And now the most intriguing two minutes in television, the latest from the wartime grapevine:

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Saddam's Former Bodyguard Talks

Israeli intelligence has reportedly been informed by Saddam Hussein's former bodyguard of details of Iraq's weapons program so specific that a former U.N. weapons inspector is calling the information a "smoking gun".

The Herald Sun of Melbourne, Australia says Abu Hamdi Mahmoud has told of an underground chemical weapons facility on a peninsula in Baghdad, a scud assembly area near Ramadi, and two underground bunkers in Iraq's Western Desert containing biological weapons.

The newspaper says Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has so far shared only pieces of the information with U.S. and British intelligence.

But the paper quotes former U.N. inspector William Tierney as saying the information "checks out, absolutely checks out". U.S. intelligence officials are intensely skeptical of the report.

Complicated Boycott

The NAACP tourism boycott of South Carolina has put the Democratic presidential candidates in the awkward position of trying to run primary election campaigns in a state where the NAACP doesn't want them to spend any money on food and hotels.

The boycott was originally called to force the state to remove the confederate flag that used to fly, along with other flags, above the state capitol in Columbia.

The flag was removed and now flies only over a confederate memorial elsewhere on the capitol grounds.

The NAACP says that's not good enough, and The Washington Times reports that so far only N.C. Sen. John Edwards has said his campaign staff will not stay in hotels there.

Disarmament Dispute

AFP, the French wire service, takes issue with our item last Wednesday saying its coverage of Hans Blix's report to the U.N. ignored his statement that Iraq had not accepted the U.N.'s demands to disarm.

An AFP official e-mailed us a number of passages from AFP dispatches that did indeed contain the quote.

We are pleased to note those items, but the AFP story we cited last week led with Blix saying Iraq had largely cooperated with arms experts.

The story then went on for 964 words, but never mentioned Blix's statement that Iraq had not "come to genuine acceptance" of the U.N.'s disarmament demands.

Competition Coming?

Al Jazeera, the cable channel based in Qatar that is known as the CNN of the Mideast and best known as a sometime platform for Usama bin Laden, may soon have competition from a rival that boasts that its coverage will be more balanced.

The new channel, to be called Al Arabia, will be based in Saudi Arabia, and plans to start broadcasting in mid-February.