By LANCE GAY
Scripps Howard News Service
July 01, 2005
U.S. fireworks manufacturers today make only about $17 million worth of fireworks annually, compared to some $172 million that are imported - almost all from China. China is also the prime source for the $5.2 million worth of U.S. flags imported into the country that are used in Independence Day yard displays.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that this July Fourth, there are 296.5 million people in the United States. That compares to the 2.5 million who lived in the colonies in July 1776.
Some 150 million people this year are expected to celebrate the day at an outdoor cookout, with about half that number eating in their own back yard.
It's the dog days of summer indeed for George W. Bush, who is finding out what it means to be a lame duck.
Overnight polls show that the president got no boost from his June 28 speech on Iraq. He's also not doing well on other fronts as his plan to reform Social Security has bogged down for lack of support; Congress is rejecting cuts in Amtrak and public TV spending; and, overseas, the election in Iran of hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has only deepened State Department concerns about Iran's nuclear intentions.
But there's a solid reservoir of support for Bush in red states, and while his poll ratings have slipped to 48 percent, political pundits note that's still well above the low points plumbed by Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, even Bush's father.
Divisions in Democratic ranks are also helping Bush. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., for one, is refusing to embrace calls from the liberal wing of the party for an immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq.
Beware the spy within, warns a Pentagon study. Thanks to advances in computer and storage capacity, "insiders" have more access to an unprecedented amount of classified and other proprietary information that could easily be sold on the Internet. "Even the most effective personnel security program will never fully eliminate the insider espionage threat," according to the study, which was unveiled by the Federation of American Scientists.
The National Park Service is alarmed at the increasing amounts of human waste that mountain climbers leave behind each year attempting to make the summits of Alaska's Mount McKinley and Washington state's Mount Rainer.
After climbers complained to researchers that they suffered from diarrhea picked up from supposedly pristine ice on mountaintops, park rangers at the Alaska site this year ordered a clean-up campaign, requiring climbers to bring back what they take up.
The Park Service says about 1,300 people a year try to make the summit, and because there are no lavatories at the top, human waste is accumulating in the high-altitude icepacks.
Broadcasters got the message about broadcasting indecency from those large settlements last year. The Center for Public Integrity, a Washington watchdog group, notes there hasn't been a single fine issued by the Federal Communications Commission this year. The organization notes that since there's no clear definition of what is indecent, radio and TV broadcasters have tamed down broadcasts to avoid the further wrath of regulators.
Even the return of baseball to the nation's capital has touched off a political fight.
After billionaire investor and Democratic Party financier George Soros became party to an investment group trying to buy the Washington Nationals baseball team, House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., hinted that the league should steer away from politics, noting baseball has antitrust exemptions it doesn't want to threaten.
That prompted Rep. George Miller of California, chairman of the House Democratic Policy Committee, to jump into the fray.
"It's bad enough that they are trying to cut funding for Big Bird and censor public broadcasting. But now Republicans are threatening Major League Baseball with legislative retaliation if the league lets Soros' group purchase a team. That is an abuse of power," he thundered.
"I want to compete with a country where you can drink the water." - Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., on international trade relations.
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