Prez Wakes Up in Wonderful World


WASHINGTON, D.C., April 13—Whatever weak current of opposition George Bush faced simply evaporated Thursday with the return from China of the 24 military personnel aboard the downed U.S. spy plane.

Now it’s back to cracking the whip for big industry.

Environment: Bush continued to hack away at environmental rules and regulations.

The president wants to go back to the Eisenhower era when it comes to enforcing pollution statutes. He wants to cut the federal budget in order to reduce the staffs of regulatory agencies and return authority to the states. That’s where things stood when reformers passed pollution laws in the 1960s.

The EPA sided with environmentalists, for a change, in asking a U.S. appellate court to throw out a legal challenge brought by the energy industry. The suit tries to block the agency from ordering reductions in power-plant emissions of mercury.

Lobbyists from the chemical, beef, and poultry industries are fighting hard to block release of an EPA report that shows traces of dioxin in animal fat and dairy products can lead to cancer in humans.

American Indian groups asked a federal judge to hold Interior Secretary Gale Norton in contempt of court. They claim she has failed to protect government whistle-blowers from reprisals when they’ve gone public with charges of misuse of Indian trust funds.

The administration wants to strictly limit the ability environmentalists and citizen groups now have to obtain court orders protecting endangered species. Saying the system is now swamped with lawsuits, the government seeks a year’s moratorium to figure out what to do on the issue.

Budget: Members of Congress are up in arms about differences in the spending plan the Senate approved last week and Bush’s $1.96 trillion version. Lawmakers say they’ll need twice as much funding as the president wants to fulfill his campaign initiatives. Bush argues his budget has trimmed fat. It calls for increasing spending by 5.6 percent. By contrast budgets in the Clinton years grew at an average of 3.5 percent.

Medical Records: Bush said he would move ahead with federal regulations to safeguard the confidentiality of patients’ medical records.

McVeigh Execution: Attorney General John Ashcroft OK’d plans to televise the May 16 execution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh to some 250 members of victims’ families. This will be the first federal execution since 1963, and hordes of reporters and onlookers are expected to converge on Terre Haute, Indiana, where it will take place.

Federal Workers: The President wants a 3.6 percent salary hike for the country’s 1.8 million federal employees. Unions wanted a 4.6 percent increase to bring compensation for the federal workforce in line with that of the military.

Reproductive Rights: The administration expressed hopes of ending a requirement that all medical insurance policies for federal employees offer a broad range of birth control.

AIDS Office: Right-wing GOPers are strategizing on ways to block the appointment of Scott H. Evertz, a gay Republican, to lead the White House Office of National Aids Policy.

Mexico: President Vicente Fox stunned Washington with his proposal to let U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials run security checks on their counterparts south of the border. In doing so, he acknowledged that Mexican officials may be corrupt.