Washington Recap

Posted 6:00 p.m. Oct. 8

By Zeb Eckert
U-WIRE Washington Bureau

Bush calls for $320 million to help Afghans

President Bush said Friday he wants the United States to make good on its promise to deliver $320 million in food and medical supplies to Afghanistan.

The aid could shore up support for the U.S. campaign against the ruling Taliban in Afghanistan and provide desperately needed supplies as winter approaches in the region.

The plans would include military air-drops and land distribution of food using mules that travel over mountain passes from Tajikistan.

Some of the supplies would be sent to Pakistan, where more than 1.2 million Afghan refugees live in camps along the border.

Critics of air drops note their ineffectiveness in getting the supplies to the right individuals often because they end up in the hands of people who need them least.

Washington area prepares for bioterrorism

Days after a man in Florida died because of exposure to anthrax, Washington area authorities said they are pooling resources and plans in the event of a biological or chemical threat.

District officials said they plan to expand their emergency health and medical services office from five to 64 people and the Washington Hospital Center is quickly working to finish a $2.2 million mass casualty emergency room.

A mass response plan is still in the works, but initial plans call for postal workers to distribute antidotes and military field hospitals that could be set up within 72 hours.

Federal officials insist Americans should work to educate themselves about what to do if such an attack would occur rather than panic. Congress is working on a $1.4 billion package for state and local officials to bolster their response to biological or chemical contaminants.

National unemployment remains at 4.9 percent

Job losses after the Sept. 11 attacks added to an already struggling economy, the Labor Department reported Friday.

The unemployment rate held at 4.9 percent as businesses slashed close to 200,000 jobs, the largest cuts in more than a decade.

The numbers released Friday do not include an estimated 200,000 airline layoffs that came after the attacks.

Just one year ago, unemployment fell to a decade low of 3.9 percent.

Last Wednesday, President Bush recommended a $75 billion economic stimulus package which he said would revive the ailing job market.

Secret court cranks out secret warrants

A well-hidden government court is busy cranking out classified warrants for federal agencies like the CIA and FBI.

The seven-member court located in Washington has been busy since Sept. 11 approving requests for surveillance on suspected terrorists and others connected with the attacks on Washington and New York.

In 1999, the court issued 886 surveillance warrants compared to 484 in 1992.

Members of the court are selected by the Supreme Court Chief Justice to serve staggered 7-year terms. The group meets every other week in a secure room at the Justice Department.

The court is a point of controversy for some government officials because of its secrecy. It was created in 1978 by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

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