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Purple Hearts ... Lethal Congress ... Interpol access ... More
Scripps Howard News Service


September 24, 2007
Monday PM

WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon has finally relented and will now support awarding posthumous Purple Heart medals to all U.S. prisoners of war who perish in captivity, regardless of how they die.

Until now, rules restricted the medal to those POWs who died of "wounds inflicted by an instrument of war." That meant those who died of disease, starvation or other non-war causes were ineligible.

Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, have pushed for two years to persuade the Department of Defense to loosen its restrictions. Under-secretary of Defense David Chu agreed this month to recommend to President Bush that the rules be changed.

In all, since the start of World War II, about 17,000 POWs have died while in captivity.


The current Congress could well prove to be the deadliest ever for lawmakers. calculated that just nine months into the two-year-long 110th Congress, four legislators have died: Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., of cancer and lung disease; Rep Juanita Millender-McDonald, D-Calif., of cancer; Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., of leukemia; and Rep. Paul Gillmor, R-Ohio, accidental fall.

That comes close to the six deaths that occurred during the entire 106th Congress, which ran from 1999 to 2001. The 107th Congress -- from 2001 to 2003 -- saw five die.


For the first time, the U.S. agency in charge of keeping criminals out of the country, or hunting them down if they slip in, has 24/7 access to the international police bureau Interpol's voluminous records on criminals from 186 countries.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency was hooked into the Interpol records Sept. 12, and now can get instantaneous information on foreign fugitives, stolen vehicles and lost or stolen travel documents. And U.S. police departments will also have access to the data via the immigration agency.


Hispanic Heritage Month is upon us (Sept. 15 to Oct. 15) and the U.S. Census Bureau shares some statistics:

Businesses owned by Hispanics have mushroomed by more than 30 percent between 1997 and 2002, compared with the average national growth rate of 10 percent for all businesses.

More than 3 million Hispanics had at least a bachelor's degree last year, while just 1.4 million did a decade before. About 1 million are veterans of U.S. military service.

The Hispanic poverty rate dipped from 22 percent in 2005 to 21 percent last year.


If we don't like the candidates we must pick from on Election Day, we have only ourselves to blame. The Center for Voting and Democracy reports that voter turnout in the 38 states that had primaries last year averaged just 15 percent -- the lowest in history.

In 1996, more than 33 percent turned out for primaries, where the parties' candidates are selected.


The Web as a wondrous world:

-- On the horizon: The government's largest database, on which the public will be able to track all federal spending when it debuts in January 2008. A joint effort of the Office of Management and Budget and OMB Watch, the agency's customary critic, the site will allow the public to see which lawmaker's getting the most pork or how much the Pentagon is paying for its toilet seats these days.

-- Now you can search the world's largest unclassified database of terrorism incidents, which categorizes 80,000 attacks geographically and by weapon, type and perpetrator, courtesy of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland:

-- Pay your respects to former federal government Web sites at the U.S. Government Printing Office's "cyber cemetery," where you can access electronic publications from now-defunct government sites or those once hosted by the GPO. Included: the Web site of the federal board that investigated the 2003 shuttle Columbia accident, and the site of the now-disbanded Coalition Provisional Authority, which ran Iraq immediately after the U.S. invasion. It's at

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Ketchikan, Alaska