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web posted August 28, 2000
FCC says CBS' Kilborn apology not enough
Though CBS publicly apologized for running a picture of GOP presidential contender George W. Bush with "snipers wanted" as a caption on Craig Kilborn's late-night show, FCC commissioner Gloria Tristani has admonished the network to further account for the "appalling broadcast."
Tristani is the latest Washington player to make violence and the entertainment industry a high-profile issue. Democratic presidential contender Al Gore and running mate Sen. Joseph Lieberman are both advocates of putting pressure on the entertainment industry to tone down programming.
In a letter to CBS Television president Leslie Moonves dated Aug. 18, Tristani wrote that many viewers have contacted her demanding the government take action over the spot on "The Late Late Show With Craig Kilborn," aired during the week of the Republican National Convention.
"Perhaps there is no government solution for bad taste or the thoughtless broadcast of misguided humor. However, Americans' patience with gratuitous violence on her airwaves is perilously thin," Tristani stated in the letter.
"Calls for voluntary codes of conduct are changing to calls for enforceable regulatory standards. I urge CBS to meaningfully respond to these citizens and use this incident to assess its public interest obligations," the letter continued.
Gil Schwartz, a CBS spokesman, said the network concurs it is a broadcaster's duty to serve the public and that its record is exemplary in that regard, hence the network's decision to issue several public apologies following an internal review of the incident, including an on-air apology by Kilborn last week.
The Bush campaign accepted the apologies, Schwartz said.
Yet commissioner Tristani told Daily Variety she has continued to receive viewer complaints, indicating the apologies weren't sufficient.
"This (picture) was something that could incite anyone to violence," she said.
Tristani said she previously asked FCC commissioner William Kennard to hold special hearings on violent programming, and that she expects such hearings to proceed.
In her letter to Moonves, Tristani also took umbrage with a recent spot on "The Howard Stern Radio Show" -- a syndicated show produced by a division of CBS -- in which a caller threatened to kill Lieberman. Stern cut the caller off, and cooperated fully when the Secret Service tracked down the caller.
"Two concerns dominate the calls I have received: the misuse of the public's airwaves to suggest that violence solves problems, and the implicit endorsement of vigilante action against those with different opinions," Tristani wrote to Moonves.
Schwartz said CBS does appreciate Tristani's concerns and will answer her letter.
Nader challenges Gore to return campaign funds
Green party presidential nominee Ralph Nader on August 21 challenged Democrat Al Gore to return the campaign contributions from drug and health insurance corporations he so strongly criticizes.
In a news conference outside the Staples Center where the week before the Democrats nominated Gore for the presidency, the consumer advocate blasted Gore for talking populist talk on one hand while catering to corporate interests on the other.
"In his acceptance speech, he (Gore) challenged and criticized the insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, the HMOs and oil companies. He said he is going to fight with the American people and take on these corporate giants," Nader said.
"At the same time, however, these companies are pouring million of dollars into the Democratic National Committee and into the personal coffers of Vice President Gore," he said.
Gore, in his speech, had said he would reduce the influence of money in politics with campaign finance reforms, double the amount of money in federal medical research and further crackdown on the marketing of tobacco to children.
Nader said Gore was trying to make a passing grade in "Populist Talk 101" and added, "The problem is for the last eight years Mr. Gore has been walking the corporate line."
Nader said if Gore was serious about his populist rhetoric, he should return the millions of dollars in contributions that these companies have poured into the DNC and to his own campaign.
"Give the money back Mr Gore or stand condemned of deceiving and misleading the American people into saying one thing -- that you are going to fight these big corporations, but doing the other -- that you continue to take millions of dollars from them into your campaign," he said.
Nader said that Gore's campaign is anxious to sell the idea that their candidate was an active and influential player in the Clinton-Gore administration.
"If these claims are accurate, where were the populist themes over the last eight years?" Nader asked. "It is easy to talk the populist line in a campaign, but the true test is the ability to walk it," he said.
Canadian budget cuts had little effect on health: study
Despite deep cuts to health care during the 1990s that led to a drop in the number of hospital beds and increased surgical waiting lists, downsizing has had little impact on patients, according to new Canadian research.
The study, which focused on elderly patients, also concludes there has been no change in death rates.
