MSHA pressed to hire mine inspectors

MSHA pressed to hire mine inspectors

Despite the inclusion of $25.6 million for more coal mine inspectors in an emergency spending bill signed by President Bush a month ago, nothing has happened on hiring yet.

That’s according to Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., who put the money in the bill.

Responding to the Jan. 2 Sago Mine disaster in West Virginia that killed 12 miners and the May 20 Kentucky Darby Mine No. 1 disaster that killed five miners, Congress agreed to provide money to replace the 217 federal Mine Safety and Health Administration inspectors lost since 2001.

In letters last week to Labor Secretary Elaine Chao and Office of Management and Budget Director Rob Portman, Byrd urged action.

The senator said the budget office had not yet made the money available to MSHA, and MSHA in turn hasn’t come up with a detailed plan for hiring the inspectors in the 2006 and 2007 fiscal years.

“I stood next to President Bush at the White House in June when he told the families of miners: ‘We’ll do everything possible to prevent mine accidents,’ ” Byrd wrote. “The hiring and training of these inspectors is critical to fulfilling that promise.” The Labor Department is working on a response, MSHA spokeswoman Amy Louviere said.
NAACP branch recognized

The national convention of the NAACP wrapped up in Washington last week with an awards dinner, and the Louisville branch of the association went home with a Thalheimer Award.

The award, first place in the class of branches with fewer than 1,000 members, was for the Louisville branch’s monthly newsletter. Raoul Cunningham, president of the Louisville branch, accepted the award from Julian Bond, the chairman of the NAACP’s national board of directors.

Thalheimers are given to NAACP branches and state conferences for work in the preceding year that most contributes to the association’s mission. Seventeen were given out at the dinner.

“It’s great for the branch and the state to have been recognized at the national convention,” Cunningham said. “Hopefully, it will encourage us to do more.”

Cunningham said there has been a major membership push at the Louisville branch this year, which began with about 400 paying members. He expected that by the next national convention, his branch would be well over 1,000 paying members.
History repeats

The NAACP convention delegates from Kentucky and Indiana fanned out to Capitol Hill last week to make sure the Senate was on track to pass the extension of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And it did, on a 98-0 vote Thursday.

During a meeting with Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Kentucky delegates heard about a footnote to the first signing of the voting rights measure.

On Aug. 6, 1965, a former intern of then-Sen. John Sherman Cooper, R-Ky., was visiting Washington. The intern happened to be with Cooper when lawmakers were summoned to the Capitol Rotunda for the signing of the Voting Rights Act. Back in the crowd, watching President Lyndon B. Johnson sign the historic civil-rights measure, was the 23-year-old former intern, a fellow from Louisville named Mitch McConnell.
And that’s IF he runs ”¦

Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., told reporters at the National Press Club last week that should his current exploratory presidential campaign turn into an actual one, he wouldn’t quit the Senate to run full-time.

You will recall that former Sen. Robert Dole, R-Kan., did that in 1996 when he ran for president, ultimately to no effect.

“You know, I don’t think — to use a phrase that’s popular with regard to another context — I don’t think cutting and running is the right answer,” Bayh said.

“I think you’ve got to stand and fight and do what you can, even if it’s an uphill struggle, to make things better.”

Dan Pfeiffer, communications director for Bayh, and Sarah Feinberg, press secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, were married a week ago in Charleston, W.Va.

The couple met over the phone while working on Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign.

They are honeymooning in Anguilla.
Saw you in the funnies

When Sen. Jim Bunning recently called for the prosecution of The New York Times for treason for writing about a secret government program that tracks financial transactions, he caught the imagination of cartoonist Darrin Bell.

Last week, readers of the “Candorville” comic strip saw Bunning (in the strip he’s “Bunting,” but the face on the TV is his) attacking a fictitious newspaper in a fake political commercial.

“Some say my outrage about the Chronicle publishing secrets is fake. Politically motivated. An election-year stunt!,” Sen. Bunting says in the strip. “”¦ hat I have no accomplishments to run on so I’m attacking the media to distract the voters. That’s pure poppycock!”

“The security of this country is my only concern!” the senator says, as a character flushes in the bathroom.

What did Bunning (who is not running this year — he has until 2010 until his next campaign) think of this?

“Senator Bunning wears it as a badge of honor that he would be nationally recognized for his leadership in calling on the liberal media to be more responsible with what they publish about the government’s legal and classified efforts to protect America from terrorist thugs,” said spokesman Mike Reynard.

Bell told the Cincinnati Enquirer that he used Bunning because “last month, he seemed to be the GOP’s point man for the leader’s war against the media ”¦ aside from that he hadn’t done much.”

Copyright 2005 The Courier-Journal.

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