WASHINGTON — As the five-year anniversary of the deadly anthrax attacks approaches, government researchers say they're developing a quick way to determine whether powder found in the mail or elsewhere is toxic or a hoax.
Spokesmen for the National Center for Toxicological Research, which is part of the Food and Drug Administration, say they've employed a technology called mass spectrometry to determine in as few as three hours whether a suspicious substance is a bioterror agent, or, say, baking soda.
Current techniques for an accurate determination can take more than 24 hours.
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Last year, the Pentagon dispatched 36,000 military and civilian employees to 6,600 conferences worldwide, at a cost to taxpayers of $79 million.
Among the events last year: the Armed Forces Golf Conference in West Palm Beach and the Armed Forces Bowling Conference in Orlando.
That made Oklahoma GOP Sen. Tom Coburn's budget-watching bile burn, and he persuaded his Senate colleagues to cap the Pentagon's conference costs next year at $70 million.
That's not sitting well with lawmakers from top conference destinations Hawaii, Nevada and Florida, so the cap's future is unclear.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced this week it will open its own conference center in October. Featured in a new building that abuts the Pentagon will be 14 conference rooms (some with security systems for classified meetings) and in-house catering facilities.
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A diplomatic incident has been doused now that the District of Columbia water utility has agreed to turn the water back on at the Libyan embassy, which had been closed since President Ronald Reagan shut it in 1981 because of spying allegations.
Seeking to reopen it now that relations have warmed, the North African nation was upset when it found it couldn't move in until it paid a $27,000 water bill, which it denied owing. A quick round of negotiations solved the tiff, although neither side would say what they agreed to.
Other embassies with overdue water bills: Democratic Republic of Congo, $20,000; Ivory Coast, $6,100; and the Republic of Yugoslavia, $14,000. (Good luck collecting from the latter, which no longer exists.)
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Old soldiers never die, but sometimes get misquoted and misspelled.
In his valedictory after losing Tennessee's 8th Congressional District GOP Primary to John Farmer last week, Covington hay and beef farmer Rory Bricco waxed sentimental in an e-mail to supporters. "The message of Team Bricco was received enthusiastically and we have made many precious friends amongst the people in and out of our district," he wrote.
"Tennessee politics has not seen the last of me. In the immortal words of Gen. Douglas McArthur, 'I will be back!'"
Actually, it was Douglas MacArthur who, when he left the Philippines in 1942, vowed, "I shall return."
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States and cities will now have to include pets in their plans for evacuating and sheltering people when disaster strikes, but it is unclear how big their obligation will be.
Moved by wrenching stories of Hurricane Katrina victims having to leave their family pets behind — or refusing to evacuate without them because animals were forbidden at emergency shelters — both the House and Senate voted to require localities to make provisions for pets. Now the House and Senate have to work out differences in the two bills, but that will have to wait until September — well into prime storm season.