WASHINGTON – Happy Columbus Day – one of only two federal holidays named for a person. (The other honors the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.)

That “Jeopardy” kind of trivia will be helpful on the soon-to-be-implemented written test for U.S. naturalization, where one question on the re-drafted test will cover federal holidays (the question is: name two). The U.S. Customs and Immigration Services expects to be administering the new test by next Columbus Day. Teacher training on the new exam begins this month, an agency spokeswoman said.

While the federal government celebrates Christopher Columbus’s botched circumnavigation today, some states take a different tack. In Hawaii, it’s Discoverers’ Day, while in Alabama, it’s American Indian Heritage/Columbus Day.

But why should Native Americans share a holiday with Columbus? Rep. Joe Baca, D-Calif., has introduced, as he has every year since 2001, a bill urging the recognition of a “Native American Heritage Day” that would “pay tribute to Native Americans for their many contributions to the United States.”

Baca wants to designate the Friday following Thanksgiving for the federal holiday.


A Grading Conference: President Bush is scheduled to participate Tuesday in a meeting on No Child Left Behind, a signature element of the Bush domestic policy agenda. As Congress moves to reauthorize the law, Bush is putting pressure on lawmakers not to water down what he views as key elements of the legislation. But it is not clear that the president can hold together a coalition to renew the bill, with conservatives rebelling against bigger government and liberals concerned about a test-taking culture they see as out of control.


Patching Up Veterans’ Health: The House Veterans Affairs Committee meets Wednesday to review the findings of the Veterans’ Disability Benefits Commission, which were released last week. The commission’s report included calls for an updated disability rating system that includes an evaluation of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. It also called for establishing a “holistic approach” to PTSD regarding compensation and treatment. The commission spent nearly three years studying the disability benefits system – the first time since 1956 that the system was given such a comprehensive review.

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