By LISA HOFFMAN
Scripps Howard News Service
April 01, 2007
The common fertilizer ammonium nitrate - which McVeigh and his accomplice mixed with fuel oil and packed into a rental truck that brought down the federal building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995 - still is unregulated by the federal government. The fertilizer industry and farm interests, among other lobbies, have successfully batted away multiple attempts to do so.
This past week, a bipartisan alliance of House lawmakers decided to try again, introducing a measure that would give the Department of Homeland Security the power to oversee the sale and purchase of the fertilizer. This version is a watered-down sequel to earlier bills, but its odds of passage are likely little better.
Speaking of homeland security, one of the feds' cutting-edge programs is under attack on Capitol Hill. At issue is the "Puppy Program" of the Transportation Security Administration, which is selectively breeding canines with exceptional sniffing talent to produce a long-term dog force for use in detecting explosives or other nefarious items at airports around the country.
This has raised the hackles of Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who says the government should get its nose out of this multimillion-dollar business. "I've got nothing against puppies," Flake said, but "surely this is a job better suited for the private sector."
The Coast Guard has caught a lot of flak lately for cost overruns and defects in a new fleet of patrol vessels, but one new piece of technology worked just as billed recently. When a cruise-ship passenger went overboard 30 miles off Fort Lauderdale, a computer model called the Search and Rescue Optimal Planning System was able to pinpoint his likely location. Despite powerful Gulf Stream currents that carried him more than 15 miles from where he went in, he was rescued in good shape within eight hours.
Yoko Ono will flit into town next week calling on one and all to hang "wishes" on 10 trees across the city and "imagine peace." She'll be at the Hirshhorn Museum, where she will demonstrate how to write a wish on paper and then tie it to a tree. The widow of the late Beatle John Lennon says this is a way for the public to participate in the "art-making process." This is part of the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, but "public artists" should be warned that tying a wish or anything else on one of those sacred pink trees will get you a trip to the petal-pokey.
Drill sergeants may no longer be able to shout "I can't hear you" to cowering troops if a new approach to hearing protection pays off. University of Michigan researchers determined that guinea pigs - who were fed antioxidant vitamins A, C and E and other supplements before being subjected to five hours of noise equal to that of a jet engine taking off - suffered no hearing loss. Human tests are next, and combat soldiers, who disdain earplugs because they want all their senses sharp, are viewed as prime candidates for antioxidant-fortified pills or even candy bars.
Striding boldly into the cyber realm, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says you can now drop a dime on a drug trafficker in your neighborhood or anywhere in the world by submitting a tip online. The new tip site - www.usdoj.gov/dea - is patterned after a crime-fighting program that encouraged everyone to report suspicious Internet pharmacies or shady brick-and-mortar ones by calling 1-877-RxAbuse.
"I have to admit we really blew the way we let those (U.S.) attorneys go. You know you botched it when people sympathize with lawyers." - President Bush, at the Radio and Television Correspondents' annual dinner.
Distributed to subscribers for publication by
Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.scrippsnews.com
Publish A Letter on SitNews Read Letters/Opinions