Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Got Flu?
No Flu Vaccine Shortage At Capitol
Hill's Doctor Urges Members to Get Shots

By Charles Babington and David Brown
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, October 20, 2004; Page A01

While many Americans search in vain for flu shots, members and employees of Congress are able to obtain them quickly and at no charge from the Capitol's attending physician, who has urged all 535 lawmakers to get the vaccines even if they are young and healthy.

The physician's office has dispensed nearly 2,000 flu shots this fall, and doses remained available yesterday. That is a steep drop from last year's 9,000 shots, a spokesman for attending physician John F. Eisold said, because many congressional employees have voluntarily abided by federal guidelines that call for this season's limited supply to go mainly to the elderly, the very young, pregnant women, long-term-care patients and people with chronic illnesses.

But people of all ages who are credentialed to work in the Capitol can get a shot by saying they meet the guidelines, with no further questions asked, said the spokesman, who cited office policy in demanding anonymity.

"We leave it up to people to read the guidelines" issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and then to state whether they want the shot, Eisold's spokesman said. "We don't ask. We trust people. . . . Most of the people have been very good."

The policy applies to thousands of legislative staffers, police officers, construction workers, restaurant employees, journalists and others who work in the Capitol complex.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (Tenn.), a heart surgeon, sent letters urging his 99 colleagues to get the shots because they mingle and shake hands with so many people, his spokeswoman, Amy Call, said. She said she did not know how many senators have taken his advice.

Eisold "is a big believer that members of Congress are at high risk, because they shake hands with a lot of people" and then visit veterans centers and other concentrations of susceptible people, his spokesman said. Because lawmakers can be both victims and spreaders of flu, he said, Eisold urged all 535 to get the shots.

The practice appears to directly contravene the instruction being given by the government's executive branch.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson reiterated the Bush administration's guidelines at a news conference yesterday afternoon at his department's headquarters at the foot of Capitol Hill.

"What we are telling people is: If you are not in a priority category, do not get the shot," he said. "If you are one of the doctors who got vaccine in the early shipments, please do not give it to people who are not in one of the classifications I have just spelled out."

Thompson was accompanied by officials from the departments of Justice, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security; the surgeon general; the directors of the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration; and two executives of Aventis Pasteur, the sole maker of injectable influenza vaccine still available for the U.S. market this season.

The White House medical unit is giving flu shots only to staff members "meeting the CDC guidelines," said Trent D. Duffy of the press office.

The target populations for flu vaccination, as described by the CDC guidelines, include people older than 65, children 6 months to 23 months in age, people ages 2 to 64 with chronic illnesses, medical workers directly involved in patient care and several smaller "risk groups."

The office of the Capitol's attending physician began dispensing the vaccine as soon as it arrived on Sept. 30, the spokesman said. After the CDC announced on Oct. 5 the guidelines addressing the shortage, he said, the office began asking applicants to read the guidelines and to decide whether they wanted a flu shot.

Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), who is 50, said he got a flu shot as soon as it was available, "before I knew there was a problem."

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), 62, said in an interview yesterday: "I haven't done it yet, but I want to. We're not in the priority category" set by the CDC. "But I think the [Capitol's] doctor makes a good case. We can pick it up and spread it" through interactions with constituents.

Thompson called the news conference in part to announce another small addition to the vaccine supply: 2.6 million more doses that Aventis Pasteur will deliver in January.

Aventis Pasteur, the vaccine division of a European pharmaceutical company, is one of two firms currently licensed to sell injectable vaccine in the United States. The other one, Chiron Corp. of California, made about 48 million doses at a British plant outside Liverpool. All of that was impounded early this month by British regulators because bacterial contamination was found in some samples.

Aventis Pasteur, which makes influenza vaccine in northeastern Pennsylvania, will make 58 million doses for the United States this year. This total is about 8 million more than it originally planned to produce.

Combined with 2 million doses of a "live" virus vaccine made by the biotech company MedImmune Inc. -- which can used only by healthy people ages 5 to 49 -- the total U.S. supply this fall and winter will be about 60 million doses.

