UPI's Capital Comment for Dec. 5, 2001

By United Press International

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 (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.

Anti-freeze -- In a joint statement issued Tuesday, a group of American-Islamic political groups including the American Muslim Alliance, the American Muslim Council, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Muslim Public Affairs Council asked the Bush administration to reconsider its decision to freeze the assets of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, which they called "one of the nation's largest Muslim charities."


The groups said the Holy Land Foundation "had been targeted by pro-Israel organizations and individuals for several years because of what they said was the group's support for Palestinian militants," charges foundation officials deny. "The only specific accusation made against HLF has been that among the many Palestinians who received its relief aid were the children of suicide bombers," the statement said.


Saying the foundation's assets belonged to the entire Muslim community, the groups asked that the administration reconsider what they called "an unjust and counterproductive move that can only damage America's credibility in the Muslim world and create the impression that there has been a shift from a war on terrorism to an attack on Islam."

Once more with feeling -- Delegates from 19 states and Washington, D.C., meeting in Salt Lake City to further the cause of a simpler, more uniform system of collecting and administering state sales and use taxes, have elected Tennessee state Rep. Matt Kisbar, a Democrat, as co-chairman of the campaign. This national sales tax simplification effort is growing in strength as state governments are increasingly looking beyond their own borders for revenue sources, like out-of-state purchases via mail and the Internet.

What kind of friend in Pennsylvania? -- Former Fayette County, Penn., Commissioner Susanne Teslovich is on trial, charged with six counts of prostitution and related offenses in connection with her business, First Class Entertainment. A Democrat, Teslovich served two terms as a county commissioner before losing a re-election bid in 1995. In 1999, the year she is alleged to have opened her escort service, she lost a primary bid to be the Democrat's nominee for county controller. Her attorneys say she neither knew nor approved of her escort-service employees having sex with clients for money, something at least one former employee contradicted in her testimony.


Paper anniversary -- On the occasion of what it calls "the first anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's infamous decision" in Bush vs. Gore, the group is hosting a gathering to review plans for the future. On Dec. 12, they will "gather near Ground Zero in New York to declare that a nationwide campaign to rebuild American Democracy has begun." Why Ground Zero? The group says, "The events of Dec. 12, 2000, have been partially eclipsed by the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001. But '12-12' has tremendous bearing on '9-11'." Speakers at the main event, to be held in New York's historic Cooper Union Great Hall, include former Clinton adviser Paul Begala, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., former Texas Democratic Gov. Ann Richards and NYU Professor Todd Gitlin, author of Media Unlimited.

And if you call in the next 10 minutes ... -- The Working Families e-Activist Network, a pro-AFL-CIO group, is asking people to "Stop Fast Track" by calling 1-800-393-1082, a number connecting them to their member of Congress so they can deliver a message urging the defeat of the Trade Promotion Authority that President George W. Bush has requested. "Tell your U.S. representative to vote against this flawed legislation that already has cost more than 1 million manufacturing jobs and promises more job loss and lost wages," the group urges. But that's not all. "After you make your call, take one minute to send a fax to your U.S. representative easily from the AFL-CIO Web site by clicking on the link" at the Web site.


New blood -- N.Y. state Assemblyman Denny Farrell, who also heads the New York County (Manhattan) party organization, has been elected the new chairman of the New York State Democratic Committee. Farrell replaces Judith Hope, who resigned the post after the November elections. Hope was party finance chairman.

Personnel note -- Ruth Griffin, a member of the New Hampshire Executive Council, will be nominated for the post of commissioner of the International Joint Commission for the United States and Canada ... Michael Brown, former FEMA general counsel, will be nominated to be deputy director of FEMA ... Bess Conway, formerly with the staff of Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, is departing the law firm of Verner Liipfert for the Boston-based Sullivan and Worcester ... Scott Carpenter, who previously labored in the fields overseas for the International Republican Institute, is returning to join the Bush administration as a deputy assistant secretary at the State Department, working on issues pertaining to democracy policy, international labor, religious freedom and corporate responsibility within the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

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