation.

"Our findings show that the climate can warm up suddenly without any connection to human activity," said Aldo Shemesh, head of environmental sciences at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel.

A report on the study published was August 14 in the journal Science. Shemesh said that documenting ancient, natural climate changes will help modern science more accurately determine the manmade effects on the future climate.

He and his colleagues gathered sediment cores from the bottom of Hausberg Tarn, a small lake 14 000 up the side of Mount Kenya. They used a carbon-14 dating technique to determine that some of the bottom material was more than 3 000 years old.

From the corings, the scientists then extracted fossils of algae that lived during those ancient times. By analyzing the ratio of two isotopes of oxygen, they could determine the temperature of the water when the algae lived.

For instance, oxygen-16 is the most common form of oxygen, but the amount of oxygen-18 in the fossils increases when the water cools and decreases when it warms.

The researchers found that the waters in Hausberg Tarn suddenly warmed about seven degrees F between 350 BC and 450 AD. The warming indicates a fundamental shift in the climate of equatorial East Africa occurred during the period, the scientists said.

A number of studies in different parts of the world have found evidence of sudden warming or cooling trends, but the Hausberg Tarn findings are the first from a high altitude, equatorial location.

Packwood said he believes Clinton, says his "bones" told him

Former Sen. Bob Packwood says that after he was forced from office by sexual harassment accusations, President Clinton called to cheer him up.

And Packwood does not believe Monica Lewinsky had sexual relations with the president, The New Yorker reported in its August 17 issue.

The Oregon Republican resigned in October 1995 amid allegations he made unwanted sexual advances to 17 female employees and colleagues, solicited jobs from lobbyists for his former wife and altered his personal diaries to obstruct an ethics investigation.

The night after that resignation, he told the New Yorker, Clinton called and told him: '"Bob, I know how hard this is for you, and I admire your courage. I just wanted to call you and let you know that I was thinking about you."'

Packwood dismisses allegations that Lewinsky and Clinton had sexual relations. "My bones tell me she did not," he told the magazine.

I'll skip the obvious joke about Packwood's "bones."

But on Kathleen Willey's allegation that Clinton made unwelcome sexual advances to her in the White House, and Clinton's denial, the former senator said:

"I think they were both right. She may have accurately described what happened. And the president may have thought 'I did nothing wrong.' Both of them would tell their version of it and be telling the truth."

Packwood now manages a Washington lobbying firm that the magazine said earned him $440 000 in the first half of 1998. Hopefully he is more correct with his clients than he is the media.

Interior Department cites species extinction as evidence the Endangered Species Act works. Whoops!

In a public relations blunder of monumental proportions, the Interior Department recently cited
failures of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) -- including the outright extinction certain species -- as evidence that the ESA works. In May, the Interior Department announced that more than two dozen species would either be downgraded from their endangered and threatened statuses or removed from these lists altogether.

"Our new policy, to emphasize delisting, could alter the terms of the debate over the future of the landmark 1973 conservation law. For we can now finally prove one thing conclusively: The Endangered Species Act works. Period," said Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior, in making the announcement. "In the near future, many species will be flying, splashing and leaping off the list. They made it. They are graduating."

Apparently, a number of these species will only be flying, splashing and leaping off the list with a little help from the Grim Reaper. According to the National Wilderness Institute last month, five of the species targeted by Interior for delisting are now extinct. Four of the species targeted for delisting never existed. At least eight other species were never threatened with extinction and shouldn't have been listed.

It now appears that the Interior Department cited the proposed delistings as successes of the ESA by mistake. The Interior Department based its claim on an internal U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service document that included a list of plants and animals that might be considered for downlisting or delisting. In their haste to demonstrate the worth of the Endangered Species Act, officials at the Interior Department did not stop to consider that species recovery is only one of several possible reasons for species delistings.

Originally appeared in a National Centre for Public Policy Research notice

Sorry Al, No link between the Greenhoax Effect and wildfires

Wildfires may be on the rise, but -- with all due respect to the Vice President -- this has nothing to do with global warming.

Since the 1920s, wildfires have been on a more or less steady decline. The average number of acres burned has fallen from 12.4 million per year in the 1920s to just 2 million acres in the 1980s. Improved fire suppression capabilities, forest fire prevention education programs such as "Smokey Bear" and the "Dixie Rangers" and other factors all played a part in the success.

