Washington Week

War decisions expected soon

Published: Sunday, January 19, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 19, 2003 at 1:01 a.m.
WASHINGTON - The coming week will be pivotal in deciding whether the war against Saddam Hussein begins in February or March.
President Bush is planning for an early date to bring the confrontation with Iraq to an end. The Bush administration doesn't have time to waste because noisy anti-war demonstrations are reverberating through Capitol corridors and could become a theme for Democratic presidential aspirants.
Bottom line: Bush cannot back down at this point, a war is guaranteed. Pentagon war-planners are shying away from a slow start for the war using special operation forces, in favor of a massive air, ground and sea assault on Baghdad from all fronts.
  • Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi might have lost his expansive second-floor office when his colleagues dumped him as Republican leader, but Republicans allowed him to keep his tax-payer funded chauffeur and car that came with the high office.
  • The newly created Department of Homeland Security could find itself without a slew of seasoned hands during the next five years because large percentages of agency employees are getting ready to retire. The numbers are telling: 59 percent of the Federal Emergency Management Agency staff will be eligible to hang up their building passes in the next few years along with 54 percent of the Coast Guard and 46 percent of the Customs Service.
  • The new underground Capitol Visitors Center is on schedule for completion by 2005, but visitors might have to wait a while to use it. The House leadership is mapping plans to relocate the full House into the new visitors center for a year so that renovations can be done in the old House chamber. The House, completed in 1857, contains asbestos ceiling tiles, and old electrical wiring that need updating. Plans drawn up by the Architect of the Capitol also call for making the chamber accessible to the handicapped.
  • NASA got into the Santa tracking business for the first time Dec. 24-25, issuing vastly conflicting Web reports on the whereabouts of St. Nick.
    NASA had the Right Jolly Old Elf moving from west to east on his rounds. But the North American Air Defense Command, which has been reporting Claus movements since 1957, had the sleigh moving east to west. So, just like the department store red suits, Santa was in more than one place all night, according to the federal government. Just after 7 p.m. on the East Coast, NASA said Santa was just off the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, while NORAD reported him over Britain.
  • An anti-smoking vaccine? Researchers in the Netherlands are studying the effectiveness of a drug that is supposed to prevent nicotine addiction. The two-year study will determine whether the drug, which is injected, is safe for humans.
  • Federal authorities claim that more than 100 terrorist attacks against the United States or its allies have been thwarted since 9-11. While they won't give many details, the Defense Intelligence Agency and CIA say the spoiled plots targeted U.S. embassies on three continents, a U.S. military base in Europe and American cargo ships passing through the Strait of Gibraltar. The CIA adds that more than 3,000 al Qaeda operatives and associates have been detained in more than 100 countries.
  • >Privacy advocates ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union to the Eagle Forum want Congress to put the brakes on Pentagon plans to mine Internet data to ferret out evildoers. Advocates say there's no guarantee Internet activities of innocent Americans won't be captured in the data-mining activities, and they question the legality of the Pentagon being involved in domestic spying.
  • Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is in hot water for trying to cool down congressional calls for a military draft. At a Jan. 7 press briefing, Rumsfeld said that during the Vietnam War draftees were "trained for a period of months . . . adding no value, no advantage, really to the United States armed forces."
    Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, D-Texas, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, charged that was insensitive to the 170,000 Hispanics drafted for the Vietnam War, 17,725 of whom didn't come home. "He should attempt to correct his misstatement and issue an apology to those veterans and their families."
  • If terrorism weren't enough, natural disasters caused record economic damage worldwide last year - $55 billion, according to an annual survey by the reinsurance company Munich Re. The toll in 2001 was $35 billion.
  • Rich people with undisclosed overseas bank accounts beware: The Internal Revenue Service is mapping a crackdown, and is giving those who have used credit cards from those foreign accounts until April 15 to make amended returns, pay any back taxes due, and avoid possible criminal charges.
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