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Washington Calling

Last chemical bomb and more Abramoff fallout
Scripps Howard News Service


June 19, 2006

WASHINGTON -- For all the ink spilled over the buildup of America's chemical weapons arsenal after World War II and again during the Reagan administration, there was hardly any notice June 9 when the Army destroyed the last remaining chemical bomb at Oregon's Umatilla Chemical Agent Disposal Facility.

The Army once had more than 13,500 chemical bombs. But the chemical bomb era officially passed into the history books with the destruction of the last 220-pound bomb containing liquid sarin. The Pentagon says the facility will now turn to deal with destruction of rockets, artillery projectiles, spray tanks and bulk containers once used in the chemical weapons program.




Under a 1997 treaty, the United States had until 2007 to destroy the bombs, but reached the goal a year early. "No more bombs of any kind are stored at the depot or any of the other six chemical weapons storage sites," the Pentagon said.


One fallout from the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal: Congressional employees have been scrubbing their travel disclosure forms to give the public a more accurate explanation for who paid for their trips.

The Center for Public Integrity found that as of April, about 20 percent of the forms filed from 2000 to last year have been revised, some to reflect that well-heeled Washington lobby shops actually financed the trips instead of those previously listed. Until the rules were toughened this year, lawmakers and their staffs could file secret waivers with the House or Senate ethics committee if they wanted to take trips from influence-peddlers and others doing business with Congress.


Don't just heap more blame on the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the horror stories of $1.4 billion in misspent hurricane assistance.

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., says Congress needs to belly up to the podium of opprobrium and admit lawmakers are equally responsible for those cases of $8,000 spent for Hawaiian holidays and $2,400 giveaways for rental assistance.

Westmoreland notes that he and 10 other lawmakers warned Congress last year that they were spending too much, too fast and without the needed checks and balances when they rushed through a $52 billion bailout for New Orleans and Gulf Coast towns ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. "Massive fraud in this case was as predictable as the sunrise," he says.


As energy price increases soak through the economy, look for the Federal Reserve to change course to battle the horrors of stagflation, which last was seen during the Nixon administration. This bout of stagflation is likely to be a pale version of the 1970s' slow economic growth, low wage increases and high inflation. There might even be enough growth to avoid a recession, but it could do enough damage to American standards of living that voters will show their feelings about it at the polls this November.


Advocates of the national parks warn vacationers can expect less law-enforcement protection, longer emergency response times, fewer lifeguards, scaled back water and trail safety patrols and dirtier campgrounds this year.

The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees says its survey of 37 parks concludes there is a $7 billion backlog of park repairs and a shortfall of $600 million in operating funds that will mean fewer rangers and fewer ranger patrols.


Federal employee unions protest new government security restrictions are going to curb the expansion of telecommuting.

After the well-publicized loss of data disks containing personal information on millions of Americans, both the Veterans Administration and the Internal Revenue Service are imposing restrictions on federal employees using federal data out of the office. But Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, says the restrictions are counter-productive to efforts in the federal government to encourage more employees to work from their homes. She said increased security procedures, not restrictions, are the way to prevent loss of sensitive data.


Contact Lance Gay at GayL(at)
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