• Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

    Closing the Gap

    Pennsylvania Republican Rick Santorum has narrowed the gap on his Democratic Senate challenger Bob Casey, who held an 18-point lead just two months ago.

    A new Quinnipiac poll shows Santorum trailing Casey by 7 — 47 percent to 40 percent — without possible Green party candidate Carl Romanelli in the race. Romanelli's presence shrinks Casey's lead to 6 — 45 percent to 39 percent — with Romanelli earning 5 percent and 11percent undecided.

    In the state's gubernatorial race, Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell's advantage over former Pittsburgh Steelers football star Lynn Swann, a Republican, has also dropped, but remains a healthy 19 points.

    Still Coming

    A month of violence in the Middle East hasn't stopped Jewish immigrants from flocking to Israel in record numbers.

    By the end of August, more than 4,000 people will have arrived since the conflict began, hailing from North and South America, Europe, South Africa, India and the former Soviet Republics.

    The Jewish Agency, an Israeli immigration group, estimates that 24,000 people will move to Israel in 2006 — up more than a thousand from 2005.

    Public Reports, Private Bias?

    An AP reporter covering the war in the Middle East from Beirut is also expressing his personal, anti-Israeli opinions on the Internet.

    On his web log, Lebanese reporter Bassem Mrou claims Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert started the war against Hezbollah "under the pretext of the capturing of two Israeli soldiers" and called the war a failure.

    He also includes a graphic accusing Israel of targeting children in Lebanon, while failing to hit the terrorist group.

    Offensive Ad

    A Democratic political ad blasting the GOPs record on security is under fire from Hispanics — including some Democrats — who say the ad compares illegal immigrants to terrorists.

    The 35-second spot on the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Web site shows two immigrants scaling a border fence, alongside images of Usama bin Laden and North Korea's Kim Jong Il.

    Democratic Houston City Councilwoman Carol Alverado has asked DSCC chairman Chuck Schumer to pull the ad, saying: "To liken Latino immigrants to bazooka-toting terrorists not only undermines the positive relationship our party has with this community, but also lowers us to a despicable level as breeders of unfounded fear and hatred."

    Saved by Silicone

    A 24-year-old Israeli woman is crediting an extra layer of protection for saving her life during a Hezbollah rocket attack which shot hot shrapnel directly at her heart. But it wasn't body armor that stopped the projectile, it was her breast implants.

    Doctors say the shrapnel lodged in the woman's two-year-old silicone implants, just inches from her heart.