Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "Roe vs. Wade at 29," Jan. 19, 2002

Welcome to Camp X-Ray
The first of several hundred Afghan prisoners of war are ready for transport to a U.S. base in Cuba just as Navy Seabees and private contractors put the finishing touches on the compound that will house them. A temporary holding facility built on a hilly patch of scrub known as Camp X-Ray will be home for the first 100 al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Another facility to house 220 captives is under round-the-clock construction. The prisoners will be held in individual cells with open chain-link walls and minimal roofing that expose them to the elements. "We have no intention of making it comfortable," said Marine Brig. Gen. Michael Lehnert. "It will be humane." The captured terrorists will be treated to first-class security from elevated watchtowers built along the perimeter of the camp. Over 7,000 Marines are expected to bolster what could be difficult guard duty: patrolling hundreds of seasoned fighters trained in suicide missions. Navy officials said the first arrivals will be the "worst of the worst." That could include over a dozen top al-Qaeda operatives captured last week in Zawar Kili, a huge complex of caves and tunnels that has been under heavy bombardment by U.S. warplanes. Green Beret specialist Nathan Chapman was killed there in a Jan. 4 ambush. Among the captives are two senior al-Qaeda fighters taken into custody along with their computers and cell phones, which interrogators hope will yield valuable information about the whereabouts of other top terrorists, including Osama bin Laden. No matter how rustic accommodations become at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. prisoners are sure to fare better than Cuban political prisoners incarcerated in the nearby city of Guantanamo, just outside the U.S. base the Pentagon has leased from Cuba since 1903. At the provincial prison there known as Combinado de Guantánamo, hundreds of incarcerated Cubans, many serving sentences for opposing the Fidel Castro regime, languish on two meals a day: one cup of rice served at 10 a.m. and a cup of soup at 3 p.m. The prison population swelled from 100 to 500 in the last three months, and health problems linked to malnutrition have multiplied. That did not deter a group of Republican lawmakers from presenting Mr. Castro a New York City Fire Department cap on a recent trip to Cuba. Sens. Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania said the Cuban leader told them in a marathon overnight meeting on Jan. 4 that he would cooperate in the war on terrorism and share intelligence with the United States. The anti-Castro group Cuba Liberty Council called the dialogue "a pathetic display of appeasement." IRANIAN WEAPONS CACHE CONFISCATED AT SEA
The next wave of terror?
A confiscated shipment of arms weighing over 50 tons could link Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to terrorism. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon tied Mr. Arafat to the weapons cache at a dockside press conference after a commando raid at sea netted the boatload of missiles, mortars, and mines Mr. Sharon said were intended to launch "the next wave of terror" against Israel. The ship's captain said he took orders from a Palestinian Authority weapons agent for the $100 million arms shipment. Members of the Palestinian naval police were reportedly on board at the time of the raid, and Israeli forces arrested them. But ownership of the vessel, captured in the Red Sea apparently en route to Gaza from Iran, was in dispute and Mr. Arafat denied involvement in the shipment. ABORTIONIST HAMILTON FOUND GUILTY IN VALENTINE'S DAY BEATING DEATH OF WIFE
Loved to death
The question brought silence; the answer drew gasps. Near the end of the jury trial last month of prominent Oklahoma City physician John Hamilton, accused of murdering his wife Susan, prosecutor Wes Lane asked a defense expert whether he was aware of any forensic evidence that had not yet come to light. "Yes," replied Tom Bevel, a nationally known blood analysis expert hired by Dr. Hamilton's defense team. "The most probable" explanation for blood spatter found on Dr. Hamilton's shirt, Mr. Bevel said, was that the doctor had beaten his wife over the head with a blunt object. His answer stunned the packed courtroom, Mr. Lane now says. A police investigator heard attorneys at the defense table gasp. The jury deliberated for just two hours before finding Dr. Hamilton guilty of first degree murder in the Valentine's Day 2001 slaying of his wife. Last week, the jury sentenced the doctor to life in prison without parole. Dr. and Mrs. Susan Hamilton had been fixtures in Oklahoma City society circles. His arrest last Feb. 14, after the doctor told police he came home and found his wife strangled and beaten on the master bathroom floor of their upscale home, shocked friends and neighbors (WORLD, April 7, 2001). "Everyone thought he was the kindest person in the world," the Hamiltons' neighbor Diane Marlherbe told WORLD just after the murder last year. "My