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Better cable choices? ... Heavy armor ... More
Scripps Howard News Service


February 10, 2006

WASHINGTON - Expect federal regulators to speed new cost-cutting cable-TV choice plans.

In a startling about-face, the Federal Communications Commission says it was flat wrong about the costs to consumers in letting them pick and choose which cable channels they want - known in the industry as a la carte options.

The agency acknowledges that consumer groups were correct, that they could enjoy big savings by picking only the channels they want.

Consumer groups predict speedy FCC approval of new choice plans.





The demise of the Cold War threatened to beach the U.S. Navy's prized fleet of nuclear submarines, but the admirals are now mapping ambitious plans to refit the underwater Navy for clandestine operations in the global war on terrorism.

The new idea: fleets of submarines carrying newly created U.S. Marine special-operation units, which can be covertly landed at hot spots around the world, and have their beachheads backed up with submarine-launched cruise missiles. To find the money for the ambitious program, the admirals intend early retirement for the USS John F. Kennedy carrier. That would then mean an 11-carrier Navy.

The admirals are dyspeptic about the Great White Fleet's diminished role in the fighting in landlocked Afghanistan and Iraq, and fear the service is heading for hard times unless new roles are found for Navy ships.


More than four years after 9/11, the Transportation Security Administration is closing a loophole that has permitted passengers using Manhattan's helicopter services to evade passenger screening as they rush to get onto flights at New York's crowded JFK Airport. Such passengers will soon begin undergoing screening.

Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., is pushing for even more security, contending that the safety of passengers using the popular helicopter services in New York have been overlooked in the aftermath of the 9/11 security crackdown. Weiner wants the federal government to impose additional security measures that would require helicopters to avoid flying over any buildings in New York, and adopt flight plans requiring them to fly only over water as they carry passengers back and forth to JFK.


GIs patrolling Iraq are howling over Pentagon directives that they wear additional hefty side and neck body armor. The expanded kits bring to almost 75 pounds the amount of weight GIs have to carry in Iraq's withering desert heat, and the rank and file say the weight hampers their ability to get out of harm's way.

The brass says it is aware of the problem and is studying alternative lightweight armor. Still, the military is shipping thousands of units of the new armor to Iraq in the next three months.


A warning to the drivers of those huge SUVs: Watch out for that blind spot behind you, and remember that you can't see kids standing behind your car.

The advocacy group Kids and Cars says that more than 100 children were killed in the United States last year because of backup accidents involving suburban utility vehicles. Group founder Janette Fennel says some manufacturers have added sensors in the bumpers to warn drivers of objects behind them, but she said nothing is better than the drivers actually walking behind the vehicles to see what's there before backing up.


Congress is scaling back on 1998 federal laws denying convicted drug offenders from getting federal student aid. Under the change, students once convicted of drug offenses won't automatically lose eligibility to get student aid. And only those currently enrolled in college will jeopardize their federal loans if they are busted for drugs.


Quotable: "Using natural gas to generate electricity is like washing your dishes in good scotch." - Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, commenting on electrical utilities that have gone from coal-burning units to natural gas.


Contact Lance Gay at GayL(at)
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Ketchikan, Alaska