Vice President Keeps a Low Profile These Days

And now the most compelling two minutes in television, the latest from the political grapevine:

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Layin' Low
Vice President Dick Cheney has gone to ground for the foreseeable future, with the reluctant consent of the president. The reason: His old company, Halliburton is under SEC investigation, and Cheney does not want to be seen either ducking press questions on the issue or answering them and being accused of trying to influence the SEC. Experts say the accounting change Halliburton made five years ago was legitimate, but suggested it should have been more promptly disclosed. The New York Daily News said Cheney is confident of vindication, but said the president is “resigned that Cheney, perhaps the most authoritative and soothing public voice in the government, is essentially out of action."

Saving Only South Dakota?
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle has quietly acted to exempt the forests in his home state of South Dakota from environmental restrictions that other Western senators say made fires in their states much worse. A combination of legal prohibitions and environmental lawsuits has prevented the thinning of the brush and smaller trees, which then become the fuel for runaway fires. The Washington Times reports the Daschle provision completely frees the forests in the Black Hills not only from forestry and environmental regulations but also from any litigation that might block logging to the forests to thin them. He then slipped the measure into the supplemental defense bill, which was sent to the president today.

Picky Eaters
U.S. aid officials say Zimbabwe could face famine in September if it continues to refuse to accept food aid from the United States, which shipped 8,500 tons of grain to the Southern African country in June. But Zimbabwe refused to accept another 10,000 tons because it was not certified as free of genetically modified organisms. Such genetically modified food is eaten in the United States every day, and it is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. But the BBC reports that such disputes "are threatening to derail efforts to help the 12 million people across southern Africa who are facing a critical food shortage."

Apologizing for Pilot
And finally, Air France is apologizing to an Israeli businessman who complained that during a flight into Tel Aviv, the pilot referred to the destination as "Israel-Palestine." There is, of course, no such place and Air France says it regrets the incident.