UPI's Capital Comment for Monday, March 18

By PETER ROFF, UPI National Political Analyst  |  March 18, 2002 at 10:33 AM
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WASHINGTON, March 18 (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.

Green day, blue flu -- There were fewer police and firemen and women marching in Rockland County, N.Y.'s annual St. Patrick's Day parade because, as the New York Post reported Friday, the man chosen to be the grand marshal was once convicted of taking part in an IRA bombing.

Brian Pearson, whom the Post said was "a former member of the Irish Republican Army who served 12 years in prison for driving the getaway car in the bombing of a Royal Ulster Constabulary barracks in 1975," entered the United States illegally. He has lived in the community for 12 years, receiving political asylum in 1997.

The local heroes feel the selection of a man who has links to a terrorist group is an affront to their professional brethren who did not survive the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington that occurred on Sept. 11.

School cheer -- Education reformers are still celebrating the news that Edison Schools Inc., the privately operated company that often comes to the rescue of failing inner city schools, has returned to Harlem, the largely black neighborhood in Manhattan.

In late February, Edison announced they would be building its national headquarters, which will include a public elementary school, in the neighborhood at 110th Street and Fifth Avenue.

Close to a year ago, the school reform movement that Edison represents was dealt a stunning setback when voters rejected a proposal, that drew strong opposition from New York City teacher's groups, to allow Edison to take over five low-performing public schools including PS 161 in Harlem.

Getting the Meth-age -- Rep. Doug Ose, R-Calif., is trumpeting the newly received support of Drug Enforcement Agency chief Asa Hutchinson for his legislation to address the legal and environmental problems resulting from the proliferation of methamphetamines. According to Ose, every pound of "meth" generates 4 pounds of waste in the production process. And, he says, "The meth 'cookers' don't dispose of it in an EPA approved manner. Often they dispose of their waste on public and private property. As a result, local authorities and even private landowners or family farmers are often stuck footing the bill to clean up the mess."

Ose's legislation, H.R. 3782, addresses the impact of meth use and meth labs on the environment, public health, our children and families and law enforcement.

David Boies call your office -- The venerable M&M's, a confectionary favorite since 1941, are about to expand. Global Internet voting has commenced at MMS.com to select which of three proposed colors -- purple, pink or aqua -- will join the familiar brown, red, yellow, orange, green and blue candies that "melt in your mouth, not in your hand."

There is no truth to the rumor, according to a well-placed source, that if allegations of voter fraud and other election irregularities are raised, the nine Gingerbread men and women of the Candyland Supreme Court will be forced to pick the winner.

Toying with the voter's affections -- The Mississippi Legislature has given final approval to a bill making the Teddy Bear the state's official toy. Named for former President Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, the stuffed animals are a ubiquitous presence in nurseries and sorority houses across America. It now heads to the desk of Democrat Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, who is expected to sign it.

Plaque flak -- In 1920, a group of Chester County, Pa., citizens -- representing several churches in the county seat of West Chester -- presented the county with a bronze plaque roughly 3.5 feet by 5 feet bearing the Ten Commandments. It was affixed to the outside wall of the historic courthouse.

After last summer's denial of certiorari by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Elkhart, Ind., Ten Commandments case, the Philadelphia chapter of the ACLU wrote to the Chester County commissioners asking the plaque "be removed in recognition of its obvious unconstitutionality," according to one member of the commission.

Board of Commissioners Chairman Collin Hanna says he "politely but unequivocally denied the request."

In October, the ACLU filed suit in federal district court on behalf of a Chester County atheist and the Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia. The case was finally heard last week and, within 24 hours of the end of oral argument, the court issued a decision that the plaque was unconstitutional and must come down. As a result, says Hanna, "My colleagues and I voted unanimously to appeal that decision to the 3rd Circuit and to request a stay from the order to remove the plaque."

Hanna says the support the commission has received for their decision has been overwhelming. "Between a petition drive and letters, e-mails and phone calls, we've heard from thousands of supporters with only a handful of dissent. A legal defense fund has been proposed and may be adopted, the attorney general of Pennsylvania has indicated an interest in filing an amicus brief in support of the county's position, and a dream team of attorneys and scholars -- including a former law school dean -- have stepped forward to offer to help with the appeal," Hanna says.

In and out -- The race for the GOP nod to succeed retiring Alabama U.S. Rep. Sonny Callahan is heating up. Two top Republicans quit statewide bids this week to enter the race to succeed him while a third dropped out of the race.

State Sen. Albert Lipscomb, who had been running for agriculture commissioner and Baldwin County District Attorney David Whetstone, who had been running for state attorney general, have entered the field. They join State Rep. Chris Pringle; Tom Young, the former chief of staff to Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and Callahan's former top aide, Jo Bonner, in the race.

Roofing contractor Jerry Lathan, vice chairman of the state Republican Party, has quit the race, citing family concerns.

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