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web posted May 8, 2000

Legal case against the Canadian Wheat Board begins

Canadian farmers who want to bypass the powerful Canadian Wheat Board and market crops on their own began an appeal on May 1 aimed at proving the law forcing them to sell to the monopoly violates their human rights.

The Alberta Barley Commission, many of whose 39,000 members want the right to market crops individually, is spearheading the challenge of a three-year-old federal court decision that said the legislation governing the board was valid.

The commission's lawyers began their arguments before a three-judge panel in a Calgary courtroom, saying the wheat board legislation violates western prairie farmers' rights under Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms because they are being "robbed of their dignity, self-worth and personal autonomy."

Under the law, wheat and barley farmers in the provinces of Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan must sell their crops to the six-decade-old board, which "pools" sales revenues and returns proceeds to producers during and after the growing season.

Commission lawyer Loren Halyn told the panel that the law discriminates against western farmers because it is not applied to producers in other parts of Canada in the same way.

In Ontario, for instance, farmers only need a license from the board to export their grain, but do not have to sell to the agency, Halyn said.

"If parliament passed a law that said you could be charged with first-degree murder anywhere west of the Manitoba-Ontario border, but not in the rest of the country, it, in my opinion, would be a discriminatory law," Halyn said.

The commission also said the judge in the 1997 case erred by only basing his ruling on economic criteria, without taking into account that farmers' businesses, being intertwined with their home lives, differ from those of other business people.

"It boils down to the fundamental rights of the farmer who works his life in producing a crop for a purpose, and it's not just a commodity to him," Clifton Foster, the commission's general manager, said outside the cramped courtroom. "He puts his heart and soul and many long hours into producing that, and he wants to market that to his advantage."

Government lawyer Jim Shaw said the legislation governing the wheat board did not discriminate against western farmers.

"Our position is that none of the charter rights are engaged in this case," Shaw said.

The Alberta Barley Commission, whose members produce half of the 12 million tons of barley produced annually in Canada, has waged a loud and long-running battle against the board's monopoly. It began its legal case against it in 1993.

Five years ago, it even held its own referendum in Alberta, asking farmers in an unofficial vote whether they wanted the ability to market grain independently. Sixty-six percent said yes.

The hearing wrapped up the next day and a written decision from the judicial panel could take several weeks.

May Day rallies turn violent...there's a surprise

Colorful protesters peacefully engaged in a little "guerrilla gardening" outside Britain's Parliament building on May 1, but London's streets later erupted into May Day violence as masked activists trashed a fast-food restaurant and clashed with riot-geared police.

Violence marred other May Day commemorations around the world, including Hamburg, Germany, where 12 police officers and 25 protesters were injured when leftists and police clashed just after midnight.

London's demonstration began quietly near Parliament, where protesters in colorful costumes planted seeds to add more green to Parliament Square. But a group broke away from the protest and trashed a Whitehall McDonald's restaurant, smashing all the windows and tearing down the golden arches sign.

Police pressed the demonstrators -- who pelted them with rocks, bricks, bottles and anything else that could be thrown -- toward Trafalgar Square, where the demonstration cooled.

Assistant Police Commissioner Mike Todd, who called the attackers "mindless thugs," said one officer was badly injured by a brick in the face and seven people were arrested.

"It does prove there are a small minority of people intent on violence," he said. "This is not protest. This is criminality, and these people need to be held to account."

In Hamburg, police said more than 100 people were arrested.

The protesters threw rocks at banks, broke shop windows and set fire to cars in the center of the city before police charged into the crowd, using water cannon and armored vehicles to clear the area. One officer suffered a broken arm in the melee.

Berlin was also the scene of clashes when police intervened to break up fights between neo-Nazi marchers and anti-fascist counterdemonstrators in the east Berlin district of Hellersdorf.

Worried about violence, which has become a mainstay of May Day celebrations in recent years, Berlin police massed 2,500 officers to watch over the situation. Hundreds more officers were posted across the rest of the city.

Police also employed water cannon in the Philippines, where demonstrators threw rocks while trying to break through police lines keeping them from Malacanang presidential palace in Manila.

Labor groups claim President Joseph Estrada has sided with employers in labor disputes, despite campaign promises to back labor's struggle against poverty.

Several protesters and one firefighter were injured, and seven members of a labor group were arrested.

