- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A mine of trouble

Details got lost in the hubbub over the 2007 federal budget — like financial cuts facing the Mining Information Team (MIT), a small but seminal office within the U.S. Geological Survey. The MIT is scheduled to lose much of its operational funds — thus shuttering the only federal entity that tracks the sources, costs and status of the nation’s strategic minerals.

We now must import more than 75 percent of nonfuel minerals and metals — a higher percentage than our dependence on foreign oil. This does not bode well in a potential crisis just entering the punditocracy radar: Overseas suppliers could hold America hostage for vital mineral resources, much as oil-rich countries wreak selective havoc with our supplies of oil and gas.

The international community is already concerned.

Attuned to asymmetrical warfare and electronics that contain “rare-earth elements,” America’s military “will be even more reliant on certain critical materials,” notes the London-based Mining Journal, which questions why President Bush does not safeguard MIT. Closing the office would save $23 million — “not enough to buy a single modern military aircraft,” the publication stated.

“Some political commentators are warning of a new ‘Cold War’ for resources between China and the West, with India somewhere in the picture,” the Journal adds.

There’s concern on these shores as well. “Reports the MIT compiles are heavily relied upon by the federal government and the U.S. aggregates industry, among many others, and are available nowhere else. Therefore, I urge the restoration of funding for this important and essential government service,” Jennifer Joy Wilson, president of the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association, told the House Appropriations Committee in March.

MIT may have a champion. Sen. Pete V. Domenici, New Mexico Republican and chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is on the watch, according to spokesman Chris Gallegos.

“He is concerned about maintaining this information resource,” he said yesterday, adding that Mr. Domenici has placed an inquiry about the fate of MIT with Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, the nominee to head the Interior Department.

Right-wing hospitality

No wonder Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and media mogul Rupert Murdoch were so chummy at a recent Fox News fete celebrating the network’s Sunday programming. Mr. Murdoch will host a political fundraiser in July for the New York Democrat’s re-election campaign, the Financial Times reported yesterday.

“The decision underlines an incongruous thawing of relations between Mr. Murdoch and Mrs. Clinton, who in 1998 coined the phrase ‘vast right-wing conspiracy’ to denounce critics of her husband, such as Fox News, the conservative cable channel owned by Mr. Murdoch’s News Corporation,” the Times stated.

“They have a respectful and cordial relationship. He has respect for the work she has done on behalf of New York. I wouldn’t say it was illustrative of a close ongoing relationship. It is not like they are dining out together,” one source told the publication, noting the event would benefit her Senate campaign, not her White House aspirations.

One media lobbyist told the Times: “Murdoch will be for the Republicans, but he is also smart enough to know that the Republicans might not win. At some level, whether nationally or in New York, Hillary is the future and what savvy businessman would not want to put a line of interest in someone who will be the future?”

On the march I

The polls are the next stop for immigrant activists. A new coalition calling itself We Are America is announcing plans today to “produce” a million new voters in time for the November midterm elections and to press lawmakers to stop “punitive and harsh” immigration-reform legislation. Its first rally will take place May 17 on the Mall.

But who is We Are America? The group includes:

The Center for Community Change, the Fair Immigration Reform Movement, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, the National Capital Immigration Coalition, the National Korean American Social & Education Consortium, the New American Opportunity Campaign, the Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, the New York Immigration Coalition, Pieros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United), the Service Employees International Union and Unite Here.

“A movement has been born. In addition to keeping the pressure on the policy-makers to enact real comprehensive immigration reform, the next step is to ensure that eligible immigrants and their allies hold elected officials accountable at the ballot box,” the group stated.

On the march II

Those who guard the borders also have set their sights on Washington. After rallies across the Southwest, the Minuteman caravan will arrive in town Friday for its own demonstration in Upper Senate Park.

The caravan was formed, organizers say, to show political leaders that Americans are weary over their lack of response to porous borders and amnesty proposals.

“Amnesty for illegal aliens is coming if the politicians have their way,” Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist said yesterday. “It is only the Minutemen and concerned Americans across the nation who can still block such a dangerous policy. The president and Congress are being put on notice: We will not stand idly by while our laws are violated, our borders are breached and our sovereignty is threatened.”

President Allen

Following the youth vote? The Young Republican National Federation (YRNF) announced the results of its 2008 presidential straw poll yesterday. Sen. George Allen of Virginia won with 18 percent of the vote, followed by Sen. John McCain of Arizona with 16 percent. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice took third place with 13 percent and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee came in fourth with 9 percent.

The also-rans: Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani (8 percent); Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (tied at 7 percent); former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas and New York Gov. George E. Pataki (tied at 4 percent); Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado (3 percent), Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania (tied at 1 percent). Four percent were undecided. Two hundred YRNF members voted between April 19 and 21.

Contact Jennifer Harper at 202/636-3085 or jharper@washingtontimes.com

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