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A government agency playing under the same rules as business! Say it ain't so!

On Monday, September 28, President Clinton signed the Postal Employees Safety Enhancement Act (S. 2112) into law, leveling the playing field, if only a little bit, for the Postal Service's private sector competitors.

The law requires that the U.S. Postal Service begin complying with the same Occupational and Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reporting requirements that such firms as Pitney Bowes, Federal Express and United Parcel Service have had to follow since OSHA was created in 1970. The law takes effect January 1, 1999. The Postal Service will also be subject to the same kind of fines and penalties for workplace safety violations that its competitors have been subject to.

Although the Postal Service was converted to a quasi-public agency years ago, it continued to enjoy federal agency status under section 19 of OSHA, exempting it from many OSHA requirements. Last year, OSHA conducted close to 300 postal facility inspections, most resulting from employee complaints. With close to 857 000 employees, the number of inspections is likely to increase dramatically under the new law. So too will its compliance costs.

Can calls for OSHA reform from the U.S. Postal Service be far behind?

Democratic fund-raiser charged in 17-count indictment

Democratic Party fund-raiser and Miami business executive Mark Jimenez was charged September 30 in a 17-count indictment that alleges he made illegal contributions to several Democratic campaigns, including the 1996 Clinton/Gore primary committee.

Jimenez, the chief executive officer of Miami-based Future Tech International, was charged with organizing, making and concealing illegal contributions in violation of federal election laws.

The indictment accuses Jimenez with dozens of illegal conduit contributions, including $23 000 to the Clinton-Gore campaign at a 1995 Florida fund-raiser.

The indictment indicates that $39 500 in conduit contributions also went to several Senate races, including the 1994 re-election bid of Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and the 1996 campaign of Robert Torricelli of New Jersey.

The Justice Department's task force probing alleged Democratic fund-raising violations brought the charges.

"This is the twelfth person to be charged by the campaign financing task force. We are not letting up," Attorney General Janet Reno said in announcing the indictments.

Canadian taxpayers on the hook for candidates' spending: Surprise?

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation released on October 1 an in-depth report detailing candidate expense reimbursements arising from the 1997 federal election. The information was compiled from Elections Canada data. The CTF challenged all eligible candidates to end the practice of taking public money to fund their election campaigns by returning their reimbursement cheques which the majority of eligible candidates have already received.

CTF calculations reveal that 801 candidates from the 1997 election are eligible for $16.5 million in election expense reimbursements. This is equal to an average grant of $20 600 for each candidate. The total cost of subsidizing politicians is up 11 percent from the $14.9 million in reimbursements following the 1993 federal election.

"Election campaigns are a clash of ideas. They should not be seen as the easy street to free cash," said CTF federal director Walter Robinson. "Simply put, the practice of taxpayers reimbursing campaign expenses must end. It’s a welfare program for the political class."

The Canada Elections Act allows for candidates who receive more than 15 per cent of the vote to have 50 per cent of their election expenses reimbursed. A registered political party, meanwhile, is entitled to a reimbursement of 22.5 per cent of its expenses provided that it receives at least 2 per cent (national total) of the number of valid votes cast during the election or 5 per cent of the number of valid votes cast in the electoral districts in which the party endorsed a candidate.

CTF opposition to election subsidies dates back to the Lortie Commission in 1991. "We said then, as we say now, that it is patently wrong to compel citizens to pay for political views and activities they do not voluntarily support," Robinson added.

"This practice adds to a long list of offensive privileges for politicians: gold-plated pensions, tax-free salary top-ups, and political tax credits that would make any charity green with envy. Canadians want leaders who will put democratic principles before electoral profits. Sadly, leadership is nowhere to be found on this issue," Robinson concluded.

American government pays for Starr attacks

Vladimir Matusevitch, former head of the Russian division of the Voice of America, distributed English translations of broadcasts of the U.S. government's Radio Liberty to a conference recently. These broadcasts into Russia call Ken Starr a "Salem witch hunter," compare him to Torquemada and the Spanish Inquisition, compare his investigation to killings in the circuses of Ancient Rome, and call President Clinton a victim of "inquisitorial harassment by a fanatical prosecutor with unlimited power."

Radio Liberty has also broadcast, Matusevitch said, that Starr puts "democracy in danger." They've also broadcast the view that, "if no moral brakes exist" upon Ken Starr and other Americans who insist on investigating possible perjury and obstruction of justice, then, "regardless of... the U.S. Constitution, regardless of U.S. state laws, [Americans] are obligated to be guided by international law, which is above national law, [which says], (No one has the right to invade a person's private life.'"

Radio Liberty has not broadcast the other side of this issue, said Matusevitch, such as Senator Joe Lieberman's (D-CT) Senate speech or New York Times editorials criticizing Clinton. Radio Liberty is run by Clinton appointee Thomas Dine. Matusevitch also distributed a column by Dine in an official Radio Liberty publication largely dedicated to a vociferous attack on Ken Starr.

Ordered to "alter figures" says former Canada Pension Plan actuary

The man formerly in charge of monitoring the Canada Pension Plan claimed that he was twice ordered to fudge a figure in his report on the plan's health because it would embarrass the government. Bernard Dussault, until August Canada's chief actuary for the CPP, said October 1 he refused his boss's request to change a number on two occasions before he was fired from his watchdog job.

John Palmer, the superintendent of financial institutions, called Dussault into his office on March 19 and again on April 17 to ask him to alter his findings, Dussault said.

"He was informed of some figures in the report and he asked me to change one of them from A to B . . ." Dussault said.

"He said, `Bernard, I am asking you to change the figures - the figure - because it would embarrass the minister.' "

It was the first time Dussault directly accused Palmer, a senior government appointee, of instructing him to change what is supposed to be an independent, professional assessment of the status of the CPP.

The chief actuary was fired August 25 and paid in lieu of notice over what Palmer has described as "management differences." His dismissal became public almost a month later.

Dussault's firing prompted an Opposition outcry, including the Reform party's allegations that Canadians may be getting sugar-coated readouts on the health of the pension plan.

Finance Minister Paul Martin promised Canadians when he hiked pension plan premiums that they would not rise above their current levels. He also said that the plan would be fully funded to guarantee baby boomers' their retirement income.

Reform critic Diane Ablonczy (Calgary-Nose Hill) has accused the government of getting rid of the actuary before his report came out because it would contain bad news that jeopardized Martin's ability to keep his promise.

Conservative MP Scott Brison released documents showing that the day before he was fired Dussault complained in writing of being stripped of a computer demographics program. The program was a key tool in making accurate projections.

Palmer has since filed a lawsuit against Dussault for libel.

He portrayed the chief actuary as simply an employee who was difficult to get along with during the four years Palmer supervised him.

"Everything was a battle," the superintendent said.

"The reality is that no one manager can have everything his own way. There have to be compromises and adherence to organization-wide policies."

Palmer refused to provide details of Dussault's management transgressions, citing privacy concerns and a threat of legal action. It was Palmer's decision alone to fire Dussault and he did not tell Finance Minister Paul Martin about his action until the day after Dussault was escorted from the building, Palmer said.

Although Dussault was under Palmer's supervision, he prepared his reports directly for the finance department.

Dussault would not say what figure Palmer asked him to change, since his report is confidential government property. But he said he spoke out because Palmer denied, during a news conference, that there was any political motivation for the firing.

"I don't know if he was politically motivated but for sure I'm telling you that he made a political intervention," Dussault said.

In the past, Palmer had asked Dussault to see his reports before they were finished, the superintendent said.

Dussault refused to show them to Palmer because the superintendent is not an actuary, Palmer said.

Martin insisted the day of Dussault's claim that he never suggested he had any problem with the numbers Dussault would produce. An official in his department had been briefed regularly on the progress of the report.

"I never indicated any such discomfort and in fact I am eagerly awaiting the report," Martin said.

"The integrity of the Canada Pension Plan is what is pre-eminent, in my mind."

He applauded a plan by Palmer to ask the Canadian Institute of Actuaries to oversee the report, which will now be completed by a consultant hired to supervise Dussault's team.

"What is most important to me is that this be done in as transparent and as open a manner as possible, because the bottom line is the integrity of the Canada Pension Plan, which I believe in very, very much.

