UPI's Capital Comment for March 11

By United Press International  |  March 11, 2002 at 1:45 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 11 (UPI) -- Capital Comment -- Daily news notes, political rumors, and important events that shape politics and public policy in Washington and the world from United Press International.

Clean sweep redux -- The battle for the leadership of the Screen Actors Guild is finally over. In a case with eerie similarities to the year 2000 presidential contest, the results of the contest for three top union offices were voided after the losing candidate for president, actress Valerie Harper -- better known as TV's "Rhoda" -- and her supporters claimed that balloting irregularities affected the outcome of the race.

A union committee agreed and ordered that the race for president, recording secretary, and treasurer be rerun.

Participation in the second round of balloting almost doubled -- with 41.4 percent of the 91,000 ballots that had been mailed out returned. In the November contest, just fewer than 28,000 votes were cast in the presidential race.

The final result? Former child star Melissa Gilbert was elected, or perhaps re-elected president of the union. Actor Elliot Gould was once again named union recording secretary and Kent McCord, best known for his starring role on TV's "Adam-12" in the 1960's, was once again chosen treasurer. So, after all the rigmarole, the union ended up right back where they started.

Una ventura unida -- The GOP polling firm McLaughlin and Associates and the consulting shop of Rodriquez and Company have joined together to form Opiniones Latinas, a public opinion and market research firm to help firms and candidates connect with Latino consumers and voters.

A common understanding -- The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is sponsoring a conference, "Truth and Freedom: Toward a Common Understanding Among Muslims, Jews and Christians," on March 20-21 in Washington. The conference is the fourth in an international series designed to foster dialogue among Christians, Muslims and Jews on the possibility of a common understanding of religious freedom.

Things you are likely to hear -- With the Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled to vote on the nomination of Judge Charles Pickering to a seat on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, his supporters are pulling out the stops to get his nomination to the floor, where they think he has a chance of winning confirmation.

With that in mind, two things Washingtonians are likely to hear over and over again this week are a 1997 clip of Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., on the Senate floor talking about how every judicial nominee is entitled to have a vote on the floor and current committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., saying "It is the responsibility of the U.S. Senate to at least bring them to a vote."

Nursing a grudge -- The United American Nurses are directing interested parties to what they call "Two compelling explanations for the shortage of registered nurses in the nation's hospitals -- low job satisfaction and low pay," findings included in a 126-page report released late last month by the Department of Health and Human Services.

"We can't hope to end today's nursing shortage without addressing the root problems --poor work and care conditions and low pay," Susan Bianchi-Sand, director of the United American Nurses, AFL-CIO, the labor arm of the American Nurses Association said.

The group says that the HHS report, Findings from the National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses, discovered: Job satisfaction is markedly lower than it is for both the general population (85 percent) and for other professional workers (90 percent). Sixty-seven percent of hospital staff nurses and 65 percent working in nursing homes reported being satisfied in their present jobs; and, salaries for hospital staff nurses "only increased by 2 percent" annually between 1996 and 2000.

Hitting the books -- Frank Sesno, former Washington bureau chief for the Cable News Network, has joined the faculty of Virginia's George Mason University as university professor of public policy and communication. He will teach courses in the School of Public Policy and the College of Arts and Sciences.

In addition to his teaching role, GMU says Sesno will have a series of forums on journalism, the media and public policy, and will host regular on-air town meetings on GMU-TV. Sesno also is collaborating with the university and WETA-TV to develop a weekly, local 30-minute public affairs series.

Remarks well suited for the occasion -- In a statement regarding the 6-month mark since the Sept. 11 terror attack, Mary Alexander, president-elect of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America sung the praises of the 2,000 volunteer attorneys who are assisting the families of terrorist victims, under the banner of Trial Lawyers Care.

"As we mark this sad anniversary, we need to focus on helping the victims' families achieve some sense of closure. Because of the devastating nature of the incidents, no TLC lawyer is taking any money for the work of obtaining assistance from the compensation fund for the families who seek our support," she said.

Alexander and ATLA say eligible victims and their families -- those who suffered physical injury or the loss of a loved one as a direct result of the terrorist acts of Sept. 11 -- are urged to contact Trial Lawyers Care toll-free at 888-780-8637, or 911LawHelp.org for more information about obtaining a free lawyer.

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