By LISA HOFFMAN
Scripps Howard News Service
March 25, 2007
Although the head of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization says troops are now finding about half of the IEDs planted by insurgents before they detonate, House and Senate leaders say they're not happy that the task force, created in 2005, has so far spent just a fraction of its budget and has little to show for even that.
Look for congressional auditors to weigh in soon - before decisions are made on how much of next year's $4 billion budget request should be approved for the organization.
Meanwhile, now comes "CSI: Iraq."
U.S. Marines are applying crime-scene detective skills to gather evidence from the aftermath of IED explosions to help in the prosecution in Iraqi courts of the perpetrators. So far, they've processed about 50 crime scenes and provided evidence that led to two guilty verdicts.
Pardon, can you spare a few tons of yellowcake?
As the United States moves back toward building new nuclear-power plants for the first time in decades, Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Thomas Neff warns that beyond their big capital costs, new nuke plants may not be so cheap to fuel, either.
The world price for uranium has gone from $10 to $85 a pound in just a few years, and only a trickle of the stuff is still being mined in the United States. Leading producers: Australia, Canada, Namibia and Kazakhstan. A growing appetite for uranium in China, India and Russia is also helping run up costs and sap supplies.
Counterintuitive though it may seem, the National Democratic Club is one of the last few smoker-friendly venues on Capitol Hill. So who was spotted there recently? House GOP leader John Boehner of Ohio, a notorious chain smoker, whose office said he was there on a goodwill mission to build bridges over the raging partisan divide in Congress. Given that the Capitol Hill Club, the GOP's counterpart hangout, is smoke-free, others wondered if Boehner might not have sought out the Democratic outpost as a friendly smokers' refuge.
If so, he likely won't have long to enjoy it. The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, an association of gay and lesbian Dems, is raising a stink about the smoking policy and aims to push the club to stub out the practice.
Sen. Dick Durbin took a forceful stand against rats on Capitol Hill recently, but now it's the Illinois Democrat who's getting a drubbing. It wasn't a lobbyist or a lawmaker of the opposing party Durbin whomped, but a real rat he confronted in the townhouse he shares with three other members of Congress. Beat it to death with a golf club, and bragged about it.
That ticked off People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who suggested the legislators clean up their "Animal House"-like abode, which they admit has all the ambience of a frat house. PETA flayed him for making light of beating an animal to death and suggested the roomies clean up their home and yard, and use humane traps.
It took a mighty effort last year, including bulldog tenacity by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. And the Military Order of the Purple Heart won its battle to get the U.S. Postal Service to re-issue the special, first-class Purple Heart stamp when postage prices last rose. Now, with first-class stamps set to increase from 39 cents to 41 cents this spring, the group hopes the postmaster general will issue the stamp in perpetuity, in honor of those who have shed blood on the battlefield for their country.
Talk about immigration delays: It took 230 years, but now Casimir Pulaski has been named an honorary U.S. citizen. The Revolutionary War hero from Poland came to our shores in 1777 to help the new country be born, and won lasting acclaim as the "father of the American cavalry." The Senate unanimously granted citizenship this week to the Pole, who died in 1779 during the Battle of Savannah.
"Gore was a bit heavy when I talked to him, and it's long been said of Gore that you know he's running if he loses weight. People who've seen him since my interview tell me he's lost some weight." - XM Satellite Radio host Bob Edwards, quoted by the DC Examiner newspaper, on whether Al Gore will run for president.
Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.scrippsnews.com
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