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Washington Calling

New explosives ... K-9 hero ... Flip-flop rule ... More
Scripps Howard News Service


July 30, 2007

WASHINGTON -- There's a new acronym of death in Iraq -- "HME."

The U.S. military says Sunni insurgents are now turning to "homemade explosives," or HMEs, at least partly because the supply of conventional bomb materiel is getting scarce.

Unlike improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and explosively formed projectiles (EFPs), the new bombs use ordinary ingredients, and are much easier and less costly to construct than those built around munitions.

HMEs can be cobbled together using fertilizer, acetone, nitric acid, fuel oil or similar ingredients. While such bombs carry less deadly punch in small amounts than the more sophisticated explosives, HMEs can be spectacularly horrific when used in large quantities in truck bombs, for instance -- which the United States witnessed in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.


For the first time since the Vietnam War, a U.S. soldier and his war dog have died in combat. Army Cpl. Kory Wiens, 20, and his Labrador-retriever partner, Cooper, were killed this month by a roadside bomb while on patrol in Muhammad Sath, Iraq. They were a search team that hunted enemy caches of firearms, ammunition and explosives. The pair was buried together in Wiens' hometown of Dallas, Ore.

Capitol Hill advocates of the creation of the first military medal exclusively for K-9 troops hope this loss will help their cause.


Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face: Peeved that the Pentagon's office of legislative affairs wasn't sufficiently responsive to its requests for information, the House Appropriations defense subcommittee served notice this past week that it will cut the office's 2008 budget in half.

Unclear how a cut of about $2 million -- which surely will lead to substantial staff and other reductions -- will make the office more responsive, even if it tries to be.


A vaguely worded item in a Washington Post column this past week triggered a small storm of outrage in blog-land. The Post reported that a new dress code was being imposed this summer on White House visitors and staff. The edict -- no jeans, shorts, mini-skirts, T-shirts, tank tops or flip-flops -- was aimed "particularly" at tour groups, the item said.

That was interpreted by many to mean that the hundreds of tourists who take the regular tours of the building's East Wing daily -- and who favor that sort of casual and comfortable attire in hot and sticky summertime Washington -- would have to bring dressier clothes if they wanted to visit the White House. How dare Bush suggest such an elitist, snobby rule, blog-critics yelped.

Turns out the dress code was aimed solely at those who work in or visit the cloistered West Wing of the building, where the president lives and his staff works.

Its targets were the staffers who often labor long into the night, and VIPs who rate special, behind-the-scenes West Wing tours in the evening. Proper dress reflects respect for the institution of the presidency and the historic building, said Emily Lawrimore, a White House spokesman.


If you want to know the fire-safety record of a college or university, you're likely out of luck. Authorities at most schools are not now obligated to release any such information.

The Senate voted June 24 to change that, passing a measure that would require schools to make public statistics on all fires, injuries and deaths, and structural damage that occurs. It also would mandate that schools keep a public log of fire-related incidents and to disclose its safety program.

A fatal fire in a Seton Hall University dormitory in New Jersey in 2000 spurred the congressional interest. The House has not yet considered the bill.



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