Friday, May 25, 2001

Pardon me
At the same time the Washington press corps was scurrying about the U.S. Capitol to learn more about the Republican defection of Sen. James M. Jeffords of Vermont, former President Gerald R. Ford was visiting the historic Old Senate Chamber — reflecting on his 25 years of service in Congress before making history as the nations 38th president by pardoning Richard Nixon.
But reporters, for the most part, ignored Mr. Fords presence in the Capitol, instead focusing their attention — like a pack of hungry wolves — on a Senate Republican leadership aide who, passing by like a guppy in a piranha tank, did all he could to escape the feeding frenzy.
“Hey, President Fords here,” said the aide, eyeing the scribes nervously. “Really, you just missed him. Hes over there.”
The reporters didnt move.
“Hes here to pardon Jeffords,” the aide cracked, as the reporters broke out in laughter.

Majority in minutes

How fast do things move in Washington? Pretty fast, when youre working for — until one day ago — Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat.
While Sen. James M. Jeffords of Vermont was still answering questions during his party-switching press conference yesterday, a staff member from a Washington-based online think tank happened to call Mr. Daschles office.
Sure enough, a staff member answered the phone, “Good morning, Senate Majority Leader Daschles office.”

Smooth passage

A big British whirlybird has been hovering over Washington this week — with an eye on the White House.
But theres nothing sinister here. Just some hard-hitting marketing by our aviation friends from across the pond, who are keen to sell a cutting-edge helicopter as a presidential carrier.
“Were aiming to make it Marine One,” is the declared aim of AgustaWestland Inc., Europes No. 1 helicopter manufacturer.
They imported a sample of their pride and joy, along with a Royal Air Force team, into Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport this week, to give “joy” rides to top brass, congressional aides and others who will have a big say in whether the bird is bought.
The prime market target for the all-terrain, all-weather $20 million price-tagged chopper — officially known as the EH-101, but nicknamed Merlin because of its in-air wizardry — is the military and Coast Guard. Thus why Marine One is in the scopes of the mighty machine.
Inside the Beltway is told that the biggest hurdle to selling to the U.S. market is about to be overcome. An American partner — which will manufacture the EH-101, use “Made in America” parts (including General Electric engines, instead of Rolls-Royces), and create many jobs — is expected to be announced within weeks.
The public got a close-up look at the new-concept helicopter at Andrews Air Force Base last week, and will get another chance when it goes on display at the Patuxent Naval Air Stations Air Expo 2001 this Memorial Day weekend.
Pentagon-based U.S. Marine Col. Mark Reed, who took the controls for a while in a whirl over Washington, declared himself “very impressed.” He knows of what he talks. Hes flown helicopters for 24 years.
“Its as smooth a ride as Ive ever had in a helicopter,” he revealed. It was an observation that thrilled the sales guys. The EH-101 has a unique anti-vibration system that slashes the teeth-rattling of a traditional helicopter ride by 90 percent.
Its a big selling point for when, in the not-too-distant future, a replacement for the Marine One fleet is required. Theres never been a president, after all, who didnt appreciate a smooth passage.

Yield to military

Normally, its the environmentalists railing against urban sprawl. Now a Republican congressman is upset about “urban encroachment” on the U.S. military.
“The armed forces readiness is being eroded by urban expansion,” warns Rep. Jim Gibbons of Nevada, a member of the House Armed Services Committee who also cites military and commercial competition for flight space and communication frequencies.
“Make no mistake,” the congressman says. “Encroachment is like a cancer, eating away at our training capabilities.”

Island of misfits

With the population of California already at a whopping 34 million and expected to reach 60 million by 2050 — putting even further strains on the states energy, water, traffic and pollution problems — President Bush is being called upon to enact responsible immigration policy.
And do so quickly. Before Bangladeshs prime minister, Sheik Hasina Wajed, gets any more ideas.
The immigration group Project-USA observes that when asked recently how Bangladesh intends to feed, educate, employ and house its rapidly expanding population, she replied, laughing: “Well send them to America.”

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