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web posted September 20, 1999

First lady criticizes Congress over tax cut, campaign finance

Prospective Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton again aimed her rhetoric at the Republican-led Congress on September 15, calling the GOP tax cut bill reckless, risky, and shortsighted.

At a news conference in Manhattan -- her third news conference in a week's time -- Clinton again attacked the $792 billion tax cut recently passed by the House and the Senate as a poor use of the federal budget surplus.

"They have passed a reckless tax plan that would squander our surplus without devoting a penny to Social Security and Medicare. It would raise interest rates and it would force devastating cuts in initiatives vital to people of this city and state," Clinton said.

Four of the New York's most prominent elected Democrats flanked Mrs. Clinton and joined her in a chorus of criticism -- City Council President Peter Vallone, City Comptroller Alan Hevesi, Public Advocate Mark Green, and Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer.

Bill Clinton has promised to veto the bill.

Clinton said the budget plan would cost schools federal funding for more teachers, adding that it cuts $141 million earmarked for New York and would leave more than half of its 7,200 projected new teacher slots unfilled. She also said the bill would also cut $166 million of New York's piece of the popular Head Start program, which serves 24,000 New York pre-schoolers.

"I call on the people of New York to let Congress know what they are doing is just wrong. It is wrong to deprive our children of the chance they deserve to have for the future we want for them and for our nation. This is a risky, shortsighted tax scheme, and I hope we will make it clear to the Congress that New York will not stand for this kind of irresponsible behavior out of Washington," Clinton said.

Clinton also responded to reporters' questions about the campaign finance reform bill the House passed Tuesday, including a provision aimed at curtailing her use of government jets during campaign swings.

"I am pleased the House passed reform that could make a difference," Clinton said, but she added she was "somewhat concerned" Senate Republicans would not follow suit.

"I hope the Senate Republicans will have a change of heart and do the right thing for the country," she said.

Justice pulls U.S. attorneys off Waco case

The Justice Department withdrew the entire office that prosecuted the Branch Davidians in Waco from further involvement in the case, including the man who strongly suggested in an August 30 letter to Attorney General Janet Reno that her department might be engaged in a coverup.

Justice officials say the office is being removed because it may become part of special counsel John Danforth's probe into the FBI and Justice Department's handling of the final assault on the Branch Davidian compound.

Federal prosecutors in Texas involved in the Waco case have been ensnared in controversy for weeks since Bill Johnston, an assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas, wrote to Reno that he had "formed the belief that facts may have been kept from you -- and quite possibly are being kept from you even now, by components of the Department."

Justice Department sources said the decision on September 15 to remove Johnston's office was in no way retaliation.

"Members of my office advised law enforcement agencies before and during the siege, and handled the criminal trial in 1994," said James W. Blagg, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas.

"Because of their roles in matters that may be under investigation, my office has been recused from all matters to avoid any potential or appearance of conflict of interest."

Justice sources say that Blagg requested that his office be withdrawn from the case. His request was approved by a senior career Justice Department attorney and then approved by Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder. Holder made the decision in part because Reno recused herself from the case the week before.

It is unclear whether Johnston approved of the recusal. A woman in his office said he would have no comment.

The case will now be handled by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Texas.

Romanow and NDP barely hangs on to power

Saskatchewan Premier Roy Romanow squeaked to a third straight election victory on September 16, but voters have gutted the New Democrat majority and divided the province.

Fueled by angry farmers, the opposition Saskatchewan Party dominated rural ridings while the socialist NDP kept its stranglehold on the cities.

Romanow's NDP went from a substantial 25-seat majority in the provincial legislature to its first minority government since 1929.

The vote gave the NDP 29 of the province's 58 seats, the Saskatchewan Party 26 and Liberals three.

The NDP's popular vote fell almost 10 per cent from what it was in the last provincial election in 1995. In fact, the Saskatchewan Party won slightly more votes at 39.4 per cent to the NDP's 38.7. The Liberals had 20.4.

message to the provincial government that we need some changes for rural Saskatchewan."
Despite public opinion polls that consistently showed the NDP with a double-digit lead on the Saskatchewan Party, a third straight majority was still up for grabs a full two hours after the vote-counting began.

But the rural-urban split revealed a deeply divided province. The NDP was on its way to victory in 26 of Saskatchewan's 29 city ridings and the Saskatchewan Party was poised to grab 24 of the 29 seats up for grabs in the countryside.

The Saskatchewan Party, contesting its first election, won support for its aggressive pledge on tax cuts and its call for improvements to the province's deteriorating roads.

There was skepticism that the Saskatchewan Party, led by one-term Reform MP Elwin Hermanson, 47, could successfully accomplish deep tax cuts while spending more on roads and farmers and keeping the books balanced.

The Liberals, who took 11 seats and 35 per cent of the popular vote in 1995 before firing their leader and imploding, were led by Saskatoon doctor Jim Melenchuk, 46. They spent the campaign fighting for survival, not government.

At dissolution, the NDP held 41 seats, the Saskatchewan Party 10 and the Liberals five. There was one independent and one seat was vacant.

Canada gives artist $15,000 grant to hang rabbit carcasses in exhibit

A University of Manitoba art professor's federally funded art exhibit of 12 rotting rabbit carcasses strung up in a forest has critics hopping over whether taxpayers should be picking up the tab.

