John Murtha's 'Mystery' Earmark Request

Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

Mystery Earmark

A follow-up on Thursday's item about that so-called "mystery" earmark request from John Murtha: the Pennsylvania Democrat was awarded $1 million for the Center for Instrumented Critical Infrastructure — which it turns out does not exist — but is a planned part of a non-profit technology center that has received millions in Murtha earmarks over the years.

Now The Hill reports the Energy Department is denying Murtha's claim that it supports the request. A DOE spokeswoman says the earmark is not a program that meets its "mission critical" threshold and that it is "inconsistent" with its 2008 budget.

Nevertheless, the House overwhelmingly defeated a move to deny the earmark.

Kill Bill?

Over in the Senate, West Virginia Democrat Jay Rockefeller reportedly plans to introduce a bill that would give the Federal Communications Commission the power to regulate violent content on television. The FCC already has authority over sexual and language content, but not violence.

Cybercast News reports the Rockefeller bill would require either the FCC or Congress to work up a "definition" of television violence. It would also attempt to increase family-friendly programming —- particularly in the first hour of prime time, known as the family hour.

Critics say all of this amounts to an effort to limit free speech and they are concerned with the fact that the bill would apply not only to broadcast TV, but to cable and satellite stations as well.

Eat Right… or Else!

Researchers in Britain say a tax on foods some consider unhealthy could discourage people from eating them, make people healthier and save lives. The Oxford study suggested that extending Britain's existing tax on ice cream, snacks and drinks to dairy products, fatty meats and desserts could save up to 3,200 lives per year.

But critics in Britain and the U.S. say diet is a private matter and government should stay out. Still, New York City will start banning the use of trans-fats in restaurants beginning next year. Chicago is considering a similar ban and a bill in Maine to tax snack foods failed by just one vote this spring.

Watching and Smelling

Officials in London have been testing a special kind of surveillance camera that can analyze exhaust fumes and record license plate numbers — opening up the door to fine owners of vehicles that do not meet emission standards.

The Daily Telegraph reports the cameras can scan 3,000 vehicles per hour — and could be used to enforce new pollution restrictions that go into effect next February — with fines of around $400/day for violators.

—FOX News Channel's Martin Hill contributed to this report.