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Washington Calling

The Petraeus report ... Dogfighting ... Siberia snow
Scripps Howard News Service


August 27, 2007

WASHINGTON -- For months, pundits and politicians have referred to Sept. 15 as the date Army Gen. David Petraeus will present his potentially pivotal analysis of how successful the surge in U.S. forces has been in turning the tide of the war in Iraq.

But that date is merely the deadline for the progress report to be given to Congress, where partisans on both sides will use it to decide whether to force a U.S. troop withdrawal or stay the course.

Now we learn that Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker are actually slated to testify before Congress on Sept. 11, the sixth anniversary of that fateful 2001 day.

The White House says the timing is purely coincidental, with the date determined by Congress' working schedule rather than by the administration's desire to symbolically link the war to the terror attacks -- a tactic opponents have called disingenuous.

Spokesmen also said the Sept. 11 date is not yet set in stone.


The Michael Vick dogfighting scandal is likely to inflict some collateral damage on Rep. James Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican who has been the leading Capitol Hill opponent to toughening penalties for violating federal animal-fighting laws.

As chairman of the House Judiciary Committee from 2001 to 2006, Sensenbrenner killed every effort that came before him to upgrade the crime -- whether it involved roosters, pit bulls or any other creatures -- from a misdemeanor to a felony. He says the whole issue is a state matter, not a federal one.

It was only when the Democrats took over Congress this year that the measure was finally passed in March, although it came too late to cover many of the Atlanta Falcons quarterback's alleged acts tied to dogfighting. Bolstered by the nationwide revulsion at the cruelty revealed by the Vick case, animal-rights groups intend now to make Sensenbrenner squirm.


It's been four years since Congress passed the Captive Wildlife Safety Act, but the law banning the import, export, sale or transport of "big cats" will finally go into effect Sept. 17.

Enacted in 2003 out of concern that the Internet trade in lions, tigers, cougars, jaguars and cheetahs was resulting in growing numbers of the dangerous wild animals in the hands of private citizens, "mom and pop" petting zoos and makeshift circuses, the law allows only zoos, circuses and researchers licensed by the federal government to trade in the creatures.

Conflict over technical details of the regulations is blamed for the delay.


When the snow falls heavy in Siberia in October, the northeastern United States better get out the boots for January. That's not the prediction of the Old Farmer's Almanac, but the conclusion of atmospheric scientists working for the National Science Foundation. They recently used a computer model tied to Siberian snowpack to run simulations of winters going back to 1972 to verify the connection. Basically, the snow sets up a pattern of high-pressure systems that make the U.S. Northeast and Eastern Europe colder and snowier than normal for the second half of winter.


The National Labor Relations Board -- the federal outfit to which unions turn when they have grievous conflicts with management -- is itself now the subject of an unfair-labor-practice complaint. Its in-house employees' union has a big beef with the board's general counsel, Ronald Meisburg, who the workers say has refused to negotiate with a combined bargaining unit.

Meisburg says his office does not legally have to bargain with the new unit, which is made up of four previously separate ones. The union says he does. Ultimately, it will take a court to decide.


E-mail Lisa Hoffman at hoffmanl(at)
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