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News Briefs I

Bogus Check Scheme Lands Freeman' Imitator in Jail

Los Angeles Times

Saying that she had done "more damage" to the banking system "than most bank robbers," a federal judge Monday sentenced M. Elizabeth Broderick to 16 years in prison for running a bogus check scam inspired by the Montana "Freemen" that defrauded victims from large financial institutions to poor followers.

"You dropped an atomic bomb on the banking system with this bogus scheme," said U.S. District Court Judge Dickran M. Tevrizian.

"You're not a patriot," he said, rejecting Broderick's claim that she was resisting a tyrannical federal government in issuing homemade checks at seminars throughout Southern California between October 1995 and April 1996.

"You defrauded thousands of people people who were desperate."

Broderick, a 53-year-old former teacher, defended herself, saying "I was here to give damages to the American people. You can lock me up but you can't lock up my knowledge."

A federal court jury convicted Broderick in October of 26 counts including conspiracy, fraud and money laundering for organizing and leading a scam in which Broderick's customers paid up to $200 to attend her seminars and $100 for each blank check, which she described as a "comptroller's warrant" backed by more than $1 billion in liens against the U.S. government.

In all, prosecutors contended, Broderick and her convicted accomplices - Barry Switzer, chiropractor Julian Cheney and Adolf Karl Hoch - issued $800 million in phony warrants. Her total take, according to prosecutors, was about $1.2 million.

Many of Broderick's clients tried to pay off their debts and mortgages with the warrants, some of which were temporarily accepted by banks and other financial institutions.

South Korean Legislators Approve Bipartisan Labor Bill

Los Angeles Times

In an effort to quell the nationwide labor unrest that sparked costly strikes earlier this year, South Korean legislators Monday passed a revised labor bill with greater protections for workers and expanded union rights.

But lawmakers admitted the bipartisan compromise was not expected to completely satisfy either labor or management. The clash over job security vs. economic efficiency has grown more acute amid rising unemployment, a widening trade deficit, flagging growth and increasing global competition.

"The new labor bills may not be the best version possible. But they were the only alternatives for a quicker economic recovery and better industrial relations in the nation," the chief policy-makers of the ruling and opposition parties said in a joint statement before the bill passed.

In the ruling party's most significant compromise Monday, the new law will delay the introduction of a more flexible layoff system by two years. It also will tighten the conditions under which management can dismiss workers to cases involving urgent "operational need."

Toronto Takes Tough Tack On Cigarette Smoking

The Washington Post

Even as Toronto joined the big leagues of the anti-smoking movement last week with one of North America's stricter tobacco ordinances, life in Toronto's nightclub district continued apace with late nights, loud music and a slowly accumulating haze.

Smoking now is only supposed to occur within separately enclosed and independently ventilated rooms - "hermetically sealed" as the business owners like to joke, and covering no more than one-quarter of any business's space.

The new rule, which went into effect March 3, was conceived by local health officials as a way to eliminate public smoking in the city. No major city in North America has gone as far to limit smoking.