By LANCE GAY
Scripps Howard News Service
January 21, 2006
The brass aren't happy at restrictions put on movements of Guard troops to hot spots like Afghanistan and Iraq, and want to redirect money away from the Guard to regular forces that can be more readily deployed. The Pentagon says the plan, to be included in next year's budget, would leave the Guard with a force sufficient to deal with natural disasters, civil unrest and other domestic emergencies.
But governors of the states and Guard leaders are gearing up to fight the plan with a lobbying blitz in Congress aimed at keeping Guard forces at current levels.
Swains looking for Valentine's Day goodies take note: the bloom is off the idea of low-cal chocolate. Confectionary News, a publication that tracks the candy industry, reports that sales of low-cal and sugarless chocolate fell unexpectedly by a third last year. Your message this 2/14: If you are going for something really sinful, don't be chintzy with the sweeter parts.
It's not just members of Congress who are being given luxury vacations at spas and golfing resorts. The Senate Finance Committee is demanding that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid explain the lavish partying that went on last year at the exclusive Don CeSar Beach Resort in Florida.
The session was supposedly a Tri-Regional Conference at which contractors earning more than $300 million in federal contracts were to discuss improving Medicare and Medicaid services. Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said his office found post-conference pictures posted on the Internet depicting lavish dinners, dessert buffets and beach parties that had nothing to do with federal programs for the poor and elderly.
The burgeoning lobbying scandals roiling the nation's capital are ringing few bells with voters back home.
A Pew Research Center survey finds that only 18 percent of those asked were following the Jack Abramoff scandal. That compares with 40 percent of voters who are following news developments in Iraq.
It took only minutes after the announcement that the Navy has decided to christen its next guided-missile destroyer after the late Vice Adm. James Stockdale for Internet wags to proclaim that the ship's motto will be "Who are we, why are we here?"
Stockdale is the former Vietnam prisoner of war and Medal of Honor winner who ran for the vice-presidential nomination with Ross Perot in 1992, and is fondly remembered for his anxious appearance at a televised debate, where he asked: "Who am I, why am I here?"
The State Department is saying goodbye to the print edition of Hi magazine, a glossy effort launched in 2003 to portray American values to Arabic-speaking audiences. After spending $4.5 million, the government found that the magazine was having little impact, but is continuing the Internet version at www.himag.com.
In spite of special vetting procedures imposed after 9/11, federal investigators say they are continuing to unearth cases of illegal aliens who are getting work on military bases, at nuclear plants and on other supposedly secured sensitive federal facilities.
The latest case involves 11 illegal aliens found working on construction projects at a naval air station in Fort Worth, Texas. What's embarrassing investigators about this development is that, just two years ago, new procedures were imposed after 21 illegal aliens were rounded up working at the same facility.
In the last two months, illegal aliens have been uncovered working at hurricane-ravaged oil and chemical refineries in New Orleans, a military installation at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, and a Navy base in Belle Chasse, La.
Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.shns.com
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