WASHINGTON, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- While you weren't looking -- Reports are coming in from Capitol Hill that Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., have slipped into the legislative branch appropriations measure a clause that would allow the federal government to pay off the student loans of Senate employees. According to supporters of the measure, it is seen as a recruitment and retention tool for staffers who may leave the Hill in an effort to find better-paying jobs. Opponents point out that, while such measures may be commonplace in the private sector, the expenditure of tax dollars on things like this require a long and hard examination. Citizens Against Government Waste's Leslie Paige said, "The president issued a war call, and the senators heard 'Sooey, sooey,'" referring to a well-known pig holler.
Same song, different verse, Part 2 -- We neglected to mention in Tuesday's item about IMF/World Bank protests that the Sept. 29-30 Washington, D.C., meetings had to be canceled, also as a result of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Some of the groups which had planned a protest of those meetings will now be leading what they call "the first national anti-war march ... in front of the White House" on Sept. 29.
Aw shoot! -- The Brady Organzation, the best known of the many anti-gun groups that populate the political landscape, has let nearly 20 percent of its staff go. The group, once known as Handgun Control, Inc., blames the general economic downturn for the cash crunch. Spokesman Brendan Daly also said the group's financial health had been adversely affected by the Sept. 11 terror attacks: "The terrorist attacks have rightly focused people on helping the victims, but that has a direct impact on our fund raising," he said.
School daze -- A sixth-grade teacher at North Avenue Elementary School in Sacramento, Calif., has been placed on paid leave after it was alleged that the teacher burned a portion of the American flag in front of a classroom full of students. The teacher, whom district officials will not identify, reportedly took a lighter to one corner of the flag while saying "I can't burn it all 'cause that's illegal," and "Babylon is burning," according to published reports. The incident occurred just a week after terror attacks on the United States left more than 6,000 people dead and missing.
Going forward -- Regnary Publishing has announced that it will proceed with the publication of Barbara Olson's last book, "The Final Days: The Last, Desparate Abuses of Power by the Clinton White House." Olson, the best-selling author, media commentator and Washington power lawyer, was killed when the airplane in which she was a passenger was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon. A number of people, including the New York Post's Cindy Adams, have been suggesting that the book should be suppressed in the wake of Olson's death. Each copy of the book will contain a request for contributions for the Barbara K. Olson Memorial Scholarship Fund.
Once more into the breach -- David Horowitz, the self-described "former anti-war activist" who now runs FrontPage Magazine.org and the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, is placing ads in 30 college newspapers across the country, urging the so-called "anti-war protesters" who have cropped up on college campuses in the days since Sept. 11 to reconsider their position. Horowitz's last advertising campaign, arguing the case against black reparations, caused quite a stir on campuses, leading in some cases to the theft of entire press runs of student newspapers.
Some invitation! -- The Traditional Values Coalition, a right-wing group active on social issues, issued a press release on Thursday that contained a pointed message for the Rev. Jesse Jackson: "Jesse: If You Go To Afghanistan, Please Stay There." Jackson has put himself forward as a potential mediator between the United States and the Taliban leaders who run much of Afghanistan. The Rev. Lou Sheldon, head of the group, had harsh words for Jackson. "We condemn not only his actions," Sheldon said, "but his radical anti-American and anti-Jewish beliefs. Jackson seems to be comfortable in the presence of terrorists and America haters. Perhaps he should remain in Afghanistan."