Roberts Should Be on Court by October

Expect John Roberts to be sitting on the Supreme Court by October.

Opposition to his nomination by organizations like People for the American Way isn’t provoking a groundswell against him. The latest Senate leadership nose counts conclude that there are only 21 Democrats inclined to vote against the nomination. And that number could narrow by the time the final vote is taken. Senate aides say they hear no talk about a filibuster to thwart the nomination.

In olden days, students heading off to college were notorious for their rather impecunious ways. For this fall, the National Retail Federation estimates that the average American college freshman will spend a whopping $1,151 to properly equip himself. Almost half of that amount will be spent on electronics, such as computers, stereos, TVs, cell phones and CD players. Sophomores are expected to spend slightly less, or $1,028.

Total back-to-school spending this year is predicted to exceed $34 billion _ up 33 percent from last year _ and college students are spending almost double that spent by grade-school students.

A third of all students today buy their back-to-school goodies online, and 60 percent plan to buy their equipment and texts at stores near their campuses.

“It’s not like Philadelphia,” reports Karol Soltan, a University of Maryland professor who returned from Iraq, where he consulted on efforts to put together a new constitution.

“They’re not 13 relatively homogeneous states at little risk of fighting a civil war. They’re trying to prevent an early-stage civil war from exploding,” Soltan said. He predicts that the constitution being hammered out in Baghdad is going to be more of a peace treaty than a document detailing a new government structure.

Abstemious Utah, which once prized its reputation as having the most restrictive liquor laws in the nation, recorded an 81 percent increase in drunken-driving fatalities last year, the U.S. Transportation Department said. Contrast that with the District of Columbia, awash with trendy meet bars, which recorded a 56 percent decline.

But the government released the data with a warning: Watch out this Labor Day, because local and state police across the country are launching their largest ever “You Drink & Drive. You Lose” campaign. The effort will feature roving patrols and undercover operations, along with the familiar roadside checkpoints.

The U.S. Justice Department says that 1.3 million Americans were arrested for drunken driving in 2003, and last year nearly 13,000 people died in accidents in which one of the parties was legally drunk while operating a vehicle.

Keeping ducks on the backyard pond or building backyard chicken coops is becoming increasingly popular. U.S. Department of Agriculture veterinarians, studying how respiratory diseases spread in the poultry industry, were surprised to find an average of two small backyard coops could be located within a mile of most major poultry farms.

Asked why they kept birds, 40 percent of respondents told the researchers that keeping birds is fun and a restful hobby.

Teenage male drivers with a male passenger in the front seat drive more recklessly than those who have a female or even no passenger in front, government researchers say.

Researchers for the National Institute of Child Health studied teen driving habits at 10 high schools. They found that guys were less likely to speed or tailgate when they had a female passenger _ or no passenger _ in the front seat. The researchers say they are designing an experiment to find out why.

Organizations fighting nuclear proliferation are furious that the Bush administration seems to be relenting on pressuring India to give up its nuclear weapons. The Center for Nonproliferation Studies says a joint statement between India and the United States in June shows that the Bush administration has given up on a quarter-century goal of U.S. policy of halting and reversing nuclear proliferation, and seems now to accept the fact that India is now a member of the club.

Seven of the 10 U.S. cities with the highest rates of car thefts last year were in California, according to U.S. Justice Department statistics.

(Contact Lance Gay at GayL(at)