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web posted November 29, 1999

'I feel it in my bones,' Gore says

Vice President Al Gore declared Democratic orthodoxy is "in my heart" as he methodically courted key constituencies driving his bid for the nomination.

"I feel it in my bones," Gore said as he swept through a series of events on November 22 with major players in establishment Democratic politics.

Gore was adding environmentalists to the list, after touching base with labor, seniors, teachers and the party's financial heavyweights.

Gore was headed to an environmentally fragile region of western Iowa to tout companion spending measures in the just-enacted budget deal aimed at protecting the unique geological formations known as the Loess Hills.

That's part of a heightened focus on environmental issues in recent weeks.

Shoring up his base among the party's establishment, Gore declared "I feel passionately about these issues we've discussed" while suggesting that Bill Bradley, his Democratic presidential rival, lacked the same commitment to the party's base.

He urged "those who care about Democratic values" to look closely at proposals Bradley has offered on issues ranging from schools to health care.

From abortion rights to more money for schools to popular health programs, Gore left few traditional Democratic issues untouched as he sought to stitch together constituencies.

He went to a high school to tout education proposals with students and local activists, then to a union hall to firm up labor backing and to a senior citizens center.

Huddling with about 150 union activists, Gore touted his record on labor issues, though he's from a southern state where unions are unpopular.

And at meeting after meeting, labor activists were busily collecting pledge cards, gathering names and putting in place the organizational muscle to deliver backers to the January 24 caucuses that help launch the presidential nominating season.

Meeting with seniors, he pledged "Medicare and Social Security have to be saved first." Seniors vote in a higher proportion than any other age group, and Iowa is the nation's third oldest state.

Touching base with party financial heavyweights, Gore raised $700 000 for the Democratic National Committee from diners who paid up to $25 000 each to join him at a posh Chicago suburban home next to where basketball legend Michael Jordan lives.

Gore scrupulously avoided mentioning Bradley, focusing instead on an assault on Republican candidates "afraid to say 'no' to the right wing."

He defended the high-dollar fund raising. "The Republicans will always have more money," said Gore. "We have to have a minimum amount of resources to get our message before the American people."

Bradley is mounting a challenge for the Democratic nomination, but most polls have shown Gore with an edge in Iowa's leadoff caucuses. The caucuses are heavily controlled by party activists, with little history of involvement by independent voters.

Bradley is running better in New Hampshire and other states where independent voters have a stronger role. Gore aides said he was trying to solidify his party ties to hold off any Bradley challenge in Iowa's caucuses.

To that end, Gore filled his speeches with sharp criticism of the "breathtakingly reckless" congressional Republicans and GOP presidential rivals who he said cater to religious conservatives.

"If you want a Supreme Court majority for most of your adult life that is in keeping with the philosophy of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, that is what is at stake in this election," Gore told high school students gathered for a raucous rally.

Meeting with reporters, he continued a running feud with Bradley, suggesting that Bradley can't be trusted to adhere to traditional Democratic values.

Bradley has offered a far more expansive -- and expensive -- health care proposal and insisted over the weekend that he is winning the debate.

"I think his health care proposal is causing him serious problems," Gore said. "I think they are scrambling on it right now because it's unraveling before their eyes."

Bradley aides fired back that Gore was the one misleading voters on health care.

"The only thing unraveling is Al Gore's commitment to health care for all," said Bradley aide Jim Farrell. "He's offered a timid plan that leaves tens of millions uninsured."

Hillary Clinton says she's running for Senate

First lady Hillary Clinton "said" November 23 that she is running for the U.S Senate and will formally announce her candidacy next year.

"The answer is yes, I intend to run," Mrs. Clinton said in response to a question from a member of the United Federation of Teachers in New York. Note the "intend."

Mrs. Clinton was speaking to the group at its Manhattan headquarters. She told the group that she will make a formal announcement after the start of the new year.

Speculation mounted that Mrs. Clinton wanted to end recent speculation that she was wavering about the Senate race.

Mrs. Clinton formed an exploratory committee in July to consider a run for the seat and she has been visiting New York frequently in campaign-style appearances. But she was criticized for her recent trip to the Mideast, where she failed to directly criticize Suha Arafat, the wife of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who made comments critical of Israel.

CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider said the Mideast trip led to speculation that Mrs. Clinton wasn't running because she wasn't behaving like a Senate candidate, but rather a first lady. Mrs. Clinton is attempting to preempt the speculation that she won't be a candidate by letting her intentions be known, he said.

"I will expect that if she runs for the Senate, she's going to have to enter a new stage as her tenure as first lady," Schneider said. "She's going to have to make (the Senate campaign) her top priority, just as Al Gore recently said his top priority is going to be running for president and not being vice president."

Mrs. Clinton has been under pressure from some New York Democrats, including state party Chairwoman Judith Hope and state Comptroller H. Carol McCall, to quickly declare her candidacy and spend more time campaigning in the state.

