Beltway Beat: Axis of evil

Posted: May 22, 2002 12:00 AM
"Our challenge is much more pervasive than it would be if we were just facing one enemy in one place. (Instead there is) the Middle East, Iraq, North Korea, Iran. There's a relatively long list that we believe are linked to the al Qaeda network - in the Philippines, in Indonesia and in Yemen and other places. That makes it very clear that this is a global network." -- Hillary Rodham Clinton, borrowing a page from President Bush's "axis of evil" speech, during a weekend address in Dix Hills, N.Y. LAWFUL TERRORISTS As if U.S. intelligence agencies weren't already in hot water, a new study to be released today (Wednesday, May 22) finds that contrary to claims that major foreign terrorists were in this country as "temporary visitors," they instead manipulated almost every means of admission to the United States. "Some have indeed come as students, tourists, and business travelers; others, however, have been 'Lawful Permanent Residents' and 'Naturalized U.S. citizens'; while yet others have snuck across the border, arrived as stowaways on ships, used false passports, been granted amnesty, or been applicants for political asylum," concludes the study by the Center for Immigration Studies. The study examines the immigration status not only of the Sept. 11 hijackers, but all 48 foreign-born radical Muslim terrorists - almost all of them linked to al Qaeda - who've been charged, convicted, or admitted involvement in terrorism in the United States since 1993. "The Open Door: How Foreign-born Militant Islamic Terrorists Entered and Remained in the United States, 1993-2001," was to be released at a National Press Club forum by Steven A. Camarota, CIS' director of research and author of the report. OUR FOREIGN LAND Thousands of "refugees" from State Department-classified "terrorist nations" have resettled in the United States in recent years. To bypass standard immigration procedures and gain entry to the United States, refugees must state that they fear persecution in their homeland because of race, religion, membership in a social group, political opinion or national origin. (In 1998 alone, 133,000 foreigners entered the United States as refugees.) According to Immigration and Naturalization Service statistics contained in the National Immigration Forum's just-published "Immigration Policy Handbook for 2002," the top 10 places from which refugees arrived in 2000 alone: Bosnia-Herzegovina, the former Soviet Union, Somalia, Iran, Vietnam, Sudan, Cuba, Iraq, Croatia and Liberia. As for "immigrants," the handbook says 75 percent are in the United States legally. Finally, as of March 2000, 10.4 percent of the U.S. population was foreign-born. HUNKS Who better than Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the Senate's subcommittee on Public Health, to convene hearings this week on the nation's "obesity epidemic"? The big question: Are Americans actually that fat? The Senate's hearings come on the heels of Uncle Sam raising his BMI (Body Mass Index) standards. As a result, 30 million Americans overnight went from being government-approved to "overweight" or "obese." Coinciding with the raising of BMI standards, the surgeon general's office issued a warning that an "obesity epidemic" was threatening public health. Those Americans who enjoy their food fear this could give added weight to "Twinkie tax" proposals on sodas, snack foods and restaurant meals. "Ever since the surgeon general's call to action on obesity, food cop activists are seeing dollar signs and are pushing for 'fat taxes' on soda and other foods," warns Mike Burita, spokesman for the Center for Consumer Freedom. (We can't help but recall fat-tax advocate James O. Hill once saying in this column: "Americans have too much food available.") As for the raised BMI standards, seemingly fit athletes like Michael Jordan and Cal Ripken Jr. are now classified as "overweight" in Uncle Sam's book, while Hollywood hunks Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe are officially "obese." Come to think of it, this columnist broke bread with Sen. Kennedy during one dinner last week, and I wouldn't be surprised if the senator ranks right up there with the other hunks. PEDDLING HISTORY The Democratic National Committee continues to blast Republicans for breaking the "bipartisan spirit" by selling a photograph of President Bush taken on Sept. 11. "Partisan exploitation," charges the DNC, which now perhaps knows how Rep. Jim Ramstad, R-Minn., felt four years ago. That's when another historic photograph was being peddled - by the DNC. It pictured a youthful Bill Clinton shaking hands with President Kennedy in the Rose Garden during the 1963 American Legion Boys' National Leadership Convention. No sooner was it revealed that the DNC was offering the photo in return for a contribution of "$400 or more" that we were contacted by Ramstad. "Although 17-year-old Bill Clinton was successful in elbowing his way to the front of our group to shake hands first with President Kennedy, that's future Republican Congressman Jim Ramstad pictured between Clinton and President Kennedy and behind the American Legion counselor wearing his hat," the congressman told this column. "Perhaps I should demand my cut of the '$400 or more' the DNC is getting for this historic photo." The two budding politicians, three months apart in age, were high school students that summer of '63. Ramstad says he can remember Clinton remarking that he planned to run for president one day. As for an addendum to our story, after the DNC began peddling the Rose Garden photo for profit, it was put on notice by the MAI Photo/News Agency. The DNC, or so we're told, had not entered an agreement to distribute the licensed photo and was forced to settle out of court at considerable cost. WHERE'S SACAJAWEA? Congress wants to know what happened to Sacajawea. The Sacajawea "Golden Dollar" was introduced in 2000 with great fanfare and a $62 million promotional campaign. Despite the minting of 1.4 billion of the coins, one senator says he has never received one in change, has never seen one in circulation and knows few people who have. "It's a mystery to me," says Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, D-N.D. "The decision to bring back a dollar coin was a good one and honoring Sacajawea by placing her likeness on it was an inspired choice. Yet despite the big launch, the coin seems to have disappeared." Sacajawea was a 15-year-old who, traveling with her infant, guided and translated for much of Lewis and Clark's expedition. Her coin was supposed to have had a circulating life of 30 years, compared with a paper dollar that lasts on average 22 months.