- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 21, 2002

'Fat cats' on Mars

For the first time ever, Worth magazine has identified the wealthiest "fat cats" in each of America's 100 largest metropolitan areas. Here in the powerful corridors of Washington, the Mars siblings not only rule, they answer to no one.

"While the intrigues of the capital's most powerful politicians are frequently laid bare by the press, the three children of Forrest Mars Sr. worth an estimated $7.5 billion apiece remain near-total enigmas," Worth opines. "In an uncharacteristic burst of candor, a Mars employee confirmed … on condition of anonymity that all three are indeed still living."

Namely Forrest Mars Jr., 70; his brother, John Franklyn Mars, 65; and baby sister Jackie, 62.

"They sell candy," says the magazine. "Now please stop prying."

Not enough homework

We see that a freshman congresswoman will introduce legislation to suspend federal funds to local school districts that provide "morning-after pills" to teen-age students.

"Currently, 180 schools are providing the morning-after pill to their students through school-based health clinics," reveals Rep. Melissa A. Hart, Pennsylvania Republican. "Compounding the problem is the fact that a number of courts have ruled that parental notification is disallowed when these schools provide this drug."

Miss Hart says schools should not be in the business of providing medication to students without parental consent. Worse yet, she points out, "most schools will not even supply a student with aspirin without parental consent, but they will distribute the morning-after pill."

Going down?

Don't look now, but Washington is going underground.

First, the U.S. Capitol unveiled plans for an elaborate underground visitors center. Then the White House proposed a sweeping new underground complex, including a new recreation room for the first family, modern briefing room for the press, and two parking garages, one beneath the National Mall.

Now, Inside the Beltway learns, the National Park Service is throwing its support behind the construction of an underground educational facility at the popular Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

"We look forward to working with you on an appropriately sized and sited underground facility, one that is acceptable visually and has a minimum of distracting qualities to the visitor experience," Park Service Director Fran P. Mainella writes in a letter to Jan C. Scruggs, founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

Miss Mainella says such an underground facility, displaying historical photographs and other records of the controversial conflict, would increase an "awareness and understanding" of Vietnam for the memorial's 4.4 million annual visitors, especially the youth.

Also in favor of an underground facility are two former presidents, George H.W. Bush and Gerald R. Ford, as well as Vietnam combat veteran Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Max Cleland of Georgia, John Kerry of Massachusetts, and John McCain of Arizona.

The memorial, which many know simply as "the Wall," celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. The most-visited memorial in town, its black granite panels are inscribed with the names of 58,226 men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Wide open

Several Immigration and Naturalization Service inspectors have told ProjectUSA, a nonprofit advocacy group that examines immigration issues, that little has changed along America's borders since September 11.

The INS agents, none of whom are identified by ProjectUSA "for fear or reprisals," echoed a similar warning: "The border remains essentially open to any and all including terrorists who want to enter the United States."

(ProjectUSA admits to being in favor of reducing immigration to sustainable levels, but stresses it is not anti-immigrant. "Just like an advocate of family planning is not anti-child," the group says).

"These front-line agents," the group says, "routinely cite fraud as a primary culprit in an immigration situation that a General Accounting Office report, prepared for Congress and released this week, calls 'out of control.' With unusual bluntness, the usually mild-mannered GAO stated in its report that the INS is 'fragmented and unfocused' about enforcement."

In one analysis, the GAO found a 90 percent rate of fraud in 5,000 petitions for asylum. A follow-up check of 1,500 of those petitions could locate only one that was genuine.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. James F. Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican, who ordered the GAO report, remarked: "I'm not confident that the INS isn't giving green cards to al Qaeda operatives."

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