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web posted December 20, 1999

Group wants paradise prisons in Canada

Razor wire in prisons should be removed because it makes facilities look like concentration camps, says a federal corrections report leaked to the Reform party on December 14.

The Correctional Service of Canada document, prepared by a task force on security, also recommends the removal of all firearms from guards, allowing prisoners to make their own meals and hold keys to their cells.

That vision would turn federal institutions into summer camps and guards into camp counselors, Reform MP Myron Thompson told the House of Commons.

"It's the most ridiculous reading I've seen for quite some time," Thompson said outside the House.

He said he's already seen one penitentiary in Alberta that's testing out the feasibility of giving inmates keys to their cells and that the 105-page report's suggestion that prisons become more like communities is headed in the wrong direction.

"That's not my idea of a place where you put criminals that are a threat to others," said Thompson. "These guys aren't choir boys you know."

Solicitor General Lawrence MacAulay, who told MPs public safety was paramount, would not comment on the report outside the House because he hadn't seen it.

It was just one of several issues that the Reform party raised with MacAulay during question period in what some of them called "MacAulay day."

While other parties were preoccupied with questions on unity legislation, every question from Reform was directed at MacAulay.

One after another, Reformers stood up and questioned him on everything from increasing funding for RCMP to improving corrections standards.

The solicitor general answered 15 questions in all.

House leader Randy White said the issues had piled up for a while and the party decided to clear the file.

"He's noticeably weak, there are a lot of problems within his jurisdiction," said White. "We've had a big file on all of this stuff and so we decided that it's time to start to profile it again."

Canadian child advocacy group fought for teens' right to sodomy

An advocacy group trying to strike down a section of the Criminal Code that permits parents to spank their children once went to court to argue that teenagers should be allowed to have anal sex.

The Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law intervened in a 1995 case in Ontario involving a 23-year-old man charged with sodomizing the niece of his fiancee when the girl was 14.

Appearing at an appeal stemming from the man's acquittal on a sodomy charge, the foundation argued that outlawing consensual anal intercourse by those under 18 was discriminatory, especially to gay teens.

The judge agreed and threw out the law, which said that anal intercourse was illegal except when performed in private between a husband and wife or as a consensual act between two people over 18.

The week before the foundation brought a new case before Ontario Superior Court in an attempt to strike down Section 43 of the Criminal Code, which permits spanking, defined as the use of force "by way of correction" on a pupil or a child.

Sheena Scott, the foundation's executive director, said yesterday that the foundation did not dispute the facts of the anal sex case but got involved because it thought the law discriminated against teens.

The law made it a crime for them to have anal sex until they were 18 when the age of consent for sexual intercourse was 14. The group felt that teens engaged in anal sex should be able to use the defence of consent, which the law did not allow.

"I certainly stand behind our involvement in that case. It was an equality case. We were intervening with respect to the interests of children in general," Ms. Scott said.

"We had nothing to do with the trial," she said. "We argued on behalf of gay youth. We didn't argue on the facts of the case, make that clear. We had no input into the facts of that case. It was already decided."

In the 1995 "Carmen M." case, a man was charged with four offences stemming from his three-year sexual relationship with his future niece, which included oral, vaginal and anal intercourse. The relationship began when the girl was 13 and ended a few months after the man married the girl's aunt.

After a two-day trial, the man was found guilty of sexual assault and sexual interference and was sentenced to 18-month concurrent prison terms. But he was found not guilty of anal intercourse.

The judge ruled that the girl was 14 to 18 when the anal sex occurred and that she consented. Although the law prohibited such a liaison, the judge ruled the law was unconstitutional because it denied the accused the defence of consent.

The Crown appealed and during the proceedings the children's foundation joined the Canadian AIDS Society and the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights Organizations in arguing that the law should be struck down.

The foundation argued the law discriminated against gays and exposed gay teens to "unnecessary psychological detriment." It also said the law might make it more difficult for gay teens to benefit from health services that could reduce the transmission of HIV.