Influenza vaccine consists of two strains of influenza A virus and one strain of influenza B -- all genetically weakened -- which are killed and packaged together.

Speaking at the HHS news conference, David J. Williams, Aventis Pasteur's chairman, said the company has leftover quantities of the two influenza A strains. It will start growing a matching amount of the influenza B strain in fertilized eggs this week. Growing, purifying and then combining it with the A strains will take about two months.

Yesterday's event at HHS headquarters appears to have been called in part to counter accusations by Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry that the Bush administration bears some responsibility for the current shortage of flu shots. Both President Bush and Kerry have said they will not seek a shot.

On an easel next to the lectern where Thompson spoke was a graph showing the growth in federal influenza-related spending, from $39 million in 2001 to a proposed $283 million next year.

"President Bush has invested more in research, development and acquisition of flu vaccine and prevention than any president," he said.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company

How The Republican Party Lost Its Soul

Article published Oct 19, 2004
Phone-jamming was an outrage Republicans should speak out in anger
For the Monitor


People above politics."Remember? Those words from former governor Meldrim Thomson comprise arguably the best remembered slogan in New Hampshire political history.

I personally witnessed Mel Thomson, a Republican, ill and in severe pain, force himself up from his seat to shake hands with then recently elected Democrat Gov. Jeanne Shaheen. He did it because he was a gentleman, but he also did it to show respect for the governor and for the people who elected her in a fair election a few months before.

That was yesterday.

Today we hear news that Charles McGee, the former executive director of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee, and Allen Raymond, a GOP consultant, pleaded guilty to federal charges stemming from their involvement in the jamming of telephones on Election Day, Nov. 5, 2002. Democrats' computer-generated calls to get out the vote were blocked and thus voters did not receive the intended message due to illegal action by some in the Republican Party.

At their plea hearings in U.S. District Court, McGee and Raymond admitted they spoke to an "unidentified official with a national political organization" about the illegality. As sad and deplorable as those actions were, regrettably, Republican Party officials in New Hampshire and Washington have decided to put "politics above people" and delay this much needed and urgent investigation of the facts.

Where is the outrage of elected officials and party leaders?

This is a far cry from the party of Lincoln that proudly and correctly stood on principle to outlaw slavery. It is a far cry from the party of great and principled statesmen like Mel Thomson, Norris Cotton, Ronald Reagan, Dwight Eisenhower and Teddy Roosevelt. What a contrast between those great Republicans and current party leaders, who refuse to speak out against this despicable action by pathetic political hacks.

James Tobin, President Bush's 2004 New England campaign chairman and the Northeast political director of the Republican Senatorial Committee in 2002, said, "These allegations date back to years and have absolutely nothing to do with the present campaign."

Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

Mr. Tobin, these allegations have everything to do with the present campaign because the people must feel confident that the 2002 election fraud will not be repeated. The best way to restore confidence is for all those involved to tell the truth now.

Both parties have a right to expect a fair election result even if it is not always a favorable one. Tobin also said, "It is disappointing, indeed, to see the opposition party (Democrats) manipulate the court system in a blatant attempt to influence the election."

What a mind-numbing hypocritical answer that is! Who is trying to influence elections, Mr. Tobin? Please do not insult us further.

New Hampshire Democrat Party Chair Kathy Sullivan said, "The public should know Tobin's role in this, along with the roles of any other high-level GOP officials."

Kathy and I have not agreed very often, but she is absolutely correct. We need the truth now to restore confidence in the coming election. She has a right to be angry. Can you imagine the Republican outrage if the Democrats had been guilty of similar conduct? Does a party that refuses to tell the truth before Election Day deserve our vote on election day?

Fallen symbol

Political scandal is not rare in America, but it is rare in New Hampshire. This is not Huey Long's Louisiana. This is the "Live Free or Die" state. New Hampshire has fair elections, and we are proud of it.

Candidates and voters alike have justifiably placed huge confidence in our election officials, such as the highly respected Secretary of State Bill Gardner and the hundreds of precinct workers who carefully monitor the vote in polling places.

