Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

Just a Joke?

The Kremlin is playing down comments made by Russian President Vladimir Putin about the allegations of rape involving Israeli President Moshe Katsav, who has been accused of sexual assault by former female employees. According to Russia's Kommersant Daily, during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Putin reportedly joked that he envied Katsav, saying: "He turns out to be a really powerful guy. He raped 10 women!"

Kremlin officials aren't denying that Putin made the remarks but suggest that his meaning was lost in translation, adding that in no way did the Russian president intend to condone or commend Katsav for his alleged behavior.

Spoiled Spoof

London's Daily Star newspaper was forced to cancel publication of a parody of its own publication that made fun of Sharia law after complaints from members of the National Union of Journalists. The mock-up "Daily Fatwa" was expected to publish this week a special feature called "Burka Babes" and a column called "Allah is Great."

But a motion passed by the journalists' union expressed fears that the satire would prompt violence from "religious fanatics" who would take offense...and they noted that many of the news agents who sell the paper are of Pakistani origin.

The union's national organizer was quoted as saying the idea of the parody newspaper was appalling. Meanwhile a minority of staff members felt that pulling the articles violated freedom of speech.

Treasure Beneath the City of Light

It's not the kind of thing an American mayor would do. But Paris is a different deal altogether.

The city owns nearly 5,000 bottles of fine French wine nestling in perfect conditions beneath Paris's Hotel de Ville. The collection — started by French President Jacques Chirac nearly 30 years ago during his tenure as mayor of Paris — has increased so much in value that the current mayor, socialist Bertrand Delanoë, says its too valuable to drink at city functions... so he has decided to auction off the collection, which is expected to bring in some $900,000.

Delanoe apparently thought serving fine Bordeaux and burgundies was too elitist...but one wine broker said Chirac's extravagance all those years ago...turned out to be quite a good investment for the city of Paris."

More Joy For Elizabeth?

Elizabeth Edwards — wife of White House hopeful John Edwards —says she's happier than Hillary Clinton...even though the two women are of the same generation and both married lawyers. Edwards says the choices she made in life make her happier than Hillary, adding, "I think I'm more joyful than she is."

But Edwards also admitted that Clinton would be "a formidable opponent" in 2008 when Edwards and the former first lady are both expected to seek the Democratic party nomination for president.

—FOX News Channel's Martin Hill contributed to this report.

With more than 35 years of journalism experience to draw from, Brit Hume currently serves as a senior political analyst for FOX News Channel (FNC) and contributes to all major political coverage. Hume also is regular panelist on FOX's weekly public affairs program, "FOX News Sunday" on Sundays at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. ET. Click here for more information on Brit Hume