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National Govt & Politics
Uncle Sam's spending - from high tech and subscriptions, to cooks and bathrooms
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Uncle Sam's spending - from high tech and subscriptions, to cooks and bathrooms

Uncle Sam's spending - from high tech and subscriptions, to cooks and bathrooms
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

Uncle Sam's spending - from high tech and subscriptions, to cooks and bathrooms

While Congress and the White House try to work out a plan to fund the federal government for the rest of this fiscal year, spending by Uncle Sam continues on a whole host of items, from highly advanced technical research at NASA and the Pentagon, to more mundane items, like subscriptions to magazines and journals, and janitorial services.

Here's a few things that the federal government spent your tax dollars on in the past few days:

1. Very smart people doing very smart people things. NASA has been very effective at sprinkling its research facilities around the country, which has spawned strong, bipartisan support for its various activities. One item being worked on at the John Glenn Research Center in Ohio is how to reduce the noise created by jet engines on airplanes. For that, you need to use something known as "Particle Image Velocimetry," which allows researchers to see how jet exhaust mixes with surrounding air. NASA Glenn needed to upgrade the PIV system there, so they spent $181,059 to do that.

Jamie Dupree
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Jamie Dupree

2. DARPA once more looking beyond the horizon. The work of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is almost always interesting when you look at how the Pentagon is spending research dollars. In recent days, the military has awarded contracts for "Advanced Friction Processing" ($940,310), "Generalized Network Assisted Transport" ($9.97 million), "Mission-oriented Adaptive Placement of Task and Data" ($6.8 million), and a "Direct Sampling Digital Receiver" ($487,286). DARPA also released a new request for futuristic technology development dealing with "Metamaterial-based Optical System Design." Some of the questions asked of developers are not just 1+1=2.

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Jamie Dupree

3. Making sure you can eat and use the bathroom. If you like to take to the great outdoors in the summer, maybe you have gone out west to the vast reaches of federal lands, whether national parks or U.S. Forest Service areas. The Forest Service yesterday awarded a $15,450 contract to a company to provide a "Backcountry Trail Cook" in the Marble Mountain Wilderness and Trinity Alps Wilderness on the Klamath National Forest, for a total of almost five months. Of course, when you eat and drink, you might need to use the bathroom, so the Fish and Wildlife Service okayed an $11,240 contact for a portable restroom in the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Research Center.

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Jamie Dupree

4. Subscriptions, subscriptions, and more subscriptions. As one might imagine, the sheer breadth of the federal government means there are a lot of workers with a lot of different interests. And they push their bosses to buy some interesting items. The Navy just agreed to pay $229,685 for a multi-site annual subscription to the library collections of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The Department of Energy authorized $23,700 for a one year subscription to Oxford Economics; the Air Force will spend $96,581 for the "Gold" level subscription to the Royal Society of Chemistry publications; the Energy Department will spend $64,821.92 for a one year SNL Energy Subscription Service for four users; the EPA will spend $10,675 to renew a subscription to CQ/Roll Call, while the FDA okayed $50,315 for a subscription to the PoliticoPro news service.

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Jamie Dupree

5. Odds and ends of military security. When you think about the U.S. military, you think about soldiers, ships, marines, planes and more. You don't usually think about all the other needs that must be dealt with to secure those facilities. So, you have $6,172 being spent for a police radar gun by the Army. And you have Fort Bragg in North Carolina shelling out almost $164,000 for "Law Enforcement Vehicle Graphics" - "This requirement is for install and supply of graphics (decals) on vehicles when they are placed into law enforcement service. The Government will provide the vehicles but will not provide the graphics."

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Jamie Dupree

There it is - another small snapshot of your tax dollars at work, for Uncle Sam.

