- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 26, 2003

John, Joe, Mike and Osama

John B. Childers, president and CEO of the Washington-based Consortium of Universities, read with interest our item about an American couple who — upon arrival to Florida by sailboat from Mexico — went to great lengths to check in with the U.S. Customs Service, as required by law.

When the couple finally was able to reach a customs officer by telephone — one day later — he asked them two questions: “Are you both American citizens?” and “Do you have any avocados on board?”

Now Mr. Childers tells this column, “I recently had the same experience in Minnesota. Upon returning from a fishing trip into the Boundary Waters area between the United States and Canada, my cousins and I went to report in to the Customs office near Ely, Minn.

“Upon arriving at the office — a trailer by the side of the road about 15 miles from the border — we found it closed at 4:15 p.m. on Friday afternoon. There was a sign that said to just put the form with the names of the members of our party in a box that was attached to the side of the trailer.

“We did,” says the CEO, “but obviously there was no check to see who actually was in our group.”

We trust you didn’t pick up any hitchhikers, Mr. Childers — or bring back any northern avocados.

Peace unto you

Bethesda has a multimillion-dollar “peace palace.”

So does Lexington, Ky., and Fairfield, Iowa. And another 97 peace palaces are slated to be built, until such time as there’s one in each of America’s 100 largest cities. All of these palaces will be dedicated entirely to promoting peace for a turbulent world and bringing relief to stressed populations.

Now, we learn, quantum physicist and 2000 Natural Law Party presidential candidate John Hagelin is introducing the “U.S. Peace Government.”

He’ll announce this second “complementary” government, which will include 400 of America’s top medical doctors, business leaders, policy-makers and university professors, Wednesday at the Hay Adams Hotel, across the street from the White House.

Mr. Hagelin says he’s already helped raise more than $100 million for this new government’s “peace projects,” including funds to establish a flagship campus for a new “University of Peace.”

As for protecting all of these peace initiatives?

The good doctor says he will rely on the existing U.S. government for “crisis management.”

Pass the nuts

A pill by any other name might not be so cheap after all.

Sens. Judd Gregg, New Hampshire Republican, and Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, have attached the Greater Access to Affordable Pharmaceuticals amendment to the Medicare bill to increase the availability of generic drugs.

But some say the legislation would weaken patent protections that innovator drug companies receive and open the door to foreign companies as far away as India to export “copycat” generic drugs to the United States.

Frontiers for Freedom, a Virginia-based think tank, says the amendment also would hamper the ability of brand-name manufacturers to recoup hundreds of millions of dollars spent developing, testing and negotiating Food and Drug Administration approval for new drugs.

Drug makers reinvest those dollars into developing life-saving medications for conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes, it explains.

Kerri Houston, the group’s vice president of public policy, says, “Anybody can copy a pill, but restricting the time innovative drug companies have to recoup [research and development] costs is more than bad economic and health policy. It’s just plain nuts.”

Corn-polishing

An eager aide for Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat, called up National Journal’s Hotline this week to make the specific, obscure point that Mr. Edwards had supported one of Sen. Tom Harkin’s Medicare amendments.

That would be Tom Harkin, Democrat from the state of Iowa, home to the nation’s first presidential nominating contest. Mr. Edwards is one of four Democratic senators running for president.

Mr. Harkin has remained unbiased in the crowded primary and has spent equal time introducing each of the candidates to his crucial home-state voters.

The Edwards aide went on to point out that Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut missed the vote on Mr. Harkin’s amendment. Had the two men — both running against Mr. Edwards for the Democratic nomination — been on hand for the vote, Mr. Harkin’s amendment would have passed. The other senator seeking the White House, Bob Graham of Florida, voted to back Mr. Harkin.

“We’re sorely disappointed the amendment was killed,” Harkin spokeswoman Allison Dobson told a reporter from The Washington Times.

Asked whether her boss would seek revenge against Mr. Kerry and Mr. Lieberman in the cornfields back home, Ms. Dobson chuckled and replied: “I don’t think it will hurt their chances in Iowa.”

John McCaslin, a nationally syndicated columnist, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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