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Arab-Americans Report Rise in Violent, Harassing Incidents

February 7, 1991

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee says there has been a sharp increase in violence, harassment or intimidation against Arab-Americans.

The civil rights organization said Wednesday that there have been nearly 100 incidents since Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2. These include 47 since the United States started bombing Iraq on Jan. 16.

Albert Mokhiber, the group’s president, also raised questions about an FBI interview Monday of an Arab-American government employee who was questioned about attitudes of his ethnic group toward the war.

The interview occurred after the FBI said it had completed contacts with prominent Arab-Americans to solicit information about potential terrorism.

Mokhiber said reported episodes include threatening phone calls, firebombings of businesses owned by Arab-Americans and assaults.

The FBI is currently investigating more than 30 hate crimes against Arab- Americans that violate federal civil rights laws, said spokesman Bill Carter.

Carter refused to comment on the interview of Ghassan Khalek, an electrical engineer at the Federal Communications Commission who is also a local president of the American Druze Society.

The FBI interviews have been criticized by Mokhiber and civil libertarians as unfairly casting suspicions on Arab-Americans.

Khalek said he refused to answer questions about the views of Arab- Americans toward the war. ″They wanted to know the American Druze Society’s point of view,″ Khalek said.

--- Bush Signs Agent Orange Legislation

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush has signed legislation to compensate Vietnam War veterans exposed to Agent Orange.

Bush praised the ″men and women who stood where duty required them to stand″ as he signed the measure Wednesday. It permanently extends disability benefits to Vietnam veterans suffering from two types of cancer presumed to be caused by the herbicide: non-Hodgkins’ lymphoma and soft-tissue sarcoma.

Bush also signed legislation to give veterans a 5.4 percent cost-of-living benefit increase.

″A grateful nation salutes our veterans,″ said Bush, who used the signing ceremony to praise U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf.

As recently as 1990, Congress killed a bill similar to the one Bush signed.

The measure’s sponsors said fears that Iraq will use chemical weapons on U.S. troops in the Gulf War helped to break a congressional deadlock over the measure, which came to Bush’s desk after winning unanimous approval in both the House and the Senate.

--- Pentagon Eases Payback of $1.35 Billion From McDonell & General Dynamics

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Pentagon says it will put off collecting $1.35 billion from McDonnell Douglas Corp. and General Dynamics Corp. for an unfulfilled stealth aircraft contract.

Pentagon spokesman Pete Williams said Wednesday the action was taken at the request of the companies to help ease financial pressure on them.

Williams said the collection delay did not amount to a rescue of the contractors, though he stressed that McDonnell Douglas and General Dynamics are suppliers of key weapons being used in the Persian Gulf War.

These include the F-16 fighter and M-1A1 tank from General Dynamics and the F-15 fighter and Apache attack helicopter from McDonnell Douglas.

He stressed that the decision to give the companies ″some breathing space″ is ″in view of the central position of these companies in the defense industrial base.″

Williams said the government won’t insist on repayment until after the settlement of lawsuits stemming from the Pentagon’s decision to cancel the contract for the A-12 stealth attack plane.

--- Feds Satisfied with New Cisco Wine Packaging

WASHINGTON (AP) - Proposed new packaging for Cisco fortified wine should stop consumers from mistaking it for a wine cooler, federal officials say.

″We don’t think the new packaging is deceptive,″ Jack Killorin, spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said Wednesday. ″We’re glad that the company has agreed to make that change.″

Cisco is 20 percent alcohol, nearly three times the content of wine coolers.

Canandaigua Wine Co. of Canandaigua, N.Y., agreed to make changes in Cisco’s packaging after Surgeon General Antonia Novello held a news conference last month to decry the wine, which has been linked to alcohol poisoning in teen-agers.