WASHINGTON, May 2 (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.
Where any office boy or young mechanic...
You have to hand it to Hollywood. The relentless drumbeat of anti-war statements coming from minor celebrities like actors Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon and comedienne Janeane Garofalo seemed to define industry opinion on the war against Iraq. Such is the culture in the film capital that speaking out against the war -- and then using the First Amendment as a club to try to silence even legitimate criticism -- quickly became the chic thing to do, especially for those seeking to reaffirm their celebrity status.
Then there is the recent visit of two much better-known celebrities, in Washington to attend the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner, who showed an entirely different side of Tinseltown.
Rich Galen's Mullings.com e-newsletter reports that Drew Carey, star of ABC's "The Drew Carey Show" and host of "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" and Kelsey Grammar of NBC's long-running hit comedies "Cheers" and "Frasier," came to town early for a bit of personal business.
Mullings says the two stars "showed up in Washington and, without fanfare, without camera crews, without reporters, without press agents, without anything but their patriotism ... "spent about three hours apiece at Bethesda Naval Hospital and Walter Reed Army Hospital."
Galen says that, while there, Carey and Grammar posed for photos, signed autographs, talked to the wounded and sat with family members, happily chatting about whatever may have been on the minds of those soldiers and their loved ones. In this case, Hooray for Hollywood.
A win of global proportions...
Lots of people are claiming victory now that the House has approved the president's Global AIDS initiative. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said: "The situation in Africa is desperate. Millions of children are now orphans because both of their parents have been stricken by AIDS and have died."
"I had a chance to visit several countries in Africa two years ago, and I witnessed first hand the devastation that this disease has caused to these poor families. I am proud that we are taking this important step to help," Hastert continued.
The Congressional Black Caucus also praised the passage of the legislation. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., the CBC chairman, said the United States "took a very important step in stemming the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean" by passing the bill.
"For years the CBC has fought for a stronger response to the AIDS pandemic," Cummings said, paying tribute to some of his colleagues whose work was essential to the victory. "I also want to applaud the Bush Administration and the Republican leadership for finally joining us in this just cause," he said.
The passage of the bill also represents a major win for House conservatives who had expressed some reservations about the legislation as originally presented. They successfully added four amendments to the bill.
The first insists that no less than 33 percent of the funds spent on prevention go toward the promotion of abstinence-based programs.
The second provides a freedom of conscience exemption for religious and faith-based groups. These groups, which might have a moral objection to some of the strategies proposed to curtail the spread of AIDS, would still be able to participate in fund activities now that the exemption is in place.
The third, which some on Capitol Hill say could have far-reaching implications, caps the total amount of the U.S. contribution that can be spent on the fund's administrative expenses.
The fourth caps salaries paid to Global AIDS Fund administrators at no more than what the U.S. vice-president is paid annually. If these limitations prove enforceable, they may find their way into other pieces of legislation governing U.S. contributions to international organizations.
But not everyone was happy with the outcome. Officials of several AIDS Relief Organizations voiced strong opposition to the amendment governing the funding of abstinence programs while the bill was being considered. One of them, Progressive Health Partners President Todd Summers, a former Clinton administration official, said in an e-mail that a bill with a "33 percent abstinence-only carve out amendment is worse than no bill at all." The bill now moves to the United States Senate.
Judge for yourself...
Terry McAuliffe's recent e-mail message comparing the possibility that a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court may open up to the war against terrorism has some Republicans complaining that the DNC has crossed the line.
The Democratic National Committee chairman's message begins, "I want to give you an important update on our Supreme Court Countdown and the DNC's new campaign to stop George W. Bush from stacking the nation's highest court with extremist right-wing judges."
Also high in the message is a prominent graphic clearly modeled on the color-coded federal terror alert system. The DNC's version has the red or "severe" level on top labeled: "Severe risk of right-wing court." It then goes to orange, yellow, blue and finally to the green level, labeled: "Low risk of extremists," just as the federal alert system does.
"It is unfortunate," Republican National Committee chairman Jim Dyke said Friday, "that the DNC seems to have so little regard for such a serious matter, but it doesn't surprise me given the e-mail they sent out last week that called the Republicans 'liars.'
"I don't know if they think these types of gimmicks or this type of rhetoric is good for fundraising. Regardless, it is, at best, inappropriate," Dyke said.
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