Washington in brief
BIA NOT TOO SHOOK UP OVER SHAKE-UP RUMOR
WASHINGTON - The departure of several BIA leadership figures at roughly the
same time is not evidence of a shake-up at the embattled agency, according
to Dan Dubray, now with the parent Interior Department. The former BIA
spokesperson said he found it "pretty amusing" to see his own name among
the shaken, given that he left his post for a "major promotion" approved by
Interior Secretary Gale Norton.
Aurene Martin, who has resigned effective in September, did so to pursue
another professional position, Dubray said, denying the rumor of a poor
working relationship between Martin and Dave Anderson, the agency director
since last October. Martin, the best-known of several executives leaving
the BIA, served as interim director before Anderson's long-delayed
confirmation by the Senate,
No end of speculation has attended the BIA reorganization that got its
start under Anderson's predecessor and went forward despite widespread
resistance from tribal leaders.
"Dave Anderson still wants to helm that hallway," Dubray said, "and a lot
of us over here wish him well." Over here meant at Interior, where Dubray's
duties include assisting Anderson.
Anderson himself made a point of praising Aurene Martin. He said she
stepped up at a difficult time following the departure of his predecessor,
Neal McCaleb, and is now pursuing an opportunity in the private sector. He
had good words also for other departing staff members, including one whose
reassignment was in the works months ago and another who wanted to serve
out his career in his home state, where an opening had occurred.
He said that good career staff are available to replace the departing
cohort. He feels positive about the future of his program at the BIA, he
added, mentioning especially the prospect of turning BIA schools into
academies for leadership in success.
DEMS CALL FOR FUNDING BEHIND HEALTH CARE REAUTHORIZATION
WASHINGTON - Ten senators have followed Department of Health and Human
Services Secretary Tommy Thompson in calling for increased funding of the
Indian Health Service and reauthorization of the Indian Health Care
Thompson endorsed the act, with qualifications he called minor, in
testimony before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs July 21.
Subsequently, the secretary called for increased funding for the Indian
Health Service on a visit to the Navajo Nation.
Thompson has announced his resignation at the end of the current 108th
Congress, but his backing of Indian health care is considered significant
because of his standing within the Republican administration of President
George W. Bush. GOP opposition has prevented a $3.44 billion increase in
funding for IHS clinical services, proposed by amendments, in recent years.
Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., the Senate Minority Leader, led 10 Democrats in
signing a letter to President Bush. "We urge you to follow through on the
pledge Secretary Thompson made to the Navajo Nation to increase funding for
Indian health," the senators wrote. "Full funding can and should be
achieved during the current appropriations process. We urge you to support
a $3.44 billion increase for IHS clinical services above what your
administration has proposed for fiscal year 2005. This funding increase
would help alleviate the delays and denials of health care that are all too
common in Indian country."
In addition, the senators applauded the administration's support for the
Indian Health Care Improvement Act reauthorization, but noted that it would
be a "hollow victory" without a funding increase.
The Democrats signing the letter, besides Daschle, were Daniel Inouye of
Hawaii, vice chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, and fellow Hawaiian
Daniel Akaka; Debbie Stabenow of Michigan; Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico;
Byron Dorgan of North Dakota; Ron Wyden of Oregon; Tim Johnson of South
Dakota; and Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell of Washington.
At least one Republican in the Senate has joined Thompson in his recent
quest for Indian health care enhancement. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell,
R-Colo., chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, hopes to make
passage of the reauthorization act a high point of his last months in
Congress (he retires at the end of the current session). At the July 21
hearing, he and Thompson agreed to make it a priority.
Since then, meetings between staff members of the committee and DHHS have
taken place. Committee staff expressed some surprise at the secretary's
hesitation over points of language concerning Medicare in the bill as
written; they thought it was already an agreed-upon version, according to a
committee staff member who spoke on background but not for identification.
Revisions now will mean the reauthorization bill must go through another
so-called "mark-up" meeting of the committee, which would adopt the revised
version and try to get it scheduled for a vote of the full Senate. Any bill
that is not marked up by the third week of September isn't likely to become
law, the committee staff member said.
As things stand now, working days in the 108th Congress are down to fewer
than 20 as the parties gear up for the November elections.
With the presidential election a toss-up in the polls and Daschle scantly
ahead of Republican opponent John Thune in the South Dakota race,
Republican committee staff suggested the White House "get in front of the
parade" on Indian health care. The Senate letter got there first.
HIGH FIRE RETARDANT LEVELS IN FARMED SALMON
PHILADELPHIA - A study commissioned by the Pew Charitable Trusts has found
higher accumulations of a heavy-duty flame retardant chemical in farmed
salmon than in wild ones.
Researchers concluded that wild salmon get more exercise than the
domesticated fish, and consume a less fatty diet than found in the
concentrated feed or so-called "salmon chow" of the farmed-salmon pens.
Both factors provide an opportunity for the chemical to accumulate.
The one exception was wild chinook salmon in Oregon and British Columbia,
which showed higher levels of the chemical than farmed salmon. Chinook were
the largest species of salmon in the study and feed at the top of the food
chain, researchers pointed out, suggesting they ingest enough of the
chemical to offset the advantages of exercise.
The chemical in question is poly-brominated diphenyl ether, or PBDE, a
structural cousin to carcinogenic PCB, polychlorinated biphenyl, banned
worldwide for years now. PBDEs are widely used in furniture and electronic
equipment. They enter the environment at points of manufacture and through
product wear and tear.
The report appeared Aug. 10 in Environmental Science & Technology online.
The journal of the American Chemical Society is peer-reviewed.
GRIDLOCK GETS REAL
WASHINGTON - During the current congressional recess, Native leaders have
been in and out of Washington less regularly than usual. When Congress
reconvenes and they return, they'll find real gridlock around Capitol Hill
- not just the political kind, where everything grinds to a halt as
compromises are sought (or not) in settled legislative positions, but the
real thing: Traffic gridlock, as vehicle checkpoints slow travel to a crawl
around the Hill.
The checkpoints are in response to the terrorist alert enacted at the start
of August in Washington, New York and Newark, N.J. "We're in total
lockdown," said one man who had taken a cab across Capitol Hill.
For as long as the checkpoints are in effect, anyone with business meetings
on Capitol Hill will be more apt to make them promptly by allowing an extra
half hour to get there.