Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

Cold Reception

Tuesday we told you about several areas around the planet experiencing record cold and snowpack — in the face of all the predictions of global warming.

Now there is word that all four major global temperature tracking outlets have released data showing that temperatures have dropped significantly over the last year. California meteorologist Anthony Watts says the amount of cooling ranges from 65-hundredths of a degree Centigrade to 75-hundreds of a degree.

That is said to be a value large enough to erase nearly all the global warming recorded over the past 100 years. It is reportedly the single fastest temperature change ever recorded — up or down.

Some scientists contend the cooling is the result of reduced solar activity — which they say is a larger driver of climate change than man-made greenhouse gases.

Playing Defense

Three taxpayer advocacy groups plan to protest outside Congressman John Murtha's annual fundraising event tonight for defense industry lobbyists who have benefited — or hope to benefit — from millions of dollars worth of earmarks. Robert Novak calls the event Murtha's "annual payback dinner by defense contractors." Tickets for the Pennsylvania Democrat's dinner go for $1,500 for individuals and 5,000 for political action committees.

Murtha has $115 million worth of earmarks in the 2008 Defense Appropriations bill. He was recently voted the 2007 "Porker of the Year" by Citizens Against Government Waste — for his total of $150 million in earmarks in the 2008 budget.

Burning Issue

Recent reports have said that the use of ethanol may cause more harm than good to the environment — and now there is word that the transportation of ethanol also poses a real danger.

It turns out that ethanol fires are harder to put out than gasoline fires. Water cannot be used — and the foam that is sprayed on gasoline fires does not work on ethanol. Many fire departments do not have the ethanol foam — or have not been trained how to use the foam or approach the fires. The foam is 30-percent more expensive than the foam used on gasoline fires. Experts say wrecks involving cars and trucks are not the major concerns. But fires involving tankers transporting large amounts of ethanol can pose significant dangers.

Men Not Allowed

Harvard University has instituted women-only access times to its school gymnasium in order to accommodate female Muslim students. A Boston University student newspaper reports six hours per week have been set aside in which men are prohibited from working out — after requests from the Harvard Islamic Society and its women's center.

One male student says the women-only hours are inconvenient — discriminate against men — and are impractical and purely symbolic measures to further a useless policy.

But an officer with the Islamic Society says the new policy does not discriminate against men — and is not a case of minority rights trumping majority preference.

FOX News Channel's Martin Hill contributed to this report.