- The Washington Times - Monday, November 18, 2002

Beltway banditry
"The Department of Health and Human Services announced it will provide up to $250,000 to the state of Maryland to provide mental health services for those traumatized by the Beltway Sniper."
HHS press release, which later became the lead item in the bimonthly compendium from Citizens Against Government Waste of the costly, wasteful ways in which Uncle Sam spends public money.

Spectacular murders?
Speaking of being traumatized, who in the FBI translated the most recent terrorist communique by warning of "spectacular" attacks on the people of the United States?
In the future, rather than defiling one of the English language's most "spectacular" adjectives, let's call these lethal attacks against humanity what they really are: unconscionable, heinous, murderous acts.

A jet-sized loophole
A former Navy fighter-jet pilot who now flies FedEx planes tells Inside the Beltway that security surrounding the thousands of cargo aircraft that crisscross this nation is "a joke."
"Security is virtually nonexistent," says the pilot, who asks not to be identified. "I'd say no more than 15 percent of the packages put on our airplanes are inspected [for explosives], and access to our planes is a piece of cake."
As for arming cargo pilots to prevent potential terrorist hijackings, both the head of the nation's largest pilots union and the chairman of the union's pilot group at FedEx is blasting last week's last-minute lobbying effort on Capitol Hill to exempt cargo airlines from the federal mandate in the Homeland Security bill to arm airline pilots.
"[I]n an act that defies logic and creates a serious threat to public safety, the air cargo industry managed a backroom deal to get the word 'passenger' inserted in the House bill's version for arming pilots," says Capt. Duane Woerth, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, International.
"The effect of this single word change is that it exempts all cargo carriers from the federal mandate to arm pilots in a bill that was intended to enhance the pilot's ability to protect the airplane."
Even more blunt is Capt. David Webb, chairman of ALPA's FedEx unit, who warns that a hijacked cargo airliner "makes just as deadly a guided missile as one full of passengers."

Female leaders
No woman has won the presidency or vice presidency, for that matter but the election of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, as the party's House leader is being cheered as an "about time."
Susan Medalie, executive director of the Women's Campaign Fund, says Mrs. Pelosi's election as Democratic minority leader, replacing Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, is excellent news for the women of this country and for citizens nationwide (earlier this fall, Mrs. Pelosi was honored with WCF's Woman of the Year Award).
After this month's midterm election, women will make up 13 percent of the Senate and 13 percent of the House. There also will be six women governors for the first time.

Sacristies and tents
Regarding our most recent column quoting Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, as saying the church can help society at large by bringing to light the problem of sexual abuse, Inside the Beltway reader Jane Brown writes:
"I wonder why the Catholics have so much negative press about the sexual abuse in the church while the Boy Scouts are being told to recruit homosexual Scout leaders? How does the liberal logic prove one wrong and the other right?"

It's the thought
Capitol Hill staffers Megan Spindel and Megan Tuck, aides to Rep. Ron Lewis, Kentucky Republican, have brought home the 2002 Diamond Hunt Congressional Challenge trophy by walking through the doors of the Hawk and Dove restaurant just seconds ahead of Ellen McLaren and Lindsey Anthone, who toil for Rep. Robert Wexler, Florida Democrat.
The Hawk and Dove, a popular Capitol Hill watering hole, was hiding spot for a cache of "diamonds" in a hunt sponsored by Nicolas Kublicki, author of the newly released novel, "The Diamond Conspiracy" (Kirkus Reviews calls it "Tom Clancy for the legal set").
Gem hunters had to figure out five clues leading them to the Hawk and Dove, which required a knowledge of literature, geography, gemology and Latin. Unfortunately for both Megans, however, the "diamond" prize was actually 250 loose cut cubic zirconium stones not a girl's best friend.


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