Flu shot, anyone?

John McCaslin
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Posted: Oct 16, 2003 12:00 AM

Gotten your flu shot yet? Whether you have or not, one leading congressman's warning might frighten you more than the needle.

If your doctor hasn't told you, Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) feels it's his duty to inform Americans about the "contents" of their influenza vaccines.

"As we approach the flu season, many of you will visit the doctor's office and receive an annual influenza vaccine. This might prevent the flu, but what else will it do?" Burton said. "You should be aware that the vaccine you are about to receive contains thimerosal - a mercury-laden preservative."

Burton says scientific evidence "continues to accumulate" regarding a biologically plausible connection between the preservative and certain neurological disorders. Some scientists have attributed the growth in Alzheimer's disease and autism to mercury found in certain vaccines.

During his chairmanship of the Government Reform Committee, Burton held numerous hearings on possible adverse effects of thimerosal.

As for a second opinion, we call upon Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee - a doctor in real life - who actually reminded friends in his Christmas cards last year: "Don't forget your shots: flu shot annually."

HANDSHAKES AND HUGS

President Bush says major networks and newspapers in this country have purposely ignored positive developments in Iraq.

Now, two congressmen - a Democrat and a Republican - have returned from the war-torn country to voice a similar complaint.

"To be sure, there are pockets of violence, but we also saw so many pockets of hope and joy that all too often don't make the evening news," says a joint statement issued by Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Jim Davis (D-Fla.), who "embarked on this trip as congressmen with diverse backgrounds, from different states and from opposite parties."

Saying "we returned to America united," the congressmen cite universities and hospitals that have reopened, newspapers that are being published, and extensive police training - six months ago there were no police on duty in Iraq; today there are more than 40,000.

"The Iraqi school that we visited was filled with eager young children thirsting for knowledge," the lawmakers said. "As classes let out and we waded past Iraqi parents waiting to pick up their children, the handshakes, hugs and cheers were incredible."

READ ALL ABOUT IT

One reporter who has visibly stood out from the pack in Iraq is Dr. Bob Arnot, MSNBC's special foreign correspondent who previously reported for NBC and CBS News.

Leaving his Baghdad hotel, bombed only last month, and returning to Washington in recent days (he departed Tuesday for Asia), Arnot delivered an hour's worth of riveting commentary on the Iraqi situation to students and faculty of Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va., alma mater of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a former prisoner of war.

Given his language and medical skills, Dr. Arnot, former medical director at National Emergency Services, said he periodically found himself acting as a translator between Marines and prisoners, and as the closest doctor to a casualty he frequently abandoned his microphone and stepped in to help.

"The students could almost feel the bullets whizzing by," G. Craig Stewart III, EHS's associate director of development, said Tuesday.

Dr. Arnot said contrary to reports, U.S. military morale remains very high in Iraq, adding that the majority of Iraqi citizens he interviewed are happy to be rid of Saddam Hussein. His views reflect a recent Gallup poll finding that nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of Baghdad's 6.3 million citizens think ousting Saddam "was worth any hardships they have personally endured since the invasion."

Findings that you might now be reading for the first time.

LIMITLESS CREDIT

While Americans have been tightening their belts, bureaucrats have been on a spending spree. And they are buying more than $200 hammers and $60 screws.

Alcohol, prostitution and gambling are three items federal employees have paid for with government credit cards, although Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) hope to curtail the abuse when they introduce the Credit Card Reform Act of 2003 today.

The legislation would call on every federal agency to develop strict penalties for abuse, require background credit checks on all persons issued a card, and require regular audits.

During the Clinton presidency alone, when government was supposedly "reinvented," some 700,000 additional government credit cards were issued to federal workers. Thousands of these recipients were subsequently found to be abusing the cards to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Abuse was so rampant it caught the attention of the Savannah (Ga.) Morning News, which reported Uncle Sam's workers were buying up Ozzy Osbourne tickets, lingerie, tattoos - even paying for tuition to bartender school.

CLIMBING AND SLIPPING

The Washington Post-ABC News poll is one and the same, conducted by telephone Oct. 9-13 among a random national sample of 1,000 adults.

But let's examine how the poll's results were presented to readers and viewers of both news outlets. First, the Post, which published the results under the headline, "Bush Rallying Support in Polls."

"Bush aides expressed relief at several polls this week, including a Washington Post-ABC News poll released yesterday, that found the president's approval rating stabilizing after a steady drop since Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was ousted in mid-April."

The Post went so far as to compare Bush's approval rating of 53 percent with President Clinton's approval rating of 52 at equivalent times before their re-election races.

Now let's look at ABC News' analysis of the same poll, published beneath the headline, "Bush Slipping."

"Persistent criticism on the economy and his Iraq policy alike are clouding President Bush's political standing, creating vulnerabilities that combine to lock the incumbent and an unnamed Democrat in a dead heat for the 2004 vote."

CONGRESSMAN HANKS?

The Eisenhower Institute's next author series will feature George Crile and his new book, "Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History."

A veteran producer for the CBS show "60 Minutes," Crile writes how the scandal-prone former Texas Democratic congressman managed to provide the CIA with hundred of millions of dollars to arm mujahadeen in Afghanistan.

No sooner was the book published this year than Tom Hanks' production company, Playtone, purchased the exclusive rights. Word is Hanks wants to play the lead role.

EASY PREY

When it comes to hunting within the city of Washington, people - not ducks - are the moving targets.

A victim's chances of survival aren't helped by the fact that guns are banned in Washington, which means criminals get to pull all the triggers. But perhaps not for long. Certain members of Congress want to even the odds of survival.

Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.), along with 22 Democrats and 40 Republicans as co-sponsors, has introduced legislation to guarantee residents of Washington their Second Amendment right to bear firearms in their homes and businesses.

The legislation seeks to lift Washington's gun ban - one of the strictest in America - which forbids law-abiding citizens from possessing handguns. (Even rifles are allowed only on an extremely limited basis.)

"The District of Columbia is a failed laboratory experiment for gun control," Souder says. "It has one of the most comprehensive bans on firearms in the nation, and it also has one of the highest violent-crime rates in the nation.

"In fact, in 2002 it had the highest per-capita crime rate of any city in the nation. This is not a coincidence. The simple fact is, when law-abiding citizens are forbidden by their government from protecting themselves, they become easy prey for those to whom a gun ban is just one more law to break."