McCaslin's Beltway Beat

Posted: Nov 28, 2001 12:00 AM
Ask what they have done for their country, suggests one Washington public-policy group, after the left and right converged last week to honor Robert F. Kennedy by naming the Justice Department building after him. "We suggest a moratorium on naming any more national landmarks after Kennedys," says Amy Ridenour, president of the National Center for Public Policy Research. "The moratorium could be lifted after people such as the late U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Bill Buckley - the CIA station chief in Beirut, who was tortured to death in 1985 by a group called Islamic Holy War - have their share of honors." SENSITIVE TO FISH This column has learned that the 22-year Environmental Protection Agency scientist who caused a stir by charging EPA's top brass with effectively waiving "strict national regulations for removal and disposal of asbestos-contaminated dust" at ground zero of the World Trade Center in New York City is the same EPA official who was accused five years ago of assaulting another EPA staffer with a fish. The prosecutor of the proceeding in Arlington County (Va.) Circuit Court decided against pursuing the December 1996 case involving the two top EPA staffers, both of whom worked in Washington, D.C. When asked about the scientist's choice of weapon, one EPA staffer explained, "The victim was sensitive in this area." As for the asbestos concerns at the former site of the World Trade Center in New York, EPA Administrator Christie Whitman has stressed that relatively few of the 1,300-plus air-monitoring tests conducted there since Sept. 11 have shown asbestos levels above federal safety levels. DRUGGED ANIMAL It shouldn't be too much longer before the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a new administrator - one, hopefully, who can stay awake. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee earlier this month held a confirmation hearing for Vice Adm. Conrad Lautenbacher, President Bush's nominee to head NOAA. The full Senate is expected to confirm the appointment soon. For the past year, NOAA's acting administrator has been Scott B. Gudes, who had previously toiled on Capitol Hill for Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, D-S.C. Recently, Gudes issued a lengthy memorandum to NOAA's staff, in part praising NOAA's hurricane team for its outstanding observations and forecasts of Hurricane Michelle, a "mean" Category 4 storm that luckily veered to the northeast earlier this month, missing Florida and the U.S. mainland. "I always will remember this storm for a different reason," Gudes writes. "On Saturday evening, Nov. 3, I had the opportunity to accompany the crew of one of our P-3 Hurricane Hunter aircraft as it flew through the hurricane eyewall and eye five times! During this nine-hour mission I did ask to take some motion-discomfort medicine so I would not be staring at a motion-discomfort bag all night (which I had taken from my Charleston-to-Tampa commercial flight). "It worked, and I did not need the bag. However, I felt somewhat like one of those drug-darted Serengeti wild animals on that show, 'Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom.' So, by the fifth time we pierced the hurricane's eyewall, I woke up and noticed the aircraft was violently shaking and then, I nodded off back to sleep and came to when we flew back over Cuba. "It was a fantastic experience, which I will never forget." CASUALTIES OF WAR Eight local residents "who died in service to the District of Columbia" during separate terrorist attacks on Washington in recent weeks are being honored posthumously by the Washington, D.C., Hall of Fame Society. Brentwood postal workers Thomas Morris Jr. and Joseph Curseen Jr., who died from inhalation anthrax, along with teachers Sarah M. Clark, Hilda Taylor and James Debeuneure, and students Asia Cotton, Bernard Brown and Rodney Dickens - all aboard the hijacked American Airlines plane that demolished a wedge of the Pentagon - "have left a legacy of service (to) our great city," the society notes. The three students and three teachers were accompanied by National Geographic staff members Ann Judge and Joe Ferguson en route to a much-anticipated National Geographic-sponsored field trip to the Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary near Santa Barbara, Calif. OUTPUT REQUIRED "While Congress just sits there and fidgets, We've got losses in high double digits: We'll never come back From the terror attack Without federal support for our widgets." -- F.R. Duplantier