Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:
The ethics investigation into House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel still is not done — despite promises from Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Rangel is being investigated in at least four areas — including his failure to report income taxes on a Caribbean villa and the use of rent-controlled apartments in New York. Pelosi said in November, "The report will be completed by the end of this session... which concludes January 3, 2009."
The Hill newspaper reports the investigation will be further delayed because the ethics committee is currently without a chairman.
And Cybercast News reports Rangel will likely hold onto his Ways and Means chairmanship because the House voted Tuesday to eliminate term limits for committee heads. Michael Steel, House Minority Leader John Boehner’s press secretary, says "There's no limit whatsoever on the amount of time Chairman Rangel can remain chairman, despite the ethical questions he faces."
Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar — who is under fire from Congress and his own department — has been given a bonus worth more than $61,000. The Washington Times reports the reward is equal to about one third of Aguilar's annual pay.
Congress has criticized Aguilar for delays in the $20 million border fence project — as well as an accelerated hiring program which critics say is diluting the quality of border agents. Some of Aguilar's own people are critical as well, saying Aguilar is out of touch with field personnel.
A quote from a letter obtained by the Washington Times sent from border agents to Border Chief David Aguilar writes, "You clearly see yourself as an agent for change for political bosses rather than a person who has been entrusted to ensure the border patrol remains a top-notch law enforcement agency."
A Detroit elementary school is asking for donations of toilet paper, trash bags and light bulbs. A local T.V. station reports Naomi Khalil — the principal of the Academy of the Americas — sent a letter to staff and parents asking for help with items "that are of the utmost importance for proper school functioning and most importantly for student health and safety."
The school's district is grappling with a budget deficit of more than $400 million dollars.
Meanwhile, the Chicago public school system has spent $67,000 on 30 cappuccino and espresso machines. And most are going unused because the schools they were ordered for had not asked for them. The Chicago Sun-Times reports administrators split the order among 21 schools to skirt competitive bidding rules. One official has been fired and three others are facing disciplinary action.
Asleep at the Switch?
And finally, it seems technicians at the Hamas T.V. station Al Aqsa got a little bored Monday with the live static image of Gaza the channel normally broadcasts overnight. The Middle East Media Institute reports workers switched over to a polish pornographic channel.
What the technicians did not realize is that they hit the wrong switch and the erotic images went out live on the Hamas station. This went on for a steamy six minutes before the live shot of Gaza was restored.
— FOX News Channel's Zachary Kenworthy contributed to this report.
Bret Baier currently serves as anchor of Fox News Channel's "Special Report with Bret Baier" (weeknights 6-7PM/ET), the top-rated cable news program in its timeslot. Based in Washington, D.C., he joined the network in 1998 as the first reporter in the Atlanta bureau. Click here for more information on Bret Baier.