WASHINGTON, Jan. 15 (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.
Be it ever so humble -- Former Cabinet secretary Elizabeth Dole, currently vying for the GOP nomination to replace retiring North Carolina GOP Sen. Jesse Helms, has responded to criticisms that she did not actually live in the state by purchasing the home in which she grew up. Her 100-year-old mother still lives in the home, which Dole purchased for $350,000 from a marital trust established by her father. Nonetheless, Democrats and her Republican primary opponents are still expected to make an issue over the fact that Dole, who is married to former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, has closer ties to his home state of Kansas and to Washington, D.C., where the two have lived for many years, than she does to the state of her birth.
Is there a doctor in the house? -- Reports are surfacing that the Bush administration has narrowed the search for a new Food and Drug Administration leader to three men. The leading candidate among them is said to be Dr. Alastair Wood, the vice chancellor of Vanderbilt University in Tennessee.
Wood's name was floated for the job in a Jan. 7 Los Angeles Times editorial that some suggest was the beginning of a final round of public vetting before a formal announcement was made. The pharmaceutical industry is reportedly cool to Wood, although he is said to have a powerful supporter in Tennessee GOP Sen. Bill Frist, the only M.D. serving in the Senate. Wood, who serves on the FDA Nonprescription Drug Advisory Committee, also has the blessing of another important Tennessean, Al Gore. The former vice president placed his stamp of approval on Wood at a Jan. 9 speech in San Francisco.
Coals to Newcastle? -- It isn't often that the Pentagon is the recipient of voluntary public largess. That hasn't stopped the eighth-graders in tiny Moorefield, W.Va., from stepping up to the plate. They were scheduled to present Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld with a check for $10,000 Tuesday to help with the ongoing rebuilding efforts.
The Pentagon was badly damaged in the Sept. 11 terror attack. The check, representing funds collected by the Moorefield middle-schoolers, is the first donation to the Pentagon rebuilding fund, part of the recently passed Defense Department authorization bill.
Thar's a new sheriff in town -- The Supreme Court police department is finally getting a new chief. The position has lain vacant for some time but will now be filled by Ross Swope, a 28-year police veteran. Swope spent 26 of those years with the Washington Metropolitan Police Department. For the past two years Swope has been deputy director for protection at the United States Mint. He joins the court on Jan. 28.
Flying blind -- A group of senators who visited Afghanistan last week were impressed with the aggressive security measures the military had taken to help ensure their safety, even though those steps were sometimes startling.
Some senators said they were taken aback when pilots on the military C-130 plane carrying the senators shut off all of the lights on the airplane and flew through total darkness using night vision goggles on the approach into the U.S. air base at Bagram. The sensation was even more impressive, because the air base had shut off all its lights as well, to confuse or deter potential attacks even further.
"Everything is done using night vision goggles at night," Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said on a conference call with reporters from Pakistan. Nelson said that while the senator-filled C-130 made its darkened descent, another heavily armed C-130 prowled overhead waiting to annihilate any potential threats.
Perhaps the Enron box is free -- House members and staff are grumbling over a recent House ethics panel stipulation that tickets to Salt Lake City Olympic events fall under the gift ban rules. The congressional code places strict, low limits on the gifts members and staff can receive from outside groups and are designed to prevent influence peddling. Tickets to some events exceed $50 apiece, staff lamented. Staffers said that, while they didn't necessarily disagree with the ethics decision, they are nonetheless saddened at having to open their wallets along with the regular folks.
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