In a detailed analysis of health care use by seniors in British Columbia, the study concludes that although the number of acute care hospital beds fell by 30 per cent over five years, the average length of hospital stays declined by 13 per cent and elderly patients spent far less time in acute care beds, the impact on almost 175,000 patients studied was negligible.
"Overall changes in health care use were small, which suggests that the repercussions of the decline in acute care services for elderly people have been minimal," it concludes.
"The changes don't seem to have made a lot of difference," lead author Dr. Samuel Sheps, former chairman of the department of health care and epidemiology in the faculty of medicine at the University of British Columbia, said in an interview.
The study was published August 22 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
As provinces struggled to contain health care costs, the study suggests that "considerable rhetoric" was invoked about the health care system's ability to provide adequate care to elderly people, particularly in the face of significant hospital downsizing.
Across the country, governments faced intense criticism for budgetary cuts to health care, prompting reports of constant crisis and chaos affecting patient outcomes, including death.
In an accompanying commentary, Dr. Noralou Ross, community health sciences professor at the University of Manitoba, criticizes the media for countless "doom and gloom" health stories.
"Were there more deaths after bed closures? No -- the overall death rate was unchanged. Were fewer people getting into hospital? Not really -- despite the sizable bed closures, there were 'only minor changes' in the proportion of elderly people who received no facility care or acute care ... Claims to the contrary are false."
In the study, data was compiled on seniors from four different age groups in hospitals, community care centres, long-term care institutions and from those requiring home care services. It measured two three-year periods, 1986-1988 and 1993-1995.
It found there were only minor changes in use of services over the two periods. The most substantial changes were a 2 per cent increase in the number of seniors who did not require hospital or home care services and a 3 per cent decrease in those needing some acute care but not continuing care.
The research indicates it is not clear whether people who are now in their homes rather than in facilities are getting the necessary home support services. It notes that a surprisingly "small increase" in the home care area may reflect a need for extra cash.
The findings note important differences in how elderly people shifted categories of health care use over time. Younger seniors seem to require less medical care of any kind than in the 1980s, suggesting health is improving among seniors and they have better access to pharmaceutical medicines. However, those in the highest age group, aged 90 to 93 years, tended to require more time in acute facilities, suggesting that institutional care is becoming reserved for a less healthy group of elderly people than in the past.
The study concludes death rates between the two time periods were "virtually identical" when all the data was examined. But there were small increases in death rates in the most intensive categories.
"It could be taken as evidence of an increasing efficiency of use of hospital beds; that is hospital downsizing decreased the provision of facility care to people at lower risk of death," the study states. "However, the same facts could be construed in the opposite way, increasing mortality indicating a 'cost' to squeezing patients out of care."
Lewinsky gets, then loses job offer
A new political group that is trying to get a woman elected as U.S. president or vice president offered former White House intern Monica Lewinsky a top job on August 22, but quickly withdrew the offer after it prompted a firestorm of controversy.
Mosemarie Boyd, president and CEO of American Women Presidents, announced the group's decision to offer Lewinsky -- the woman at the center of the sex scandal that shook President Clinton's presidency -- a job as its corporate vice president in a statement.
"After 2.5 years of public interrogation and national humiliation, we believe it is time for America to forgive Monica," the group said in its release, underscoring its mission to get more women elected to top U.S. political offices.
The group attached a letter to Lewinsky's attorney, Plato Cacheris, outlining its offer.
But sources said various women's groups and others wasted no time responding to the Sacramento, California-based non-profit political organization, calling its offer to make Lewinsky their spokeswoman a big mistake.
Within hours, the group changed its mind and sent a followup letter to Lewinsky withdrawing its offer and apologizing for any inconvenience.
"There was widespread concern about the decision to offer our vice presidency to Monica, and due to concern about the credibility of the organization, we decided it was better to withdraw the offer," Boyd told Reuters.
Some women's groups apparently expressed concern that giving Lewinsky a high-visibility role could jeopardize the prospects for Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore, who has sought to distance himself from Clinton.
Gore pulled ahead of Republican rival Texas Gov. George W. Bush in the polls this week after declaring his independence from Clinton at the Democratic National Convention last week.
