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Published: Tuesday, January 6, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 5, 2004 at 9:39 p.m.

Dropping in

It's not exactly a threat to Disney's bottom line, but the news that the Florida Park System attracted a record 18.2 million visitors this past fiscal year is very good news indeed. It means that one of Florida's best kept secrets - its impressive variety of natural parks - is becoming less and less so.

"There are not many places, I think, in Florida where you can go to hike, picnic, sit on a beach, fish . . . (activities) that families can do together," Larry Perry, assistant director of the state park system, told Knight Ridder Newspapers recently. "And it's a very good deal pricewise."

This past year, visitors paid $32 million in fees, which helped offset the park system's $70 million operating budget. They are also credited with adding nearly $574 million to local economies around the parks.

Keep it quiet

The Bush administration is rabid on keeping secrets, to the point that it routinely classifies documents whose contents pose no threat to national security. Why? Well, one reason may be to avoid potentially embarrassing disclosures.

Take the recent disclosure that, in 1974, Donald H. Rumsfeld - then the executive of a pharmaceutical firm - was dispatched to Iraq at the behest of then Secretary of State George P. Schultz. Rumsfeld's mission: To personally assure Saddam Hussein that the United States backed him in his war against Iran, despite reports that Saddam was using chemical weapons.

This information recently came to light as a result of documents declassified by the National Security Archive. As Secretary of Defense, of course, Rumsfeld often cited Saddam's use of chemical weapons as justification for this year's invasion of Iraq.

The past has a way of coming back to haunt you - unless, of course, you have the power to bury the past under an irrevocable "top secret" stamp.

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