And now the most compelling two minutes in television, the latest footnotes to the American war on terrorism.

Frustrated by its efforts to determine just who is being held in the Justice Department's anti-terror investigation, the American Civil Liberties Union has now begun writing to foreign embassies asking their help. The ACLU, which maintains that the detention of hundreds of foreigners in this country on suspicion of possible terrorist connections is unconstitutional, wants to file suit against the government. But it has been unable to find out who is being held, since the Justice Department is not releasing the names. So, the New York Times reports the ACLU has now written to the embassies of such places as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan, asking for names of their citizens being held.

A newspaper survey of Arab newspaper readers from Saudi Arabia across the Arab world to Germany has found that Israeli President Ariel Sharon easily outdistances everyone else for the title of worst personality of the year 2001. Sharon was the choice of 56 percent of the readers of the Saudi newspaper Okaz, with President Bush coming in second with 29 percent. Perhaps surprisingly, Usama bin Laden was third at 11 percent and Mullah Mohammad Omar fourth at 3 percent. The 9/11 terrorist attacks came in first at the worst event of the year with 38 percent, with the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan second at 33 percent.

Syria has quietly been helping the U.S. in the war on terrorism by allowing access to some of its citizens and by providing intelligence. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that two weeks ago, the government of President Bashar Assad let an FBI investigator visit the city of Aleppo to question people who had met with suspected 9/11 terrorist leader Mohammed Atta. And the newspaper says the government has also given U.S. authorities information on the terrorist activities of the militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Four years ago, when Chief Justice William Rehnquist criticized the U.S. Senate, then under Republican control, for its failure to act on judicial nominations, the New York Times put the story on its front page. At the time, there were 82 vacancies, as Rehnquist noted in his annual year-end report. Now, four years later, with the Senate in Democratic hands, there are 94 vacancies and Rehnquist has renewed the criticism. But on Tuesday, as the Media Research Center noted, the New York Times put the story inside the paper, with no mention of the Senate until the 10th paragraph.