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Inside the Beltway

- The Washington Times - Monday, August 31, 2009

APRES VACATION

The Obamas are long gone, the networks are off on some another tangent, and peace activist Cindy Sheehan is mulling over the four days she spent in Martha's Vineyard to draw public support for her cause. But things have changed now that former President Bush is out of office.

"I really didn't learn anything on this trip. My suspicions were confirmed on a few things, though. Sadly, the 'antiwar movement' wasn't so much antiwar, as anti-Bush - and not many people are willing to compromise politics to help the people who are tragically and unnecessarily dying. Except for a handful of people, there was very little support for an antiwar message and action," Ms. Sheehan tells Inside the Beltway.

"Would I consider running for office again? Today, I say 'no,' but I am not shutting any doors," she adds.

In 2008, Ms. Sheehan ran as an independent for Congress in California's 8th District, challenging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The "Peace Mom" placed second with 16 percent of the vote.

LEST WE FORGET

Plans to retool the anniversary of 9/11 into a day of service and ecology awareness are generating uneasiness in Manhattan.

"Acts of kindness are easily distorted into propaganda, issues advocacy and attempts to redefine 9/11 for political purposes. This cheapening has already happened, and in the most inappropriate place - the White House," said a New York Daily News editorial Sunday.

"Wrong. Entirely wrong. 9/11 is not about green jobs or health care or bank bailouts or about the ideologies and egos of celebrities who are planning concerts and other performances this year. To them, hands off. And 'remembrance' must not, must never, be forgotten. It would be sacrilege to smother 3,000 murders under gauzy and fleeting good feelings. It would be a gross betrayal to gloss the evil that targeted - and still targets - America."

ECO-NAUGHTY

The Green Police have arrived on college campuses, starting with the University of California at San Diego, which is building a new 1,000-bed "village" for students that must be ecologically sound - or else.

"In first-time effort to help students with their sustainability efforts, seven student 'Econauts' have been hired to provide peer-to-peer education. The students will work with the campus residential life staff to educate students and dining customers about ways to reduce their carbon footprint," the campus housing office says.

Newly arriving students get a recycling bag and a reusable water bottle to be filled at "free filtered water hydration stations." Oh, and mom, dad - dorm rooms will have individual electric meters.

"That way, awareness of the cost of energy for activities such as all-night gaming, and use of plasma TV, stereo and [PlayStations], is built in," notes Mark Cunningham, director of the Housing, Dining and Hospitality Department

NO SMALL CHANGE

It's more than a penny for your thoughts. It's like, $7,500 for your thoughts. The U.S. Mint is seeking American artists to "invigorate" the designs of the nation's upcoming coins and medals, with some potentially handsome contracts in the offing. A review of portfolios begins Tuesday, with rolling deadlines over the next few months. Aspiring coin creatives should check www.usmint.gov/artists for submission details.

RECOVERY ROOM

Things are still in shambles for many people in a post-Katrina world.

"Look at tourism in New Orleans or the casinos of Biloxi [in Mississippi] and it appears that progress has been made. But for the poor, renters, the uninsured, the unemployed, middle-income rural people, blacks and Latinos - it's very different," Maya Wiley tells Beltway.

She is executive director of the Center for Social Inclusion, a New York-based advocacy group.

"There is plenty of blame to go around. We now have two administrations involved in recovery," Ms. Wiley says. "There are ideological battles at play between Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and the Obama administration that harms people. It's shameful. It's critical that federal, state and local officials work together to ensure public money gets to people who are still suffering, and transcend politics."

Mr. Barbour and Ms. Wiley can at least agree on that.

"We always knew that it was going to take years to recover from the worst natural disaster in American history. Four years later, were not finished or even where we want to be, but we continue to make progress," Mr. Barbour says. "Cooperation among the local, state, and federal government, the overwhelming generosity of others, and most importantly, the strength and resiliency of our people continue to drive us forward."

POLL DU JOUR

*85 percent of Americans have changed their plans for back-to-school spending this year.

*74 percent will shop at discount stores.

*50 percent will spend less overall.

*Average amount per child on school merchandise: $548.72, down from $594.24 in 2008.

*Total back-to-school spending nationwide: $17.4 billion, down from $20.1 billion in 2008.

Source: National Retail Federation poll of 8,367 consumers conducted June 30-July 7.

Squawks, purrs, press releases to jharper@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085.