Boyd, who has worked for California Gov. Gray Davis, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, and several Democratic lawmakers in the House, said she had hoped Lewinsky could help promote the group's mission, but "miscalculated the resentment" against the former White House intern.
At the start of the year Lewinsky signed on as a spokeswoman for the diet center chain Jenny Craig, but the group had dropped her from its advertising campaign by April.
American Women Presidents was formed in March 2000 to push for women candidates as vice president and president. The group was heavily promoting former Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Dole and Feinstein as vice presidential candidates for the Republican and Democratic parties, respectively.
Group warns of trouble if Canadian police given powers to break the law
Giving police the power to break the law when investigating crime is the first step toward building a totalitarian state, a group of critics says.
Individuals for Common Law, an Edmonton-based group of about 20 people, called on the government on August 23 to abandon proposed legislation that would give police limited powers to break the law.
The law, said president Dave Lindsay, would be a "precursor to a police state."
Justice Minister Anne McLellan tabled a draft bill in the Senate in June that proposes a law that would allow police to break the law to help their investigations.
The proposal, which is now the subject of consultations, would allow police or their agents to commit minor crimes if they reasonably believe the offence is proportional to the crime under investigation -- such as the purchase of contraband.
To commit more serious crimes with impunity, officers would have to get clearance from a senior official. They cannot get away with sexual offences, intentional or reckless causing of death or grievous bodily harm under any circumstances, the proposal suggests.
Lindsay warned the federal government that many would not tolerate such changes.
If the legislation is passed, "Canadians themselves will break the law.
"Your corrupt government and every other corrupt government will bear the brunt of our anger. You will see a war such as never been seen in the history of this nation before."
He later said those statements did not constitute a threat.
Philip Stenning, a criminal law professor at the University of Toronto, said such protests reflect a wider concern about police powers.
The extension of police powers has always been the subject of contention among a variety of groups, including lawyers and civil liberties' associations, he said.
The Edmonton group is "certainly not alone in raising concerns about the extent and scope of police power."
The draft legislation was Ottawa's response to a Supreme Court of Canada ruling last year which said police could not break the law without Parliament's blessing.
The RCMP officers in the case had set up a reverse-sting operation, in which they posed as hashish vendors and tried to sell drugs to an alleged leader of a narcotics operation.
The sting led to the arrest of two men who appealed their case on the basis that the RCMP abused their powers. The court did not accept the appeal of the conviction but told Parliament to codify police powers to break the law.
The Justice Department is hoping to introduce a formal bill on the matter when Parliament reconvenes this fall.
Reno: No special prosecutor for Gore
Saying a perjury charge would be "impossible to prove," U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno announced on August 23 that she will not name a special prosecutor to investigate Vice President Al Gore for statements made to Justice Department officials concerning his 1996 fund-raising activities.
"Because further investigation is not likely to result in a criminal prosecutable case under applicable law," Reno told reporters, "I have concluded there is no reasonable possibility that further investigation could develop evidence to support the filing of charges."
Reno rejected a call by Robert Conrad, head of the Justice Department Campaign Finance Task Force, for a special counsel. Instead, she sided with other senior department officials who contended further investigation was unwarranted.
Reno explained that after reviewing the transcript of Conrad's April interview with Gore over campaign finance matters, she concluded there was not enough evidence to prosecute the vice president.
"The transcript reflects neither false statements nor perjury, each of which requires proof of a willfully false statement about a material matter. Rather, the transcript reflects disagreements about labels," she said, referring to Gore's testimony that he did not believe he was attending events -- such as coffees with constituents or the well-publicized luncheon at the Hsi Lai Buddhist Temple -- that were intended to raise money.
"I did not think, under federal rules of prosecution, that these statements could be construed as either false statements or perjury," Reno said. "You don't pursue a case where there is no basis for concluding that you can make a case."
Conrad had called for a special counsel after his four-hour interview with Gore, in which questions were raised about campaign finance issues. Sources said Conrad was apparently concerned about a number of issues, including the possibility that Gore may have lied about his role in fund-raising by saying that he did not know the events were fund-raisers.
Senior Justice Department officials, however, said the interview produced no significant new information. The vice president has maintained he did not know the Buddhist temple event was a fund-raiser. Gore released a complete transcript of the interview to bolster his claim that the interview had produced no dramatic new information.
