Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

Mea Culpa

The public editor of The New York Times says he was wrong to support the paper's release last June of a story exposing the government's efforts to track terrorists by monitoring financial data. Byron Calame writes he now believes the article should not have been published for two reasons — the apparent legality of the program, and the absence of any evidence that anyone's private data had been misused.

Calame writes he was embarrassed that while the story asserts many people already knew about the effort, the headline contradicted that by calling it a "secret" program. He says he allowed what he called the "vicious criticism of The Times by the Bush administration" to trigger his instinctive affinity for the underdog and enduring faith in a free press.

Captured then Converted

Sunday's Washington Post featured an opinion piece called "How I Came to Love the Veil" contending Islam respects women much more than western culture. It was written by Yvonne Ridley — whom The Post identified as the political editor of Islam Channel TV in London.

Ridley is a former newspaper journalist who was captured by the Taliban and later converted to Islam. She was fired by the Aljazeera for what it called her overly vocal and argumentative style. Ridley has described the Chechen commander who masterminded the attack on a Russian theater that left more than 300 people dead — many of them children — as a "shaheed" or martyr. And she has defended the late terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — calling some of the people killed during the bombings of three hotels in Jordan last year "collaborators" because they allegedly were working with Americans.

Ugly Rumor

New York Republican Senate candidate John Spencer is denying that he called opponent Hillary Clinton ugly and implied that she had extensive plastic surgery. The New York Daily News writes that spencer told a reporter Clinton got "millions of dollars" of what he called "work." Spencer is quoted as saying: "You ever see a picture of her back then? Whew. I don't know why Bill married her." But he said "she looks good now."

Today Spencer told the Associated Press that while he did talk to the reporter — the story is a fabrication. Senator Clinton responded by saying Spencer was treading in what she called "swampy territory" because he didn't have anything positive to say. And a Clinton aide said she has never had plastic surgery.

Turning Defeat Into Victory

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is insisting that his country' s failure to get one of 10 rotating seats on the U.N. Security Council is not a defeat — but a victory against the U.S.

Venezuela has trailed U.S. choice Guatemala in 34 of the 35 votes — but Chavez says he has — "taught the empire a lesson" by keeping Guatemala from winning so far. He vows that Venezuela will not withdraw — the voting resumes Wednesday.

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