"Quite clearly anything that would place a cloud on the Canada Pension Plan must be resolved, but I simply repeat that Mr. Palmer has categorically denied that," Martin said.

Peter Morse, president of the actuarial institute, said the institute will likely accept the government's request to oversee the report, provided it is free to look at whatever information it needs.
But Morse said he remains worried about Dussault's accusations that his independence was compromised.

"If there has been interference in terms of changing the report, the independence of the actuary is probably the biggest issue in this matter that concerns us," he said from Vancouver.

Former pro wrestler in Minnesota governor's race

To become Minnesota's next governor, Republican Norm Coleman not only will have to beat Attorney General Hubert Humphrey III, but he'll also have to pin another candidate in the race, an ex-pro wrestler known as "The Body."

Jesse Ventura, the Reform Party's candidate, is a former mayor, movie actor and wrestler and now an outspoken foe of Coleman, St. Paul's mayor.

To make matters worse, Ventura and Humphrey, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor nominee, appear to by double-teaming Coleman as Humphrey refuses to appear in debates unless Ventura is invited.

Ventura doesn't look much like the typical suit-and-tie candidate. At one recent forum, he showed up in black jeans, hiking boots, a camouflage shirt and a hat with a snakeskin band.

The Humphrey campaign maintains that he could lose as many voters to Ventura as Coleman, but there are skeptics.

"The fact that Humphrey and (running mate Roger) Moe want Ventura in so badly, to arrange for him to appear and demand on him to appear in debates, tells me they have some kind of evidence that it's to their advantage," Patrick Donnay, associate professor of political science at Bemidji State University, told The Associated Press.

In a poll after the September 15 primary, Humphrey led Coleman by 20 points.

Coleman has said that a vote for Ventura is really a vote for Humphrey. His spokeswoman, Cyndy Brucato, told the AP Coleman will appeal directly to voters attracted to Ventura.

"The Ventura voter is a voter who primarily is concerned about pocketbook issues," Brucato said. "Real fiscal discipline is very, very hard to achieve."

Ventura thinks he pulls equally from both candidates, and said he has been harder on Coleman simply because the mayor started it. Humphrey can expect equal treatment.

"I'm going to come out now and make statements, 'Do we dare have a Democratic governor and a Democratic Legislature?' If that's the case, hand over your wallet. 'Cause the government's going to have you living on an allowance," Ventura said.

That kind of dogma appeared to have worked through the early part of the campaign. Another poll later showed him doubling his support of 21 percent of likely voters.

Although in third place, Ventura's strong showing may have come at the expense of Democrat Hubert Humphrey III, which left him in a statistical tie with his GOP opponent.

Humphrey lost 14 percentage points from the last poll taken shortly after the September 15 primary, placing him at 35 percent. Republican Norm Coleman gained 5 percentage points and is at 34 percent.

The gap is statistically insignificant because of the estimated margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

FBI shops wish-list

A press release from Rep. Bob Barr's (R-GA) office on revealed that the FBI circulated a comprehensive legislative wish-list that is making most constitutional liberties advocates shuddering. According to Barr, the FBI took advantage of the chaotic situation in Washington DC with the close of the congressional session and the looming impeachment hearings to have liberty-eroding provisions inserted into various spending and emergency supplemental bills without a vote ever being taken on the individual proposals. Such a late-night tactic was utilized by the FBI in the waning hours of the 1994 congressional session to get a legislative authorization passed to expand its wiretapping authority through the CALEA legislation (the last bill passed in that session).

The specific provisions that Barr states the FBI floated around Capitol Hill includes:

  • A vastly expanded definition of terrorism to include domestic crimes having no relationship to terrorism.
  • The power to seize commercial transportation assets for federal use.
  • The ability to commander personnel from other federal agencies without reimbursement.
  • Expanded wiretap authority to allow "roving" wiretaps, and wiretaps without any court authority.
  • Enlarged asset forfeiture provisions to allow the FBI to seize personal property in both criminal and civil matters.
  • The establishment of a permanent "FBI Police Force."
  • Loosening of Posse Comitatus restrictions to allow more military involvement in domestic law enforcement.
  • Authority to force telephone and Internet companies to divulge information on their customers.

The FBI also used several freestanding pieces of legislation to accomplish their goals. The "roving" wiretap provision is part of HR 3753, the Multi Point Wiretap Act of 1998, sponsored by Reps. Bill McCollum (R-FL), Henry Hyde (R-IL) and Charles Shumer (D-NY). The forfeiture expansion, introduced by Sen. Max Cleland (D-GA), is included in S. 2341, the Western Hemisphere Drug Elimination Act, sponsored by Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH).

But the quiet passage of these measures is not going unopposed. Several organizations, concerned about the FBI's activity, are talking to legislators about the shopping list. "Many of these measures were rejected in the 1996 anti-terrorism legislation," said Greg Nojeim, Legislative Counsel for the ACLU. "What they don't get passed in the light of day, they try to get passed in the dark of night."

Opposition or not, the wish list was accepted. On October 7, US lawmakers inserted a provision expanding the FBI's capacity to eavesdrop on American citizens into an intelligence budget bill.

The so-called roving wiretap provision, an item on the wish list, was added to the Intelligence Authorization Act, (HR3694).

"Under this new law, the federal government will have the ability to eavesdrop on each and every one of us," said Barr, a former federal prosecutor and ex-CIA analyst who is running for a third term."

The provision, which allows law enforcement agencies to tap telephones used by or near targeted individuals rather than requiring authorization to tap specific phones, was rejected by Congress as part of the 1996 Anti-Terrorism bill.

It was introduced by a joint committee charged with reconciling the House and Senate versions of the intelligence budget.

Brazil re-elects Cardoso

Despite a failing economy, Brazilian voters chose to stick with the steady, familiar leadership of Henrique Cardoso as he headed for a second term -- the first Brazilian president ever re-elected.

On October 4, with 61 percent of the ballots counted Cardoso was leading with 51 percent, apparently winning a first-ballot victory to avoid a second-round runoff.

His closest rival, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of the leftist Workers Party had 34.2 percent, while Ciro Gomes of the Popular Socialist Party had 11 percent. Nine other candidates shared the rest.

Also at stake in the elections were 27 governorships, all 513 federal deputies, one-third of the 81-seat Senate and 1 405 state legislature seats.

Cardoso will face a tough task: to rein in the international financial crisis that began in Asia and now threatens his country, he is expected to slash government spending and may increase taxes.

Voting was mandatory for the 106 million Brazilians who were eligible to vote. For the first time, more the half of the votes were cast using electronic voting machines. The electronic votes tallied within 24 hours, but the rest weren't to be counted until Friday, electoral officials said.

Cardoso's margin of victory was expected to grow after the paper ballots -- cast mostly in rural regions traditionally loyal to the government -- were tallied.

"The result is much closer than expected, but I think Cardoso will end up with something between 53 and 54 percent as votes from the small towns come in," said David Fleischer, a professor of political science at Brasilia University.

Cardoso's popularity stems largely from his success in taming inflation from around 2,400 percent when he first took office to near zero now.

But economic woes in Russia and Asia have caused investors to lose confidence in Cardoso's inflation-taming measures, resulting in the loss of $30 billion in investment since mid-August.

Brazil's budget deficit also ballooned to $60 billion, while the government has raised interest rates to about 50 percent to stem the flow of capital flight.

To cope with the crisis, Cardoso has promised tough measures -- such as tax hikes and budget cuts -- that could erode his popularity.

"It's very good for Brazil that the president has received this mandate from the Brazilian people and that he can now do what is needed to protect the real (Brazil's currency) and the Brazilian people," said Foreign Minister Luis Felipe Lampreia.

Conservative web site sued for copyright-infringement

In what could be a groundbreaking case for the Internet, the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post filed a copyright-infringement lawsuit against a Web site that the papers say has repeatedly republished stories from both papers without permission.

The lawsuit, filed October 6 in a Los Angeles federal court, accuses the Free Republic site of posting hundreds of stories from both papers, causing them considerable loss in revenues and readers.

A lawyer representing the newspapers said that regardless of repeated warnings, the site, which is operated out of Fresno, California, has been posting stories for a long time. The site is a collection point for numerous political commentaries and reports culled from around the Web and a host to chat forums on the hot political topics of the day.

Site operator Jim Robinson said he has done nothing wrong and that the practice of republishing material on the Web is protected by the First Amendment and the "fair use" provision of copyright law.

