DID YOU HEAR

DID YOU HEAR

• Hardship pay is on the way for enlisted military personnel who serve longer than 30 days in spots with unusually poor living conditions outside the continental United States. The old hardship stipends'$8 to $22.50 per month'ballooned as of Jan. 1 to a munificent $150 per month for such garden spots as Antarctica, the South Korean demilitarized zone, Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and Johnston Island in the South Pacific. How's about a little hardship pay for those who labor inside the United States? Commuting on the infamous Washington Beltway ought to be worth, say, $300 per month extra. Crawling under desk after desk to change network cables? Maybe $175. Eating in the agency cafeteria? Surviving a change of administration? Priceless.

• Speaking of prices, did you ever wonder how people qualify to become presidential advisers? Check out the big-bucks contributors on President Bush's transition team at www.opensecrets.org, site of the Center for Responsible Politics. Some contributors gave to both political parties, and not all were Bush donors. Deepest pockets belonged to the Commerce Department advisory team, which chipped in $1.5 million.

• Uncle Sam would be the biggest donor in voting reform under S 3273, introduced by Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). The bill would earmark $250 million in federal matching funds for jurisdictions that adopt digital voting systems. Meanwhile, Dell Computer Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Unisys Corp. are teaming up to build such a system named, unpronounceably, [email protected] Election Solutions.

We would have voted for Chad. Send your votes to [email protected].

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