The chatter has begun again: Plans are afoot to revive the national military draft.

In the past, these rumors have risen from the ranks of those opposed to the war in Iraq, who used the specter of the draft to gin up support for their side.

Now, it’s some of those who are doing the fighting who are asking if a draft might be necessary, given the enormous strain the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts are putting on the nation’s troops.

Resentment is growing that 99 percent of the country has not personally been touched by the war, while the all-volunteer forces and their families are bearing the entire burden. And some officers have begun to complain that the lowering of standards in order to enlarge the pool of enlistees is bringing in a lower quality of recruits.

Even so, Pentagon chief Robert Gates and new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen say there is absolutely no consideration being given to re-instituting the draft.

Perhaps seeking to prove that Capitol Hill indeed is a black hole that sucks in taxpayer money and spews it out in pork, a Harvard-trained particle physicist is running for Congress. Bill Foster, who brags that he participated in the discovery of the “top quark” at Illinois’ renowned Fermilab, is one of four contenders for the Democratic nomination to replace retiring House Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican.

An entrepreneur and multimillionaire, Foster is raking in campaign donations, with more than 70 percent coming from the scientific community. Among his backers: 19 Nobel Prize winners.

Like the smitten who seem oblivious to their paramour’s explosive past, Californians so love their location that they discount the risks they face from wildfires, mudslides, earthquakes, etc. That’s the conclusion of a National Science Foundation study that found residents of the Golden State make irrational decisions about where it is safe to live because of that blind love, and are likely to continue to do so in the future, however many catastrophes they have to endure. The only way to change this behavior is to make it financially devastating for them, other experts suggest.

Scientists also found that the recent fires made an enormous contribution of pollution to America’s air. According to researchers at the University of Colorado in Boulder, the blazes released nearly 9 millions tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which is equivalent to a quarter of the monthly emissions from all fossil fuel burning in the state.

As the United States, Canada, Russia, Denmark and Norway jockey for dibs on the Arctic, a research group warns that icebergs on the loose loom as a problem on the near horizon. The International Ice Charting Working Group cautions that the opening of sea-lanes over the top of the world could well result in massive chunks of sea ice posing deadly hazards to navigation. Already contributing to the danger: growing ship traffic carrying oil and gas explorers, plus tourists to the Arctic Circle.

Joining in now is the U.S. Coast Guard, which just conducted its first observation flight over the North Pole to monitor maritime activity in the region. The service wants to establish bases in the Arctic, and says the harsh environment means there will likely be a huge need for search-and-rescue operations.

Thirty million of us have confessed we were scammed in 2005, according to a new survey by the Federal Trade Commission using the most recent data available.

By far, most of us — nearly 5 million victims — fell for fraudulent weight-loss products, while more than 3 million were bilked by foreign lottery scams. Those involve a notice — often via the Internet — that we’re the big winners of a foreign lottery, and all we have to do is send in our bank-account numbers or a “small” deposit in order to claim the bucks.

The survey also found that those between ages 35 and 44 were much more likely to have been swindled than senior citizens.

If a new poll is to be believed, some 20 million of the younger among us are fired up and ready to vote in the 2008 presidential election. A poll sponsored and conducted by Rock the Vote, WWE’s Smackdown Your Vote and Sacred Heart University found that 87 percent of 18- to 30-year-olds surveyed said they intend to vote. Their top issues of concern: the war in Iraq (28 percent); health care (22 percent); and the economy (14 percent).

More than half of those polled called themselves Democrats and 54 percent of them are backing Hillary Rodham Clinton. About 40 percent were Republicans, with 32 percent supporting Rudolph Giuliani.

Their preferences could be pivotal. After a three-decade decline in their turnout, the young have taken to voting in large numbers. In 2004, 4.3 million more youths cast ballots than did in 2000.

(SHNS correspondent Lee Bowman contributed to this column.)

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