Mass Animal Deaths Remain a Mystery

Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

Apocalypse Now

Mysterious mass animal deaths that have turned up in recent days have some people very spooked and speculating about the end of the world.

Arkansas officials are still puzzled about why up to 5,000 blackbirds fell out of the sky New Year's Eve. Scientists believe celebratory fireworks could possibly have been the cause. On the same day, up to 100,000 dead and dying drum fish washed up along the Arkansas River. Wildlife officials speculate the fish were stricken with an illness.

One writer said the oddities -- quote -- "evoked images of a biblical plague set loose in the land. If a river runs red anywhere in Arkansas, we'll officially be in the Book of Exodus."

There's more though.

In neighboring Louisiana, biologists are investigating a die-off of about 500 birds.

Maryland officials say tens of thousands of small fish have died in the Chesapeake Bay due to the stress of cold weather.

And reports coming out of Brazil say nearly 100 tons of dead fish hit the beaches Sunday, but officials still don't know why.

CNN even booked actor Kirk Cameron, star of the "Left Behind" series about the end of days, for expert analysis. Cameron questioned why he was brought on saying-- quote-- "I first think they ought to call a veterinarian, not me.... I think it's really kind of silly to try to equate birds falling out of the sky with some kind of an end-times theory."

The Terminator

Now-former California Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is being criticized for an 11th hour commutation that cut in half the manslaughter sentence for the son of a political ally.

Schwarzenegger said he believed the 16-year-prison term for Esteban Nunez was excessive. Nunez pleaded guilty in May for his role in a fight that killed a 22-year-old man.

The victim's family says Nunez got special treatment because his father, the former Democratic assembly speaker, is close to Schwarzenegger.

Batman and Robin

Finally, another person who is apparently close to the former governor is Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. The two have been exchanging niceties on Twitter and might even go skiing together.

Schwarzenegger tweeted to Medvedev -- quote -- "I hope you're having a great New Year and can't wait to see you again -- maybe skiing?" To which Medvedev responded -- "Thanks. We agreed -- I remember. We'll definitely find the time."