And now some fresh pickings from the political grapevine.

Saddam Hussein says he approves of the suicide bombings being carried out by Palestinians against Israelis. State-run Iraqi media quotes him as calling such attacks "legitimate means used by a people whose land is being occupied." The government of Saudi Arabia apparently agrees with him, according to Ahmed al-Tuwajiri, a member of the Saudi government's so-called "Consultative Counsel," which is appointed by the king. Tuwajiri says he wrote to President Bush that suicide bombers are not terrorists but instead have "offered their souls for the sake of freedom and independence, and in defense of their religion, dignity, self and family."

Leading British newspapers, both right and left, have bought into the Palestinian claims of an Israeli massacre in that refugee camp in Jenin. U.S. journalists have described stark scenes of rubble and devastation but so far have found no sign of a massacre. But the conservative Times of London's correspondent today wrote of "such disrespect for human life...the dead are everywhere." The liberal Independent said "a monstrous war crime that Israel has tried to cover up...has finally been exposed." Even the famously right-leaning Telegraph described "systematic devastation of once teeming streets...the sickly smell of rotting corpses."

Louisiana Congressman John Cooksey, who said after Sept. 11 that anyone with "a diaper on his head" should be targeted as a security risk, now says Yasser Arafat suffers from senile dementia. Cooksey told a Jewish group, "Arafat will not be around very much longer.  And I doubt he has the mental capability to be around presently." Cooksey is an ophthalmologist who predominantly treats senior citizens and he says his observations were gleaned from a November meeting he had with Arafat in the Middle East.

Cornel West, the black studies professor who says he is leaving Harvard to join the Princeton faculty, has told the New York Times that the last straw in his deteriorating relationship with Harvard came when he was recuperating from prostate surgery. Harvard President Lawrence Summers, he said, didn't even send him a get-well message until two months later. But Princeton President Shirley Tilghman and College Provost Amy Gutmeann called him almost every week. West described Harvard President Summers as "the Ariel Sharon of American higher education...a bully in a very delicate and dangerous situation."