Under the fair use term, sections of copyrighted works are allowed to be duplicated if they are within the context of commentary -- such as including excerpted material in a book review.

The suit is expected to be closely monitored by the online community as a potential groundbreaking attempt to address online copyright protection.

Robinson said he believes he has been specifically targeted because of the right-wing commentary on his site, and says he will fight the lawsuit every step of the way.

Canadian politcal columnist/publisher wins Colin M. Brown Freedom Medal

The National Citizens' Coalition announced on October 8 that political columnist and publisher Ted Byfield is this year's winner of the Colin M. Brown Freedom Medal.

"Ted is an ideal recipient for this award," said NCC president Stephen Harper in a statement. "Through his journalistic education and business activities, Ted has been a lifelong and stalwart defender of small-c conservative principles and limited government."

This year happens to be the 25th anniversary of United Western Communications, Byfield's independent publishing firm.

"Ted deserves recognition for the success he's had all these years, in providing a conservative media voice through the Western Report chain of publications," said Harper.

The Freedom Medal is awarded annually to a person who has made an outstanding contribution to the advancement or defense of political or economic freedom and commemorates the late founder of the NCC, who first started his crusade for "more freedom through less government" in 1967. Brown died March 4, 1987.

Byfield will receive the medal at a luncheon in Toronto on November 9 and a dinner in Calgary on November 17.

Previous recipients of the medal include Ontario premier Mike Harris, Alberta premier Ralph Klein, columnist Barbara Amiel, retired Progressive Conservative politician John Crosbie, businessman Thomas Bata, Michael Walker, Diane Francis and David Somerville.

Alberta energy minister changes tune, loves Kyoto climate treaty!

Federal officials are welcoming a news report suggesting Alberta Energy Minister Steve West has undergone a startling change of attitude on the global warming issue.

West, an outspoken opponent of the Kyoto climate treaty signed last year, was quoted in a Calgary newspaper October 8 as saying his previous criticisms did not reflect his real beliefs.

West said new energy controls will have to be established for all industries. "You will see new standards, believe me."

An aide to Environment Minister Christine Stewart said the comments appear to signal a significant change in Alberta’s position.

Energy Minister Ralph Goodale was more cautious in his reaction:

"On the face of the article as I read it Thursday [October 8], it was a very constructive statement," said Goodale in an interview.

"It indicates a willingness to work together, to address the real issues, to get the job done. Whether he or the Alberta government would interpret that as some kind of a change in course . . . would really be for them to say."

A spokeswoman for West said there was no text of the speech which was delivered in Calgary two days earlier although not reported until October 8.

West was not available for comment.

At Kyoto, Canada pledged to cut its greenhouse emissions by six per cent from 1990 levels by 2008 - 2012.

The Calgary Herald quoted West as disavowing his attacks on the deal.

"If I was trying to give a critical analysis, I wasn’t giving my true feelings. I won’t go down that path again because I honestly believe we could be doing a better job."

House of Representatives approves impeachment inquiry

The House of Representatives made history October 8 by voting 258 - 176 to begin an impeachment inquiry into President Bill Clinton.

A total of 31 Democrats joined the Republicans to approve a free-ranging probe of perjury and obstruction of justice allegations against Clinton stemming from the his attempts to hide his sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

The Judiciary Committee will begin work immediately setting up hearings that could begin shortly after the November mid-term elections.

Although the outcome of the vote was all but certain, both Democrats and Republicans took to the floor of the House to passionately debate the proposals.

"This is the crucial business of the country," said Rep. Bob Inglis (R- South Carolina). "As we go into the next century the question is 'Does the truth even matter?'"

Rep. Paul McHale (D-Pennsylvania) became the first to break ranks and publicly support the Republican proposal.

"Having deliberately provided false testimony under oath, the president, in my judgment, forfeited his right to office," McHale said.

In addition to McHale there were 25 or so Democrats considered most in danger of losing their seat in next month's elections. Add to them another 24 or so Blue Dog Democrats -- moderate Southerners -- and an unknown number of Democrats who are personally offended by Clinton's behavior and those angered at what they see as unseemly White House lobbying.

Before the House voted to proceed with the Republican proposal for an open-ended inquiry, the members voted down the Democrats' last-ditch attempt to limit the scope and time of investigation by sending the proposal back to the Judiciary Committee for revision.

The motion to "recommit" the proposal to the committee was defeated 198 to 236. Ten Democrats voted against the motion and one Republican voted for the Democratic sponsored motion.

With an impeachment inquiry officially approved the Judiciary Committee investigation will begin immediately.

Republican chief investigator David Schippers will next decide how many people he needs to depose, and how far afield from the Starr investigation he wants to go.

Hearings could begin very shortly after the November 3 election day, and might include star-witness appearances from the likes of Lewinsky or Linda Tripp.

At some point, the House will have to decide whether to formally adopt articles of impeachment, work out some sort of censure deal or drop the whole thing.

Making hay out of tragedy

On October 10, U.S. President Bill Clinton called for the passage of a hate crimes law after a gay student at the University of Wyoming, Matthew Shepard, was brutally beaten. Shepard later died of his injuries.

A passerby found Shepard tied a wooden fence, after he had been abandoned in near-freezing temperatures for 12 hours. Shepard was admitted to the hospital late October 7 suffering from hypothermia, welts, abrasions and a fractured skull.

Shepard had received a massive blow to the right side of head, which compressed his skull into the brain.

Clinton issued a statement saying he was "deeply grieved" by the violence. He called the beating a hate crime and said the Justice Department was keeping him informed about the investigation by local authorities.

The president said it was not too late for Congress to make all Americans feel safer by passing the Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

He said the act would strengthen and expand the ability of the Justice Department to prosecute such crimes by removing "jurisdictional obstacles" and allowing for the prosecution of hate crimes committed because of the victim's sexual orientation, gender or disability.

Hold off gun registration, Saskatchewan's justice minister says

Gun owners shouldn't be too quick on the draw registering their firearms, Saskatchewan's justice minister said October 13.

John Nilson joined a growing chorus of voices advising people to hold off registration until well after new federal gun legislation kicks in Dec. 1.

"There is a five-year period within which you can register and so there's no great pressure to register any sooner than you have to," Nilson said. "Practically, I think (people) should wait and see. Wait until the Supreme Court has dealt with this."

Many opponents of the legislation, including the federal Reform party, have urged gun owners to wait until the last minute to apply because the flood of paperwork would cripple the registry.

Nilson's comments follow Premier Roy Romanow's announcement October 9 that Saskatchewan's NDP government will support Alberta in asking the Supreme Court to declare the new legislation unconstitutional.

Alberta is appealing a ruling by the province's appeal court that the law is constitutional.

Nilson wants Ottawa to put the gun registry on hold until the appeal is heard.

"If the court determines that Bill C-68 is unconstitutional, as our government has maintained, then all of the expenditures which will have been made by the federal government are for nothing -- a waste of taxpayers' money," he said.

Nilson said the law infringes on provincial jurisdiction and complained that the provinces were never consulted properly. He also said there's no proof the legislation will cut down on crime.

The new law will require the country's three million gun owners to register an estimated seven million firearms.

As of December 1, owners will be required to start filling out registration forms which will be available mainly in police stations and post offices.

Opponents of gun control argue the computerized registry will be an expensive and bureaucratic nightmare. They say it will penalize law abiding gun owners but won't prevent criminals from gaining access to weapons.

Republicans work to keep it a two party race in Illinois...the less than honorable way

Two new political parties are calling for change in Illinois' election laws after state officials removed their slates of candidates from the November ballot.

The State Board of Elections ruled October 13 that the U.S. Taxpayers Party and the Libertarian Party had not collected the minimum 25 000 voter signatures needed to qualify for a ballot slot as a new party.

"The whole process, in my opinion, is a game by the established parties to keep third parties off the ballot," said Andrew Spiegel, an attorney for the Libertarians and the party's 1992 U.S. Senate candidate.

He said candidates should only have to pay a moderate filing fee to get on the ballot rather than file petitions.

"Illinois is notorious for the difficulties imposed on independents seeking office," said Bill Savageau, co-chairman of the Taxpayers Party.

