The 7/7 attacks on London are prompting U.S. lawmakers to reconsider cuts that Senate committees are making in security for mass-transit systems in this country.
A Senate panel last month cut $50 million from next year’s Homeland Security budget, but in the wake of the London bombings, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., is vowing not just to restore that money when the Senate considers the spending bill next week, but to add $1 billion for research on ways of fortifying “the soft underbelly of buses, subways and railroads” in the United States.
Airport-like searches are unlikely for subways and buses, but business and technology groups are already floating high-tech fixes, including bomb-sniffing machines at subway entrances and research on ways to put bomb-sniffers into bus doorways.
The Statue of Liberty is still reeling from the after-effects of the 9/11 attacks. Although the New York icon was partially reopened last year, tourism was off a third from pre-attack levels.
Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., blames the 7.5 million fewer tourists on the National Park Service, which is keeping closed the observation deck in the statue’s crown. It’s the only national monument closed after 9/11 not to fully reopen.
Federal employee unions and interest groups are lining up to kill Bush administration plans for a series of bipartisan federal commissions to deal with intractable government problems _ including downsizing the federal bureaucracy.
The White House points to the successes of the 9/11 commission and the Pentagon’s base-closing panel to force changes in the government that Congress could never resolve itself. The administration now wants Congress to set up “results commissions” that would devise ways of restructuring government programs so they would operate more efficiently, and “sunset commissions” that would force agencies to justify their existence.
The White House Office of Management and Budget contends that more than 30 percent of government programs are ineffective and unable to demonstrate results.
But opponents say the proposals amount to a “bald power grab” by the executive branch, and note Congress already has the authority to kill federal agencies.
Births to immigrant mothers touched an all-time high in 2002. The Center for Immigration Studies says that almost one in four births in the United States that year was to an immigrant mother _ either legally or illegally in this country. About 10 percent of all births in the United States were of children by illegal aliens.
The Catholics for Faithful Citizenship group is lobbying Catholic members of the House to vote down the Central America Free Trade Agreement on the grounds that it is inconsistent with the culture of life.
The organization says the treaty will bring environmental devastation to Central America by encouraging businesses to move manufacturing plants there. The treaty also establishes new patent-law regimes that will make drugs too expensive for Central Americans who are sick, the group says.
While the telecom industry is pushing for Congress to force more Americans to convert to high-speed broadband connections, many don’t feel the need to rush into anything.
West Virginia’s Marshall University says its study concludes that residences that haven’t already converted to high-speed connections aren’t interested and the chief beneficiaries _ banks and financial concerns _ have already switched. The study found that price didn’t play a major role in whether people picked higher-speed connections.
Look for Congress to speed legislation requiring the Department of Homeland Security to regulate sales of ammonium nitrite. Farmers use the fertilizer widely, but it can also be used to manufacture a bomb, as Timothy McVeigh demonstrated a decade ago when he used ammonium nitrite to blow up the federal building in Oklahoma City.
Under measures considered by both the House and Senate, agribusiness will have to maintain new records on stocks and sales of the fertilizer and require farmers to identify themselves when they purchase bags of the chemical.
(Contact Lance Gay at GayL(at)SHNS.com.