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Costly secrets ... Dampen hurricanes ... Rethinking fries
Scripps Howard News Service


June 10, 2005

Thanks to the war on terrorism, the cost of keeping Washington's secrets soared 10 percent last year to more than $8 billion, and the number of aged documents that were declassified declined sharply.

The Information Security Oversight Office estimates that 41 federal agencies spent $7.2 billion securing secret documents, but that amount excludes any information on how much the CIA is spending to secure its information because the agency insists all of its budget figures are official secrets. Government contractors spent an additional $822 million securing sensitive information at the direction of Uncle Sam.

Part of the increased spending went toward creating new secure facilities to hold the documents, and communication systems so agencies can more easily share their secrets with other agencies. The 9/11 Commission concluded that one of the failures that made possible the 2001 terrorist attacks was an inability of federal agencies to share secrets they were gathering.

What are the documents stamped secret? You will have to wait 25 years to find out. Under new federal rules going into effect next year, documents older than 25 years will be automatically declassified. Government agencies spent only $48 million declassifying aged documents last year, an 11 percent decrease from the amount spent in 2003.


Could technology be used to dampen the strength of dangerous hurricanes?

Moshe Alamaro, a scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says there may be a way. In a presentation to a conference on weather modification, Alamaro unveiled a scheme devised in cooperation with Russian and German scientists to tow barges equipped with upward-facing jet engines into the path of hurricanes at sea. When the storm nears, the jet engines would blast it with an upward draft of colder air, which would dampen the storm's force.

Costs? About $1 billion, says Alamaro, who notes there is a surplus of jet engines available from the Cold War's scrapheap of Soviet and American bombers.


Book publisher Random House Press notes that not only has former President Bill Clinton lost weight since publishing his autobiography "My Life," but the new paperback version of his book looks slimmer and itself has shed about a pound. The weight loss occurred even though Clinton added words about his heart surgery and tsunami-relief efforts.


Two years ago, Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., made headlines around the world by demanding that french fries sold in House cafeterias be renamed "freedom fries."

The change remains in effect in House restaurants today, but Jones now appears to be having second thoughts about his enthusiasm for President Bush's policies in Iraq. He says the backlash against French opposition to the war in Iraq was intended to be a lighthearted gesture, and was a mistake.

"I wish it had never happened," Jones told the Raleigh News and Observer.


Americans are finally burying their angst from the 9/11 attacks and the recession, and are again in the mood to travel on summer vacations.

The airline industry is projecting a 4 percent increase in flying this summer, and the National Tour Association reports holiday bookings in the first quarter of 2005 were up more than 50 percent over the same period last year.


The House this week attached provisions to the Agriculture Department's spending bill that bans the government from purchasing poultry for the school-lunch program if the chickens were treated with Cipro-like antibiotics. The Senate two years ago voted for a similar proposal, but the House didn't agree.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed in 2000 that drug manufacturers voluntarily withdraw some drugs from veterinary uses after physicians complained it's becoming more difficult to treat common infections with antibiotics.


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

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