But since the beginning of this decade, there has been an uptick in the number of fires nationwide. Neil Sampson, who served as chairman of the National Commission on Wildfire Disasters, explains why: "We've been living through a period when fire suppression capability grew faster than the fire hazard... In the late 1970s, something different started to happen. Any dry weather period began to be accompanied by a greatly increased amount of wildfire... [T]he natural resource conditions... had been made more fire-prone and dangerous... by our past success at stopping the fires that would have reduced fuel buildups."

In other words, the increased risk of fire is the result of excess timber and vegetation that provides fuel for fires. While advancements in fire suppression were able to keep pace with the increased fire risks of larger fuel loads for a while, they are no longer able to do so. Complicating matters further is the fact that environmentalists -- including the Vice President -- frequently stand in the way of forest management policies that could help reduce these fuel loads.

Originally appeared in a National Centre for Public Policy Research notice

Who says only the Americans want to limit free speech on the Internet?

Anatoly Levenchuk, who fears the Russian government has plans to monitor all Internet traffic in the country, is fighting back.

On his own site, the Web-savvy Muscovite has published details of what he says is a new Russian secret police project known as SORM -- system for ensuring investigative activity.

Levenchuk calls it the Russian Internet wiretap project. "I'm afraid that this is (a) return back to Big Brother," he told CNN.

His Web site -- mostly in Russian but with a separate section written in English -- also includes an image of a bear, Russia's national symbol, dressed as the Statue of Liberty.

As Levenchuk explains it, SORM would compel all Internet service providers (ISPs) in Russia to construct a dedicated link to the government's FSB security agency, formerly the KGB.

This theoretically would enable the police to monitor the Internet activity of each and every individual in Russia.

The FSB won't comment on the project. But at its academy, where would-be spies learn their trade, a new subject has been introduced to the curriculum: the study of new information technologies and, in particular, how to ensure the security of data on government and corporate computers.

"Hackers have appeared who try illegally to enter information networks. They should be stopped," says an FSB officer.

"In fact ... we spotted a few of these hackers and they were stopped," he adds.

While unwilling to appear on camera to discuss SORM, some ISP officials have confirmed that discussions on the matter are being held with the secret police.

It's been only a few years since the collapse of communism and the Soviet Union, so the concept of freedom is difficult for most Russians to understand, says Levenchuk.

On his Web site, he is attempting to explain what freedom really is. To do that, he's using the same information highway the authorities reportedly want to police.

Perhaps the backers of the CDA should call up SORM for tips.

Woman released after two years in prison without charges

A woman who was sent to prison without a trial for refusing to pay child support was freed August 17 by Rhode Island's highest judge after languishing behind bars, all but forgotten by the system, for 2 1/2 years.

Maria Manuela Dickerson "was left to rot," said Steven Brown, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Rhode Island. "It looks like the system forgot about Maria."

Dickerson's confinement began when she failed to pay some of the $3 000 in support she owed for her teen-age daughter and son. A judge in January 1996 found her in contempt and ordered her imprisoned until she agreed to sign a form to have $48 a week deducted from her paycheck.

She never signed.

Ordinarily, civil contempt cases are reviewed monthly, but Family Court Judge John O'Brien ordered no such review.

Chief Justice Joseph Weisberger, who ordered Dickerson's release, said he wasn't sure why O'Brien did not grant a review. O'Brien was on vacation and unavailable for comment, his office said.

Dickerson, a 47-year-old home health aide, did not have a lawyer during the case, and none was appointed. Until recently, the state did not provide attorneys for the poor in civil cases.

Dickerson said she tried to get her case reviewed by writing letters to Family Court, but got no action. Finally, she contacted the ACLU, which filed an emergency motion for Monday's hearing in state Supreme Court.

"I'm glad that I'm free," Dickerson said moments after being released from shackles. "I don't think it was right, what they did to me."

The chief justice is also ordering a review of everyone imprisoned under Family Court orders.

Weisberger said the purpose of civil contempt is to force someone to comply, and generally the court should take a second look to see whether the person has obeyed or cannot afford to pay.

He has scheduled arguments for October 20 to determine whether Dickerson was illegally held without her right to a lawyer and the right to a jury trial.

Dickerson, who emigrated from Portugal, said she did not sign the form because she had cared for her children since birth until her ex-husband, Charles, won custody a few years ago. In addition, she said, she does not believe women should pay child support. Nice argument.

She has not seen her two teen-age children since she has been in prison. They are in the custody of their father, and it was not clear where he lives.

He didn't lie, he only misled

Breaking seven months of near silence, President Bill Clinton admitted August 17 that he did, in fact, have an "inappropriate" and "wrong" relationship with ex-White House intern Monica Lewinsky, but insisted he did nothing illegal.

