Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

Money Machine

It is estimated there are 11,331 earmarks in the appropriations bills working their way through Congress. That is said to be a 426 percent increase over last year.

Here are some of the more interesting ways your federal tax money may be spent —
$2 million for the Charles Rangel Center for Public Service at New York City College,
$1 million for a river walk in Massachusetts, $700,000 for a bike trail in Minnesota.

Republican Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska wants $975,000 for berry research. And Republican Congressman Rodney Alexander has requested $1.6 million for bulletproof vests and body armor for the police department of Bastrop, Louisiana — which has a population under 13,000. Police say they don't need anywhere near that much for vests — but are happy to spend it on other equipment.

Confidential Files

The National Archives is withholding from the public around 2,600 pages of records stored at the Bill Clinton Presidential Library — under orders from Mr. Clinton himself. The New York Sun reports that an archives spokeswoman Susan Cooper says the documents were deemed to contain what is termed "confidential advice" — and are therefore closed.

This comes despite this statement from Clinton aide Bruce Lindsey last month — "Bill Clinton has not blocked the release of a single document."

Ms. Cooper says the 2,600 pages are part of a total of 24,000 pages of Clinton records closed — for reasons such as national security and privacy concerns.

Putin Up a Fight

The naming of Russian President Vladimir Putin as TIME magazine's "Person of the Year" is drawing some fire from the right.

Dean Barnett of the Weekly Standard — for one — says the selection — "clarifies some of the deep-seated bias and willful ignorance that characterize so much of the mainstream media."

Putin got the nod over Al Gore, "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling, Chinese leader Hu Jintao and General David Petraeus.

TIME insists it did not intend to glorify Putin. Deputy managing editor Adi Ignatius saying "It's not an honor ... we're not saying that he's a good person, we're not saying he's a bad person. He is the person who has most affected the news in 2007 and going forward."

Not Returning

Meanwhile TIME — which has been engaged in a effort to hire what managing editor Richard Stengel calls "star writers" — is not renewing the contracts of conservative columnists William Kristol and Charles Krauthammer — both of whom are also FOX News contributors.

The New York Observer reports Stengel was unavailable for comment about the reasoning for the decision because he was working on the "Person of the Year" issue.

TIME is said to be negotiating to replace one of the high-profile contributor spots with National Review senior editor Ramesh Ponnuru.

Doom and Gloom

And 2007 will go down as the year when the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded for dire warnings about the effects of global warming.

But geophysicist David Deming of the University of Oklahoma writes in The Washington Times that 2007 is also the year that Buenos Aires, Argentina saw snow for the first time since 1918. It is the year that saw 200 people in Peru perish from the cold. It is the year that killing freezes destroyed almost $1.5 billion of produce in California, 95 percent of South Carolina's peach crop, and 90 percent of North Carolina's apple harvest.

2007 was the third-quietest hurricane season since 1966. Last month Meacham, Oregon broke its record low temperature set in 1952 by 12 degrees, and the plains states are still trying to recover from a destructive autumn ice storm that has left at least 36 people dead.

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