But Andrew M. Raucci, an attorney for the Republican officials who challenged the Libertarian slate, noted that several other independent candidates had successfully appeared on Illinois ballots in the past.

Both the Taxpayers and the Libertarians had submitted candidates for the U.S. Senate and all six state constitutional offices, from governor on down.

But in separate 8-0 decisions, the Board of Elections decided the parties had not met the threshold to appear on the ballot.

The two parties submitted a combined total of more than 100 000 signatures to support their ballot bids. Elections officials racked up overtime and worked weekends to comb through the paperwork as frustrated county clerks waited to hear which names should appear on the ballot.

A state hearing officer determined that 26 610 of the Libertarian Party's 60 638 signatures met the state's criteria -- still enough to put the party on the ballot.

But Raucci argued the vast number of disqualified signatures showed a "pattern of fraud" that should knock the Libertarians off the ballot.

Raucci noted that the state hearing officer found many of the Libertarians' petitions appeared to have been signed by only a few people using different handwriting styles. Those petitions were eliminated, but other petitions signed by the same collectors were allowed.

Anyone who collects signatures must swear under oath that the signatures are true.

The board agreed with Raucci that, because nine of the collectors did not appear credible, all of the sheets of signatures that they submitted should have been eliminated. The decision put the Libertarians' final total below 25 000, though board officials were still working out the exact count late Tuesday.

"This is not a case of technicalities," Raucci said. "This is a case of outright fraud."

The Taxpayers Party, meanwhile, originally submitted 39 855 signatures. But the total dropped after elections officials removed unregistered voters, seemingly fraudulent signatures and petitions that had not been notarized or circulated properly.

The board finally decided the party had fallen 1 002 signatures short.

Neither party had decided October 13 if they would appeal the decisions.

The Libertarians were led by gubernatorial candidate Jim Tobin, a veteran anti-tax crusader. The Taxpayers' candidate for governor was Paul Lindstrom, an advocate of home schooling who opposes taxes, abortion and gay rights.

Disabled? Get out of the forests say environmentalists

Earlier this summer, a number of disabled residents of New York state found out just how insensitive environmentalists can be to the needs of the handicapped. Under pressure from environmentalists, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) earlier this year moved to revoke permits it had issued to disabled citizens to use motorized vehicles in the Adirondack Forest Preserve and other state forests. The move would have effectively denied the handicapped access to these natural treasures.

In July, handicapped residents fought back by suing the DEC, the Adirondack Park Agency and Governor George Pataki under the Americans with Disabilities Act. On July 28, the plaintiffs won the first round against environmentalists when Federal District Judge Lawrence Kahn issued a restraining order prohibiting the DEC from revoking the permits.

$580 billion debt? In Canada, it will only take 190 years to pay it off!

The federal government came out $3.5 billion ahead in the last fiscal year, but with economic storms blowing across the world, this isn't the time for big tax cuts or new spending, Canadian Finance Minister Paul Martin said October 14.

Martin said the 1997-98 surplus has already been applied to the national debt, which stood at $579.7 billion at the end of the fiscal year.

"This marks the first time in 28 years that Canada has actually paid down the debt," he told the Commons finance committee.

To put this in context, however, it would take over 190 years to pay off the total debt if a meager $3.5 billion a year was put towards it. It only took 30 years to rack it up. Six generations to pay for one generation.

Martin has faced calls for lower taxes, more transfers to the provinces, more debt reduction and lower employment insurance premiums. But Martin said meeting those demands would sink the budget back into deficit.

"We will do what we can," he said. "But we will only do what we can afford."

Martin promised another balanced budget this year, but didn't offer his own prediction for a surplus. Instead, he said, private forecasters are calling for a $5 billion cushion. Take away his $3 billion contingency fund and that would leave only $2 billion; not enough to finance any major tax cuts or spending increases.

Martin also made hazy promises about shoring up the health care system, but refused to go into details about the small $1.2 trillion unfunded liability the system has.

Martin proved once again in his report, elect a Liberal and only count on sending more money to Ottawa.

Elect a socialist and back to the medieval ages you go!

Germany's future center-left government will open talks with nuclear industry leaders within in the next year on shutting down atomic power plants, a party leader said October 15

Wolfgang Thierse, deputy chairman of Chancellor-elect Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats, told German radio, however, that no decision has been made in coalition talks with the environmentalist Greens on a deadline for the exit from nuclear power.

Both parties agree on the goal of ending the use of atomic energy, "whose risks I don't have to describe anymore," Thierse said.

He said industry leaders would be invited to help find a reasonable solution "so that it doesn't come to (forced) closings of nuclear power plants and damage claims against the government and the tax payer."

Thierse said Germany's 19 nuclear plants could close at different times, based on their age and condition.

German utilities, though, have already threatened to file multibillion-mark lawsuits against any forced shutdowns.

The Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper reported October 15 that the two future coalition partners have agreed to enact a law with a time frame for abandoning nuclear energy if the talks with nuclear plant operators fail.

Instead of promoting the exploitation of nuclear energy, as current law does, the new government will pass a new law based on the principle of ending its use, the newspaper said.

Elections are more important than principles (White House and Congress reach deal on budget)

White House and congressional negotiators, bolstered by compromises on the major issues of education and agriculture, reached a deal October 15 on the 1999 budget.

Clinton was pleased that Republicans have accepted his plan to hire 100 000 more school teachers, while Republicans took credit for preserving a surplus.

"The president came into the negotiations and wanted to spend as much as possible of the surplus," said Rep. Dick Armey, Republican majority leader. "But I can tell you, Mr. and Mrs. American, for the most part, your surplus is still intact."

Among the huge compromises both sides made were Republicans were dropping language blocking gay adoptions in the nation's capital. For their part, Democrats dropped their demand for taxpayer-financed needle distribution to District of Columbia drug addicts.

The Clinton administration got $18 billion to replenish International Monetary Fund credit, but with the GOP conditions that the IMF take steps to make its operations more open and effective.

Details also were being worked out on a near $20 billion emergency spending package that included the agriculture aid, money for disaster victims, peacekeeping in Bosnia, the year 2000 computer problem and, at the urging of Republicans, $9.7 billion for military readiness, a national defense system and intelligence.

Mayor finally reads Gay Pride proclamation...kind of

A few months ago Enter Stage Right told you the story of a mayor of a Canadian city who refused to declare a proclamation for Gay Pride Weekend. A New Brunswick Human Rights Commission told the mayor he had to do it and on October 13 he finally did...kind of.

Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside finally read aloud the proclamation for a Gay Pride Weekend.

The only problem is that nobody really heard him read it.

A supplementary order, written by Brian Bruce of the Human Rights board of inquiry, told Woodside to read the proclamation in "the traditional manner."

It may be left to Bruce to decide if the actions of the mayor in pushing the microphone away from him in the council chamber and declaring the proclamation in a quiet voice constitutes a traditional reading.

"It may be debatable as to what that means," said Bruce, a University of New Brunswick law professor.

"I am here if the parties wish to come back and request something further. I will certainly consider whether it falls within any jurisdiction that I may have."

The request to proclaim a Gay Pride Weekend was presented to the mayor in 1995. After the mayor refused, arguing that sexual orientation has no place in council chambers, Allison Brewer of the Coalition for Human Rights Reform and Kim Hill of the Fredericton Lesbians and Gays (FLAG) lodged a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.

The commission ordered Woodside to read the proclamation but again he refused. It was only in September, after the board of inquiry ordered the mayor to comply, that Mr. Woodside agreed to proclaim a Gay Pride Weekend.

The week before the non-proclamation, Brewer and Hill presented City Hall with a request for a proclamation once more. And while the proclamation was not included on the agenda for the October 13 council meeting, Woodside read aloud the Gay Pride Weekend proclamation (written by Bruce) and four other proclamations.

"We watched what had to be just about the most bizarre thing I've ever seen in city council," Brewer said.

"The prayers are read and then Woodside pushes the mike aside and starts shuffling papers."

The mayor spoke briefly under his breath, said Brewer, who was seated in the public gallery with a small group of supporters, and then he left. After Woodside's departure, Deputy Mayor Walter Brown oversaw the remaining items on the council agenda.

"I have no idea what he said. No idea," said Brewer. "I don't believe it was read at all. That was not reading a proclamation. When you read a proclamation, you read it so everyone can hear.

