Screening for the health dangers

The White House recently released its new homeland security strategy and, unlike the initial 2002 version, this one focuses far more on natural disasters as opposed to terrorist strikes. That’s a welcome change not simply because Hurricane Katrina was a humbling experience, but because globalization’s growing connectivity means a naturally occurring pandemic is the most likely mega-disaster we’ll face in the near term.

At least the French got it right

When President Bush was putting together his Coalition of the Willing — or, in some cases, the Coalition of the Not Very Willing but We Better Do It Not to Offend America — France was a notable nonstarter for the invasion of Iraq.

Although France sent troops to Afghanistan, this shrugging “non” was greeted on this side of the Atlantic with all the sympathy and understanding of a great nation — that is to say, with one thunderous Bronx cheer from sea to shining sea.

State Department may fire Blackwater

The State Department may phase out or limit the use of private security guards in Iraq, which could mean canceling Blackwater USA’s contract or awarding it to another company in line with an Iraqi government demand, The Associated Press has learned.

Such steps would be difficult given U.S. reliance on Blackwater and other contractors, but they are among options being studied during a comprehensive review of security in Iraq, two senior officials said.

Truth is no longer an option

I was at an academic conference recently, dedicated to the proposition that black is white. I had been invited to present the alternative viewpoint that black is really black, or at least dark gray and I did so. This made people uncomfortable, and some heated discussion ensued.

Hiring gun slingers to fight our wars

It is difficult to believe that trying to return a two-bit country like Iraq to some sort of normalcy would so deplete this nation’s military and civilian security capabilities that it would have to rely on private gun slingers in a war zone. How can that be and how in the world did we get in this situation?

Joining the mean mom school

There are times when I tell my kids that they can’t have or do something that they tell me I’m “as mean as 200 moms!” That’s when I like to remind them I take their complaints as a compliment because I, of course, went to “Mean Mom School.”

I always review for them that I did incredibly well at Mean Mom School. In fact, there is only one mom who ever did better at Mean Mom School than I did, my friend (and theirs), Mrs. Carlson. She has five young kids, and they think she’s as mean as 300 moms.

Retreating into isolationism

Polls are indicating that many Americans are yearning for another retreat into isolationism.

The relentlessly grim news from Iraq, the antagonism abroad toward U.S. foreign policy, the stirrings of antipathy against free trade and the pull of delayed solutions to domestic problems are combining to make Americans feel fed up with being “over there.”

Unmasking phony heroes

The unmasking of a half-dozen phony heroes in recent months is spurring support for the creation of a national database that contains the names of those who have received the nation’s highest military honors.

As it stands now, there is an official list only of Medal of Honor awardees, but none for those who have earned the service crosses, Silver Stars, Purple Hearts or other top medals. That makes it difficult to uncover anyone who poses as a recipient by wearing medals one can purchase for a few bucks on the Internet.

Prosecutor quits over Gitmo debacle

The top Pentagon prosecutor in President George W. Bush’s troubled “war on terror” is leaving is post immediately. Sources say she is “fed up” with the administration’s continued attempts to ignore the law and the tenants of the Geneva Convention in his abuse of prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay
prison in Cuba.

Col. Morris D. Davis, a highly respected Air Force prosecutor, is leaving his position immediately.

Pentagon insiders say Davis’ abrupt departure is another example of the internal discord that Bush’s bungled war on terror has brought to the military.

Whitewashing the work of killers

Public relations giant Burson-Marsteller has vast experience steering companies through tough times. But there’s a limit to how much it can help Blackwater USA, a new client that’s been battered by negative publicity.

The State Department, which pays Blackwater hundreds of millions of dollars to protect U.S. diplomats in Iraq, has stringent rules barring the private security contractor from discussing with the media the details of its work, according to those familiar with the arrangement.