Major Gil Macklin (USMC-Ret.) of the National Defense Council Foundation discussed the six American hostages being held in Colombia by rebels controlled by drug cartels. The hostages are being held, he said, to 1) embarrass the U.S., and 2) get money (General Electric of Latin America has paid $2 million in ransom in a hostage-taking case). 20% of the Colombian National Police has been tasked to find these hostages, said Macklin, who has spent 18 months in Colombia as a U.S. drug control expert, but the U.S. has not sent any rescue teams there because the U.S. ambassador disapproves of guns. The House International Relations Committee plans hearings on this issue. Colombia suffers 1,000 police officer deaths and 33,000 civilian murders a year due to the drug wars, Macklin said, and said the U.S. could do much more to help. Macklin recommended a May 1 Robert Novak column on President Clinton's "phony" drug war and noted that although he, Macklin, spoke very highly of Drug Czar General Barry McCaffrey during his last presentation, he had changed his mind: "McCaffrey is the biggest disappointment I've ever run into." Contact Major Macklin at 703/836-3443. For a copy of the Novak column only, contact Jon Meek at (202) 507-6398.
Cmdr. Chip Beck (USN-Ret.), a former Pentagon POW/MIA investigator, reported that several Eastern European nations have information about the fate of U.S. prisoners of war transferred to the USSR after World War II, Korea and Vietnam. These nations have indicated a willingness to trade this information in exchange for favorable consideration of their applications to join NATO, he said, but the U.S. government is showing no interest. Contact Chip Beck at 703/241-0804 or Beck Chip@aol.com.
Jim Sheehan and Marlo Lewis of the Competitive Enterprise Institute discussed Clinton Administration plans to 1) make the environment (in Al Gore's words) the "number one priority" of American foreign policy, and 2) reduce the importance of national borders through an increased reliance on international rule-making through environmental treaties, agreements and multi-government international conferences. Sheehan and Lewis also spoke about Administration plans to 1) impose new environmental regulations through an international Climate Change Treaty conference scheduled for December and 2) revisit raising the BTU tax. They reported that some labor unions are now breaking with the Administration on these issues. Contact Marlo Lewis and Jim Sheehan at 202/331-1010 or firstname.lastname@example.org (http://www.cei.org).
Author, journalist & Capitol Hill analyst Al Santoli led a discussion about renewal of MFN status for China, saying that the Congress does not "have a formulated position yet." Santoli, who opposes MFN, distributed a chart showing the U.S. trade deficit with China. In 1981 the U.S. had a $1.6 billion trade surplus with China, at the end of the Gulf War a $10.4 trade deficit and today has an annual trade deficit of nearly $40 billion. Santoli said MFN advocates do not sufficiently consider two factors: 1) strategic considerations, such as China using trade revenues to compete with us militarily, and 2) the strength of the Chinese culture, which Santoli says is strong enough to absorb the western influences it is exposed to through trade. Santoli noted that China says it plans to be #1 in the world on all levels by 2020 and called for a panel of experts to put together a sensible national security plan for dealing with China, but "I don't see it happening now in either party." Contact Al Santoli at 703/255-6437.
David Funderburk, former Ambassador to Romania and former U.S. Congressman, discussed the prospects for democracy in Romania. He predicted that democracy in Romania will not succeed unless 1) Romania is invited to join NATO or gets a signal within six months that it will be invited to join, and 2) Poland-style economic reforms begin to show some progress. Contact Ambassador Funderburk at 202/628-1700.
Dr. Emilio-Adolfo Rivero of the New Cuba Coalition reported on the likely effect of Pope John Paul II's scheduled January 1998 visit to Cuba. Rivero believes Castro will manipulate crowds and images sufficiently to ultimately benefit from the visit, and he believes that the Pope's visit will weaken the Catholic Church in Cuba. Rivero spent nearly two decades as a political prisoner in Cuba. He distributed a summary of his remarks. Contact Dr. Rivero at 301/927-2167 or email@example.com (http://tribeca.ios.com/~new_cuba/new_cuba.html).
After joking facetiously that his organization plans to give a national security leadership award to Trent Lott next week, Cliff Kincaid of the American Sovereignty Project updated participants on two issues: 1) HR 934, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD)'s United Nations Erroneous Debt Act, which now has 60 co-sponsors, and 2) a news conference planned for next week about Rep. Bill Lipinski (D-IL)'s resolution calling on Japan to pay reparations to victims of Japanese atrocities in World War II. The Administration does not support this, Kincaid said, but does support giving Japan permanent status on the UN National Security Council. Contact Cliff Kincaid at 703/352-4788.
Ron Pearson distributed brochures about the Young America's Foundation's National High School Leadership Conference to be held in Washington June 18-22. Free brochures are available from Kristen Kingsley at 1-800-292-9231 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Oakland School Board's decision to teach Ebonics with taxpayer dollars designated for bilingual education is the continuation of a racist policy that has been in place since 1981, says Project 21 member Deborah Wright, founder of Stop Ebonics: Educate Our Kids (SEEK) . Presently, over 300 classrooms across California, under the auspices of the Standard English Proficiency (SEP) program, use the Lesson Plan Handbook entitled "Proficiency in Standard English for Speakers of Black Language" to teach Ebonics. Funding for the program comes from federal and state sources. "The students are taught that bad grammar is acceptable... Ebonics institutionalizes racism and seeks to identify an entire race of people with broken English and bad grammar," said Deborah Wright. Included in the handbook are assertions that standard English is not the correct way to speak at all times, and that Ebonics is a playground language that should be used when speaking to friends. Furthermore, schools are instructed on how to use existing state and federal education monies to fund SEP. California State Senator Raymond Haynes and Assemblyman Stephen Baldwin are leaders on a bill to eliminate state funding for SEP. Rep. Bob Stump (R-AZ) has introduced a bill in Congress to eliminate federal funding for any programs that promote the teaching of English-language dialects such as Ebonics. Contact Arturo Silva at (202) 507-6398 or email@example.com. *