"It was a childish trick on behalf of the mayor. I would have expected more, even of Brad Woodside, who has shown no class during this entire process. I still would have expected more."

For the mayor, the reading of the proclamation - whether he shouted or whispered the words - ends the issue. He maintains that he read it aloud, along with the other proclamations, and that he did it in the manner that he felt comfortable.

"I read the proclamation," Woodside said. "Not loud enough for them to hear me up there, but I read it.

"This isn't an 'I won/You won.' They were sitting there [Tuesday] night, a bunch of them and all smiling, like this is a big victory for us. This is not a victory for anybody. The sooner they understand that, the better off they are going to be."

While Gay Pride events across North America are normally held in June, Brewer said it was decided to hold a pride event in October while it was still in the minds of the citizens of Fredericton.

Brewer said they wanted to get the first proclamation read as soon after the board of inquiry order as possible to avoid any more lengthy debate on the issue.

Whoops! Antarctica not shrinking, scientists say

Fears that the icy wastes of Antarctica are shrinking and causing the sea level to rise dangerously are misplaced, scientists said on Thursday. The team of British, Dutch and American scientists from University College London, who have been measuring the continent's ice sheet for the last five years, concluded that most of the ice stored there was "very stable."

"The icy continent now looks an unlikely source of rising global sea level this century, making thermal expansion of the ocean due to global warming, and the shrinking of mountain glaciers, more likely causes," Professor Duncan Wingham, leader of the scientific research team, said.

Wingham may continue blaming global warming for rising sea levels, but make no mistake, the loss of Antarctica as a boogeyman harms a lot of the pet theories of scientists.

Such is the rate at which the world's oceans are rising that millions of homes near sea level could be underwater in two centuries if current predictions are correct, Wingham said.

His team of scientists used space satellites to determine whether the thickness of the Antarctic ice sheet had changed over a five-year period between 1992 and 1996.

They found that the Antarctic ice sheet had changed on average by less than 1 cm (0.4 inches) a year and calculated that melting within the ice sheet interior had contributed only 1.7 cm to sea level rise this century.

The sea level this century has risen 18 cm over the past 100 years, Wingham said, adding that scientists in the past have blamed the Antarctic for some 14 cm of that overall change.

"Scientists have never really understood the role the Antarctica has played in this century's rising sea level. Our research makes it likely that the answer is 'very little'," the British scientist said.

Attendance like this would get me fired

Since January 23, 1998 Bill "I'm-For-Progress-Not-Politics" Clinton has held two cabinet meetings and attended 97 political fund raisers. The two cabinet meetings were (1) to lie to his cabinet about Monica then, (2) to tell them he had lied to his cabinet about Monica.

The Republican National Committee also pointed out he has spent 32 days on vacation "including 13 at Martha's Vineyard."

Did you enjoy Columbus Day?

How did you celebrate Columbus Day?

In Honduras, Indians reportedely sentenced 15th-century explorer Christopher Columbus for crimes against indigenous Americans. In July they began a mock trial of Columbus on charges of genocide and robbery resulting from the 1492 beginnings of the colonization of the Americas. On October 11, some 1 000 Indians blocked access to Mayan ruins and other tourist sites as part of a protest leading up to Columbus Day.

No word whether these same Indians tried their own ancestors for genocide, mass murder, murder through sacrifice, environmental destruction, slavery among other crimes.

Don't make greenhouse gas reductions compulsory, says Klein

Alberta cannot achieve reduced greenhouse gas emission targets by 2010 and Ottawa should not make it compulsory, says Premier Ralph Klein.

"This province would be hurt by arbitrary, mandated reductions," Klein said October 15

"We're saying, yes there is a problem but the only thing that we will argue is the Kyoto accord is unachievable and would have very serious impacts on Alberta in particular because we produce about 85 per cent of the CO2 (in Canada)."

"The policy that we would like to have adopted is abandon the notion of compulsory, arbitrary, non-achievable levels and work with industry, work with the provincial governments to bring about a program of best efforts to try and meet those levels but don't mandate it, don't make it arbitrary because we don't know what the cost is going to be."

At Kyoto, Canada pledged to cut its greenhouse emissions -- pollution from the burning of oil, gas and coal -- by six per cent from 1990 levels by 2008-2012.

In August, federal Environment Minister Christine Stewart said Canada will ratify the Kyoto agreement despite strong objections from Alberta.

When asked about that, Klein said: "Big problem."

Alberta will instead appeal to directly to Prime Minister Jean Chretien, Klein said.

"We're going to try to hold the prime minister to his word, that before any position is taken to Buenos Aires that he will have consensus amongst Canadians represented by their ministers."

Klein's comments followed the release of a Tory cabinet committee report on climate change.

It recommends scientific research and development, called on industry and government to voluntarily reduce emissions, and the establishment of a private-public sector partnership to have Albertans talk about climate change.

Klein said Ontario, a large energy consuming province, as well as the Maritimes, which are getting into oil and gas projects, should support Alberta in its quest for non-binding reduction levels.

When are we going to allow hunting PETA members?

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) picketed the New England Aquarium October 15 to protest the fact that fish are both on display (in tanks) and on the menu (in the cafeteria).

Members carried placards telling aquarium visitors that "Fish are friends, not food" and "Fishing hurts." One protester even dressed in a fish suit to illustrate the group's message: Fish shouldn't be on plates at a place that claims to cherish them.

"I'm sure it must be a very moving experience to see all these beautiful, incredible animals swimming around. And then we go and put a fork in them in the cafeteria. It's just unnecessary," said Dawn Carr, a PETA spokeswoman.

The aquarium defended itself in a statement on its Web site.

"While it may seem contradictory that a public aquarium, whose mission is to present, promote and protect the world of water, is serving seafood, we don't think it's so strange. People have eaten seafood for thousands of years," the statement said.

The animals in the exhibits never end up on the menu, and the seafood items sold in the cafeteria during the day and served at evening functions are all species from healthy populations caught using responsible fishing practices, according to the aquarium's statement.

"We make every effort to ensure that the seafood we serve comes from a sustainable source, a fishery where people are permitted to harvest only as much fish as the ecosystem can continue to replenish," the statement said.

PETA wants the aquarium to adopt a vegetarian menu with fake seafood, such as tuna and salmon made from soybeans.

As it turns out, hot dogs are the top seller at the aquarium's Harbor Cafe. However, other favorites are fish sandwiches, fish nuggets and clam chowder. The menu for evening functions is more upscale and includes grilled shrimp, tuna, crab cakes and salmon.

Todd Mulder, the aquarium's food services director, pointed out that other foods on the menu, including the hamburgers and chicken sandwiches, were once alive. If he only served food without a face, he would face unemployment, Mulder said.

"Unfortunately," he said, "I think most eating is heartless."

Show me the money

It was reported on October 17 that Paula Jones' attorneys made a $2 million out-of-court settlement offer in her sexual-harassment lawsuit against President Bill Clinton.

The offer would have required the president to pay $1 million, with the balance coming from New York real estate tycoon Abe Hirschfeld, who has offered $1 million "to put this case behind us."

The offer, which came after a day of haggling among Jones' lawyers over their fees, received a cold reception by Clinton's representatives.

Days later the president's lawyers officially refused the settlement offer.

Voter turnout low as Reformers win Alberta Senate race

Albertans were bamboozled by the government in Ottawa not to vote for senators-in-waiting, the two victorious Calgarians said October 19.

Reformers Bert Brown and Ted Morton were easily romping to victory in the Senate race but the figure everyone was watching - voter turnout - remained low even by civic election standards.

"It's too early to say for sure but if that happens, it just means the (federal) Liberals have been successful in confusing the voters of Alberta," Morton said from Calgary.

"The federal government has done everything they could to keep people from voting," Brown agreed.

Morton and Brown will now take up the unusual title of senators-in-waiting, with no salary, no office and no job description beyond being a constant reminder of the existing Senate's unelected nature.

They said their first order of business would be to meet with Premier Ralph Klein and then confer with the federal Reform caucus on how to push Senate reform forward.

"It's wonderful," Brown said. "I started this thing with seven people in my basement and we took it to the national stage."

Low turnout had threatened to undermine the campaign ever since Premier Ralph Klein's own Conservative party announced it would not field a candidate in the election he'd called himself.