"This group is denied the liberty to make choices about their own bodies in respect to the sexual act impugned by the section," Brian Weagant and Ms. Scott, the foundation's lawyers, argued in their factum.

Madam Justice Rosalie Abella ruled the law "arbitrarily disadvantages gay men by denying to them until they are 18 a choice available at the age of 14 to those who are not gay, namely their choice of sexual expression with a consenting partner to whom they are not married."

Cynthia Silver, general counsel for the Coalition for Family Autonomy, a group that has intervened in support of the spanking law, said the foundation's position on anal sex is telling.

"It does reflect their ideology regarding children's rights which is that the child is an autonomous rights holder, and should be given the ability to make decisions as early as possible and about as many things as possible," she said.

"The family unit, and particularly the parents, are seen as a potential threat to the autonomy of the child rather than as the child's first advocate and best resource, which most parents truly are for their kids."

In the spanking case, the foundation is now arguing that the law violates children's rights under the Constitution to security and freedom from cruel acts. It is also arguing that the law diminishes children's right to equal treatment under the law. Although the Canadian government officially discourages spanking, Ottawa is disputing the foundation's motion.

Huang admits wrongdoing to House committee, but maintains motive was benign

John Huang, a central player in the ongoing Democratic campaign fund-raising scandal, took a witness' seat before a House investigative panel on December 15 and said he was deeply sorry for breaking election financing laws.

Speaking before a sparsely attended hearing of the House Government Reform Committee, Huang said, "I have made mistakes ... My motivation was not personal gain, but the integration of Asian-Americans into the political process of their chosen country."

"This does not excuse my conduct," he added.

Members of the Government Reform Committee assembled for the hearing, despite the fact that Congress adjourned for the year a month ago. Huang spent the full afternoon answering questions from committee members after taking a red-eye flight from Los Angeles, where he appeared before a federal grand jury.

Only six members of the 44-member committee managed to make it into Washington for the beginning of the hearings -- five Republicans and ranking Democrat Henry Waxman (California).

Huang, who raised funds for the election and re-election of President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore in 1992 and 1996, was granted limited immunity by the House panel earlier this year, allowing him some degree of freedom to speak to panel members without fear of further punishment.

He has spent the better portion of the last few months talking with the Justice Department about his role in a series of alleged campaign fund-raising misdeeds, and pleaded guilty earlier this year to conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws. His sentence was a year's probation and a $10 000 fine.

Speaking as the hearing came to order, Burton said his panel had an obligation to be "thorough," because this was likely "to be the only time Huang appears before the public."

Huang's murky role in the complex Democratic fund-raising allegations is complicated enough on its own.

Huang was associated with Indonesian businessman James Riady, a high-ranking officer of Indonesia's Lippo industrial group, and a Clinton supporter who also allegedly played an important role in raising money for the Democrats.

The committee contends that Huang and Riady put their heads together in 1992 and concocted a scheme to funnel some $1 million into the national Democratic Party's coffers.

The committee trained its gaze on a limousine ride Clinton is said to have taken with Riady prior to his 1992 election. During the ride, Riady allegedly mentioned to Clinton that he wanted to raise $1 million for his campaign.

Huang later told the FBI that Riady informed him Clinton was "surprised" at the amount.

Answering member question, Huang said the short-distance 1992 limousine ride could not have lasted more than "10 minutes," and though he did not know in great detail what Riady and Clinton may have discussed, he was convinced that Clinton had not been informed of any plans to forward illegal contributions to his campaign.

That $1 million, the panel's majority Republican staff argues, was to have been transferred to selected U.S. citizens by employees of the Lippo Group. The U.S. citizens would donate money to the Democrats in the form of small contributions, and Lippo employees would "reimburse" the Americans at a later time.

Asked by Burton why Riady would have wanted to give $1 million to the Clinton campaign," Huang said he could only speculate.

