- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Grab your helmets
Junk-science competed with the Islamic jihad for 2002's "Most Dubious News Stories of the Year," as compiled by the National Anxiety Center.
"In a year when Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein made the bogeyman look like the Tooth Fairy," says center founder Alan Caruba, "the environmaniacs kept telling anyone who would listen that the Earth was doomed and everything you ate, drank or breathed would kill you."
Among the center's top dubious stories of 2002 are the obesity "epidemic," where trial lawyers representing obese clients pursued lawsuits attacking chocolate, dairy products, vegetable shortening, pastries, crackers and fried foods.
Then there was the assault on plastic, with warnings of "carcinogenic" consequences from handling items like grocery bags (don't put them over your head, either). And a declaration of oceans as "wilderness" areas so as to limit sport fishing.
Last, but not least, there were the customary "end of the world" claims, the latest broadcast by the BBC warning that a space rock is scheduled to hit Earth on Feb. 1, 2019.
Sign of the times
Almost a year before debate over U.S. immigration policy heated up in the wake of September 11, the immigration-watchdog group ProjectUSA erected a billboard at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City reading "Immigration is doubling U.S. population in our lifetimes."
It pictured two children and cited the Census Bureau as its source.
The board lasted just 13 days. The owner of the property where the billboard was erected, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, ordered it removed after, according to the New York Times, "an authority employee noticed it and told his superiors."
"That the Port Authority would force down a simple Census Bureau statistic linking immigration and population growth is extraordinary, really, a blatant abuse of government power to suppress free speech," says Craig Nelsen of ProjectUSA.
In response, ProjectUSA filed suit on First Amendment grounds in July 2001. Now, Mr. Nelsen reveals that the Port Authority has paid an out-of-court settlement to ProjectUSA.
"Immigration moderates should savor this victory as yet another example of the new and encouraging climate in the United States on immigration," he says. "The Port Authority's removal of ProjectUSA's fact-based billboard about population growth and the media's almost complete silence about this outrageous attack on the First Amendment was motivated, of course, by the dictates of 'political correctness,' a thankfully dying ideology that suffocates free and open democratic debate about over-immigration."
Terrorist undertow
The government of Saudi Arabia, still stuck in the relentless wake of September 11, forked over $14.6 million to Washington-based Qorvis Communications for public relations and advertising during the most recent six-month federal reporting period.
"That tops the record $14.2 million that Hill and Knowlton [public-affairs group] got from Citizens for a Free Kuwait in the early '90s to build support for the Persian Gulf war," Kevin McCauley, editor of O'Dwyer's PR Daily (www.odwyerpr.com), tells Inside the Beltway.
Lady law
Each year at this time, Inside the Beltway pays close heed to Washington malpractice lawyer Jack Olender's annual legal predictions. And for good reason.
Not only is Washington world headquarters for lawyers, Mr. Olender's crystal ball has been accurate an astounding 90 percent of the time.
Few stood with Mr. Olender, for example, when he predicted the acquittal despite DNA evidence of O.J. Simpson in his criminal trial. He also was among the first to foretell the still-difficult-to-swallow (given the lying that took place before a federal grand jury) acquittal of President Bill Clinton in his impeachment trial.
As for his 2003 forecast, Mr. Olender says one would assume, given the presence of President Bush, a Republican-controlled Congress and eager business lobbyists pushing to cap malpractice and product-liability awards, that the stars are in alignment for successful passage of tort reform.
Not so, he says, as trial lawyers will join filibustering Democrats and prevent such an outcome. In addition, says Mr. Olender, Mickey Mouse will team up with Bill Gates to fight Internet pirates, although Disney and Microsoft will need additional "platoons" of lawyers to fight off the upstarts.
Finally, 2003 will be the Year of the Woman. Already, 50 percent of law students are women, 54 percent of lawyers working for corporations are women, and 41 percent of law firm lawyers are women. The latter number, he predicts, "will edge up closer to 50 percent in the coming year."

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