With the provincial Liberals and the abolition-minded New Democrats also boycotting the vote, it was left to the Reform party and Independent Guy Desrosiers to make it a race, along with Reform's third choice, Vance Gough, who put up his name to ensure a vote if Desrosiers withdrew.

The sputtering race got a brief lift in mid-campaign when Prime Minister Jean Chretien swiftly followed the sudden retirement of senator Jean Forest by appointing former Conservative MP and anti-nuclear activist Doug Roche to the red chamber.

But despite the outrage that move prompted from the candidates and Klein - who called it a slap in the face to Albertans - that anger never translated into public interest.

"At the end of the day, we're going to have two legitimate, authorized spokesmen for Senate reform," Reform's campaign manager Ezra Levant said.

See, Cuba is no threat!

Fidel Castro last month admitted to sending spies to the United States to gather information about "terrorist activities" by anti-Castro political groups, but the Cuban leader denied there were any attempts to spy on the U.S. military.

In an interview on October 20, Castro said, "Yes, we have sometimes dispatched Cuban citizens to the United States to infiltrate counterrevolutionary organizations, to inform us about activities that are of great interest to us."

"I think we have the right to do this," he said. "The United States has spies in industrial quantities."

The comments were believed to be the first time the Cuban leader has made such an admission.

Ten alleged Cuban spies were arrested in Florida in September in what authorities say is the largest Cuban spy ring uncovered in the United States since Castro came to power in 1959.

They were charged with trying to penetrate U.S. military bases, infiltrate anti-Castro exile groups and manipulate U.S. media and political organizations.

Castro made his comments during an interview in Portugal, where he was attending the Ibero-American summit. He was responding to a question about the arrests, acknowledging that Cuba placed spies in the United States.

"What information in the United States is it that interests us? One bit of information exclusively -- one thing fundamentally -- and that is the information about the terrorist activities against Cuba. The information about sabotage plans," he said.

Castro, however, denied sending spies to collect information on the U.S. military.

"We aren't interested in strategic matters, nor are we interested in information about military bases," Castro said.

But he said movements of U.S. military near Cuba would be of interest if the moves "translate into an act of aggression against Cuba. But we know that at this time that is not the fundamental thinking of the U.S. government."

Fernando Rojas, spokesman for the Cuban American National Foundation, an anti-Castro lobbying group based in Miami, said the interview with Castro was further evidence the Cuban leader continues to be a threat to U.S. national security.

Don't diss Clinton, soldiers warned

Military authorities are warning officers and enlisted personnel that "contemptuous words" about President Bill Clinton could lead to disciplinary action, the Los Angeles Times reported on Ocotober 20.

The threat reportedly reflects a concern over public criticism of Clinton for his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

It was unclear what punishments were possible, though an Air Force officer said they tended to be mild unless comments come from high-ranking officers or were widely distributed.

A Marine major has denounced Clinton in a newspaper column and an Army colonel criticized the president in a letter to the editor. Marine officers also have circulated an e-mail petition calling for Clinton's impeachment.

"One should call an adulterous liar exactly what he is -- a criminal," Maj. Shane Sellers, a 20-year Marine veteran, wrote October 19 in a column in Navy Times.

Army Col. John R. Baer also criticized Clinton in a letter published October 12 in the Army Times. Baer urged the commander in chief to stop issuing signed letters of appreciation to officers when they retire.

When Baer received his own certificate at his recent retirement ceremony, the letter brought scorn from attending soldiers, he wrote. Baer sent back his certificate, torn to pieces, and told Clinton "character is important and you've negotiated yours away."

In response to the public criticisms, Marine deputy commandant Gen. Terrence Drake warned generals that Marines should stay out of the controversy. Sellers' column was under review for possible discipline.

Military code bars officers from uttering "contemptuous words" about the president or other civilian leaders. Enlisted personnel are barred under service regulations from criticizing officials.

James R. McDonough, a retired officer who now works in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, castigated Clinton recently in an op-ed article published in the Wall Street Journal.

McDonough, who led U.S. troops in Bosnia in 1995, said there have been "no repercussions" from top administration officials about his comments.

"I'm still here," he told the Times.

Air Force officials also are circulating a cautionary memo, warning that jokes about Clinton violate code if their language is "insulting, rude or disdainful."

Mrs. Starr speaks out

Alice Starr says her family is trying to keep a semblance of normalcy in their lives even as her husband is "maligned" for his investigation of the president's sexual affair.

The wife of special prosecutor Kenneth Starr, in an interview in the November-December issue of Mirabella, also says that her husband has managed to leave the stress of the Clinton/Lewinsky case at the office.

"He has never brought home any of the facts. He feels strongly about protecting his family," Ms. Starr tells Mirabella in what the magazine says is her first published interview.

Ms. Starr, a public relations executive, decided to speak out after New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd suggested that her husband is sex-crazed because of the lurid details he included in his report on President Clinton's affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

"I probably read more than Ken does and have recently looked at some of the cable programs that describe all this, and it hurts me to see him maligned," she says.

"The most frustrating thing is that he can't defend himself. He's not allowed to speak," she says.

Starr's selection as special prosecutor in 1994 changed the couple's life to a pressure-cooker existence, according to the article. He receives death threats, hasn't had a weekend off in four years and must run a daily gantlet of reporters and cameras just to leave his driveway.

Despite that, the Starrs, who have three children, have maintained a semblance of a home life, in which he coached a softball team and she shops, cooks, cleans and chauffeurs neighborhood children, the article said.

"But the fact is he's a very loving husband, he's a very loving father, and our marriage will be unaffected by all this," Ms. Starr says.

Career politician lectures on corporate responsibility

Corporations that slash jobs unthinkingly may be following a self-defeating course in the long run, Finance Minister Paul Martin suggested October 21 in the wake of 3 000 layoffs at Canadian National.

But he insisted his remarks were aimed at the corporate sector in general, not at the one-time Crown-owned railway that now is in private hands.

"I have said on numerous occasions that the downsizing that has taken place over the last two or three years in many cases really is the equivalent of dumbsizing," Martin told the Commons.

"It leads to a lack of employee loyalty, leads to absenteeism and I don't think it makes a lot of sense."

The remarks came in response to New Democrat MP Bill Blaikie, who had specifically cited the CN cuts and asked the finance minister to go on record in favour of a corporate responsibility to maintain jobs.

Martin prefaced his comment with the caution that the private sector has to make its own decisions, and insisted later that he was speaking of a continent-wide trend and not aiming his barbs at any particular firm.

"I was just answering the question that was asked," he said as he left the House. "I was speaking at the North American level."

Transport Minister David Collenette expressed regret at the layoffs but said there's nothing the government can do.

An injection of federal funds is out of the question, he indicated. "Canadian National now is a private company . . . they have to weather the good times and the bad."

Nothing like an informed voter

Without fanfare, U.S. President Bill Clinton signed what is being called the largest piece of legislation in American history -- the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 1998...some 4 000 pages.

Most legislators, aides and lobbyists can only guess at what items were squirreled away in the package deal that GOP leaders and White House negotiators first assembled behind closed doors. In its final hurdle on Capitol Hill, the spending measure cleared the Senate the morning of October 21 on a 65-29 vote.

Congress is "beginning to resemble a kind of bastard parliamentary system" where the "real decisions are made in a closed room by three or four people," said Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-New York), one of nine Senate Democrats to vote against the budget bill. Also voting "no" were 20 Senate Republicans.

And then there was the tweaking of the budget by lawmakers eager to curry favor with voters back home by including pet projects.

"No one knows how many millions of dollars have been tucked away for special projects for individual members behind a curtain," said Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska), explaining why he voted against the spending measure.

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-West Virginia) bluntly called the budget "a colossal monstrosity" after giving it a thumbs down.

"This bill is a shameful example of why the American public has become cynical and skeptical of government. We seem to have forgotten that all these programs, whether meritorious or not, must be paid for," complained Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), who also voted against the $520 billion dollar measure.

In his statement on the Senate floor, McCain also named what he considered to be egregious pork-barrel spending in the new budget. Here are a few of those highlighted spending programs:

  • $250 000 to an Illinois firm to research caffeinated chewing gum.
  • $1 million for peanut quality research in Georgia.
  • $1.1 million for manure handling and disposal in Starkville, Mississippi.
  • $5 million for a new International Law Enforcement Academy in Roswell, New Mexico.
  • $162 000 for research on peach tree longevity in South Carolina.
  • $64 000 for urban pest research in Georgia.

