Posted: Nov 02, 2005 12:05 AM

Dana Blanton, director of public-opinion research for Fox News, takes a much-needed break from politics and turmoil to present some intriguing findings about America's spiritual beliefs.

Americans who believe in:

God - 91 percent
Heaven - 87 percent
Miracles - 84 per- cent
Angels - 79 percent
Hell - 74 percent
The devil - 67 percent
Astrology - 37 percent
Ghosts - 34 percent
Reincarnation - 27 percent
Witches - 24 percent
Vampires - 4 percent


"In what has become something of a custom on Monday mornings in October, President Bush today announced a Supreme Court nominee." - Official White House pool report of the most recent Supreme Court nomination from President Bush - his third such announcement in recent months, one successful, one not - this one of 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr.


An unexpected face-to-face encounter - in the hallowed halls of Congress, no less - turned downright ugly when North Korea's deputy chief to the United Nations, Ambassador Han Song-ryol, purportedly threatened the life of a North Korean defector, Kim Seung-min, director of Free North Korea Radio.

Our story begins last Thursday, when Republican Reps. Christopher H. Smith of New Jersey and Jim Leach of Iowa, the respective chairmen of the subcommittees on global human rights and Asia and the Pacific, were preparing to hear testimony from Kim and North Korean defectors Cha Kyeong-sook and Ma Soon-hee, both women.

Also in attendance was Suzanne Scholte, president of the Defense Forum Foundation that sponsored and arranged for the defectors' testimony. She tells The Beltway Beat that never, in their wildest dreams, did the trio of defectors expect to confront the enemy, who ironically was being feted at a congressional luncheon just across the hall hosted by Rep. Curt Weldon, Pennsylvania Republican, and attended by some 20 members of Congress.

"When (we) arrived for the hearing," Scholte says, "we discovered that the ambassador . . . was being honored by members of Congress . . . across the hall from the hearing."

So, she continues, "The three North Korean defectors and I went into the room," where Kim held up a sign in Korean that read: "The Road to Peace on the Korean Peninsula is the Expulsion of (North Korean leader) Kim Jong-il."

"Kim then said these same words to Ambassador Han as he was walking across the room," Scholte says, at which time she adds, "Han then threatened Kim with, 'Do you want to die?'"

We rang the North Korean mission at the U.N. on Monday, but received no immediate response concerning Mr. Han's purported comments.

Scholte, who is also the vice chairman of the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, finds it disturbing that while some members of Congress are working to expose the suffering of the North Korean people, "other members seem intent on downplaying the atrocities by honoring the representatives of this brutal regime."


Does it make sense for Americans to vote on a Tuesday - a day established in 1845 to make it easier for farmers to cast ballots?

Former Ambassador Andrew Young says he finds it disturbing that the world's leading democracy has a smaller voter turnout than 36 developing nations whose electoral systems the United States helped establish.

He draws attention to U.S. census figures that perhaps reflect one reason the United States has dropped to a disturbing 139th out of 172 nations in terms of voter turnout: Americans report "being too busy" or having "scheduling conflicts" to vote on a Tuesday.

How then to increase voter participation?

While the Carter-Baker Commission on Electoral Reform grappled with the challenge by proposing voter ID cards, there are more pragmatic solutions, says Young, who leads a bipartisan organization called "Why Tuesday?"

Their solution: Move the federal Election Day from Tuesday to the entire first weekend in November, allowing voters at least two days to cast their ballots.


The conclusion of a new Democracy Corps (headed by Democratic strategist James Carville, among others) report on the Republican shenanigans of late: "The muted excitement about the (second Bush) administration clear in its direction and willing to take on tough issues has given way to judgments about an untrustworthy lot."