- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 5, 2001

Al aboard

Several leading Washington businessmen tried sitting in the rear section of the first-class Amtrak Metroliner car before it departed Washington at 9 a.m. yesterday, when a train conductor informed them the seats were reserved for a "VIP."

So the businessmen settled in the front half of the car, then waited to see what VIP would be joining them.

"Suddenly," Inside the Beltway is told, "a couple of Secret Service agents hop on board. And behind them follows a 'porked-out' Al Gore."

As in large?

"Shockingly large he's put on a few pounds," says the businessman, who ironically had just begun reading in his morning newspaper that George W. Bush would have won Florida if a recount had gone forward as ordered by the state Supreme Court.

One of the businessmen then debated whether to have Mr. Gore autograph the newspaper, which would certainly fetch top dollar in the political-paraphernalia collectors' camp.

As it turns out, the businessmen decided against approaching the former vice president, who by the look on his face had already read his morning newspaper.

God's back

President Bush invited senior Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, and the senator's wife, Erma, to the White House for dinner the other night. And what impressed Mr. Byrd the most about our new president?

"I like the fact that he said grace. He asked God's blessing upon the food," says Mr. Byrd. "In many circles in this town and across this land, the word 'God,' except in a profane use, is taboo. Don't mention God."

Fortune cookie

Perhaps the time has come for President Bush to enlist help from former President Bill Clinton in breaking the U.S.-China stalemate, asking him to call on the general in the Chinese military intelligence agency who, through Johnny Chung, funneled $300,000 in contributions to the Clinton campaign.

Chinese service

China Southern Airlines, the largest airline in the People's Republic of China, couldn't have picked a worse week to announce to Washington reporters and travel agents that the airline is pleased to be increasing its domestic and international flights.

Lost wages

Because it must continue to rely on the U.S. Postal Service for mail delivery, a major U.S. corporation asks Inside the Beltway not to disclose its name when writing about a memo it sent its employees on Tuesday.

The memo was forwarded to us by a high-level official of the company after he read yesterday that the Postal Service was considering canceling Saturday delivery as a cost-saving measure.

"Perhaps one reason they're losing money is lack of performance and customer satisfaction," says the official, who also requested anonymity. "As a large organization, you would think we would have some clout and could get answers and satisfaction."

The memo reads:

"Due to unforeseen delivery problems with the U.S. Postal Service, [we] will resume internal delivery of all pay statements (paychecks and direct deposit), effective April 27, 2001. The decision to eliminate the mailing of pay statements to home addresses resulted from the U.S. Postal Service's inability to identify the cause of the mail-delivery delays and take appropriate action to correct the pay-statement delays.

"Despite our best planning efforts, the new internal mail-distribution process may take one or two pay periods to reliably deliver all pay statements around the country on the Friday pay date. Additional details will be forthcoming."

And not via the U.S. mail.

No smoking gun

Standing up once again for the nation's tobacco farmers, Sen. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican, observes that Fortune magazine has listed the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. of Winston-Salem, N.C., as one of the 100 best companies in America for employees.

Not the "villains" and the "dishonest men and women with evil intent," Mr. Helms says, that "trial lawyers, seeking to line their pockets with hundreds of thousands of dollars in court-awarded cash" have made them out to be in smoking-related lawsuits.

"Nobody in my family smokes," adds Mr. Helms. "I'm sorry for anyone whose health has declined because of smoking or whatever cause, but I've never heard of an instance where anybody started smoking because a gun was pointed at his head."

Quote of the week

"I don't want anyone to think our schedule is going to be in any way influenced by the NCAA finals. But it does seem as though, if we got out of here by 9 o'clock, we could all participate in the game some place."

Sen. Pete V. Domenici, New Mexico Republican, addressing the Senate prior to this week's national championship basketball game between Duke and Arizona.

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