- The Washington Times - Friday, December 14, 2001

The end of an era
An era ends at The Times this morning, indeed an era in Washington newspapers. Marge Wells, the executive assistant to Wesley Pruden, the editor in chief of the newspaper, is retiring and heading off to Florida, where she and her husband, Robert Wells, are finishing up construction of their retirement home in Cape Coral.
Marge went to work for the old Evening Star just out of high school in well, let's say when the world was younger. For years she worked for the foreman of the composing room and in the early 1970s became secretary to the paper's editorial page editors who, as a type, tend to be eccentric, unpredictable and demanding.
After the Star folded in 1981, Marge came to The Times as secretary for a succession of executive editors, first Smith Hempstone and then Woody West, a breed also eccentric, unpredictable and demanding, and finally as the executive assistant to Mr. Pruden.
She was equal to all of them, anticipating everything from "where did I put my glasses" to "get Sen. Bloop on the phone right away he's in Africa somewhere, or maybe Asia." She could find Osama bin Laden within 24 hours if put to the task. Civil and affable by nature, Marge could cut as sharply as an Arkansas Toothpick if she thought she was being spun or conned; she has what Hemingway called a "built-in, shock-proof bleep detector."
Loyal and conscientious, she was also obliging in helping others and always had sources inside the paper who knew how swiftly to cut through the usual corporate bureaucratic red-tape or stubborn recalcitrance.
"To say she'll be missed is an understatement," says Mr. Pruden. "There will be a paper tomorrow morning, but right now we're not sure how. I know how Adlai Stevenson felt the morning after when someone asked him the inevitable dumb question, how does it feel? 'It hurts too much to laugh,' he said, 'and I'm too big to cry.'"

Bring them on
Former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues David Scheffer, preparing a special report for the United States Institute of Peace on options for prosecuting international terrorists, sees "considerable" advantages of prosecuting in U.S. courts those terrorists linked to September 11.
"There are clear advantages to bringing terrorist suspects to justice [in U.S. courts], including the evidence that might help to further uncover the al Qaeda terrorist network," says Mr. Scheffer, who from 1993 to 2001 was deeply engaged in establishing international criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia, among other countries.
"The United States should demonstrate its determination to prosecute terrorist suspects without being intimidated by threats of Islamic demonstrations and retributions," says the ambassador, who acknowledges that the location of a federal trial and of the prisons where terrorist suspects are held "could become magnets" for disturbances and security threats.
"It could also be argued, however, that no matter where al Qaeda leaders are prosecuted, the U.S. role in that prosecution will be so dominant that the political firestorm will ignite anyway," he says.
In addition, the ambassador says federal prosecution enables the use of sensitive information that probably wouldn't be available for any foreign or international prosecution.
"A great deal of evidence in terrorism cases is classified, and the procedures available under U.S. law can make the difference between pursuing a prosecution or dropping it," he points out.
Finally, thousands of American families, friends and colleagues of the September 11 victims have legitimate "interests and rights" to expect terrorist trials in U.S. courts, he says.

Hot mail
The media giant Gannett Co., which publishes 97 newspapers and operates 22 television stations, has started baking incoming mail to its Virginia headquarters.
The company is using a Precision Heat Chamber, or PHC, which inactivates anthraxlike viruses and bacteria through prolonged exposure to dry heat.
"We believe heat is part of the answer to the problem of anthrax in the mail," says Precision Environmental President David Hedman, who says the effectiveness of heat in the decontamination of 13 biological weapons anthrax and botulism to plague, smallpox and viral hemorrhagic fevers is documented in the U.S. Army's 2001 Medical Management of Biological Casualties Handbook, or "Blue Book."
To render such biological agents harmless, mail has to be sterilized with dry heat for two hours at a sizzling 320 degrees Fahrenheit.

Tora Bora airdrop
"It occurs to me," writes Inside the Beltway reader Bob Emmrich of Cincinnati, "that considering ongoing events this may be the first time ever that a person should consider using 'Spellcheck' when making online travel reservations. Imagine a vacationer's surprise if just one letter was wrong on a plane ticket to the island paradise of 'B'ora Bora."

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