Notwithstanding the predictions of pundits and politicians, Election Day will dawn with little certainty about what is about to unfold.
But one thing you can take to the bank: The finger-pointing, name-calling and general ugliness is not going to stop after the returns come in Tuesday. Much as we’d like them all to shut up and go away for two years, the partisans already are gearing up for the first new skirmishes, which will no doubt break out before the polls even close.
The immediate battleground will be voting precincts coast-to-coast, where suspicious Democrats and GOP foot soldiers will be sniffing out voting fraud, voter intimidation and voting machine malfunctions.
People for the American Way Foundation and the NAACP have already set up an “election-protection” toll-free hotline _ 1-866-OUR-VOTE _ to document problems. And VelvetRevolution, a network of 120 progressive organizations, is offering a $500,000 reward to anyone who provides “definitive and conclusive proof that a U.S. House or Senate election has been rigged by illegal means.”
It’s not just new lawmakers who will be coming to Washington next year. Genghis Khan may also be on his way, as well, though some might argue he has long been here, albeit in assorted other political incarnations. The Embassy of Mongolia, along with the growing Mongolian community in the Washington area, wants to erect a statue in the city to the man they view as their ancient land’s George Washington. To some, the warrior who ruled a vast empire in the 13th century is the personification of a brutal and bloodthirsty tyrant. But Mongolians say he had his softer side, and was a progressive advocate of religious tolerance and women’s rights.
Name that node. Students in kindergarten through high school have until Dec. 1 to come up with a name for NASA’s Node 2, the admittedly unpoetic moniker for the next American-built chunk of the International Space Station. Part space dock and hallway, part control room for the station’s big robotic arm, the node is supposed to be launched on a space shuttle mission late next year. The NASA challenge requires kids to work as a class or school to build their own Mode 2 model and send in a digital picture of it along with a written explanation for the name suggestion. The contest site is NASA-ESCatnasa.gov.
Al-Jazeera, the Arab-language network that Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld loves to hate, says it will launch its English version Nov. 15. No announcements yet on which _ if any _ U.S. cable or satellite companies will carry Al-Jazeera International, but speculation centers on the 12-million subscriber DISH Network owned by EchoStar Communications. Some analysts say they’ll believe it when they see it, noting the controversial network based in Qatar has scheduled and cancelled the launch at least three times.
Ben & Jerry’s, the peace-loving ice-cream company, has picked a U.S. Navy sailor as the winner of its new “Do Us a Flavor” contest. Out of 40,000 entries, it was Navy Aerographer’s Mate 2nd Class Tasha Callister’s recipe for “Puttin’ on the Ritz” recipe that took the top prize. A variation on the s’mores concept, the flavor consists of caramel, chocolate, vanilla ice cream and Ritz crackers. Among other things, Callister won a year’s worth of free ice cream and a trip to Vermont to tour the Ben & Jerry’s operations.
American dollars are going overseas in large numbers _ literally. A major new study by the Treasury Department, Federal Reserve and Secret Service found that 60 percent of all U.S. greenbacks in circulation _ that works out to about $450 billion of the $760 billion total _ are now held abroad. About 40 percent of the rock-solid U.S. currency overseas is in the hands of Russians and Europeans, with about 25 percent in Latin America, 20 percent in Africa and the Middle East, and 15 percent in Asia.
Say goodnight to the F-117 Nighthawk, the Air Force’s first stealth fighter jet and a star of every military engagement since the 1989 Panama invasion. The stuff of science fiction when it debuted for its ability to go undetected by enemy radar, the F-117 will soon be mothballed and replaced by the successor F-22 Raptor.