friend sitting next to me in church said, 'He delivered my baby. There's no way he could have done it.'" But others weren't at all surprised that Dr. Hamilton might be capable of murder. An accomplished obstetrician-gynecologist, he also owned the Oklahoma City Clinic for Women, an abortion facility where he killed between 15 and 20 babies each week. "Someone who makes a living taking the lives of the unborn is only one step away from taking the lives of the born," said Oklahoma City pro-life activist Stan Engle. During Dr. Hamilton's trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Susan Hamilton suspected her husband was having an affair with a topless dancer, that she had considered leaving him, and had talked of divorce only two days before she was killed. Defense attorney Mack Martin argued that Dr. Hamilton was innocent, that evidence against him was circumstantial. But "blood evidence issues"-including the presence of blood and tissue in Dr. Hamilton's Jaguar-pointed only to the defendant, Mr. Lane said: "He loved his wife to death. When that became threatened, and things were falling apart, then he crossed the line." -Lynn Vincent MAN KNOWS NOT HIS TIME: WENDY'S FOUNDER DIES
Simple 'hamburger cook'
Dave Thomas, the business pioneer and adoption advocate who built Wendy's into the third-largest fast-food chain, died last week of liver cancer at age 69. The entrepreneur was born in 1932 and was adopted into an evangelical family. He had his first restaurant job at age 12, and eventually bought four failing Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises in Columbus, Ohio, in 1962. He improved them and sold them back to the company for $1.5 million in 1968. A year later, he opened his first Wendy's, naming the chain after daughter Melinda Lou's nickname. The empire eventually expanded into 6,000 restaurants worldwide. "I thought I'd have three or four restaurants in Columbus, places for my children to work," Mr. Thomas told the trade publication Restaurant Hospitality last year. The founder donned the short-sleeved shirt and red tie on TV in 1989 and became a surprise hit. "He was never very comfortable as a celebrity," said Wendy's chairman Jack Schuessler. "He kept reminding us he was simply a hamburger cook." Over the years he filmed over 800 commercials, according to Wendy's, even as he battled a slow-growing cancerous tumor. Mr. Thomas also founded the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption in 1992 to raise public awareness of adoption for the 134,000 foster children available for adoption. He donated close to $20 million to children's causes. CUOMO ACCEPTS, THEN REJECTS, PORNOGRAPHER ASSISTANCE
Chairman of vice?
In his attempt to capture his father's former job, New York gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo planned to accept, then decided to reject, major financial assistance from Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt. At first, a Jan. 10 Beverly Hills fundraiser for the former Clinton housing secretary listed the pornographer as a "vice chairman" of the event, a tag for $10,000 donors. "Just like Andrew Cuomo has a right to fight for a woman's right to choose and to create homeless shelters for battered women, these people have a right to support Andrew Cuomo," campaign manager Josh Isay said. But opponents quickly jumped on the new connection. "I guess it's who you seek out when you're blinded by naked ambition," said state Senate majority leader Joseph Bruni, an ally of Gov. George Pataki, who will seek a third term. Mr. Isay hustled to announce a reversal: "The campaign has decided he will not be a vice chairman [of the event] or give money to the campaign." CARDINAL GREAT ELECTED TO BASEBALL HALL OF FAME
Ozzie's joy
World chess champions are romantic realists, adding sweeping artistry to mathematical precision as they develop combinations that lead to checkmates. The careers of a few great baseball players offer a similar combination of stats and elegance. Ozzie Smith, 47, the only player chosen on Jan. 8 to enter baseball's Hall of Fame this year, was the Garry Kasparov of baseball throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. Regarded as the finest-fielding shortstop ever, he received 92 percent of the votes of the Baseball Writers of America, one of the few groups in America that has not indulged in grade inflation: Players need 75 percent of the votes to get in, and standards are high. The writers, notably partial to sluggers, often turn down candidates during their first year of eligibility. (A player has to have retired at least five years before.) It's extraordinary that a batter with a lifetime average of only .262-and only 28 home runs in 19 years-is now one of only 37 players elected the first time out. (The Hall overall includes 254 baseball legends.) Ozzie Smith was extraordinary. He set shortstop lifetime records for most assists and double plays, showing astounding range and dexterity. He reached balls no one else could, threw out runners who were already calculating the increases in their batting averages, and did it all with a gracefulness