The Senate is considering legislation to prevent a global helium shortage from worsening in October. That's when one huge supply of helium in the U.S. is set to terminate. The House overwhelmingly passed its own bill last month to keep the Federal Helium Program going.
That was a relief to industries that can't get along without helium. The gas is used in MRI machines, semiconductors, aerospace equipment, lasers and of course balloons.
In Afghanistan, where most people are illiterate and live in areas without paved roads or regular electricity, a state-of-the-art smart-chip ID card may seem extravagant. But the government believes it can help with everything from census data to voter registration to health care.
The format of the proposed card, however, is fueling debate over ethnicity and identity at a time when anxiety is already high over the drawdown of NATO troops.