Pressure is mounting on the Department of Veterans Affairs to let nonpartisan groups hold voter-registration drives in VA facilities, including hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and homeless shelters.

The League of Women Voters, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Common Cause, along with a growing number of Capitol Hill lawmakers, say it’s indefensible that the VA would not allow its facilities to be designated as official voter-registration sites to make it easier for those who once served in uniform to vote.

The VA counters that it has always helped its charges sign up to vote, but that opening its doors to such drives would mean too much disruption, at least partly because a facility would be required to allow in the general public to register, not just VA clients. VA chief James Peake also is wary of having VA personnel vetting groups to make sure they are truly nonpartisan.

But, given the many political points to be gained by standing up for veterans against the uncaring, odds are Congress will make Peake back down.


The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is creating a ranking system for the nation’s nursing homes to help consumers judge the quality of care provided when they are choosing a facility for themselves or their loved ones. The agency, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, says it is creating a five-star system that will evaluate the levels of patient satisfaction, medical care and cost, among other things, at every nursing home that takes Medicare funds. Look for the ratings to be published in December.


Converting livestock manure into a renewable fuel source could generate enough electricity to meet up to 3 percent of all North America’s needs while also keeping millions of tons of planet-warming methane out of the atmosphere, according to a new report titled "Cow Power" by University of Texas-Austin researchers, who say their findings are not BS.


Don’t expect to see a lot of folks packing handguns on the streets of D.C. anytime soon, despite the Supreme Court’s recent blessing on the right of Washington residents to bear arms. In response to the historic ruling in Heller v. D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty and the city council have come up with a new law so peppered with restrictions and bureaucratic hoops that anyone but the most determined to register and keep a handgun will likely decide it’s not worth it.

The city’s attorney general expects the new law to draw legal challenges that could drag on for years. John Snyder, of the Citizens Committee to Keep and Bear Arms, does not disagree, saying, "D.C. politicians have treated the Supreme Court with contempt."

Meanwhile, House and Senate lawmakers have come up with a bill that would repeal all the restrictions in the city’s new law.

Good news for female Marines. Commandant James Conway has loosened a rule that barred women leathernecks from wearing dress shoes with heels higher than 2-1/2 inches. The limit’s now been upped to 3 inches because it was hard to find the shorter shoes in stores, the newspaper Stars and Stripes reports.


(Contact Lisa Hoffman at hoffmanl(at) SHNS correspondent Lee Bowman contributed to this column.)