A battle over Memorial Day has erupted and it's an ugly one.

It began last week when Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards called on Americans to speak out and rally against the Iraq war on Memorial Day. That triggered a vehement rebuke from the American Legion, which called the suggestion a "revolting" attempt to sully a hallowed day.

Faced with howls of outrage, Edwards supporters noted that the candidate had also urged people to use the holiday to pray for U.S. troops, send them care packages and thank all vets. Edwards said it was time to "reclaim patriotism" from President Bush and his party, and his backers said there is no better way to support the troops than to bring them home from Iraq.

That only added fire to the anger of veterans' groups, who decried the attempt to politicize a holiday that honors the more than 1 million Americans who have died in service to the nation — in both popular and unpopular wars — since 1775.

Apparently, neither side intends to back down.

Send your underwear to the undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Energy.

That's the bright — or, more appropriately, dingy — idea of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which dreamed up the stunt to protest the federal government's new energy-efficiency standards for washing machines.

The anti-regulation group says the rules requiring a 35-percent reduction in energy use for new washers that took full effect this year have produced machines that do a poor job of cleaning. The worst offenders are new top-loaders, they say, citing Consumer Reports tests.

So the institute is calling for mass agitation against the new standards by mailing undies to acting Undersecretary of Energy Dennis Spurgeon. For details, go to www.underweartotheundersecretary.com.

Doesn't seem right that someone could be considered old enough to fight and die in Iraq but not old enough to drink a beer when he returns from the front.

The Marine Corps now agrees, and has just jettisoned a rule that forbade leathernecks under 21 from hoisting a brew while deployed overseas. From now on, young Marines can do so after their Iraq hitch, providing the host country's laws permit drinking by those under 21. Iraq remains an alcohol-free zone for U.S. troops.

For a Capitol Hill lawmaker, one of the scariest things about roller coasters is that there is no specific federal safety oversight of the amusement-park rides.

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., wants to close what he calls a "loopy loophole" through which amusement parks escape the government regulations under which carnival rides operate.

As it is now, traveling carnivals fall under the watchful eye of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, but so-called "fixed-site" theme parks — such as Six Flags and Disney World — do not. Markey also tried to change this exception last year but failed. Amusement-park interests and others point to a solid safety record and say federal oversight is unnecessary.

You didn't hear it here, but you might want to remember to fasten your seat belt if you're on the road at night for the next couple of weeks. The National Highway Safety Administration is pushing a May 21-to-June 3 crackdown on the unbuckled between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The agency says 15,000 passenger-vehicle occupants died during those hours in 2005, and close to two-thirds of those weren't wearing seat belts. Stats also show seat-belt use is typically as much as 10 percent lower at night than during daylight hours.

At President Bush's joint appearance with outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a U.K. reporter asked Bush's opinion of British Conservative Party head David Cameron, who could become PM down the road.

The Conservatives have long been considered the counterpart party and reliable allies of American Republicans. But not Cameron. If the British media are correct, he is studiously avoiding being seen with Bush, in Washington or anywhere else.

Asked his view of Cameron, Bush replied tersely, "Never met him." And the president's body language added, "And if I have anything to say about it, I never will."

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