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The week in review


October 20, 2006

Pundits see political tsunami aimed at GOP

Political experts this week said the anti-incumbent, anti-war, anti-Bush fervor is so strong that a Democratic takeover of the House is "very likely" and a flip of leadership in the Senate a real possibility next month. "Republicans don't seem to be running for office these days. They look more like they're limping," said Virginia political-science professor Larry Sabato. Political handicapper Charlie Cook said conservatives face a category 5 hurricane that could easily bring a 30-seat gain in the House, twice what Democrats need to take control. "This is the worst political situation for the GOP since the Watergate disaster in 1974," Cook said.

Iraqi violence escalates, U.S. leaders consider changes




Ten U.S. troops died in firefights with Iraqi insurgents Tuesday, the highest one-day toll in several months. The escalating violence in and around Baghdad, up 43 percent since summer, brought glum admissions from military leaders. "Insurgent elements, the extremists, are pushing back hard," Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said. President Bush told the Associated Press on Friday he would meet with the generals to determine if policy changes are merited. "We are constantly adjusting tactics so we can achieve our objectives and right now, it's tough," Bush said. U.S. forces suffered at least 74 fatalities in October.

North Korea may blink over nuclear impasse

North Korea signaled it might back down from its nuclear showdown with the world Friday, five days after U.S. officials confirmed the isolated nation had conducted a small underground nuclear test last week. North Korean leader Kim Jong Il reportedly apologized to Chinese representatives for the Oct. 9 nuclear detonation and vowed not to test any more nuclear devices. "If the U.S. makes a concession to some degree, we will also make a concession to some degree, whether it be bilateral talks or six-party talks," Kim was quoted in the South Korean press as telling a Chinese envoy.

Wisconsin man arrested for football-stadium hoax

Wisconsin grocery-store clerk Jake Brahm, 20, was arrested Friday on charges of making hoax threats on the Internet that seven U.S. football stadiums would be struck by terrorists using radiological "dirty bombs." The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security issued a joint statement that football fans "should be reassured of their security as they continue to attend sporting events this weekend." The threat, posted Oct. 12 on "The Friend Society" Web site, said trucks would deliver radiological bombs Sunday to stadiums in Atlanta, Miami, Cleveland, Houston, New York, Seattle and Oakland, Calif.

NBC to cut jobs and pricey prime-time shows

NBC Universal announced Thursday it will streamline news operations, cut 700 jobs and scale back its expensive prime-time programming. The changes, meant to cut $750 million in costs, are more evidence that changing media habits of the American public are threatening mainstream operations like the venerable broadcasting company.

The network's struggling 24-hour cable news channel, MSNBC, will relocate operations to NBC headquarters at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan and to another NBC facility in Englewood Cliffs, N.J. NBC Universal's operating profits declined 10 percent during each of the last three quarters.

Retired priest admits misbehavior with Foley

A retired Roman Catholic priest said he fondled former Rep. Mark Foley as a 13-year-old boy and took naked saunas with him. Officials at the Florida diocese where Foley grew up is investigating Foley's charge that he was sexually abused by the Rev. Anthony Mercieca, 69, who retired to the Maltese island of Gozo. "It was just fondling," Mercieca said in a television interview. Meanwhile, the House ethics committee continued its investigation this week into Republican leaders' handling of inappropriate communications by Foley with former House male pages.

FBI agents raid homes of Congressman Weldon's family and friends

In yet another pre-election scandal probe, FBI agents Monday disclosed an intense corruption and influence-peddling investigation against Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., that included raids at the homes of his daughter and a close friend. At issue is whether Weldon used his influence to obtain $1 million in contracts for Solutions North America, a company run by Karen Weldon, 32, and the lawmaker's longtime friend, Charles Sexton. "I have not done anything wrong. My daughter hasn't, either," Weldon told reporters after the raids.

Dow Jones hits 12,000 mark for first time

Amid a flurry of strong profit quarterly statements and declining petroleum prices, the bulls on Wall Street pushed the Dow Jones industrial average to the 12,000 mark for the first time Wednesday. It reached 12,029.50 before slipping late in the week and dropping back closer to the 12,000 level Friday afternoon. It took the Dow more than seven years to hit the new mark after reaching 11,000 in early 1999. Strong showings from blue-chip members IBM, Microsoft and Wal-Mart fueled the Dow's run in October.

Census reports America hit 300 million population

The Census Bureau reported that the U.S. population reached 300 million at 7:46 a.m. EDT Tuesday, a milestone that received little attention or celebration. Political leaders, worried by criticism that much of the growth came from illegal immigration, ignored the event. The United States hit the 200 million mark in 1967, prompting then-President Lyndon Johnson to celebrate the country's growth and prosperity.

Junior Gotti goes free after three mistrials

Three mistrials were the charm for John "Junior" Gotti, son of the late Gambino family mob leader John Gotti. Federal prosecutors in New York announced Friday they will cease action against Gotti following a third mistrial when jurors could not decide whether Gotti, 42, was still involved in organized crime. U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia said that a fourth trial "is not in the interests of justice."


E-mail Thomas Hargrove at hargrovet(at)
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