- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Fightin’ words

Former KGB officer Konstantin Preobrazhensky, who defected to the United States in 2003, has these intriguing questions to ask: Whom is Russian intelligence targeting in the Islamic world? Why won’t Russia help the United States in Iran? Why can’t America and Russia fight terrorism together?

Yeah. Why not?

“In America, terrorism is something negative. In Russia, it has a very positive image. Terrorism is part of communist ideology, which has not been abandoned in Russia at all,” Mr. Preobrazhensky tells Inside the Beltway.

“There are still streets in Moscow named after 19th-century anarchists Michael Bakunin and Prince Peter Kropotkin. Today’s inheritors of the KGB say they fight terrorism ‘with’ America. But what was the first name of the KGB in 1917? It was called the ‘organ of red terror.’ The KGB was initially a terrorist organization. And it still is today,” he says.

Mr. Preobrazhensky, now an intelligence analyst at Gerard Group International, will tell all during an appearance at the National Press Club on Thursday, homing in on Russian espionage in the Islamic world and the Middle East.

Obama 101

Get out the workbook and No. 2 pencils. It’s not only journalists who aspire to burnish the “brand” of President Obama; he draws in academia as well. More than 5,000 sociologists will convene in San Francisco on Aug. 7 for their annual meeting. The highlight: the “Obama Symposium.”

On the agenda: “Why Obama Won,” “A Defining Moment? Youth, Power and the Obama Phenomenon,” “Through the Lens of Gender, Race, Sexuality and Class: The Obama Family and the American Dream,” “Understanding Democratic Renewal: The Movement to Elect Barack Obama,” “The Future of Community Organizing During an Obama Presidency” and, last but certainly not least, “Does the Obama Administration Need a Social Science Scholars Council? A Public Forum.”

The faith factor

Look for the signs emblazoned “No recess for reform” and lots of “amens” Tuesday on Capitol Hill. A hundred clergy, faith leaders and families from the PICO National Network, Faith in Public Life, Sojourners, and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good will pray that Congress passes comprehensive health reform legislation this year.

They are also visiting 50 lawmakers, inaugurating an ongoing “aggressive” lobbying campaign and, yes, saying more prayers.

“We are here to pray for and with Congress,” Gordon Duvall, a Denver pediatric nurse and board member of Metro Organizations for People, tells Inside the Beltway. “We pray that when it comes time to vote, they do right for the people they represent, the people who don’t have access to the same health care that they have.”

Beach reading

For those keeping score, 89 lawmakers - all Republicans - have signed the Responsible Healthcare Reform Pledge, vowing to read all 1,012 pages of health care legislation and recommending the monster document be posted online for 72 hours so the public can have a crack at it.

That’s not long enough for Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, however.

“I believe it should be available for several weeks so that everyone can analyze and debate it,” he writes in a letter to Let Freedom Ring, the grass-roots nonprofit that organized the pledge.

But, hey, why skimp? Leave it up there until, oh, 2012.

Knock on wood

The big, fat, unctuous, porky 2010 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act contains 296 projects worth $221 million. But, wait, why not spend close to $5 million on something called “wood utilization research”?

Well, 13 senators in 10 states have done just that. The research has cost taxpayers $95 million since 1985, according to Citizens Against Government Waste.

“One would think that at this point, all the uses of one of the world’s most basic construction materials would have been discovered,” the group notes.

One would think.

Poll du jour

82 percent of Americans rate the U.S. military above average, compared with the armed forces of other industrialized nations.

• 65 percent rate U.S. science achievements above the world average.

• 63 percent say our standard of living is better.

• 50 percent say our political system is better.

• 39 percent say our health care is better.

• 66 percent of conservative Republicans say health care is above average.

• 25 percent of liberal Democrats say it is above average.

Source: A Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism survey of 2,001 adults conducted April 28 to May 12.

Don’t forget: Tattles, rants and announcements welcome at jharper@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085.

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