Dolphins Ready for Duty

* The U.S. military needs a few good . . . dolphins.

The U.S. Army and Navy are getting ready to use several specially trained Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphins to find mines in the waters around the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr. The dolphins and divers will check for bombs and mines in the water before ships bringing food and medicine to the Iraqi people come to the port.

U.S. Navy Captain Mike Tillotson told reporters that three or four dolphins will use their natural sonar to find explosives that might have been put in the water.

"They were flown over on a military animal transporter in fleece-lined slings," Tillotson said. "They travel very well."

The dolphins, which came from San Diego, California, were trained not to swim up to mines. Instead, they put a marker a short distance away, lessening the chance that they will be hurt.

The Cherry Blossoms

Are on the Way

* Better late than never, right?

The cherry blossoms, getting a late start this year because of the bitter cold and snowy winter, will be at their peak beginning on April 5, the National Park Service said yesterday. That's a few days earlier than the park service originally had expected. (Apparently now that the weather has turned nice, the cherry blossoms want to be out just as much as we do.)

If the latest prediction is true, the blooms will be in full show for the last few days of the Cherry Blossom Festival, which started Saturday and runs through April 7.

-- From staff and wire reports

Sergeant Andrew Garrett and bottle-nosed dolphin "K-Dog" are training to find mines.