By LISA HOFFMAN
Scripps Howard News Service
July 23, 2006
Less than seven months after the Transportation Security Administration reversed its ban on small scissors, screwdrivers and such from passenger cabins on commercial airliners, Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., slipped an amendment into a House bill for the TSA that would make such items verboten again.
Last December, the TSA relaxed its rules because of improvements in cabin security post-Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists used box cutters to commandeer four airplanes. But the nation's major flight attendants' unions, saying that sharp items in the hands of troubled passengers remain a peril, have been lobbying to reinstate them.
The House homeland security committee bought into the ban last week, but its ultimate fate remains up in the air.
In other news on bans, the Marines are forbidding the sale and possession of toy guns in Fallujah after a child sitting in an Iraqi driver's lap and pointing a plastic pistol out the car window was nearly mistaken for the enemy. Sold at city markets, the pretend AK-47s, 9-mm pistols and even shotguns are popular with kids, according to an account in the Stars and Stripes military newspaper. Marines put the word out to shopkeepers to cease selling them, and the troops have been confiscating the pellet guns from children, replacing them with soccer balls or other toys.
While it may seem that every possible politician and interest group on Earth has a political action committee, the most recent tally of the fund-raising outfits shows they were equally plentiful as far back as 1993. The Federal Election Commission now reports there now are 4,217 PACs _which is down 74 from the number registered a year ago. In December 1993, there were 4,210. Campaign finance experts say PACs are born and die each year, and have ranged over the past decade from a low of 3,706 to last year's high of 4,291.
Mexico's in a bit of a snit over the Pentagon's dispatch of National Guard troops to map the border as part of their new presence on the front lines of illegal immigration. Apparently concerned the Guard might grab some desert scrub from them, Mexican authorities let it be known that only the International Boundary and Water Commission, made up of U.S., Mexican and Canadian representatives, can say where the border is _ or should be. The U.S. military says it just wants to determine precisely where U.S. territory ends so no inadvertent border incursions occur.
The American Legion is about to launch a major, coast-to-coast effort in which its members will serve as around-the-clock "buddies" for badly wounded Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans as they return to their communities after leaving the hospital.
With an office in the Pentagon, the "Heroes to Hometowns" transition program will start setting up a support network and coordinating resources before a GI returns home. Child care, temporary housing, errand-running, adapting homes or vehicles, spiritual support, government claims assistance and financial aid are just some of what Legion posts will provide.
"The objective is to ensure seamless care to severely injured personnel and their families for as long as it takes," the Legion vows.
America's motto _ "In God We Trust" _ celebrates its 50th anniversary on July 30. That is unlikely to be a happy date for atheist Michael Newdow, whose lawsuit calling for the removal of the reference to the deity on currency, coins and anything else official was tossed out of federal court in California last month. Better known for his crusade to strip the Pledge of Allegiance of its "one nation under God" phrase, Newdow has turned his sights on the motto, and vows to appeal the judge's ruling.
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