- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 18, 2000

Taking notes, John?

White House Chief of Staff John Podesta is no George Stephanopoulos. Then again, unlike the latter, he's still toiling at the White House.

"White House aides have been known to write kiss-and-tell books," Mr. Podesta told attendees of yesterday's National Press Club briefing on cyber-security.

"I'm slightly embarrassed to say that the only book I've ever written was 'Protecting Electronic Messaging' not exactly up there with 'All Too Human.' "

Truth be told, Mr. Podesta could write one heck of a yarn on the current administration and its commander in chief in particular.

After all, the 1976 Georgetown law school graduate was President Clinton's chief spokesman on the Whitewater investigation, senior policy adviser to the president for "privacy" and related matters, and last, but certainly not least, instrumental in trying to guide through an unreceptive Congress the controversial nomination of Nashville, Tenn., gynecologist Henry W. Foster Jr. for surgeon general.

Reagan voice

What would a Republican National Convention be without a Reagan in the house?

Fred Ryan, longtime friend and chief of staff to former President Ronald Reagan, who became vice chairman and chief operating officer of Washington-based Allbritton Communications Co., tells Inside the Beltway that Nancy Reagan will be guest of honor at a Philadelphia reception coinciding with the Republican convention.

Mrs. Reagan, who spends most of her time at the side of Mr. Reagan as he battles Alzheimer's disease, will be feted Aug. 1 at the Rittenhouse Hotel, a reception hosted by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation.

News in recent days has centered around the former president's deteriorating medical condition, but as Mr. Reagan's daughter, Maureen, recently told a congressional panel on Alzheimer's research, while her father is unable to conduct a sensible conversation, he remains "a handsome devil."

Collegiate chimps

More now, a lot more, on Senate Bill 2725 The Chimpanzee Health Improvement Maintenance and Protection (CHIMP) Act that we first wrote about yesterday.
Like Inside the Beltway, the National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF) says it is "quite amused" by the Senate bill and its companion bill in the House, H.R. 3514 which would provide permanent retirement in sanctuaries for chimpanzees no longer deemed useful in federal research laboratories.
The NTUF now informs this column that its accounting system, which estimates the cost of all congressional legislation introduced, figures the cost of the CHIMP Act to be about $27 million a year.
"Further research by our senior policy associate, Demian Brady, found that this act would benefit about 600 chimpanzees, roughly $45,000 per chimpanzee paid for by Homo sapiens taxpayers," says the NTUF's Tom McClusky.
"Since this amount is not exactly chimp chump change, and is far in excess of the cost to attend any university in America, perhaps it is worth asking the sponsors to redraft their bill to send all the chimps to college, thereby saving taxpayers a bundle and perhaps increase the IQ level at some institutions of higher learning," says Mr. McClusky.

Fins and berries

Writing in our previous column about genetically engineered crops, we quoted one concerned congressman as saying that a flavor-saver tomato gets "a gene from a flounder" to make it more weather-resistant.
Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, Ohio Democrat, noted that 100 million acres of such crossbred crops were produced in the United States last year, and he is calling for food labelings warning about possible side effects.
Not so fast, says the House Science Committee.
"There is no such product on the market that has part of a flounder injected into a tomato. It's one of those urban myths," a Hill staffer familiar with the fish story told Inside the Beltway yesterday.
He conceded that a creative food scientist once injected a gene "from a flounder into a strawberry, but that's not even on the market."
In April, the chairman of the House Science subcommittee on basic research, Rep. Nick Smith, Michigan Republican, issued a report titled "Seeds of Opportunity" that assesses the benefits and risks of genetically modified plants.
As for the latter, addressing concerns like allergens, toxins and antibiotic resistance, the report concluded that transferring genes from unrelated organisms to plants poses no unique risks.
Mr. Kucinich isn't so sure.
He has warned against defying the laws of nature, saying in God's green acres, fish and vegetables "do not mate."

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