John McCaslin

Time to expand on the planning going into the Republican and Democratic national conventions, which, if you didn't notice by now, are all about sight and sound.

Let's start with President Bush's Republicans, who are gearing up for 45,000 delegates, alternate delegates, volunteers, guests and members of the fourth estate to descend on the Minneapolis-St. Paul convention venue Sept. 1-4.

By the way, it's understandable why any major U.S. city is privileged to host one of the political powwows: The GOP convention, which is set to nominate Sen. John McCain as the 2008 presidential candidate, is forecast to drop a $150 million-$160 million economic boost on the Twin Cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul.

As for eye and ear candy, veteran television and stage producer David J. Nash is returning as the convention's executive producer — his fifth consecutive appearance. The New York native has worked in more than 200 Broadway shows, and his production credits include the Academy Awards and Kennedy Center Honors.

Not to be outdone, the Democratic Party has brought in no less than five seasoned professionals from the entertainment industry to help craft the "overall look, sound and execution" of its Aug. 25-28 convention in Denver, particularly "stage and podium design."

"From Olympic Games to Super Bowls and everything in between, this team has done it all," noted Ricky Kirshner, the convention's executive producer — his fourth Democratic convention in a row. It was Mr. Kirshner who produced the 2007 Super Bowl half-time show and the recent Tony Awards.

And get this: Mr. Kirshner revealed that Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean gave him a mandate to "break the mold and take our thinking outside the box."

Stay tuned. Who knows, maybe Janet Jackson will be making an encore.

Sensitive noses

The U.S. government has just finished "imprinting" a new team of bomb-sniffing canines with the amazing capability of detecting the odors of 19,000 different explosives.

After an intensive 10-week training period, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) says it graduated last week from its Front Royal, Va., canine-training center a new class of canines and handlers from the CIA, Pentagon, U.S. Marshals Service and the Federal Protective Service.

The ATF said seven canine teams that graduated last week will be used for safeguarding federal and national events, including this summer's Republican and Democratic national conventions.

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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