"If we really want to contribute, $10 000 will not make a big impact," Huang said. "You want to make a big impact, so you make a big contribution. You get attention, you have a different status."

"You'll get more access?" Burton continued.

"Yes," Huang responded.

Later, pressed further to reveal Riady's motivation, Huang replied, "Mister Chairman, he wants to help his friends. They like each other very much."

Waxman, the only member present to carry the standard for minority Democrats, presented Huang with an opportunity to answer a series of rapid-fire questions about the roles Clinton, Gore, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and the DNC may have played in any orchestration of an alleged illegal funding regime.

Asked by Waxman if he had any knowledge of wrongdoing on the part of any of those parties, Huang responded, "No."

Some committee Republicans believe the root source of the $1 million -- as well as a number of highly suspect 1996 contributions -- may have been the People's Republic of China.

Huang has been accused of facilitating Chinese involvement in the American political process, perhaps through Chinese intelligence organizations, and of spying for the Beijing government.

During his appearance, he flatly denied ever having worked for Chinese intelligence.

"I am not and never was a spy," he said.

In 1996, the Democratic National Committee abruptly returned some $1.6 million in contributions raised by Huang, after the sources of those contributions were called into question.

Huang had previously denied any direct connections to the Chinese, though transcripts of his earlier interviews with the FBI indicate fund-raising may have been discussed in a variety of meetings with Chinese officials in the thick of the 1996 presidential campaign.

Waxman blistered Burton and the majority Republicans for continuing the lengthy probe, saying "there has never been a congressional investigation quite like this one."

What is ostensibly a campaign finance investigation, Waxman argued, has focused almost exclusively on Democratic activity, with 874 of the 883 subpoenas issued by the committee "issued to Democratic targets."

Burton argued that the Justice Department and Attorney General Janet Reno had exacted several pounds of flesh from Republicans who had engaged in illegal contributors by fining several of them millions of dollars.

Huang was questioned about a variety of facets of the case during the afternoon's proceedings, including his involvement with the Buddhist Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights, California.

The temple was the scene of a 1996 Gore fund-raising event that raised the eyebrows of Republicans and Justice Department investigators. Religious organizations, because they are tax-exempt, are barred from raising campaign money.

Testimony before Senate hearings into Democratic fund-raising practices indicated temple members may have been reimbursed for their contributions to the 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign. The temple has been named an unindicted co-conspirator in the department's probe.

Huang was also quizzed on the numerous telephone calls he made to Lippo from his office in the Commerce Department, where he took an appointed position after the 1992 election.

"I took my position at the Commerce Department very seriously," he said.

Huang decried the treatment he has been accorded by congressional Republicans and others since the campaign finance scandal broke, saying he believed a form of racism factored into their zeal to get to the bottom of the matter.

Burton defended the lengthy probe, saying, "Nothing in this committee's work should be interpreted as a slight to Asian-Americans."

Taxes force Santa out of grotto, says Canada's Opposition

The bad news for all the good little Canadian boys and girls out there is that high taxes have forced Santa Claus to move to the South Pole, where he will operate his sleigh under a Liberian flag of convenience.

That at least was the message on December 15 from the official opposition Reform Party, which issued a press release from Santa's North Pole grotto protesting about taxes.

It described how a distraught Santa put the blame firmly on Finance Minister Paul Martin, under widespread pressure to use a growing budget surplus to fund tax cuts.

"It is becoming impossible to get the elves to work overtime. Martin's payroll taxes rip their paychecks in half," Claus complained.

The release from Reform -- which unlike most Canadian political parties has a well-developed sense of humor -- quoted Santa's transportation division chief Rudolph as complaining that taxes were driving up the price of reindeer fuel.

"Our accountants say the best way to escape Martin's tax juggernaut is to move to the South Pole and to operate Santa's sleigh under a Liberian flag of convenience. This is exactly what we intend to do," Rudolph said.

