Friday, May 20, 2005

Busy calendars

“This is a pause to allow Jim Kimsey and the mayor to leave the room — they’ve heard my speeches many times.”

And with that obliging cue from the podium by James Wolfensohn, president of the World Bank, the founding CEO and chairman emeritus of America Online and D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams hesitantly rose from the dinner table they’d shared with Mr. Wolfensohn and darted for competing events Wednesday night in Washington.

No happy meals

Asked this week what memory stood out the most from his 10 years as president of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn, whose second and final term expires May 31, told of five small children he can’t erase from his mind.

“It is a most vivid image,” Mr. Wolfensohn said. “And I can’t get it out of my head.”

It was during a recent fact-finding trip to Madagascar that the head of the world’s largest development organization — its main goal to fight global poverty — said his entourage “took a wrong turn and ended up in a village that was not on the list of authorized places to visit.”

After he decided to remain in the village for lunch, Mr. Wolfensohn said, five children suddenly appeared, “four without shoes and all of them malnourished. And these kids just looked at me — just stood there and looked at me. There was no way I could get them to smile, to laugh, to cry, they showed no emotion whatsoever. They just stood and looked at me.

“And it dawned on me that there was no hope for these kids. They had nothing. And there are hundreds of millions of kids like this in the world like them that have no hope. They’ve got nothing. Remember that. And I cannot get the faces of these five kids out of my head.”

The World Bank president immediately saw to it that aid was administered to the five children, one of whom has since died.

He finally disagrees

It’s been mighty difficult for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas to disagree with Democrats on the hot-button issue of Social Security when opposing party leaders have yet to offer a proposal to protest.

So, while addressing the Democrats’ Social Security plan — or lack thereof — at his weekly pen and pad briefing this week, Mr. DeLay saw fit to commend Rep. Robert Wexler, Florida Democrat, who has at least offered “something to disagree with, as opposed to his leaders.”

“And I don’t imagine any praise from Tom DeLay means a whole lot to a liberal Democrat, but for what it is worth, I respect his willingness to propose anything, especially over what I am sure are vehement objections from his leadership.”

Sneak peek

Uncle Sam’s latest innovative homeland security tools will be showcased next week in Washington at the Government Security Expo and Conference, including a system that identifies people through their blood vessel patterns.

Other devices include one that jams radio-controlled bomb devices used by terrorists, a portable forensic identification laser system, M-Scope metal detectors used by Marines to secure the recent Iraqi elections, and the Meganet Corp.’ s modified Siemens cellular mobile phone that can spy and record conversations from anywhere in the world.

Too close to home

Arguing this week in favor of the Homeland Security Authorization Act of 2006, Florida Republican Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite said she knows firsthand the value of security after her hometown recently experienced an eye-opening confluence of illegal immigration, Social Security fraud and potential terrorist threats.

“I live in Crystal River where there is a nuclear power plant, and it was found to have contracted with a businessman who, unbeknownst to them, had actually been using illegal immigrant day laborers who provided false or stolen Social Security numbers to obtain government-issued driver’s licenses,” the congresswoman revealed.

“These people actually had been deported, but sneaked back into the country and got a little too close to a critical infrastructure site for this member of Congress to be able to tolerate.”

Full-time job

Average number of hours it takes to read a weekday Washington Post out loud: 28 — Harper’s Index, June 2005

• John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or

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