"Designating spending as an emergency doesn't make it free. It still has to be paid for," said McCain. And some beneficiaries of a $20 billion emergency spending package will be surprised when they get the aid.

Milk prices are at an all-time high and the federal government is supposed to be phasing out support for the dairy industry. But the $6 billion farm-relief package includes $200 million for dairy producers.

"This is simply getting even politically on the part of some members of Congress interested in the dairy industry. I don't know what other logic one could apply to it," said John Schnittker Sr., an agribusiness consultant and former Agriculture Department economist.

As a measure of how the multi-billion dollar budget was straining GOP ties, Sen. Don Nickles of Oklahoma, the No. 2 Senate Republican, also voted against the budget. His superior in the chamber's leadership, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Mississippi), helped negotiate the agreement.

Some conservatives reacted to the budget by hollering "off with their heads." Howard Phillips, chairman of the Conservative Caucus, wants Lott and House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia) to lose their leadership positions when Congress returns in January. And Phillips says any lawmaker who votes to re-elect either GOP leader should also be held responsible for the budget, whether or not they voted for it.

The White House is pleased with the budget package. As for the grumbling over alleged pork, officials say they would cut those items out if they could.

"Unfortunately some members have put some things in there that ... if we still had the tool of the line-item veto we might exercise," said White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart. "But on balance we think the right thing to do is to sign the legislation based on the gains for the American people."

Police arrest Greenpeace protesters aboard cargo ship

Police boarded a cargo ship October 22 and hauled away Greenpeace protesters who had fastened themselves to the ship for more than two days.

The activists, dressed in bright orange jumpsuits, tied themselves to the ship's loading crane next to a large banner protesting logging. They claimed the cargo ship Thorseggen was hauling more than 8 000 tons of newsprint made from old-growth trees logged in the Canadian rainforest.

At the steamship company's request, about 20 officers boarded the 570-foot ship and arrested four protesters for trespassing, said Harry Ericson, a LAPD police spokesman. Two others were arrested on a small inflatable boat near the vessel.

In all, eight were arrested and were expected to be booked for investigation of misdemeanor trespassing, police said.

One activist spoke frantically into a cellular telephone as SWAT team members patiently untied ropes suspending her from the ship. Police hoisted her down and handcuffed her.

Vancouver-based International Forest Products Ltd. denied the company destroyed old-growth rainforests and accused Greenpeace of distributing false information to boost fund-raising efforts.

Two days earlier, the protesters were in small boats when the ship entered the Los Angeles port at daybreak. About 10 jumped into the water to slow the ship and four managed to get aboard when it veered sharply to starboard and slowed, said Coast Guard spokesman Josh O'Brien.

Thomas Henningsen, a spokesman for Greenpeace, said the demonstrators chained themselves to cranes used to unload cargo and hung a banner that read, "Stop Destroying the Great Bear Rain forest."

Former campus radicals found guilty of spy charges

Two former campus radicals, one of whom became a Pentagon lawyer, face up to life in prison for spying for the Soviet bloc.

Theresa Squillacote, 40, and Kurt Stand, 43, showed no emotion October 23 when they were convicted of conspiring to commit espionage, attempting espionage and illegally obtaining national defense documents.

Ms. Squillacote, hired as a Defense Department attorney in 1991, also was convicted of making false statements to the federal government. The two are scheduled to be sentenced January 8.

The couple were recruited while they were students at the University of Wisconsin during the early 1970s, and worked for East Germany throughout the 1970s and '80s, prosecutors said.

They were convicted of helping set up a spy ring for East Germany and of passing classified documents to a man they thought was a South African intelligence officer. The officer was actually an undercover FBI agent.

Little was said in court about what kind of damage was done to national security or how much Ms. Squillacote and Stand were paid. Prosecutors said the two passed four documents to the FBI agent, including one that contained information about U.S. nuclear weapons and one that assessed U.S. troop strength and deployment speed.

Defense attorneys said were not sure if they would appeal.

Defense attorneys argued the couple never provided classified material and that the information was readily available in libraries and the Internet. Psychiatrists testified that the FBI entrapped Ms. Squillacote by exploiting her personality disorder.

The pair were caught in 1997 after the FBI learned of their attempts to contact the Communist Party in South Africa and the agency set up a sting operation.

James Clark, a former civilian Army employee who was also arrested, testified against the two after pleading guilty over the summer. He is awaiting sentencing.

The three had known one another since their days as members of leftist student organizations at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.

Clark said that during the 1970s and '80s, he had passed secret documents to the same East German contact Stand and Ms. Squillacote used.

One interesting note is that Theresa Squillacote was given an award by U.S. Vice President Al Gore as part of his reinventing government campaign. Whoops!

Canada's Progressive Conservatives almost elect a "new" leader

The sequel to a less than inspiring three-month leadership race is under way with a winner-take-all ballot on November 14.

Clark, a former prime minister who gave up the leadership in 1983 despite a 67 per cent vote of support at a party convention, was nearly crowned on October 24, but fell a hair short of the magical 50 per cent plus one. It's a number Clark is willing to accept this time around without reservations.

Of the roughly 48 000 ballots cast, Clark won 48.48 per cent.

"We would have liked to have made it clear on the first ballot," Clark said the next day. "It would have been easier for everybody, certainly for us, if I could start tomorrow morning getting on with the real work the party faces."

Clark bombed in British Columbia and Saskatchewan, where David Orchard, the anti-free-trader Clark has called a tourist in the party and others have called a kook, scored a knockout to place a surprising third.

Hugh Segal, a political backroom organizer who has worked for the likes of former leader Robert Stanfield and Ontario's ex-premier Bill Davis, finished a disappointing second with 19 per cent of the vote. Segal's perceived strength in Ontario wasn't there.

Brian Pallister, a former Manitoba cabinet minister, placed an unexpected fourth. The most right-wing of the candidates was thought to have considerable support in the West, but it left him at the ballot box.

Montreal lawyer Michael Fortier's platform of mending fences with the Reform party was rejected. He garnered less than four per cent of the vote and is automatically scratched from the second ballot.

The party, burdened by debt and stuck in fifth-place in the Commons, is electing a leader to replace Jean Charest, who left in March to become leader of the Liberal party in Quebec.

The 53 per cent of the 90 100 Tories eligible to vote have clearly indicated they don't want the party flirting with their right-wing cousin, and the progressives, or Red Tories, in the party would rather stay on a slightly right-of-centre course.

The race will now feature Clark and Orchard as Segal and Pallister dropped out.

Lawyer sues Geraldo over challenge

Geraldo Rivera should put his money where his mouth is and make good on a $10 000 promise, says a lawyer who is suing the talk show host for that amount.

Marc Bogatin, a criminal defence lawyer, contends Rivera reneged on a pledge to pay $10 000 to anyone who showed him a case of a criminal prosecution for lying about sex.

Bogatin's lawsuit, filed October 26 says that in five hours of research he came up with five such cases and sent them to the lawyer-host of CNBC's Rivera Live.

Bogatin heard Rivera issue the challenge September 24 during a show devoted to issues in the investigation into President Bill Clinton's conduct. Rivera asserted that criminal prosecutions simply are not brought for lying about sex.

Bogatin said he sent seven letters and made three telephone calls to Rivera this month to discuss the cases and to claim payment. He said he threatened to sue if he got no reply.

The lawsuit accuses Rivera and CNBC of breach of contract and fraud.

Forces prepare for Y2K

Newspapers across Canada reported October 27 that the Canadian Armed Forces have been ordered to spend the next 14 months preparing for what could be their biggest peacetime deployment - tens of thousands of troops spread across the country and frigates standing by in major ports - in case computer problems in 2000 bring civil chaos.

The army is studying everything from the number of flashlights and batteries it will need if power is out for weeks to whether military air-traffic-control field equipment should be set up at civilian airports.

Logistics officers are plotting where to position vehicles, fuel, tents, cots, ration packs and other supplies. Signals officers are trying to figure out how to keep high government officials in communication if commercial systems collapse.

Rules for the use of force are being drafted should soldiers have to make arrests or back up police dealing with riots and looting.

Yeah, that doesn't sound ominous.

