Sowing seeds of friendship -- Approximately 30,000 families in rural areas of northern Afghanistan have received 1,500 tons of wheat seeds and fertilizers for the spring planting that could result in a harvest close to 16,000 tons, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. The United States funded the seed distribution with around $1 million.
"We expect that as a result of the distribution a farmer's family of six members could be self-sufficient in wheat for about six months after the harvest," said Anne M. Bauer, head of FAO's emergency operations and the organization's focal point for Afghanistan.
The seeds were distributed for spring planting to poor farmers, returnees and internally displaced people in remote areas in northern Afghanistan in the provinces of Faryab and Saripul in a project carried out in cooperation with non-governmental groups including the U.S.-based Save the Children and Pakistan's Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance. ACTED of France will also provide fertilizer to complement the seed distribution.
Lugar wants to envelope Manila with free trade -- Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., has introduced a bill, S.2005, that would authorize the administration to negotiate a free-trade agreement with the Philippines and to have the agreement considered by Congress under so-called "fast track" conditions.
"A free-trade agreement with the Republic of the Philippines would hold special economic significance for the United States," Lugar said. "United States exports to the Philippines totaled more than $22.7 billion in the year 2000. The Philippines ranks as the 19th largest export market for American goods. The United States is the largest foreign investor in the Philippines with some $3 billion in investments and 24 percent of the foreign direct investment stock as of the end of the year 2000."
Steely determination -- The Bush administration's decision to impose tariffs on imported steel does not sit well with the pro-growth wing of the Republican Party, commonly known as "supply-siders." This group, who took on the current president's father over his tax increase, is again under fire for pointing out the tariffs are a form of tax increase. The lobbying against them has been intense, with one prominent economist telling Capital Comment: "It appears that some in the White House have the same ideas that (Bush 41 Budget Director Dick) Darman had. Specifically that anyone (from our side) who thinks a tax increase is a bad idea needs to be destroyed." Another supply-sider reports that his opposition to the tariffs resulted in a call to his employers from a highly placed source, questioning the wisdom of his continued employment.
On the other hand -- Rep. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, went to the House floor Thursday to attack the Bush steel tariff for being too small. "I am glad the president took a step forward, something that we hoped he would do, but he did much less than we asked," he said.
The problems with the Bush tariff plan are, according to Brown: "One, it is not 40 percent over four years. It falls woefully short. Second, it does not deal with the legacy costs which is unfair to those retirees. LTV workers lose their health care March 31. Other retirees have already lost theirs. It does not deal with the legacy costs for those companies that are continuing to produce steel. And, third, it creates the Mexico exception. That will hurt our steel industry. It is a question of national security. That will hurt our steelworkers. It is a question of our communities."
Popping off at Dr Pepper -- When officials at the Dr Pepper soft-drink company tried to foster a spirit of national unity after Sept. 11, they did not anticipate the trouble they were getting into.
The company printed up 41 million special cans with a small graphic of the Statue of Liberty and the words "One nation ... Indivisible" on them. But, as PR Week reports in its March 11 issue, the lid on the pop can blew off. Efforts, led by the conservative American Family Association, left the company awash in e-mail messages complaining that the words "Under God" had been omitted from the phrase, which itself was taken from the Pledge of Allegiance. According to Phillipa Dworkin, a corporate communications vice president for the company, the decision to delete the religious reference was made for considerations of space, not political correctness. After 15,000 e-mail messages, the AFA dropped its campaign when the company ran out of the cans and promised that it would not print anymore.
Hollywood on the Hill -- Still lovely after all the years of nun's habits and surfboards, actress Sally Field and other show biz types were at the Supreme Court over the weekend and this week to check out the action. Field stars as a rookie justice in a new legal drama on ABC about the Supreme Court called, appropriately enough, "The Court." The show debuts this spring. The highest court in the land is already the subject of one TV drama, "First Monday," starring Joe Mantegna and James Garner on CBS.
Cajun arrangements -- Winning Margins PAC, a group founded by and for Democrats dedicated to providing financial assistance to a number of Senate Democratic incumbents and challengers in the 2002 elections, is holding yet another event with the Ragin' Cajun himself, James Carville and special guest, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.
The March 14 event, at a cost of $35 per head, will be at the Frederick Douglass Museum from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Carville will be present to sign copies of his new book written with Paul Begala: "Buck Up; Suck Up; and Come Back When You Foul Up." Copies of the book will be available that evening for $23 per.
Got a tip for UPI's Capital Comment? E-mail it to CapComm@UPI.com