Meanwhile, the Sentencing Project, a nonprofit group that tracks criminal-justice issues, issued a report highlighting yet another horrendous aspect of the drug war: More than 80 percent of women prisoners are mothers, and 70 percent of them are single. Two out of three have kids under 18.

The Welfare Reform Act of 1996, product of a coalescence of Clinton Democrats and conservatives, included a little-noticed section that denies welfare benefits to 92,000 women in prison for drugs, as well as to their 135,000 children. Meanwhile, ex-offenders who served time for murder or other violent crimes are fully eligible for welfare benefits.

Forty-two states have the ban in whole or in part, with eight states (including New York and Connecticut), along with the District of Columbia, opting out. Of the 92,000 women affected by the law, the largest clusters are in California (37,825), Illinois (10,298), and Georgia (8608).

Just who the law is aimed at is clear: poor women, especially those of color. Overall, 48 percent of the women are African American or Latina. In five states—Alabama, Delaware, Illinois, Mississippi, and Virginia—the majority of the women are black.

Big Governor Is Watching You
Terror From On High

Cloaked in the favorite conservative lingo of states' rights, the Bush administration has drawn up a proposal that ought to give even the president's staunchest backers the willies. Presented as a draft, the "Model State Emergency Health Powers Act," written by the Centers for Disease Control, sets forth procedures and rules so that a state government could respond to a sudden outbreak of smallpox, anthrax, or other form of bioterror attack. Granting governors the power to declare a "bioterrorism emergency," the proposal, as originally written, would have allowed them to quarantine the population, take property, and ration food and guns. People who don't go along could be jailed.

The act has been introduced in 12 state legislatures and is expected to be scrutinized by every state legislative body sometime this year. Key provisions:

• Governors could declare a public health emergency without consulting the legislature, courts, or public health officials.

• An "emergency" could be prompted by any "disease caused by a living organism" that "may, or may not, be transmissible from person to person, animal to person, or insect to person." This definition, in the eyes of some, could include the flu or other ordinary viral illnesses.

• Public health officials could quarantine people "suspected of having" an "infectious disease," make vaccination mandatory, order medical exams, and fine doctors if they don't comply.

• The state could mobilize its "organized militia," presumably the National Guard, and seize control of private property, including "communication devices, real estate, fuels, food, clothing, and health care facilities."

So far, three states—South Dakota, Utah, and New Mexico—have enacted the law, and a version has passed the Florida legislature. Similar proposals have been defeated in four states: Idaho, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. In New York, the law has been introduced and is being considered by the state senate's public health committee.

There's a Hole in That Theory
Pentagon Unscathed?

The bestseller in Paris, according to's French operations, is September 11: The Frightening Fraud (L'Effroyable Imposture), by lefty Green Party "journalist" and Voltaire Network luminary Thierry Meyssan. He claims that the Pentagon was never hit by a plane and that the U.S. establishment, led by the Pentagon disinformation gang, thought the whole thing up.

Dismissed as nuts by most French journalists, the book nonetheless has soared on the Internet. "This theory suits everyone," snapped Le Nouvel Observateur. "There are no Islamic extremists, and everyone is happy. It eliminates reality."

Some have suggested that the book is a spoof relying on the same French sense of humor that elevated Jerry Lewis to a comic genius.

Say What?

"The administration is always concerned with and committed to finding ways to create a peaceful environment in the Middle East for the difficult issues there to be resolved." —Ari Fleischer, at an April 1 White House briefing

Additional reporting: Gabrielle Jackson, Meritxell Mir, and Michael Ridley

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