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March 26, 2006

Talking "Doomsday" in D.C.

WaPo scribbler Dana Milbank had a wry commentary in Friday's fishwrap about here 'n' there meetings in official D.C. -- all dealing with hypothetical catastrophes: "Happy Doomsday To You!" -- cute title.

"It began with a breakfast meeting in a Senate office building where, over fruit salad and bagels, government and academic experts discussed the coming avian flu pandemic...."

"Next: the mid-morning news conference on mad cow disease at the National Press Club. There, a beef producer explained why he is suing the government for not letting him test his cattle for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, an "invariably fatal, progressive, incurable, neurodegenerative disease" that can be transmitted to people....."

"For those who still had an appetite, there was a luncheon meeting of the National Economists Club at the Chinatown Garden restaurant on H Street, where Congressional Budget Office economist Bob Shackleton was explaining the "high-end" global-warming projections, which have Earth's temperature growing by five degrees Celsius -- nine degrees Fahrenheit -- this century."

Milbank went back and forth between the meetings, while noting that President Bush fielded a question last week regarding the end of the world:

"When President Bush went to Cleveland on Monday, a questioner asked him about a claim 'that members of your administration have reached out to prophetic Christians who see the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism as signs of the apocalypse. Do you believe this, that the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism are signs of the apocalypse?'

"'I haven't really thought of it that way,' the president said. 'The first I've heard of that, by the way.'

"But maybe not the last, if yesterday's collection of end-of-days warnings was any indication."

And on to a so-so close:

"Shackleton said the likely temperature increase this century would be between one and five degrees Celsius, and the average rise in sea levels one to three feet. There is, he continued, 'also the possibility of relatively abrupt shifts where the climate system could experience a dramatic shift.'

"The good news: We 'won't be alive when most of the effects occur,' he said.

"The bad news: We all will have succumbed to bird flu and mad cow disease."


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