You bet your life

Human Race | Centenarian scores

Issue: "Opium wars," May 12, 2007

Briton Alec Holden received a big birthday present from his personal bookie. The year Holden turned 90, he placed a bet with bookmaker William Hill that he would reach his 100th birthday. Hill even gave him longshot odds: 250-1 that Holden would die before April 24 of this year. He made it and his bet-and longevity-won him 25,000 pounds (over $50,000). "When we started taking these bets, 100 years old seemed to be an almost mythical landmark and we were prepared to offer massive odds," a spokesman for the oddsmaker told the BBC. "But these age wagers are starting to cost us a fortune and from now on we are going to push out the age to 110." Holden credits his longevity and health to daily porridge, chess, and, he says, "remembering to keep breathing."

Tawdry ending

Randall Tobias was not a politico, just a gifted corporate executive who had once reversed the skidding fortunes of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly. But after four years in the capital, he went out like one.

Tobias, 65, resigned April 27 in disgrace as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) administrator. News emerged that he was an escort service client-he says for massages only-of "D.C. Madam" Deborah Jeane Palfrey, who faces charges of running a prostitution service. The married Tobias, an Indiana native, came to work briefly that Friday before leaving quickly around mid-day.

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Tobias leaves an aid bureaucracy in an ambitious transition. As both USAID administrator and newly created director of foreign aid, his role as "aid czar" unduly bothered some at USAID, who worried that aid would become "politicized," beholden to a White House wishing to reward War on Terror allies. Previously, as head of the $15 billion President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, Tobias endured public taunts everywhere from Capitol Hill to international AIDS conferences-vilified for emphasizing new abstinence and faithfulness programs.

At USAID, staff skepticism plagued Tobias and the job was like "herding cats," says Roger Bate, an American Enterprise Institute resident fellow. At one time, Tobias asked for six months away from his punishing work. Though he officially oversaw $27 billion in foreign aid, Bate told WORLD, "he was only able to influence about half of it." Tobias may not have to play politics anymore, but, thanks to his shameful exit, the job won't get any easier for his successor. - Priya Abraham


AFRICA: In Hotel Rwanda actor and Oscar nominee Don Cheadle played a real-life hotel manager who sheltered 1,200 people during Rwanda's 1994 genocide. In real life Cheadle now advocates against the "slow-motion" genocide in Darfur and has turned a 2005 trip into a book co-authored with Africa expert John Prendergast: Not on Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond. When political will flags, Hollywood star power can't hurt.

DEATH: Robert E. Webber, a firm advocate for the authority of Scripture who for 32 years taught theology at Wheaton College (Ill.), and for seven years at Northern Seminary in suburban Chicago, died April 27 in Michigan of pancreatic cancer; he was 73. He was best known for his books and exhortations to evangelicals to follow the model of the early church and bring worship and ministry into line with their historical roots. His own migration took him from Baptist, Presbyterian (he taught at Covenant College and Covenant Seminary), and Lutheran churches to the Episcopal Church. His Episcopal pastor, Rick Lobs, said: "Bob helped populate the Episcopal Church with young and searching men and women-in better days for TEC."


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