And now the most illuminating two minutes in television, the latest from Special Report's "Political Grapevine."

Running on empty?

There may be new evidence that the federal budget is in worse shape than even congressional Democrats are saying.

Jonathan Hudson of Louisville, Kentucky, got his $300 tax refund a couple of weeks ago and promptly took it to the bank and deposited the check.  He has now received a notice from the Fifth Third Bank that the check was returned for insufficient funds, and that, in addition, he was being charged a bounce fee.

Hudson says he called the IRS.  "I talked to six or seven people.  They all laughed and said they never heard of this before."  Officials told Hudson it could take four to six weeks to clear the matter up.  The bank, meanwhile, however, has decided to drop that bounce fee.

Stuck in the middle with you

Media confusion seems to persist about Gary Condit's politics and his party.  A C-SPAN anchor last week, for example, identified him as a Republican, and meanwhile, Newsweek's Michael Isikoff called Condit a conservative, and CNN's Larry King labeled him very conservative.

For the record, Condit is a Democrat with a lifetime 52-percent rating from the liberal Americans for Democratic Action and a 48-percent lifetime rating for the American Conservative Union.

The Media Research Center notes that, in the 179 stories carried by the ABC, CBS, and NBC morning and evening newscasts from May 14th to July 11th, Condit was identified as a Democrat only 14 times.

Would you like a thong with that sarong?

Bill Clinton is in Rio, and Brazil's TV Globo reports that, while walking by the famous Ipanema Beach with the British actor Anthony Hopkins, Mr. Clinton ducked into a boutique and spent $113 on two bikinis and three sarongs.  He was in the country for a speech in Sao  Paulo.  No word on whom the former president was shopping for.

And the British government seems to be waging war against motorists, and they are not happy about it.

Red light, green light

The London Observer reports that in 50 towns and cities across England and Scotland, bus drivers are being issued remote controls to allow them to change traffic lights to green to take priority over cars, and buses are being authorized to stop in the middle of roads, thus blocking cars from passing.

The Observer says these moves are "a desperate measure to curb the increasing congestion that is throttling British cities as well as to curb auto pollution."

A spokesman for the Royal Automobile Club called the effort draconian and said it could help kill off city businesses.

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