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Hot Buttons: Talk show topics

By United Press International

SKIRTING CIVIL SERVICE RULES?

Congressional Democrats and their labor allies are threatening to kill a key component of President Bush's homeland security plan that allows the executive authority to remove civil service protections from some federal employees, The Washington Times reports.

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The White House is proposing to merge dozens of agencies and 160,000 employees into the new Department of Homeland Security. About one-third are civil service workers, with job protections that make them difficult to fire.

Because of the sensitive nature of some of the homeland security jobs, the Bush administration wants the new Cabinet secretary to have the flexibility to waive civil service protections for some employees.

But the resulting protest from unions and their supporters in Congress is emerging as one of the most serious threats to the anti-terrorism plan and presents a political problem for Bush, who has been courting support from unions such as the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

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Several lawmakers, including Sens. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, and John McCain, Arizona Republican, raised the issue last week in a closed briefing with Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge.

Kennedy is chairing a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to examine "how workers could be hindered in forming unions under the new Department of Homeland Security proposal.

Ridge says he will be meeting with labor leaders to reassure them that the new department will respect collective bargaining rights. However, Ridge has not backed away from the notion that there may be an occasional need to waive civil service protections.

"Throughout this debate about the new department, I will fight to ensure that federal employees, who have dedicated their lives to public service, do not lose the civil service protections they so rightly deserve, said Rep. James P. Moran, a Democrat from Virginal

-- Should the executive branch be allowed to remove some civil service protections from federal employees in the name of homeland security?

-- Since the executive branch decides what's in the name of homeland security, how would abuses of this option be decided?


SLAVE REPARATIONS: CLOSURE OR DIVISIVE?

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The New York City Council's Governmental Operations Committee held a public hearing on several measures supporting reparations for the descendants of African slaves.

The hearing was on four resolutions that would, for the first time, put, the council on record as supporting aspects of the issue. No vote was taken, and the future of the measures is uncertain, the New York Daily News reports.

The main resolution calls for establishing a city-funded commission to hold hearings and recommend compensation to New York City descendants of African slaves.

Justification for the reparations effort was outlined by Councilman Charles Barron, a Democrat from East New York, who drew cheers and standing applause from several dozen spectators.

Supporting the measure are 91-year-old Mary Lacey Madison of Harlem, the granddaughter of slaves and a plaintiff in a federal reparations suit and Rep. John Conyers, a Democrat from Michigan who has been pushing for national reparations legislation in Congress.

The sole objector who spoke was Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., a Democrat from Queens.

"I must respectfully disagree that reparations are a fair way of redressing past wrongs, are either fair or practical, and I believe that it will drive Americans apart," he said.

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Vallone also argued that many New Yorkers died in the Civil War to end slavery, and whatever debt was owed "was repaid with the blood of the people of New York City."

-- Should reparations for those descended from African slaves be considered?

-- Currently, there are reparation commissions being considered in New York on the state level and city levels, as well as the federal initiative. If reparations are to be considered, which level of government should recommend it and from where should the compensation come?


OLIVER STONE: DOCUMENTARY MAKER

According to the Jerusalem Post, some in Israel are concerned about Oliver Stone's documentary on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

"If (the) documentary on Arafat is as close to reality as were his movies on John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, Israel has real reason for concern," the Jerusalem Post writes.

Stone, who had been criticized on his treatment of historical fact in his feature films on the assassination of President Kennedy and of the life President Richard Nixon, tells Daily Variety columnist Army Archerd that he takes no position on Israel or Palestine.

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The filmmaker and documentary-maker tells Archerd he's against violence and against suicide bombers because they kill innocent people but he understands why the suicide bombers feel they way they do.

However, Stone adds, "The (Jewish) settlements (on the West Bank) -- they are something else. The Israelis have no business in the West Bank. The settlements have to be gotten out of the West Bank."

According to Archerd, Stone likened some of the arrivals in the West Bank to "vigilantes of the Old West in America."

"We need a third power to patrol the area, as was done in the 1970s in the confrontations between the Turks and Greeks," Stone says.

The Canal Plus-financed film for television has no outlet yet in the United States. Stone is also working on theatrical feature about Fidel Castro.

-- When dealing with historic material, how much dramatic license should a filmmaker have?

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