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Special Report

Battle Tie

Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

Bush = Big Brother?

Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy blasted the president last week for authorizing wiretaps on U.S. citizens without a court order, but said that's not all the Bush administration is doing to restrict American freedoms. In a New Bedford Standard-Times reports that the student in question has since "tearfully admitted" to fabricating the entire incident. A Kennedy spokesman tells the Globe that even if the story is a hoax, it doesn't detract from the senator's point that President Bush has gone "too far."

Bipartisan Band

Five U.S. representatives are spending their holidays on a fact finding mission to Iraq and Afghanistan, but in their down time, they switch from being lawmakers to music makers.

They're members of an all-congressional rock band called "The Second Amendments," referring not to the right to bear arms, but to the fact that the group is the successor to guitarist and Minnesota Democrat Collin Peterson's first band — "the Amendments." Bass player Dave Weldon, a Florida Republican, says they're sending the message that Congress cares about the troops while Peterson says they just hope to provide some entertainment, adding, "People expect that we can't play, so we always exceed expectations."

Austrian Art?

Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel has issued a personal appeal for artists to withdraw billboards around Vienna featuring naked models wearing masks of Queen Elizabeth, French President Jacques Chirac, and President Bush in various sexual poses.

The billboards were commissioned by "25 Peaces," an independent artists group and are seen as a major embarrassment to the country just days before Austria takes over the European Union's rotating presidency. The artists say the posters are part of a series meant to "reflect on the different social, historical and political developments in Europe" and the project has received more than $1 million in government subsidies. The Chancellor's office, however, says the government had been "unaware" of the billboards' racy subject matter.

Hulk vs. Hulk

Alaska Senator Ted Stevens likes to wear a favorite article of clothing for major legislative battles — one that seems appropriate for knocking heads in Congress. It is his now famous Incredible Hulk necktie. But it didn't help him in his effort to get Congressional approval for a proposal to allow oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge this month... The reason? Another senator was working her own mojo.

Columnist Alicia Mundy tells the Washington Times that Stevens' chief opponent on the drilling provision, Washington Democrat Maria Cantwell, found another incredible Hulk tie in the Senate cloakroom the night before the debate, and wore it "while she worked the phones to round up anti-drilling votes." Cantwell wound up with three more votes than she needed to block the proposal from going to the Senate floor.

— FOX News' Aaron Bruns contributed to this report