Can the Geneva Convention Save a Tree?

Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

New Ballots from November

New ballots in that controversial Washington governor’s race (search) keep turning up — five months after the November election. Officials in Seattle found 93 unopened mail ballots in the archives of King County Election Director Dean Logan over the weekend.

The discovery is the latest in a string of unusual developments that have plagued Democrat Christine Gregoire (search) since a hand-recount awarded her a slim 129-vote margin of victory, including nearly 700 provisional ballots that were counted without proper validation, and the discovery that hundreds of felons were illegally registered to vote in King County alone. State Republicans have asked the justice department to investigate the latest discovery, and even Democrats are calling for an independent audit of the election director.

Explaining the Hate

Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean (search), who has said he "hates Republicans and all that they stand for," may now be suggesting a reason for his feelings. Appearing on liberal Air America radio in Minnesota, Dean said Republicans are "mean. They are not nice people. They want to run nearly every aspect of your life."

Dean went on to say that the Democrats' failures in recent elections are merely the result of a national message problem, adding, "We know what we believe in but we have trouble articulating it."

Controversial Tribute?

The French left is up in arms over their government's response to the death of Pope John Paul II — calling it "totally out of place and at the limit of legality." Green party member Yves Contassot (search) told French radio that the government had abused its powers by ordering state buildings to lower their flags to half-staff. And the Socialist party says forcing schools to participate in the tribute to the Catholic leader after banning Muslim headscarves in the schools is a "double standard."

But the French interior minister says that lowering the flag upon the death of a pope is a longstanding French tradition.

Peace Tree-ty

The owners of a grapefruit tree in Boca Raton, Florida say that chainsaw-wielding officials who want to chop it down will be breaking international law. Laura and Edmund Gerstein claim the 1949 Geneva Convention (search) governing war crimes protects crops used for civilian survival during a war ... and since the U.S. is in a state of war, they say they may have to live off the fruit from their tree.

Officials say, treaty or no treaty, the tree has to go — as part of an effort to fight a disease affecting local citrus crops. But if their latest appeal to save their tree doesn't hold up, the Gersteins say they'll petition the U.N. for international protection.

— FOX News' Michael Levine contributed to this report