- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Dubya take

As this columnist was traveling around Paris last week, President Bush was welcoming hundreds of his fellow Yale alumni to the White House for a college reunion.

If only we could have been on hand to see the look on Dubya’s face when one old college chum, Peter, walked up to shake his hand.

Yale, we should remind readers, was still all-male in 1968.

Yet as Louise Casselman — who attended the White House reunion with her husband, Kirk Casselman — told San Francisco Chronicle columnist Leah Garchik, one Bay area alum has since had a sex-change operation.

“You might remember me as Peter when we left Yale,” the woman told a shocked Mr. Bush when the two Yalies met face to face.

The columnist notes, however, that Dubya didn’t flinch, grabbed the alumna’s hand, and told her, “Now you’ve come back as yourself.”

Foreign affairs

Posted at the State Department yesterday was a notice that GLIFAA — Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies — will hold a brown-bag discussion Monday on “nontraditional families.”

That briefing will be followed Tuesday with a “happy hour with members of Congress,” Democratic Reps. Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, and Republican Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona.

Dose of prevention

As lawmakers move toward adding a prescription-drug benefit to Medicare, seven former Health and Human Services secretaries want Congress to go one step further. They want Medicare to focus more on keeping people healthy, not just waiting until they become sick before benefits kick in.

The seven former Cabinet members include Donna E. Shalala (President Clinton), Louis Sullivan (the first President Bush), Margaret Heckler, Richard Schweiker and Otis Bowen (President Reagan), Joseph Califano (Jimmy Carter) and David Matthews (President Ford).

A recent Harris poll found that nine in 10 American adults want Medicare to be modernized to put as much emphasis on disease prevention as it does on disease treatment.

The HHS secretaries asked Congress to consider recommendations made in a new report by the nonprofit organization Partnership for Prevention. It recommends that Medicare start covering preventive services, such as cholesterol tests, vision and hearing screening, depression counseling, and stop-smoking efforts.

Such services would save lives and tax dollars, they said.

“It is nearly always preferable, both for the individual and for society, to prevent disease instead of waiting to treat it,” the seven said.

Feel safer?

How is the “new and improved” Immigration and Naturalization Service faring now that it falls under the Homeland Security umbrella?

You be the judge.

Sen. Richard C. Shelby, Alabama Republican, has just received a letter from a constituent named Christine Mito, who lives in the historic town of Shelby. Her great-great-great-grandfather, Amos Merrell (born 1788), settled in Shelby County after the War of 1812.

A widow for several years, Mrs. Mito remarried on March 31. Her new husband, Alaa Gaber Mito, was a prominent business executive in Egypt, and less than two months ago, he came to the United States to begin a new life with his wife and her family.

To say Mr. Mito kept his in-laws waiting at the airport is an understatement.

“He arrived in Atlanta on April 26, 2003, and was kept for nearly five hours,” Mrs. Mito tells Mr. Shelby. “He was fingerprinted and a mug shot was taken of him, yet his passport was not even stamped as it should have been.”

Oh well, better safe than sorry.

“Then, when we went back to Atlanta on May 7, 2003, for his first follow-up interview at the INS, they had no record of any fingerprints or photos that were taken at the airport on April 26, 2003,” she continues. “If the INS can’t even keep his mug shot on file, how in the heck are they going to keep track of real terrorists?”

(Why would a terrorist return for an interview anyway, particularly a botched one?)

Her husband’s photo and fingerprints were retaken by the INS, and Mr. Mito was charged $50 for his time and trouble. Then, in follow-up correspondence, the INS wrote to Mr. Mito and asked him to attach an additional separate photo to “this original green sheet.”

There was no green sheet.

In the meantime, a frustrated Mr. Mito is not able to obtain a driver’s license, and cannot open a bank account, nor get a job — at least legally.

Wait until he feels the Alabama humidity.

Ahoy, Osama

“Osama bin Laden isn’t going to check in after coming ashore.”

— Republican Deputy Majority Whip Rep. Mark Foley of Florida, who is asking the Department of Homeland Security to rewrite new restrictions for recreational boaters, who upon returning from any foreign port such as the Bahamas are required to clear customs through either a hot line number (boaters report spending hours dialing the hot line only to reach a busy signal) or appearing in person to an immigration officer at a U.S. port of entry.

John McCaslin, a nationally syndicated columnist, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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