"I know that my public comments and my silence about this matter gave a false impression. I misled people, including even my wife," Clinton said, his voice breaking slightly. "I deeply regret that."

Clinton's four-minute address to the nation followed an afternoon of closed-door testimony for a federal grand jury looking into how Clinton answered questions about his relationship with Lewinsky in a deposition in the Paula Jones sexual-harassment case last January.

"While legally accurate, I did not volunteer information," Clinton said.

"Indeed I did have a relationship with Ms. Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong. It constituted a critical lapse in judgment and a personal failure on my part for which I am solely and completely responsible," he said.

The president gave his televised address from the Map Room in the private residence of the White House, where he had faced prosecutors from Independent Counsel Ken Starr's office for more four hours earlier in the day.

"But I told the grand jury today, and I say to you now, that at no time did I ask anyone to lie, to hide or destroy evidence or to take any other unlawful action," Clinton said.

In Clinton's public comments, the word "sex" was never spoken and the word "regret" was only used in reference to his admission that he misled the public and his family over the last seven months about his relationship with the former White House intern.

The president's admission was a stunning reversal from his forceful, and now infamous, public statement last January when he said, "I want to say one thing to the American people. I want you to listen to me ... I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky."

Explaining his misleading public positions, the president said they were motivated by a desire to protect his family and "myself from the embarrassment of my own conduct."

As it is all but certain Starr will send a report to Capitol Hill, the president's fate will most probably land in the lap of Congress.

With that in mind, some of the president's comments seemed targeted at lawmakers, reminding them and the public that the Lewinsky investigation was prompted by what he described as the "politically inspired," and now dismissed, Jones case.

The president also had pointed words about Starr's four-year Whitewater investigation. "I had real and serious concerns about an independent counsel investigation that began with private business dealings 20 years ago, dealings I might add about which an independent federal agency found no evidence of any wrongdoing by me or my wife over two years ago," Clinton said.

Instead, the president urged the public -- and Congress -- to put the matter to rest and allow him to deal with his family and the work of the nation.

"Now, this matter is between me, the two people I love most -- my wife and our daughter -- and our God. I must put it right, and I am prepared to do whatever it takes to do so. Nothing is more important to me personally.

"But it is private, and I intend to reclaim my family life for my family. It's nobody's business but ours," Clinton said in the most direct and forceful declaration of the speech. "Even presidents have private lives.

"This has gone on too long, cost too much and hurt too many innocent people," Clinton said.

He should know. He was the cause of all three of them.

Wyoming governor wins Republication nomination

Republican Gov. Jim Geringer defeated sheep rancher Bill Taliaferro to win the nomination for a second term in the Wyoming primary August 18.

In other races in the nation's least populous state, where Republicans hold a 2-1 edge over Democrats in voter registration, Democrats battled to oppose Geringer and the state's lone member of the U.S. House.

Geringer, a rancher who served in the Air Force and 12 years in the Legislature, was first elected in 1994 with 59 percent of the vote to return the governor's office to the GOP for the first time in 20 years.

Geringer had 50 102 votes, or 66 percent, to Taliaferro's 25 381, or 34 percent.

Geringer will face Democratic state Sen. John Vinich in the November election.

During the campaign, Geringer cited progress in bringing jobs to the state and for laying the groundwork for high-technology growth through a new, semipublic development council.

Taliaferro criticized him for ignoring the state's traditional cores of ranching, oil and gas, mining and timbering.

In the Democratic primary for governor, Vinich defeated fellow state Sen. Keith Goodenough and University of Wyoming professor Phil Roberts.

Vinich had 17 079 votes, or 55 percent. Goodenough had 8 300 votes, or 27 percent, and Roberts had 5 768 votes, or 19 percent.

Geringer challenged Vinich to "take the high road" heading toward the general election, and the governor said he planned to maintain the same priorities he has had during the last four years.

"Jobs, the economy, education and the environment are all issues that are very important to us and most of the people of Wyoming," he said.

Scott Farris, an editor of a Roman Catholic publication, won the Democratic nomination to face Rep. Barbara Cubin, who is seeking her third term. Cubin is a House majority whip who sits on the House Commerce Committee and subcommittee on energy and mineral resources.

Farris had 18 513 votes, or 65 percent, to John O'Steen's 5 691 votes, or 20 percent, and Mickey Kalinay's 4 352 votes, or 15 percent. O'Steen is a Casper doctor, and Kalinay is a University of Wyoming student.

O'Steen closed his medical practice last month, burdened by fines and back taxes totaling $55 000 and Internal Revenue Service levies on his bank accounts. He also was accused in June of sexually assaulting a male employee. O'Steen said he is the victim of a plot to destroy his reputation.

