- The Washington Times - Monday, May 22, 2006

Sky rules

“Battle looms over airline owners” (Nation, May 15) was one-sided at best. Actually, there is broad and deep concern about how the U.S. Department of Transportation is circumventing U.S. law as it tries to rewrite the rules to let foreigners control U.S. airlines.

DOT’s proposal is unlawful because it attempts to turn statutory provisions requiring U.S. citizens to actually control U.S. airlines into permission for foreign control.

But Congress, not the executive branch, sets the laws in this country, and the executive branch is supposed to apply those laws as Congress intended. Adopting the DOT proposal would be both unlawful and unwise. Continental Airlines supports increased foreign investment in U.S. airlines and would gladly work with Congress, DOT and other interested parties to change the law. However, Continental strongly opposes commercial control of U.S. airlines by minority foreign investors masquerading as “actual control” by U.S. citizens under DOT’s proposal.

Without congressional action changing the aviation statutes to permit increased foreign control, DOT’s proposed rules will not encourage foreign investment and will be subject to reversal by Congress and the courts.

Eighty-five Democratic and Republican members of Congress have said that DOT’s proposal is “contrary to recent congressional mandates.”

Nearly 190 bipartisan co-sponsors of HR 4542 note that the proposal is “contrary to the plain language” of the aviation statutes and would prohibit DOT from issuing its decision for one year.

The House Appropriations Committee unanimously adopted report language directing DOT “to refrain from issuing a final rule for 120 days” because the “Committee is seriously concerned about the promulgation of any rule which would allow any minority foreign investor to exercise control or decision making authority over any aspect of a U.S. carrier operation.”

Airlines around the world recognize the uncertainty resulting from the department’s proposal and the need for congressional action. US Airways, Delta Air Lines, Alaska Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and British Airways all have stated concerns about DOT’s tactics.

DOT is trying to change the foreign control rules to meet the Europeans’ conditions for signing a multilateral Open Skies agreement. Even if DOT’s attempt to change the rules were valid, it’s not worth the effort. Under the Open Skies agreement, U.S. airlines would not gain access to the necessary slots and facilities at London Heathrow, the most important airport in Europe.

Unless the U.S. negotiates competitive access to London Heathrow for Continental and other U.S. airlines, the real winners from adoption of the proposal and the U.S.-EU agreement would be protectionist interests in the United Kingdom.



Continental Airlines


Praise for Sen. Allen

The Democrats’ attempt to rattle Sen. George Allen’s re-election campaign for the Senate this November to weaken a potential run for president in 2008 makes sense from their perspective. However, I think this political strategy, as appealing as it may sound, is inadvisable (“Democrats hope to rattle Allen,” Page 1, Saturday).

In the early days of the United States, several presidents came from Virginia, such as George Washington (1789-97), Thomas Jefferson (1801-9), and James Madison (1809-17). Woodrow Wilson (1913-21) was the last Virginian to have occupied the White House. He was born in Staunton, though his political career was associated more with New Jersey. It has been quite some time since a Virginian served aspresident.

I believe that Mr. Allen has served the best interests of the Commonwealth of Virginia in the Senate over the last few years. His record, both as a governor and senator, is well-known. Simply stated, Mr. Allen says what he means and means what he says. In our day and age, it is remarkable to have a politician with character and values such as Mr. Allen’s. If the last few years have illustrated something, it is that character and values do count.

Should Mr. Allen run for president in 2008, I think he would be a formidable candidate and could make a great president. I tend to think that Virginians — Democrats, Republicans and independents alike — would welcome the opportunity to send one of their sons to serve at the White House.



The U.N. in Liberia

I am writing in response to your editorial (“The U.N. sex-for-food scandal,” May 10) which painted an incomplete and dated picture of the strong measures that have been put in place to address sexual exploitation and abuse here in Liberia.

The camps where internally displaced persons sought shelter from the 14-year war have been closed, effectively shutting down opportunities for sexual exploitation. And the United Nations, with support from Europe and non-governmental organizations partners, has fielded nearly 500 monitors to work with local communities across the nation.

Also, the new president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, with support of the U.N. and NGOs, is in charge of a national campaign to stamp out this evil practice.

The U.N. is strictly implementing a zero-tolerance policy. All staff undergo extensive training and awareness raising. A fully staffed conduct and discipline unit is in place and independent investigators have unimpeded authority to investigate any complaint. And yes, action is taken, including summary dismissal.

We are working with local media, especially radio, to inform the public of redress mechanisms. A Rapid Response Team had been established by the U.N. to allow for swift action in the event of sexual assault and rape.

Has enough been done? Not as long as there is even one substantiated case. That is why the United Nations in Liberia will remain vigilant in the effort to preventthe abhorrent practice of sex abuse and exploitation. We will not rest until every child in this country has the chance to grow up safe, healthy and free of any form of abuse.


U.N. humanitarian coordinator

Monrovia, Liberia

Where’s the common sense?

Were there an award for bureaucratic incompetence, it would surely go to the management of Homeland Security’s Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS). The article (“Probe finds air marshals at risk” Page 1, Saturday) reports that the dress code endangered air marshals. Every reader with an IQ above that of a rock understands the problem.

Look around on your next flight. If I were trying to blend in, contrary to FAMS policies, I would not wear a suit, I would not board early, and I would not identify myself to the flight attendant. This would be obvious to a 5-year-old. It is apparently not obvious to DHS nor to Congress, which spent time and money on this issue doing an investigation and producing a “report.”

Although ineptitude is nothing new in bureaucracy, it is horrifying in a time when we face continual threats to our very existence. What Homeland Security needs is not studies and reports but a good dose of common sense. And new managers.



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