In a bid to win support for a funding bill that would end the war in Iraq, House Democratic leaders are offering lawmakers billions of dollars for their pet projects, large and small.
The Washington Post reports the projects – ranging from reconstructing hurricane-damaged levees in New Orleans to building peanut storehouses in Georgia – may be too sweet for some members of Congress who might otherwise oppose the bill to pass by.
"She hates the games the Democrats are playing," said Guy Short, chief of staff to Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo. "But Representative Musgrave was just down in southeastern Colorado, talking to ranchers and farmers, and they desperately need this assistance" – referring to the billions of dollars for drought relief and agriculture assistance included in the war bill.
The White House condemned the provisions as "excessive and extraneous non-emergency spending," and said it "would place freedom and democracy in Iraq at grave risk" and "embolden our enemies."
But the Post says some Republicans and conservative Democrats who had been expected to vote against the Democrats' bill are wavering thanks to tailor-made incentives like $25 million for California spinach growers hurt by last year's E. coli scare, $75 million for Georgia peanut growers and $120 million for Atlantic shrimp fishermen.
Army's Ready Brigade Not So Ready
It's been the U.S. Army's practice for years to keep a brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division on round-the-clock alert, ready to be deployed immediately to an emerging crisis anywhere in the world.
But today, in a sign of how thin the U.S. military has been stretched by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the New York Times reports "the so-called ready brigade is no longer so ready."
Rather than waiting on standby, the Times says the 82nd Airborne's First Brigade is getting ready to go to Iraq. Army officials say the unit does not have the capability of sending an initial force to a new war zone within 18 hours, once considered the standard response time. Senior Army officials worry that none of the 20 or so Army brigades left in the U.S., or at bases in Europe or Asia, have the personnel or equipment to be sent quickly into combat.
"We are fully committed right now," said Col. Charles Hardy of the Forces Command, which is in charge of training and equipping troops to be sent overseas. "If we had a fully trained-up brigade, hell, it'd be the next one to deploy."
Some Relief For "Mommy Guilt"
Back on the home front, the Washington Post reports on a new study showing that today's mothers actually spend more time with their children than their own mothers did.
The University of Maryland study shows that modern moms spend more than 14 hours a week tending primarily to their kids, up from just 10 hours 40 years ago, the period "often imagined as the golden era of June Cleaver, television's ever-cheerful, cookie-baking mom."
That perhaps surprising finding should offer some solace to mothers who juggle "homework and housework, sports practice and dance lessons," often while holding down a full-time job, yet still worry that they're not doing enough for their kids.
"It's almost like it doesn't matter how much they do, they feel they do not do enough," said the study's author, sociologist Suzanne M. Bianchi.
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