The first lady traveled to New York the day before for her first appearance in the state in two weeks. She returned to news that a Democratic state lawmaker, who is Jewish, is expected to endorse Mrs. Clinton's likely rival, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

State Sen. Carl Kruger said in a letter to Mrs. Clinton that he was "outraged and shocked" by her actions during her recent trip to the Mideast and that she should consider abandoning her expected Senate bid.

The Jewish vote can play a crucial vote in New York elections as the group represents about 12 percent of the state's general election voting. Polls show the mayor is running slightly ahead of the first lady.

Forbes ad responds to charges in ad sponsored by Republican group

Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes released a new ad on November 24 defending himself from negative charges leveled at him in a TV ad sponsored by the Republican Leadership Council.

The ad from the RLC, a moderate Republican group led by supporters of Texas Gov. George W. Bush, charges Forbes with spending "all his money tearing down his opponents." The ad has been running for a week.

The Forbes campaign filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, charging that the ad is an illegal campaign contribution to the Bush campaign. The RLC maintains that there was no coordination with the Bush Committee.

Forbes' response ad, which aired in Iowa and New Hampshire, is narrated by a female voice and asks "Governor Bush to use his influence to get his friends to pull the ad."

A graphic in the ad notes that 80 percent of the RLC's leadership has supported Gov. Bush financially.

Forbes spokeswoman Juleanna Glover would not detail the size of the buy, except to say it will be "enough to get our message across to voters in Iowa and New Hampshire."

Florida lawsuit targets Microsoft

Florida lawyers on November 24 filed the latest in a series of class-action suits against Microsoft, alleging the software company overcharged for its Windows 95 operating system after the updated Windows 98 version was released.

The suit, filed in Miami's Dade County judicial court, accuses Microsoft of one count of violating the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act as well as federal antitrust laws. It seeks to collect damages that have yet to be specified.

"Microsoft has used its monopoly power to charge illegal monopoly prices," said the lawsuit, which said Microsoft used its power to "artificially maintain" the price of Windows 95 even after its newer, Windows 98 version was on the market.

The suit is based in part on findings of fact by a federal judge in Washington who found Microsoft used monopoly power to harm consumers, competitors and other companies. US District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson has issued no conclusions of law.

The Florida suit also cites a November 1997 market study by Microsoft that determined the company could charge US$49 for a software upgrade from Windows 95 to Windows 98, but that the company opted to charge as much as $89 for the upgrade.

"We think it's unfortunate for consumers and the economy that these kinds of groundless lawsuits are being threatened against an American company that has consistently worked to provide great value for consumers and driven prices down in the industry," Adam Sohn, a spokesman for Microsoft, told Reuters.

On November 22, lawyers in San Francisco filed a class action suit followed by a similar suit filed in Ohio the next day, both of which allege Microsoft overcharged customers. The San Francisco lawsuit seeks to recover damages on behalf of its clients.

"None of the court's findings that everyone seems to be hanging their hats on have any legal weight on any other cases until the court issues a decision sometime next year and the appeals may extend that out further," Sohn said.

"We are pretty confident that the American legal system is ultimately going to affirm that our actions have been fair, legal and good for consumers," he added.

The Florida suit was filed by Haggard & Parks, P.A., in Coral Gables, Fla.

Roger Clinton to play concert in North Korea

CNN reported on November 25 that President Clinton's half-brother Roger Clinton is scheduled to visit North Korea in the first week of December. Roger Clinton and his band were invited to play in a concert in Pyongyang that will include artists from South Korea and North Korea.

Korecom, company based in Seoul, South Korea, has been working to make arrangements for the event. The six-day visit would include sightseeing.

Clinton administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Roger Clinton did not tell the White House of his plans to participate in the concert.

They pointed out that the president's half brother does not need approval and did not seek it, though the U.S. officials said it would be preferable if he or any other high-profile person would seek the administration's input in planning a trip to the communist country.

But, said one of the officials, "We've been down similar paths with Roger before -- he is his own unique person."

Roger Clinton joined the president the day of CNN's report for golf at a course near Camp David, Maryland.

Reporters asked the president about Roger Clinton's plans to travel to North Korea for the concert, but the president did not respond.

Earlier that day, a White House spokesman said he was not aware of any contact between the White House and Roger Clinton about the trip. Another White House official said that, if the musician was planning to travel to North Korea, the White House would "neither encourage or discourage" the trip.

The official said Roger Clinton would not be "taking a message from the president." He added that the visit should be viewed as that of a private citizen trying to promote a cultural exchange.

When asked if a visit to North Korea by a person with close ties to the president would pose a problem for the White House, the official said he had no comment.

Canadian government wants to send troops in to Winnipeg

Thanks, but no tanks.

The city has refused Ottawa's offer to send in military troops armed with fire extinguishers and water bombers to fight the arson chaos.

Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy's offer of the Canadian Army was met with laughter at the Public Safety Building.

"It's a joke, right. I'm laughing," said Bill VanderGraaf, staff sergeant of the major crimes unit.

