- The Washington Times - Friday, January 17, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 (UPI) — Capital Comment — Daily news notes, political rumors, and important events that shape politics and public policy in Washington and the world from United Press International.

Still a diamond in the rough…

The White House has announced the continuation of the national emergency with respect to Sierra Leone first announced on Jan. 18, 2001, in Executive Order 13194. In an effort to deal with what the administration calls "the unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States constituted by the actions and policies of the insurgent Revolutionary United Front" the president imposed a general ban on direct and indirect importation of all rough diamonds from Sierra Leone into the United States, "except those imports controlled through the Certificate of Origin regime of the Government of Sierra Leone." On May 22, 2001, the order was expanded to include Liberia, which, according to some analysts, may have been trying to help some in Sierra Leone circumvent the ban. On Thursday, the White House announced that the emergency had been extended for one year.

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Government oversight oversight…

There is still no word from the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee or from the office of its new chairman, Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., as to the status of the committee employees now that the gavel has passed. Several sources have indicated that those who were on staff when the changeover occurred were all told on a Thursday evening to have their desk cleared by Monday, something one former Hill staffer called the "Thursday Night Massacre."

Now we hear from another source that, although their resignations were in fact accepted, many of those who wanted to reapply for their jobs were permitted to do so. According to our source, "Some are. Some aren't." No word yet about who, if anyone, was actually rehired.

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I'm goin' Hollywood…

As everyone knows by now, the team that pulls together NBC's Emmy-award- winning "The West Wing" has considerable technical assistance from a number of former Washington insiders. The new NBC show "Mr. Sterling," about a young and idealistic appointee to the U.S. Senate, is executive-produced by Lawrence O'Donnell, a former MSNBC commentator staffer to former Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., on the Senate Finance Committee, and Jim Hart, son of the late former Sen. Phil Hart, D-Mich., for whom one of the Senate office buildings is named.

Now some state government veterans may be getting a chance to show what they can do. Former Illinois GOP State Sen. Mark Q. Rhoads and his actress/director sister Cheryl staged a reading of Rhoads' new screenplay, "Unlawful Assembly," in Hollywood on Jan. 12. The story is a two-hour comedy about events in the Illinois legislature on the night the before adjournment.

Actor Eric Pierpoint, stepson of former CBS newsman Robert Pierpoint, appeared reading the role of the president of the state Senate while Chicago-born veteran actor and comedian Shelley Berman read the part of the governor. Several Hollywood studios have reportedly express interest in the property.

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We'll be watching…

The American Muslim Council, a grassroots lobby group representing the interests of Muslim Americans in Washington, announces it will be hosting a roundtable discussion immediately following the president's State of the Union address on Jan. 28. The council will screen the speech for guests in its Washington office, followed by discussion and analysis of what the president had to say by American Muslim leaders. The group has also issued a call to all its chapters and to other Muslim organizations to have similar forums in order to provoke discussion of national policy and to present an American Muslim perspective on the president's policies and positions.

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Life still has its ups and downs…

A packed house is expected at the National Press Club on Thursday, as the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, Exponent Failure Analysis Associates, Six Flags, Inc., and The International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions have a news conference to release several independent studies on roller coasters and amusement park safety.

Six Flags, Inc., one of the nation's largest theme park chains, commissioned the studies in an effort to demonstrate that amusement park thrill rides are safe. The studies are, according to the release announcing the event, "the most comprehensive scientific work to date on g-forces, brain injury, previous reports of incidence, and overall amusement park and ride safety."

Those scheduled to participate in the press conference include Dr. Greg Henry, former president of the American College of Emergency Physicians; Dr. Robert Harbaugh of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons; and Capt. Robert "Hoot" Gibson, former Navy test pilot and former NASA shuttle commander.

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(Got an item for Capital Comment? E-mail it to [email protected])





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