Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

Marching Orders

A career diplomat working in Iraq is firing back at State Department colleagues who raised a furor last week at the prospect of being ordered to serve in the war zone.

John Matel leads a provincial reconstruction team in Anbar province.

He writes on DipNote — the State Department's official blog — "All of us volunteered for this kind of work and we have enjoyed a pretty sweet lifestyle most of our careers. This sound and fury at Foggy Bottom truly signifies nothing. Get over it! I do not think many Americans feel sorry for us and it is embarrassing for people with our privileges to paint ourselves as victims."

Matel says one colleague's assertion that an assignment to Iraq was "a death sentence" is — in his words — "way over the top."

Helpful Hints?

A religious leader in Saudi Arabia has provided instructions to young Muslim men about the proper way to beat their wives. The Middle East Media Research Institute says Muhammad Al-'Arifi cautions that beating should be reserved as a third option for dealing with misbehaving wives — after admonishment and moving out of the bedroom.

His guidelines — "Beatings should be light ... and must not make her face ugly. He must beat her where it will not leave marks... He should beat her in some places where it will not cause any damage."

Street Scene

A government report due out today shows that the number of chronically homeless adults fell 12 percent during 2005.

The Housing and Urban Development survey of 3,900 cities and counties showed a figure of almost 176,000 chronically homeless in January of 2005 — and fewer than 156,000 one year later.

A researcher at the University of Pennsylvania calls it "a proud moment". But the executive director of The National Coalition for the Homeless says he's skeptical of the numbers — insisting it is almost impossible to count homeless people.

Illegal Contact

And a couple of junior high students in Illinois and Alabama have been punished by school administrators for the offense of hugging their friends.

Thirteen-year-old Megan Coulter of Mascoutah, Illinois was given two days of detention for bidding some friends goodbye for the weekend by putting an arm around them and squeezing their shoulders. This follows a warning from the school after the girl was seen hugging a student at a football game.

And in Autauga County, Alabama — a female student was given detention after she hugged a male friend who had recently lost a parent.

In both cases — administrators say they were just following policies against public displays of affection.

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