Study says nature is harming ozone layer

Nearly a fifth of the damage to the ozone layer is being caused by natural emissions - rverything from wood-rotting fungi to algae in the seas.

Scientists have found evidence that nature's impact is far bigger than many thought. It may mean that the thinning of the ozone layer and the appearance of holes over the Poles could, over hundreds of thousands of years, be triggered by natural emissions rivalling manmade pollutants such as aerosols.

The researchers conclude, for example, that fungi are releasing 160 000 tonnes a year of ozone-killing chemicals.

David Harper of Queen's University, Belfast, one of the researchers, said that he fully supported the phasing out of ozone-damaging chemicals under the Montreal Protocol, but added: "Maybe our use of CFCs is not as catastrophic as we tend to think, given that natural processes produce similar compounds."

The research - carried out with Roy Watling, who has recently retired from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh - is part of an international effort to unravel the role of natural processes in ozone destruction. It is hoped that the findings will be used to improve supercomputer models trying to forecast the impact of man's activity on the planet.

Harper may still be pushing the tired dogma of CFCs, but this news does help foes of Kyoto.

NTU launches web site to combat "Gore Tax"

As lawmakers prepare to return to Washington and debate legislation that includes Internet subsidies for schools, libraries, and rural areas, the 300 000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU) has formally launched an Internet-based campaign aimed at stopping the tax
that funds the transfer scheme the E-Rate of up to 5 per cent on business and residential long distance phone services.

With all their talk of tax cuts, politicians were probably hoping this federal phone tax would slip by unnoticed, said NTU President John Berthoud. But our new Web site, www.GoreTax.com, has got their number. Soon Internet users across America will be urging Vice President Gore and Congress to hang up on this new tax.

The campaign's Web site, based at www.GoreTax.com, will serve as a clearinghouse for online news and commentary for and against the tax. It will also include a number of interactive mechanisms designed to mobilize opponents of the tax, such as an online opinion poll, an online petition,
and Electronic Bumperstickers for citizens to put on their personal home pages.

WWW.GoreTax.com is the latest addition to an ongoing NTU effort to repeal the E-rate, return Internet access funding choices to communities, and prevent predatory tax policies toward Internet commerce. On February 26, Berthoud testified to Congress that the E-rate violates any and all basic tenets of democratic representation because it allows unelected officials to levy taxes on the American public.

When Washington makes policy, it arrives in a one-size-fits-all package, and local education needs are as diverse as America's student population Berthoud added. Funding for wiring of classrooms to the Internet should come from the communities, not from the top down.

The E-Rate, known to many as the Gore Tax, was imposed via levies on the telephone companies by the FCC to support Vice President Gore's initiative of connecting every school classroom to the Internet. Congressional leaders have criticized the program as a back-door tax imposed without direct Congressional consent and the General Accounting Office has stated that the FCC illegally created two of the corporations that administer the program.

The FCC has gone so far as to prevent phone companies from informing customers of the true nature of the Gore Tax, even though the charge is passed along to them, Berthoud concluded. This stealth taxation deprives Americans of the information they need to make thoughtful choices about the federal government's role in subsidizing Internet access.

Trial dates set for Trie, Kanchanalak

Trial dates have been set early next year for campaign fund-raiser Charlie Trie and major contributor Pauline Kanchanalak, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Friedman announced August 21.

Jury selection for the trial of Trie, accused of funneling illegal international contributions to the Democratic Party, is set to begin February 1, 1999, with opening arguments starting February 8, 1999.

For Thai businesswoman Kanchanalak, also accused of making illegal donations, jury selection starts March 8, 1999, with opening arguments scheduled to begin March 15, 1999.

Each trial is expected to last three to four weeks.

Trie had been set to begin trial in October, but his attorney Reid Weingarten pleaded for extra time because of a conflict. He is also representing former Agriculture secretary Michael Espy in a trial that begins Oct. 1, which Weingarten said is now expected to last several months.

Court strikes down Census Bureau's statistical sampling plan

A federal court threw out August 24 the Census Bureau's plan to use statistical sampling, as opposed to a traditional person-by-person headcount, for the 2000 census.

The sampling method was designed to improve the accuracy of the dicennial exercise, widely criticized for undercounting minorities.

A special three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court in Washington ruled on a lawsuit filed in February by Republican members of Congress who argued that a 1957 federal law prohibited sampling from being used for congressional apportionment, one of the chief reasons for a census.

