By LANCE GAY
Scripps Howard News Service
June 24, 2006
The proposal has bipartisan support in Congress after the Hurricane Katrina debacle. Lawmakers contend deploying National Guard troops would have been done more speedily if prior approval from sundry Army panjandrums had not been required. Marines, once an arm of the Navy, got their representative as one of the masters of the universe so the National Guard deserves one as well, the argument goes.
Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, is adamantly opposed to the idea, and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was perfectly dyspeptic when the senator personally broached the idea to him.
It looks like tapped-out consumers facing higher interest rates, higher gasoline prices and higher airplane ticket prices are planning to vacation close to their McMansions.
A Conference Board survey forecasts a slow tourist season. The business group finds fewer families are using the Internet this year to map out their vacation plans and says vacation intentions are at a two-year low.
Yet another diplomatic flap is brewing in the United Nations over efforts by maverick Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez to snag a seat on the Security Council when a vacancy opens this year. The United States is lobbying hard for Guatemala, but Chavez says Venezuela would better reflect the interests of poor countries. Since some countries are looking for a way of expressing their dissatisfaction with Bush administration foreign policies, this is a fight the United States could lose.
The Nature Conservancy reports visits to the national parks have declined from 20 percent to 25 percent over the last two decades. Researchers say they can't say for certain, but believe the drop in park visits is linked to rising use of TV games, home movies, the Internet, as well as increased prices for gasoline.
"It's fairly stunning," University of Illinois ecologist Oliver Pergams said of the decline. The Nature Conservancy frets that children don't gain the same experience from simulated visits to the parks.
It's sort of like Custer's last stand, but Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., vows to mount a last-ditch effort to stop lawmakers from getting a $3,300 pay raise in January.
Under legislation crafted by the House, the pay raise is automatic unless it is voted down in either the House or Senate. Feingold says he's going to demand the Senate vote on the matter, although the outcome seems clear, and lawmakers will be pocketing base salaries of $168,500 starting in January 2007.
Experts say if migratory fowl carry the bird flu to our shores, Alaska will be the first place. Maybe that explains a public health think tank report that found Alaska gets more money per person in federal disease prevention and bioterrorism preparedness than any other state - at $53.36, more than twice the national average. Florida, locale of the first anthrax-by-mail death in 2001, gets the least - $11.38 per person. The Trust for America's Health estimates it would take at least $2.6 billion a year to correct the disparity.
While some environmentalists say the National Weather Service is covering up the truth about global climate change's influence on hurricanes, the agency hasn't actually been silent on this issue.
A 2004 study by the National Oceanographics and Atmospherics Administration concluded that 1 percent more CO2 into the atmosphere each year over the next 80 years would cause hurricanes on average to gain strength by one-half category on the five-point scale and drop 18 percent more precipitation.
Author Tom Knutson said the idea that warming will breed more storms is still an open question, though, because global warming might cause tropical winds that tend to disrupt hurricane formation.
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