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UPI's Capital Comment for Feb. 27, 2002

By United Press International

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27 (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.

Piling on Patterson -- As the California congressional primary nears, a lot of attention is focused on the Republican contest in the newly drawn 21st Congressional District. Assemblyman Mike Briggs, who was once expected to be a strong candidate for the seat, is taking a beating from party activists for siding with Democrat Gov. Gray Davis on the state budget and is currently in third place according to some recent polls.

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Party activists report that former Fresno Mayor Jim Patterson -- currently leading the race -- has been the primary beneficiary of Briggs' collapse, with much of his nominal vote going to Patterson in order to ensure that Devin Nunes, who left a post at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make the race, doesn't come out on top. Nunes is strongly backed by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, R-Calif., which may have something to do with grassroots feelings about Nunes.

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Hold it! -- At the request of Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., the Senate Judiciary Committee has postponed its Thursday meeting where the nomination of Judge Charles Pickering to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals was expected to be voted. Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., agreed to the request as a courtesy to Sen. Lott, according to a statement from Leahy's office. Pickering hails from Lott's home state of Mississippi and is the father of current U.S. House Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Miss.


Nothing like waiting 'til the last minute --- Hoosier Republicans were shocked by the last minute entry of former Ft. Wayne, Ind., Mayor Paul Helmke into the 3rd Congressional District primary against incumbent U.S. Rep. Mark Souder, R-Indiana. Helmke, who lost a race for U.S. Senate to Democrat Evan Bayh in 1998 by a substantial margin, is believed to be more liberal then Souder but sources are scratching their heads trying to figure out the motivation behind his move.


Information please -- The Information Technology Association of America, a trade group, released its 12th annual Survey of Federal Chief Information Officers on Tuesday.

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According to ITAA, the survey found that the overriding issue facing CIO's is its efforts to address the broad security concerns raised by the war on terrorism that fall into four categories: Securing the Internet against terrorist acts; Providing integration of appropriate data to better fight terrorism; Ensuring that Internet information content does not aid the enemy; and Ensuring a robust infrastructure with particular emphasis on telecommunications. The full text of the survey can be found on the groups Website at ITAA.org.


The hunt goes on --- Vanderbilt University's Alistair Wood is reportedly out of the running for the job of FDA commissioner. Wood, who had the support of former Vice President Al Gore and a host of familiar names on the left, will not be getting the nod according to administration sources.


Past due rent -- Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge is drawing fire from Democrat party leaders in Pennsylvania for continuing to live in the governor's mansion for four months after he resigned to take his new job. The Democrats want Ridge to reimburse the state for the costs. Even though Ridge was invited to remain in the residence by his successor, former GOP Lt. Gov. Mark Schweiker -- now the state's chief executive -- Pennsylvania State Senate Minority Leader Bob Mellow says the arrangement amounts to "white collar welfare."

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Treasure hunt -- South Korea's security services have a big new fan in Karen Hughes, senior advisor to President George W. Bush. At the formal reception for Bush and his entourage at South Korean President Kim Dae Jung's official residence after the Feb. 20 summit, Hughes discovered she had lost a large diamond from a loose clasp on her ring. A quick search failed to find it in the vast room. Overnight, teams of security men literally took fine-toothed combs to the carpet, and the Hughes diamond has been returned.


True to form -- The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is generally not very popular with U.S. gun owners and a mid-February snafu did nothing to improve the relationship.

Last fall, ATF placed a notice in the Federal Register that Form 4473 -- without which no person can buy a gun -- was going to be changed. The effective date of the change was Feb. 19, 2002 but, when that day arrived, a number of gun dealers across the country discovered that had not received the forms, resulting in a tremendous uproar among grassroots firearms owners.

In order to address the issue, ATF posted the form on its Web site and will permit downloaded and photo-copied substitutes of the form to be used "until dealers get their supplies or until April 20, 2002" according to the ATF. Gun rights groups, while temporarily mollified by the patch, are nevertheless busy asking why a paperwork change that had been in the works for almost six months could not have been completed on schedule.

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English first -- U.S. ENGLISH Chairman Mauro E. Mujica is hailing the passage of "official English" legislation in the Iowa House of Representatives by a 56 to 42 vote. The approval sends the bill to the desk of Democrat Gov. Tom Villsack, who is expected to sign it into law. "Making English the state's official language is a victory for all Iowans," said Mujica. "We are pleased Iowa's lawmakers chose to vote for the unity of every Hawkeye and reject the divisive rhetoric of a few self-appointed immigrant 'leaders.' We

congratulate the State Legislature on taking this important step to preserve the tradition of a common language, English, for all Iowans."


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