- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 23, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 23 (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.

Form reform…

The Bush administration has latched on to the scandal unfolding inside the Washington chapter of the American Federation of Teachers as prima facie evidence that union financial reporting requirements need to be expanded and strengthened.

Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao is spearheading the effort to update and improve the annual financial reports filed by labor unions in the name of better serving union members. The department has proposed revisions to the reporting form, the LM-2, required under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959. The form has been significantly revised since it was first introduced 40 years ago.

According to the department, the new form will give union members more detailed information about the financial activities of their unions, in an easily understood format that will also be available on the department's Web site. The proposed revisions will require expenditures to be organized according to the services and functions of the union, enabling members to identify major receipts and disbursements for these various activities.

The department is at present seeking public comment on the revised form, which can be found on the Federal Register Web page via the U.S. Government Printing Office at access.gpo.gov/su_docs. Comments on the form may be e-mailed directly to the department [email protected] on or before Feb. 25, 2003.


For the health of the children…

The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation is praising a Bush administration initiative to fund the testing of 12 commonly prescribed, off-patent drugs that the foundation says "urgently need to be studied for use in children."

The Department of Health and Human Services says that up to $25 million will now be available for pediatric testing in FY 2003 and up to $50 million in FY 2004. "The administration has taken an important first step toward improving children's health," the group's president, Kate Carr, said, calling on Congress to appropriate the full amount for 2004. The group also wants the pharmaceutical industry to "step up to the plate and help taxpayers shoulder the cost of ensuring the safety and effectiveness of drugs for children."


Now we can all sleep easier…

The American Association of Neurological Surgeons has found that roller coasters pose no risk to public health, while Exponent Failure Analysis Associates, a scientific engineering research firm says, "Roller coasters are safe."

The two groups released studies backing up their assertions at a joint press conference Monday in Washington. The studies, commissioned by Six Flags, Inc., one of the nation's largest theme park chains, are being advertised as "the two most comprehensive, scientific studies to date on roller coasters, g-forces, reports of alleged brain injury, and overall theme park safety."

Six Flags commissioned the studies last year, after what it called "increasingly sensationalized, unsubstantiated media reports," about the safety of roller coasters. Both studies were conducted in completely independent fashion, a requirement agreed to in writing by Six Flags, Inc., and the two research organizations.


Say the word…

The American Dialect Society, a scholarly association devoted to the study of the English language in North America, has chosen "weapons of mass destruction" — and its abbreviation WMD — as its 2002 phrase of the year.

The selection was by vote of members and friends of the society on Jan. 3, at the group's annual meeting in Atlanta. Other candidates for "Word of the Year" were: Google (verb) — to search the Web using the search engine Google; Blog — from Web log, a Web site of personal events, comments, and links; Amber alert — public announcement of a missing child; and regime change — a forced change in leadership.

The society says President George W. Bush's coinage of the word "embetterment," as in "the embetterment of mankind" was proposed as the "Most Inspirational" but, by a vote of 45 to 12, "the society decided against this category and candidate," adding, "A category of Bushisms was suggested for future years."


Personnel notes…

Heidi Stirrup, formerly a floor aide to House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, has left Capitol Hill for a comfortable perch on K Street. Stirrup, who handled education, transportation, labor and judiciary issues in Armey's policy office, has joined Venable, Baetjer, Howard & Civiletti, one of America's top 100 law firms, as a senior legislative associate… The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund says it has tapped Chuck Wolfe to be its new executive director. Currently the president of his own consulting firm, Wolfe also served as director of external affairs for the late Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles. Wolfe takes over Feb. 3… Veteran political media specialist Vic Gold has joined the Alexandria, Va.-based public relations firm of Shirley and Banister as a senior adviser. A former media aide to Sen. Barry Goldwater in his 1964 race for president, Gold also served as chief speechwriter for Vice President Spiro Agnew and co-wrote the 1988 novel "The Body Politic" with Lynne Cheney… Jefferson Consulting Group, a Washington government relations and business consulting firm, announces that Hugh Mackrell, currently the firm's senior vice president and chief financial officer, has taken over as chief operating officer.


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