Cooking out?

John McCaslin
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Posted: Apr 02, 2003 12:00 AM

Shelves of local hardware stores, rapidly depleted of duct tape during a recent shopping spree by terrified soccer moms who tried to tape would-be terrorists out of their McMansions, are once again brimming with rolls of the sticky stuff.

So what's a family that's overstocked with duct tape to do?

"Jim and Tim, the Duct Tape Guys" (www.ducttapeguys.com), publishers of "Duct Tape Books" long before Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge sent duct tape stock prices soaring, bring us other useful duct tape hints.

"Because duct tape is gender neutral, may we suggest that gals can end that age-old argument by duct taping the toilet seat down," say the two. "Don't worry guys, you can go right in and duct tape it up."

In addition, always ensure you have a roll of duct tape when you travel, as "a roll of duct tape taped to the dashboard of your car makes a great pop can holder."

One guy "used duct to secure a board five feet outside of his third-story apartment so he could barbecue outdoors."

Finally, there are duct tape suggestions for "practical jokers" (Note: Duct tape in the wrong hands can be a dangerous weapon). One is the old "Roof Top Soda" trick: "Secure a 32-ounce soda cup to the top of your car with duct tape on the bottom of the cup. As if you had left it there by mistake, drive merrily along with the radio loud so you can't hear the people yelling to get your drink off the car.

"When they point and wave, act like they are waving at you, smile and wave back. You would not believe the reactions to this in traffic. People will get out of their vehicle and tap on the window to tell you about the cup!"

WATERFORD TO WAL-MART

Lax controls over government purchase cards issued through the Federal Aviation Administration led to more than $6 million in improper or questionable expenditures - including purchases of Waterford crystal and personal Internet subscriptions - during fiscal year 2001.

The General Accounting Office, performing an audit at the request of House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Rep. Don Young (R-Alas.) reviewed purchase-card and convenience-check use among employees at the FAA's headquarters, the two FAA centers and the eight regional FAA offices.

"I don't consider gift cards at Wal-Mart and Waterford crystal to be in the realm of legitimate government spending," says Young. "We in government are entrusted with the taxpayers' money, and those who irresponsibly use that money must be held accountable."

Purchases included gift cards for Home Depot, Kroger and Safeway; items from Hecht's, Macy's, Things Remembered, TJ Maxx and Daniels Get Personal; and personal Internet subscriptions for America Online, CompuServe and EarthLink.

RESPECT AND DIGNITY

The Wall could soon get some walls.

Twenty-one years after the groundbreaking for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, also known as the Wall, House Resources Committee Chairman Rep. Richard W. Pombo (R-Calif.) has introduced bipartisan legislation providing for construction of a visitors center for Washington's most-visited memorial.

"At this crucial time in our nation's history, it is important that we treat our veterans with the respect and dignity they deserve," says Pombo.

We're told Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) will introduce similar legislation in the next few weeks, his co-sponsors including Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.). All three are Vietnam combat veterans.

On March 26, 1982, 100 Vietnam veterans in unison turned the earth on the National Mall, breaking ground for the Wall, a black granite memorial inscribed with the names of those who were killed or remain missing in action.

DOMESTIC TROOPS

With military action under way in Iraq and the United States on high alert for terrorist acts, AmeriCorps and Senior Corps volunteers, at the behest of President Bush, are training communities and assembling disaster-preparedness kits.

Last week, for example, AmeriCorps Director Rosie Mauk was in Tallahassee, Fla., reviewing Operation Dark Cloud, a bioterrorism exercise in which AmeriCorps members help local officials test the capability of area response agencies.

After Sept. 11, Bush asked AmeriCorps to devote more members to homeland security. AmeriCorps and Senior Corps are both overseen by a federal agency known as the Corporation for National and Community Service.

ONE SON LIVES.

A U.S. congressman is seeking to rewrite U.S. citizenship requirements to protect Americans from future acts of terror.

On Monday, Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) introduced what promises to be a controversial amendment that would grant a person born on U.S. soil automatic citizenship only if one or both parents is an American citizen or legal permanent resident.

