Scoop

Behind the White House Face-Lift

The campaign to switch the spotlight from Bill to Hillary Clinton ground on last week as the scandal machine continued to churn out embarrassing scoops about the first family, including Chelsea— a development that is bound to enrage both parents.

Dorothy Rabinowitz's op-ed piece in Friday's Wall Street Journal, recounting Juanita Broaddrick's ancient charge that she was sexually assaulted by Clinton when he was attorney general of Arkansas in 1978, sent the rumor mills into overdrive.

Newsmax.Com, a breaking-news Web site with a conservative bent, which has been pushing the Broaddrick story for weeks, hit the Net with a story that Chelsea had undergone plastic surgery for a recessive chin, following in the footsteps of Tipper Gore, who got a "minor tuck and eyelift" at "a posh New York hotel as Secret Service agents stood guard." (Sources close to the Clintons said the report was false.)

Over the weekend, there was an eye-opener about the real Asa Hutchinson by Sam Smith in the Web version of Progressive Review. Earlier last week, the St. Petersburg Times had revealed that the House manager was a wuss who'd tried to beat back attempts by Lindsay Graham and James Rogan to expand the investigation into charges of intimidation against women who'd come forward with stories about Clinton. Smith noted that Hutchinson's life has intersected with the Clintons. He was the prosecutor who let Roger Clinton cop a plea on drug charges.

Footnote: This Wednesday, Canadian hemophiliacs and their lawyers will travel to Washington to hold their long-awaited press conference demanding justice for thousands of people allegedly poisoned by diseased blood from Arkansas prisons while Bill Clinton was governor in the early 1980s.


Tax Breaks for the Rich, Cont
Phony Plan Spells Trouble for GOP

The Clintons need not worry too much about retribution for the failed campaign to drive the president from office. The Republicans are digging their own grave with their tax-cut proposal. Despite Virginia chief executive James S. Gilmore III's ringing pronouncement at the Governors' Conference in Washington last weekend that "we are the party of tax cuts," recent studies indicate that slashing taxes is becoming more of a nonissue every day, in part because taxes have been steadily decreasing since 1979, and also because the cuts always benefit the rich.

Rhetorically, the Republicans are unified behind an "across the board" 10 percent tax cut as their main plank for the 2000 election. In reality, they are split, with moderates like Connecticut's Nancy Johnson pleading with the conservative leadership to go easy lest everyone be forced to take a dive on the bill.

An analysis by Citizens for Tax Justice, a usually reliable nonprofit, shows that more than 60 percent of the benefits of the tax cut would go to the 10 percent of taxpayers with the highest incomes. According to the study, the bottom 60 percent of taxpayers would share about 9 percent of the total benefits.

Openly pushing this scheme could, of course, be sudden death for Republican moderates. Thus, this is one more example of how far hard-line conservatives are willing to go in dragging down their colleagues. Key problem: Republicans control the House by only a half-dozen votes, and the conservative leadership is in disarray after the impeachment defeat.


Battle of Britain
Prince Charles vs. Frankenstein Foods

Monsanto's attempt to spew genetically engineered foodstuffs around the world is running into a snag in the form of England's Prince Charles, who, in addition to his other duties, is Europe's preeminent organic farmer.

Ranged behind the Prince of Wales is the immense agricultural apparatus of the British royal family— an awesome collection of herds, organic gardens, farmlands, and fields stretching from Balmoral estate in Scotland to the Duchy of Cornwall in southwestern England.

Charles's love of the countryside is well known, as is his habit of finding relaxation by talking to plants. And the vegetation-friendly prince is not just opposed to genetically engineered foodstuffs— he has taken the lead in crusading to stop them.

"Mixing genetic material from species that cannot breed naturally," Charles writes on his Web site (www.princeo/wales.gov.uk), "takes us into areas that should be left to God. We should not be meddling with the building blocks of life in this way."

