United Nations Office Shuts Down in North Korea Under Suspicious Circumstances

Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

Virtual ATM

The U.N. has shut down its development office in North Korea, apparently because an impending audit of its operations was about to find that the place had been operating as a virtual ATM for Kim Jong Il's government.

The Chicago Tribune reports that North Korean government officials would show up at the office on a regular basis and would leave with manila envelopes stuffed with hard cash, with no receipt or accounting provided. The money is said to have amounted to as much as $150 million, siphoned from aid projects the U.N. was supposed to be funding.

The Tribune says the office was closed the same day the audit was about to begin and there are suspicions the shutdown was intended to keep the audit from going forward.

Plans Thwarted

The Reverend Al Sharpton wanted to run for President in 2008, but the meteoric rise of Barack Obama has thwarted his plan and he is not a bit happy about it. The New York Post reports that Sharpton has launched a "big time" effort to cut Obama down to size.

One black Democratic activist quotes Sharpton as saying Obama never did anything for the black community, never worked with anybody from that community and is a candidate driven by white leadership. The Post article also says Obama has taken the steam out" of Hillary Clinton's support among blacks, noting that his fundraiser in New York on Friday night attracted every prominent name in the black community with the exception of elected officials and Al Sharpton."

Left Attacking the Left?

As if House Democrats weren't having enough trouble getting something done about the Iraq war, they now find themselves sharply attacked by the reliably liberal editorialists at theLos Angeles Times. The paper calls the latest plan to force a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, "an unruly mess; bad public policy, bad precedent and bad politics."

If the measure passes, the paper says, "Bush says he'll veto it, as well he should," adding that the Democrats led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi are "interfering with the discretion of the commander in chief and military leaders in order to fulfill domestic political needs."

Rural Ritual

And finally, after President Bush has ended his visit to Guatemala, a group of what are called "indigenous and rural" people who protested the visit to some Guatemalan sites will conduct a Mayan religious ceremony. Its purpose: to do a ritual cleansing of the place to dispel the war spirits of the President Bush and return peace and harmony.

Mayan spiritual leader Damian Morales said Mr. Bush has sent planes to kill people and does not respect Guatemalan residents and had no right to visit what are considered sacred sites.

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