Why Did a Major Capitol Hill Group Reject a Freshman Congressman?

Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

A Matter of Color

When Tennessee Democratic Congressman Stephen Cohen replaced Harold Ford — who quit to run for senate — he wanted to establish a firm connection in the black community — since his district in Memphis is majority African-American.

Cohen said he would be honored to join the Congressional Black Caucus — although he never actually applied. Still — he's been rejected anyway — because he is white. Cohen tells politico.com, "I think they're real happy I'm not going to join."

A House aide says the bylaws of the caucus do not make race a prerequisite for membership. But Congressman William Clay, Jr. says, "It's an unwritten rule."

Beating Bedbugs

A Wisconsin mattress retailer called "Bargain Supplies" has shut down its Web site after thousands of complaints about how an employee handled a request from a soldier.

An army sergeant in Taji, Iraq emailed to see if the company would ship floor mats to his unit's location to ease the difficulty of sleeping on the cold, bug-infested ground. But a worker at the store emailed back, "We do not ship to APO (military) addresses, and even if we did, we would NEVER ship to Iraq. If you were sensible, you and your troops would pull out of Iraq."

The owner of the store — who is an American Muslim — says the employee has been fired. And the soldier has since found two stores that will ship to Iraq.

Felony Animal Cruelty

Two staff members with the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are on trial this week for killing animals and dumping them behind a grocery story in Ahoskie, North Carolina. The two are charged with felony animal cruelty. PETA has kept the workers on staff and is paying legal expenses.

PETA critics say the trial will expose the group's euthanasia policy of killing thousands of animals each year. The Center for Consumer Freedom — which has been a frequent target of PETA protests — is getting some payback — placing a mobile billboard outside the courthouse, and buying a full page ad in The New York Times promoting its new Web site —Spiegel Online reports a company in Germany is offering to rent protesters to almost any group willing to pay. The group's Web site features about 300 demonstrators-for-hire and lists their personal characteristics such as height, skin color and ethnicity. The fee is about $188 for a six-hour day.

One doctors' group that hired about 200 people defended the move, saying its event outside the German parliament wasn't a demonstration, but a public relations exercise — and therefore was justified in hiring outside help.

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