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News

  • Six people were shot early Sunday after a party in a popular North Carolina restaurant, officials said. Police were called to the scene at about 12:05 a.m. after a party at Thelma’s Down Home Cooking in Salisbury, WSOC-TV reported. The State Bureau of Investigation is assisting local authorities in the case. One person was shot in the chest, two were trampled and one person was treated for anxiety. The shooting victims were taken to area hospitals, WSOC reported. The victim with the most severe injury was listed in stable condition. Officials have not identified any suspects and are seeking cellphone video or photos that might help in the investigation.
  • The Super Bowl festivities begin this week in South Florida, but snake hunters were agog about another annual event -- the Python Bowl that ended in the Everglades National Park on Saturday. Hunters caught 80 Burmese pythons as more than 750 people from 20 states competed in the 10-day event, according to a news release from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The wildlife commission and the South Florida Water Management District announced the results and winners of the Python Removal Competition during a ceremony in Miami on Saturday, WFTX reported. Here are the winners by category: Mike Kimmel removed eight pythons, earning him the top prize for the most snakes, a Tracker 570 ATV. Barry Offenburger won $1,000 in the military category for catching three pythons. Tom Rahill won $2,000 for capturing the longest snake — a 12-foot-7.3-inch python –– and won another $2,000 because it was the heaviest, tipping the scales at 62 pounds. Dave Mucci won $1,000 for an 11-foot python, the longest snake caught in the military category. He also won $1,000 for a 49.4-pounder. Florida holds the Python Bowl annually to put the squeeze on the Burmese python, a nonvenomous constrictor. According to conservationists, the snakes, estimated in the tens of thousands in the Everglades, pose a threat to native wildlife. Because they have few predators, Burmese pythons have flourished in the swamps of South Florida, eating animals ranging from rabbits to alligators, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
  • A pilot was killed Saturday morning when a small plane crashed into the side of a north Florida home, according to the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office. The family inside the home managed to escape the home without injury, the Sheriff’s Office said. A picture a viewer sent to Action News Jax shows the moment when a plane crashed into the front yard of the Lake City home.In the picture, a man in an orange shirt can be seen running across the yard to try to help the pilot, but he had to retreat because the flames were too extensive. Neighbors watched as a ball of fire flared up in their neighbor’s yard. Kristy Amato said she hears many small planes and often worries about them. “I was sitting on my couch watching a movie with my daughter, and I heard a plane take off like all of the planes take off,' Amato told Action News Jax. “Then I heard a backfire, then a loud kaboom, so I ran out front and there was a plane in my neighbor’s yard on fire.” Columbia County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Murray Smith told Action News Jax that after crews put the fire out, the pilot’s body was found underneath debris. “Shortly before 10, we received about 59 911 calls,” Smith told the television station. Smith said he believes the plane was a single-engine aircraft. The National Transportation Safety Board is now working to find out where the Piper PA-32 was going and the name of the pilot who died. Officials believe he was the only person on the plane. “There is an airport nearby, but so many neighbors have come over and gave so many stories, so we’re just going to wait for NTSB to get all of the facts straight,” said Smith. The Federal Aviation Administration and the NTSB are investigating what caused the plane to crash, but the investigation likely won’t be complete for months.
  • Three people — including two teens — are in custody and police are looking for a fourth after an armed robbery at a Sandy Springs jewelry store.  Antonio Collier, 40, Antwan DeKarlos Robinson, 17, and a 16-year-old juvenile were arrested after the incident, which happened about 4:20 p.m. Saturday at a business on Abernathy Road near Roswell Road, officials said.  Witnesses to the robbery and the store owner were able to subdue two of the suspects until police arrived, Channel 2 Action News reported.  Three men walked into the business and tried to steal items from the display case, Sandy Springs police spokesman Sgt. Sam Worsham said.  “They had hammers and were breaking everything and grabbed Rolexes,” a witness told Channel 2.  The owner, who was returning from lunch, saw the robbery in progress, the news station reported. He told Channel 2 he hit the robbers over the head and in the face with a bag full of glass pickle jars.  Two bystanders then tackled one of the suspects, Worsham said.  Two other suspects drove off in a car, he said. The incident turned into a police chase that ended in a crash on Glenridge Road.  One of the suspects was arrested at the scene, and the fourth suspect ran away into a wooded area, Worsham said.  Collier, Robinson, and the juvenile are all charged with armed robbery, possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony, felony criminal damage to property, possession of tools for the commission of a crime, obstruction and two counts of battery.  Read the full story from Channel 2 Action News here.
