Those "economic stimulus" checks Americans are getting aren’t coming cheap. The federal government now estimates the cost of printing, mailing and administering the program to reach as much as $1 billion.
According to government auditors, the Internal Revenue Service estimates the price tag for postage, printing and tech support will reach about $202 million. Another $95 million will go to the Financial Management Service and the Social Security Administration to help with outreach to recipients who may not know they are eligible for the checks.
But the biggest cost, by far, comes from the re-assignment of "hundreds" of IRS collections staff to stimulus-check duty. The U.S. Government Accountability Office said the IRS figures that will cost taxpayers $565 million in lost enforcement revenue, which the collections personnel would otherwise be pursuing if they weren’t handling telephone calls about the checks.
So far, the IRS has mailed out more than 76 million checks worth a total of about $64 billion.
It looks like the nomination of James Holsinger to become U.S. surgeon general is beyond resuscitation. A Kentucky physician with long service in public health, Holsinger was nominated 13 months ago by President Bush to take the nation’s top medical post. But his naming was met with a barrage of criticism by gay-rights groups and others about the views about homosexuality Holsinger expressed 17 years ago.
Though he distanced himself from those opinions in a Senate hearing last July, his nomination never budged an inch from the Senate health and education committee toward a vote. Although the White House denies it’s dead, Kentucky GOP Sen. Jim Bunning all but gave the nomination last rites this past week, saying he did not expect the Senate to act on it.
The White House drug czar just issued a warning to baby-boomer parents: The marijuana now on the street is way, way more potent than the pot they encountered back in the day. In fact, the levels of THC — the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana — are at the highest since scientific analysis of the drug began in the late 1970s.
The University of Mississippi’s Potency Monitoring Project regularly analyzes samples of cannabis, hashish and hash oil seized by law enforcement. The most recent analysis showed the potency had more than doubled in 25 years.
With Sunday marking the beginning of National Pollinator Week, there’s some good buzz about bees. While U.S. and other nations’ farmers are worried about the collapse of honeybee colonies that perform most of the pollinating necessary for crops to grow, now comes word that there are more species of bees worldwide than scientists had thought.
Researchers at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City have mapped 19,200 distinct species — about 2,000 more than the last tally published eight years ago. In fact, there are actually more species of bees than there are of birds and mammals put together.
"Top that, Russert!" — The ill-timed "Cheers & Jeers" column in the June 23-29 issue of TV Guide, which was delivered this past week. The column was applauding "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart for his interview with former White House press secretary Scott McClellan. The magazine’s issue was printed before NBC’s "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert died June 13.
(SHNS correspondent Lee Bowman contributed to this column. E-mail Lisa Hoffman at hoffmanl(at)shns.com. E-mail Bowman at bowmanl(at)shns.com.)