He points out that most other developed countries - including Britain, France, Australia, Germany and Italy - do not confer automatic birthright citizenship.

"We are in different times with different threats than when our Constitution was penned," Foley says. "The 14th Amendment was conceived after the Civil War to ensure citizenship to freed slaves, not to ensure citizenship to terrorists."

He cites the case of Yaser Esam Hamdi, captured with Taliban and al Qaeda terrorist fighters in Afghanistan. While Hamdi is currently being held as an "enemy combatant," his prosecution in Virginia has been hindered by the fact that he holds U.S. citizenship.

His parents are both Saudi Arabian nationals but had been working temporarily in Louisiana at the time Hamdi was born. His parents took him back to Saudi Arabia and he never returned to the United States. Until now.

ONE SON DIES

Mr. and Mrs. Mark Kennedy of Texas have asked Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison to deliver an important message to President Bush on behalf of their son.

The couple wants the president to know that they "support him" in the U.S.-led war against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, according to the Republican senator, because they "know the importance of this action to freedom for everyone in America."

Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy are the parents of Marine Cpl. Brian Matthew Kennedy, killed when his helicopter crashed in Kuwait last week. He had checked in with his parents just two days before his chopper went down:

"Don't worry about me. We are good to go. We have been trained. We believe in this mission," he had said.

Brian was the couple's only son.

DYING FOR DOMINIQUE

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin refused during a question-and-answer session on the war with Iraq to answer the question: "Who do you want to win the war?"

So writes Britain's Sky News after de Villepin's lecture last week at London's International Institute for Strategic Studies. The network said it was the foreign minister's first visit to Britain since the start of the U.S.-led war, which France has fiercely opposed.

Should de Villepin be asked again who he's rooting for, he might recall two important historical facts:

1. The United States provided $2.71 billion in aid to France to alleviate post-World War II starvation and desolation.

2. The bodies of 81,172 U.S. soldiers who died in World Wars I and II are buried in 14 cemeteries in France and Belgium.

ENOUGH ALREADY

In the Great Hall of the Library of Congress Wednesday evening (April 3), more than 200 members of Congress, diplomats and scholars will celebrate the centennial birthday of the legendary Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield of Montana.

Former senator and U.S. Ambassador to Japan Howard Baker and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) are two speakers invited by the Mansfield Center for Pacific Affairs to reflect on the unassuming Democrat's life of public service and his many contributions to the Senate and U.S.-Asia relations.

Among the Mansfield milestones: born March 16, 1903; entered the Navy at age 14 and served through the end of World War I; Senate majority leader longer than anybody else in history, 1961 to 1977; U.S. ambassador to Japan, 1977 to 1989; and died Oct. 5, 2001.

At a recent University of Montana round-table reminiscence, newspaperman Vince Devlin of the Missoulian writes that former House Speaker Thomas S. Foley, 1972 presidential nominee George McGovern and former Rep. Pat Williams of Montana traded their favorite Mansfield yarns, the latter recalling the Senate leader's "un-politician-like penchant for one-word answers to questions."

Take the time Mansfield was a guest on NBC's "Meet the Press."

The first question from the interviewer, as recalled by Williams: "Mr. Majority Leader, in next year's presidential election, there are a number of your colleagues in the Senate who are being touted as presidential material. Do you have a favorite?"

"Nope," replied Mansfield.

"Well, the interviewer knew that was coming," said Williams. "So, he said, 'Senator, I'm going to name the people most often talked about. Would you give me, in one or two sentences, your thoughts on each?'

"And before he could read the first name, Mike said, 'Nope.'

"Now he's getting worried. He looks at the clock - they've consumed 17 seconds of a 28-minute program, and 16 seconds have been spent on the questions. So he says, 'Well, Senator, who do you think will be the next president?'

"And Mike says, 'A Democrat.'

"Now the interviewer's frustration level is getting pretty high, he's getting a little peeved, so (he) puts his elbows up on the desk ... leans in toward Mike and says, 'Just how much do you think a Democrat is going to win by?'

"And Mike looks at him and says, 'Enough.'"