Sniffing Your Way To A Better Memory

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The Skinny is Hillary Profita's take on the top news of the day and the best of the Internet.

Students may now find themselves sniffing roses the night before a test. Why? As the New York Times' front page points out this morning, there's a new study in town – and it suggests that the "whiff of a familiar scent can help a slumbering brain better remember things that it learned the evening before."

The study had groups of medical students play a version of concentration. When they identified pairs, they received "a burst of rose scent in their noses through masks they wore."

Then the students went to sleep and were exposed to more rose scent while sleeping. When they woke again to the concentration game, they retained 97 percent of the card locations, compared with 86 percent when they were not exposed to the rose scent.

The study will appear in the journal Science today.

Another Showdown on Sunny Iraq

While their fate is "far from certain," the House and Senate are hammering out measures for Iraq spending bills that would reduce U.S. involvement in the war that the Bush administration is already threatening to veto.

The Los Angeles Times notes the historical fun fact of the day: This is the first time the majority in Congress had called for a deadline to end the Iraq war. USA Today calls it "the most forceful attempt yet to counter President Bush's Iraq strategy."

In the House, Democrats announced a spending bill that "could lead to troop withdrawals before the end of the year and would end combat duties by Aug. 31, 2008," writes the Washington Post.

In the Senate, Democrats proposed a resolution that would require troop withdrawals to begin within four months of passage and sets March 31, 2008 as the deadline for withdrawing most troops.

There, the big challenge will be overcoming Republican parliamentary procedures that would require 60 votes to pass the measure. (Democrats control the Senate 51-49.) Many Republicans are rallying around the president, arguing that this measure would "micromanage" the war too much.

Worth noting is the New York Times reality check: "Given the Republican opposition and the Democrats' slender margin in the Senate, the significance of the new plans was as much political as it was legislative."

FBI Says Oops

The FBI has the results of a pretty embarrassing inspector general's report splashed on the front pages of the Post and the New York Times this morning.

The investigation found that there were "pervasive errors" in the agency's use of "national security letters" – documents that enable FBI offices to obtain private information without a court order.

And some of those 22 possible breaches of FBI and Justice Department regulations might also be violations of the law. Oops.

The Post explains that some of the violations included situations in which full credit reports were obtained "using a national security letter that could lawfully be employed to obtain only summary information." Whoopsies.

Oh, and "in an unknown number of other cases," outlets like telephone companies and banks responded to national security letters with "detailed personal information about customers that the letters do not permit to be released." Eek.

National security letters have a fun little history, as you may recall. They became all the rage in the Justice Department after the Patriot Act passed. After that, their use "greatly expanded" from just espionage and terrorism cases to become "allowed against Americans who were subjects of any investigation," explains the Times.

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