- The Washington Times - Friday, November 16, 2001

The president returns

"When American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center, President George W. Bush was attending to his duties sitting in on a second-grade class at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Fla. Later that day, he found himself managing a national crisis and preparing for war.

"In a span of hours, Mr. Bush traversed the distance from the humiliating distractions that had come to pass for 'national leadership' to the serious business for which we have a national government, and a president."

Michael S. Greve, director of the Federalism Project at the American Enterprise Institute


Rebirth of the rail

So many Americans are choosing trains over planes to reach their destinations that Sen. Richard J. Durbin and fellow passengers riding the Amtrak rails this week from New York to Washington couldn't find a seat.

"Trains were so crowded many of us had to stand the whole way," the Illinois Democrat says. "That sort of thing is happening across America in ways large and small."


I'm Barbara, fly me

"To be a Pollyanna, to stand up and say 'Come fly with me' as the Frank Sinatra song goes I cannot do it."

Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat


Marshal forces

It turns out Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Michigan Democrat, was aboard this week's U.S. Airways Flight 969 from Pittsburgh to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, only to be diverted to Washington Dulles International Airport after a passenger became unruly and was tackled by sky marshals. The passenger, Raho N. Ortiz, was accused of failing to follow commands of the flight crew to remain in his seat as the plane made its final descent into Reagan.

Mrs. Stabenow, who was elected to the Senate in November 2000, was seated in Row 11 and says it appeared the passenger was "headed towards what appeared to be the cockpit."

"I commend the air marshals who were on that flight," she says. "They responded with professionalism. They responded quickly with what appeared to be a threat to those of us who were on the flight."

Mr. Ortiz, employed by the Environmental Protection Agency, is a former congressional staffer who was charged in July 1998 with felony malicious wounding after stabbing another congressional staffer at a party. The charges were later reduced.


Price of life

There's some confusion over the cost of vaccinating every American against deadly smallpox, with the Senate calling on Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson to provide more precise estimates of such a tremendous undertaking.

One thing is for certain, it won't be cheap.

The Bush administration's bioterrorism budget request, submitted to Congress last month, included $509 million for the production of 250 million doses of smallpox vaccine. But new studies suggest the cost could run as high as $2 billion.


Human plastic

Don't leave home without it.

A new "smart visa" card would utilize biometric information, such as facial recognition, fingerprints, iris scans and hand geometry to identify every foreigner who seeks to enter the United States.

Under legislation introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, the Immigration and Naturalization Service and State Department would be required within one year to ensure that foreign nationals use such tamper-proof visa cards to enter and leave the United States.


Eye of the storm

The White House photo office certainly wasn't shy about photographing the disgraced Richard M. Nixon during his final two days in office.

We learn this week that 45 rolls of 35 mm still photographic film, capturing more than 700 images of the embattled president's final 48 hours in office on Aug. 7-9, 1974, were shot by official White House photographers.

The National Archives this month placed every photograph of the historic two days from the scene inside the White House press room as the president gave his resignation speech, to crowds gathered outside the White House gate awaiting the final word onto CD-ROMs, which are free for the taking.


Queen's legacy

The "Heather French Henry Homeless Assistance Act"?

Yes, named after Miss America 2000, who brought the issue of homeless veterans to national attention during her reign.

If the bill (S. 739) were to be fully funded through the appropriations process, the new programs assistance to homeless veterans through health care benefits at non-Veterans Administration facilities and the establishment of new health service centers would cost $67 million in the first year.


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