The judges ruled that the Census Bureau could use sampling for much of the demographic information-gathering other than congressional reapportionment.

House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) called the decision "a tremendous victory for every American." Gingrich criticized the Clinton Adminstration's support for statistical sampling as an "illegal and unconstitutional scheme to manipulate the Census for the express purposes of political gain."

The methodology is a critical issue since the census, which is only done every ten years, determines how much federal money is spent and where, as well as how many Congressional representatives each state will have.

The House Republicans who filed suit against the Department of Commerce, the governmental parent of the Census Bureau, cited a 1957 law, designed at the time to update and expand the work of the Census Bureau, which said sampling can be used "except for the determination of population for apportionment purposes.

The Census Bureau, which was joined in its defense by Democratic members of Congress, the city of Los Angeles, and other groups, tried to prove that a 1976 amendment to that law leaves it to the discretion of the bureau as to how they count the population.

Appeals to the Circuit and Supreme Courts are likely, but time is a factor since the census deadline is looming.

Richardson says government outgunned when its comes its environmental propaganda

Energy Secretary William Richardson was sworn in on August 24. After Richardson gave a few initial remarks, he was asked what he planned to do to convince "good scientists," and the American public, that global warming was a big threat.

Richardson stated that "we have not communicated the threat or the science to the American people. We've really been outgunned. We've been outgunned in the Congress and media ads...We need to do a lot better there and we need to be committed towards not just international treaties, but delivering the message to Congress and the American people. The president and vice president are very committed to this...it's going to be a big priority of mine...the Congress knows that this is going to be the lead agency on global climate change."

As Candace Crandall pointed out, this comment was made in the shadow of billions spent by the government, millions by environmental groups, several government agencies, Vice President Al Gore, public spots by virtually every television and radio station in the United States, many newspapers and magazines, and government paid scientists all working in concert to convince Americans on the threat of global warming.

And Richardson is outgunned? Give me the resources of government for one day and the battle would be won.

NCC invades Liberal cabinet minister's riding

Canada's National Citizen's Coalition and its anti-MP pay grab "musical pigs" invaded Liberal cabinet minister Don Boudria's riding last month.

NCC president Stephen Harper noted that airing the ads were the most effective response to Boudria's attacks on the smaller-government advocating organization.

"...Bourdria called our ad campaign, which denounces the recent MP pay grab, a 'fund-raising scam', so we thought the best way to respond was to run our ads in his riding."

The radio ads, which ran on an Ottawa station during the week of August 24, features pigs oinking to the stain's of Strauss' Blue Danube -- but they do have a serious message. They demand that MPs stick to the pay and benefits deal they were elected on. They also condemn the way compensation increases slid through Parliament without even a recorded vote prior to the long summer break.

"Boudria lashed out at the NCC," said Harper "because he knows our ads are effective. That's why we take his attack on us as a compliment."

He does, however, wonder about the reasoning.

"Boudria criticizes the NCC because we ask for voluntary contributions to fund our ad campaigns. This is from a man who takes money from taxes which Canadians are forced to pay to fund his own pay and benefit hike -- without even asking them. Now that's what a scam really is."

Gephardt calls Clinton reprehensible

Reflecting the concerns of other Democrats, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt called President Clinton's actions in the Monica Lewinsky controversy "reprehensible" but said it's too soon for Democrats to say whether the president must face impeachment.

"I think it's important for us to not be out there saying he's guilty of impeachment or not, as if we know," Gephardt said in a August 25 interview.

Distancing himself, Gephardt declined to defend the president on central questions: Did Clinton ask Ms. Lewinsky to lie? Did he obstruct justice by trying to cover up the affair?

The Missouri Democrat said such questions must wait until after prosecutor Kenneth Starr submits his evidence to Congress.

"I think the...business of impeachment is probably the most important duty Congress has," Gephardt said. "It's right up there with declaring war."

"I really think it's important that people have absolute confidence and faith in what we are doing here," Gephardt said. "I reserve judgment. Absolutely reserve judgment."

"If this is just a politicized partisan street fight, then we've really injured something very important to the fabric of this country and to our system of self-government," he said. "I'm not going to do that."

He criticized Clinton for his private behavior with Ms. Lewinsky, and for not leveling with the American people about it. "It was wrong and it was reprehensible," Gephardt told radio station WARM in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., later that day.

The comments were more harsh than his cautious statement to Democratic leaders after Clinton delivered a prime-time address acknowledging his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky. Gephardt had talked with fellow Democrats the day before, gauging their fears and feelings.

Though Gephardt says the controversy hadn't affected local campaigns, many Democrats do worry that the issue could tip the balance against them in tight races.

