United for once

John McCaslin
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Posted: Dec 16, 2004 12:00 AM

You may spot embattled U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the mean streets of Washington today, where several lawmakers are demanding his ouster. He's scheduled to be in town for a speaking engagement, among other stops.

His visit comes on the heels of a none-too-flattering survey conducted by Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates, finding U.S. citizens view the United Nations as "anti-American" by a margin of nearly 2-to-1, or 52 percent to 27 percent.

Conservatives are most disenchanted with the United Nations, by a 61 percent to 23 percent margin; moderates follow closely at 52 percent to 27 percent; and even liberals are disgruntled by a margin of 41 percent to 36 percent.

ESKIMO DUNK

Last night, before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Center for International Environmental Law announced a complaint on behalf of Arctic Inuit peoples against the United States "for causing global warming and its devastating impacts."

And what are the devastating impacts?

"Apparently their snowmobiles are falling through the ice," relays Christopher C. Horner, senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who is attending this week's global-warming negotiations in Buenos Aires.

"Leaving aside for the moment this action's legal merits (there are none), a remarkable approach to oral argument on this case was tried at a Monday night event publicizing a report underpinning this complaint," Horner tells this column.

The speaker was Dr. Robert Corell, "most famous for his steady hand guiding the conveniently timed November 2000 'National Assessment on Climate Change,' a compendium of scary climate stories released by the Clinton-Gore administration," he says.

"According to Dr. Corell, it seems that the Inuits, who he boasts have lived a subsistence lifestyle just as their ancestors have done for 9,000 years, now have that cold, hand-to-mouth bliss threatened by global warming."

SPACE FIRSTS

Floating above the global warming, the crew aboard the 4-year-old International Space Station is discovering what it takes to live and work in space for long periods of time.

This year has proved to be an "exceptional example," says NASA space station program manager Bill Gerstenmaier.

For instance, he explains, with no space shuttles to deliver supplies since the Columbia accident in February 2003 (repair parts are being shipped via a smaller Russian resupply vehicle), flight engineer Michael Fincke got out some needle and thread, so to speak, and made needed repairs to his U.S. space suit. Normally, a shuttle would have delivered new suits as replacements.

When he wasn't tailoring, NASA Mission Control in Houston kept Fincke in close contact with his wife as she gave birth this year. He spoke to her via an Internet protocol telephone, another first - at least during labor.

Meanwhile, Expedition 10 Cmdr. Leroy Chiao entered the history books by casting the first vote in a U.S. presidential election from space - 230 miles above Earth.

Thanks to a special law passed in Texas in 1997, astronauts can now vote electronically from space. Chiao submitted his electronic ballot to his county clerk's office via e-mail.

HELLHOLES

The eye-opening title of the American Tort Reform Association's latest report is "Bringing Justice to Judicial Hellholes."

Another word for them is "jackpot jurisdictions" - places where decks are stacked in favor of plaintiffs, who flock there "in search of a big payday from friendly judges and juries," says Lisa A. Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for Legal Reform.

Madison County, Ill., ranks No. 1 in the "hellhole" category, both for asbestos litigation and class-action lawsuits. Other friendly court systems are found in neighboring St. Clair County, Ill.; Hampton County, S.C.; the entire state of West Virginia; Orleans Parish in Louisiana; South Florida; and Los Angeles County.

"We will continue to shine a spotlight on Madison County and other problem jurisdictions . . . that will restore balance to the legal system in those states," promises Ms. Rickard.

PEW SQUIRMING

"You and I both know those who are in power don't like to be asked questions about their sex life."

- Part of the 8 a.m. sermon delivered in the company of President Bush this past Sunday by the Rev. Luis Leon, rector of St. John's Church, opposite Lafayette Square from the White House.

ANYBODY FOR WALKING?

Length of last Sunday's motorcade that took President and Mrs. Bush on a two-minute drive to St. John's Church across the street from the White House: 14 vehicles.

NO REST FOR THE WEARY

Perhaps Democrats in the Senate will have better luck in the next election as New Jersey Sen. Jon Corzine officially hands over the reins of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to incoming chairman Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York.

Corzine, who watched his party's minority leader, Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota, go down in flames, calls Schumer "a fighter" who is looking forward to battling Republicans in 2006.

"And he's not waiting until 2006, because the Republicans are not waiting, either," Corzine notes. "Before they lit their last cigars and polished off the final bottle of champagne on election night, the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee had already launched their campaign plans for 2006."

NOT TOO SHABBY

Imagine being one of the lucky few to raise your right hand and take the oath to become an American citizen with the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights (adopted 213 years ago this week, by the way) as the backdrop.

Thursday morning, the National Archives opened its rotunda for what has become a popular and moving tradition of holding a naturalization ceremony for several privileged petitioners seeking U.S. citizenship.

Chief Judge Thomas F. Hogan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia will preside as 35 petitioners for U.S. citizenship take the oath in front of the charters of freedom.

CHRISTMAS EPIDEMIC

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention blew the lid off one of the nation's new public health scourges: Christmas lights.

As a result, suspects the Center for Consumer Freedom, while you might think that Christmas lights are little more than an innocent holiday tradition, "it is now clear that Christmas decorating is slowly crippling our nation."

The skeptical watchdog group says the CDC's "cheery journal" - Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report - states that more than 5,000 Americans suffer "holiday-decorating-related falls" each year, a holiday-decoration study "gift-wrapped for public health zealots."

FRUITCAKE SEASON

A fruitcake came one day
And I sent it on its way.
The next day, then,
It was back again,
But here it cannot stay.
I sent it to one brother,
Who sent it to another.
It eventually
Came back to me,
In a package from my mother.

- F.R. Duplantier

KYOTO ASIDES

For global-warming negotiators who need to get into the Zen zone at the just-convened Kyoto talks in Buenos Aires, the conference features a "meditation room."

The "Lost and Found" is located in the same room. Read into this what you wish.

Attendees of the conference, meanwhile, can't help but be reminded that the Buenos Aires negotiating venue is typically used for livestock shows in cattle-rich Argentina. Once again, pick your own punch line.

Outside the convention center, Greenpeace has constructed an enormous ark, symbolizing its prophesied catastrophic flooding. Greenpeace is most notorious for having had its flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, sunk in Auckland Harbor, New Zealand, on July 10, 1985. No word yet whether French frogmen have plans to scuttle this one in such a fashion.

And the lead editorial in this week's Buenos Aires Herald is worth a second read: "So far all the evidence is that climate change will cause the world a damage far worse than any terrorism, but let us keep an open mind."