And now some fresh pickings from the political grapevine:

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Not All Applause
The best-selling female recording group of all time, the Dixie Chicks, are finding themselves in deep ka-ka. The country music divas are trying to clarify a recent outburst by lead singer Natalie Maines, who recently told a London audience, "Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas." Maines has defended her broadside, saying, "I feel the president is ignoring the opinion of many in the U.S. and alienating the rest of the world. My comments were made in frustration, and one of the privileges of being an American is you are free to voice your own point of view." Maines seems not to appreciate the fact that she ignored the opinion of one key group -- country music fans. As a result, a growing number of country music stations are pulling the Texas trio from their playlists -- thereby exercising their rights to muzzle artists who fail to appreciate the power of occasional and well-timed silence.

Victim of Harassment?
The Kansas City Star is reporting that a local man, Wesley Fitzpatrick, recently persuaded a court to grant a restraining order against a female stalker Fitzpatrick accused of leaving him  "scared, depressed and in fear of my freedom." Fitzpatrick omitted two important facts: He's a convicted felon and the alleged stalker -- she's his parole officer. Law enforcement authorities want the court to reverse itself, noting that the felon can preserve his freedom by showing up for required meetings with his parole office. Says a public information officer for the Kansas Department of Corrections: "We've never heard of anything like this before, this is unique."

Sorry Sniffers?
And finally, a federal grand jury in Virginia returned a 28-count indictment against the owner of a bomb detection dog business. The man apparently doctored the resumes of canines sold to government agencies. Shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, Russell Lee Ebersole marketed his "Detector Dogs Against Drugs and Explosives'' to the state department, FEMA and other government agencies, claiming the dogs could patrol the perimeters of buildings and sniff out potential weapons. The indictment says the dogs failed the smell tests -- being unable on five separate occasions to sniff out explosives. The mutts walked cluelessly past 50 pounds of TNT, 50 pounds of dynamite and 15 pounds of C-4 plastic explosives hidden in vehicles. If convicted, Ebersole faces a maximum of five years imprisonment on each count and fines of nearly $1 million.