The week that was in politics

Latest, little-noticed ripples from the war in Iraq:

  • By the end of 2007, the Pentagon will have shifted 31,000 administrative and support jobs previously filled by active-duty armed-forces members to civilians and contractors _ freeing up those uniformed troops for war-fighting duties.
  • A new “combat casualty care center” will be built at the San Diego Naval Medical Center to treat wounded service members who hail from West Coast bases. For now, the casualties have been cared for at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington or Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio _ a far trek for the families of thousands of Marines sent to Iraq from three major installations in Southern California.

A spate of high-profile killings and heists in the District of Columbia in recent months, including the armed robberies of tourists on the National Mall, is the fruit of “decades of restrictive gun control” in the city, insists the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. The city’s declaration of a “crime emergency” this past week has D.C. leaders worrying that the GOP-led Congress, which has largely stayed out of city affairs in recent years, will agree and try again to target the handgun ban for repeal, as it did during the 1980s and 1990s.

Graying pilots will be prowling the halls of Congress next week, lobbying for two bills that would raise the mandatory retirement age for commercial airline pilots to 65 from its current 60. With Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., and Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla. _ both pilots _ as their wingmen, members of the group Airline Pilots Against Age Discrimination will be arguing their years of experience should be valued as a boon, not a hindrance. JetBlue Airways is on their side, as well. But the Federal Aviation Administration, plus a slight majority of the Air Line Pilots Association, says earlier retirement is safer because performance generally drops with age.

It’s not just pilots who want to keep working. Full retirement continues to fall by the wayside, according to a recent work-force update from a federal task force that keeps statistics related to aging.

A third of men ages 65 to 69 were working in 2005, up from 25 percent in 1993, while a quarter of women in that age bracket were working, up from 14 percent in ’93. Even among those 70 and over, 14 percent of men and 7 percent of women were working in 2005, up from 10 percent and 4 percent, respectively, in ’93.

The looming extinction of Defaka, Nkoroo, Tsafiki, Edo and some 3,000 other obscure languages around the world has spurred the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Science Foundation to distribute about $5 million this year to scholars to document and preserve some of these endangered tongues. Top priorities are documenting Northern Haida, a language of Alaska and British Columbia with just 14 remaining speakers, and Washo, an American Indian language spoken by only 20 elderly people scattered near the Nevada-California border.

Word is that Internal Revenue Service headquarters will remain closed for an estimated six months, and maybe longer. A torrential rain last month led to flooding that left the Washington building’s electrical, air-conditioning and heating equipment kaput. But those seeing a tax-cheating op in the IRS’ misfortune should be advised the agency vows to march on undaunted, with employees dispatched to work at other buildings in the area or from home.

Last month, Sen. Jim Bunning accused The New York Times of treason for publishing an article about a secret government program that monitors financial transactions, claiming it is necessary to keep an eye on suspected terrorists. Now, he’s taking on the entire Big Apple, where the mayor has griped the city is getting short shrift from the federal government when it comes to antiterrorism funding.

Never one to mince words, the Kentucky Republican practically called New York officials a bunch of greedy whiners. “New York always complains no matter how much money they get in an appropriations bill,” Bunning said. “That is a continuing problem we have out of the city of New York.”

(Contact Lisa Hoffman at HoffmanL(at)