Fourteen footprints

Posted: Feb 07, 2003 12:00 AM
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) walked onto an otherwise empty floor of the Senate this week to proclaim as heroes the seven astronauts who lost their lives in the Space Shuttle Columbia explosion. "Neil Armstrong, when he landed on the moon, made note of that fact that it was 'One small step for man, one giant step for mankind.' I believe these astronauts made one giant step for mankind - in better relations, in finding ways with which to pursue science so successfully. "And in so doing," Frist said, "it has created their footprints not only in the path once begun by the pioneers, such as Neil Armstrong, but that of future astronauts as well." GRAVE DANGER Sounding more each day like the presidential candidate he's become, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) is preaching that more needs to be done here at home to prepare for a bioterrorism attack. "We are in grave danger," Lieberman says. "The Defense Science Board estimated in 2000 that we have only one of the 57 diagnostics, vaccines and drugs we need to deal with the top 19 bioterror threats. "In other words, if you do the math, we were less than 2 percent prepared. No progress has been made since then. The DSB said if we were to launch a major industrial development effort, we might be able to develop 20 of these countermeasures in five years and 30 in 10 years." President Bush's announcement of $600 million in funding over 10 years toward that goal, Lieberman says, won't begin to address the "massive and threatening gap." SQUATTERS' RIGHTS It can get awfully stressful waiting around for an "inevitable" mass-casualty domestic terrorist attack, which experts predict could surpass that of Sept. 11. So staff at the new temporary headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security might be relieved to find that their sprawling 38-acre complex - bordering Massachusetts Avenue NW, not too far from the White House - features a pair of tennis courts, a basketball gymnasium, picnic tables and grills, and lots of free parking. Until World War II, the grassy compound was the Mount Vernon Seminary for girls. Days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Navy occupied the campus for intelligence purposes - and never invited the ladies back. REACHING THE POLE "I hate traveling and this was a grueling trip," says Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-Md.), but "members of Congress are responsible for spending taxpayers' money wisely, and there really is no substitute for observing firsthand how the money is spent." So the 76-year-old Bartlett, one of just three scientists in Congress, along with fellow members of the House Science Committee, flew almost 25,000 miles - crossing the international date line twice - to reach various frozen outposts that dot Antarctica. For three days last month, the delegation paid visits to U.S. scientific research stations, including a brief stop at the U.S. Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, where despite it being summer, the temperature was 24 degrees below zero. At McMurdo Station on the coast it was much warmer - but still only around 30 degrees. The United States spends almost $250 million a year on research in Antarctica. FUZZY MATH An Arizona congressman is blasting his budget-appropriating colleagues in Congress for "cooking the books." "It amazes me that Congress criticizes corrupt businessmen for using accounting tricks to overstate their revenue, then turns around and uses accounting tricks to understate their spending," says Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). "Congressional appropriators are unequaled when it comes to creative accounting," Flake says. The congressman has urged his colleagues to avoid using "accounting gimmicks" to create a spending bill that only appears to be under President Bush's budget limit. The Senate two weeks ago passed an omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal 2003 that Flake said contained "accounting tricks" to add more than $15 billion beyond what Bush requested. President Bush on Monday sent Congress a $2.23 trillion budget that, owing to the recession and the war against terrorism, creates a record deficit of $307 billion. W-IN-THE-BOX Get out, Jack, and let George in the box. That's right, toy collectors, with a turn of the crank, the new George-in-the-box plays "Hail to the Chief" and prompts a President Bush look-alike to pop up and address the nation. "At first, we were hesitant to carry the item, as we were not sure if it would be taken negatively by Republicans," says Brian Harlin of the online GOP Shoppe. "I sent the picture and description out to Republicans across the country, and the consensus is that because it plays 'Hail to the Chief' and is being marketed as a positive kids' and collectors' piece, it would be a big hit." The colorful tin box depicts each side of the White House. The toy sells for $29.95, but don't call us to buy one. Orders are being taken at 888/GOP-9001 or