And now some fresh pickings from the political grapevine:
Suicide Attempts on the Rise
Military officials say a growing number of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are trying to kill themselves. Sgt. Ray Sarracino, a Southern Command spokesman in Miami, would not tell the Orlando Sentinel how many prisoners had tried to hang themselves with towels or slit their wrists with plastic forks but, he said, "the attempts were thwarted very quickly by those guarding the detainees, and they were treated." The prisoners, suspected of belonging to Al Qaeda terrorist network or of having fought for Afghanistan's fallen Taliban regime, live in 8 feet by 7 feet wire-mesh cells, surrounded by razor wire and patrolled by armed guards.
Dukes of Hazzard star and congressional candidate Ben "Cooter" Jones is making campaign appearances in the TV show's Confederate flag-emblazoned hot rod, sparking a feud with the nation's first elected black governor. Jones — who served in Congress from 1989 to 1993 and now sells memorabilia from the TV show at his country store in Sperryville, Va. — is challenging incumbent Congressman Eric Cantor in a heavily Republican district. Former Virginia Governor Douglas Wilder tells the <I>Washington Post that Jones is sending the wrong signals to voters in the overwhelmingly white, rural and suburban district by using the 1969 Dodge Charger known as "The General Lee." To black voters, says Wilder, it's a slap in the face. But Jones says, "We're not trying to refight the war. We're just proud of our Southern heritage. We're NASCAR Democrats, and our priorities are right where they always were — take care of mama 'n them and make sure the kids get a good education."
A Mysterious Death
And finally, if the name of one of the terrorist suspects picked up in Oregon today rings a bell, it's because Patrice Lumumba Ford is apparently named after the leader of a radical African movement who became the first prime minister of the independent Republic of Congo. Officials in the Eisenhower and Kennedy Administrations viewed Lumumba as a rabid communist and a threat to American strategic interests in Africa. Lumumba was arrested and killed by his political enemies in 1961. His supporters suspected CIA involvement, but a 1975 U.S. Senate investigation found no proof to support the charge. Historical junkies also may recall that the former Soviet Union established a university in Moscow devoted to teaching communist ideology and governing techniques to third-world students — and called the institution Patrice Lumumba University. When the USSR collapsed, the school became the Russian People's Friendship University, a school for the kids of third world capitalists and Russian students who can't get into the prestigious universities.