President-elect George W. Bush has plucked a Democrat from the Clinton administration to go with two conservative Republicans as he completes his cabinet picks. Bush named Commerce Secretary Norman Mineta to head the Department of Transportation; just-defeated Senator Spencer Abraham of Michigan to be energy secretary; and Linda Chavez, who served as the controversial director of the Civil Rights Commission under President Regan, to be secretary of labor. More on Bush’s administration in a minute.
After warning anew of a possible slowdown, President-elect Bush is taking stock of the economy in a gathering of business leaders from throughout the nation, many of whom have bought stock, of a sort, in his selection. Nearly three dozen executives from new and old economy ventures are to gather behind closed doors today with Bush, who’s seeking to build support for his $1.3 trillion 10-year tax cut proposal. Almost two-thirds of the corporate executives planning to attend the economic forum contributed to Bush’s campaign for the White House. Of the 32 attending the event at the Texas Governor’s Mansion, 21 gave to Bush — all but one the legal maximum $1,000 to a campaign that raised a record $100 million. In addition, the attendees’ companies contributed more than $7 million to Republican Party committees, some of which went for so-called “issue ads” supporting the Bush candidacy.
President Clinton met with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat twice yesterday to clarify the U.S. peace proposals but failed to win the Palestinian leader’s support. Though a White House spokesperson said Arafat had made commitments to reduce violence, expectations are low that an accord can be achieved in the last two-and-a-half weeks of Clinton’s term. Palestinians have demanded that refugees be allowed to return to their homes in Israel, from which they were expelled at the founding of Israel in 1948. Palestinians also objected strongly to the proposal’s provision for Israeli annexation of settlements in the West Bank. Meanwhile, tensions have escalated. Israel’s deputy defense minister has promised Israel will hunt down any Palestinians it considers to be involved in attacks on Israelis, including those serving in the Palestinian Authority.
Striking Czech Television journalists and their allies organized a mass protest today, pledging to mobilize thousands to pressure the government to fire managers at state-run television for alleged political bias. The protests, planned for late afternoon in Prague’s Wenceslas Square, follows political leaders’ failure to end the standoff between Czech Television director Jiri Hodac and the journalists. A committee named by the parliament appointed Hodac last month. Czech Television’s journalists began protesting the appointment on December 20, claiming that Hodac’s tie to the former prime minister, Václav Klaus, would compromise the station’s journalistic integrity. Thousands of Czech citizens have rallied to support the journalists. More than 120,000 have signed a petition backing their demonstrations. As the journalists’ protest continues, pressure on the government to act is increasing. The upper chamber of the Czech parliament was scheduled to convene an emergency session later today to discuss the crisis. More than 40 journalists have occupied the station, sleeping there since Christmas Eve, protesting both the hiring of an internal staffer to be the general manager and also the bannings of other staff at the station.
Civil rights groups will meet in the nation’s capital this week to discuss widespread denial of blacks’ voting rights during the 2000 presidential election. In an event advertised as a “National Emergency Summit,” leaders of the NAACP, the National Urban League, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and other groups will meet tomorrow at Howard University to “shape a response to the denial of voting rights” in the November 7th election. Among events mentioned at a related gathering yesterday was a plan by the Rev. Al Sharpton for a shadow inaugural march on January 20, Inauguration Day, to the Supreme Court building in Washington. “This is not over,” Sharpton said yesterday. “George Bush was selected by the judges, not elected by the people.” Several groups, as well as dozens of black members of Congress, have alleged that black voters were kept from the polls in Florida and other states on Election Day, and ballots of others were systematically discarded.
Palm Beach County’s presidential ballots are under the microscope again. Observers, mostly journalists this time, have begun their own examination of the punch cards. Florida’s votes have been certified for more than a month, and Al Gore conceded the race to George Bush over three weeks ago, but several news groups are conducting examinations of Bush’s razor-thin victory — 537 votes out of six million cast.