McCaslin's Beltway Beat: Check your box cutters

Posted: Dec 21, 2001 12:00 AM
The U.S. Capitol has reopened to tourists under security procedures implemented by Capitol Police that encourage senators to store constituents' knives, razors, box cutters and other personal items in their offices until tours are completed. An "urgent" memo we obtained to all 100 U.S. senators reads: "Visitors will not be permitted to bring the following items into the Capitol: aerosol and non-aerosol sprays; cans and bottles; oversized suitcases; duffel bags and oversized bags; knives of any length; razors and box cutters; mace and pepper spray. "Offices are encouraged to allow constituents to store personal belongings in the office before coming to the Capitol for a tour." LETTERS FROM HOME Since 1967, when Sgt. Billy Thompson wrote Abigail Van Buren and mentioned that a wonderful Christmas present to our armed forces would be 'just a letter from home,' American citizens have been sending holiday wishes to servicemen and women stationed overseas. But concerns about mail delivery, notes Rep. Jo Ann Davis, R-Va., have prompted the military to suspend this year's letter-writing campaign. Instead, the Department of the Navy is providing a private and secure online resource that will allow Americans to send holiday greetings to a sailor, Marine, soldier, airman or Coast Guardsman. Anybody who wishes to send such a greeting can visit Davis' congressional Web site at Meanwhile, a Christmas tree decorated with thousands of cards and messages for veterans and active-duty military will be displayed at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial beginning Friday (Dec. 21). The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund receives thousands of holiday cards each December to be placed at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The most-visited memorial in Washington, it bears the names of the 58,226 Americans who were killed or remain missing in action in Vietnam. ANTI-LIVING Money trails of a number of activist foundations that are increasingly telling Americans how to go about living their lives are being uncovered by the Washington-based Guest Choice Network. "Essentially, what we've done over the past year is compile some 100,000 pages of (IRS) documents," network spokesman Mike Burita tells this column. "What we found is a pretty impressive network of funding and some interesting connections that people might want to be aware of," he says. The network, a coalition of America's leading restaurant chains and tavern operators - positioning itself as a first line of defense "against groups that want to tell you what not to eat, what not to drink, and what not to smoke" - found, as one example, that the Ben & Jerry's Foundation has given $10,000 to Mothers for Natural Law, which the network labels "a radical anti-food-technology group that is operated by disciples of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi." The network not only has been examining the financial records of similar activist groups - Greenpeace USA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Organic Consumers Association and United Poultry Concerns, to name a few - but also foundations such as the Barbara Streisand Foundation, the Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. Also falling under the restaurant group's microscope are dozens of outspoken celebrities, from Pamela Anderson and Casey Kasem to Bill Maher and Yo-Yo Ma, who enjoy telling others what's good and bad for them. All the money trails and activities of foundations and celebrities alike are updated monthly over the network's new Web site,