Yet for the first time in New Hampshire history, there is a cloud of suspicion over the election of a U.S. senator. What is the recourse for Gov. Shaheen if the election was unfair? She can sue, complain and even watch the guilty admit what they did, but she still is not a senator. If she lost fair and square, the issue is over. If she lost because of fraud, then the truth must set us free for fair elections in 2004 and beyond.

Daniel Webster said as he stood in awe under the Old Man in the Mountain, "The thought comes now and again that in the great State of New Hampshire the Master of Sculptures makes men."

If real men (and women) of the Republican Party do not stand on principle and put the people and the truth first before Nov. 2, it is clear that when the Old Man fell, New Hampshire lost more than just a sculpture.

(Bob Smith is a former U.S senator from New Hampshire who lost the 2002 Republican primary to current Sen. John E. Sununu. Smith lives in Florida.)

------ End of article


For the Monitor

The 9/11 Secret in the CIA's Back Pocket

By Robert Scheer
The Los Angeles Times

Tuesday 19 October 2004

The agency is withholding a damning report that points at senior officials.
It is shocking: The Bush administration is suppressing a CIA report on 9/11 until after the election, and this one names names. Although the report by the inspector general's office of the CIA was completed in June, it has not been made available to the congressional intelligence committees that mandated the study almost two years ago.

"It is infuriating that a report which shows that high-level people were not doing their jobs in a satisfactory manner before 9/11 is being suppressed," an intelligence official who has read the report told me, adding that "the report is potentially very embarrassing for the administration, because it makes it look like they weren't interested in terrorism before 9/11, or in holding people in the government responsible afterward."

When I asked about the report, Rep. Jane Harman (D-Venice), ranking Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, said she and committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) sent a letter 14 days ago asking for it to be delivered. "We believe that the CIA has been told not to distribute the report," she said. "We are very concerned."

According to the intelligence official, who spoke to me on condition of anonymity, release of the report, which represents an exhaustive 17-month investigation by an 11-member team within the agency, has been "stalled." First by acting CIA Director John McLaughlin and now by Porter J. Goss, the former Republican House member (and chairman of the Intelligence Committee) who recently was appointed CIA chief by President Bush.

The official stressed that the report was more blunt and more specific than the earlier bipartisan reports produced by the Bush-appointed Sept. 11 commission and Congress.

"What all the other reports on 9/11 did not do is point the finger at individuals, and give the how and what of their responsibility. This report does that," said the intelligence official. "The report found very senior-level officials responsible."

By law, the only legitimate reason the CIA director has for holding back such a report is national security. Yet neither Goss nor McLaughlin has invoked national security as an explanation for not delivering the report to Congress.

"It surely does not involve issues of national security," said the intelligence official.

"The agency directorate is basically sitting on the report until after the election," the official continued. "No previous director of CIA has ever tried to stop the inspector general from releasing a report to the Congress, in this case a report requested by Congress."

None of this should surprise us given the Bush administration's great determination since 9/11 to resist any serious investigation into how the security of this nation was so easily breached. In Bush's much ballyhooed war on terror, ignorance has been bliss.

The president fought against the creation of the Sept. 11 commission, for example, agreeing only after enormous political pressure was applied by a grass-roots movement led by the families of those slain.

And then Bush refused to testify to the commission under oath, or on the record. Instead he deigned only to chat with the commission members, with Vice President Dick Cheney present, in a White House meeting in which commission members were not allowed to take notes. All in all, strange behavior for a man who seeks reelection to the top office in the land based on his handling of the so-called war on terror.

In September, the New York Times reported that several family members met with Goss privately to demand the release of the CIA inspector general's report. "Three thousand people were killed on 9/11, and no one has been held accountable," 9/11 widow Kristen Breitweiser told the paper.

The failure to furnish the report to Congress, said Harman, "fuels the perception that no one is being held accountable. It is unacceptable that we don't have [the report]; it not only disrespects Congress but it disrespects the American people."

The stonewalling by the Bush administration and the failure of Congress to gain release of the report have, said the intelligence source, "led the management of the CIA to believe it can engage in a cover-up with impunity. Unless the public demands an accounting, the administration and CIA's leadership will have won and the nation will have lost."


