By LANCE GAY
Scripps Howard News Service
December 18, 2005
The University of Michigan's annual survey found that consumer satisfaction with the government declined last year, with only 7 out of 10 Americans contented with the services they're paying for.
It shouldn't come as a surprise, but the IRS is the agency Americans feel sourest about. Complaints were highest among businesses and individuals still using Byzantine paper tax forms, and the response is better for those who say they file electronically. Veterans also had more complaints this year dealing with the Veterans Affairs health programs.
Claes Fornell, the University of Michigan professor who oversees the annual survey, said consumer satisfaction with private industry typically runs higher, but also declined last year.
Consumer groups are vowing to derail food-industry efforts to persuade Congress to make food labels uniform across the nation.
Alarmed by California's Proposition 65, which requires the listing of additives that might be carcinogenic, the food industry backs legislation that would give the Food and Drug Administration new authority to police what's put on food labels.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest says more than 100 laws in other states would be wiped away if the industry legislation passes, including a requirement that Mississippi fishmongers declare if the fish they are selling is wild or farmed, and provisions in New York, Michigan and Wisconsin concerning smoked fish.
Leathernecks on the front lines of Iraq and Afghanistan no longer will be required to document their weight-loss programs, the brass has decreed.
Overweight Marines were required to report every two weeks to have their weight checked to see if they are successfully dieting. That meant finding properly adjusted scales in the desert to document how they were meeting their goal. But the brass realized that weight loss is not that much of a priority for front-line troops, and scrapped the regulation.
Portly Marines are still ineligible for promotion until they get their weight back in line.
Quotable: "I'm fulfilling the seat that was held by Strom Thurmond, which means my wife will be born next year." - Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
President Bush's plans to outsource more government work to private contractors are running into new roadblocks on Capitol Hill.
Under pressure from government unions battling the so-called "Beltway bandits," lawmakers are attaching provisions to spending bills setting new limits on work the government can give contractors.
Proponents of outsourcing protest that Congress is hobbling moves that could save taxpayers a lot of money, but Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., says Congress is trying to ensure that government workers are treated fairly.
It's likely to be the last gasp for the U.S. penny, which many want to scrap because inflation has eroded its worth, but Congress has told the Mint to go ahead with plans to redesign the coin by 2009 - in time for the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth.
The new penny will replace the Lincoln Memorial picture with scenes depicting Lincoln's birth and early childhood in Kentucky, his youth in Indiana and career as a lawyer in Illinois. The familiar Lincoln head, used on the coin since 1909, won't be changed.
Public-interest groups, which contend that corporations have too much say in trade policies, are suing to have U.S. health and professional representatives included on trade advisory councils. The advisory councils give U.S. trade negotiators pointers on the effects of changing trade policies. The interest groups say the process neglects environmental and social issues when new trade rules are drafted.
The groups argue that if there's room on the boards for drug, food-processing and health-insurance industries, there's plenty of room for people reflecting worker concerns and environmental interests.
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