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Another long, hot summer ... Fireworks safety ... More
Scripps Howard News Service


June 24, 2005

WASHINGTON - With polls showing that the popularity of politicians is plunging, spats are breaking out all over the place.

A few days ago, it was Republicans pressuring Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., to apologize for comparing America's treatment of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainees to "Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime - Pol Pot or others." He did apologize.

Then Democrats demanded that President Bush fire political adviser Karl Rove for suggesting that the liberal response to 9/11 was "to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for your attackers."

Meantime, open rebellion is brewing in conservative GOP ranks toward Senate Republican leader Bill Frist, who is charged with not doing enough to save John Bolton's nomination to the United Nations, and against Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar, R-Ind., for not aggressively pushing Bolton.

The GOP right is still grumbling about the concessions Frist gave to Democrats in a compromise that allowed only three of five Bush judicial nominees to get a Senate vote, and there's no headway in sight over Bush's Social Security reform package.

Lawmakers are heading into a July Fourth recess, hoping to cool off. But that won't happen. It's going to be a long, hot summer in Washington.


"If thunder roars, go indoors."

That's the mantra University of Illinois lightning experts are trying to drill into Little League, baseball and soccer teams to save lives from lightning strikes.

July is the peak month for lightning strikes in the United States, and Mary Ann Cooper, a professor of emergency medicine at the Chicago university, says public education already has produced a 40 percent reduction in lightning-strike injuries.

But there's still an average of 67 people dying needlessly each year in the United States because they didn't adhere to the simple rule of getting indoors when it starts to thunder. Surprisingly, 90 percent of those struck survive, but Cooper said they are frequently left with permanent damage such as chronic pain, brain injury and thought-processing difficulties.


Quotable: "Movies are a lot like the Senate: the guy next to you may be asleep." - Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., quoted in The Hill newspaper.


Go to jail - and collect checks from the IRS.

The IRS estimates that up to 15 percent of tax fraud committed in the United States involves prisoners, who have plenty of time on their hands to figure out clever ways of bilking Uncle Sam. The latest wrinkle is refund fraud, amounting to $375 million in lost revenues each year.

IRS auditors say they managed to stop $53 million in refunds from being issued to prisoners making fraudulent claims last year, but not before more than 4,000 checks were sent out and cashed.


Only 2,300 of the nation's 5.6 million employers used a computerized database available to them for verifying the Social Security number of prospective employees, congressional investigators say. Under the 1986 immigration bill, employers are supposed to verify the validity of Social Security documents that new employees submit, but most know the government does nothing if they don't bother. Investigators with the Government Accountability Office found that only three notices were issued to employers last year threatening to fine them for hiring illegal aliens.


The American Society for Surgery of the Hand is warning parents who are planning on backyard fireworks this July Fourth to keep the sparklers out of children's hands. Fireworks of some sort are legal in 44 states, and three common forms of fireworks - firecrackers, bottle rockets and sparklers - are blamed for 57 percent of all fireworks injuries.


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

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