Violators in Charge

Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

Saddam's Swiss Connection

At least two Swiss companies have admitted to paying illegal kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's regime in exchange for the right to buy Iraqi oil. Documents show that one Geneva-based firm paid a $60,000 surcharge to the Iraqi oil ministry for an oil contract in 2001.

But when Iraq failed to fulfill the agreement, the head of the firm demanded that their kickback be returned and sent a copy of their complaint to the U.N. The former head of the U.N.'s Oil-for-Food program, Benon Sevan (search), contacted the Iraqis for comment before reporting the illegal payment to an oversight committee.

Violators In Charge

Three countries the U.S. considers major human rights abusers will decide which rights violations will be addressed by the U.N. China (search), Cuba and Zimbabwe (search) make up three fifths of the subcommittee that chooses which complaints come before the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. Those nations also appear on the State Department's list of human rights violators.

A recent U.N. report said the Commission suffered from "eroding credibility and professionalism" by including human rights offenders and that violating nations used their membership to escape punishment for abuses.

Fishing Is Cruel to Worms?

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has called for an end to recreational fishing claiming that a worm wriggling on a hook can feel pain. But according to a new scientific study, hooking a worm — or boiling a lobster — causes no pain to the creature.

The study, conducted for the Norwegian government, concludes that most invertebrates do not feel pain because their brains are too small. But researchers say that some advanced insects deserve special care, not because they feel pain, but because they exhibit social behavior and the ability to cooperate.

Stranded Senator

Democratic Senator Ben Nelson (search) was the president's travel companion in his home state of Nebraska last week, but a transportation mix-up left him stranded in downtown Omaha. Nelson drove to the airport with the president after his speech on social security, but then mistakenly rode back downtown with the president's staff.

The Omaha World-Herald (search) reports that Nelson was scheduled to be at an interview across town, and was stuck without a ride until a man in an '89 Buick offered to give him a lift to the event. Nelson says the trip was a success despite the confusion since he convinced the president to stop calling him "Nellie," and use the senator's preferred nickname: "Benator."

— FOX News' Michael Levine contributed to this report