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web posted June 5, 2000

Feds to scrap 'Big Brother' database

The massive federal database dubbed "Big Brother" is being dismantled, Human Resources Minister Jane Stewart announced May 29. The system, which held personal information about millions of Canadians, had been widely criticized as an invasion of privacy.

"Given public concerns about privacy issues in this era of advanced and constantly changing technology, I have chosen an approach that addresses future threats to privacy," Stewart said a release.

The department has already eliminated the computer program used to link its information with data from the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency and provincial governments, the release explained.

A controversy erupted over the database when its existence was made public by the federal privacy commissioner May 16.

Bruce Phillips said the data bank, which held up to 2,000 bits of information about each individual, amounted to a citizen profile that could be misused.

The commissioner supports the department's decision to dismantle the file, and he will monitor it, said the release.

Canadian military to appeal ruling on soldier who refused anthrax vaccine

The Canadian military will appeal the case of a soldier whose refusal to take an anthrax vaccine was supported by Canada's chief military judge. Col. Kim Carter, director of military prosecutions, filed a notice of appeal on May 29 with the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada in the case of former Sgt. Mike Kipling of Winnipeg.

Kipling, now retired, refused to receive a vaccination against anthrax while deployed in Kuwait with the Canadian Forces.

Col. Guy Brais, the military judge in the case, determined that the lot of anthrax vaccine which Kipling had refused was "unsafe and hazardous."

Brais stopped the court martial on May 5, 2000.

Kipling was upset about the appeal.

"All I can say right now is I have no financial means or support or capability of continuing on this fight," he said from his home in Winnipeg.

"I am unemployed. I am broke I don't know what to do. The military's going to get its way. It's going to ruin me."

Jay Prober, Kipling's lawyer, said the legal bill so far is close to $100,000. A non-profit foundation which objects to all forced vaccinations said it would pay but no bill has been sent and Prober has yet to see a penny.

"I think (the appeal) is outrageous," said Prober. "Mike Kipling's been through enough."

The military has decided to appeal because Brais's use of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms could affect the Canadian Forces' ability to operate, Carter said in a news release.

Written arguments will be filed with the Court Martial Appeal Court, a civilian body comprised of a panel of at least three judges drawn from the Federal Court and provincial superior courts across Canada. A hearing date has yet to be set.

Supporters of the original decision said soldiers must be prepared to stand up for what is right to avoid mistakes like in Somalia - where a civilian teenager died at the hands of Canadian peacekeepers - and that includes disobeying illegal orders.

Kipling's defence was able to raise serious safety concerns about the specific batch of the vaccine supplied to Canada.

It was up to nine years old, well past its effective date. Some vials were not sterile, and others contained foreign matter and inaccurate doses. There were suggestions the vaccine may have been a possible cause of Gulf War syndrome in some troops.

The term is used to describe the thousands of Gulf War veterans from the United States, Britain and Canada who came down with unexplainable illnesses after returning from the region.

In the spring of 1998, about 400 Canadian soldiers were vaccinated against anthrax, a deadly biological weapon.

American troops were also required to take the vaccine and court heard from an American medical expert that hundreds have complained about side effects that include chronic fatigue, headaches, muscle and joint pain and recurring rashes, symptoms similar to complaints by soldiers deemed to have Gulf War syndrome.

New York GOP nominates Lazio for Senate

New York Republicans on May 30 formally embraced four-term congressman Rick Lazio as their candidate to do battle with first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in the nation's most closely watched race for the U.S. Senate.

"Let me say to my fellow Republicans and fellow New Yorkers, I am deeply, deeply honored to accept your nomination for the United States Senate," Lazio told some 2,000 cheering Republicans packed into a Buffalo-area hotel for the state GOP convention.

"I begin this campaign with no illusions, he said. "I am the underdog in this race. My opponent is better financed and better known. She comes to New York with the support of every left-wing organization from Washington insiders to the Hollywood elite. But as I said before, bring 'em on -- because when it comes to representing the needs, the concerns and the values of New York, I can be myself. I am a New Yorker."

His comments reflect what has quickly become a campaign theme for the Republican hopeful: That the first lady is an ambitious outsider who only moved to the Empire State in January to run for the Senate -- and does not fully understand the needs and concerns of New York voters.

"They're running someone who is not a New Yorker," Gov. George Pataki said in a reference to the Democrats' candidate. "Someone who has not paid taxes in New York, someone who has not gone to school in New York."

"Rick doesn't haven't to spend weeks going around the state on a bogus listening tour to try and find out what the people of New York feel, because he's one of us," he added. The first lady spent months on what she called a statewide "listening tour" before officially announcing her candidacy.

In his acceptance speech, Lazio said his record in Congress best reflected his Senate campaign strategy, and he vowed to run an upbeat campaign. "I believe politics isn't about how much you promise, but how much you deliver," he said.

"I have a record of delivering -- you can look it up," he said, as he quickly ran through a litany of legislation he shepherded through the House -- such as the Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Act, which provides cancer treatment for low-income women who do not qualify for Medicaid coverage -- as well as other bills intended to provide adequate housing for senior citizens, and allow low income families to purchase their first homes.

"You don't build a record of success by dividing people, you do it by reaching out to people. I'm proud to say that every bill I have passed I have done with bipartisan support."

