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web posted May 15, 2000

Former president urges normalizing trade relations with China

Extending permanent trade benefits to China will not flood the U.S. market with cheap goods or encourage the government in Beijing to ignore human rights at home, former President Bush said May 7 in expressing his support for pending legislation.

"It's not special," Bush said. "It's a normal trade status we give to other countries. Other countries have received this trade status, and we have human-rights differences with them. We have to work diplomatically with China, and not through bashing."

Bush, who was the chief U.S. liaison officer to China from 1974 to 1976, said trade with that country is one of the most important foreign policy issues facing the United States.

He met with a group of reporters for about 20 minutes in the living room of his home before leaving for his summer residence in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Bush also was asked about Sen. John McCain as a potential running mate for his son, presumptive Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush. The elder Bush declined to comment.

The House is expected to vote later this month on a bill to extend permanent trade status with China, granting it the same permanent low-tariff access to American markets that is routinely extended to most U.S. trading partners. Currently, China's status must be renewed every year.

The legislation also would ease China's long-sought entry into the World Trade Organization, the Geneva-based body that regulates world trade.

If the House approves the bill, its passage by the Senate appears assured.

The issue has been the focus of intense lobbying on Capitol Hill.

Supporters, including the Clinton administration, Republican leaders and business groups, say U.S. global leadership and American companies would suffer without the opportunity to sell their goods to China's 1.2 billion consumers. Opponents, including labor unions, human rights groups and top House Democrats, say the measure would end the annual trade reviews that critics of China's communist government have used to push for improvements in religious, labor and human rights.

In a written statement issued before he addressed reporters, the elder Bush said: "In supporting (permanent normal trade relations) and the opening of the China market to the United States, I believe that we are encouraging China's reforms, exposing the Chinese people to our perspectives and values, and strengthening those Chinese there who share our ideas about how prosperity and promise transform people's lives."

Both George W. Bush and Democratic presidential rival Al Gore support normalizing trade relations with China.

Robertson says McCain 'dangerous' choice for VP

Television evangelist Pat Robertson, a powerful voice in the Republican party, on May 7 said Arizona Sen. John McCain would be a "dangerous" choice as Texas Gov. George W. Bush's vice-presidential running mate.

Speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press," Robertson said McCain, who aggressively challenged Bush for the Republican presidential nomination, displayed an "intemperate" character during the primary season. He attacked Robertson as an "agent of intolerance" while campaigning in Robertson's hometown of Virginia Beach, Va.

"If Bush would like to have somebody screaming curses at him three times a week at the other end of the White House, then McCain is his man. Other than that, if he wants harmony in his official family, I think he might look elsewhere," Robertson said.

He added that ultimately it was up to Bush to choose his running mate.

Saying he didn't want to get into character assassination, Robertson said he did not think McCain would make a good president. But later said he was concerned someone like McCain, if chosen vice president, would be one heartbeat away from controlling the nation's nuclear trigger if the president were incapacitated.

"I'm suggesting that we need somebody who wouldn't go into a man's hometown and make extreme statements like that, on the spur of the moment," Robertson said.

"This is very dangerous. Could you imagine dealing with our foreign powers and you get mad and you fly off the handle. It could be dangerous. I'm serious. It could be very dangerous. I think we need balanced leaders."

When asked if he thought McCain was psychologically unbalanced, Robertson retreated slightly and said McCain showed a lack of intelligence by denouncing him and other religious and political leaders in Virginia. McCain lost in Virginia.

Robertson said he "personally could probably accept" Bush choosing a candidate holding views in support of abortion rights, but doubted the evangelical rank and file would.

Unveiled statue a shocker

A crowd of 100 spectators fell into a stunned silence when a new statue of a military hero was unveiled over the weekend in Edmonton, Alberta, revealing a practical joke and a tax protest.

The three-metre clay monument to Lord Strathcona, founder of the Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) regiment, had been hidden under a shroud for two weeks.

When the cover was pulled off before dignitaries including Senator Thelma Chalifoux, the statue was wearing a Lone Ranger mask, a fake nose and mustache, and a sign saying "Lower Income Tax."

