Newly Elected Senator Already Skipping Work

Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

Money Well Spent?

Oklahoma Republican Senator Tom Coburn has compiled a list of what he feels are the most egregious examples of wasteful government spending.

No. 1 is $175 million from the Veterans Affairs Department to maintain hundreds of buildings it does not use, including a pink, octagonal monkey house in Dayton, Ohio. The V.A. says it spent only $34 million last year on unused buildings.

$2.9 million for studying World of Warcraft and other virtual games at the University of California-Irvine.

$615,000 to the University of California at Santa Cruz to help its library digitize its collection of Grateful Dead materials.

Coburn said the Department of Energy wasted $2.2 million on inefficient lighting. And $700,000 from the Agriculture Department went to investigating methane gas emissions from dairy cows. One determination: More methane comes from cow burps than from cow flatulence.

Take Me Home

West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin skipped two key Senate votes on Saturday to attend a family holiday gathering.

Manchin, who replaced the late Robert Byrd and is up for re-election in 2012, was at odds with his party on both the repeal of the military's ban on gays openly serving and the DREAM Act. His absence didn't change either vote outcome.

Manchin's office says he had a commitment to his grandchildren that he felt he could not break, but that his opposition to both bills was added to the congressional record.

Republicans call it a "win-win" for Manchin -- quote -- "not only was he able to skip work and party, but he was also able to avoid voting on two very sensitive political issues."

Wicked Weather

And finally, Britain is experiencing some of its most severe winter weather in a century. Record cold temperatures and snowfalls are causing major travel delays. But, just 10 years ago, some scientists worried that global warming would stop the snow there.

An article from the Independent in March of 2000, quoted a senior research scientist who said within a few years winter snowfall will become -- quote -- "a very rare and exciting event. Children just aren't going to know what snow is."