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Washington Calling

A new danger in Iraq ... Kisses ... Another $1 coin ... More
Scripps Howard News Service


February 03, 2007

WASHINGTON -- Remember these three letters: EFP.

What they represent may soon supplant IEDs as the most feared insurgent weapon in Iraq.

EFP - for "explosively formed projectile" - is the new acronym of death for U.S. troops, who are increasingly falling victim to such bombs on the already treacherous byways of Iraq. Unlike "improvised explosive devices," these weapons pack enough punch to fell a mighty Abrams tank, something the relatively crude IEDs only aspire to do.

Adding to the menace of these new bombs - made with pipes, explosives and copper disk heads - is the belief by analysts that they can be tied directly to Iran, which possesses the machine-milling technology to produce the more sophisticated devices.

If these devices proliferate in Iraq, and are definitively linked to Iran, the drumbeats for a forceful confrontation with Tehran will only gain volume in the more hawkish - and often influential - corners of the administration.


Speaking of long shots, Sen. Arlen Specter is pushing to allow TV coverage of the Supreme Court. The Pennsylvania lawmaker, who is the top GOP member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, just introduced a measure that would bar cameras only if a majority of the justices felt the rights of a litigant would be violated.

A hidebound anachronism in the e-age, the court has repeatedly shuddered at the thought of its public hearings being seen by anyone but the 100-or-so spectators who can snag seats there. Specter says he is encouraged by new Chief Justice John Roberts' promise during his Senate confirmation hearing to keep an open mind on the issue. Rookie Justice Samuel Alito also gives Specter hope because of his vote as an appeals-court judge to permit TV coverage in the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.


In another attempt to bring some sunshine to the judicial branch, two GOP lawmakers want Congress to establish an inspector general to look over the shoulders of federal judges and courts.

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin say it's high time an independent entity is empowered to root out potential waste, fraud, abuse and ethics violations in the federal circuit and appeals court systems. Grassley's measure would allow the IG to investigate alleged misconduct within the Supreme Court, as well.

If the IG were established, it would join similar overseers who watchdog 60 executive branch agencies, boards and commissions, and even some congressional operations.


The U.S. Postal Service has gone all sweet on the Hershey Co., pairing up with the chocolate industry giant for a Valentine sweepstakes and designing a stamp that celebrates the 100th anniversary of Hershey's venerable candy Kiss.

The Post Office's annual love stamp this year features a foil-wrapped Kiss, superimposed on a red heart. The sweepstakes offers $10,000 for a romantic getaway to the person who comes closest to guessing the number of Kisses that can fit into a Priority Mail flat-rate box. The contest deadline is Feb. 15. Get "Guess & Win" entry forms at your local Post Office or at


Feb. 15 will bring more federal fun, when a new $1 coin goes into circulation that day. Following the flop that was the Sacagawea dollar coin (and the Susan B. Anthony one before that), Congress decided to go back to the tried-and-true approach, authorizing a series of coins in 2005 with a presidential visage on the front and the Statue of Liberty on the back. Each year, four presidents will be featured, starting this year with George Washington through James Madison. The hope is that people will be as enthusiastic about collecting these coins as they were the 50-state quarters.


There's little sweetness and light these days inside the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which is riven by a hissing match between Reps. Joe Baca and Loretta Sanchez, both California Democrats. The new Web site reports that Sanchez quit the caucus because she said chairman Baca called her a "whore." Baca called her claim "baseless." Sanchez criticized the conduct of last year's caucus leadership election and said Baca has a bad attitude toward women lawmakers. Baca called that "categorically untrue," as well. And so it goes.


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