FUBAR

Rise of the one-button bandit

In a cloud of mesmerizing stardust, legalized gambling crept a little closer to Pittsburgh this week with the opening of The Meadows Racetrack & Casino at the site of what had been a harness racing track so sleepy even the horses yawned.

FBI finds abuse in domestic spying

An internal FBI audit has found the agency violated rules more than 1,000 times while collecting data on domestic phone calls, e-mails and financial transactions in recent years, The Washington Post reported on Thursday.

The number of violations uncovered by the audit was far greater than those previously documented in a Justice Department report in March, the Post said.

The vast majority of newly discovered violations were instances in which telephone companies and Internet providers gave agents phone and e-mail records the agents did not request and were not authorized to collect, the Post said.

Bush, Congress hit new lows in polls

President George W. Bush’s approval rating has dropped to 29 percent in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Wednesday, his lowest mark ever in that survey, which also found only 23 percent approved of the job Congress was doing.

Bush’s approval rating slid 6 points from 35 percent in April, NBC said, citing a decline in support within his own Republican Party. Sixty-six percent said they disapproved of Bush’s job performance.

Paris Hilton and the jail factor

The absurd media frenzy over the perils of Paris Hilton shouldn’t obscure the serious issue this made-for-TV pseudo-event raises. That issue is the astonishing number of Americans who are in prisons and jails on any particular day.

With friends like these…

Sixteen years ago, Chicago businessman Antoin “Tony” Rezko tried to hire bright young Harvard law student Barack Obama to work in his real estate development company.

Obama said no, but it was the start of a political friendship.

Rezko contributed thousands of dollars and raised thousands more as Obama ran for the Illinois legislature, the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate. He was even involved in Obama’s purchase of a family home.

But now Rezko faces federal charges as the central figure in an Illinois corruption scandal, and Obama — whose Democratic presidential campaign emphasizes a squeaky-clean image — is scrambling to distance himself from his old supporter.

Powell: Gitmo should be closed now

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell says the torture chambers at Guantanamo Bay should be closed immediately because they aren’t worth the grief they cause the United States and the world.

Gingrich: Ideas for sale to big contributors

Potential GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has promoted public policy positions that closely track the financial interests of companies that underwrite a think tank he founded.

The Center for Health Transformation is part of an elaborate consulting and communications empire Gingrich has built since he left Congress under a political cloud in January 1999. It gives the former House Speaker and Georgia Republican a far-reaching platform for his views, which he airs on television and radio, in paid speeches and in dozens of opinion columns in major newspapers.

Say what?

It is a backhanded compliment to the power of words that some of them are considered scandalous and bad. Unfortunately, when words go bad, moralists sometimes go crazy.

Alabama lawmakers duke it out

A Republican state senator who punched a Democratic lawmaker in the head expressed regret, saying "that's not the way grown men solve their problems," but he said he won't immediately apologize.

Republican Sen. Charles Bishop claimed that Democratic Sen. Lowell Barron called him a "son of a bitch" in the Senate chamber on Thursday.

"I responded to his comment with my right hand," Bishop said.

Alabama Public Television tape captured the punch.

"I was raised in the woods of Arkansas and people don't say that about your mom," Bishop said.