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Congress hangs in for Old Glory

What do the Stars and Stripes, the Northern Spotted Owl, the Ku Klux Klan, Oriental-style noodles and Turkish pasta have in common?

They have all been high in the order of business this week of those entrusted with managing the world's most powerful democracy - a sure sign that Washington's summer silly season is upon us.

In Congress, the House of Representatives voted to change the words of the US Constitution for the 28th time since the founding of the Republic by introducing an amendment making it a crime to desecrate the American flag.

Just why Congress has decided to do this, especially as only three flag burnings have been reported nationwide in the last two years, no one in Congress quite knew. Nor did anybody know what the exact legal definition of "desecrate" might be. Across the road at the Supreme Court, the nation's nine most venerable men of law handed down two important constitutional rulings yesterday morning, one guaranteeing "comprehensive protection" to Oregon's northern spotted owl and another granting the Ku Klux Klan the right to erect a large wooden cross in a public square in Ohio.

Thus, with admirable fair-mindedness, did the good judges succeed in placating both the bunny-hugging liberals and the black-hating fascists.

Officials over at the US International Trade Commission, meanwhile, have been engaged in an investigation into complaints by American pasta manufacturers that rival imports from both Italy and Turkey are unfairly undercutting domestic profits. American spaghetti-makers say that the Italians and Turks receive subsidies from their government to encourage exports of pasta and, they claim, oriental-style noodles.

Once the ITC has finished its deliberations, it will pass its findings to the Commerce Department, where a decision will be taken whether to prepare the Mediterranean fleet for an outbreak of pasta war.