Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:
No Prior Knowledge?
Italian officials deny having any prior knowledge of the covert CIA (search) operation to capture a suspected terrorist in Milan in 2003 and extradite him to his native Egypt, where he claims he was tortured. Thirteen CIA officers are wanted for kidnapping in the case, and officials have summoned the U.S. ambassador to explain the matter.
But CIA insiders say that the Italian intelligence service not only knew about the operation in advance, they signed off on it. The Washington Post reports that both intelligence agencies agreed that if the operation became public, they would deny any involvement.
Attorneys for Saddam Hussein (search) are threatening to sue Britain's Sun newspaper, owned by the parent company of FOX News, for publishing those pictures showing the deposed dictator in his underwear — claiming the paper violated Saddam's human rights. The Guardian reports that Saddam's family has sought the advice of a high profile London attorney and that Saddam may have a case.
One lawyer consulted by the paper asks, "What's the defense — public interest? Is there a public interest in showing Saddam in his underpants?" Meanwhile, the Sun says that any Human Rights case brought against them by Saddam will be countered with their own libel suit, adding, "We will sue the pants off him."
From the wonderful world of legislative debate... the Pennsylvania House of Representatives was brought to a standstill on Wednesday, after a black lawmaker called a white colleague a "cracker." Representative John Myers (search) of Philadelphia was immediately admonished for using the word, which is a pejorative term historically used against poor white people. Myers later apologized — only to be greeted with hoots of laughter mixed with boos.
Knight of the Jedi Order?
And in England, newly elected legislator Jamie Reed has declared himself Parliament's first Jedi Knight. Reed devoted his maiden speech to defending an anti-religious hatred bill, saying the law would protect fellow believers in the "Star Wars" faith.
A series of Mexican postage stamps featuring an exaggerated black cartoon character has U.S. activists demanding an apology from the Mexican government. The stamps pay tribute to Memin Penguin (search), a popular character with thick lips and wide eyes who made his debut in Mexico over fifty years ago. Jesse Jackson (search) says the stamps "insult people around the world," and NAACP President Dennis Courtland Hayes says Mexico is "laughing at the expense of hardworking African Americans."
But a spokesman for the Mexican government says no one should be offended by a simple cartoon character, adding that Mexicans didn't take offense to cartoon mouse Speedy Gonzales, an American character with a Mexican accent.
Finally, the dispute over whether Russian President Vladimir Putin (search) made off with New England Patriots Owner Robert Kraft's (search) 2005 Super Bowl ring at a meeting last week has been resolved — Kraft now says he gave Putin the ring.
— FOX News' Michael Levine contributed to this report