Nation

Head Start: The GOP wants to cut the preschool program by $1.2 billion, reducing slots for kids by 150,000.

College lending: Republicans aim to cut it by $1.6 billion, eliminating funding for more than 1.4 million poor students.

Smaller classes: Forget it. Despite the fevered talk about upping kids' achievement, the government proposes to spend $310 million less on schools, nixing the hiring of 6600 teachers and denying 20,000 children a chance to get into smaller classes.

After-school programs: Tough luck. Politicians blab on about helping "little momma" and wring their hands over school massacres, when in fact they could care less. With over three-quarters of all women with school-age children working, 5 million kids are left unsupervised every afternoon, the time when research shows they get into violent crime. Bush wants to cut after-school and summer school programs by over $160 million, removing places for 215,000 kids.

Child Care: The GOP wants to cut spending on this block grant by more than $30 million, resulting in 9500 fewer child care opportunities. "Nationally, only one in 10 children who are eligible for child care assistance under federal law receives any help," writes the Economic Policy Institute. "In many states, the cost of child care now outstrips the cost of attending a public college."

Unemployment: The Republican spending plan would cut assistance to dislocated workers by about $305 million, affecting services for almost 135,000 workers.

Meanwhile, the administration's task force on saving the government retirement plan is toying with the idea of making people work longer and cutting payouts. The pols are also looking at converting Social Security to private investment accounts, a move that would put individual benefits at risk while providing aid—in the form of brokerage and management fees—to Wall Street millionaires. That way, Bush and his supporters argue, Joe Six Pack will cash in on the stock market boom—uh, bust.


Guards Ask Passengers to Drink Up
Hydro Planing

Flying today is already a nightmare, what with rushing to the airport early for security check-ins, waiting endlessly for planes to take off, and arriving at your destination hours (sometimes days) late.

Now there appears to be a new sticking point: carry-on beverages. Last week on a Northwest Airlines flight from Washington's Reagan National airport to Minneapolis, passengers were asked to empty metal out of their pockets and change purses and then, with security cops watching, take a drink out of any bottle of water they were carrying. One passenger tells the Voice anyone carrying a coffee cup was asked to sip from that, too.

"Well, yes, it's part of the security screening procedure," says Northwest spokesperson Kathy Peach. "If there is an open bottle of liquid of whatever, they may ask someone to take a sip of it to make sure the contents coincide with what's in the label."

In other words, the cups and bottles might have been poisoned or filled with explosive liquids or agents of biological warfare. It is common for a Secret Service taster to nibble the food in a restaurant where the president is about to dine, but testing the drinking water of every airplane passenger in the U.S. is quite an undertaking.

What if you get caught carrying an innocent-looking bottle of water that doesn't meet the gate staff's standards? Jail? Having your stomach pumped? What if you're carrying medical supplies, like Pepto-Bismol, cough syrup, saline solution, or urine samples? Do you have to drink out of opened perfume?

When the Federal Aviation Agency in Washington was asked if this was a new security precaution, they referred the caller to a New York office. A spokesperson in New York said security measures were the airlines' responsibility, not the government's. Nonetheless, he explained, the FAA never discloses security measures. Asked why, he said, "Common sense."


Additional reporting: Ariston-Lizabeth Anderson and Rouven Gueissaz

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