- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 14, 2003

An angry Frenchman

The French ambassador to the United States yesterday denounced reports in The Washington Times that his government had given passports to fleeing members of Saddam Hussein’s government.

Ambassador Jean-David Levitte denied the report, calling it “an insult” and “disinformation.”

Mr. Levitte, speaking on the “Diane Rehm Show” on WAMU-FM in Washington, said he heard that the charge emerged from the Pentagon, but that he could say no more.

Anonymous U.S. officials, citing intelligence reports, told The Times that France’s government secretly provided fleeing Iraqi officials with European Union travel documents in Syria that allowed them to travel to Western Europe in late March an early April.

“I’m confronted by a real campaign of disinformation in some American media,” Mr. Levitte said, before bringing up the passport story and mentioning The Times by name.

“It’s a kind of an insult,” he said.

“Some want to destroy the image of France in the U.S.” he said, adding: “I hope this French-bashing will stop.”

No cookies pour vous

American soldiers showed compassion for Iraqi civilians, Time magazine correspondent Jim Lacey says in the latest issue of National Review. In fact, U.S. troops were even merciful toward Iraqi soldiers: “American soldiers immediately began saving Iraqi lives at the conclusion of any fight. Medics later said that the Iraqi wounded they treated were astounded by our compassion. They expected they would be left to suffer and die.”

Mercy and compassion for the Iraqis, but what about the French?

“After a grueling fight, a company of infantrymen was resting and opening their first mail delivery of the war,” Mr. Lacey says. “One of the young soldiers had received a care package and was sharing the home-baked cookies with his friends. A photographer with a heavy French accent asked if he could have one. The soldier looked him over and said there would be no cookies for Frenchmen.

“The photographer then protested that he was half Italian. Without missing a beat, the soldier broke a cookie in half and gave it to him.”

Today’s headline

The Bush administration has been rattling cages all over the country with its plan to give governors some control over the federally funded, independent Head Start programs in their states.

This is a very bad idea, Rep. George Miller, California Democrat and ranking member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, told a Head Start seminar at the Brookings Institution yesterday.

“It’s somewhat like handing your children over to Michael Jackson,” Mr. Miller told a stunned audience, which then broke into laughter.

Michael Jackson is “rich and he has resources and he has interest … but he lacks judgment. He’s going to be dangling them over the balcony the next time you turn around,” Mr. Miller warned.

Brookings scholar and panel moderator Ron Haskins quickly jumped in, saying: “I think we can now dismiss this meeting. Tomorrow’s headline is: Congressman Miller says administration turns kids over to Michael Jackson.”

Slow computers

Lawmakers will hear today that it will be many months before the new Department of Homeland Security is ready to integrate its computer systems, according to prepared testimony obtained by Shaun Waterman of United Press International.

The House Government Reform Committee, led by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican, is set to hold hearings today on information technology integration among the 22 agencies combined into the new department in January.

The DHS chief information officer, Steven I. Cooper, will say that the department has yet to complete its survey of existing, “as is,” computer hardware and software, and has not yet even begun to develop the successor, “to be,” systems or architecture it wants as replacements.

The failure of government agencies to share information that might have let officials connect the dots and anticipate the September 11 terror attacks was one of the major impulses behind setting up the DHS. A report last week by the General Accounting Office said little progress was being made on integrating the various terror-suspect “watch lists” that federal agencies produce.

Waiting tables

Giving Mom a break from the kitchen on Mother’s Day? If you are in Iowa, the person clearing your family’s dirty plates at the local restaurant may be one of the Democratic presidential candidates, the Associated Press reports.

Bob Graham, who formally began his campaign Tuesday, plans to wait tables at a Des Moines eatery as part of his tradition of “workdays,” in which the Florida senator labors in a regular job such as teacher or firefighter.

“We thought a lot of people would be taking their mother out to lunch that day, and we could take note of it,” spokeswoman Kristian Denny said Tuesday.

The only hitch for the campaign is finding a restaurant. The initial choice, a popular family owned Italian restaurant, Tumea and Sons, isn’t open on Sundays.

Issa’s donation

California Rep. Darrell Issa, a multimillionaire Republican who has gubernatorial ambitions, is reviving a flagging effort to recall Gov. Gray Davis by making a six-figure donation to the cause.

Mr. Issa’s donation this week will help put at least 200 paid circulators on the streets beginning Saturday to collect signatures to recall the Democratic governor, Mr. Issa’s campaign consultant Scott Taylor said Tuesday.

Mr. Davis, who narrowly won a second term last year, saw his approval rating sink to a record-low 27 percent last month. He has faced a lot of criticism for his handling of a budget deficit that has grown to $35 billion.

Even so, before Mr. Issa’s announcement, recall efforts had appeared to be faltering because of a lack of funds and tepid support from high-profile Republicans, the Associated Press reports. Recall organizers said Monday they have gathered 100,000 signatures since they started March 25, but they need nearly 900,000 valid signatures to force an election.

Mr. Issa also said that, if the recall qualifies, he would consider being a candidate for governor.

A runoff in Denver

John Hickenlooper, a brew-pub owner who succeeded in building an image as a political outsider, will face City Auditor Don Mares in a June 3 runoff election to become Denver’s next mayor.

Mr. Hickenlooper swept to the front of a seven-candidate field Tuesday night, winning 43 percent of the vote, short of the simple majority required to avoid a runoff. Mr. Mares, who portrayed himself as the candidate of working people and small-business owners, was second with 23 percent.

They are vying to succeed Wel-lington Webb, Denver’s first black mayor. He can’t seek a fourth term because of term limits.

Sanctions lifted

President Bush has lifted Clinton-era sanctions against Angola’s UNITA organization, the former rebel group that has become a political party now that the country’s civil war has ended.

“UNITA no longer poses an unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States,” White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said yesterday of the sanctions imposed in 1993 and 1998 by executive order.

The main impact of Mr. Bush’s action is that it lets U.S. financial organizations make transactions by members of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, the Associated Press reports.

Body parts

The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled yesterday that a fetus is a body part, akin to teeth, skin and hair that are eventually shed, the Associated Press reports.

The ruling unanimously upheld the conviction of a man who tried to induce a miscarriage by slipping his girlfriend labor-inducing drugs. Though the court held that the 5-week-old fetus was part of the woman’s body, Chief Justice William J. Sullivan issued a concurring opinion saying a fetus might have “its own independent existence.”

Pro-life groups applauded the court’s protection of the fetus, but criticized the identification of a fetus as a body part.

“It could have had a different blood type, and certainly it had different DNA,” said Bill O’Brien, vice president of Connecticut Right to Life.


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