"We were all shocked and surprised," said Iris Evans, the provincial Children's Services Minister.

"No doubt someone who cared strongly about income tax figured, 'Well, there'll be a lot of politicians there.' Maybe they thought they'd get every politician in the region -- and I guess they did."

Pentagon concedes it destroyed fewer Kosovo tanks than claimed

The number of bombed-out Serb tanks and other weaponry found in Kosovo at the end of last year's air war was only a small fraction of the total the United States and NATO claimed to have destroyed. But officials insist the much higher estimates still hold up.

At the end of the 78 day NATO-led war against Yugoslavia, a NATO report on the campaign said air strikes had destroyed an estimated 93 tanks, 153 armored personnel carriers and 389 artillery pieces.

On May 8, Pentagon officials said assessment teams that searched "on the ground" in Kosovo following the conflict found the bombed-out wreckage of only 14 tanks, 12 "self propelled artillery vehicles," 18 armored personnel carriers, 8 artillery and mortar pieces and 142 other military vehicles.

That is a total of 194 of the targets destroyed, versus the 974 that officials took credit for at the end of the brief war.

However, Pentagon officials claim that much of the damaged or destroyed military equipment was removed by Serb forces who sought to salvage as many parts as possible from the vehicles and weapons.

They claim further that their assessments are not based only on the wreckage found on the ground but also on various forms of aerial reconnaissance, cockpit video tapes, and communications intercepts and other methods.

Air Force Brig. Gen. John D.W. Corley, speaking to reporters by telephone from Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, denied that NATO exaggerated its claims. "In no way have we ever overstated, understated" the effectiveness of the air campaign, he said.

Almost immediately after the war ended last June with Slobodan Milosevic, Serbia's president, capitulating to NATO's terms, critics began claiming that air strikes against mobile targets in Kosovo such as tanks -- as opposed to strategic targets elsewhere in Yugoslavia, such as buildings in Belgrade -- were less effective than NATO claimed.

Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said the argument about how many tanks and other heavy weapons were struck is beside the point. "We obviously hit enough tanks and other targets to win," he said.

McCain endorses Bush; pledges to 'enthusiastically' support former rival

Former Republican presidential opponents John McCain and George W. Bush set aside any lingering public bitterness from their primary-season rivalry during a 90-minute private meeting on May 9, as the Arizona senator not only endorsed Bush, but pledged to "enthusiastically" campaign for to him.

"I endorse Governor Bush," McCain said repeatedly after the two men emerged from their long-anticipated meeting.

"By the way, I enthusiastically accept," Bush interjected.

With broad grins, both Bush and McCain described the face-to-face session to reporters as "good meeting" and strove to downplay their differences on issues such as campaign finance reform and tax cuts.

"We are in agreement on more issues than we are in disagreement," said McCain, citing common ground on reforming education, Social Security, and the military. "I look forward to enthusiastically campaigning for Gov. Bush over the next six months."

Although he agreed to aggressively stump for his one-time rival, the Arizona senator again made clear that he would not accept the vice presidential spot on the Republican ticket.

"I asked that I not be considered for vice president of the United States," McCain told reporters. McCain added that Bush had a long list of qualified Republican candidates to choose from, including Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee and Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson.

McCain advisers said the senator from Arizona had grown tired of the circus-like atmosphere surrounding the pending meeting and the issue of whether he would endorse Bush for president.

"I hope that our next meeting will not nearly attract as much attention as this one did, and I look forward to further discussion with Gov. Bush and being present when he is inaugurated as the next president of the United States," McCain said.

When a reporter asked McCain about aides' remarks that the timing of the endorsement was like taking medicine now rather than later, McCain replied, "I think your 'take-the-medicine-now' is probably a good description."

Although McCain has repeatedly expressed distaste over speculation that Bush would offer him the No. 2 spot, he has refused to rule the possibility of a Cabinet post -- such as Secretary of Defense -- in a Bush Administration.

