That screech you hear is the sound of brakes being applied to the Army’s plans to replace the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.

Arguably the most sacred spot in America, the majestic white sarcophagus has developed cracks and the elements have eroded its marble surface, rendering its inscriptions less distinct.

Contending that the “irreparable” deterioration diminishes the majesty of the memorial and implies disrespect, the Army was on the way to having a new one sculpted. Only a pristine monument would convey the significance of the site and the place it resides in the nation’s soul.

When they got wind of the plans, Democratic Sens. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii and Jim Webb of Virginia sprang into action. They argued that the current tomb carries its own symbolism and significance and that the weathering — some of which can be repaired — is part of its heritage, as well.

The nation would never tear down and rebuild the White House or U.S. Capitol building because of cracks or superficial erosion, and it should not remake the Tomb either, the senators said. They convinced the Senate to order the Secretary of the Army and the Veterans Affairs department to conduct an in-depth report on the options available for the Tomb.

Democrats are raking in the gelt from top campaign donors, who have given more than half the money they have shelled out so far this year to Democrats. Through June, Democratic members of Congress running for re-election in the Senate had raised an average of $2.4 million, while those in the House had reaped about $355,000 on average — which bests their GOP counterparts by more than 20 percent, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

One step forward, one step back: The ethanol boom may help fill America’s alternative energy needs — and it certainly is making corn farmers smile. But a new report from the National Academy of Sciences contends that the growth in acreage devoted to growing corn poses a major threat to water quality and supplies. Corn requires more water and fertilizer than some other crops, which means more chemical runoff and a major drain on water supplies in dryer regions.

Meanwhile, the American Museum of Natural History has a special exhibit on water that examines the extraordinary growth in demand for bottled water in the United States, where consumption averaged about 26 gallons per person in 2005. Other factoids:

— It takes 3 liters of water to produce a 1-liter bottle of water.

— An estimated 4 percent of bottled water sold in the U.S. is just filtered tap water.

— Americans recycle fewer than 20 percent of their empties.

Wanted: Easy-to-wear, reliable, low-maintenance spacesuit appropriate for multiple space walks during six-month stays on the International Space Station and the moon. That’s the bid request NASA put out last week at The space agency hopes to award the contract next June for attire for the crew of the ambitious Constellation Program voyages, which will feature the Orion exploration vehicle.

For the first time since the Civil War, a soldier who lost a limb in combat has returned to serve on the same battlefield, this time as an amputee.

Army Maj. David Rozelle lost part of his right leg and his right foot in June 2003, when his vehicle ran over a land mine in the Iraq city of Hit. Now, with a prosthetic limb, Rozelle, 35, is back to lead a troop of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. While undergoing rehabilitation, Rozelle became captain of a team of military athletes, who irreverently dubbed themselves the “Missing Parts in Action” and who have competed in the Army Ten-Miler and other races.

President Bush has met personally with the families of about 1,500 of the 4,200 U.S. troops who have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the White House calculated.