Photographer Diana Thorneycroft was given $15,000 by the Canada Council to complete the installation, which opened on September 17. Art enthusiasts will be asked to tramp into the woods near the St. Norbert Arts and Cultural Centre with flashlights to see the corpses, which have been suspended, Blair-Witch-like, in trees. Stuffed inside each carcass is one of her own "photographic relics," which will be exposed as maggots decompose the rabbits' flesh.

Called Monstrance, the carcasses in the exhibit are supposed to signify the partially transparent cases or holders in which the bread of the Eucharist is displayed in Roman Catholic churches. An indoor part of the exhibit features 23 shaved toy bunnies with various parts of the real rabbits' bodies stuffed inside.

"I'm celebrating the gloriousness of putrefaction," Thorneycroft said during a preview tour of the exhibit area. "All of us are moving toward death and dust. A lot of people won't acknowledge that."

The subject of two documentaries by CBC, Thorneycroft has exhibited all over the world, including at galleries in Prague and Moscow, and the Carpenter Centre for the Visual Arts at Harvard University.

"The site deals most directly with the realities of death and decay and the way in which all life returns to earth," she said in an artist's statement provided to the Canada Council, which chose her proposal for funding from 232 applications.

John Goldsmith, a spokesman for the Canada Council, said Thorneycroft, 42, applied to a grant program for "mid-career" artists. A jury chose her work because of her lengthy record of well-received exhibits, he added, agreeing the subject matter would be "difficult and challenging." However, he said, "art is not merely to entertain and distract."

Inky Mark, the Reform party's heritage critic and a Manitoba MP, doesn't think "too many people would consider this art.

"I don't think anybody would object to people doing this on their own, but I don't think you need $15,000 to do this. What's the cost of getting a dozen rabbits?"

Thorneycroft said she spent $10 each on the rabbits from a local grocer, and one of them was donated road-kill.

"We do this, and, on the other hand we're axing a national symbol in the Snowbirds," Mr. Mark said.

Louise May, the president of the St. Norbert Arts and Cultural Centre, said she has received a number of complaints from taxpayers and animal-rights activists about the exhibit, but said the centre's board of directors fully supports the show. "People are responding to the way the issue is framed and not necessarily the work itself, because, of course, nobody has seen the work.

Clinton says readily available guns contribute to killings

Saying that the repeated mass murders of innocent Americans has been the most painful thing he has had to face in office, President Clinton on September 18 said the easy availability of guns bears as much or more responsibility as does human evil.

Clinton said recent mass shootings are the most painful thing he has faced during his term

Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, addressing the annual dinner of the Congressional Black Caucus, said that some have attempted to minimize the role of firearms in tragedies such as the murders Wednesday night of seven people in a church in Fort Worth, Texas and the suicide of the alleged gunman.

"Of course something horrible happened to that man's heart when he walked into that church in Texas. But we cannot use that as an excuse," Clinton said.

He asserted that the solution is a sharing of responsibility and a refusal to duck facts, not a search for scapegoats or an attempt to blame all gun murders simply on human evil.

"The NRA (National Rifle Association) and that crowd has got to stop using arguments like this to avoid facing our shared responsibility," the president said.

He said tragedies such as this year's spate of school shootings and the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City has made the search for answers imperative.

"I think the killing of innocent people en masse in America has been the most painful thing that (the vice president ) and I and our families have had to endure in discharging our duties for America," Clinton said.

He called on the country "to make this election year about assuming responsibility, not ducking it."

In their back-to-back speeches, Gore raised the issue first.

"Too many hearts have been broken," he said, adding that some have tried to explain the killings "by saying a sudden wave of evil has swept the county ."

"My religious tradition says evil has always been with us and we need to meet evil with good," the vice president said.

He said there is a pressing national need to get guns out of the hands of people who should not have them.

"We have to act and not just talk," Gore said. "We want to move our feet and lift our hands and work together."

Volunteers rebuilding church on site of burned Waco compound

A libertarian talk show host led a convoy of volunteers with shovels and pickaxes to Waco on September 19 to initiate the rebuilding of the Branch Davidians' compound church.

A fire during a government raid six years ago leveled the compound, killing leader David Koresh and about 80 followers.

Austin talk show host Alex Jones, 25, said he wants to rebuild the church as a memorial and to increase publicity about the FBI's possible role in the fire.

"This is about saying the witch hunt of 1993 is over," Jones said as he and about 60 people who accompanied him to the fenced-off hillside began digging foundations for a 38-by-40 frame church.

The deadly fire April 19, 1993, ended a 51-day standoff between Koresh and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and FBI.

Jones said he chose now to build a memorial and church because of a recent admission by the FBI that agents had fired potentially incendiary tear gas canisters at the compound the day it burned, despite years of statements to the contrary. Attorney General Janet Reno earlier this month appointed a special counsel to investigate.

Government officials maintain that Branch Davidians, and not federal agents, set the fatal fire.

A wrongful death suit filed against the government by relatives of those who died is scheduled to go to trial in October.

"All of it -- it's all about public opinion. We know that now is the perfect time, that's why we're doing it," Jones said.

The project is expected to take two to three months.

Koresh follower Clive Doyle, who survived the 1993 fire, said he has been leading 12 to 20 people in Bible studies near Waco and likely will lead services at the new church.

Koresh's stepfather Roy Haldeman, 71, a retired carpenter who had lived at the compound, said Sunday that he felt good about the project. Stoically looking over the workers, he said the project's significance was "too deep" to explain.

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