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Washington Calling

Gas prices ... resilient kids ... vulnerable GOP


September 09, 2006

WASHINGTON -- The recent tiny drop in oil prices will be brief.

High prices are driven by worldwide demand and OPEC nations are pumping as much as they can, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman warned members of Congress this week. When it comes to the volatile gas market, supply-and-demand pressures can erupt like a Texas gusher or ooze downward like a leaky Alaskan pipeline.

The recent discovery of a major oil field under the Gulf of Mexico is good news, but Bodman said the field is five or even 10 years away from production. And alternative fuels won't come to the rescue. Ethanol production is soaring, thanks to high prices and a 50-cent federal subsidy. But the 3.9 billion gallons that will be produced each year still equals only 3 percent of the U. S. fuel supply.




At least Washington can still offer futile gestures.

As a tiny step toward oil independence, Bodman soon will switch to a government car that runs on so-called "E85" - the mixture of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. But his driver will have to go three miles across the Potomac to fill up at a station near the Pentagon, the nearest of the nation's mere 800 gas stations outfitted for E85.


The list of vulnerable Republicans in the House has become Chinese water torture for the Grand Old Party, a steady drip of bad news. The latest estimate by nonpartisan political bookmaker Charlie Cook shows 34 Republican seats either "tossups" or that have only a slight "lean" toward the Republican. Democrats need only pick up 14 of those since former House GOP leader Tom DeLay's Texas seat is already counted as a probable Democratic win. "Republicans will likely lose the House and their dominance of the nation's governorships," Cook said. The Senate still seems safe for Republicans.


Crikey! The recent death of "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin has prompted a Washington child-psychiatry group to issue a guide for parents titled "Talking With Children About the Death of a Public Figure."

Dr. David Fassler of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry warns that the sudden loss of the popular reptile-hugging Aussie TV personality, killed while swimming with giant stingrays in the Pacific, may leave some young children sad and confused.

"Parents, teachers and caring adults can best help by listening and responding in an honest, consistent and supportive manner," said Fassler. "Fortunately, most children are resilient."


Republicans and Democrats in the House are wrangling over the language of the annual resolution marking the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a further sign that Congress is in legislative gridlock in the final weeks before Election Day.

Previous years' resolutions were bipartisan and passed unanimously.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., didn't invite Democrats to help draft this year's version. His earliest drafts saluted Congress' efforts this year and referred to legislation that Democrats opposed. Minority-party leaders claimed they are shocked and appalled that politics would sully the otherwise meaningless resolution.

"This is not a time to praise Congress," said Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California, who hopes to become House speaker next year. "It is time to offer our sympathies to the families of those who suffered losses on Sept. 11."


Looking for the latest in nips and tucks? Thousands of cosmetic surgeons will assemble in San Francisco next month to, um, enhance their careers and enlarge the celebration of the 75th meeting of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Among the hot topics: "Cosmetic surgery and the use of antidepressant medication," "Rejuvenation of the aging mouth," "Management of complications in breast augmentation" and "Eyelid surgery in the Asian patient."

Don't tell the White House, but the beauty docs want to examine the latest research on stem cells for their industry, as well.


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Ketchikan, Alaska