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UPI's Capital Comment for March 14, 2003

March 14, 2003 at 1:38 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, March 14 (UPI) -- Capital Comment -- Daily news notes, political rumors, and important events that shape politics and public policy in Washington and the world from United Press International.

What would your mother say...

U.S. Rep. Melissa Hart, R-Pa., has introduced legislation to block federal funding to schools that provide the so-called "morning-after" pill to students. "Students can receive a pill to abort a pregnancy but can't even get an aspirin without parental permission," Hart said. Under current law, a school that receives federal funds designated for family planning is authorized to distribute the abortifacients. Hart said that is "inconsistent" with the idea that parents should be the ultimate authority in the lives of their children.

Under current law, federal policy can, in some cases, render state parental consent and notification laws moot -- allowing school nurses to distribute the "morning-after" pills from school-based clinics without parental consent or knowledge.

It's not easy being French...

Anti-French sentiment continues to rise in the United States. Early in the week, the U.S. House of Representatives, acting on the initiative of North Carolina Republican Walter Jones, announced that "Freedom Fries" would replace "French Fries" on the menu of the food service facilities.

Now, U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, a freshman Republican from Florida, has proposed legislation that would allow relatives and descendants of U.S. servicemen buried in military cemeteries in France to receive financial assistance to bring them home for reburial in the United States. "I, along with many other Americans, do not feel the French government appreciates the sacrifices men and women in uniform have made to defend the freedom that the French enjoy today," Brown-Waite said. Estimates of U.S. war dead in France and Belgium from both world wars exceed 70,000.

Elsewhere, the Sofitel hotel chain, which says its properties are a place to "share in the French art of good living," has struck the Tricolor from in front of their eight properties in the United States. A spokesman for the French-owned hotel chain said the move to take down the national colors was a "precautionary" measure. The flag of France has been replaced by a combination of the American flag and city and state flags.

Tanks for the memories...

State think tank leaders from Maine to Hawaii, and points in between, were in Washington Thursday and Friday for a series of high-level meetings with policymakers and administration insiders. Organized by Frontiers of Freedom's Kerri Houston, the 64-member assembly representing 36 separate, center-right think tanks from 28 states visited the White House Thursday afternoon for a series of briefings by senior officials on foreign and domestic issues.

"It is very reassuring to see that the administration is not neglecting domestic policy concerns and issues at the state level because of everything else that is going on right now," Houston said. "There are a number of important economic issues, like the need for tax cuts to further revive the economy, that needs to be addressed even as the prospect of war increases. The White House's effort to bring these state leaders into the loop is a positive sign that the domestic agenda remains a priority."

A four-alarm conference...

Almost 1,000 professional fire fighters are expected in Washington Monday as the International Association of Firefighters kicks off its 21st annual legislative conference. Among the political dignitaries expected to address the conference are U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., currently a candidate for president. Attendees are scheduled to spend Tuesday lobbying homeland security issues and other matters on Capitol Hill.

The IAFF is the almost one-quarter-million-member union for professional firefighters and paramedics -- a politically active group. According to the union, about 300 IAFF members currently serve as state legislators, mayors, city council members and in other elected positions.

Change change...

An informal survey of more than 1,000 people conducted on the Internet for the Little Coin Company says former Presidents Ronald Reagan and Theodore Roosevelt, and Nobel laureate and civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., should be added to the U.S. currency. "Reagan was the number one choice by a wide margin," company President David Sundman said.

The company asked coin collectors to identify whom they would like to see "portrayed on circulating U.S. coinage." King finished in second place behind Reagan. Also receiving votes were what Sundman called "an interesting mix of Americana" including former President Harry S. Truman, physicist Albert Einstein and inventor Thomas Alva Edison. Making the Top 10 list was "Miss Liberty," a theme frequently used on U.S. coinage until the middle part of the 20th century.

Personnel notes...

Harvey T. Valentine, formerly the chief flak for Tennessee Republican Sen. Fred Thompson, has been named communications director for the Republican Governors Association. A native of Troy, N.Y., Valentine began his career as a reporter for the Gloversville, N.Y., Leader-Herald.... Former Bush administration Deputy Treasury Secretary Ken Dam has joined the Brookings Institution, a liberal-leaning think tank, as a senior fellow in economic studies.... Veteran GOP fundraiser Andrew Theodore has launched The Theodore Company, a full-service fundraising firm. He steps out on his own after 10 years, the last few of which were spent serving as finance director and PAC consultant for congressional clients in New England and the Midwest.

(Got an item for Capital Comment? E-mail it to CapComm@UPI.com.)

© 2003 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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