3 200 toy guns seized from Oakville gift shop

Peel Region police have seized 3 200 toy handguns from an Oakville, Ontario gift shop, even though the plastic weapons aren't illegal.

Police Chief Noel Catney, who sought advice on the issue from Peel Crown Attorney Paul Taylor, said a case can be made that these toys are replica firearms - fake weapons that can easily be mistaken for real guns by police and citizens.

"They should be banned . . . and as we speak now, it is illegal to sell these types of firearms, in our view, at any retail outlet in Peel Region," Catney said yesterday during a news conference at Peel police headquarters, where the seized toys were on display.

The shop, S & K Toys and Crafts on Hampshire Gate, is technically in Halton Region, but because of a rash of Peel Region incidents related to replica guns, Peel police made the seizure, with the agreement of the Halton police and crown attorney.

Catney said that in his and Taylor's view, it is inappropriate and illegal to sell the toy guns to minors as young as 11 or 12.

"The concern is that under our present federal and provincial legislation, these (plastic toy) firearms aren't covered," Catney said. "But we are taking a zero-tolerance position in Peel."

Under current law, a device is considered a replica firearm if it looks almost like one but doesn't discharge a projectile, or discharges a harmless one.

Replica firearms, made of wood, metals or molded rubber, are considered prohibited devices under the Firearms Act of 1998. But most toy replicas, usually made of plastic, are not.

Peel has lumped plastic toy guns into the prohibited replicas category, making the force possibly the first in Canada to take such a stand.

Catney said replica firearms have been used in 28 gun-related incidents investigated by officers in Mississauga and Brampton in the past six months.

Store operators said yesterday they were shocked and disappointed by the action.

"These are toys . . . plastic toys . . . not real guns," said Wang Ko, speaking on behalf of his father, Hon Ko, owner of the shop. "We did not know that these toys would be considered replica firearms. They are just toys to us. We were not doing anything wrong."

Ko said police initially came to the store about a week before the toys were seized and informed them of their concern.

"We immediately took them off the shelves and put them in storage," Ko said. "We said, if they tell us we cannot sell them, we won't, and we were waiting for them to get back to us.

"Then they came back last week with a search warrant and took every one we had from our storage room."

Police were drawn to the store, which is just across the Peel-Halton Region line from Mississauga, after they arrested three teenagers April 12. In that incident, a frantic cell-phone caller who dialled 911 about 3 p.m. said a woman was being abducted at gunpoint by three masked teens on Mississauga Rd.

As it turned out, the teens were only play-acting, police say. But they were charged with a weapons offence.

"Our officers made an arrest at gunpoint of these three teenage boys who were armed with these replicas," Inspector Tom Trevelyan said. "It was extremely fortunate that one of them was not shot at the scene."

Police were already involved in an investigation of replica firearms at the time.

"The common denominator was that there was an outlet in Oakville that was selling these replicas over the counter to the public," Trevelyan said. "As a result, we entered a search warrant. These (toy guns) are stamped and labelled as Berettas and Smith & Wessons. They're identical replicas."

Trevelyan said each of the 3 200 toy weapons seized had potential to be a problem to officers, had they hit the streets.

"You cannot predict human behaviour except self-preservation; . . . every officer who is confronted by one of these things will self-preserve," Trevelyan said.

"That will be his first instinct. In my view, we're sitting waiting for a disaster to happen. We're sitting and waiting for somebody with one of these to get shot because they didn't drop it quick enough for a police officer."

The 28 incidents Catney referred to were calls about guns at high schools, parks and residences. It was because of those incidents, many involving toy handguns purchased at the Oakville store, Catney said, that legal officials indicated the seizure was appropriate under the circumstances.

Catney acknowledged that under present federal and provincial laws, the seizure falls into "a gray area.

"But in terms of the actual selling of them, our crown attorney is of the view that it is an inappropriate activity," Catney said. "In the view of our crown attorney, they (toys handguns) are illegal."

Police say the crown attorney is determining whether the shop owner can be charged with possession and trafficking in a prohibited device.

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