Ten years after

What a week. At the 10th anniversary celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall, George not Dubyuh) Bush was lauded for his leadership in ending the Cold War and made an honorary citizen of Berlin. But Bush was at best on the sidelines, at worst in the way of the currents that brought down the Wall and Iron Curtain in 1989. First he spurned Gorbachev's gestures, then he warned East Europeans against rashly claiming freedom and provoking a crackdown (wouldn't be prudent). But history loves a hero.

More credit where it's due

Meanwhile, Donald Trump announced that as president he'd pay off the national debt with a one-time levy on rich folks like himself. Financial pros called his calculations funny money. What'd they expect? Funny money gets casinos built. The Donald added that he knows he can be a contender because he scores high ratings on TV: "Geraldo Rivera says I'm a hot guest."

And Trump's Reform Party rival (and fellow rogue) Pat Buchanan got an expected endorsement from Lenora Fulani, the sometime Marxist, New Alliance presidential candidate, Farakhan ally, campaign finance scandal-maker, and Reform Party power-broker (to the extent there's power to be brokered). This left a hapless NPR reporter puzzling at length over just what Mr. Right and the "liberal" Fulani could have in common. If she's liberal, what's NPR?

So what could Buchanan and Fulani find to talk about? She could teach him how to score federal matching funds and get on the ballot in all the states. And they could vent about all the whiners who keep accusing them of anti-Semitism because of a little harmless Jew-baiting. Don't those nattering nabobs understand populism?

Feds to straits: Do it yourself

After a decade of dithering and debate, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has ended consideration of a proposed Northwest Straits National Marine Sanctuary north of Puget Sound. Sanctuary boosters had hoped such a designation for the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the waters around the San Juans would help prevent debacles like the current collapse in killer whale numbers. But the oil industry, concerned about intrusion on its shipping lanes, undermined the idea, as did endemic suspicion of the federal government in the straits communities; even some marine protection advocates doubted the feds' ability to deliver real safeguarding. In 1996, Congress ordered that any sanctuary also receive state certification, a requirement one advocate, Fred Felleman, calls "a death knell" for the scheme. But Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Jack Metcalf secured some consolation: the convening of a Northwest Straits Advisory Commission to seek other ways to protect the waters. Mike Sato, North Sound coordinator of People for Puget Sound, says this locally grounded effort is "building momentum" and adds, hopefully, that NOAA's recent decision "doesn't foreclose the possibility [of an eventual sanctuary]. It just makes it a little harder to get the effort back up again."

Moving (slowly) down the pipeline

How soon may we expect new federal measures to prevent disasters like the Bellingham pipeline explosion last June? Consider this precedent. Late last month, the US Department of Transportation ordered "that when [natural] gas pipeline operators find harmful external corrosion on buried metallic pipelines that have been exposed, they must investigate further to determine if additional harmful corrosion exists in the vicinity." Sounds basic: If you see rust, look for more. The rule doesn't even require that operators dig out around it.

Still, it took DOT ten years to adopt this rule after the National Transportation Safety Board proposed it in the wake of a 1986 Kentucky pipeline accident. Lucian M. Furrow, regulations manager at DOT's Research and Special Programs Administration, explains that the rule-making was slowed for "a variety of reasons"—a fable of governmental process. First the Bush administration placed a moratorium on new federal regulations. Then President Clinton "had his own priorities." Then the DOT office was occupied with "personnel changes" and decided to withdraw the proposed rule. But the Transportation Safety Board squawked, and the rule was reconsidered and finally adopted. Don't worry: Operators of gasoline pipelines like the one through Bellingham and the Seattle area are already required to look for more corrosion. Feel safer now?

Wasn't that a mighty storm . . .

Will Microsoft survive its courtroom upsets? If anyone ought to be used to weathering big storms, Bill Gates oughtta. On September 28, 1962, the first confirmed tornado ever to strike Western Washington also gave Gates his first brush with destiny. As the next morning's P-I recounted, the tornado "arose southwest of View Ridge Playfield [in Northeast Seattle] and swept across the William Gates home at 7308 44th Ave. NE." Its 100-mile winds flipped the Gates family's garage roof right over their house; the lad standing amidst the rubble in the P-I's front-page photo was a neighbor, however, not young Bill.

The real storm victims

As storms go, the recent rains and floods in Central Vietnam have been dreadful—the worst this century. Hundreds of thousands of people have been driven from their homes, and health and sanitation systems that were tenuous at best have been swept away. "Most roads are washed out, rice crops ruined, irrigation systems destroyed, and livestock drowned," the Greater Seattle Vietnam Association reports. It and Peacetrees Vietnam (a Seattle-based group that clears out leftover mines in the same region) have helped set up the Vietnam Flood Recovery Fund, using their conduits to speed relief to victims. Tax-deductible donations may be sent to the Fund c/o Louise Floresca at Key Bank, 700 5th Ave, Seattle 98104. For more information: 842-7986 or vizag@aol.com.

 
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