According to the transcript, Gore said of the events: "I did not see any money or checks change hands. I never heard it discussed, nor do I believe it took place, incidentally."
Reno appeared satisfied by the vice president's explanation. The event's were, he said, intended to "build relationships" with constituents and meant to "develop an understanding" so that at a later date the vice president or other Democratic Party operatives would be able to request donations.
"The transcript is at the heart of it," Reno said.
Justice Department officials have long expected that Reno would reject Conrad's recommendation. But a number of senior officials have been perplexed as to why Reno was taking so much time to complete her decision. Conrad's recommendation became public on June 23, after a Senate hearing was held on the matter.
Reno said she made her decision over the weekend -- and was not trying to play politics.
Reno also addressed the issue of the leak, saying that her "regard for Bob Conrad has only increased." She also said internal discussions among Justice officials "should not become public."
And, she added, the release of internal preliminary recommendations "is not fair to those involved," and undermines the investigatory process. As an example, she said, Conrad has been publicly pegged as the only person within the department who has recommended a special counsel. "I can tell you that is not correct," Reno said.
Questions about roles played by both President Clinton and Gore in 1996 fund-raising activities have caused bitter debate within the Justice Department for years. Reno has twice before rejected calls for an outside probe of Gore's 1996 fund-raising activities, including one by Charles Labella, the one-time head of the campaign task force.
Since Conrad's recommendation pertained to Gore's statements in the April interview -- not the 1996 events themselves, Reno noted that the inquiry into the 1996 fund-raising activities is ongoing.
China arrests 130 from banned Christian church
Chinese police have arrested 130 Christians from a banned church, three of them U.S. missionaries, a human rights group said on August 24 as Beijing's top Catholic official declared China was in a "golden age" for religion.
The members of the China Fang-cheng Church, including the three Taiwan-born U.S. citizens, were arrested on Wednesday and were being held in the central province of Henan, the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights & Democracy said.
The centre said in a statement the church, an evangelical group with 500,000 members, was one of at least 14 Chinese Christian sects banned by Communist authorities as "evil cults" -- as they did the Falun Gong spiritual group.
The statement identified the three U.S. passport holders as Henry Chu, 36, Dande Lin, 28, and Patrica Lan, 25. It said they were being held in Henan's Xihua county detention centre.
U.S. officials said they were trying to get confirmation from Henan authorities that Americans had been arrested.
"If, in fact, there are Americans, we have a right to go visit them and we will do so," said a U.S. official.
Henan officials contacted by telephone said they had no knowledge of any arrests, while Xihua county police were not available for comment.
Like more than a dozen other Christian groups, the banned church ran afoul of Communist authorities last year for its affiliation with overseas Christians and its refusal to join the government-controlled church, the human rights centre said.
The U.S. official said China had cracked down on numerous obscure Christian movements and said Beijing appeared to be trying to "lump together" the various groups it had banned.
"Some of them, according to the Christian community, are not far from the mainstream and some are quite far from the mainstream," the official said.
The arrests came as a delegation from China's five state-approved faiths -- Buddhism, Catholicism, Islam, Protestantism and Taoism -- toured the United States before a world summit of religious leaders at the United Nations in New York in September.
The Communist Party-affiliated groups included the Three Self Patriotic Movement of Protestant Churches, the China Islamic Association and the China Patriotic Catholic Association.
The official China Daily quoted Bishop Michael Fu Tieshan, president of the China Patriotic Catholic Association, as telling an audience in Los Angeles that religion was entering a "golden age" in the country of 1.3 billion people.
Fu said China was experiencing an explosion of religious belief, but the poorly-educated were easy prey for cults.
"Religious organizations in China run their own affairs independently and set up religious schools, publish religious books and periodicals and run social services according to their will," the government clergyman was quoted as saying.
But overseas human rights groups have deplored the clampdown on two quasi-religious mediation movements -- Falun Gong and Zhong Gong -- which it says are trying to overthrow the Communist state, and the strict curbs on conventional religious groups.
China's state-run Catholic church, which does not recognize the Pope's authority, says it has more than 70 bishops and four million members. The Vatican says eight million Chinese are loyal to the Pope and worship in secret.
