- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 10, 2001

Glad we're here

From budgetary bailouts to emergency services and law enforcement, the thinking on Capitol Hill has always been that it's a good thing Uncle Sam is around to support the District of Columbia.

But after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the nation, one lawmaker in Congress says it's a good thing the District is around to support the federal government.

"Considering that neither the Congress nor the federal government had a plan even for the basics," says D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. "Lacking guidance within the Congress, even after the Pentagon attack, I made the decision to send my staff home. Without even contacting the D.C. police, the federal government turned its employees into the streets, overwhelmed traffic, and created near panic and danger.

"Most chilling," she says, "the military was inexcusably unprepared. Air-traffic controllers notified the military when the [hijacked] planes steered far off course, with more than enough time to intervene. Yet no intervention occurred."

Mrs. Norton says the District, "with its long history of protecting D.C. residents and the federal sector, is always there in emergencies."

"Let's hope the federal government is better prepared than it was on Sept. 11."


Bang!

Just how easy is it to place a bomb aboard a commercial airliner, like the one that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland?

Far too easy.

"Right now, Americans would be shocked to learn that we leave about 90 to 95 percent of the luggage that goes into the belly of an aircraft unscreened for explosive devices. This will not do," says Rep. Jay Inslee, Washington Democrat, adding there is no better time to be "thinking ahead of the terrorists."

The congressman and a dozen-plus other lawmakers have introduced the Baggage Screening Act, which would require screening of all luggage going into an aircraft for explosive devices, not just carry-on bags.

Mr. Inslee says the fact that the technology and equipment to detect explosives is on the market today, but not being utilized, is inexcusable.


Space marshal?

A U.S. marshal, it turns out, has been flying aboard the NASA space shuttle.

Of course, not for security reasons.

Astronaut James Reilly happened to be in Washington yesterday to return his U.S. marshal's badge and credentials he recently carried into space. The astronaut the first U.S. marshal ever to fly in space served as mission specialist on two recent NASA shuttle missions, logging more than 517 hours in space.

His credentials will now be placed in the U.S. marshals museum outside Washington.


Everybody but Elvis

What top pop or rock band isn't performing at Washington's RFK Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 21 an all-star benefit "United We Stand" concert to aid victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks?

Those already confirmed include 'NSync, the Backstreet Boys, Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger, Aerosmith, Aaron Carter, Ricky Martin, James Brown, Al Green and Kiss, with the Goo Goo Dolls, Carlos Santana, Matchbox 20, Britney Spears and Bruce Springsteen listed as tentative.

Proceeds of tickets, which go on sale Friday, aid the American Red Cross Relief Fund, the Pentagon Relief Fund and the Salvation Army Relief Fund.


Forever soldiers

Many are aging war veterans who can no longer fight on the battlefront. Still, the commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars told us yesterday that his men and women are busy waging war here at home against Osama bin Laden, spurred on by the terrorist's rhetoric.

"Osama bin Laden recently declared that 'America is full of fear from its north to its south, from its west to its east,'" says James N. Goldsmith, the VFW's commander in chief. "He has made a serious mistake and misjudged the will and determination of America and her citizens."

A veteran of the Vietnam War, Mr. Goldsmith says "bin Laden has confused fear with resolve and has confused terror with our unyielding commitment" to track down his terrorist network "wherever they live or wherever they conduct business."

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