Republican congressman behind Army buying $17,000 drip pans

In the 1980s, the military had its infamous $800 toilet seat. Today, it has a $17,000 drip pan.

Thanks to a powerful Kentucky congressman who has steered tens of millions of federal dollars to his district, the Army has bought about $6.5 million worth of the “leakproof” drip pans in the last three years to catch transmission fluid on Black Hawk helicopters. And it might want more from the Kentucky company that makes the pans, even though a similar pan from another company costs a small fraction of the price: about $2,500…

The Kentucky company, Phoenix Products, got the job to produce the pans after Representative Harold Rogers, a Republican who is now the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, added an earmark to a 2009 spending bill. While the earmark came before restrictions were placed on such provisions for for-profit companies, its outlays have continued for the last three years.

The company’s owners are political contributors to the congressman, who has been called the “Prince of Pork” by The Lexington Herald-Leader for his history of delivering federal contracts to donors and others back home…

“It’s important that Congress do what it can to provide our military with the best resources to ensure their safety and advance our missions abroad, while also saving taxpayer dollars wherever possible,” Mr. Rogers said in a statement. “These dripping pans help accomplish both of these goals.”

Get your rubber boots out!

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2012’s first Atlantic tropical storm forms off South Carolina

Tropical Storm Alberto formed off the South Carolina coast on Saturday, bringing an early start to the Atlantic hurricane season, forecasters at the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

Alberto had top sustained winds of 45 miles per hour and was in the Atlantic about 140 miles east-southeast of Charleston.

It was moving slowly southwest and forecasters said a storm watch might be posted later on Saturday for coastal North and South Carolina. Only moderate strengthening was expected…

The Atlantic hurricane season officially runs from June 1 to November 30, but storms outside that time frame are not uncommon. Alberto was the earliest-forming Atlantic storm since 2003, when Tropical Storm Ana formed more than five weeks before the official start of the season, the hurricane center said.

No one expects Alberto to be a big deal. But, I must admit – one of the things about life on the East Coast that I don’t miss in the least are hurricanes.

Amish sect in court — smoke alarms “violate their religious liberty”

In June 2007, St Lawrence County’s assistant public defender, Steve Ballan, got a call from his boss. A bunch of Amish men are in trouble, he was told. They need a lawyer…and when he met with Andy Miller and the five other Amish men charged with contravening state building codes, he was certain that the town’s building inspectors had violated America’s first and greatest constitutional amendment – the right to worship freely.

What had provoked the inspectors to issue Stop Work Orders was the Amish men’s refusal to install smoke alarms in their newly built houses.

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Arizona Republican denies D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton the right to speak

Mayor Gray and Representative Norton in the back of the Republican-controlled bus

Rep. Trent Franks’s district in suburban Phoenix is two time zones away from Washington, a fact not lost on D.C. leaders as the Arizona Republican presided Thursday over the latest in a long series of attempts to control social issues in the nation’s capital.

At issue this time was his bill, with 193 co-sponsors, to ban all abortions in the District beyond 20 weeks, except to save the life of the mother.

Adding insult to injury, from the point of view of local officials, was that Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), the District’s lone, nonvoting member of Congress — sitting in the front row of a subcommittee hearing room — was not allowed to speak.

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Salvage team ready for largest refloat in history – Costa Concordia

The firms charged with raising the wreck of the Costa Concordia have set out in detail how they will refloat the ship in what is described as the largest maritime salvage operation ever undertaken.

The 114,500 tonne vessel, which capsized four months ago and is sitting on its side in shallow water yards off the tiny Tuscan island of Giglio, will be pulled upright by cranes on to a submerged platform, refloated and towed to the Italian mainland for breaking up. The operation is due to start within days.

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Dumb crook of the day — sits and waits

A man suspected of swallowing a $20,000 diamond is being held in custody in Windsor, Canada, until it passes through his system, police say. Richard Matthews allegedly swapped the gem for a fake and ate the real one.

The incident occurred almost a week ago but the stone has not appeared despite numerous visits to the bathroom.

Mr Matthews, 52, was initially being fed fibre-rich foods, but is now eating whatever he wants in order to speed the process, Sgt Brett Corey said…

The suspect is eager to get the ordeal over with, Sgt Corey added, and is co-operating with police.

The 1.7 carat jewel was taken from Precision Jewellers in the Canadian province of Ontario.

Mr Matthews has been charged with theft and breach of court conditions. He is also wanted on warrants in Toronto.

Dude has a lot of confidence in peristalsis.