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Special Report

Haley Barbour Gets Defensive Again

Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

Up in the Air

A week after getting into hot water over comments he made about the civil rights era, Mississippi governor -- and potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate -- Haley Barbour is defending flying on the taxpayer's dime.

Politico reports the poorest state in the nation has spent half-a-million dollars over the past three years on Barbour's air travel in a private Cessna jet.

Politico writes -- "some of Barbour's travel may well have been worth it to Mississippi, but much of the time he has used the plane to go to fundraisers for himself and other Republican candidates and committees to football games and to at least one boxing match."

Barbour's spokesman defends the travel -- saying -- quote -- "Governor Barbour is an effective marketing tool in a state that really needs it."

Delay of Game

Severe winter weather prompted the NFL to postpone Sunday night's game in Philadelphia between the Eagles and the visiting Minnesota Vikings in a move that disappointed football fans across the country.

Democratic Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell was one of them, calling the decision -- quote -- "an absolute joke.... we're becoming a nation of wussies."

A Philadelphia Daily News writer called it the height of wimpiness, blaming the nanny state for killing the game. However Pennsylvania's state police and Transportation Department praised the decision as the correct public safety judgment call.

Naughty or Nice?

A local branch of New Jersey's Republican Party is putting Democratic Senator Robert Menendez on the naughty list for sending an open letter to Santa Claus about global warming.

Menendez wrote about his concerns over melting ice caps and CO2 emissions asking Father Christmas -- quote -- "What will happen to your house, your workshop, the elves' houses and your reindeer barns?"

The Hoboken Republican Club's response reads -- "Santa and his crew have survived many years of polar freezing, melting and refreezing. We therefore seek to reassure nice children everywhere that Santa is just fine."

On the Up and Up

And finally, Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez is questioning why his critics would think his recent power grab was anything less than honorable -- quote -- "where do those crazy people get the idea it's to install a dictatorship in Venezuela?"

The outgoing parliament granted Chavez the power to rule by decree because the leftist leader said it would enable the government to better respond to recent torrential flooding in the area.