Despite Lazio's moderate Republican record, the Clinton campaign is attempting to define him as too right of center for New York voters, and as a disciple of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich -- the Georgia conservative who helmed the Republican takeover of the House in 1994.

Lazio refused to accept that label Tuesday, saying: "Some in the opposition camp think that they have a winning strategy by repeating Newt Gingrich's name a thousand times between now and November. Well, let me share with you my winning strategy, let the other side pursue the politics of discord, and division, I will unite all of New York behind a positive vision, for our great state."

INS official convicted in Cuba espionage sting

Mariano Faget, a Cuban-born Miami district officer for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, was convicted on May 30 on four counts of violating the Espionage Act by revealing classified information to a friend during an FBI sting operation.

Faget, 55, faces up to 10 years in prison. He faces sentencing Aug. 18.

Federal prosecutors claimed that Faget betrayed his vows as a U.S. government official for personal gain. They claimed that the case was strictly about money.

Faget was a partner in America-Cuba Inc., a company seeking business opportunities in Cuba, in a post-embargo climate

He was secretly videotaped and wiretapped by the FBI while meeting with officials from the Cuban Interests Section to discuss the future business.

Faget's partner, Pedro Font, a childhood friend, was the president of the organization, whose clients included Procter & Gamble.

As part of the sting operation, Faget was fed phony classified information that a Cuban official was about to defect. Faget, on videotape, is shown calling his friend, Font, 12 minutes after receiving the information to warn him about the defection of the same Cuban official, with whom Font was about to meet.

The Cuban official, Jose Imperatori, was later expelled by the United States and forced to return to Cuba.

Imperatori, coincidentally, was the Cuban official assigned to shepherd the grandmothers of Elian Gonzalez to Washington and Miami in January.

Faget, who took the stand on his own behalf the week before told the jury that he made errors in judgment, but denied that he ever spied for Cuba.

"I would not do that to the country I love, which is the United States", he said.

Faget insisted he only told his friend the information to protect him.

No classified information was ever divulged.

America-Cuba Inc, like other companies, cannot do business directly with Cuba due to the U.S. embargo. The company had not earned any money.

Faget has been held without bond since his arrest February 17th.

The FBI said it was trying to turn Faget into a confidential informant, because agents suspected he was part of a Cuban spy ring.

Canadian envoy gives nod to Gore

Raymond Chretien, Canada's ambassador to the United States, said May 31 that a victory by Al Gore over George W. Bush in this November's presidential election would be the best outcome for Canada.

"We know Vice-President Gore. He knows us. He's a friend of Canada," Chretien said in a televised speech to federal officials in Ottawa, effectively endorsing the Democratic Vice-President in an apparently unprecedented foray into American domestic politics.

"He is still grateful for Canada to have saved the life of his son 10 years ago when he had a serious car accident. [His election] probably would make life easier for us on broad environmental issues."

Gore's son Albert, now 17, was seriously injured by a car in Baltimore in 1989. Gore searched for a doctor who could restore movement to the boy's right arm, eventually flying to Toronto to meet Dr. Alan Hudson, then chief of neurosurgery at Toronto General Hospital. Dr. Hudson performed the operation and Albert recovered completely.

Of Gore's Republican rival, the ambassador said: "Gov. Bush, on the other hand, doesn't know us as much." Chretien recalled the Texas governor's response when This Hour Has 22 Minutes, a television comedy show, told him he had the support of the Canadian prime minister, "Jean Poutine." Bush's reply was: "Well, I appreciate his strong statement."

The envoy, who is Jean Chretien's nephew, said of Bush: "When he thinks of borders, he thinks of Mexico, not of Canada. Obviously, we have to work on him quite a lot. A Bush presidency would probably emphasize broad defence-security issues. That might a bit more difficult for us."

The clear preference for Gore over Bush was "certainly indiscreet," said Michael Bliss, professor of history at the University of Toronto.

"These are certainly unusual things for an ambassador to say in public. Usually, these are the sorts of things that are said [by ambassadors] in private to their own governments."

He said Chretien "doesn't have a record of putting his foot in his mouth," but that such public comments could make his work as ambassador more difficult.

Ray Sullivan, a spokesman for Bush, said: "We respectfully disagree with the ambassador. Governor Bush would be better for America and for this hemisphere on issues like free and fair trade, peace and national security and international commerce. Clearly the ambassador is entitled to his opinion. It is not one we share or a majority of Americans share."

In his speech, Chretien said: "We will deal with whoever gets elected."

He described Bush as a "nice man" and conceded that if he becomes president he might be able to gain the fast-track authority to negotiate trade deals that has eluded Bill Clinton. That restriction has virtually brought to a halt negotiations on a proposed free trade area for the Americas, which Canada strongly supports.

The ambassador, who said later he plans to stay in Washington for another three years, said that overall the relationship between the two countries is strong, noting trade between Canada and the United States now tops $1-million a minute.

He said the two "inescapable facts" in Canada's future are the military, economic and cultural power of the U.S., which he believes will be unchallenged for at least 15 years, and Canada's increasing interdependence with the United States.

"The big challenge is how can we keep reaping the benefits of our economic integration with the U.S. and use the wealth, the economic power, to promote and strengthen our own values, our own beliefs, our own institutions," Chretien said.

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