Jon Stewart on Last Friday Night....Sooooo Good!

October 20, 2004
No Jokes or Spin. It's Time (Gasp) to Talk.

There is nothing more painful than watching a comedian turn self-righteous. Unless of course, the comedian is lashing out at smug and self-serving television-news personalities. Jon Stewart could not resist a last dig at CNN's "Crossfire" during his monologue on Comedy Central on Monday night . "They said I wasn't being funny," the star of "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" said, rolling his eyes expressively. "And I said to them: 'I know that. But tomorrow I will go back to being funny," Mr. Stewart said, adding that their show would still be bad, although he used a more vulgar expression.

And that is why his surprise attack on the hosts of CNN's "Crossfire" was so satisfying last Friday. Exchanging his usual goofy teasing for withering contempt, he told Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson that they were partisan hacks and that their pro-wrestling approach to political discourse was "hurting America." (He also used an epithet for the male reproductive organ to describe Mr. Carlson.)

Real anger is as rare on television as real discussion. Presidential candidates no longer address each other directly in debates. Guests on the "Tonight" show or "Oprah" are scripted monologuists who pitch their latest projects and humor the host. It has been decades since talk-show guests conversed with one another, yet there was a time when famous people held long and at times legendarily hostile discussions (Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley Jr. on ABC in 1968, Mary McCarthy and Lillian Hellman on "The Dick Cavett Show" in 1980).

Nowadays, live television meltdowns seem to be pathological, not political - Janet Jackson baring a breast during the Super Bowl or Farrah Fawcett babbling incoherently to David Letterman.

The fuming partisan rants on Fox News or "Real Time With Bill Maher" are aimed at the converted. And celebrities, like politicians, stay on message and stick to talking points, which may help explain the popularity of "Celebrity Poker" - it gives viewers a rare, unfiltered glimpse of stars' real personalities as they handle a bad hand or a humiliating bluff.

Mr. Stewart's frankness was a cool, startling, rational version of Senator Zell Miller's loony excoriation ("Get out of my face") to Chris Matthews of MSNBC during the Republican convention.

The transcript of Friday's "Crossfire," and the blog commentary about it, popped up all over the Internet this weekend. Mr. Stewart's Howard Beal (of "Network") outburst stood out because he said what a lot of viewers feel helpless to correct: that news programs, particularly on cable, have become echo chambers for political attacks, amplifying the noise instead of parsing the misinformation. Whether the issue is Swift boat ads or Bill O'Reilly's sexual harassment suit, shows like "Crossfire" or "Hardball" provide gladiator-style infotainment as journalists clownishly seek to amuse or rile viewers, not inform them.

When Mr. Carlson took the offense, charging that Mr. Stewart had no right to complain since he had asked Senator John Kerry softball questions on "The Daily Show," Mr. Stewart looked genuinely appalled. "I didn't realize - and maybe this explains quite a bit - that the news organizations look to Comedy Central for their cues on integrity." When Mr. Carlson continued to argue, Mr. Stewart shut him down hard. "You are on CNN," he said. "The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls."

All late-night talk-show hosts make jokes about politicians. What distinguishes Mr. Stewart from Jay Leno and David Letterman is that the Comedy Central star mocks the entire political process, boring in tightly on the lockstep thinking and complacency of the parties and the media as well as the candidates. More than other television analysts and commentators, he and his writers put a spotlight on the inanities and bland hypocrisies that go mostly unnoticed in the average news cycle.

Mr. Stewart is very funny, but it is the vein of "a plague on both your houses" indignation that has made his show a cult favorite: many younger voters are turning to the "The Daily Show" for their news analysis, and are better served there than on much of what purports to be real news on cable.

And of course it was fun just to see television pundits who think they are part of the same media version of the Algonquin Round Table as Mr. Stewart lose their cool when he tore off the tablecloth and shattered the plates. "Wait,'' Mr. Carlson said querulously. "I thought you were going to be funny. Come on. Be funny." Mr. Stewart was funny. And it was at their expense.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company