By LANCE GAY
Scripps Howard News Service
May 14, 2005
Washington - The United Nations' oil-for-food scandal is about to go nuclear.
Three congressional committees are hot on the trail of leaked documents from the world agency that U.S. investigators believe will implicate U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in both the scandal and subsequent efforts to cover up lucrative contracts awarded to a Swiss company connected to Annan's son Kojo.
Annan's supporters say an interim report exonerates the U.N. leader. But former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, who is heading up the oil-for-food investigation, notes the interim report did castigate Annan for not investigating his son's activities more closely, and the final report on the matter won't be drafted until late summer.
U.S. lawmakers aren't waiting. The Senate Permanent Investigations subcommittee this week opens public hearings on the matter, and House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, R-Ill., is combing through boxes of documents he subpoenaed from Robert Parton, a former FBI agent who resigned from Volcker's probe.
Republicans say the scandal is clear evidence of the need for reforming the United Nations and the urgency of replacing Annan as its leader. But Volcker warns that congressional interference threatens the lives of some Iraqi informants who have been helping his investigation.
Will park rangers get fitted with mouse ears?
The organization Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility says that internal Park Service memos detailing plans for contracting out work at three national parks _ Boston National Historical Park, San Juan National Historic Site in Puerto Rico and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore - mark the beginning of turning the 388 national parks over to Disney or other entertainment interests.
Jeff Ruch, executive director of the group, protests about the lack of public debate over outsourcing what has traditionally been government work.
The Park Service said Ruch's reaction is overheated, adding that the memos Ruch obtained were misleading. The agency says only non-essential maintenance work and janitorial work in the three parks is being considered for contracting this year; there's no consideration of changing the role of "inherently governmental" positions like park rangers and park supervisors in any of the parks.
Airline pilots say it's not fair that they have to stand in the same lines as passengers, holding their shoes in their hands, as they wait to be searched at airports for illegal items.
Duane Woerth, president of the Airline Pilots Association and a Northwest pilot, noted that once past security, pilots are in control of the airplanes so it doesn't make sense to confiscate their knives and scissors.
The pilots want Congress to give them a special exemption to avoid the bothersome security checks. They are getting a sympathetic ear from frequent-flying lawmakers, who have been examining ways members of Congress could also be added to such a list.
The military brass are gearing up to fight moves in Congress to restrict women from being military police officers, truck drivers, helicopter pilots, Humvee drivers, medics or mechanics that compose forward support companies.
Although there's a prohibition on women in combat, many women end up on the front lines doing vital support work. Some members of the House Armed Services Committee now want to prohibit women from being part of the forward support companies.
Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., contends this would cripple the ability of the Army to do its job. Women make up 15 percent of today's Army.
Watch the Senate approve a tough new law setting mandatory sentencing for gang violence. The Justice Department warns that gang violence is increasing and estimates there are 25,000 active gangs and 750,000 gang members in the United States. The House brushed aside protests from pro-immigration groups and overwhelmingly approved the measure.
Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.shns.com
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