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Washington Calling

Daylight saving ... cost overruns ... affinity cards ... more
Scripps Howard News Service


February 25, 2007
Sunday AM

WASHINGTON -- Are you aware that daylight-saving time begins in about two weeks?

Rep. Ed Markey doubts you are, and he's goosing the Department of Transportation to get on the stick and spread the word.




The Massachusetts Democrat led Congress in 2005 to bump up the spring time switch by three weeks, and March 11 is the first time the change takes effect.

Concern is growing that many computers and other digital devices won't recognize the time change because they were programmed before 2005. Microsoft and other companies are alerting customers that they should install software updates to avoid disruption and confusion.

But Markey says Transportation, the agency in charge of educating the public about the change, has done little to publicize the fast-approaching date.

Indeed, as of late this week, neither the Transportation homepage - - nor its "FAQ" or news links had a word on the change.


The U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, an underground behemoth that will serve both to boost security and educate tourists, is falling even further behind schedule. Since November alone, construction slipped by two months, pushing the center's completion date from October to December 2007. This time, the main problem was delays in installing the fire-alarm and smoke-control systems, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Originally scheduled to open in 2005 at a cost of $265 million, the center now is likely to debut in early 2008 at nearly double the cost, GAO auditors predict.


Move over, affinity credit cards. The new way to contribute to a cause is via cell phone. Just launched is Planned Parenthood Wireless, which will reap 10 percent of the wireless charges racked up by pro-choice consumers who sign up for the plan. Subscribers also will receive free calls between plan members, who can keep their current mobile-phone numbers, and those who sign up by March 31 will get a free camera phone.


Maybe they could build a wall.

Despite billions spent to combat invasive species brought into the United States in recent years, there are more invaders than ever before. Everglades Park rangers have resorted to implanting radio transmitters inside seven Burmese pythons caught in the marshland, using them to find and kill more of their own kind. Ash borers and an oak disease are threatening to cost the timber industry upward of $30 billion.

Exotic pet imports are blamed for many of the critter problems, but a new Nature Conservancy report says the biggest culprits are plant pests that hitchhike into the United States on board some 2.5 billion live plants imported into the country each year. The study calls on the Agriculture Department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to revise its rules to confine imports to more restrictive holding areas until they can be thoroughly assessed for disease or pests.

But Ag official David Tenney recently told a conference that he fears the effort to stop invasive species "is not a battle we are going to win ultimately."


Legion are the tales of toddlers and grannies being stopped and searched by airport security personnel because their names resemble those of suspected bad guys on the government's "no-fly" list.

According to a high-tech firm that ran the names of famous folk through the roster of possible terrorists - which also calls up any possible aliases that share elements with the name of the person in question, no matter how great the stretch - presidential candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama might find themselves pulled aside by the Transportation Security Administration.

When tech firm S3 Matching Technologies ran the candidates' names through the TSA list, up popped a host of people with names the database flagged as similar: Brisco O'Finn and Birza Ovum (for Obama); Jawan Meihuizen (McCain), and Hilaraye Calandan (Clinton).


Seems military base realignment is as controversial overseas as it has been stateside. Last year, there were angry demonstrations in South Korea objecting to U.S. plans to relocate American troops and enlarge some bases to accommodate them. Now, ultra-leftist extremists in Japan are claiming credit for detonating explosives just outside Camp Zama this week to protest U.S. military realignment there. And in Italy, thousands turned out this past week to protest the doubling in size of the U.S. base near the northern city of Vicenza.


SHNS correspondent Lee Bowman contributed to this column.
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