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Growing U.S. military presence in Africa ... Dogs for vets ... More
Scripps Howard News Service


August 20, 2006

WASHINGTON -- It's not getting much attention, but the U.S. military is expanding its presence in Africa, a continent the Pentagon worries is capable of becoming the new terrorist breeding ground.

In Djibouti, in the wild frontier of the Horn of Africa, U.S. forces are increasing Camp Lemonier from 88 acres to nearly 500. The camp is headquarters for the U.S.-led Horn of Africa anti-terror task force, which includes about 1,500 personnel, including special forces.





On the opposite side of Africa, the U.S. Navy is stepping up visits to Atlantic coast ports, especially in the strategically critical Gulf of Guinea. Now as much as 15 percent of U.S.-bound oil passes through there, and as much as 25 percent will in coming years, as Nigeria's oil industry grows.

The Navy recently wrapped up a three-month visit to the region and says it intends to spend more than 130 "ship days" there this year.


For those with too much time on their hands, now comes the "Fat Clock." Go to, and you can watch America get fatter and fatter, almost by the second.

The Web site, devoted to good health and fitness, uses data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to calculate the collective amount of weight that adult Americans together are gaining every tenth of a second. It's not a pretty sight.

The site's founder, public-health advocate Charles Stuart Platkin, hopes the visual demonstration will help prod more of us to put down the Cheez Doodles and exercise.


The latest group to stand up for America's wounded warriors is the Guide Dog Foundation, which will provide service dogs - for free - to amputees at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

A pilot program slated for October will match wounded troops with dogs that, among other things, are trained to help their humans balance as they learn to walk on prosthetic limbs, help them hoist themselves up from the floor or a chair, and retrieve dropped items. The group says the disabled also get an emotional boost from their companions.

If the trial program works well, the group may expand it to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, another hospital that tends those wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Expect a big brouhaha in Salt Lake City Aug. 30 if President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice keep their appointment to appear at the American Legion's national convention there. Though Utah is one of the reddest states - a recent poll found that Bush draws a 59 percent approval rating - its capital has a decidedly blue mayor, Rocky Anderson, who is ginning up a protest to greet the two leaders.

A liberal lawyer by trade, Anderson did the same last year, generating 2,000 antiwar protesters to boo Bush when he came to town last August to speak to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Anderson vows a bigger turnout this year.


Running for office has taken on new meaning in Ohio GOP Rep. Jean Schmidt's re-election campaign. An independent candidate for the Cincinnati-area seat recently filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission in which he alleged that Schmidt had lied about her record in marathons. Among other things, candidate Nathan Noy accused Schmidt of falsely claiming a second-place finish in a 2002 Xenia, Ohio, race. Noy pointed to newspaper articles that did not include Schmidt in the list of top overall finishers.

Actually, she came in second in the women's class in the 2003 Ohio race, a Schmidt campaign spokesman said. Schmidt's Web site now carries photos of her medals, a note that a typo was to blame for confusion over the year of the Xenia race, and the qualification that her race finish was for her particular "class."

Schmidt was reprimanded by the elections commission earlier this year for claiming a second undergraduate degree she never got.


A recent forum hosted by the so-called national drug czar warns that fentanyl use is on track to become the next major public-health scourge. Already responsible for hundreds of fatal overdoses around the country in recent months, the depressive drug - which is 50 times more powerful than heroin - is gaining popularity nationwide, said experts at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.


Contact Lisa Hoffman at HoffmanL(at)
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