(With apologies to Walter Winchell)
Good morning, Mr. and Mrs. America, from border to border, coast to coast, and all the ships at sea. Let's go to press!
Add another name to those Americans kicking the tobacco habit: CVS pharmacies. They plan to clear their shelves of cigarettes and other tobacco products by October. For an outfit that size, it's not just a symbolic gesture. The decision is expected to cost the country's second-biggest chain of drug stores $2 billion a year in revenue. But its conscience will be clearer. And its shareholders can sleep better o'night knowing they're no longer peddling cancer -- and may be spared a hacking cough, too . . .
"The perception can't be that a wealthy felon can just write a check," an assistant U.S. Attorney named Michelle Petersen told a federal judge in Chicago. She was asking him to give a billionaire tax evader, Ty Warner of Beanie Babies fame, at least a year's prison time for hiding a fortune in an undeclared Swiss bank account that netted him almost $25 million in income. But that was just the perception left when His Honor Charles Kocoras, describing the poor misunderstood defendant as "very unique," gave him a couple of years' probation instead, plus 500 hours of "community service," probably behind some desk in a nice comfortable office.
Once again money, trumped justice as the judge bought the kind of argument made by every gangland figure who ever gave a nickel of his ill-gotten gains to charity ("He had a good heart, Mr. Capone..."). Chicago really hasn't changed all that much since the Roaring Twenties, only now the robberies are carried out with a pen and checkbook instead of tommy guns . . .
Over in East Tennessee, a federal magistrate named Lu Ann Ballew, who achieved her 15 seconds of fame by not letting a family name their child Messiah, has been replaced. Her "reasoning" was that Messiah is a title that belongs only to Jesus of Nazareth, a Jewish carpenter and itinerant preacher of some note. In the event Her Honor is interested in further research, she can find scores of Messiahs in the Tel Aviv phone book . . .
The prime minister of Canada got a hero's welcome in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, when he defended the Jewish state against the kind of libelous attacks that are common at the United Nations and far beyond, especially on American college campuses joining the campaign to boycott Israel. This being the Israeli parliament, there was bound to be dissent. Prime Minister Stephen Harper was heckled by Arab members of the Knesset, whose very presence there is more evidence that Israel is scarcely the "apartheid" state its critics claim to see.