The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted in favor of anti-terror legislation designed to let commercial airline pilots carry firearms in the cockpit.
The bill would allow firearms for more than 70,000 pilots if they agree to be trained and certified by the federal Transportation Security Administration.
It also provides liability relief to the pilots and airlines for damage which may be caused by the use of such guns aboard planes.
"It is imperative that under these new circumstances, we must allow trained and qualified pilots to serve as the last line of defense against such a potential disaster," says Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, chairman of the House Transportation Committee.
However, the bill lacks the support of key Senate leaders. The White House also opposes the measure, saying the presence of air marshals and stronger cockpit doors are safer options. Opponents fear stray bullets could strike passengers or damage the cockpit.
"I find it incredulous that we would ask the TSA to take on the additional responsibility for training pilots when we should be concentrating our resources on putting federal air marshals on 100 percent of all flights," said Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Texas Democrat.
Pilots, concerned about hijackings, have requested they be allowed to carry firearms in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that claimed more than 2,800 lives.
-- Would Sept. 11 have happened if pilots had been armed with handguns?
-- Should flight attendants be granted government permission to carry non-lethal weapons such as stun guns and batons, as they have requested?
(Thanks to UPI's Roy E. Clark)
WAR WITH IRAQ?
President George W. Bush and his advisers are reviewing plans for a massive, full-scale military conquest of Iraq that would require five ground force divisions numbering 200,000, two Marine Corps divisions, and 15 wings of U.S. fighters and bombers, according to key administration officials.
These officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, say Britain is expected to provide as many as 25,000 troops.
"I'm involved in the military planning, diplomatic planning, financial planning ... reviewing all the tools at my disposal," the president said.
Bush stresses, as he has in the past, that it is his firm intention to get rid of Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein.
The president says he is a "patient person ... but I do firmly believe that the world will be safer and more peaceful if there's a regime change in that government."
The president and other officials have repeatedly said that military action is only one of the options they are looking at to impose a regime change in Iraq.
According to U.S. intelligence sources, Kuwait would be the leading staging base of the huge operation. Sources say there are already advance elements of five American divisions in Kuwait searching for sites to quarter U.S. troops and set up advanced communications and logistics networks.
-- Will the world be a safer place without Saddam Hussein in power?
-- How do we know a new regime in Iraq would be an improvement?
(Thanks to UPI Terrorism Correspondent Richard Sale, and UPI Chief White House Correspondent Nicholas M. Horrock.
FARRAKHAN PRAYS FOR PEACE
Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan is denying an Iraqi News Agency report quoting him as saying he hopes Iraq wins any military confrontation with the United States.
The INA quoted Farrakhan as saying, "Muslim American people are praying to the almighty God to grant victory to Iraq."
"That absolutely is not true," Farrakhan said in a broadcast interview from South Africa.
"The victory for Iraq as well as for the United States of America would be peace so that no United States soldier would be put in harms way, or one bomb dropped on the Iraqi people."
Farrakhan, accompanied by Christian clergy, a Muslim imam, representatives of the Nation of Islam and journalists, visited Iraq last weekend as part of a peace mission.
"I would never ask God to allow the American people, of whom I am one, to be slaughtered in a war or to die in a war for really what I see is a vendetta of our government against Saddam Hussein," Farrakhan said.
Farrakhan has met Saddam in the past and has expressed opposition to reported U.S. plans to topple the Iraqi leader.
In remarks posted on the Nation's of Islam's Web site, Farrakhan said, "The hatred for the American government and its policies -- not for the American people -- is not subsiding, but increasing" in the Muslim world.
-- In a democracy, isn't hating the government and hating the people that elected the government, one in the same?
-- Why is hatred for America increasing in the Muslim world?