Oscars, fat, oil, pain in Spain, the Catholic findings, etc

Posted: Mar 18, 2004 12:00 AM

Iraq remains on the screen, with last-ditch Saddamites targeting foreign civilians, the allied military and rising stars in the Iraqi republic to come. Massachusetts and San Francisco's mayor Gavin Newsom (aka Any Twosome Newsom), et al., are keeping the single-gender marital embers glowing. And John Kerry, presenting himself as more alpha than Al Gore, will try to succeed where Gore failed.

Time enough to discuss them all. Other issues requiring tending in the garden...

Spain. Savagery in 10 al-Qaidist bombs. Two hundred dead, 1,600 injured. An election - a sensible regime suddenly out, socialists suddenly in. The new prime minister declaring he will align with Germany and France, and will withdraw Spain's 1,300 troops from Iraq - adding: "Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush must do some reflection and self-criticism. ... You cannot organize a war with lies." Spain caved; the Atlantic alliance took a major hit. Having delivered the most devastating blow to right reason since 9/11, al-Qaida - terrorism - won another. Is this the sort of victory, producing the sort of ensuing retreat, many have in mind when they urge America to get in step with the effete relativism of Old Europe?

How about that report, the most exhaustive ever done on sexual abuse, on sexual predation in the Catholic priesthood? Let's see: Researchers hired by the church found - quoting from The Washington Post - that "4 percent of all the priests who have served in the United States since 1950 have been accused of sexually abusing minors. Eighty-one percent of the victims were boys, and the majority were 11 to 14." Allegations reported by 10,667 children (81 percent boys) against 4,392 priests. Money paid by the church "on legal settlements and counseling to keep the allegations quiet": $572 million.

According to Robert Bennett, a principal author of the report commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Bishops: "(Church leaders must face) the fact that more than 80 percent of the abuse at issue was of a homosexual nature." With predatory priests preferring boys to such an extent, so much for the argument that the church's priapic problem is not primarily homosexual-derived.

Peter Jackson's cinematic version of J.R.R. Tolkien's "Return of the King" - the last volume in his "Lord of the Rings" trilogy - swept the Oscars with wins in all 11 of its nominated categories (the most for any movie ever in a sweep). In addition, this was the first best-picture Oscar for a fantasy flick.

Yet oddly, there were no nominations, hence no Oscars, for acting: not for the roles of Gandalf, Aragorn or the Hobbits Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin. Perhaps next year, Hollywood will surprise itself again and give the best-actor award to Jim Caviezel for his portrayal of Jesus in Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ." Pray.

With obesity now overtaking tobacco use as the nation's leading cause of preventable death, the government has pronounced two-thirds of Americans overweight or obese - and has declared war on fat and fat food. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, lately on the Atkins Diet (successfully), says, "Far too many Americans are literally eating themselves to death. The epidemic of obesity threatens the health of millions." The first big gun to enter the fray: the Food and Drug Administration, with yet another revision of the nutrition label on food packages, making it easier to count calories and carbs. The best advice: "Exercise more, eat smarter, eat less."

In 1970 the United States produced 20 percent of the world's crude oil; today, with consumption growing ever higher, we produce less than half that percentage and import ever more. Now crude prices have hit one-year highs, with gasoline prices going up correspondingly. Partly, plutocratic OPEC is to blame; so also are those senators, mostly leftist Democrats, who consistently vote against drilling in places like the Arctic National Wildlife refuge to meet petroleum-based demand until the nation can convert broadly to new hydrogen, coal and nuclear technologies. With its resistance to expanded domestic drilling, the left is helping OPEC stick a gun in the ribs of Americans every time they use a petroleum product - making them pay unnecessarily more.

Maybe Colorado's air is too thin. First the Air Force Academy (at Colorado Springs) made too many headlines regarding rape and sex - too many of the charges proving too true. Now the University of Colorado (at Boulder) is in the news for employing booze, strippers and sex with campus coeds to recruit athletes - primarily for the football team.

In a deposition, Boulder County District Attorney Mary Keenan said recruits "were told they were going to get laid, we'll get you sex. ... Oh, I'm sorry you missed it Thursday night; we'll make sure you get it tonight" - with the at-least implied message: "Come here. We're the Big XII champions. It's like this all the time." With three federal lawsuits pending and two investigations under way, school president Elizabeth Hoffman ("I'm concerned") has put the football coach - at $1.6 million, Colorado's highest-salaried public employee - on administrative leave (paid, of course).