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Unofficial business

Even if a Notre Dame football game could be called official Air Force business, a C-20 Gulfstream III jet shouldn't be required to transport the Air Force secretary to it. Air Force Secretary Donald Rice thought otherwise, however, and took the jet to South Bend, Ind., to see his alma mater beat Air Force 57-27. His office also says he conducted "official business," meeting Notre Dame ROTC officials and cadets and discussing the school's program.

An ROTC commander disputed the report that any business transpired.

The cost to take Rice and his party in the jet from Washington to Notre Dame for the day's football excursion, payable by taxpayers, was estimated at $5,700, somewhat more than the price of commercial air fare.

It's likely there were some congressional budget negotiators who would have loved to have spent a crisp fall Saturday at a football game, too.

Trouble was, they were stuck in the capital that same weekend on "official business," trying to cut federal spending in order to come up with $500-billion worth of deficit reductions.

Such blatant waste not only increases the deficit. It also increases resistance to dealing with it.

A case of compassion

All they want is to clear their names before they die, which may be soon.

At issue is their conviction on drug charges, for possessing and growing marijuana, at their home in Panama City. Kenneth and Barbra Jenks, both AIDS patients, were only trying to find a little relief, in their final days, from the nausea and loss of appetite caused by the drugs they were taking to combat their disease.

As sentences go, theirs was humane, one year of unsupervised probation and 500 hours of community service, which they could perform by taking care of each other. Their appeal of the case is to be heard in court Oct. 29.

Nonetheless, they deserve their peace. They have made a personal appeal to Gov. Bob Martinez for a full pardon "to relieve us of this stress and to restore our good name. We don't want to die criminals. We're just trying to survive."

As nothing was served by their conviction, nothing is being served by withholding clemency from this couple. Compassion should lead the governor and Cabinet to grant their pardon.

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