Although less than 1 percent of British land is organically farmed, organic food is wildly popular, with supermarkets predicting a 100 percent hike in sales this year. And the popularity of such food goes hand in hand with opposition to genetic foods— on which more than 130 British food writers recently called for a ban. In response, Monsanto argues that "we of all people should have faith in the regulatory process which ensures that all food that comes into the market goes through a rigorous safety-approval process." Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture is proposing to investigate health records to determine if there are any connections between genetic foods and birth defects, cancer, or allergies.

Nominally, most countries in Europe have tried to discourage the spread of genetic foods with product-labeling laws. However, this has proved to be essentially meaningless since food supplies are saturated with DNA-manufactured processed foods made with maize and soybeans. Such products are not mentioned on labels.

Certain other foods, including oils, are exempt, and there are no penalties. Following warnings by the Agriculture Ministry that the use of "Frankenstein crops" in animal feed could lead to antibiotic-resistant "super bugs," British officials admitted recently that they had no idea how many such crops were being used.

Monsanto fights vigorously worldwide to win acceptance of engineered foods, last year, for example, bringing Irish journalists to the U.S. and arranging a tour of the Oval Office for them. That visit was helped by the fact that Monsanto had hired Marcia Hale, President Clinton's former director of intergovernmental affairs.

However, it's one thing to try to influence the Clinton White House quite another to counter the heir to the throne of England. ("I personally have no wish to eat anything produced by genetic manipulation," the prince declared in a recent Web posting. "Nor do I knowingly offer this sort of produce to my family or guests.")

Nevertheless, Monsanto plugs on. A Monsanto spokesman said, "Prince Charles is entitled to his opinion," adding that "the risks are minimal and manageable."


Radioactive Ed
Towns Pushes Nevada Nuke Dump

Congressman Edolphus Towns of Brooklyn, a big recipient of campaign financing from the nuclear energy industry, is co-sponsoring House legislation with Michigan's Fred Upton to transport all of the nation's high-level nuclear waste to a test site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Under the plan, 95 percent of the radioactive waste generated by the nation's 109 commercial reactors would be hauled to a nuclear tomb at the U.S. Nevada Test Site, 100 miles north of Las Vegas.

Though Nevada residents are protesting fiercely, fixing Yucca Mountain as the sole site for nuclear waste is a good way to ensure that it doesn't get stored in the East, particularly near Westchester— home to Con Ed's Indian Point nuclear plant. Ironically, Westchester's Republican congresswoman, Sue Kelly, has voted against previous Yucca Mountain proposals.

With scientists predicting that radioactivity will leak into ground water, Yucca Mountain is hardly a secure site. Geologically, the area is unstable, having been rocked by more than 621 earthquakes in the past 20 years. And because the project calls for 30 years of continuous shipments by train and truck of 60,000 casks filled wih irradiated reactor fuel, it is being referred to as "Mobile Chernobyl."

One study finds that a single rail cask will contain more cesium than was released by the Hiroshima atomic bomb; that more than 300 accidents involving shipment of this high-level nuclear waste can be expected; and that there is enough plutonium-239 in the waste stream to cause 1.5 million cancers.

So why would a Brooklyn congressman praised for his concerns over the siting of health-threatening facilities in minority communities— the author of legislation to end incineration in those communities— be involved in such a questionable and potentially dangerous plan? As indicated above, the answer may be money. According to Public Citizen, over the last election cycle, Towns got $41,950 in PAC contributions from the nuclear industry, more than any other member of the state delegation.

Towns did not return calls for comment.


None of the Above

No wonder Jesse "the body" Ventura was the hit of the Governors' Conference last week. Ventura's campaign, attracting nonvoters in Minnesota, is one of the few pluses in a sorry statistical saga, which shows a steady decline among the voting public.

Voter turnout in the 1998 midterm election continued a falloff to 36 percent of the eligible electorate— the lowest level since 1942. Despite an increase in registration, the numbers of Americans voting dropped 2.5 million from 1994. According to the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, approximately 72.5 million people voted, while 115.5 million refrained. If there's a trend, it's away from both major parties and toward independent alliances. Registration for alternative parties climbed from 1.62 percent in 1962 to 13 percent last year, the group notes.

Additional reporting: Ioanna Veleanu

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