WASHINGTON, April 7 (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.
The running man ...
U.S. Rep. Ernie Fletcher, R-Ky., has chosen Stephen Pence, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Kentucky, as his new running mate. Pence replacing Hunter Bates in the ticket's No. 2 spot. Bates left the ticket after an Oldham County judge ruled he failed to meet the commonwealth's residency requirement. Pence, who resigned from his current post last week, is best known for his work combating official corruption in state government.
Fletcher is not completely out of the woods, however. A competing GOP slate has petitioned to have his candidacy ruled ineligible because of Bates' failure to meet the residency requirement. The suit, filed by Republicans Steve Nunn and Bob Heleringer, is expected to be heard by the Kentucky state Court of Appeals later this week. The primary election is scheduled for May 20.
Rally 'round the flags, boys ...
An all-star pro-America rally in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom hits the Mall in Washington at noon on April 12. Sponsored by two conservative groups, Citizens United Foundation and the Young America's Foundation, the event is intended to let U.S. troops serving overseas and the families in the United States know that there are many Americans, including many young people, who stand with them in the current crisis.
Among the speakers organizers say have confirmed their participation are radio talk show host G. Gordon Liddy, former U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger and Bill Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard. In addition, country music superstars Toby Keith, Travis Tritt and Charlie Daniels "will send messages to the troops through a special video to be shown at the rally."
Peace Pipes ...
The nomination of Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes to the board of directors of the U.S. Institute for Peace is drawing criticism from the American-Islamic community. According to Monday's Washington Post, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a group concerned with the civil rights of Muslims living in the United States, "called on the White House to rescind the nomination or the Senate to reject it."
Pipes runs a Philadelphia-based think tank called the Middle East Forum and has written extensively on the subject of Islam, devoting four books and numerous columns to the subject. He is a controversial figure among American Muslim organizations, some of which refer to him as an "Islamophobe" -- a charge he rejects.
He told the Post the idea that he considers Islam the enemy is wrong. "My position is that militant Islam is the problem, and moderate Islam is the solution," the paper quotes him saying.
Nevertheless, there are those who think the nomination is problematic while the White House is engaged in trying to win the support of the U.S. and worldwide Islamic community for the ongoing war against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. "Pipes' nomination sends exactly the wrong message as America seeks to convince Muslims worldwide that the war on terrorism and the war against Iraq are not attacks on Islam," CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad told the Post.
The institute was established in 1984 by act of Congress to promote "the prevention, management and resolution of international conflicts," and is, at the moment, in the midst of raising $80 million for a new headquarters facing the Mall in Washington. Whether the nomination will have an effect on the Institute's fundraising ability is open to speculation.
Beach party ...
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is making nearly $10 million in grants available to eligible states and territories to protect public health at the nation's beaches. "The funds," the agency says, "are targeted to improve monitoring the quality of water at beaches and notifying the public of beach warnings or closings."
"EPA is continuing its mission to ensure safer, purer water, to protect public health, and to provide assistance to states, territories, and local health agencies to better monitor beach water quality and notify the public when there may be a problem," EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman said.
The grants, which are available for 35 states and territories, are based on the length of beach season, the miles of beaches and the number of people using those beaches. The agency estimates that Americans spend almost $44 billion in close to 1 billion trips to beaches and coastal areas they make each year.
Mark your calendar ...
On Wednesday the Tax Foundation, a non-partisan research organization based in Washington, will announce its Tax Freedom Day calculation for the year 2003.
Tax Freedom Day is the day on which the average American has earned enough money to pay all federal, state and local taxes for the year.
Hoosier candidate ...
Rumors are once again rampant in Washington that Mitch Daniels, director of the federal Office of Management and Budget, is soon to depart for his home state of Indiana to begin a bid for the GOP gubernatorial nomination. A well-regarded former political operative and Eli Lilly corporate executive, Daniels is considered by some to be the dream candidate for the Indiana GOP. He is reportedly telling friends that he is close to making a decision on whether to enter the race.
Got an item for Capital Comment? E-mail it to CapComm@UPI.com.