The release quoted Santa as saying he had been driven to act by rumors that Martin would be imposing a Pole Tax in his forthcoming budget.

"It's the last straw," he said. "I'm out of here! And unless Martin offers broad-based tax relief soon, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy will be gone too."

Searching for redemption? Clinton supports Rose

Pete Rose can count U.S. President Bill Clinton as a supporter in his quest for reinstatement to major league baseball.

In an interview with People magazine, Clinton said he would like to see Rose admitted to the baseball Hall of Fame someday, because he considers Rose one of the finest to play the game.

"I think just about everybody ought to get a second chance," Clinton said. "I'd like to see it worked out, because he brought a lot of joy to the game, and he gave a lot of joy to people, and he's paid a price -- God knows, he's paid a price."

Rose agreed to a lifetime ban from baseball in 1989, after a gambling investigation. The ban made Rose ineligible for the Hall of Fame. Rose sought reinstatement in 1997, to which baseball commissioner Bud Selig has not formally responded.

Roger Makley, who has represented Rose since early in baseball's gambling investigation a decade ago, will meet this month or in January with baseball's top lawyer, Bob DuPuy. Rose termed it the start of a dialogue to end his lifetime ban from the sport.

"I'd like to see what he did right, and what he did well, somehow accepted," Clinton said. "And I'd like it if it happened while he was still alive."

The interview was being published in People's year-end issue, hit newsstands on December 17.

Trump says he would tax possessions of the rich

Billionaire developer Donald Trump says in a new book that his deal-making ability would make him a president like no other -- one capable of erasing the national debt and ending "the rip-off" of the United States by foreign countries.

"Our trading partners would have to sit across the table from Donald J. Trump, and I guarantee you the rip-off of the United States would end," he says in a new book, "The America We Deserve."

The 288-page book, to be released later this month, is the latest literary offering from which the current crop of presidential candidates are introducing themselves to voters. Trump is considering a campaign for the Reform Party nomination.

In the book, he lays out his views on the nation's tax policy, his feud with Democratic presidential contender Bill Bradley, the national debt, foreign diplomacy, trade, campaign finance, ethics and his own reputation as an egomaniac.

The most eye-catching policy change actually is one he announced last month -- a plan to erase the national debt by imposing a one-time, 14.25 percent tax on the possessions of people worth more than $10 million -- including himself.

He also says he would ban "soft money" campaign donations.

One of his "least-favorite subjects" is Bradley. The former New Jersey senator played a key role in winning congressional approval of a 1986 overhaul of the federal income tax code. Trump says the legislation helped cripple the real estate industry in the early 1990s and hastened his own plunge toward bankruptcy during those years.

"Anyone who prefers Bradley to (Vice President Al) Gore is either completely ignorant or a member of the family," Trump fumes in the book.

As for his own talents, Trump says his wheeling-and-dealing experience would help him light a political fire under Congress when it is gridlocked. And in foreign policy, he would stop the nation from being "ripped off by every country we do business with."

"The dealmaker is cunning, secretive, focused and never settles for less than he wants. It's been a long time since America had a president like that," Trump writes.

On trade, especially, "if President Trump does the negotiating, we'll get a better deal for American workers and their families, and our economy will not be as vulnerable to global pressures as it is today," he says.

In a section titled, "The Trump Ego," Trump says he has little to gain, personally or professionally, from being president.

"Do I need to be president to feel good about myself? I feel pretty good right now," he writes.

"I've never met a person who's successful who didn't have an ego," Trump adds. "There's nothing wrong with it."

Trump also says he has the honesty Americans want in a president in the post-impeachment environment. He has never consumed alcohol or illegal drugs or smoked a cigarette, he says, and pledged to divest himself of his gambling industry holdings or put them in a blind trust if elected.

"I am 100 percent clean," Trump says, "something you can't say with certainty about our current group of presidential candidates."

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