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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - December 23, 2000, New Braunfels, Texas Opinions FORUM Letters I    HK.    ... ...........  ../l       -......................... ' ”    ,V'"'C$    T    ’    i 4Kk- New IIkaunhhi.sHerald-Zeitung New Braunfels Zeitung was founded 1852; New Braunfels Herald was founded 1890. The two papers merged in 1957 and printed in both German and English until 1958. Doug Toney, Editor and Publisher Margaret Edmonson, Managing Editor (830) 625-9144Kudos We would like to thank Brad Cox, the manager of Adobe Verde, for the 50 percent discount that he gave our class when we celebrated our successful completion of the TAAS test at Adobe Verde. We also would like to thank Mrs. Margie Skolaut and Communities in Schools for their support. Mrs. Rambo’s Class Canyon High School Marisol Flores Chris Perez Jose Lopez Elizabeth Medrano Todd Steeno Cecilia Nunez Robert Maggiani Justin Schaefer Nic Spearman As a disabled, retired U.S. Army veteran, I would like to thank the Downtown and Nev/ Braunfels Rotary clubs and the New Braunfels Breakfast and Evening Lions clubs for donating money toward the purchase of flags for use at local funeral homes. This past year, with the cooperation of local churches and organizations, I was able to raise funds for new flagpoles and flags that were distributed throughout the city. This past spring, I set out to do the same thing for local funeral homes to display flags during services for the deaths of veterans Most funeral homes have the American and Texas flag in the viewing room but not in the chapel area itself. When my efforts became difficult in accomplishing this second task, Michael Meek with the local chamber of commerce stepped in and offered to help raise the funds with the above mentioned local service organizations. Through his efforts during the past two months, this project soon will be a reality. The chamber really does ‘-‘do the things that most people think just happen”! Manuel Camareno MSG, U.S. Army (Ret.) I MUJ Wi n mn*.    ....    .    ,, I,, , viiT,•»i    ' Today in History By the Associated Press Today is Saturday, Dec. 23, the 358th day of 2000. There are eight days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: On Dec. 23, 1893, the Engelbert Humperdinck opera “Haensel und Gretel” was first performed, in Weimar, Germany. In 1783, George Washington resigned as commander in chief of the Army and retired to his home at Mount Vernon, Va. In 1823, the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement C. Moore was published in the Troy (N.Y.) Sentinel. In 1928, the National Broadcasting Company set up a permanent, coast-to-coast network. In 1941, during World War II, American forces on Wake Island surrendered to the Japanese. In 1948, former Japanese premier Hideki Tojo and six other Japanese war leaders were execut ed in Tokyo. In 1968, 82 crew members of the U.S. intelligence ship Pueblo were released by North Korea, 11 months after they had been captured. In 1975, Richard S. Welch, the Central Intelligence Agency station chief in Athens, was shot and killed outside his home. In 1980, a state funeral was held in Moscow for former Premier Alexei N. Kosygin, who had died Dec. 18 at age 76. In 1986, the experimental airplane Voyager, piloted by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, completed the first nonstop, round-the-world flight without refueling as it landed safely at Edwards Air Force Base in California. In 1997, a jury in Denver convicted Terry Nichols of involuntary manslaughter and conspiracy for his role in the Oklahoma City bombing. Book list for late yuletide shopping AUSTIN — Procrastinators of the world, unite! Be it resolved that we will be found from now until quite late on Christmas Eve solving all our Christmas shopping problems at the best one-stop shop in town, the bookstore — preferably a local bookstore. I firmly believe it is well worth going out of one’s way to shop at an independent bookstore. The importance of independent bookstores to a healthy culture is not to be overestimated, but if an independent is not available, all the chains now have fancy coffee. Then, of course, for the eternal procrastinator comes the problem of having bought a book for a loved one in Alaska two days before Christmas. You can always take them and dump them at one of those places that specializes in shipping things — this costs only a small fortune — but I believe the better part of valor is to carefully train your loved ones never to expect anything before Valentine’s Day. This adds a piquant element of surprise to their dull February days. We have an impressive array of public-affairs books for the thoughtful citizen to choose from this year, starting with two who were not afraid to tackle A Big Subject, as well as some fine novels and excellent Texana. “Humanity: A Moral History of the 20th Century” by Jonathan Glover (Yale University Press) is just what it sounds like: an ambitious attempt to understand how we could have done this to ourselves. Why these atrocities? In case you think that’s the most depressing book you ever heard of, I know someone who is writing on genocide through the ages. Besides, Glover has enough sense to pay attention to the exceptions as well as the rules — why did the Danes do such a remarkable job of saving Jews during World War II? Physicians try to understand the causes of human diseases, and so does Glover. Glover goes easily from the practical — the psychological remoteness of soldiers from ordinary life — to the similarities in the history of downward moral spirals — all the old arguments about the ends and the means, the difficulty of breaking through tribal identities, Molly Ivins the gradual erosion of restraint. It’s not cheerful, but it is fascinating, and certainly despair is not the answer. The slow growth of international law holds hope, but Glover in the end prefers the solutions of psychology, of training political and personal moral imagination to recognize cruelty. “Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies” by Jared Diamond (WW. Norton) has already won the Pulitzer Prize and is out in paperback. Diamond, a scientist, is engaged in history-ffom-a-different-viewpoint — specifically, the application of a great variety of scientific knowledge to the question of .why human