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Washington in brief

Government, pilots at odds over guns

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 27, 2003

WASHINGTON - After a slow start in training pilots to carry guns, the government said Tuesday it has filled its weekly classes and expects to arm all qualified pilots who volunteer within a year.

An association of pilots says, however, that the government is discouraging volunteers by insisting on psychological testing, requiring lockboxes to carry weapons and holding training at a single remote site.

Fewer than 200 passenger airline pilots have been deputized to carry a weapon since Congress ordered the program in November.

"We should have thousands, not hundreds," said Capt. Bob Lambert, president of the Airline Pilots' Security Alliance, a grass roots organization with members from all major U.S. airlines.

Lambert spoke at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in one of several press conferences held around the country to urge the Bush administration to speed up the program.

John Moran, who heads the program, said it's meeting the demand. "The great majority of those who have volunteered will be trained within a year."

Dean starts ads, pressuring opponents

WASHINGTON - Democrat Howard Dean launched a $1-million television ad campaign in six early voting states Tuesday, promising to take his surging presidential bid nationwide while rivals focus on New Hampshire and Iowa.

"We intend to beat George Bush, but in order to do it we have to campaign in all 50 states," Dean said in a telephone interview. "This is the rollout."

In a show of political strength, the former Vermont governor will begin airing a new ad Friday in selected markets in Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Washington state and Wisconsin. No campaign has ventured to the nation's four corners with political spots.

The move forces Dean's eight Democratic rivals to reconsider their ad-buying strategies.

Dean shook up the primary race this summer, collecting the most money in the fundraising period that ended June 30 and displaying his grass roots appeal with a four-day August campaign swing that drew thousands.

Polls show him leading in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two presidential contests in 2004.

Dean expects to raise $10.3-million in the quarter ending Sept. 30, said campaign manager Joe Trippi. That is the amount former President Bill Clinton raised in the same period in 1995, the best performance by any Democratic presidential candidate in a quarter the year before an election.

Report finds rise in classified spending

WASHINGTON - "Black," or classified, programs requested in President Bush's 2004 defense budget are at the highest level since 1988, according to a report prepared by the independent Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

The center concluded that classified spending next fiscal year will reach about $23.2-billion of the Pentagon's total request for procurement and research funding. When adjusted for inflation, that is the largest dollar figure since the peak reached during President Ronald Reagan's defense buildup 16 years ago. The amount in 1988 was $19.7-billion, or $26.7-billion if adjusted for inflation, according to the center.

"It's puzzling. It sets the mind to wondering where the money's going," said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a research group in Alexandria, Va., that has been critical of the administration's defense priorities.

Pike said part of the surge in the classified budget probably can be explained by increases for the Central Intelligence Agency's covert action programs, which are central to the war on terrorism.


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