that truly had to be seen to be believed. Some of that came from the natural ability Mr. Smith grew up with in Mobile, Ala. He made the jump from high school to the major leagues-San Diego in 1978-in only a year. But after four years in the bigs he had only a .231 career average, and the Padres traded him to St. Louis in 1982 for average-fielding but .300-hitting shortstop Garry Templeton. That's when Mr. Smith went to work. "I didn't like the moniker of being a one-dimensional player," he said, so he practically moved into the batting cage at times to work at improving his hitting, and also became a clever runner. The effort allowed him to reach a peak of .303 in 1987, with 75 runs batted in and 43 stolen bases. The work ethic-less Mr. Templeton's batting average fell to .222 that year. The "wizard of Oz" had a love for his profession that made fans love to watch him. As the movie Unbreakable suggests, people who have not found their occupational calling often feel sad in the morning. Ozzie Smith did a back-flip as he ran to his position at the beginning of the game, and my wife remembers his big smile. He was not just one of the Men at Work, the title George Will gave to his fine book on baseball. He was a player of joy. -Marvin Olasky Analysts peg Kmart for bankruptcy as stock price falters
Blue-light blues
Will Kmart turn off some blue lights? Some analysts are starting to believe the retailing giant faces bankruptcy. Over the last 10 years, Kmart's stock price dropped 77 percent while Target's increased 696 percent and Wal-Mart's rose 291 percent, according to David Sowerby, portfolio manager for Bloomfield Hills, Mich.-based Loomis Sayles Inc. "Kmart just seems to be the third choice for consumers behind Wal-Mart and Target because they have cleaner stores, they're more modern, even better parking lots," he said. Kmart, whose roots date back to a five-and-dime store opened by S.S. Kresge in 1899, employs approximately 275,000 people and operates over 2,100 stores. Last month, Moody's Investors Service downgraded Kmart Corp.'s debt rating to junk status. A few weeks later, Prudential Securities gave a "sell" recommendation for the company's stock, an extreme move analysts rarely make. The underdog is now trying to improve the flow of goods through its stores, making behind-the-scenes moves like improving distribution software and delivery software. SUV: SMALLER UTILITY VEHICLE?
Middle of the road
The SUV is getting a new look. Both Chrysler and Honda plan to introduce new models that combine the design of the sport utility vehicle and the station wagon. The plan is to build vehicles that have plenty of seats and space while still being comfortable to drive. The Chrysler Pacifica is what the manufacturer calls a "segment buster." It is intended to appeal to customers looking for minivans, regular cars, luxury vehicles, or something rugged with all-wheel drive. Thus the $25,000 newcomer, set to debut next year, is being billed as a "sports tourer" instead of an SUV. Both the Pacifica and the Honda Pilot were on display at this month's North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The Pilot also makes a similar cross of SUV and station wagon. It boasts plenty of interior room without making the car too large to easily steer into a garage. The SUV now dominates American car sales. They passed the venerable pickup truck as men's favorite category in 2000 and overtook the midsize car among women last year. Between January and October of last year, 25 percent of male car buyers and 23.9 percent of females bought SUVs. Ambrose apologizes for error
History repeats
One of America's most popular historians found himself last week caught in a burgeoning plagiarism controversy. It started when journalist Fred Barnes, in a Weekly Standard column, accused Stephen Ambrose of lifting material for his new book Wild Blue from Thomas Childers's 1995 book Wings of Morning . Mr. Barnes wrote that "whole passages" are "barely distinguishable" between the two books. Mr. Childers, for example, wrote this about ball turret gunners: "It was the most physically uncomfortable, isolated, and terrifying position on the ship. The gunner climbed into the ball, pulled the hatch closed, and was then lowered into position." Meanwhile Mr. Ambrose's book contains the following passage: "The ball turret was, as McGovern said, the most physically uncomfortable, isolated, and terrifying position on the plane. The gunner climbed into the ball, pulled the hatch closed and was then lowered into position." Mr. Ambrose acknowledged the error and apologized. "I made a mistake for which I am sorry," he said in a statement. "It will be corrected in future editions of the book." But then later in the week Forbes.com reported that three other Ambrose books, including Crazy Horse and Custer and Citizen Soldiers, contain passages drawn from other authors' books. "I don't know. It's a lot of books," Mr. Ambrose told The Times-Picayune of New Orleans when asked if there were problems in any other of his more than 20 books.

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