Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Who is Tom Daschle?," Oct. 12, 2002

No Osama sightings

America may want Osama Bin Laden dead or alive, but no one seems to know for certain whether he is dead or alive. Experts now lean toward his being dead, reports Rowan Scarborough in The Washington Times. The CIA says that he is probably alive, but Mr. Scarborough reports that officials privately believe him dead and have seen no trace of him since late last year. The argument goes like this: If the terrorist leader were alive, he would try to communicate with others and U.S. intelligence would intercept the messages. If he were dead, his cronies would be afraid to announce it for fear of hurting morale. "As time goes by and we don't hear from the guy, it's natural that more people tend to think he's dead," one anonymous official told the paper. "There is no new information. There are always reports, 'Elvis sightings' he might have been here or there, but nothing that would be credible."

Rosie's thorns

Rosie O'Donnell's spat with her eponymous magazine continues to grow. After McCall's was renamed Rosie and relaunched, its figurehead leader grew increasingly combative. She abruptly pulled the plug last month (Quotables, Sept. 28). Now publisher Gruner + Jahr is suing her for $100 million, and Ms. O'Donnell has threatened a countersuit. Ad Age's John Fine reports that the publisher says that in July, after Ms. O'Donnell dropped her TV show, she "began to transform her public persona" from "queen of nice" to reveal a prickly personality, "and to behave erratically and in defiance of her contractual commitments" to G + J. The joint venture gave Ms. O'Donnell and G + J each a 50 percent stake in the business. By abruptly pulling out, the Bertelsmann subsidiary claims she breached the contract.

Punishment fits the crime

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Jason Theirwechter, 19, may reap what he destroyed. The Associated Press reports that Lebanon County (Pa.) Judge Bradford Charles last week sentenced Mr. Theirwechter to community service on a farm after the teenager drove his Jeep Wrangler through a farmer's crops. "Someone else put his own sweat and blood into creating it and you destroyed it maliciously," said Judge Charles. "I want you to experience how difficult it is to grow crops for a living." Among Mr. Theirwechter's likely chores, according to probation officers: shoveling manure.

Saddam's "useful idiots"

Rep. David Bonior (D-Mich.) went to Iraq and didn't even bring back a lousy T-shirt. So did Reps. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) and Jim McDermott (D-Wash.). Their visit was sponsored by the peaceniks at Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Interfaith Network of Concern for the People of Iraq. Reps. McDermott and Bonior spoke from Baghdad, saying Iraqi officials assured them that they will allow weapons inspectors full access to Iraqi facilities. They accepted Saddam's assurances "at face value," but Mr. McDermott said, "I think the president would mislead the American people." Critics called them dupes and traitors. Columnist George Will called Mr. McDermott a "useful idiot" for Saddam and compared Mr. Bonior to British Nazi propagandist William "Lord Haw Haw" Joyce during World War II and Jane Fonda during Vietnam. "Perhaps Iraqi officials, knowing fathomless gullibility when they see it-they have dealt with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan-actually said such things," Mr. Will reports in his column. "Or perhaps McDermott and Bonior heard what they wished to hear." Minutes after the pair spoke on ABC's This Week, Mr. Will said, "Why Saddam Hussein doesn't pay commercial time for that advertisement for his policy, I do not know."

Trouble in socialist paradise

Better not get sick in Ontario, Canada. Some patients in Ontario's socialized system wait up to 30 weeks for key tests, reports Tom Arnold in the National Post, citing a study from the Ontario Association of Radiologists. "For chest X-rays to detect signs of lung cancer, patients wait as long as 14 weeks-potentially allowing the disease to spread-after being referred by their family physician," he notes. "Patients wait up to 20 weeks for a bone mineral densitometry test to check for osteoporosis while those referred to a specialist to undergo a barium enema to detect tiny polyps or more advanced signs of colorectal cancer must wait as much as 12 weeks." Ray Foley, the association's executive director, told the paper that the delays may be lethal: "On the low end, it might be one or two weeks and on the high end it may be as high as 30 weeks. Thirty weeks is outrageous, and it may very well be endangering the lives of patients. We believe that it is. The worst is not over. I think the worst is yet to come."

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