Gas Prices, Iraq Version -- While you're focused on whether to take out a second mortgage to keep that Hummer on the road, there's another gas controversy brewing. Halliburton is being blamed for overcharging the United States by $212 million for gas to be distributed in Iraq. (Don't they have, like, their own oil fields over there?)
Congressman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) is making Dick Cheney's old company his personal punching bag, and he released passages from a recent Defense Contract Audit Agency report to the press containing the evidence. With business practices like that, it's hard to believe they were able to win the contract in the first place. Oh yeah, the Pentagon awarded those contracts without putting the job out to bid.
This Is It -- If you're still hoping for more snow in the mountains to help out with the looming drought, you can give up. According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the snowpack is usually set by mid-April.
"The good news is we got what we normally should receive in March," says Scott Pattee, a water-supply specialist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
And the bad news? "It is virtually impossible," Pattee adds, "that Washington will get enough cold weather now to build up our snow packs and bail us out of drought."
Do Tell? -- When Army Sgt. Robert Stout, winner of a Purple Heart in Iraq, disclosed he was gay, it revived that old debate about whether gays should serve. Stout told the Associated Press he thought he would be discharged from the Army, adding "The old armchair thought that gay people destroy unit camaraderie and cohesion is just wrong. They said the same things when they tried to integrate African-Americans and women into the military."
But as detailed in our story this week on difficulties in retaining enough troops ("Breaking Point?" page 16), isn't it just another example of how the military is, pardon the expression, shooting itself in the foot? Seems some members of Congress agree -- Republican members of Congress.
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican from Miami, told the Miami Herald: "We've tried the policy. I don't think it works. And we've spent a lot of money enforcing it. We investigate people... basically wreck their lives. People who've signed up to serve our country. We should be thanking them."
Two other Republicans have joined her in signing the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which would end the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Despite the fact that the Army has kicked out 10,000 men and women since 1993 because they were gay, nobody expects the bill to make it out of committee.