And now the most engaging two minutes in television, a special New Year's Eve edition of the political grapevine:
John Milton is considered by many to be the greatest poet of the English language, but one British scholar accuses him of being a terrorist sympathizer. Professor John Carey of Oxford University makes the charge based on a Milton work praising the biblical figure Samson, who pulled down the pillars of the Philistines' temple, killing them and himself. Carey suggests that Samson was the equivalent of a suicide bomber and that Milton's praise of him was "an incitement to terrorism." Carey goes so far as to call for Milton's work Samson Agonistes to be pulled from school and college libraries, and even to be banned altogether.
Disputing Domestic Disputes
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who won a legal ruling to silence speculation he dyes his hair, is set for a new court clash with German media -- this time over the state of his marriage. Two regional newspapers plan to challenge injunctions Schroeder obtained in mid-December banning them from reporting rumors about problems between the chancellor and his fourth wife, Doris Schroeder-Koepf. The papers reported that Schroeder's marriage might be suffering because he spends too much time away from home.
Middle Eastern Essentials
Those who cover wars carry what some call a survival kit -- a bag with the absolute necessities. The Vancouver Sun reports that Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reporter Neil MacDonald has a unique packing strategy to help him get through Middle Eastern checkpoints. On top of everything else, he packs a bottle of whisky and some pornography. Not for personal use, of course. MacDonald tells the newspaper that throughout the Middle East, liquor and pornography are banned and extremely difficult to find. So when crossing a border or checkpoint, he hopes bored guards will snatch the alcohol or porn, and leave the really important stuff alone, such as his hand-held Global Positioning System, his tent and his sleeping bag.
And finally, a sobering proposition from some funeral homes on this New Year's Eve. A South Carolina funeral director hopes to give motorists second thoughts on one of the big party nights of the year. He's offering a free burial for anyone who signs a pledge to drink and drive on New Year's Eve. Grand Strand Funeral Home director Chris Burroughs said, "If I can make one person stop and think, then our effort's not in vain." About 10 funeral homes in the Southeast are offering the same deal.