Media, Animal Rights, and Health Care

MEDIA

Michael Powell, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, was in town to address the deregulation-friendly Newspaper Association of America on Monday. Instead of clearly defending his stance that media ownership rules need to be changed, which the FCC is set to do on June 2, the son of Colin Powell trotted out an extended metaphor concerning penguins (we kid you not). Powell, who declined interview requests from this paper and The Seattle Times, later admitted to reporters that the FCC doesn't have conclusive evidence upon which to base its decision to end the current ban against common ownership of television stations and newspapers in the same city. PHILIP DAWDY

ANIMAL RIGHTS

Last week, activists from the Northwest Animal Rights Network and the University of Washington chapter of Action for Animals protested at the homes and offices of seven UW primate and animal researchers. As part of what's known as World Week for Animals in Laboratories, the activists were calling attention to what they consider the torture of animals and the waste of federal research dollars. At past protests, some researchers have actually come outside to debate the activists, but last week the researchers stayed behind closed doors. The protests were peaceful. P.D.

HEALTH CARE

As PacMed moves to split off from its public development agency partner to become a private, nonprofit corporation, the welfare of both patients and health care workers is in question. Nurses, medical assistants, and clerical employees at PacMed Clinicsthe remnants of a once-robust Pacific Medical Center public-health hospital on Beacon Hillface more downsizing, even after the closure of seven clinics and five pharmacies and the departure of 400 employees in recent years. Carter Wright of the Service Employees International Union says PacMed officials in contract negotiations are demanding additional cuts. But he and others wonder if management is following its own advice. According to the SEIU, PacMed officials approved spending $37,738 on an executive-training retreat and $95,521 in travel expenses for the interim CEO. Maybe old habits die hard. But PacMed is promising to turn a steady profit after losing $92 million the past decade. RICK ANDERSON

THE LEGISLATURE

How do you divide $2.6 billion? The state Legislature just spent 105 days and couldn't come up with an answer. A lot is at stake, including health care for poor kids and raises for teachers. Senate Republicans want to close the $2.6 billion deficit in the state's $24 billion biennial budget without levying new taxes or giving raises. House Democrats, after much dissension, finally approved around $322 million in new revenue for labor, education, and social services.

Negotiations between the House and Senate begin in earnest this week. The Democrats' lead negotiator is state Rep. Helen Sommers, D-Seattle, a wily, poker-faced, 31-year veteran of the House. The Republicans' standard-bearer is an ambitious, young, voluble real-estate broker, Sen. Dino Rossi, R-Issaquah. Even if Sommers can cajole Rossi to meet her in the middle, the GOP can legitimately claim victory in their unrelenting war on taxes. GEORGE HOWLAND JR.

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