WASHINGTON, July 25 (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.
They don't take Visa Express -- Anyone who thought the removal of Mary Ryan as assistant secretary of state for consular affairs would end the controversy over how and to whom the U.S. government gives visas was sorely mistaken. With Ryan out of the picture, attention is moving to the woman who reportedly is her replacement.
Maura Harty, who served as the principal deputy assistant secretary of state for consular affairs from 1999 to April 2001, already has been tagged as being no better than the woman she is being tapped to replace. One point of contention, say her opponents, is Harty's reputation as having capitulated "to the demands of foreign states in cases of child abduction" as one letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell, opposing Harty's appointment, says. The post requires Senate confirmation and the phone lines leading onto Capitol Hill already are humming over her nomination, which is right now being vetted by the White House.
Remain calm -- The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is reminding parents not to panic in light of the recent high profile child abductions that have captured the nation's attention. "Every time we are faced with a high profile case that's constantly making headlines, families are understandably frightened. But, they need to know these cases are very rare and parents can take measures to safeguard their kids," NCMEC President Ernie Allen says.
According to the NCMEC, parental abductions and runaways make up the majority of missing children incidents in the United States. While there were, in 2001, nearly 2,000 children reported missing per day, "The vast majority of these cases were recovered quickly; however, the parent or guardian was concerned enough to contact law enforcement and they placed the child into the FBI's National Crime Information Center." The NCMEC has put out a number of safety tips for parents and for children that can be found on the group's Web site, missingkids.com, in the education and resources section.
Cause, effect -- The effort to let pilots have guns in the cockpit already has caused one casualty. After intense pressure from Capitol Hill and grassroots activists, Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta told a House subcommittee Tuesday the administration was reconsidering its opposition to arming pilots -- something insiders say was the real reason Transportation Security Agency chief John McGaw was forced out last Thursday. McGaw, sources say, remained steadfast in his opposition to the proposal, which has caused considerable angst inside the White House as those who are usually administration allies have hammered away at the issue, trying to engineer a position switch.
Mail fraud? -- The United States Postal Service is too big and spends too much, according to a new analysis from the Institute for Research on the Economics of Taxation. "The Postal Wage Premium," a new IRET congressional advisory paper, concludes abundant evidence exists "that postal workers receive substantially higher wages than comparable private sector workers." The group is advising members of Congress pursuing the issue of postal reform to examine closely ways to cut costs inside the USPS rather than permitting the Post Office to expand into other kinds of business to subsidize the delivery of the mail. "Although politically difficult, narrowing or eliminating the postal wage premium is the single action that would most improve the Postal Service's bottom line," the paper says.
Union do's -- The corporate accountability legislation is, according to insiders, on track to be passed and sent to the president before the August recess begins. However, one thing that might slow it down is the effort by some Republicans to add language to the bill requiring union heads be held to the same standards for accuracy and honesty in reporting that soon will apply to top corporate executives. As one strategist working on the issue explains, accountability is an important concept and should not be limited to the corporate boardroom. When the union leader accountability language was offered as an amendment to the Senate bill, it was defeated -- with all the Democrats voting against it -- potentially handing the Republicans an issue with which to counter the Democrat's efforts to highlight the GOP's relations to corporate America. "What could be more pro-worker then making sure their union dues are not being mishandled or misspent?" one insider says. "Workers have a choice whether to invest in a company, but in almost half the states, they do not have a choice where handing over money to the unions is concerned -- if they work for a union shop, they have to give the union money. It seems only sensible that we strengthen the accountability provisions covering the people who end up in charge of all that money too."
Out -- John Carlson, the Seattle talk radio host and former GOP candidate for governor of Washington, has announced he will not be a candidate for the state's highest office in 2004. Carlson has been a significant political force in the state, having once led a prominent center-right state policy think tank and spearheaded several successful ballot initiatives. He lost the 2000 governor's race to Democrat Gary Locke by close to 500,000 votes -- 58 percent to 40 percent -- but nonetheless was, until his announcement he was out of electoral politics for the foreseeable future, a frequently mentioned candidate for statewide office in the near term.
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