Bush, Gore early front-runners for 2000

Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush are the front-runners for their parties' presidential nominations in the year 2000, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll released October 27. But while Bush's stock appears to be rising, Gore's has fallen since May.

Six months ago, Gore won support from a majority of Democrats nationwide; but now his support is 10 points lower and two potential challengers, former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley and House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, have doubled their share of support in that time.

Nonetheless, Gore still commands more than twice as much support as any other Democrat. On the Republican side, Bush wins the votes of twice as many Republicans as the runner-up, Red Cross President Elizabeth Dole.

Only former vice-president Dan Quayle cracks double digits among the remaining Republicans tested. With Dole out of the running, Bush's share of the vote increases to 46 percent.

How would Gore and Bush do in a hypothetical match-up? If the election were held today, Bush would score 18 points higher in a head-to-head race, 57-39 percent. That's a significant gain from last May, when Bush held only a four-point margin over Gore.

In asking people about the 2000 race, the CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll surveyors referred to Bush as "Texas governor" and "son of former president George Bush" to make sure that people were not confusing him with his father. The results are reported based on all people who participated in the survey because it is impossible to tell who are "likely voters" in an election that is more than two years away.

The results are based on interviews with 1 013 adult Americans, including 499 Democrats and 423 Republicans, conducted October 23-25. The margin of sampling error ranges from +/- 3 percentage points for the entire group to +/- 5 percentage points for smaller subsamples.

Whitman blasts feminist groups for sticking with Clinton

One of the nation's most influential women blasted feminist groups for their support of U.S. President Bill Clinton.

On October 29, New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman said feminist leaders are suffering from a "trust gap" because they continue to back Clinton while arguing that gender discrimination and sexual harassment are wrong.

"Their reaction -- or, more accurately, their lack of reaction -- to the president's behavior has left many wondering just whose side these women are on," she said.

In her speech at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, Whitman said she will no longer give money to feminist groups unless they take a stand against Clinton.

"It's time they remember how to speak truth to power, no matter how much it hurts," she said.

Whitman, often mentioned as a potential Republican candidate for vice president, said she had probably given about $5 000 to feminist groups in her lifetime, but said the amount of money was not important.

The issue, she said, was her disappointment with feminists' actions.

Whitman said that while feminist groups have argued that harassment and discrimination are wrong, they have now created a new standard for their friends. She said women can no longer count on "sisterly solidarity" if they are victims of sexual harassment.

"Sadly, by remaining silent, feminist leaders are sending the message that issues like gender discrimination and sexual harassment aren't always absolutely wrong. They're only sometimes-kinda-mostly-sort of-important," she said.

In September, Whitman, who rebutted Clinton's 1995 State of the Union address, called on Clinton to resign.

In appearances across the country on behalf of Republican candidates, the New Jersey governor repeatedly blasted Clinton for lying to the public and for his "improper behavior."

She said, however, that she doubted the president would be impeached.

Starr expenses reportedly include luxury apartments, private eyes

Kenneth Starr's $40 million bill to taxpayers for his investigation of President Clinton reportedly includes a $400-an-hour ethics consultant, private investigators and luxury apartments.

Documents obtained by House Democrats also found that Starr spent $370 a month for a personal parking space and $30 517 for a psychological analysis of evidence, the Los Angeles Times reported October 29.

Starr spent more than $729 000 on five private investigators who were hired to supplement dozens of FBI agents assigned to the case, the newspaper said. The New York Times also detailed some of the payments to investigators.

Starr has spent more than four years investigating issues ranging from Whitewater to Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky. On Sept. 9, he delivered to the House 36 boxes with two copies of his report and evidence.

Starr spokesman Charles G. Bakaly III defended the spending.

"Each independent counsel must secure employees, office equipment and office space," he said. "We follow government procurement guidelines."

Asked about hiring investigators when FBI and IRS agents are available, Starr lawyer Jackie Bennett told The New York Times: "It solves the problem, an insidious problem, of people being transferred to us for a temporary period and then moving back to their agency."

Anonymous law-enforcement officials also told the New York newspaper that such hires were encouraged because federal agencies lacked the manpower.

Starr has declined to release detailed billing and expense statements. The only financial reports previously released through the General Accounting Office summarized information and did not include line-item expenditures.

The Los Angeles Times found that Starr's office spent:

  • $19 000 a month for luxury apartments for eight staff members.
  • $30 517 for a psychological analysis of evidence in the suicide of former White House lawyer Vincent Foster by the same Washington group that looked into the suicide of rock musician Kurt Cobain.
  • $400 per hour for Watergate counsel Sam Dash, who joined Starr's team as an ethics consultant in 1994 and often earned $2 000 for five-hour weeks. The Georgetown University law professor earned $192 073 through September 1997 before signing a yearlong contract for a maximum $104 000 yearly.
  • $37 915 for 21 computers purchased in March.
  • $56 810 for a copier after the office's administrative officer found in January it would be cheaper to buy than lease it for $1 299 a month.
  • $32 380 for a "community attitude survey and jury questionnaire" to help Starr prepare a fraud case against former Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker.
  • $118 400 for University of Illinois law professor Ronald Rotunda, who helped write a Supreme Court brief opposing Clinton's bid to delay the Paula Jones sexual harassment case. Rotunda was paid $300 an hour, later deciding he would stay on at no charge.
  • $434 for expenses at the Ritz-Carlton in Pentagon City, Vriginia, on January 13 -- the day Linda Tripp, wired by Starr's investigators, secretly taped a luncheon meeting with Miss Lewinsky.

Breitkreuz reintroduces property rights bill

On October 30, Garry Breitkreuz, MP re-introduced, for the third time, his Private Members Bill to strengthen property rights in federal law. "The last two times I introduced this bill, the government only allowed one hour of debate in the House of Commons and refused to let MPs vote on it. What are they afraid of?" asked Breitkreuz. "The government continues to violate property rights - our most fundamental human right - with impunity."

Fifty years ago, on December 10, 1948, the United Nations Assembly approved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 17 states: (1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property. "Even though a Canadian drafted the text of this international agreement, the federal government has yet to comply with Article 17," revealed Breitkreuz.

Renowned constitutional expert Professor Peter Hogg shows how inadequate property rights protection is in Canada. Hogg, writing in the third edition of his text, Constitutional Law of Canada, said: "The omission of property rights from Section 7 [of the Charter] greatly reduces its scope. It means that section 7 affords no guarantee of compensation or even a fair procedure for the taking of property by the government. It means that section 7 affords no guarantee of fair treatment by courts, tribunals or officials with power over purely economic interests of individuals or corporations. The product is a section 7 in which liberty must be interpreted as not including property, as not including freedom of contract, and, in short, as not including economic liberty." Breitkreuz added, "The truth is that these protections do not exist in any other federal law either and that's what my bill fixes."

"Breitkreuz is a firm believer in Ayn Rand's statement: "The right to lifeis the source of all rights - and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. The man who produces while others dispose of his product is a slave."

"No Canadian can be truly free while the government is using force to deprive its citizens of the fruits of their labour, denying fair and timely compensation when the government arbitrarily takes our property, and in many cases, even denying people the opportunity to appeal the government's arbitrary decisions. My bill would fix these problems, at least as they apply to laws passed by the Federal Government." Breitkreuz concluded, "If only the government weren't so afraid of letting Parliament fully debate my bill and then give every MP a free vote. Every constituent needs to know where their MP stands providing these minimum guarantees of this most fundamental right and freedom."

Documents show "special master" is probing alleged Starr leaks

Court papers released October 30 confirmed that U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson has appointed a special investigator to look into allegations that Whitewater Independent Counsel Ken Starr and his staff may have leaked secret grand jury information to the media.

Judge Johnson, in a September ruling, cited six media reports that constitute "prima facie violations" of her court's order prohibiting disclosure of Starr's grand jury investigation.

Johnson noted 18 other media reports to be reviewed by the court-appointed investigator, or "Special Master" as it is known.

Early this past summer, lawyers for President Bill Clinton, Monica Lewinsky and two White House aides asked the court to investigate media leaks by Starr or his staff.

Because the judge has now found that, on the surface, there appear to be violations of the court rules against disclosure of grand jury information, Starr and his staff must disprove the charges.

Judge Johnson has asked that the investigation, begun in late September, be concluded by the end of November.




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