Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "War inside the red zone," April 12, 2003

Reinventing the post office

A New York Daily News investigation last month found that the U.S. Postal Service spends millions sending hundreds of Inspector General staffers to team-building conferences where they wrap each other in aluminum foil, bark like dogs, quack like ducks, build sandcastles, and speak with make-believe wizards, among other activities. The IG office's mission is to root out waste at the USPS, and the current Inspector General, Karla Corcoran, is a veteran of Al Gore's reinventing government initiative.

Bombs away

Even though you can watch bombs fall over Baghdad live on any cable news channel, MTV viewers in Europe won't see the Outkast music video of the same name. Known more for pushing the envelope than practicing prudence, MTV Europe is telling its video jockeys to avoid airing music videos that contain references to war because some viewers may find them offensive. In an intra-office e-mail, an MTV Europe executive advised employees to avoid "broadcast material which offends against good taste or is offensive to public feeling." The e-mail, which was later leaked to the public and verified by The Wall Street Journal, specified 15 music videos to avoid, including Outkast's "Bombs over Baghdad" and Bon Jovi's "This ain't a love song," which contains war scenes. After the memo was leaked, the MTV legal team shot an e-mail threatening legal action against company employees who leaked internal memos to third parties. That memo was also leaked.

Riding high

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A Texas couple's pickup-truck tires went to pot, but don't blame the manufacturer. Denton County authorities last week found 80 pounds of marijuana hidden inside the tires of a truck driven by Dora Valdez and Michael Navarette. The suspects allegedly stored the illegal weed in metal boxes that were welded to the wheels inside the tires. A police dog sniffed out the contraband. "There was some air in the tires, but mostly they were full of marijuana," said Denton County Deputy Armin Melo. "They said it rode pretty rough."

Speechless

The First Amendment apparently covers barking-even at police dogs. The 4th Ohio District Court of Appeals ruled last month that Jeremy Gilchrist had a right to bark back at a police dog named Pepsie in Athens, Ohio. State law makes it illegal to taunt, torment, or hit a police dog or horse. But an Athens County Municipal Judge threw out such charges against Mr. Gilchrist, saying the law violated his right to free speech. The appeals court agreed. "The mere fact that the police dog had commenced the barking did not entitle it to a solo performance," argued Patrick McGee, Mr. Gilchrist's attorney.

War of words

It started as a minor skirmish, but last week it erupted into a public-relations firefight. Responding to an MSNBC promo that included veiled criticism of Fox News Channel's Geraldo Rivera, Fox trained its guns on former MSNBC contributor Peter Arnett in a promo of its own. "He spoke out against America's armed forces," the Fox promo states. "He said America's war against terrorism failed. He even vilified America's leadership-and he worked for MSNBC. Ask yourself, is this 'America's News Channel?'" "I find it outrageous they would run this promo and continue to employ Geraldo Rivera," responded MSNBC's Jeremy Gaines. (Fox had to disembed Mr. Rivera from the 101st Airborne after the reporter described to viewers the division's troop positions.) The MSNBC promo boasts that the network would never "compromise the safety of our troops."

"Combat Bibles"

Thousands of U.S. soldiers are carrying something other than weapons and gear as they fight in Iraq. The Washington Times reports that Military Ministry, a department of Campus Crusade for Christ, has sent over 400,000 Bibles to soldiers-at their request-in the past 18 months. To avoid mail systems in Muslim countries, the group sends "Rapid Deployment Kits" -which include camouflaged New Testaments with Psalms and Proverbs, a verse-by-topic booklet, and a devotional guide-to soldiers through military chaplains. The kits, nicknamed "combat Bibles," help the soldiers by building a foundation "for hope, for encouragement, to know that they are not going into battle alone," Capt. Tommy Vaughn, an Army chaplain, told the paper.

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