McCaslin's Beltway Beat

Posted: Nov 16, 2001 12:00 AM
Afraid to fly to grandmother's house for Thanksgiving? Don't be, for the odds of getting there in one piece - unlike the turkey - are greatly in your favor, says the Statistical Assessment Service (STATS). "For 1999, flying on a scheduled airliner anywhere in the world was 53 times safer than driving on an American highway," STATS Director David Murray tells this column. "All of that assumes, of course, that fatalities result from accidents, not malevolent intent. Then the odds change a bit." As for the American Airlines jet that crashed this week after takeoff from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, killing all on board, Murray points out that "accidents still happen, even in wars." "But," he adds, "if you're set to fly home to grandma's for Thanksgiving, take the shot. Odds are overwhelming that you're safe. Just watch the day-old oyster stuffing or your brother-in-law flailing about with a carving knife." FINDING KABUL Americans who prior to Sept. 11 couldn't pinpoint Afghanistan on a map are having an easier go of it now. "Times like these remind us that we are part of a larger world, and there is a renewed desire to better understand this world and its geography," explains William Stoehr, president of National Geographic Maps. In the wake of the terrorist attacks, Stoehr says, map sales - like sales of American flags - have soared as Americans seek information on Afghanistan and the surrounding region. Initially, National Geographic supplied the curious with a 1999 Caspian Sea region map, but in recent days has issued a new Afghanistan, Pakistan and Middle East map. WORTHY OF APPROVAL Patriotic hats off to Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., and his proposed "Freedom to Be a Patriot Act" (H.R. 3201), which would prohibit taxpayers' dollars from going to persons and organizations that ban the patriotic display of the American flag. "Unfortunately, there are some in this country who believe both individually and institutionally that our Star-Spangled Banner represents something less than freedom, liberty and defiance in the face of our enemies," Tancredo says. He's referring to U.S. citizens who, in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, have claimed that displaying the American flag is "culturally offensive" or "compromises objectivity." "Such excuses are an offense to the very nation where these people live their daily lives," reacts Tancredo, fingering Berkeley, Calif., and Boca Raton, Fla., as just two places where American flags have been lowered or outright banned. The congressman's own state of Colorado is no exception - the public library system of Boulder refuses to hang an American flag at its main branch. 'SAFTE' SAKE In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Fla., is gaining support for his proposed "Securing America From Terrorist Entries," or "SAFTE," Act. The legislation would impose a temporary moratorium on persons entering the United States from countries known to harbor terrorists. TERROR AND ROMANCE "Have you considered adding Thomas Jefferson to your list of presidents who took a stand against terrorism?" asks reader Tim Kauffman of Madison, Ala., who had read our pair of items Tuesday on Theodore Roosevelt's and Ronald Reagan's anti-terrorism policies. "And, since we're talking about it, wouldn't this be a good time to say, once again, that Bill Jefferson Clinton was no Thomas Jefferson?" Kauffman comments. As Kauffman observes, the original Jefferson more than once cautioned against the United States supporting terrorism and piracy around the world. Still, on some terrorism issues, the nation's third president, an experienced diplomat, was often ignored and even overruled by Congress. SAME RACE, NO BORDERS Days after former President Clinton predicted that cyber-terrorism could constitute the next major threat to the world, visiting Japanese Senior Vice Minister Kenji Kosaka is warning there's "no time to wait." "At first glance, you may think of me simply as a representative of the Japanese government," Kosaka told this week's special security conference of the U.S.-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the technical coordination body for the Internet. "However, I am also a fellow member of the Internet family like all of you. I became connected to each and every one of you through a wireless Internet LAN card the moment I entered this hall. I can connect via the wireless Internet, even though I arrived from Japan with Japanese equipment because two years ago in Japan we adjusted the frequency band for wireless LANs to ensure that the same wireless cards can be used anywhere in the world." Kosaka said the Japanese government was participating in the ICANN conference for two reasons: "The first one is, of course, because after watching the tragic terrorist acts, I became concerned about ensuring the security of the Internet, the nerve system of the contemporary world. "The second reason is that I was unpleasantly surprised to learn that ICANN decided to hold a meeting focused on the security of the Internet only after the tragic events of Sept. 11." The vice minister called the Internet "a revolutionary tool for humankind that will bring change on a par with the agricultural revolution and the Industrial Revolution," and went so far as to say that the Internet "has become part of the very foundation of human society."