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Washington Calling

Cutting the bureaucracy ... robots in combat ... and more
Scripps Howard News Service


May 07, 2006

WASHINGTON -- GOP calls for a "Sunset Commission" that would recommend closing unneeded federal agencies are gaining momentum on Capitol Hill.

Republican leaders vow to put the measure up for a vote on the House floor before leaving for summer vacation, and believe they now have enough support.





This wouldn't be any ordinary commission, but a panel with teeth. It would operate like last year's base-closing commission. Lawmakers couldn't tinker with the final recommendations, but would have final say on whether the package is accepted or rejected.

What's giving the commission idea new life is agitation from the GOP's grass roots, dyspeptic over the lack of carry-through on election promises to cut the bureaucracy and reduce the federal deficit. But look for labor unions to mount a furious fight to neuter the panel.


Charities and businesses that rely on "snail" mail are furious at U.S. Postal Service plans to hike rates another 3 cents so soon after the last price increase.

Jerry Cerasale of the Direct Marketing Association says it will force his industry to look at other ways to deliver brochures and magazines to Americans. The National Association of Manufacturers says that 9 percent of the nation's economy depends on the mail and suggests Congress consider other ways of raising money.


The new robotic battlefield is emerging from Iraq, as the Army is relying increasingly on unmanned drones for reconnaissance and robots to find unexploded bombs.

The generals now have the first of a new generation of tanks - a 7-ton, six-wheeled remotely controlled vehicle called the Crusher. It's the brainchild of the Pentagon's think tank and Carnegie Mellon University's robotic-engineering section.

After field tests, the Army expects the Crusher to report for front-line duty next year.


Congressional researchers have given new ammunition to advocates of criminalizing illegal immigration.

In a study for House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., the Library of Congress says that Brazil, Egypt, Japan, Mexico, Sweden and Switzerland have laws criminalizing illegal aliens. Japan and Switzerland are the most effective in using their laws to curb illegal immigration.

Mexico has the toughest penalties for immigration fraud of the countries. Prison sentences for violating that country's immigration laws range from two years for first offenders to 10 years for repeat offenders.


College grads are walking out of commencement halls with their sheepskins and record levels of debt on college loans, the nonprofit group Project on Student Debt says. In the 2004-05 school year, the average debt for college grads was $19,300 - 60 percent more than the debt load on 1993 college grads, when adjusted for inflation. While Americans agreed in a survey that college education is more important than it was a decade ago, more that two-thirds say it's more difficult to afford than in the past.


Contact Lance Gay at GayL(at)
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