- The Washington Times - Friday, February 21, 2003

Shovels for France

The folks in Kalorama owe us one. Within hours after it was reported here yesterday that shovels hadn't touched the hip-deep snow on the sidewalks along the palatial French ambassador's residence on Kalorama Avenue, voila!

Soon there was a path through the snow on the sidewalk, just like the sidewalks at the other embassies and diplomatic residences in the fashionable district, and the ambassador's neighbors finally could get their feet out of the street and the slush.

Does this herald a new spirit of cooperation, with hope for NATO and the United Nations? To be continued.


An official with the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington is all in favor of Black Employment Program Manager Debora Dorsey forwarding to EPA employees via government e-mail "Today in Black History" items.

But he did a double take when reading the "Inspirational Quotes and Black History Facts" for Feb. 13, 1996: "Minister Louis Farrakhan, of the Nation of Islam, visits Iran to celebrate its 1979 revolution ousting the Shah."

The Shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi, was a close friend of the United States. Among his myriad accomplishments was granting women the right to vote and hold jobs and promoting a more secular society.

That didn't sit well with the predominantly Muslim population. The people revolted, ousting the Shah in 1979 while crowning Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini their new leader. The latter immediately set out to create an Islamic republic, and denounced the United States as the "Great Satan."

If that wasn't message enough to President Carter, Iranians stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, taking 52 Americans hostage. They weren't freed until a year later, and relations between our two countries have been strained ever since.

In her daily "Black History Month" dispatch to fellow bureaucrats, Ms. Dorsey added a personal note: "As most of us know there is a chance our country may be going to war very soon. Many of you may or may not know that in scripture, the number 3 represents the Holy Trinity.

"Well, someone was thinking of calling for a day of prayer and fasting for our country. When you may ask? March 3, 2003. In simple terms, it would be 03-03-03. Wouldn't it be great if everyone in the world or at least in our country would stop what they are doing and pray on the same day? We could make 03-03-03 God's Day. …

"The repercussions of this possible war could have HUGE effects on us all."

No comprendo

A Mexican governor says his country opposes war with Iraq because nearly half of U.S. soldiers who would be deployed to the front lines are of Latin origin.

"It is important that Mexico holds a position … against the war because 40 percent of the military that will [be sent] to the front are of Latin origin, mainly of the same country," Ricardo Monreal Avila, governor of Zacatecas, says in a Reforma news dispatch from Mexico.

And because the soldiers of Mexican origin would be on the front lines, the governor said, they "will be the first dying."

On Tuesday, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City issued a statement calling the governor's remarks "erroneous," including his contention that 70 percent of the U.S. military was made up of blacks and Hispanics, with 40 percent of Mexican origin.

The embassy cited the Defense Manpower Data Center Report, dated March 2002, which indicates that Hispanics make up 8.7 percent of America's armed forces, and blacks 19.7 percent.

Finally, the embassy took issue with the governor's remark that "it would be a pity that these lives were lost in the war." The U.S. government, it said, considers it tragic when a person of any ethnicity is killed.

Insufficient funds

Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in both houses of Congress that would require that Americans be warned in writing that the average rate of return for their Social Security benefits has not only fallen, it will likely decline in the future.

Rep. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican, says Americans need more accurate information on their retirement system, "and much of the information provided by the Social Security Administration does little to fully inform them."

His legislation, also introduced by Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, would require that Social Security statements now sent to all current workers over the age of 25 include a warning that taxes paid into the program may not be sufficient to fund retirements.

It would also "explain that while Social Security has performed well in the past, its average rate of return has fallen and is expected to decline in the future."

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