- The Washington Times - Monday, September 10, 2001

Sidney's suit

"In 1997, [Matt] Drudge posted on his Web site, the Drudge Report, an item claiming that [Clinton White House aide] Sidney [Blumenthal] had a history of beating [wife] Jacqueline.

"The report now appears to have been entirely false; even Drudge issued a less than prominent retraction of it shortly after it appeared. Nevertheless, the Blumenthals ended up having to drop their suit, and to pay Drudge $2,500, apparently because their lawyers failed to timely cancel a scheduled deposition.

"[T]he Blumenthals ended up where they did financially because they also were fighting aggressively on the political front. Indeed, the major reason they sued was 'to expose and sue the ultimate perpetrators' — who they believed were partisan Republicans.

"This motivation to fight aggressively on the political front also explains why the Blumenthals may have sued, rather than simply writing lengthy, angry denials. Few had more media access than Sidney Blumenthal, who had written for the New Yorker, the New Republic, and the Washington Post.

"But what the press could not provide, and a lawsuit could, was the subpoena power, and the power to compel testimony — the power, that is, to try to force Drudge to reveal his confidential sources.

"A libel suit is supposed to be about proving that a published statement was knowingly false, and taking the publisher to task not about flushing out confidential sources."

—Julie Hilden, writing on "Should Libel Law Be Strengthened to Protect Plaintiffs?" in Find Law at www.findlaw.com

Boys will be

"Is it a boy or a girl? That is the first question most of us ask on hearing that a friend or relative has had a baby. Perhaps our most basic understanding of ourselves revolves around whether we are male or female.

"Surprisingly, children develop a preference for sex-stereotyped toys months before they can identify their own sex. This behaviour becomes stronger with age, so that an 18-month-old boy may, for example, sit on a vacuum cleaner making car noises before he is aware that he is a boy.

"There are biological differences between boys and girls that extend beyond the obvious physical differences which influence behaviour."

—Sarah Brewer, writing on "It's a girl — but she knows that already," Aug. 24 in the London Telegraph

Feeding frenzy

"If you think it's been an embarrassing summer for Gary Condit or Little League baseball, think of the poor shark. One shark ripped an arm off a boy in Florida. A second destroyed a swimmer's leg in the Bahamas. A third inflicted a fatal 17-inch gash on a boy in Virginia. A fourth killed a man in North Carolina and tore off his girlfriend's foot. There have been dozens of lesser attacks, but you get the picture. Sharks have a PR problem.

"Fear not. Marine biologists, shark-feeding tour operators, animal rights activists, and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush have come forward to denounce the media frenzy. They point out that this year hasn't been the bloodiest and that most sharks aren't out to eat humans. But too often, the apologists overstate their case. They claim that sharks are 'gentle' and can be 'trusted.' Staying on dry land to avoid attacks is like 'being afraid of the bogeyman,' University of Miami Professor Samuel Gruber told The Washington Post. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, author Michael Capuzzo advised the public, 'Go on in, the water's fine.'

"Let's get a few things straight. Gentle creatures don't devour human limbs. The bogeyman doesn't bleed children to death. And the water wasn't fine for the two people who lost their lives to sharks while Capuzzo's op-ed was waiting to go to press."

—William Saletan, writing on "Attack of the Shark Lobby," Thursday in Slate at www.slate.com

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