The Democrats' greatest fear, though, is the unknown. They don't know what Starr's investigation has uncovered.

After Clinton's speech, the White House had asked Democratic lawmakers to quickly declare the controversy over. That didn't happen, and Gephardt's comments suggested the president's party may be guided as much by Starr's report as Clinton's word.

Gephardt said impeachment would be difficult for the nation, but "this is also a strong country and we have strong processes."

Asked if he believed Clinton, who denied obstructing justice, Gephardt said, "It's important to let the facts come out."

Asked if Clinton lied when he swore under oath in the Paula Jones sex harassment case that he couldn't remember being alone with Ms. Lewinsky, Gephardt said, "I've got to see the facts."

Asked if he believed Clinton when he said he didn't ask Ms. Lewinsky to lie, Gephardt said, "He deserves ... a presumption of innocence."

Again and again, Gephardt said he would not attack or defend Clinton until he could review Starr's evidence, a task he suggested could not be accomplished before November's elections.

"I really think the subject of punishment is premature and putting the cart before the horse," he said, when asked if censure was a possible alternative to impeachment.

We should have given them medals

Seven Cuban exiles, including a top leader of the world's largest Cuban exile foundation, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Puerto Rico on charges of plotting to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro last year.

The indictment alleges that the defendants plotted for four years to kill Castro and had zeroed in on a November 1997 trip to a Latin American summit meeting on the island of Margarita off the coast of Venezuela.

Jose Antonio Llama, a member of the board of directors of the Cuban American National Foundation and its executive committee, was named as a co-conspirator.

In addition to Llama, others indicted August 25 were: Jose Rodriguez, Alfredo Domingo Otero, Angel Manuel Alfonso, Angel Hernandez Rojo, Juan Bautista Marque and Francisco Secundino-Cordova.

The exile organization, based in Miami, has been among Castro's most steadfast opponents, and Castro has accused it of plotting to kill him. But the exiles have claimed publicly that they support the peaceful overthrow of Castro, whom they blame for forcing them to leave their homeland.

The indictment charges the conspirators with obtaining two .50-caliber semi-automatic rifles which were to be used as sniper rifles; a 46-foot (14-meter) boat, which was modified to permit it to sail virtually anywhere in the waters in and around the Caribbean without refueling; and night-vision goggles and global positioning units to assist in assassinating Castro.

The indictment says the conspirators obtained the boat and one of the sniper rifles from Llama. Other charges in the indictment include misuse of a vessel, false statements and smuggling.

The indictment is part of a continuing investigation by the FBI and Customs Service which was disclosed October 27, 1997, when a U.S. Coast Guard cutter intercepted and boarded a boat off Puerto Rico that was carrying four of the conspirators.

Found aboard the boat "La Esperanza" (Spanish for "Hope") were rifles, ammunition and some of the other equipment.

According to the Coast Guard, one of the men, in a state of panic, confessed that they were plotting to kill Castro a week later while he was on Margarita.

Prosecutors charge the group visited the island, using global positioning units to find a hilltop overlooking the airport. Castro eventually flew into that airport to attend the Latin American summit.

The U.S. Justice Department says that if convicted, the men face up to life in prison.

Poll: missile defense supported...where were they when Reagan was president?

Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy announced the finding of a new poll conducted by
Kellyanne Fitzpatrick that shows the American public overwhelmingly supports a missile defense system.

The poll asked respondents: "If America is spending $10 billion a year in Bosnia, would you support spending half of that amount on a missile defense system to protect the U.S.?" Gaffney said 80 per cent support spending money on missile defense.

And speaking of what Americans like...

A new survey showed that more people than ever agree with using public funds to support children attending private schools.

The nationwide poll also found considerable concern about improving inner-city schools, and that given the choice, most Americans prefer sending their children to public schools.

Public schools educate 90 percent of the nation's children, and in the 30th annual Phi Delta Kappa-Gallup Poll, 62 percent of the parents questioned gave their public schools high grades.

But only 18 percent gave the nation's schools an "A" or a "B."

In its annual survey, Gallup asked some questions for Phi Delta Kappa, the professional fraternity for educators, along with other questions that are part of its regular polling.

Questions about using public dollars to support private or church-related school education were asked several ways of the 1 151 adults chosen at random and interviewed by telephone.

According to the poll, 86 percent of Americans surveyed in June support President Clinton's proposal to use taxpayer dollars for building schools, 80 percent support his plan to use federal dollars to lower class size by hiring teachers, and 71 percent favor his proposal for voluntary national tests of fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math.

