And now the most absorbing two minutes in television, the latest from the wartime grapevine.

The campaign on the left to block the nomination of federal Judge Charles Pickering of Mississippi to the U.S. Court of Appeals may have succeeded; not a single Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee seems willing to let the Pickering appointment reach the Senate floor. But the tactics of Pickering's opponents proved too much for even the reliably liberal Washington Post, which over the weekend called it "an ugly affair" and "the latest example of the degradation of confirmation process." The Post said Pickering's critics have focused not on his qualifications, but have "tried to portray him as a barely reconstructed segregationist."

And the New York Times reports that the opposition to Pickering from national liberal and civil rights groups is not shared by the largely black residents of his hometown of Laurel, Miss. There, said the Times, "many say they admire his efforts at racial conciliation, which they describe as highly unusual for a white Republican in the state."  The Times adds, "the city's black establishment overwhelmingly supports his nomination."

The state of Washington has run into some unintended consequences of the steep new tax on cigarettes – $1.42 a pack, highest in the nation – which took effect Jan. 1. The state hoped it would both discourage smoking and raise $120 million in new revenue. But smokers instead are streaming across the border to Idaho and Oregon, where taxes are much lower. For example, a carton of Marlboros, which costs $48.99 at an Albertson's Market in Liberty Lake, Wash., costs just $30.99 in nearby State Line, Idaho, according to the Idaho Statesman newspaper, which says the cigarette business is booming in such places.

The future of student-run courses in sexuality at the University of California at Berkeley is said to be in doubt. This after the Daily Californian, the campus paper, disclosed that students in one of the classes watched their instructor have sex at a strip club and that class members were involved in an orgy. The courses were offered under a so-called "democratic education" program, which grants credit for courses run by student instructors. The Sacramento Bee reports that other such courses include Blackjack, which teaches students how to count cards, and Copwatch, which teaches how to assert legal rights to the police.