- The Washington Times - Friday, September 7, 2001


"There goes the budget surplus."

Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans, one of President Bush's White House State Dinner guests, viewing Wednesday night's extravagant explosion of fireworks above Washington in honor of visiting Mexican President Vicente Fox.

Pass the guacamole

"Mexico is an incredibly important part of the United States foreign policy. It is our most important relationship because Mexico is our neighbor," President Bush informed reporters yesterday after meeting with Mexican President Vicente Fox to discuss various issues. "We had an issue of avocados, for example. For those of you avocado lovers, you'll be pleased to hear that we solved that problem."

Polar flight

Apollo X mission commander Gen. Thomas P. Stafford, who holds the all-time world speed record for circumnavigating the earth in a spacecraft (24,791.4 miles per hour), will now attempt to set an atmospheric record for circumnavigating the world by flying over the North and South Poles.

The retired Air Force general, who serves as chairman of the independent oversight committee for the International Space Station, and other paying passengers will participate in only the fourth flight — dubbed "Polar Byrd II," after Adm. Richard Byrd, the first man to fly over the South Pole in 1929 — around the world over both poles.

The 747-400 aircraft, chartered from South African Airways, will attempt to break by three hours the old record of 54 hours, 7 minutes, 12 seconds, set Oct. 28 to 30, 1977.

"I'm really looking forward to it," Gen. Stafford told Inside the Beltway yesterday. "I've been around the world many times, but I saw it very fast. We made it back from the moon on Apollo X in only 42 hours; most missions took 76 to 80 hours to return. We were really hauling the mail."

The double-polar flight departs New York's JFK airport on Nov. 17, heading south over Argentina, the South Pole, Australia, China, Russia, the North Pole, and finally back to New York.

Condit's 'career'

California voters might consider congressional term limits for their Washington representatives, too, now that Rep. Gary A. Condit refuses to budge from his seat.

At the state level, term limits aimed at ending "careerism" among legislators were introduced in 18 states by 1995, with an average of 68 percent voter support. Although groups in some states such as California have been trying to repeal them, the effect of term limits has been overwhelmingly positive, according to new research from the Cato Institute.

In "Assessing the Term Limits Experiment: California and Beyond," Cato senior fellow Patrick Basham focuses in particular on the experiences of California one of the oldest term-limited legislatures.

Mr. Basham finds that term limits has stimulated political competition, increased the number of elected women and minorities, and "shows signs of weakening the careerism that characterized postwar legislative life and suffocated nearly all attempts at significant policy innovation."

Back in action

The U.S. Army's "Stonewall Brigade," a proud Virginia-based regiment that's seen action in every major conflict from the Revolutionary War to World War II, will lead the U.S. peacekeeping force in Bosnia-Herzegovina starting this month.

In fact, Father Christian Connelly, until recently an associate pastor at this columnist's church — Virginia's oldest Catholic Church, St. Mary's in Alexandria will serve as chaplain of the 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, "Stonewall Brigade," 29th Infantry Division (Light), Virginia Army National Guard.

Before his departure, Father Connelly told the Arlington Catholic Herald that it's the first time his unit, which dates to 1742, has been deployed for overseas action since it stormed the beaches of Normandy during World War II.

"It gained particular fame with General 'Stonewall' Jackson and his troops from the Shenandoah Valley who fought the Union Army all throughout the Virginia countryside," said Father Connelly, adding that his great-great-grandfather, Patrick Barry, a private with the 18th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment during the Battle of Second Manassas, fought directly against the Virginia militias under the command of Gen. Jackson.

"What would my great-great-grandfather think today if he knew his great-great-grandson was serving as a chaplain in the modern-day Stonewall Brigade?" he asked.

Four hundred Virginia soldiers from the historic brigade will participate in the mission to Bosnia-Hercegovina.

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