And now some fresh pickings from the political grapevine.
Three members of the panel that selects winners of the Nobel Peace Prize now say they regret granting that honor to Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. Hanna Kvanmo says she would rescind the prize, if she could, and she blames Peres for violence in the region: "Peres is responsible, as part of the government....If he had not agreed with [Prime Minister] Sharon, then he would have withdrawn from the government." Former Norwegian Prime Minister Odvar Nordii also complains that Peres has not lived up to the ideals he expressed when he received the prize in 1994. Oslo Bishop Gunnar Stallsett also expresses disappointment in Peres. None of the three mentioned any misgivings about a man who shared the peace prize that year with Peres – Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.
Here's a novel theory from the indispensable French. Thierry Meyssan, the leader of a popular left-wing think tank, argues in a new book that the U.S. government actually staged a fake crash into the Pentagon on Sept. 11 – that the whole thing was a hoax. In The Frightening Fraud, Meyssan cites conflicting eyewitness accounts and the lack of photos of the disaster – disregarding ample photos, including recently released security-camera pictures. Meyssan also alleges there was a secret CIA base at the World Trade Center, and that Usama bin Laden is a "hired agent" of the U.S. government. The book offers no alternative explanation for the death of more than 3,000 people on that Tuesday in September. One Pentagon spokesman calls the book "a slap in the face" to the American people and the victims of Sept. 11. Equally galling, pardon the pun, is the fact that the book is selling well in France.
The Southern Baptist Convention will boycott a hotel near the St. Louis airport because the lodging facility soon after will host an unusual three-day celebration of fleshly kink. A group called "Leather and Lace" will hold its "Beat Me In St. Louis" gathering at the hotel. The group advocates the "free expression of alternative lifestyles and forms of loving" – including bondage, domination and sadomasochism. The three-day spree in St. Louis will include Dungeon Parties, featuring medieval torture devices and workshops that illustrate such non-traditional affection forms as caning and whipping. The Baptist convention regards the “Leather and Lace” event a direct attack on the fabric of traditional family values" of the Baptist church. Neither the hotel nor the tough-love advocates were returning reporters' calls today.
One Latin-American organization is coming to the defense of embattled cartoon mouse Speedy Gonzales. The League of United Latin American Citizens – or "LULAC" – wants to see Speedy back on the air. The Cartoon Network gave Speedy a siesta in 1999 amid complaints that the cartoon contains anti-Mexican stereotypes. But LULAC's director of policy and legislation, Gabriel Lemus, says he's never heard any Mexican-Americans complain about Speedy. Despite that, the Cartoon Network has no plans to put Speedy Gonzales back on the air.