UPI's Capital Comment for March 24, 2003

March 24, 2003 at 9:14 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 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.

RU ready?

Did the federal Food and Drug Administration follow its own guidelines when it approved the RU-486 abortion pill? According to journalist Jennifer Kabbany, a Phillips Foundation fellow writing in the March 29 issue of World, a weekly newsmagazine that covers events from a Biblical perspective, the answer is hard to determine.

Critics of the pill, Kabbany writes, have charged that the FDA "bent its own rules" when it approved the use of the abortifacients in the U.S. market, "ignoring evidence of risks to women and relaxing its distribution requirements because of political pressure."

According to Kabbany, the FDA failed to follow its own guidelines yet again when it failed to respond to a citizen's petition seeking more information about the approval process.

The groups, representing more than 500,000 members -- including the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians/Gynecologists, Concerned Women for America, and the Christian Medical Association -- filed their petition on Aug. 20, 2002. The FDA, which had until Feb. 20, 2003 to respond, missed the deadline.

Kabbany says FDA officials declined to discuss the petition "because its under review" but the questions the petition -- and Kabbany in her article -- raise about just how the so-called abortion pill got access to the U.S. market is certain to attract attention on Capitol Hill.

Static cling ...

For the first time, congressional estimates on the impact of tax and spending proposals will include dynamic analysis, which accounts for behavior in determining impacts, as well as static analysis. The move has long been championed by conservative economists who argue that, especially in the case of certain tax cuts, the stimulating effect they may have on economic activity should be considered when trying to project how much money will be raised or, in static terms, "lost" if the cuts are implemented.

The dynamic numbers may only be advisory but are nevertheless significant. Fears that they may be all over the map and that, ultimately, that congressional estimators may bollix up the numbers entirely have led the Heritage Foundation, a leading supply-side organization, to step forward with a plan to evaluate the projections for their accuracy.

Out and up ...

There are changes in the works over at the National Republican Congressional Committee's communications shop. Veteran flak Steve Schmidt is leaving the committee to become senior vice president for media relations of Direct Impact, a grassroots-lobbying firm. Stepping up to replace him is his longtime deputy, Carl Forti, who has been at the NRCC in a variety of roles for the last two cycles.

NRCC Chairman and U.S. Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y., said, "We are sorry to see Steve go. He was an integral part of our electoral success in the last cycle, and he will be missed. At the same time, the committee is fortunate to have a new communications director with Carl's level of knowledge and experience. His time working with congressional candidates at the NRCC will be invaluable during this next cycle."

Privacy rights ...

U.S. television anchors covering the war against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein have spent more than a little time since the weekend explaining that they would not be airing footage that has appeared on Al Jazeera, purporting to show captured U.S. servicemen who may have been tortured and executed. Some speculate that, were the footage to be shown on U.S. televisions, the outrage among the American people would be so high as to be dangerous to the civil order in some regards, particularly where anti-war demonstrators are concerned.

The primary reason for not showing the footage was outlined by the United States Department of Defense in a March 23 release. "Out of respect for the families and consistent with the principles of the Geneva Conventions," it begins, "we request news organizations not air or publish recognizable images or audio recordings that identify POWs (prisoners of war). Additionally, we request you not use their names, first or last, or their unit until next-of-kin notification is complete. We are working hard to reach their families. We will notify you as soon as this is done."

The release goes on to say that the Defense Department "repeats (its) standing policy that news organizations not air or publish recognizable images of deceased members of the U.S. military or use their names, first or last, or their unit, until next-of-kin notification is completed or 72 hours. We are working hard to reach their families. We will notify you as soon as this is done."

Opening meeting ...

Howard University, a historically black college located in Washington, is playing host to a Town Hall Meeting in support of affirmative action on March 28. The event comes just days before the U.S. Supreme Court is due to hear the Gratz vs. Bollinger and Grutter vs. Bollinger cases, which some have called "the most significant affirmative action cases since Regents of the University of California vs. Bakke in 1978."

"The issue of race, in many respects, is the unfinished business that this country needs to urgently address, and the forum on affirmative action in Washington, D.C., is timely and appropriate," said Charles Ogletree Jr., the Jesse Climenko professor of law and associate dean for the Clinical Programs at the Harvard Law School.

The Howard program will be moderated by U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Ala., and will feature remarks from luminaries including Howard Law School Dean and former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke, Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, author and journalist George Curry, and Julianne Malveaux, an author and syndicated columnist.

The meeting is open to the public and kicks off what organizers says is "a weekend of meetings, teach-ins, and strategy sessions among organizers and activists who are coming to ... demonstrate outside the United States Supreme Court on April 1st."

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