The survey "shows great public support for increased investments in education to produce practical improvements for our schools and students," said Education Secretary Richard Riley.

But 73 percent also favor a Republican proposal for tax-free savings accounts to help parents afford tuition at private and church-related schools, and 68 percent support direct grants of federal money to states so they can run education programs.

Although it's not a live issue before Congress at the moment, 67 percent favor a constitutional amendment to permit "prayers to be spoken in public schools."

Half the respondents opposed allowing students to attend private schools at public expense.

But for the first time, a majority (51 percent) supported allowing parents to send their children to "any public, private or church-related school they choose" and having the government pay all or part of the tuition at non-public schools.

"For parents that are very firm in their religious beliefs, I don't see any problem with that," says Katherine Green, a parent of fourth- and fifth-graders in Washington.

Just two years ago, 54 percent were opposed and 43 percent were in favor. Last year, opinion was divided evenly.

Likewise, 48 percent favored and 46 percent opposed the use of the word "vouchers" and all tuition paid. But 52 percent favored using vouchers for partial tuition payments; 41 percent were opposed.

When only the parents of children in public school were asked, however, 56 percent supported full vouchers and 40 percent were opposed. Support was greatest among non-white parents and younger Americans.

In exchange for government support, however, 76 percent agreed that private schools should be held as accountable as public schools.

"Assuming that happens," says Deirdre Shope, another parent, "then I absolutely believe they would have to meet the same standards as far as who they admit and, obviously, some scholarships."

One of the authors of the study, Dr. Ron Joekel, executive director of Phi Delta Kappa International, says that is the catch for those who support vouchers from the government.

"They're going to have to meet the accountability standards as the public schools do, and to accept students of all types as the public schools do," he said. "And I think that's a real issue that the people who are pushing the vouchers today have a difficult time dealing with in some cases."

The poll also found that if public school parents were given the option of government-paid tuition to any school, 57 percent said they would keep their child in the public school system. Thirty-nine percent said they would send their children to private schools.

Education experts say the new poll shows that Americans are eager to improve public schools, but that if nothing changes, they are also ready to make it easier for their children and others to get out.

About time

Attorney General Janet Reno has approved a 90-day investigation into the 1996 campaign fund-raising activities of Vice President Al Gore.

The 90-day probe was triggered under the Independent Counsel statute to determine whether there is "specific and credible evidence" to determine if laws have been violated.

Senior law enforcement officials emphasize the inquiry does not mean Reno will decide to seek the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate the vice president.

Last December Reno declined to seek an independent counsel to investigate whether 45 phone calls Gore made from the White House during 1995 and 1996 might have violated a century-old law prohibiting solicitation of election funds in any federal workplace. At that time, Reno ruled that the law applied only to "hard money," contributions used directly to support federal election campaigns.

But in July the Justice Department was given a July 1995 memo that suggests, though it does not prove, that Gore may have known money he was soliciting in those phone calls would be diverted from "soft-money" accounts directly to the Clinton-Gore campaign, sources said. Gore has denied such knowledge.

"Soft money" is raised by the political parties for party-building efforts and not for direct support of federal candidates. Unlike direct donations to candidates, or "hard money," there is currently no limit on the soft money parties can raise.

The attorney general informed the three-judge court overseeing the selection of independent counsels that she had triggered the probe, but the panel did not immediately approve the public disclosure of the 90-day investigation.

Gore's private attorney, James Neal, said in a statement released August 26 that Gore has voluntarily submitted to two interviews in the matter and has instructed Neal to cooperate fully with the Justice Department. "I am totally satisfied that Vice President Gore has fully, completely and honestly answered every question asked of him," and that the Justice Department "will reach the same conclusion," Neal said.

Senior Justice Department officials have also recently been considering opening a similar inquiry involving former Deputy White House Chief of Staff Harold Ickes for possible campaign finance irregularities. However, officials indicated no decision has been made to proceed with a 90-day probe of Ickes.

Quebec separatist group loses right to its own name

The name Bloc Quebecois now belongs to a bloke Quebecois -- but probably not for long.

Jim Duff, morning man at Montreal's CIQC Radio, and producer Shawn Lyons registered the name August 26 after they found it had apparently fallen into the public domain. The separatist party failed to renew the name's registration when it expired on November 8, 1992.

"We don't know what we're going to do with it, quite frankly," Duff said the next day after announcing the acquisition on his show. "Neither Shawn or I want to be leader.

"We're looking at all the different possibilities. The sky's the limit."

Maybe not.

