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Washington Calling

Boosting troop levels ... Vlogs ... MTV vs. turtles ... More
Scripps Howard News Service

July 15, 2005

WASHINGTON - Watch Congress force Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to go along with a move to boost the number of U.S. troops this year.

Over Rumsfeld's objections, Congress added 20,000 troops last year, and with troops still stretched by the war on terrorism, Democrats want to add another 80,000 over four years. The Pentagon insists the additions aren't needed, and Rumsfeld argues there are still troops doing Cold War duties that could be reassigned.

But with families of well-heeled Army reservists complaining about extended duties for reservists in Iraq, and with terrorist bombings continuing, the White House isn't going to fight hard against calls for hiking troop levels.


Can Irish bookies accurately predict a U.S. Supreme Court nominee?

Chief Justice William Rehnquist's announcement that he will stay on, leaving President Bush to fill only the vacancy created by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's retirement, has online bettors on Dublin's site reshuffling the odds.

At $20 bid and $22.50 asked, Judge Emilio Garza of Texas, who sits on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in New Orleans, is the odds-on favorite. He is followed by Judge Michael Luttig, a Texan by birth who sits on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Richmond, Va. Luttig comes in at $5.20 bid and $7.40 asked. But a surprise late entry closing fast is yet another Texan: Judge Edith Hollan Jones of the 5th Circuit Court, at $5 bid and $14.80 asked.


Can it be the end of the Taft magic in Ohio?

Recent polls have found that Ohio Gov. Bob Taft's popularity has sunk into the teens, and is still tumbling over a protracted scandal involving missing rare-coin investments in a state-run fund. The Tafts once ran Ohio, but the troubles of the current Republican Taft - great-grandson of the president and grandson of the senator - are worrying GOP stalwarts. They fret that disenchantment with Taft could spread to other Republicans, like Sen. Mike DeWine, who is up for re-election next year.


Pundits beware. The latest Internet craze of vlogs is threatening to do for TV Sunday-morning punditry what blogs did for newspaper columnists. The term comes from "blogs" and "video," says Wired News. Conservatives are trying to catch this wave early, and there already are pro-Iraq-war and pro-fast-food vlogs floating around.


Environmentalists are furious at MTV, which used a remote beach in the Caribbean to film a segment of a new reality show, "The Gauntlet."

The filming was OK'd by Trinidad and Tobago tourism officials, who boasted that MTV's popularity would bring tourists to the island. But the remote beach turned out to be none other than a nesting site of the endangered leatherneck sea turtle. The movement of 90 crewmembers and the construction of a replica galleon on the beach as an obstacle course for contestants resulted in the crushing of eight nests, involving some 400 turtle eggs, turtle-rescue groups claim.

An undetermined number of other nests were also lost when the government brought in a backhoe to make a channel for unsightly floodwaters that producers wanted evacuated from their set.


Car arsons are on the rise, reports the National Fire Protection Association in its annual survey of fires in the United States. Local and state fire departments reported about 36,000 car fires intentionally set last year, an increase of 18 percent over 2003, with a loss of $165 million.


The U.S. Coast Guard has turned down a request from federal fisheries officers who recommended that the agency put voluntary 12-knot-speed limits on ships going through birthing waters used by endangered right whales. The Coast Guard has broadcast warnings to mariners to use "safe speed" in right-whale waters - a notification warning them to slow down. However, Commandant Admiral Thomas Collins says the agency isn't going to set legal speed limits on the seas. Colliding with ships is the leading known cause of deaths of right whales.


Only two-thirds of America's public water supplies are fluoridated, says the American Dental Association. It is using the 60th anniversary of the introduction of fluoridation to push for all public water systems to use the chemical and reduce tooth cavities. Local opposition derailed expectations that fluoridation would be adopted nationwide after it was installed first in the Grand Rapids, Mich., system back in 1945.


Contact Lance Gay at GayL(at)
SHNS reporter Mary Deibel contributed to this column. She may be reached at deibelm(at)

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