Violence also erupted in South Korea, where police tried to keep students from joining a worker rally in Seoul.

Some 7,000 police officers kept watch over a worker march in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where Tamil Tiger rebels have waged a bloody battle for an independent homeland. A rebel assassinated then-President Ranasinghe Premadasa at a May Day rally in 1993.

Poland's Baltic port Gdansk -- birthplace of Poland's modern labor movement -- also saw police move in to quell violence.

Canadian public service union on guard for 'rise of right-wing parties'

The cash-strapped public service union says it will spend part of its communications budget on fighting right-wing parties like the Canadian Alliance, which it sees as a threat to equality in the country.

Nycole Turmel, vice-president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), told a news conference kicking off the union's triennial convention on May 1 that money will have to be spent to fend off parties seen as a threat to the organization.

"When you look at (the Canadian Alliance's) agenda and their platform, it's really a threat for our membership, but it's also more than for our membership, it's a threat for the entire population of Canada for equality for everybody," Turmel said.

"We've been fighting so many years to be equal, so we won't let it go like that, so we'll have the money for that."

The union, which represents 140,000 federal civil servants, has spent years battling the Liberal government on such issues as pay equity and access to the $30-billion pension fund surplus, which is still before the courts.

But now Turmel says PSAC is concerned that an even less union-friendly party like the Alliance might actually have a run at governing.

The Canadian Alliance is the product of a recent merger between the Reform party and pockets of small-c conservatives across the country. Its newly drafted policy declaration calls for the elimination of affirmative action programs, and endorses "free and fair collective bargaining."

"We're going to have mobilize our members, our delegates, to ensure we don't have a government in place that is going to go against our objectives and our priorities," said Turmel, who was running for the presidency of the union.

Turmel said PSAC made a decision seven or eight years ago to no longer endorse a party during a federal election. But she said members would be encouraged to meet with candidates in their ridings, and decide who has the best policies.

That would narrow things down to the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois, she said.

No executive privilege to be invoked in e-mail case, White House says

The Clinton Administration relented on May 2 and said it would not invoke executive privilege to keep a congressional committee from gaining access to documents it had sought in its investigation of the White House e-mail controversy.

Earlier in the day, the White House had raised the prospect of invoking executive or attorney-client privilege to shield seven documents from the ongoing House Government Reform Committee investigation.

The Clinton Administration had argued the documents were notes from lawyers and other officials responding to the committee's investigation -- and therefore "work product" not relevant to the investigation itself.

The White House had hoped that raising the prospect of invoking privilege would lead to negotiations with the committee -- something that has happened many times in the past. But "it was clear they were not going to budge and we decided it wasn't worth going to the mat over even though we continue to hold the view the request is out of line," an administration official told CNN.

White House officials said the administration had also decided to drop its opposition to giving the committee copies of e-mails involving former intern Monica Lewinsky. The officials said the e-mails were provided to former Independent Counsel Ken Starr during his investigation, but that the White House did not believe they were relevant to the congressional review.

But, again, the administration decided to relent and provide the documents.

The committee is exploring whether the White House deliberately withheld e-mails that had been subpoenaed or otherwise requested by Starr, as well as Justice Department and congressional investigators.

The White House says the e-mails, which could number in the thousands, fell though the cracks when an electronic mail archiving system failed.

White House officials blame a "disconnect" between their technicians, who diagnosed the e-mail problem, and their lawyers, who apparently did not understand that the problem might affect pending subpoena requests.

The Justice Department also is investigating because some of the e-mails had been requested by its campaign finance task force, which is probing alleged improprieties undertaken by the 1996 Clinton-Gore re-election campaign.

Had it come to be, the privilege list would have been the first step in the executive privilege'process. In past investigations ranging from impeachment to Puerto Rican terrorists, the White House has sometimes relented and turned over documents and in other cases invoked its right to shield memos.

Prior to the administration's change of heart, House Government Reform Committee Chairman Dan Burton (R-Indiana) blasted even the very hint that the White House may seek to invoke executive privilege.

"The White House is obstructing the investigation," Burton, said in a letter to the White House counsel's office. "This meaningless legal mumbo-jumbo is obviously a transparent ploy to provoke wasteful and time-consuming squabbles over documents."

