- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 3, 2007

Going to Disney

A three-day, expense-paid trip to Walt Disney World Resorts — sound like a dream vacation? No, it’s “research,” according to four federal agencies sponsoring a June 3-5 conference in Orlando, Fla.

The 2007 AcademyHealth Research Meeting is slated for Disney’s posh Swan and Dolphin resort, which boasts “an environment of elegance and opulence” featuring “the beauty and tranquility of waterways and tropical landscaping.”

Federal sponsors include the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the National Center for Health Statistics, and the Health Services Research and Development Service of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Web site — www.academyhealth.org/arm — for the taxpayer-funded conference features a palm tree logo that one congressional staffer says perfectly “conveys that ‘bureaucrats on the beach’ atmosphere.”

The Web site lists corporate sponsors for the event (including the pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly) and such speakers as AHRQ’s Philip Cooper and Lyle Nelson of the Congressional Budget Office.

The next bill

The Democrats may give President Bush a supplemental Iraq spending bill that does not include a timeline for troop withdrawal, but they do plan to tack on an increase to the federal minimum wage.

Tucked in the $124 billion bill that Mr. Bush vetoed Tuesday was a provision to raise the wage from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour.

Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, who has made this one of his signature fights, said Democrats will attach the increase to the next supplemental spending bill they send to the president, The Washington Times’ blog Fishwrap reported yesterday.

“My expectation is we’ll include that in any bill we pass,” Mr. Hoyer said.

The wage has languished at the current rate for a decade, and was one of the first items on the agenda when Democrats took over Congress in January.

A bill to increase the minimum wage passed both chambers, but stalled when Senate Republicans pushed for small-business tax breaks to offset its cost.

Losing friends

At the cost of losing 160,000 friends, Democrat Barack Obama’s presidential campaign has taken over control of the MySpace page listed under his name on the popular social-networking site.

For the past 2 years, the page has been run by an Obama supporter from Los Angeles named Joe Anthony. At first, that arrangement was fine with the Obama team, which worked with Mr. Anthony on the content and even had the password to make changes themselves.

But as the site exploded in popularity in recent months, the campaign became concerned about an outsider having control of the content and responses going out under Mr. Obama’s name and told Mr. Anthony they wanted him to turn it over, the Associated Press reports.

In this new frontier of online campaigning, it’s hard to determine the value of 160,000 MySpace friends — about four times what any other official campaign MySpace page has amassed. But the Obama campaign decided it wouldn’t pay $39,000, which is what Mr. Anthony said he proposed for his extensive work on the site, plus some additional fees up to $10,000.

MySpace reluctantly stepped in to settle the dispute and decided that Mr. Obama should have the rights to control http://www.myspace.com/barackobama as of Monday night, while Mr. Anthony had the right to take the contact information for all the friends who signed up while he was in control.

Mr. Anthony referred the Associated Press to his MySpace blog, where he has written that he is heartbroken that the Obama campaign was “bullying” him out of the page he built. He said the candidate has lost his vote.

Meanwhile, the Obama campaign is trying to rebuild his friends network from scratch and was up to more than 17,000 by midday yesterday. “We support the MySpace community, and look forward to building our relationship,” said campaign spokesman Bill Burton.

Imus lawsuit?

Fired radio shock jock Don Imus has hired one of the nation’s most famous free-speech lawyers and is considering suing CBS for dismissing him over his remarks about the Rutgers women’s basketball team, reports Fortune magazine.

Mr. Imus had $40 million left on his contract with CBS Radio, whose boss, Les Moonves, fired him on April 12. According to Fortune, CBS’ lawyers “contend Imus was fired for cause and not owed the rest of the money.”

But Fortune writer Tim Arango reports that Mr. Imus has hired Martin Garbus, a New York-based lawyer who helped comedian Lenny Bruce defeat criminal charges on First Amendment grounds.

“The two sides are gearing up for a legal showdown that could turn on how language in his contract that encouraged the radio host to be irreverent and engage in character attacks is interpreted, according to one person who has read the contract,” Mr. Arango reports.

“The language, according to this source, was part of a five-year contract that went into effect in 2006 and that paid Imus close to $10 million a year. It stipulates that Imus be given a warning before being fired for doing what he made a career out of — making off-color jokes. The source described it as a ‘dog has one-bite clause.’

“A lawsuit could be filed within a month, this person predicted,” says the magazine.

Edwards’ ad

John Edwards is blending a new television commercial with his online Web message, giving his activist supporters a voice in demanding that Congress stand up to President Bush’s veto of a withdrawal timetable for Iraq.

The ad, which will air in the District on broadcast and cable programs, calls on Congress to ignore the veto and to send Mr. Bush the “same bill again and again.”

The new ad depicts nine persons criticizing the Bush administration, the Associated Press reports.

“President Bush isn’t listening to us,” one person says.

“It’s time to end the war,” another person says.

“Don’t back down to President Bush,” adds another.

“Send him the same bill again and again.”

Tennessee, too

Tennessee has joined the growing number of states, including California, New York and New Jersey, that will hold their presidential primaries on Feb. 5.

Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen signed a bill on Monday that moves up the date. The primary had been scheduled for Feb. 12.

Twelve states have moved their primaries to Feb. 5 and at least seven others are trying to switch their contests. The primary process begins Jan. 14 with caucuses in Iowa.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes. com.

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