The Mystery of Usama bin Laden

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

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Is Bin Laden Dead or Alive?
There was snickering at the Pentagon this morning over the latest New York Times reporting on the search for Usama bin Laden. Just last week the Times reported that "American commanders appear to have concluded that Usama bin Laden is probably still alive and moving between mountain hideouts — near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Today, though, the Times reports  that "senior officers in the Joint Special Operations Command have concluded that Mr. bin Laden...was probably killed in the American bombing raid at Tora Bora last December." Senior Defense officials called that report "confused" and "inaccurate."

Al Qaeda Operatives in Lebanon?
With the blessing of Syria, which controls nearly everything that happens in Lebanon, hundreds of Al Qaeda operatives have taken refuge in Lebanon. This according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, which says as many as 200 Al Qaeda have taken refuge in a Palestinian refugee camp near the Lebanese city of Sidon. Haaretz said the Al Qaeda fighters tried to take over the camp, which triggered fighting that left several dead last month. The presence of Al Qaeda in Lebanon could mean  trouble for Syria with the Bush administration which has warned that country to "decide which side it is on" in the war on terrorism.

Polls for Action?
A new Los Angeles Times survey finds 59 percent of Americans in favor of military action to remove Saddam Hussein from power, with 29 percent opposed and the rest undecided. But 61 percent of those who support such action said they do so only happen if the international community backs it. Last week, a CNN poll found only 53 percent would support an attack involving ground troops with 41 percent opposed. The Los Angeles Times poll, however, found that 64 percent would support a ground attack if the president decided to launch one.

Sometimes Senator?
Finally, John McCain is among the Senate leaders in missed votes, exceeded only by ailing 80-year-old Jesse Helms, who is retiring from the Senate this year. The Arizona Republic reports that McCain has missed more than 10 percent of votes since 1995, a fact the Senator's office blames on two things: his presidential campaign in 2000 and his battle with skin cancer. But the paper cited no instance in which the senator's absence affected the outcome of any vote.