"Our detectives were rolling in the aisles laughing when they heard the news," VanderGraaf said yesterday. "We prefer not to have the army here. We don't need armoured personnel carriers rumbling down the streets of Winnipeg."

The city shouldn't have refused the military's help, said Coun. Harry Lazarenko (Mynarski)

"I'm tired of being the arson capital. We could have used their help just like during the flood," Lazarenko said.

Calling in the troops would only strike fear in the hearts of citizens, said Coun. Garth Steek (River Heights).

"We want money," said Coun. Dan Vandal, chairman of the city's protection and community services committee

The fact the province and Ottawa are coming underlines how serious the problem is, said Steek.

Axworthy said the arsons are a top priority.

"It is a serious problem, and it's one that is very preoccupying for all of us who see the city going up in flames at that rate," Axworthy said from Ottawa.

"We have already provided RCMP assistance to the arson task force and I have indicated to the mayor that we will provide any other further support that we can to investigate this," Axworthy said.

"It's a problem of conditions in the city that need a broad-based approach," he said. Like sending in combat troops apparently.

"The military is the kind of support that could be offered from Ottawa," said Lesley Thomson, spokeswoman for Axworthy.

"We'll be at the meeting to listen and see what help would be appropriate," said Thomson.

VanderGraaf did have a tongue-in-cheek suggestion for Axworthy.

"Why not go whole hog, declare an emergency, and invoke the War Measures Act? Then we could really clean the book (of unsolved crimes)," he said. "Or maybe we should him some advice on foreign affairs. We have lots of ideas about Bosnia."

"If Axworthy wants to help he should give money to implement housing strategies because poverty is at the root of the problem," said Jim Silver, a political scientist at the University of Winnipeg.

The military would only stand guard around abandoned buildings, said Doug Skoog, a criminologist at the University of Winnipeg.

"Get rid of the boarded-up buildings and you get rid of the problem," Skoog said.

New Zealand returns Labor to power after nine years in opposition

After nine years in opposition, Helen Clark's Labor Party swept to power in the November 27 general election at the head of a center-left coalition, pledging a more economically fair society for New Zealand.

Celebrating victory at a party in Auckland, Clark, 49, promised "a fair society, good education, good health system, dignity in retirement and an absolute commitment to a growing economy which shares opportunity and work."

An emotional Prime Minister Jenny Shipley, who won her post in November 1997, conceded defeat.

"It appears that New Zealand has decided it is time for a change," Shipley told supporters, her voice cracking. "I have spoken to the Right Honorable Helen Clark, and I have warmly congratulated her on her success."

With all but a handful of votes counted, Labor was shown winning 52 seats, up from 37 in the 1996 election. The left-wing Alliance party, part of Clark's coalition, had 11 seats, down two from 1996. Shipley's conservative National party was down from 44 to 41 seats in the 120-seat parliament.

Of the remaining seats, six went to the centrist New Zealand First party, one went to center-right United Party and nine to right-wing Act party.

The Greens, fighting their first election, fell just 0.1 percent short of the 5 percent support needed for a share in parliament.

Also winning, a transexual mayor won election as a Labor lawmaker.

Clark said she would begin negotiations on the makeup of her Cabinet with Alliance leader Jim Anderton. She said she hoped to have a coalition program before Christmas. In the meantime, Shipley's government will continue in a caretaker role.

"The result tonight clearly indicates that New Zealanders want a change of direction," Clark told supporters. "We are on the cusp of a new century, and we can have a fresh start. I stand before you humbled that our party has again been chosen to begin a fresh start in New Zealand."

Shipley had appealed to the nation to stick with her free-market policies, and offered tax cuts for individuals and businesses.

But New Zealanders instead backed Clark's pledge to raise taxes to help fund improvements in social and health services. Clark also vowed to set up a venture capital fund for new businesses.

Lawyer Toby Norgate, a National voter, grudgingly accepted that Clark would likely do a good job. "She has been around a while so she has experience," he said. "She's looking better now than she ever has."

The daughter of a dairy farmer, Clark rose from rural New Zealand to lecture in political science at Aukland University before entering parliament in 1981.

She was a health minister and deputy leader in the last Labor government from 1987-90, and has been leader of the opposition since 1993.

Clark has refined her sometimes blunt and haughty style in the election run-up, but still she is accused of suffering from a charisma deficit.

"She's no Tony Blair or Bill Clinton," Wellington accountant David Homewood said ahead of the vote.

Clark based her low-key, mistake-free election campaign on the one that gave Blair a landslide victory in the last British election, and claimed to represent the same "Third Way" centrist consensus policies put forward by Blair and other Labor leaders around the world.

Turnout was high, with almost 90 percent of New Zealand's 2.5 million registered voters casting ballots. New Zealand, which is the size of Britain, has a population of 3.8 million.

Two nonbinding, citizen-initiated referendums, also on the ballot, passed overwhelmingly. One recommended tougher sentences for criminals, and the other recommended the number of lawmakers in parliament be reduced from 120 to 99.

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