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Whiz-bang weapons ... Bush Bug ... More
Scripps Howard News Service


April 15, 2005

Washington - The military is mum on the subject, but the number of secret programs developing whiz-bang weapons is soaring.

The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, which tracks secret weapons programs, estimates that the brass are seeking some $28 billion for so-called "black" programs next year - representing the largest increase since 1988, near the end of the Cold War.

That breaks down into $13.7 billion to research new weapons and $14.2 billion in purchases. It's a guessing game what's being built and bought because the Pentagon buries these programs under code names like Link Plumeria, Black Light, Chalk Coral and Lime Evergreen. Details on the programs are blacked out.

The greatest share of "black" budget spending is sought by the Air Force, responsible for satellites, satellite-control facilities and laser radar. The Air Force developed stealth bombers and fighters through the black budget.

Military officials last year told Congress they intend to provide more unclassified information on some weapons programs, which would allow lawmakers to publicly debate the merits and costs of the new weapons. But the generals and admirals made no new public disclosures in the budget they sent to Capitol Hill this year.

It pays to be svelte and good-looking - in more ways than one.

Federal Reserve analysts Kristie Engemann and Michael Owyang conclude that weight and height figure in employers' decisions on awarding pay raises each year.

The study, reported in the April issue of the Federal Reserve of St. Louis' Quarterly Review of Business and Economic Conditions, finds there's a "beauty premium" of about 5 percent for the better-looking among us and a "plainness penalty" of 9 percent for the uglier ducklings.

Obese white women had wage levels 17 percent below that of all women whose weight matched government-set standards for their height. Higher pay scales were also accorded taller males over their shorter brothers.

We're not sure how much of an honor it is, but entomologists have named three newly discovered slime-mold beetles in honor of President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The bugs, part of the fungus-eating genus Agathidium, are henceforth known as A. Bushi, A. Cheneyi and A. Rumsfeldi.

Among the latest dispatches from the war, the Stars and Stripes newspaper reports that some Air Force bases in Europe are requiring personnel to bring their own towels to fitness centers to save on laundry costs and pulling the plug on cable TV in officer billets.

The generals are under Pentagon orders to come up with $3 billion in savings to pay for the war on terrorism. Among other savings made by Air Force bases are forgoing costly color printing of church bulletins in favor of black-and-white and curtailing local cell-phone contracts.

Anthropologists are battling moves in Congress to give American Indians the rights to any remains dug up on their lands.

Scientists contend the remains give them invaluable insight into the diseases and diets of ancient Indian tribes, and they are intrigued by mysterious discoveries in Nevada and Washington state of remains that don't resemble the bone structure of native tribes living there.

The tribes say that all the grave robbing is insulting to their religious beliefs, and want their ancestors' remains taken from museum file cabinets and put back in their burial grounds.

The days of automated wars are near. The Defense Applied Research Agency discloses that it is spending $9 million a year to develop "automatic target recognition technology" that would enable robots to identify, select and destroy targets "with minimum human support." The agency says the robots it wants should be able to pick out thousands of targets on a battlefield.



Contact Lance Gay at GayL(at)
Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,

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