UPI's Capital Comment for Oct. 23, 2001

By United Press International  |  Oct. 23, 2001 at 6:47 PM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 23 (UPI) -- Capital Comment -- News notes, political rumors and important events that shape politics and public policy in Washington and the world from United Press International.

From the counting chickens department -- New York is rife with rumors that Fernando Ferrer, who just ended his bid for mayor of New York, tops the list of potential primary challengers to Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y. As Bronx borough president, Ferrer shares with Engel many of the same constituents -- though Engel's congressional district runs north into lower Westchester County. Engel backed eventual-nominee Mark Green for mayor and has fought with Bronx Democrats for years -- so a Ferrer challenge would be serious. But there is one flaw in this thinking. New York loses two congressional seats next year as a result of reapportionment. With the governor's mansion and the state senate controlled by the Republicans and the state assembly led by the Democrats -- a large chunk of whom come from New York City -- the betting is that the two districts marked for extinction are GOP Rep. Ben Gilman's and, you guessed it, Eliot Engel's.

Whistling in the graveyard -- New York's historic Trinity Church, located in the city's financial district, was covered in debris by the Sept. 11 collapse of the World Trade Center buildings. It is once again clean, thanks to the efforts of the U.S. Coast Guard. The church's adjoining graveyard is the final resting place of the patriot Alexander Hamilton, the nation's first treasury secretary and creator of said Coast Guard -- whose members repaired the cemetery as a quiet way of saying "thank you."

Knock three times -- While some Supreme Court employees are being tested for exposure to anthrax, it's because they've visited surrounding congressional offices on Capitol Hill. Monday the court got its very own anthrax alert. Workers in the clerk's office found white power scattered over desktops when they came to work. However, testing -- and a little detective work -- determined that the powder was just some dust shaken down from the ceiling by workmen hammering on the floor above. Pulse rates were elevated for quite a while, though.

Muzzles off -- A Texas ban on anonymous political ads has been ruled unconstitutional by a state appeals court in Dallas. In a 2-1 ruling, the court found the ban violated free speech. "Freedom of speech includes the right to engage in the dissemination of ideas without being publicly identified," said the 2-1 ruling, written by Justice Joseph Morris, who was joined by Justice Michael O'Neill.

Third time is not a charm -- In a rare victory for term limits, New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial failed in his bid to permit a run for a third term. With all 442 precincts reporting, opponents of Morial's bid to change the City Charter had 64,373 votes, or 61 percent of the more than 105,000 ballots cast.

Eggs-act science? -- A Florida high school has cancelled a planned science experiment that would have seen student-designed packages containing eggs dropped from a 35-foot-high cherry picker onto a poster of terrorist Osama bin Laden. District officials reportedly feared the physics project would be seen by some as culturally insensitive and suggested a poster saying "Terrorism" might be a more appropriate target. The egg drop will continue, but without the poster, keeping school officials out of the soup.

Personnel note -- Michael A. Magan, formerly vice president and deputy chief of staff at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, was recently named associate deputy undersecretary at the U.S. Department of Labor.

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