By LANCE GAY
Scripps Howard News Service
August 08, 2005
Americans are vacationing overseas in numbers that are expected to exceed the nearly 62 million who went abroad last year. Commerce Department statistics show that 38 percent of those going overseas in 2004 were vacationing, 33 percent were visiting friends or family and 22 percent were on business. A majority spent three weeks on their trips.
Top five destinations: Mexico, Canada, the United Kingdom, France and Italy.
Expect to hear more about "market forces" when prices spike at the pump in the fall and spring. It happens when refineries make the biannual transitions into - and out of - producing winter heating oil, and the price spikes could worsen. Zeta Rosenberg of ICF Consulting, which follows the oil industry, says refinery closings and increasing demands for oil in Asia have left little margin for excess capacity. She projects a refinery "capacity crunch" will last for the next five-to-10 years until new refineries come online.
Cell phones, pagers and Black- or BlueBerries could be cashiered into the war on terrorism. At a recent NATO conference here, consultants suggested that wireless-connected citizens could be "digitally deputized" to report suspicious activities or suspected bioterrorism in their surroundings via text messages to police.
Michael Hopmeier of the Florida firm Unconventional Concepts said cell phones could also be used to alert citizens of threats. Some 60 percent of Americans own cell phones, and he said the technology could be used to warn and calm those who aren't glued to TV sets in crisis situations.
Backpacking into the wilderness? Don't look for any amenities, says a federal judge, who nixed plans by the National Park Service to rebuild aged and collapsed shelters in alpine wilderness areas of Washington state's Olympic National Park. The Park Service said the three-sided shelters are safety measures for hikers stranded in unexpected snows, but U.S. District Judge Franklin Burgess declared they're not allowed under the 1964 Wilderness Act, which declared that wilderness should remain wilderness.
A majority of early responders to an Internet poll run by Washington, D.C., radio station WTOP say they want 16th Street N.W. running north from the White House to be renamed Ronald Reagan Boulevard. It's the latest renaming effort by Reagan activist Grover Norquist.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel, the agency enforcing Hatch Act restrictions on federal employees' political activities, says e-mails sent from government computers can't contain political messages, even if they are only sent to relatives and friends. The counsel is trying to fire two Social Security Administration employees who spammed co-workers last year with pro-John Kerry messages.
The GOP is mapping out an all-out attack to unseat Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., the eight-term godfather of Senate Democrats.
The election won't be held for 15 months, and West Virginia's mining traditions once made the state a Democratic stronghold. But the National Republican Senatorial Committee is unleashing TV ads attacking the 87-year-old's criticism of U.S. troops in Iraq. Byrd is responding with TV ads protesting that he's under assault by out-of-state interests. He's also inked an autobiography aimed at deflating the political issue of his former membership in the Ku Klux Klan. (He says it was a youthful mistake.)
Likely challenger: popular Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.
For the first time in 30 years, academics are going to study the causes for increasing numbers of motorcycle deaths on the highways. The National Highway Safety Administration blames state repeals of helmet laws, but organizations representing motorcyclists say it's the increasing numbers of motorcyclists on the highways, noting a 12 percent increase in motorcycle registrations between 1996 and 2000.
Lawmakers slipped $3 million into the highway bill for a University of Oklahoma study to figure out which side is right.
The Navy has changed its rules and says sailors wounded in Iraq combat can bill the Pentagon up to $250 for new civilian clothes when they are brought home.
Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.shns.com
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