Violence Levels In Iraq's Anbar Province Drop Dramatically

Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

Provincial Shakedown

The military successes in Iraq's Al Anbar Province, by now, have been widely reported. In early 2007, local sheiks turned their backs on Al Qaeda and forged key alliances with coalition forces. The movement known as the Anbar Awakening drastically reduced violence across the province.

But did you know that U.S. casualties in Anbar have now dropped to the lowest levels since the U.S.-led invasion in March of 2003? Violence in Anbar peaked in November of 2004 when U.S. forces suffered more than 300 casualties. And, over the first five months of 2007, U.S. forces suffered 124 casualties.

Cybercast News reports over that same period this year — January to May — Defense Department statistics show there have been just 14 American casualties in Anbar — a decline of 89 percent.

Fighting Back

Throughout his campaign, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has assured his supporters that he is a Christian. He has been battling what his campaign calls an online "smear campaign," which contends, among other things, that Obama was raised as a Muslim. There is even a statement on his official campaign Web site reading, "Obama has never been a Muslim and is a committed Christian."

But, Obama's half-brother is not so sure. Malik Obama tells the Jerusalem Post that if elected his brother will be a good president for the Jewish people — despite his Muslim background.

The article was also accompanied by an image of Malik Obama holding a photo of him and Barack Obama in Muslim dress — reportedly when the two first met in 1985.

Big Apple Grapple

A tense situation between New York Democratic Governor David Paterson and Independent Mayor Michael Bloomberg has turned bitter.

Paterson and Bloomberg have been at odds over the state takeover of the New York City Off-Track Betting Corporation — or OTB. The state has agreed to run the company's 60 New York City parlors, but Mayor Bloomberg insists the city should still receive $18 million in surcharges on bets.

The New York Post reports that a source says Bloomberg threw a temper tantrum during the negotiations. Paterson says Bloomberg's behavior reminds him of disgraced former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer.

He says Bloomberg "appears to be self-destructing" and that he no longer gets honest advice from his staff because they are afraid of his wealth. Paterson adds, "His presidential thing didn't work out, term limits is looming to force him out, he's waiting and waiting to be asked to be vice president... and OTB isn't going the way he wants it."

Fashion Police

Iranian women usually counter the hot summer months in that country by wearing lighter clothing such as calf-length pants or pushing back their hair with scarves. But now an Iranian newspaper reports police there have launched a more extensive crackdown on what is called "social corruption" — such as un-Islamic dress.

An Iranian official tells the paper, "Police will confront those who appear in public in an indecent way — and will also seal off shops selling un-Islamic dress."

And the rules also apply to men.

The newspaper says that, "Men with western-style haircuts were confronted by police and also barber shops that gave them such haircuts were sealed off on Sunday."

FOX News Channel's Zachary Kenworthy contributed to this report.