- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Brown’s syndrome?

The recent tornadoes to rake through Tennessee were so horrific that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is offering free crisis counseling to Tennesseans.

Common reactions to a disaster, according to FEMA, “may include nightmares, difficulty sleeping, feelings of being overwhelmed, fear of the weather, anxiety about the future, difficulty making decisions, hopelessness, disappointment with outside help, headaches, increased anger or aggression, domestic violence, frustration and feelings of powerlessness.”

Come to think of it, several of these symptoms were exhibited by former FEMA Director Michael D. Brown in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Beyond pagers

Good news for Americans who live along three shining seas, including our Atlantic seaboard: the U.S. tsunami-warning system is now equipped to detect giant waves and alert communities of impending danger.

Previously, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had two warning centers — in Hawaii and Alaska. And, believe it or not, each warning center depended on staff being “available by pager” and able to reach their facility within five minutes.

Not only has NOAA hired 15 employees to staff the Hawaii and Alaska centers around the clock, but it also has expanded its warning system to provide coverage of the U.S. Atlantic Coast, Gulf of Mexico, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and eastern Canada.

“This marks an important phase in strengthening the U.S. tsunami-warning system, which was accelerated following the December 2004 Indian Ocean disaster,” notes NOAA Administrator Conrad C. Lautenbacher Jr..

Help wanted

That was the Partnership for Public Service (PPS) holding a panel discussion yesterday at George Washington University on how the federal government must do a better job recruiting college students to attract the talent required to run the nation.

“Recall Katrina,” the partnership’s Sarah Howe tells Inside the Beltway.

“As you know, this is a critical time for the federal government because hundreds of thousands of ‘baby boomers’ in the federal government are approaching retirement — of the 1.9 million federal workers, 44 percent will be eligible for retirement by 2010, including 60 percent of senior managers,” she says.

Space pioneer

Her career punctuated by firsts, astronaut Eileen Collins is leaving NASA to spend more time with her family and pursue private interests.

A veteran of four space flights, Mrs. Collins was the first woman selected as a pilot astronaut, the first woman to serve as a shuttle pilot, and the first woman to command a U.S. spacecraft as leader of Discovery’s “Return to Flight” mission last year.

“A true pioneer in space and on Earth,” says Mike Coats, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

EBay item

Considering the number of toes we step on each week, Inside the Beltway is always delighted to receive recognition and thanks from newsmakers who we feature in the column.

“Peace,” inscribes Tommy Chong, the comedian and actor of Cheech and Chong fame, on the official 2006 San Francisco conference poster of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, for which he was the cultural icon and keynote speaker last week.

Under the headline “Dust off the bong,” we’d written that Mr. Chong was among 55 persons busted in a 2003 nationwide drug-paraphernalia sting — Operation Pipe Dream — though he was the only one who served prison time.

Cowboy caviar

It’s time once again for Washington’s annual festival at which city-slickers sample “cowboy caviar.”

Steeped in Western tradition, the 8 p.m. charity benefit Saturday at the American Legion in Arlington features live country music and plentiful trays of fried “Rocky Mountain oysters,” donated by the Montana Stockgrowers Association.

Tickets are just $15 and cover all the hors d’oeuvres and beverages a person can consume.

“It’s a shame most folks inside the Beltway have never experienced the rugged West, never savored the delicacies harvested from spring-born calves,” says one organizer, a native of Lolo, Mont., who, given her high-profile position in the nation’s capital, wishes to remain anonymous.

Proceeds from this year’s event go to the Ronald McDonald House in Missoula, Mont.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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