The only action will be inaction

Don’t expect Capitol Hill to react to the Virginia Tech mass murder in any consequential way.

Unlike after the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, when Democrats in Congress won new rules that limited the availability of some firearms, even fierce gun-control advocates like New York Sen. Charles Schumer are largely laying low.

Political strategists blame Al Gore’s tie-breaking vote in favor of the restrictive measures as one reason he lost the 2000 presidential election, and Democrats are so hungry to win the White House back next year that they’re not going to risk hurting themselves this time.

At most, Congress will likely dole out money that universities can use to buy and operate surveillance cameras, hire more security guards and install communications systems.

Seems the price of oil is too high even for Uncle Sam. Attempting to fill up the tanks in the nation’s crude oil reserve after selling 11 million barrels of it to stabilize prices after Hurricane Katrina, the Energy Department solicited bids last month for 4 million barrels of crude. But the price offered by oil suppliers was far too steep. So, the department is trying again, setting a bid deadline of May 1. When the price is right, the contract will be the first direct purchase of crude oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve since 1994.

Now comes a handy glossary of election terminology, courtesy of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, which this week unveiled an English-Spanish version and hopes to produce others in Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean and Tagalog.

The first in the series offers Spanish translations for hundreds of phrases and terms of great import to America’s electoral systems, including: hanging chads (perforaciones que no se han desprendido totalmente); deceased candidate (candidato fallecido), and catastrophic system failure (falla catastrofica del sistema).

The costs of treating the big megillahs of American illness — heart disease and cancer — increased by more than $50 billion between 2000 and 2004, according to new estimates from the federal Agency on Healthcare Research and Quality. The tab for heart care jumped to $90 billion from $62 billion; for cancer, it increased to $62 billion from $42 billion.

Even so, only about 3 million more people were treated for heart problems in 2004 than 2000, and about 1.6 million more for cancer.

So that’s why Don Imus was canned! Pravda, that bastion of Russian journalistic excellence, tells us the radio star lost his job because he threatened to release secrets about the U.S. government’s involvement in the 9/11 terror attacks. “Unable to attack such a powerful media figure as Don Imus, directly, the U.S. War Leaders(cq)… resorted to a massive media attack against him using as the reason a racial slur against a U.S. woman’s basketball team.”

Pravda said it expects actor Charlie Sheen will now bite his tongue before criticizing the Bush administration, lest he wind up like Imus, who Pravda believes likely will face jail time if he keeps threatening to spill the 9/11 beans. Who knew?

As National Library Week wanes, news comes that low-income community schools and public libraries are facing a serious shortage of librarians. Part of the reason is the large wave of retirements now under way, as well as high-salary offers from private companies who hire them to manage the information glut many firms face these days. Look for Congress to create a new incentive by forgiving as much as 100 percent of certain student loans owed by librarians if they agree to work in disadvantaged areas.

Call them Meals Ready to Entertain: Cedar Plank Salmon Parmesan with Asian Reduction Sauce of Julienne Vegetables. Pecan Crusted Chicken Over Field Greens with Caramel Citrus Vinaigrette. Rainbow Fruit Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Fried Cheddar Grits and a Blueberry Coulis.

Believe it or not, these are not from the menus of White House state dinners. They’re the original creations of U.S. military chowmeisters picked by Food Network superstar Emeril Lagasse as winners of a military cook-off, which will be televised June 29 and 30.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Sen. John McCain and American Legion National Commander Paul Morin are all singing the soulful praises of a soon-to-be-released hardcover book that profiles one fallen U.S. service member from each state, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. “Faces of Freedom” ( is an all-volunteer effort to help raise money for wounded vets, with all proceeds going to the Fisher House organization and the Wounded Warrior Project.


Scripps Howard News Service correspondent Lee Bowman contributed to this column