White House staffers assist Gore campaign

Top White House talent employed by the taxpayers is helping Democrat Al Gore write his campaign speeches, work up attacks against rival George W. Bush's budget and develop everything from crime-fighting proposals to health and education reforms.

Gene Sperling, head of President Clinton's National Economic Council, and Bruce Reed, chief White House domestic policy adviser, and scores of lower-level aides are lending their expertise -- legally, Gore's presidential campaign notes -- on their own free time.

Good-government watchdogs wince at the overlap.

"These guys are dropping any pretense of a separation between campaign and government. The problem here is of perception and the average American does not expect his or her taxpayer money to go toward Al Gore's campaign," said Charles Lewis, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity.

-- As Gore flew to Atlanta on May 2 for an address on crime, campaign aides referred reporters' questions on the meat of that speech -- a $500 million rehabilitation program for prisoners and parolees -- to Reed and helpfully distributed his telephone number at the White House.

-- Sperling and his White House staff crunched numbers for a 15-page indictment of Gore's Republican opponent's tax-cut and spending plans that concluded, on page 6, that Texas Gov. "Bush would need to make (spending) cuts of nearly 40 percent to balance the budget."

-- Sperling, along with former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles, reviewed drafts and gave Gore input on the major economic address he gave last week in New York, where he assailed Bush's agenda as reckless.

-- Sarah Bianchi, who transferred to the Nashville, Tenn.-based campaign in April, worked during the past year on Gore's health and Medicare proposals from her desk at the White House.

-- On a campaign trip in February, reporters were handed "Gore 2000" press releases bearing the stamp of the official fax machine in Gore's White House communications office. Campaign spokesman Chris Lehane later called it "an inadvertent mistake by a junior staffer."

"There's a lot of this that goes on in politics. But these folks take it to a whole new level -- the Lincoln bedroom comes to mind -- in using public property for campaign ends," said Lewis.

Gore campaign spokesman Doug Hattaway underscored that official aides may legally free-lance as long as they clock 40 hours of work on official business each week and do not use government resources, such as computers and phones.

"Anyone who helps out works strictly according to the rules and we're grateful for them," Hattaway said.

Ari Fleischer, campaign spokesman for Bush, who has his gubernatorial staff at his disposal, declined to make an issue of the muddied line between Gore's official and campaign resources.

"The issue raised is not who writes the vice president's material but what the vice president is saying ... negative attacks that are part and parcel of old-style politics," said Fleischer.

Bush sometimes calls on state officials to do his political bidding. The week before, his campaign dispatched Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander to a Gore appearance in Dallas, where she defended the governor's education record to reporters traveling with the vice president.

Gore has recently begun to move a number of his White House aides, like Bianchi and communications director Laura Quinn, to campaign or Democratic National Committee payrolls, freeing them up to work full-time on politics.

Among other legal perks of incumbency, Gore uses the White House travel office to handle the massive logistics of hotel, plane and rental car arrangements for his campaign trips.

Hillary Clinton addresses the specter of defeat

In an newly published interview in Ladies Home Journal magazine, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton said she would "probably be connected with a foundation or academic institution in some way" if she loses her bid to be elected U.S. senator from New York.

"I'll support the same issues -- raising the minimum wage, expanding the earned income tax credit for poor working people, and putting more teachers in the classroom to lower class size in our public schools," she said in the interview, which hits newsstands Tuesday.

"I'm more convinced than ever it matters who votes in the Senate," Mrs. Clinton said when asked why she decided to enter the race.

"The economic plan in 1993 passed by only one vote, and it made a huge difference in the quality of life for many of us. The Family and Medical Leave Act was vetoed twice before it was passed and signed into law. The crime bill was passed by a very small margin," she said.

Mrs. Clinton spoke to the magazine to promote the fifth anniversary of the United Nations World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in September 1995. In June, the United Nations is scheduled to hold a follow-up session on the Beijing conference.

"We still have places where women are brutally oppressed, like Afghanistan. We have places where women cannot vote, like Kuwait or Saudi Arabia. We have places where women are trafficked into prostitution or servitude. We have places where girls are still denied medical care and die at much higher rate than boys," Mrs. Clinton said.

When asked what accomplishments she's most proud of as first lady, Mrs. Clinton noted her involvement in extending health care to children, making it easier for people who lose or change jobs to keep their health insurance, and speeding up and providing tax incentives for the adoption and foster care systems.

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