The Bloc won't rush out to change its stationery, saying it's recognized under the Canada Elections Act. It also said it has more important things to discuss.

And a spokesman for Quebec's Inspector General of Financial Institutions was pretty categoric about the impact the registration would have on the political party.

"Not much," said Pierre Morin. "It just has to prove that it used the name before the other one registered it.

"They can ask us to withdraw the names from our files here because as a political party they don't have to register. The Bloc can make the radio host stop using the name."

The Bloc's name was originally registered by lawyer Guy Bertrand in January 1972 when he pushed Parti Quebecois leader Rene Levesque to start a federal wing of the PQ. Levesque dismissed the idea which was picked up by Lucien Bouchard when he co-founded the Bloc in 1990.

Bertrand has since become an ardent federalist.

Duff and Lyons were initially researching reports of a number of lawsuits filed against the Bloc by creditors when they discovered the name's status.

"We came across the fact that they were no longer registered," said Lyons.

The broadcasters decided to take the name after finding it had been in the public domain for almost six years.

Registrar's office officials were reluctant to let them do it until getting word from their bosses and the Inspector General of Financial Institutions, who said they could take it because it wasn't in the agency's computers as being registered.

Duff plunked down a cheque for the $35 fee and was assigned registration number 3347945910.

The new company makes art-related products and produces radio program. Duff said they might also produce a line of "blocks Quebecois."

Not only is the kettle calling the pot black, it's giving it an award it as well

Sometimes news items are so funny that it's hard to write them up. You may not believe this one, but it's the total truth.

On August 30, Egypt's Middle East News Agency reported that Libya named Cuban President Fidel Castro the winner of its 1998 human rights award, which is named in honor of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

The award was apparently given "in appreciation of his history of struggle."

The...prestigious...prize -- which carries a $250 000 cash prize -- generally is awarded during celebrations marking the anniversary of the coup that brought Gadhafi to power in September 1969.

Also nominated for this year's award was Pope Shenouda III, head of the Coptic Christian church in Egypt, and former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark. Previous winners of the award include South African President Nelson Mandela and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

Clinton sorry for speech...sorry it didn't fool anyone that is

On August 30, a Democratic congressman who met with Clinton while he was on vacation said the president expressed regrets about the tone of the speech he gave August 17, in which he acknowledged an inappropriate relationship with Lewinsky but also took a swipe at Independent Counsel Ken Starr.

"The president admitted to us that the timing of his speech was probably not the best, that he wished he had more time to reflect and get his emotions together before he addressed the American people," said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) on NBC's "Meet The Press."

But on the Sunday talk shows, Republican leaders continued to pound away at Clinton's conduct and what they see as his lack of contrition. Some also took a harder line than House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) who earlier in the week said that perjury in the Lewinsky case alone wouldn't be enough for impeachment.

"If he lied under oath in a court proceeding with a criminal intent necessary to have committed perjury ... no matter what the subject is, sex is not the issue here," said Rep. Bill McCollum (R-Fla.) on "Meet The Press." "If he did that, that alone, it seems to me, is sufficient to impeach."

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) also took issue with comments Clinton made during his vacation in a speech about forgiveness, in which he couched his comments in humorous terms.

"Here is the president of the United States who blatantly lied to [the American people,} who sent his wife, [Secretary of State] Madeleine Albright [and] others high in the administration out to repeat the lie that he knew was a lie. It's not a humorous matter," Hatch said on "Fox News Sunday."

"He really does need to level with the American people and let them know he has a problem and he's going to work on it. And he ought to apologize," Hatch said. "He shouldn't joke about it."

The third-ranking Republican in the House, Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas, said that if Starr sends a report soon, the House should stay in session to deal fully with it, rather than putting the matter off until next year.

"If the president is going to put us through this trauma, then we need to get it over with as soon as possible," DeLay said on "Fox News Sunday." "We need to stay in session for as long as it takes to get this behind us."

Also on August 30, the most senior member of the House, Michigan Democrat John Dingell, said that Starr's entire report should be made public, although some secret grand jury testimony possibly might be withheld.

"This is the public's business -- some of the most important business that the Congress is going to do during my entire career," Dingell said on "Fox News Sunday." "And I think that the public should be brought into it, should know what's going on, should know all of what is happening ... so that they can assess their judgment both of the Congress and of the president and of Mr. Starr."

Dingell also made it clear that Democrats in Congress will make an inquiry into alleged abuses by Starr's investigators, including allegations that they leaked secret grand jury testimony.

"Mr. Starr and his associates and staff have to be interviewed and have to be deposed extensively," he said.

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