- The Washington Times - Friday, August 11, 2000

Bloody history

Americans who for historical reasons alone don't wish to see the Confederate flag lowered permanently from the American landscape ought to take a cue from Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol M. Browner.

She tells staff in a memo we obtained that instead of being offended by large murals located in the main entrance corridors on each floor of EPA's new headquarters which some claim perpetuates stereotypes demeaning to blacks, women and American Indians they should remember their history lessons.

"It is important when viewing these murals to keep them in their historical perspective," is how Mrs. Browner puts it.

The murals, depicting a history of mail delivery, were commissioned and painted as part of the Ariel Rios Building's original construction in the 1930s. EPA is in the process of moving its headquarters into the more spacious building.

"It has come to my attention that some employees, as well as guests visiting the building, have raised concerns" about the murals, says Mrs. Browner.

"I particularly recognize the anxiety caused by the depiction of American Indians in these murals. EPA respects the contributions of all peoples and continues to affirm its commitment to diversity and to its special relationship with Native American tribes with whom we work on a government-to-government basis in accordance with its long-standing Indian policy," she says.

To that end, Mrs. Browner has relayed the concerns of employees and visitors to appropriate officials at the General Service Administration's Fine Arts Program, who have since prepared materials that explain the context of each mural and provide information about the artist. The materials are placed beside each mural, along with posters and brochures.

"This approach is the same taken by the Smithsonian Institution when they anticipate that visitors may take exception to certain exhibits," notes Mrs. Browner.

Additionally, GSA's Regional Historical Preservation Officer is willing to schedule lunch-time educational sessions for employees who are interested in discussing the murals.

Beyond that, Mrs. Browner says, there's not much else she can do. After all, she points out: "The murals … are subject to specific protective provisions of the National Historic Preservation Act."

Still, she adds: "I want to stress that the murals do not represent an official agency position."

Secondhand fruit

We have to chuckle at a report from the July Environmental Policy Task Force meeting, chaired by David Ridenour of the National Center for Public Policy Research.

James Plummer of Consumer Alert discussed a successful counterdemonstration conducted by his group and the Competitive Enterprise Institute at a Washington Safeway supermarket picketed by anti-biotechnology demonstrators.

"The anti-biotechnology protesters demanded that the Safeway supermarket chain stop selling products genetically modified through agricultural biotechnology, citing unfounded claims that such products are unsafe," notes Mr. Ridenour.

"To dramatize their point, the protesters entered the store, purchased biotechnology-modified products and then demanded a refund."

So what did the counter-demonstrators do?

"The CEI and Consumer Alert protesters promptly purchased the same biotechnology products and did not ask for a refund."

Hello, I'm Joe

Congress may be in summer recess, but laughter can be heard up and down the hallowed halls.

A "spoof" memo has been widely circulated from the Senate to the House, addressed to staff of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico from Energy Secretary Bill Richardson (again, this is only a joke).

"Dear staff members: Due to an unfortunate overreaction by the Republican Congress to our minor difficulties in the security area, we're being forced to tighten up just a bit. Effective Monday:

"1. The brown paper bag in which we store the computer disk drives that contain the nation's nuclear secrets will no longer be left on the picnic table at the staff commissary during lunch hour. It will be stored in 'the vault.' I know this is an inconvenience to many of you, but it's a sad sign of the times.

"2. The three-letter security code for accessing 'the vault' will no longer be 'B-O-B.' To confuse would-be spies, that security code will be reversed. Please don't tell anybody.

" 3. Visiting scientists and graduate students from Libya, North Korea, and mainland China will no longer be allowed to wander the hallways without proper identification. Beginning Monday, they will be required to wear a stick-on label tag that clearly states, 'Hello, My Name Is … ' The stickers will be available at the front desk."

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