Not Flexible by Her Account

By Al Kamen
Monday, May 9, 2005

In Washington, every day, every week, every month is special, a celebration of some group, event, cause or whatever.

May, for example, is Historic Preservation Month. The National Park Service is celebrating with a major restructuring (that's fed talk for what some folks there are calling a massacre) of the cultural resources staff.

Associate Director Jan Matthews , "to promote more efficiency, effectiveness and accountability," moved around some senior career officials and assumed the job of Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places -- a job that had been handled by highly respected veteran Carol Shull .

Matthews also rescinded flex time for GS-14 and GS-15 managers in Washington. Some folks thought they recalled that when Matthews, a Florida resident, came to town after the 2000 election she used to go back to Florida on Thursday nights.

They are misremembering. Word from Matthews is that she does not now and has not worked an alternate or flex-time schedule.

Clearing the Air

May 3 was World Asthma Day, the Environmental Protection Agency said. To mark the occasion, the EPA announced the "first national awareness survey on environmental asthma triggers." In that survey, the agency found that "fewer than 30 percent of people with asthma are taking simple steps to reduce exposure to asthma triggers.

"Exposure to asthma triggers such as secondhand smoke, cockroaches, dust mites, mold, and ozone can cause asthma in young children or set off asthma attacks," the news release said, emphasizing and outlining "simple steps parents can take to reduce asthma triggers."

Some enviros hooted that this was the equivalent of blaming the victim, pointing out that the EPA didn't talk about any administration weakening of clean-air rules for coal-burning power plants -- plants the EPA itself says are responsible for hundreds of thousands of cases of asthma and bronchitis.

But that's understandable, since the focus, after all, is on all Americans' failure to fight asthma. Still, the EPA didn't list the numerous actions individuals can take to reduce air pollution.

We can, for example, kill more cockroaches or stop hanging with friends who smoke. On a much larger scale, we can even reduce pollution from those coal-burning plants. For example, we can stop using air conditioners in August. Also, we can abandon our cars and use bicycles or walk to work. Taken together, such moves could produce a massive reduction in ozone triggers. If all else fails, we could try not to breathe so much, thereby inhaling fewer triggers.

Maybe They'd Rather Be Anonymous

And last week was Public Employee Recognition Week at the Office of Personnel Management. That was celebrated from Tuesday, May 3, to Thursday, May 5. (The week may have been shortened due to budget constraints.) As a gift, OPM management handed out coffee mugs to thousands of employees on Tuesday with the OPM logo on them and the words "Working for America," a mantra around the agency. The mugs were made in China.

The employee appreciation cookout was on Wednesday, and while workers were expected to pay for the barbecue, there was free cake and Red Bull power drink for all.

Contest Clock Is Ticking

Don't forget to enter the In the Loop Name That Scandal contest. This is to pick a name for the investigations into House Majority Leader Tom DeLay 's travels. Themes might reflect investigations into his golfing in Scotland (a trip allegedly paid for by tribal casino interests), travel to Russia, ties to lobbyists, or termites.

Send your entry -- and rationale -- via e-mail to or mail to In the Loop, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Deadline is midnight Friday. Top 10 winners get a still-rare, highly coveted In the Loop T-shirt. Entries on background are welcome, but everyone must include telephone numbers to be eligible. Please, no more Hammer-gates.

Legislators Do Good

In the big $82 billion emergency spending bill, amid the usual waste and abuse, lawmakers did at least one good thing. They allocated $20 million to assist families and communities of Iraqi civilians inadvertently harmed by U.S. military operations -- and they named the fund after Marla Ruzicka , the courageous 28-year-old advocate of such payments, who was killed last month by a suicide bomber in Baghdad. Now maybe the State Department will finally create the office sought by Ruzicka to administer the money and collect data on victims.

Czech the Lobbyist's Credentials

The White House last week dispatched a delegation, headed by Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson , to the Czech Republic for an important WWII anniversary event. The delegation included the usual suspects -- the current and former U.S. ambassadors and a retired Army major general. The fifth member was Linda Maynor , a lobbyist from Huntsville, Ala. So what's the Czech connection here?

Truly a silly question, according to her bio. "Linda is the finance chairman for the Alabama Republican Party," we read, and since 1985 has raised "millions" for Republicans, including more than $350,000 for Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour . A Bush "Ranger," Maynor has "raised millions more" on Senate and presidential campaigns, including more than $300,000 last time around for President Bush . Ah, the check connection.

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