societies are so different from one another. Why does someone bom in Papua, New Guinea, or Rwanda have such a radically different life from a Canadian or a Swede? And what happens, as now, when the societies come into ever greater proximity? Unlike most economics-based histories, “Guns, Germs and Steel” has a remarkably wide scope about differing cultures. “The Paradox of American Democracy: Elites, Special Interests and the Betrayal of Public Trust” by John B. Judis is a relatively narrow-focus study of where we are in American politics. The beauty of the mandatory subtitle in nonfiction these days is that it almost eliminates the need for book reviews. You know the subject matter — now all you need to know is that Judis is a good guy and a good writer with a killer instinct for happy hype. I found the total effect far less “Whew, we’re going to be all right” than “Holy hail, let’s get to work now.” Novels: For any intelligent woman of a certain age, Gloria Emerson’s “Loving Graham Greene” (Random House) is a special treat — funny, but not mean about American idealism and its oddities. “Blue Ridge” by TR. Pearson (Viking), a lovely writer, could be a mystery or a Southern novel or just about people. It’s a honey of a read. What a rich year for Texana it’s been. I should explain that I am not recommending books by friends, but most Texas writers are friends of mine simply by virtue of my having been around so long. Stephen Harrigan’s'“The Gates of the Alamo” (Knopf) has been widely praised as the almost unthinkable — a fresh look at the Alamo. Harrigan’s scholarship goes well beyond what he calls the Revised Standard Version, the debunking that got most of us past the enough-to-gag-a-maggot hyper-adulation on which we were raised. Even the Revised Standard Version (Sam Houston told those fools to get out of there) is not adequate to the debunking needs of this case, but it is still, after all, one great story. “Cherry” by Mary Karr (Viking) is the second volume by the memoirist from the Golden Triangle — living proof that you can grow up absolutely anywhere and still get literary material from it. This book is about being a female adolescent, a horrible fate; the best that can be said of it is that one does recover. The extraordinary thing about Karr, in addition to the poetry of her writing, is her stunning honesty. She calls it “writing without dignity,” without the self-delusions that we all use in the endless struggle to think better of ourselves. Absolute honesty, Uke all surprises, makes people laugh. For the all-purpose coffee-table book gift (covers entire families and couples of disparate tastes), I recommend a lovely book of photo essays by Rick Williams, “Working Hands” (Texas A&M University Press). Cowboys and roughnecks, sure, but high-tech workers and scientists, too. A lovely book of modem Texas. (Molly Ivins is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.)Don’t take military out of Military City, USA WASHINGTON — When United States Air Force officials convened this past week to announce their intention to award a $336 million Lackland Air Force Base service contract, they threatened to displace almost 900 San Antonio area workers and their families — effectively sending them into the New Year unemployed. Following two decision reversals and a meeting in my Capitol Hill office, senior Pentagon officials encouraged the Air Force to delay awarding the contract pending an investigation of the A-76 public-private competition bidding process. The Air Force relented, delayed the contract award and will participate in a thorough investigation of this process. Numerous mistakes committed by the Air Force highlight the need for a thorough investigation to ensure that the CIRO D. Rodriguez Lackland A-76 process and future competitions are conducted in a fair, impartial manner. Federal government employees and their families deserve nothing less. A-76 studies initiated by the Air Force are designed to compare bids by private contractors with the performance by government employees at military bases. Taking place across the country, the comparisons are supposed to encourage competitive bidding, improve effi ciency and reduce operating costs. These are all worthy goals — but only if the comparisons are conducted fairly. In the case of this Lackland A-76 study, serious questions were brought to my attention, which warranted my intervention. Earlier this year, the Air Force awarded the contract to the private bidder, then reversed itself after the federal employees appealed. Then, in a move that caught everyone by surprise, the Air Force again changed course, giving the contract back to the private bidder because of certain “inadvertent” Air. Force errors. This see-saw approach by the Air Force — which ignored the human impact:— certainly ruined the holiday season for many San Antonio area families in the process. More than the timing is off, however. Confused contract evaluations, a flawed cost comparison study, miscalculations, and bureaucratic explanations from ranking Air Force officials further underscore the need to re-examine the way our military conducts A-76 competitions. After the most recent tally, the difference in the two bids was only 0.2 percent of a nearly $350 million contract. Further, the appeal process for consideration of the contract awards is flawed Government employees are provided only one appeal opportunity but private contractors are afforded numerous opportunities to further examine an award. This isn’t right, and our federal employees deserve a level playing field. While I am pleased the Department of Defense and the Air Force have cho sen to delay granting the award, the victory is only temporary. The investigation — initiated by the bi-partisan, cooperative efforts of the local San Antonio Congressional Delegation and our two U.S. Senators — is the perhaps the final opportunity for the Air Force to set the record straight. I will continue to urge the Air Force to take all of the factors of the bidding process into consideration.    v The Alamo City’s labor force deserves better than the see-saw policies that have threatened the livelihoods of so many hard-working South Texans. It’s an investment in our city, our nation, and our national security that we cannot afford to lose. (Cire D. Rodriguez represents District 28 in the U.S. House of Representatives.) ;