Former Mayor Ed Koch wrote a weekly column for New York Newsday from 1999-2000. This column first appeared in November 1999.

STORIES I think about: By a 9-6 vote, the Board of Regents adopted new standards for admission to the City University that will prevent about 1,400 students who need remedial math and English from entering CUNY's seven colleges each year.

This decision affects poor people, primarily minorities living in city school districts that do not adequately prepare their students for college-level courses.

Instead of punishing the teachers and principals, the Regents are punishing their students. This is particularly unfair when you consider that, according to The New York Times, 81 percent of four-year colleges in America, including New York's state university, offer remedial courses. Why not fire the chancellor and the Board of Ed? Hillary Clinton's Mideast visit is unfairly excoriated by the Giuliani claque.

Clinton, who courageously went to the West Bank city of Ramalla representing the United States, actually handled the matter very well.

What would I have done? I would not have interrupted the ceremony, creating an incident. I would have criticized Suha Arafat's statements when questioned by the press. That is exactly what Clinton did.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak told a group of American Jewish leaders last week that he believes the first lady's visit "was highly successful." Pandering to ultra-religious fundamentalists, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani unintentionally gained the greatest sympathy for Yasser Arafat back in October, 1995, when he ordered Arafat, who was invited by UN Secretary-General Boutros Bout- ros-Ghali, out of the United Nation's 50th anniversary celebration at Lincoln Center.

Giuliani's public discourtesy was broadcast around the world, resulting in millions of people siding with Chairman Arafat and holding New York City's mayor in contempt for his bush-league discourtesy.

I admire Ward Connerly, the architect of Proposition 209, which ended racial set-asides at California's state universities. Connerly is currently seeking to place a similar referendum on Florida's ballot.

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Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has executed a brilliant alternative. He issued an executive order ending racial and gender preferences at state colleges. It guarantees admission to all students who graduate from high school in the top 20 percent of their class. In addition, the state would provide substantial funding to help poor students with college expenses. Connerly should declare victory and drop the referendum.

Philip Morris has spent millions of dollars lobbying legislators everywhere.

From 1996 to 1998, this company spent $ 522,817 for lobbying in New York State alone. Most of this money was spent on dinners and gifts to lawmakers. The company was caught understating actual expenditures, and agreed to pay a $ 75,000 fine.

Cigarette companies have been getting away with murder literally and figuratively. Literally by selling death in the form of nicotine and tobacco.

Figuratively by securing protection from current and former legislators. These companies have enjoyed great successes with campaign contributions in Congress and the state legislatures. Also, the Department of Justice has been sleeping on the issue.

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How else could one explain the failure of the government to prosecute the cigarette CEOs for perjury after they testified under oath before Congress that nicotine was not addictive and smoking does not cause cancer? If corporate lying, price fixing and antitrust activities of all sorts are to be rooted out, it will require that company executives be tried under criminal statutes.

That approach worked in the early 1960s, when high-ranking executives from General Electric and Westinghouse went to prison for price fixing. More recently, three executives from ArcherDaniels-Midland were sent to jail for a similar offense. It's time to teach that lesson again.

In my column of Nov. 12, I erroneously listed New York State Assemb. Philip M. Boyle as one of the legislators who oppose permitting a vote on the partial birth abortion bill in the Assembly in exchange for a vote on the gay rights bill in the Senate. In fact, he was the only legislator who expressed support for allowing both votes. The gay rights advocates who refuse to support a vote on both bills include Assembs. Richard Gottfried, Deborah Glick, Scott Stringer, Barbara Clark, Ronald Canestrari and Nick Perry; Sens. Thomas Duane and Eric Schneiderman; City Councilmember Christine Quinn; the legal director of Lambda, Beatrice Dohrn; and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.