Prepare for a surge of “prebutting” in advance of President Bush’s State of the Union address Tuesday night. New to the Washington lexicon, that word defines the act of rebutting someone’s speech or announcement before the person even opens his mouth to speak.
Reporters received a deluge of “prebuttal” e-mails and faxes from Democrats and even some Republicans hours before Bush unveiled his new strategy for Iraq recently, all criticizing his points before he made them publicly.
The same is forecast for the run-up to Bush’s annual address. Only question: Will the GOP issue a pre-emptive prebuttal before Virginia Democratic Sen. Jim Webb gives his party’s official rebuttal after the president’s speech?
Long derided as the warplane equivalent of the albatross, the Marine Corps’ beloved V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft is on track to head to Iraq, the first real-life deployment for the long-troubled craft after 25 years of development. Designed to take off and land like a helicopter, and also fly faster than a turboprop airplane, the $50 billion Osprey program has suffered four crashes and two fires, the most recent on Dec. 7. Intended to replace the Marines’ aging fleet of CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters, the 12-Osprey squadron would be used to transport Marines and materiel.
Heads-up: The Coast Guard quietly reported this week a decided uptick in the number of Cubans fleeing their country. Between Jan. 5 and 8, seven boats carrying a total of 91 Cubans were intercepted off Florida, the Bahamas and the Dry Tortugas. With Cuban leader Fidel Castro ailing, the Coast Guard has been on alert for just such a swell of migrants making a run for the United States.
Black historians and families researching their forbears could have a new national database to plumb if a Senate measure wins favor on Capitol Hill. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., is proposing the creation of the database at the National Archives to offer a central registry of emancipation records, land deeds, wills, voter-registration and other far-flung documents from the slavery, Reconstruction and pre-civil-rights eras. In the House, Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., is sponsoring a similar bill, which would also help states, colleges and genealogical organizations to establish digitized databases of similar records.
On a mission for better, more accurate portrayals by the movie industry, the FBI is holding workshops for screenwriters in Hollywood. In the four-hour seminars, attendees receive a quick course in the FBI’s history, Sunni-Shiite Muslim clashes through the years and terrorist tactics, as well as insights into how the agency conducts its domestic terror-related investigations.
The goal, FBI leaders say, is to engender more positive portrayals of the FBI and its agents. As the Pentagon has learned, the FBI knows that a good movie can be a boon to recruitment. Jodie Foster’s portrayal of an agent in “The Silence of the Lambs” apparently spurred scores of women to apply to the bureau, the FBI said.
Surveillance drones will soon be monitoring a stretch of the U.S. border with Canada. Much as they have been doing on the southern boundary with Mexico for several years, these unmanned aircraft will prowl the sky from their base at Grand Forks, N.D., hunting for drug smugglers and people trying to sneak into the country. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials say the spy planes should be airborne by October.
Speaking of spooky things in the sky, the enormous radar contraption that is the underpinning of the nation’s anti-missile defense is finally heading to Alaska from Hawaii, where it has been docked after a ballast problem prevented it from sailing for 10 months.
Described as looking like “a giant golf ball sitting atop a 27-story, partially submersible oil rig” by the Kodiak Daily Mirror in Alaska, the SBX (sea-based X-band) radar is part of a system that is supposed to detect missiles launched from North Korea or other enemy territories and then guide U.S. missiles to knock them from the sky before they hit.