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Special Report

Less Than Expected?

Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

Thousands of protesters took to the streets around the world over the weekend to oppose the American presence in Iraq, but the demonstrations appear to have fallen far short of what their organizers hoped for. There were, for example, more than a thousand in New York on Saturday and about twice that many in Tokyo the same day.

But the AP reported, "Many of the weekend demonstrations across Australia, Asia and Europe drew smaller-than-anticipated crowds — far short of the millions worldwide who protested the initial invasion in March 2003 and the first anniversary in 2004."

Refused the Offer

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin refused an offer by a Texas-based car crushing company to remove the city's flooded and abandoned vehicles left over after Hurricane Katrina. In October, K & L Auto Crushers said it would take 15 weeks to finish the job and even offered to pay the city $100 for each of the estimated 50,000 cars that needed removal.

Instead the mayor has pursued a plan that will take 6 months and cost the city $23 million. According to The Times Picayune, Nagin balked at K & L's gesture because he wasn't sure the city had the legal right to remove the vehicles, which it does, according to a city ordinance.

Nagin, you may recall, was reportedly hesitant to order an evacuation of New Orleans for fear that local merchants and hotels might sue the city if the storm had blown over.

Group Calls on Karzai

A U.S. based Christian group is calling on Afghan President Hamid Karzai to stand up for religious freedoms in his country by pardoning a man who could be sentenced to death for rejecting Islam.

Abdul Rahman was arrested last month after his family accused him of converting to Christianity and reported him to police. Although Afghanistan's constitution provides for freedom of religion it also declares, "religion of the state is the sacred religion of Islam." A conversion from Islam falls under Sharia law, and according to some Muslim clerics is punishable by death.

Prosecutor Abdul Wasi offered to drop the charges against Rahman if he converted back to Islam, but Rahman refused, saying he is a Christian and will always remain one.

Big Times Mistake

Last Tuesday we reported that Ali Shalal Qaissi in a report on him as the man in a now infamous picture from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq — and we reported that the U.S. Army had contacted The Times after the story ran about the mistake.

On Saturday The Times published a follow-up article in which Qaissi admits he isn't the person in the picture. In an accompanying correction The Times acknowledges that a more thorough examination of its previous articles revealed that in 2004 military investigators named another man as the one in the photo.

The Times also says it overstated the views of two advocacy groups who believed Qaissi to be the man in the picture.

— FOX News' Dominique Pastre contributed to this report.