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Washington Calling

Heavy armor ... political lessons from Canada ... and more
Scripps Howard News Service


January 30, 2006

WASHINGTON - Hoping to head off attacks from Capitol Hill, Pentagon pooh-bahs are ordering soldiers in Iraq to add hefty armor to protect their sides.

There's already grumbling from the ranks, who aren't happy with the difficulties in carrying the 50 pounds of ceramic plating that goes with chest and back armor. The side vests could add another 20 pounds. Troops protest that the weight makes them less agile when trouble erupts - and even when there's no gunfire, Iraq's notorious 120 degree Fahrenheit summers translate into misery with that extra poundage.

The brass isn't backing down, contending the side armor could saves lives. Democrats have already made the lack of armor given troops in Iraq one of their big issues in this November's elections.





It could be a trend, but the Base Realignment and Closing Commission is following in the path of the 9/11 Commission and planning to stay around cozy Washington after it officially goes out of business in April.

The BRAC says it needs to ensure that its legacy is fully implemented. The 9/11 panel eventually gave up when many of its recommendations languished for lack of interest.


In spite of repeated government warnings, and the difficulties after Hurricane Katrina and the 9/11 attacks, most Americans haven't devised a family rescue plan or stockpiled for an emergency.

The Rand Corp. looked at earthquake-prone Los Angeles. Although polls show that nearly 60 percent of Los Angeles residents expect their city will be hit by terrorists in the next year, the Rand survey found that only 28 percent had gathered emergency supplies and barely 17 percent had devised a plan for reunifying the family after an emergency.


There are lessons from Canada, as Republican strategists warn that the defeat of Canada's Liberals in the midst of a corruption investigation points to troubles GOP incumbents face in America's polls this November.

Supporters of darkhorse Rep. John Shadegg of Arizona to be the next House Republican leader say the GOP needs to show that it is making real reforms or else it will feel voter wrath. In a letter obtained by The Hill newspaper, Shadegg supporters say Republicans could lose control of the House. "We must realize that the majority we have all worked so hard for is in jeopardy," it says, pointing to polls showing the plummeting standing of Congress.

P.S. Groups in support of public financing of campaigns are already e-mailing ads ridiculing Republicans for the scandals.


Consumer groups say annualized fees of 600 percent and 700 percent are outrageously usurous, but the paycheck-advance industry insists they're not deceptive. Henry Shyne, executive director of the Financial Services Centers of America, says customers who take out loans against their paychecks are sophisticated people who know what they are doing and find that taking out a brief loan against their next paycheck is often cheaper than paying late fees on overdue invoices, bounced check fees, credit-card advances or other alternatives.


With experienced staff leaving in droves, the demoralized Transportation Security Administration is permitting baggage screeners and other workers to become air marshals. The Project on Government Oversight says the TSA is lowering standards and that the government used to put a premium on marshals having at least some law-enforcement experience.


The IRS has scrapped plans to cut back on taxpayer-assistance call-in lines this tax season. The agency last year said it wanted to cut operating hours so taxpayers would make more use of the Internet to answer their questions.

But after Congress and the union representing IRS employees protested, the agency said it will maintain full service this year.


Contact Lance Gay at GayL(at)

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