Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:
Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley is complaining about what he calls the "champagne lifestyle" of Smithsonian Institution chief Lawrence Small. This follows an inspector general's report on what were called Small's "lavish or extravagant" expenses — such as a $14,000 charter flight from Washington to San Antonio when a first class commercial ticket could have been purchased for $2,000 unauthorized gifts totaling more than $14,000 and a compensation boost from $356,000 to more than $800,000 in five years.
The Smithsonian Board of Regents issued a statement Sunday calling Small's expenses "reasonable." The controversial Small is a former Wall Street and Washington banker who said shortly after his hiring in 2000 that his goals were "money and modernization." He has been criticized for business strategies that include an emphasis on mass marketing and corporate donations and cuts to research projects and staffing.
Cabinet Minister Killed
A Pakistani cabinet member was shot point-blank in the face last week because she was not wearing a Muslim veil. The Australian newspaper reports Punjab Province social welfare minister Zilla Huma Usman was dressed in the traditional Pakistani tunic and baggy pants — which are acceptable to religious clerics.
She was not wearing a traditional veil to cover her head. Police say she was killed by a man who said he was obeying Allah's commandment, and vowed to do it again if freed. The same man was previously acquitted on charges of killing three prostitutes and wounding six others in 2003.
Sex Change Operation
A family court judge in Manhattan is set to order taxpayers to fund a $20,000 sex change operation for a 21-year-old man. The New York Post reports Judge Sheldon Rand will rule the man suffers from a gender identity disorder and that surgery is the recognized treatment. The man's legal battle began before he was 18 — when he was cared for by the city's Children's Services administration.
Manhattan city lawyers say the man has not complied with previous treatment recommendations and does not have stable housing or employment. The city plans to appeal the judge's ruling after it comes out later this week.
Inaccurate and Biased?
The school board in Montgomery County, Maryland is expected to decide this week on whether to go ahead with a pilot program that critics say depicts homosexuality as normal and on par with heterosexuality.
Cybercast News Service reports the proposed curriculum includes a lesson on condom use with a demonstration video. Critics have filed an appeal saying the lesson plan features inaccurate, discriminatory and biased information. They say the program would violate the free speech and freedom of religion rights of students who are taught at home that homosexuality is wrong.
The opponents were successful two years ago in striking down a similar proposal by the school board.
—FOX News Channel's Martin Hill contributed to this report.