Have you noticed that the traffic is lighter around town? Wonder why? Could be because the skies are darker, filled with jets flying lawmakers — include several lame ducks — across the globe in a never-ending quest to find facts.

We’ve written about two lame-duck senators — Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) — who headed to five European capitals to try to help out the euro zone.

That group, which returned Friday, included another lame-ducker — actually now the lamest of all — Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.), who resigned Tuesday and has already landed a job in Washington with California-based law and lobbying firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips.

But there are many other fine trips abroad this month. Lame-duck House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.), who’s retiring this year after 15 terms, is headed back from an 11-day, one-member congressional delegation (codel) to Southeast Asia, with stops in Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Burma and Hong Kong.

He’s got three or so staffers with him, traveling commercial to Asia and then by military jet within the region. Not the best time of year to travel in that part of the world. Apparently rains a bit. (But lame-duck travel is a no-no after the end of the lame-duck session in December, so you go when you can.)

Dreier’s been meeting with top government and opposition folks as well as U.S., international and local business leaders, talking about trade agreements and human rights and such.

You might say, “What’s the point? He’s out in four months.” But that doesn’t mean he can’t work with all those business and government people when he’s in the private sector, does it?

Former Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), who’s leaving the Senate after 36 years, is on his nearly annual trip to Russia, Ukraine (where he’s a rock star) and Georgia, checking in with opposition groups, pushing for more democracy and urging fewer nukes and biochemical weapons — much as he has always done.

Although Lugar’s trip includes a stop at a conference in Belgium, some of these biochem sites in the former Soviet Union are not particularly attractive. However, Georgia’s central public health laboratory is being renamed in his honor.

Meanwhile, we’re hearing that Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who’s not a lame duck, is on a two-week House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence trip to Europe and the Middle East.

Nunes wouldn’t discuss the trip while it’s in progress. An aide said he flew commercial to the Middle East — most probably then milair “in theater,” as they say — and the trip was “mostly related to the conflict in Syria.”

We’re thinking that means likely stops in Israel and Jordan, and maybe Greece and other places. He’s also scheduled to stop at the U.S. European Command in Germany on the way back. It’s unclear whether other members or spouses are going.

Since Nunes is of Portuguese descent, you’d think there’d be at least a little time in Lisbon for maybe a quick lunch at Bonjardim — best spit-roasted chicken you will ever have — right downtown near the Praca dos Restauradores, followed by custard at Pasteis de Belem

Finally, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) is said to be leading a large codel — we’re hearing as many as 10 members — on a 10-day jaunt to South Sudan and other countries in Africa. There may be stops in Kenya, Morocco and Spain as well.

At least it wasn’t the Weathermen

Conspiracy theorists hardly need provocation to imagine all manner of apocalyptic catastrophes necessitating tinfoil hats and other gear. But they recently got a bit of red meat to feed their fears.

As our pals at the Capital Weather Gang reported, a procurement notice by the National Weather Service seeking 46,000 rounds of ammunition for semiautomatic pistols stirred up the doomsday crowd.

What would a bunch of weather geeks want with guns? Some people had their theories.

“The federal government is clearly gearing up for the likelihood of civil unrest on a scale that could outstrip what we’ve already seen in countries across Europe,” claimed a writer on (the site’s tag line: “BECAUSE THERE IS A WAR ON FOR YOUR MIND”).

Turns out there was just a little “clerical error,” and the ammo was actually destined for the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement, a NOAA spokesman says. “Ammunition is standard issue for many law enforcement agencies, and it will be used by 63 NOAA enforcement personnel in their firearms qualifications and training,” he says.

The guns, apparently, are needed to protect Flipper and his friends. “NOAA officers and agents enforce the nation’s ocean and fishing laws to ensure a level playing field for fishermen and to protect marine species like whales, dolphins and turtles,” the spokesman says.

Up on the woof

Good news for those who think the presidential campaign couldn’t get weirder — or drearier.

Devo , the ’70s punk rock/new wave band whose biggest hit was “Whip It,” is coming out with a new song to accompany a mobile game called: “The Crate Escape: Seamus Unleashed.”

It is, as you may have guessed, a satire of presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s legendary family vacation trip to Canada with the family dog in a crate strapped on the roof.

The new single, written by founding member Gerald Casale, is called “Don’t Roof Rack Me, Bro! (Remember Seamus).” To hear a snippet, visit

Launch date for the song and the game is Aug. 26, according to a publicity blurb, which is National Dog Day and the day before the Republican National Convention. The game is being launched as an app on iTunes.

Goofy as all this is, it could be electorally of note. Devo, fans may recall, is from the epicenter of the “battleground” — Kent and Akron, Ohio. Not as important as Canton, but still significant.

Note to file: Send e-mail alert to Gail Collins at the New York Times.

With Emily Heil

The blog:
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP