Unfiled

Memo to Democrats: Be careful of what you wish for

By REG HENRY

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

What is that noise? No, not the pitiful wailing coming from all parts of Pittsburgh now that the Steelers have lost three games in a row. Could it be thunder or, worse yet, gastric distress in the dog? Could it be the great whooshing sound made by our young people rushing to New York City?

No, that’s not the noise. This is more insidious. It is the sound of expectations leaping into thin air. It is the whisper of hands being gleefully rubbed together and fingers counting chickens before they are hatched.

When in doubt, call a conference

Statistically, our schools are safe. Students are safer there than anywhere else, including their homes.

Nonetheless, the sporadic spasms of violence — shootings in four states in the past two weeks — are such a shock to the social fabric and the national sense of safety that the authorities feel compelled to do something, if only to convene a conference.

Mixed signals

A curious confluence of contradictory signs is cropping up about young Americans’ changing relationship with Christ. To sort things out, do we need a sign from God?

Some experts claim that Christian evangelicals, seemingly at the height of their political power on the national scene, are praying they aren’t simultaneously on the precipice of extinction, as church leaders fear an apocalyptic prediction is coming true.

FBI investigating Specter aide for favoritism scheme

Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter has acknowledged the FBI is looking into allegations that one of his aides illegally helped her lobbyist husband get federal dollars for his clients.

The Republican lawmaker on Wednesday provided The Associated Press a copy of a letter sent by the FBI in August to his office that said staff member Vicki Siegel Herson is under investigation in connection with allegations reported earlier this year.

Illinois Democratic fundraiser nailed for fraud, extortion

A prominent fund-raiser for Illinois Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich has been charged with fraud and attempted extortion, prosecutors said on Wednesday.

Antoin Rezko, 51, a real estate developer and restaurant owner who lives in the Chicago suburb of Wilmette, Illinois, was named in two separate grand jury indictments unsealed by U.S. Attorney for Northern Illinois Patrick Fitzgerald.

Rezko was charged with 24 counts, including fraud and attempted extortion, for demanding millions of dollars in kickbacks from investment firms and a construction company vying to build a hospital.

Army admits troops will stay in Iraq for four more years

For planning purposes, the Army is gearing up to keep current troop levels in Iraq for another four years, a new indication that conditions there are too unstable to foresee an end to the war.

Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, cautioned against reading too much into the planning, which is done far in advance to prepare the right mix of combat units for expected deployments. He noted that it is easier to scale back later if conditions allow, than to ramp up if they don’t.

ATF director ordered staff to help with son’s homework

The man who recently departed as director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ordered his staff to help with his nephew’s high school homework, wasting the agency’s time and violating ethics rules, an inquiry found Wednesday.

The nephew’s project _ a documentary about the ATF that took 10 months to complete _ was one of a half-dozen examples of lapses in judgment Carl J. Truscott committed before he resigned in August, says the report by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine.

A bigger, better, more diverse Hispanic Community

Pew Hispanic Center director Robert Suro compared current Latino demographic trends to his teenage son. It is growing in many directions and “getting bigger and getting different at the same time.”

Suro was addressing hundreds of participants attending the youth-focused Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute issues conference here earlier this month. Three days stoked with strategy sessions, fancy meals and plenty of laughs helped set a national Latino agenda.

Sen. Harry Reid made cool million in shady land deal

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid collected a $1.1 million windfall on a Las Vegas land sale even though he hadn’t personally owned the property for three years, property deeds show.

In the process, Reid did not disclose to Congress an earlier sale in which he transferred his land to a company created by a friend and took a financial stake in that company, according to records and interviews.

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