Washington Roundup

All the news that's printed to fit



Just when you thought it was safe to trust Congress, the House Judiciary Constitution Subcommittee rolls on a popular bill proposed by US Senator Charles Schumer (Democrat, New York), and US Representatives Charles Canady (Republican, Florida) and Robert Barr (Republican, Georgia), which would enjoin the slobbering perverts in the teak-panelled offices upstairs from monitoring their workers' computer and Internet activities without adequate notice. The Committee was about to mark up the Notice of Electronic Monitoring Act (NEMA) Friday, but yanked it from the schedule at the eleventh hour on fears that deep-pocketed "people in the business community" might close the campaign-donations spigot. Hey, it's an election year. You had no right to expect better.....



Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (Republican, Mississippi) filed a motion Friday to consider a bill, stalled by Clinton-Administration padding, which would increase the quota for H-1B visas, and which Silicon Valley sees as essential to depress the price of American high-tech labour and keep the virtual profits flowing in. Heavyweight Republican Senators Phil Gramm (Texas) and Orrin Hatch (Utah), also support the bill. A Senate vote to consider it could possibly inspire House Republicans to weigh in before the legislative session gives way to campaigning, but the exercise is moot as the Gigolo-in-Chief remains unlikely to sign it unless it should include all the extra goodies he wants. The Republican hope is to get it far enough along, so that it's either defeated by Congressional Democrats and either-party racists and xenophobes (more likely) or vetoed by the Prez (less likely), and their minions can then use it as political ammunition to stigmatise Democrat opponents as economic obstructionists during their bids for office.....



US Attorney General Janet Reno got a cosmic cold shoulder from her spineless albeit frequent chief booster this week as Los Alamos Nuclear Lab 'problem downloader' Wen Ho Lee's nine-month pre-trial detention blew up in the President's face. Lee's treatment at the hands of Reno thugs conflicts with America's disdain for "abusive executive authority," abusive US executive Bill Clinton bleated Friday as his administration came under fire over the case. Lee was released Wednesday after cutting a deal to plead guilty to one count of mishandling classified data (precisely the deal DoJ reached with former CIA Director John Deutch, minus the nine months in solitary confinement, we recall). DoJ dropped its 58 other felony counts against Lee. A 'shocked' Clinton publicly criticised Lee's pre-trial detention, in solitary and sans bail, and blamed Reno for arguing so persuasively that granting bail would pose a devastating national security risk. "And then all of a sudden there was a plea agreement that was inconsistent with the claims that [DoJ] made," Clinton warbled with a phony concoction of incredulity and mild indignation.

The Republicans win this one easily. It was their quite reasonable allegations of Chinese influence over the Clinton White House that inspired Lee's harsh treatment in the first place, as the Clintonites scrambled to prove that there was at least one Chinese on earth they would stand up to. Unfortunately, they targeted a geeky professor-of-engineering type who looks like he'd gladly turn himself in for jaywalking. Not to worry, Republican US Senators Arlen Specter (Pennsylvania) and Charles Grassley (Iowa) will see to it that the Clinton/Reno/DoJ balls-up gets all the pre-election attention it deserves on Capitol Hill later this month. One sweet sting, fellas.....



The FCC on Thursday postponed a promised inquiry into regulating ISP access to broadband Net services owned by such telecomms Titans as AT&T and Time Warner, while preserving their right to cut the best deals they can with would-be piggybackers. Commissioner Gloria Tristani made the objection on grounds that the current inquiry into the AOL / Time Warner merger could be influenced if it were necessary to rule on open access, so the two issues should not be considered simultaneously. She declined to comment on why, then, the broadband access issue shouldn't be considered first, independently and irrespective of AOL's and Time Warner's interests in it.....



The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) settled a lawsuit against Texas e-tailer 1stBuy.com and its founder and CFO Roger Pringle, which it accused of raising approximately $3.8 million from investors on fraudulent information about an IPO for which the company never qualified. 1stBuy and Pringle agreed to 'fess up to violating fraud and registration provisions of federal securities laws. As part of the settlement, Pringle will pay a $25,000 civil penalty, the SEC announced triumphantly. People have done hard time in stir for a good deal less, but of course they didn't own e-tail outfits..... ®

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