The United States and others have criticized organizers of the religious summit in New York for not including the Dalai Lama, exiled spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, apparently after pressure from China.
The organizers belatedly invited the Dalai Lama to the closing ceremony but not to the deliberations and in the meantime the Dalai Lama had made other arrangements.
Canadian police association may withdraw support for gun registry at N.S. convention
There's a good chance the Canadian Police Association will withdraw its support for the federal government's controversial gun registry, says a police spokesman.
An Alberta delegation is expected to present a motion calling on the association to reverse its position at the group's annual convention in Halifax this week, Bernie Eiswirth, president of the Saskatchewan Federation of Police Officers said on August 24. The federation is a provincial chapter of the national group.
When the association held its convention in Regina last year, delegates from Saskatchewan introduced a resolution calling on the group to withdraw its support for the gun registry.
That resolution prompted a lively debate, although it was ultimately defeated.
But Eiswirth says there is a good chance delegates will feel differently this year.
"I think this time the motion will pass," said Eiswirth, a sergeant with the Regina Police Service.
He said he believes delegates in a number of provinces, including Manitoba and B.C., may revise their previous positions and come out against the gun registry.
There was already quite a bit of support last year from police officers in Ontario for a resolution withdrawing support for the registry, he said.
The Firearms Act, passed by Parliament in 1995 to protect Canadians, requires that gun owners get licences by the end of this year, and register each firearm owned by Jan. 1, 2003.
Eiswirth said he is concerned that many otherwise law-abiding Saskatchewan residents will become law-breakers because they will refuse to register their rifles and shotguns.
"Whenever the government puts a law in place to target law-abiding citizens it is a problem," he said.
Many rural municipalities, hunters and residents have come out against the gun registry in Saskatchewan, as has the provincial government.
And Eiswirth said he is still hoping the federal government will rethink the legislation.
The gun registry law will be expensive and bureaucratic to enforce and of little value in reducing violent crime, Eiswirth said.
"We just don't feel it's necessary," he added.
Police officers attending the Halifax meeting may also discuss a national strategy to combat organized crime, Eiswirth said.
The issue of sentencing, particularly as it relates to first-degree murder, is also expected to be a topic.
Oklahoma woman leaves money to Elian family before suicide
An Oklahoma woman who committed suicide in July rewrote her will to exclude her own kin and leave part of her $500,000 estate to the Miami relatives of Cuban shipwreck survivor Elian Gonzalez, the Miami Herald reported August 27.
Anne Katherine Abernathy, 57, also left part of her estate to the Amirault family of Massachusetts, who were involved in a controversial child-abuse case, the Herald reported. Abernathy had never met either family.
Abernathy, who was not married, shot herself to death on July 20 at her home in Shawnee, Oklahoma, just hours after her elderly mother, who had shared the house, died of natural causes.
The Herald said Abernathy rewrote her will in a four-page note just before she killed herself to delete 12 relatives and friends. It said that in the note, Abernathy praised the Miami relatives of Elian Gonzalez, who waged an abortive seven-month battle to keep the 6-year-old in the United States, for treating the child with "such love."
Elian was taken into his great-uncle Lazaro Gonzalez's Miami home last November after surviving a disastrous migrant voyage from Cuba in which his mother and 10 other people died. Against the wishes of child's father, who wanted his son back in communist Cuba, the Miami relatives fought to keep Elian "free" in a case that became an international cause celebre and went all the way to the Supreme Court.
Elian finally returned to Cuba with his father in June after the Supreme Court rejected the relatives' bid for him to be granted a political asylum hearing.
Lazaro Gonzalez, a car mechanic, and his family are immigrants of modest means and the house Elian shared with them was a small single-story home in Miami's Little Havana.
But the Miami relatives may never see the Abernathy money since relatives deleted from the bequest are contesting the will saying she had been mentally incapacitated for years.
The other family to whom Abernathy left her money was a mother, daughter and son convicted in 1986 of child abuse related to the day-care center they ran. The mother and daughter were freed a decade later after an appeal and the son's case is pending before a pardons board, the Herald said.
It said Abernathy also left her dog to a university president and her notes and photos to a newspaper columnist.
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