  • Tamra Judge is leaving “The Real Housewives of Orange County” after 12 seasons, the star of the Bravo series said in an Instagram post Saturday. “It’s been a wild 12 years. But it’s time for me to move on,” Judge wrote on Instagram. “I’m sad to go but I’m very excited about my future.” Judge is currently the longest-running full-time cast member in “Housewives” history, People reported. She joined the show during its third season in 2007, according to the magazine. Judge’s announcement comes a day after fellow co-star Vicki Gunvalson also announced she was leaving the reality television show, E! Online reported. Judge said she was looking forward to life after the series. “It’s been a wild ride, and after all these years, I’m looking forward to life away from the cameras,” Judge told People. “I was offered a chance to come back to the show in a limited role, but would prefer to walk away on my own terms.” Judge has been part of the show’s most memorable moments, including the show’s first wine toss, People reported. She also starred in a three-episode spinoff of the series, “Tamra’s OC Wedding,” which documented her June 2013 wedding to Eddie Judge. “I want to thank all the fans who have offered me their support over the years,” she told People. “It’s meant a lot.”
  • Margaret Mackie is not a household name in the music industry, but she’s getting there in a hurry. The 83-year-old dementia patient from Scotland has gone viral on YouTube with her heart-melting duet of “My Way” with her caregiver, Jamie Lee Morley. The pair recorded a single of the song, with proceeds going to Dementia UK and the Alzheimer’s Society. People with elderly parents will have a tough time avoiding the tissues after watching the sweet, sentimental ballad made famous by Frank Sinatra. But Mackie is not ready to face the final curtain just yet. She’s content to keep singing. Morley, a musician who works as a food server at the Northcare Suites Care Home in Edinburgh since it opened last fall, told The Washington Post he was walking past a lounge at the center when he heard a lovely voice singing Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” Morley told the newspaper he thought someone had left the radio on, but then he saw Mackie singing the song in perfect pitch. “I was stunned,” Morley, 31, told the Post. “I’ve loved singing and music since I was a little lad, and I could just tell that Margaret did, too. Her voice is amazing.” Morley and Mackie sang “My Way” at the care home’s Christmas party in December, CBS News reported. A video of the duet was posted to YouTube and quickly went viral. “Every day in work we sing this song together and I do whatever I can to brighten her day and all the other residents,” Morley wrote on YouTube. 'For those close to me will know this was my Grandad’s funeral song who our family sadly lost to Alzheimer’s last year. I’ve never really sang this song, as it’s a classic, but I knew how much Margaret and her family would love it.” Mackie’s family attended the Christmas party and enjoyed the duet, CBS News reported. They are even more delighted with the response to the video. “It has brought her back to life. The dementia was taking a hold of her and she was getting sad with it, but this has given her a new lease of life,” Mackie’s daughter, Mairi Hunter, told the BBC. “It’s quite remarkable how she can remember the lyrics. It just seems to come back to her. “She wants everyone to be happy. People cry when they hear the song and she’ll say ‘No don’t cry, I want you to be happy.’” Meanwhile, the recording of “My Way” is No. 6 on the United Kingdom’s Amazon download chart and at one point reached No. 27 on iTunes’ Top 40 in the U.K., the Post reported. That’s ahead of Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande and Ed Sheeran, the newspaper reported. Morley filmed his excursion with Mackie to the recording studio and released the single and a music video to go with it Dec,. 28, CBS News reported. The music video has had nearly 200,000 views since its release. Mackie, a former whiskey distillery worker, rarely remembers one day from the next, the Post reported. She came to Northcare Suites in October from another care center, Jordan Simpson, manager of Northcare Suites, told the newspaper. While Mackie might be forgetful, she never forgets the lyrics to her favorite songs, Simpson said. “Singing is something that makes Margaret happy. She has a great singing voice,” Simpson told the Post. “And although she has dementia, she has a great memory for song lyrics. She and Jamie sing together most of the day.” Mackie said she wouldn’t mind recording another song, and joked about recording an entire album, the BBC reported. “It’s great seeing your face in all those newspapers,” Mackie told the BBC. “It’s nice to have a busy life like that, every now and then.” The single can be purchased on iTunes here.