UPI's Capital Comment for July 24, 2002

By United Press International  |  July 24, 2002 at 10:48 AM
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WASHINGTON, July 24 (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.

If a picture's worth a thousand words -- Microsoft lobbyist Kerry Knott and public affairs powerhouse Ed Gillespie were for many years the political brain trust behind Rep. Dick Armey, R-Texas. They are credited with developing the strategy that took Armey from obscure back-bencher best known for sleeping in his congressional office to the chairmanship of the House Republican Conference and, ultimately, to the No. 2 position in the House of Representatives. Now that Armey is retiring, Knott and Gillespie are performing one last service for their former boss: They are leading the effort to raise the funds for Armey's official portrait. The cost of the portrait, which will hang in the U.S. Capitol, is rumored to be close to $100,000. If all the former members of Armey's staff now in prominent positions in the administration and in the K Street lobbying corridor contribute the maximum $2,000 donation, it should take no time at all to raise the necessary funds.

Something's fishy -- Twenty-five of the world's leading whale and dolphin scientists have joined with the World Wildlife Fund, an environmental group, in urging greater attention be paid to what the WWF calls "the leading threat to dolphins and whales" -- entanglement in fishing gear. Research released Tuesday says nearly 60,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises "are killed each year worldwide by entanglement. That compares with an average killing of 21,000 whales a year by whalers during the 20th century, a practice that caused severe declines in nearly all large whale species."

The scientists have agreed to create what they are calling a global rapid response team -- the Cetacean Bycatch Action Network -- to provide expert assistance to regions where species are in crisis. "Working on the ground, they will join with fishermen, governments and other stakeholders to find solutions that work for individual fisheries," the WWF said in a news release.

Patronage, payoff or pretend problem -- Some folks in Washington cannot get past Florida. The long count and even longer recount that followed the 2000 presidential election continues to define the way the two parties relate to each other. One recent manifestation of the hard feelings still in evidence is the effort to make an issue of those veterans of the Florida recount that have landed jobs in the Bush administration. Among the 50 Bush appointees whom The Miami Herald found to have spent an extended tour in the Sunshine State arguing on behalf of the president's interests are U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson, Undersecretary of State John Bolton and Ambassador to Jamaica Sue Cobb. The Herald suggests that time in Florida has earned those appointees a sort of "political merit badge that carried a special status." Given the allegations of thuggery and chicanery that were made against the Bush supporters during the recount, there are some who are trying to obliquely suggest that the appointments are a reward for having disrupted the process.

School days -- Latin recording artist Jon Secada helped the Bush administration unveil a new bilingual Web site created to provide parents with a one-stop center for information to increase college knowledge. Secada, who was joined by Treasurer Rosario Martin, made the announcement at the Puente Technology Center in Los Angeles earlier in the month. The site -- YesICan.gov and YoSiPuedo.gov -- is a nationwide grassroots effort to make these tools available to parents, educators and community leaders, including a national public awareness campaign conducted jointly with the Hispanic Broadcasting Corp. on their 55 Hispanic-focused radio stations. Education Secretary Rod Paige will make a direct appeal to every public school principal, every college and university president including Hispanic-serving institutions, as well as community technology centers asking them to make these tools available to their constituents.

The nickel's back is back -- Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., is claiming victory in his battle to keep Thomas Jefferson's Monticello home as the image on the obverse of the 5-cent piece. The folks in charge of deciding what the money will look like have announced plans to change the back of the nickel to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Lewis and Clark's westward exploration to the Pacific, undertaken at Jefferson's urging. In response to hints that the nickel's back would again be redesigned after all the commemoratives were minted, Cantor asked the House to assent to his plan to keep Jefferson's home permanent on the coin and to establish a citizen's advisory panel to propose and review future changes to U.S. coinage.

Campus confab -- The Young America's Foundation, a conservative organization active on college campuses, is hosting its 24th annual National Conservative Student Conference this week on the campus of the George Washington University in Washington. The foundation expects more than 300 students from around the country to attend the weeklong event, which includes lectures by Ann Coulter, author of the New York Times No. 1 one best-selling "Slander;" rocker Ted Nugent; columnist and Hollywood personality Ben Stein; and Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review. Complete schedules can be obtained by calling the foundation at (800) 292-9231.

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