In America: Florida turns blind eye to Bush deadline débâcle

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The Independent Online

* Here's an intriguing wrinkle to the great presidential election battle of 2004: the Republican Party may have missed the deadline to file candidacy papers for President Bush in the all-important swing state of Florida.

* Here's an intriguing wrinkle to the great presidential election battle of 2004: the Republican Party may have missed the deadline to file candidacy papers for President Bush in the all-important swing state of Florida.

The papers were supposed to be in on 1 September, but that was the day Mr Bush was formally nominated at the Republican National Convention in New York. The upshot: at least some of the papers did not get in until the following day.

The Democratic Party is choosing not to make a fuss about it, and the Republican-dominated establishment in Florida is certainly not forcing the President to stick to the letter of the law.

But some of the smaller parties, especially the Greens, are upset at what they see as a double standard, given their own struggles to make it onto the ballot.

Turns out the Bush campaign may have also missed the deadline in Utah, a safe state for the President.

The papers there were date-stamped 4 September, one day after the local deadline. State officials insist the stamp was the result of a clerical error, not a late filing, but some local activists are not so sure and are considering a lawsuit. The issue may not die so easily, especially if the vote is close on 2 November.

* Those of us who drive hybrid petrol-electric cars in California have just caught a nice break, courtesy of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The Governor has signed a bill allowing us to drive in the high-occupancy lane on freeways even if we aren't carrying passengers.

Despite the convenience, Pandora can't help having a few mixed feelings, since the bill appears to have been pushed by Hollywood celebrity power more than sound policy analysis.

Hybrids like the Toyota Prius are all the rage with movie stars, who love to tout their environmental credentials but probably don't care that much about congestion.

As dissenting lawmaker Debra Bowen put it with delicious sarcasm: "I know I'm going to sleep better at night knowing Leonardo DiCaprio, [left] won't be stuck in traffic on the Santa Monica Freeway."

* IT'S ALMOST the end of the baseball season, and in California the traditional rivalry between Los Angeles and San Francisco is in high gear as the Dodgers and the Giants duke it out for a place in the World Series play-offs.

The teams began the final showdown over the weekend, with one intriguing absence. One of the Dodgers' star hitters, Shawn Green, above, took Saturday off because it was Yom Kippur and he is Jewish.

It was, by all accounts, an agonising decision, not least because religious purists urged him to skip Friday's game as well.

Baseball remains an unusual pursuit for American Jews: there are just 10 of them in the major leagues.

* Say what you like about John Kerry's prospects as a presidential candidate. When it comes to ingenuity and humour in political bumper stickers, the Democratic ticket wins hands down over President Bush.

Among Pandora's favourite recent sightings: "Stop mad cowboy disease", "11/02/04 ... the end of an error", and "John Kerry ... bringing complete sentences back to the White House".

The Republicans, by contrast, seem to prefer straight "Bush/Cheney '04" signs. Not that American conservatives don't have a sense of humour.

One sign available on the internet (but not yet seen on the streets by this political observer) highlights the first two letters of John and the first two letters of Kerry, so the name of the Massachusetts Senator is superimposed with the word "JOKE".

* It had to happen. An overweight California man is suing Southwest Airlines because he was told he could not board his plane unless he purchased a second seat.

Lionel Bea of Oakland said in his complaint that the gate agent was "insulting and rude", and that he was more than capable of squeezing himself into a single airline seat.

Southwest says its policy is to sell the second seat at a hefty discount, and reimburse the cost completely if the flight is not full.

An unamused Mr Bea (weight undisclosed) has meanwhile switched his allegiance to United Airlines.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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