Sex, politics, religion, terrorism and no apologies

Ross Mackenzie
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Posted: Feb 24, 2005 12:00 AM

A random walk among issues currently in the news. . . .

Let's hear it for the U.N. The place is rife with scandal involving not only Secretary General Kofi Annan's son Kojo, but possibly Kofi himself. Plus these: (1) allegations of sexual harassment leading to the resignation of the U.N. high commissioner for refugees; (2) corruption in the U.N.-overseen oil-for-food program that evidently allowed Saddam Hussein to circumvent sanctions against Iraqi oil and enabled Saddam to siphon perhaps $12 billion for himself; and (3) charges of prostitution, pedophilia and rape on the part of U.N. "peacekeeping" troops in Congo. No wonder the U.S., the U.N.'s principal financial backer, exhibits a growing reluctance to keep shelling out.

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Bulletin: With newspapers giving off seemingly relentless bad news, consider this from a Mediamark Research study: 41 percent of influential Americans - "the critical 10 percent of the population who drive what the other 90 percent think, do, and buy" - tend to be avid readers of newspapers.

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So Prince Charles is going to wed his mistress, Camilla Parker Bowles - things between the two of them apparently having hotted up shortly after they met at a polo match about 30 years ago when she said: "My great-grandmother was your great-great-grandfather's mistress, so how about it?" Question: Which marriage is the more bizarre - the latest in Britain's marvelously dysfunctional royalty, or the impending wedding of Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau? The latter couple met in Seattle in 1996 - she a 34-year-old teacher and mother of four, he her 12-year-old student. Since then, she has served two terms for sex with him, and they have produced two children. With Mary Kay now 43 and Vili having reached the age of full majority at last, the two will wed about a week after the ceremony uniting the two British lovers - he 56, she 57.

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How on earth can there be any argument against House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner's bill to crack down on the ability of illegal aliens to obtain and use driver's licenses?

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Syria is tightly linked to the bomb that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Syria also harbors, trains and serves as a staging area for terrorists in Iraq - and let us not forget that for years Syria has resisted demands to withdraw about 20,000 troops from Lebanon, where they have been since 1976. Finally, Syria has just declared a "common front" with Iran, which backs the Hezbollah terrorists based in Southern Lebanon. In all this, France - the former colonial ruler of Syria and Lebanon - could make itself useful by forming a "common front" with the U.S. in demanding that Syria get right with Lebanon, Hezbollah, and terrorism generally - now.

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Life cannot be particularly happy at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Consider. PBS and NPR long have had difficulty explaining why a free nation needs government-funded television and radio. Now, a solidly conservative Congress is more reluctant to fund an entity with a widely perceived leftist bias, particularly with 85 percent of Americans subscribing to satellite or cable TV and additional numbers subscribing to satellite radio. And recently Tavis Smiley walked away from his three-year-old NPR show - created with a consortium of African-American public radio stations - saying: It is ironic that a Republican President has an administration that is more inclusive and more diverse than a so-called liberal-media-elite network.

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Over at CBS, things continue grim as well. CBS veteran Bob Schieffer, a longtime acquaintance of President Bush through Schieffer's brother Tom, a Bush intimate, will take Dan Rather's anchor job on a temporary basis when Rather departs next month. No word yet on a Rather apology to President Bush for rushing onto the air at the height of the presidential campaign with bogus memos about Bush's Texas Air National Guard service, but don't hold your breath.

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Rather apparently still insists the content of the memos was correct despite the memos' fraudulence. Or something. Anyway, evidence of Rather's driving leftism mounts. Former CBS foreign correspondent Tom Fenton, in his forthcoming book "Bad News," quotes "60 Minutes" commentator Andy Rooney, himself hardly a moderate, as saying there is "no question" the mainline media are liberal - adding on Rather: I think Dan... may not be as smart as they think - but he has been so blatantly one-sided.

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Having said during the presidential campaign that she was using "Heinz Kerry" for political purposes only, John Kerry's wife Teresa has dropped the use of "Kerry." For instance, having confirmed Teresa's reversion to her pre-campaign usage, the National Council for Research on Women has announced that prior to its March 1 Women Who Make a Difference Awards Dinner, "Teresa Heinz will speak to her commitment to women's economic security, including Social Security and retirement."

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Grief in the Catholic Church may know no end. Last week the U.S. Conference of Bishops' Office of Child and Youth Protection reported that it has received 1,092 new accusations of sexual abuse by priests, many of which derive from decades-old incidents. So widespread is the scandal involving 10,667 minors between 1950 and 2002 - mainly priestly sex with boys - that since 1950 the Church has paid $800 million in judgments, settlements, therapy and lawyers' fees.

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And despite all the attempts to close the fissures opened within the worldwide Anglican Communion by the Episcopal Church USA's consecration of a practicing homosexual as bishop of New Hampshire, the fissures may be expanding to chasms. A meeting in Northern Ireland this week seeks palliation. But given that even the bishop of U.S. Episcopalians has declined, as requested by Anglican hierarchs, at least to apologize for the consecration, division runs wide and deep. Last week the Archbishop of Canterbury despaired: (The rift has) weakened, if not destroyed, the sense that we are actually talking the same language within the Anglican Communion. And: There will be no cost-free outcome from this.