UPI's Capital Comment for Jan. 9, 2002

By United Press International  |  Jan. 9, 2002 at 4:24 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 8 (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.

Beck blocked, order tossed -- Federal District Court Judge Henry H. Kennedy, Jr., has tossed out a Bush administration executive order that required employers to post notices in the workplace telling workers they did not have to pay for union political activity with their dues money.

The order sought to codify the law as stated by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1988 case Communications Workers of America v. Beck. Judge Kennedy, who was appointed to his current post by President Clinton, ruled that the order illegally superseded federal labor law.

In the first days of his administration, Clinton revoked an earlier version of the same order made in 1992 by the current president's father.

The rain in Spain -- Chief Justice William Rehnquist normally has no trouble announcing the names of opposing parties in cases before the Supreme Court. However the chief was less than sure of himself Tuesday morning as an important patent case was brought forward. "The Festo Corp. vs. Shoketsu Kinzoku Kogyo Kabushiki Co. Ltd.," Rehnquist said, adding amid laughter in the court, "I hope I got that right." Washington attorney Robert Bork, representing the second company, told Rehnquist, "Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the court, I usually refer to it as 'SMC'," citing the firm's American name.

In -- As previously predicted in Capital Comment, Robert Reich, former U.S. secretary of labor has entered the race for the Democratic nomination for governor of Massachusetts.

Not a joke -- The FBI is taking the problem of anthrax hoaxes very seriously. In a release issued Monday, the bureau says that approximately 40 people have been charged with perpetrating anthrax hoaxes and threats. Penalties for these activities include a maximum 5-year imprisonment and up to a $250,000 fine.

FBI Director Bob Mueller said, "We will not tolerate these serious violations of federal law. These investigations place a severe strain on law enforcement and public health resources and violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Online, not mainline -- The free-market Independent Institute has launched an online resource for people interested in the policies and history of the federal Food and Drug Administration. Co-edited by Alexander Tabarrok, Independent Institute research director, and Daniel Klein, research fellow, they "evaluate the costs and benefits of FDA policy. We also present a detailed history of the FDA and a review of major plans for FDA reform." It can be found on the Web at FDAReview.org.

Keyes to the kingdom -- Former GOP presidential candidate Alan Keyes is the latest politico to jump into the media talk wars. Keyes, who also served with ambassadorial rank at the United Nations during the Reagan administration, has signed on with cable's MSNBC to anchor a new program in the 10 p.m. slot. MSNBC President Erik Sorenson hopes that the "right-leaning libertarian" will give the network powerhouse a running start against a rumored Fox News Channel program hosted by recent CNN-defector Greta Van Susteren.

More female mayors -- The cities of Atlanta and Cleveland swore in their first female mayors on Monday.

Former Atlanta city administrator Shirley Franklin becomes the only black woman to lead a major American city after she replaced outgoing Mayor Bill Campbell, who did not seek re-election. In Cleveland, Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jane Campbell replaced outgoing-Mayor Michael White, who also did not seek re-election.

According to the National League of Cities, the addition of Campbell and Franklin to the mayoral roster brings the total number of women currently serving as mayor in the nation's 50 largest cities to nine. Of the 10 largest cities, only Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, San Antonio and San Diego have ever had a woman as chief executive.

Dingell de-pantsed -- At least one member of Congress has run afoul of the tighter security measures imposed at airports after Sept. 11 -- but in this case it isn't his fault. Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., former chairman of the House commerce committee and a terror himself, set off the metal detector Saturday night while attempting to board a flight from Reagan National Airport to Detroit.

According to the Detroit News, Dingell, who is known for his mercurial temper, was taken to a back room and made to strip to his skivvies to prove to airline security personnel that he was not attempting to smuggle a weapon on board the flight. Only then, says the paper, would the guards accept his explanation that the magnetometers were picking up on the metal hip he received after being thrown from a horse 20 years ago. Dingell is being rather calm about the whole thing, but it is probably no surprise that he received a call from his former congressional colleague, Norman Mineta -- now the U.S. secretary of transportation -- who wanted to let the most senior member of Congress know he would look into it.

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