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Countdown with 'Countdown'


Politics in life and death — The word "hysteria" is pejorative, and excessive.  On the other hand, as she evolved into one of the most famous women in the world, has become a lightning rod for seemingly every medical, legal, ethical, and religious .  It has gotten comment from Congress, from the White House, from a national media frenzy, even from the official newspaper of the Vatican.  Alone in silence, however, is the man whose words now matter most: the federal judge who could have the final verdict.  James Whittemore — the Tampa District judge who was given the case by act of Congress — heard arguments this afternoon for and against the re-inserting of the feeding tube that keeps Schiavo alive.  After two hours, Whittemore surprised on-lookers by saying he would not make an immediate ruling on the request for an emergency injunction to resume feeding — the outcome sought by Schiavo's parents, and fought by her husband.  But he seemed to be leaning against re-inserting the feeding tube.  Judge Whittemore told the parents' attorney, "I think you'd be hard-pressed to convince me that you have a substantial likelihood," of their lawsuit succeeding in a full federal court hearing.

Schiavo medical condition — Lost in the frenzy of the Terri Schiavo case, lost in the rhetoric and the politics and the law and the sympathy, is the medical reality.  Court-appointed, independent .  Her father said she smiled at him — last night…Not that Schiavo's parents, the Schindlers, believe such a doctor's opinion is relevant.  Though, independent physicians have concluded her facial gestures are random.  Her father insists his daughter can communicate — and just did. Terri Schiavo's husband has invited the President Bush to visit her, to see if he can get any reaction from her, and suggested that that would settle everything.  Most doctors agree, however, president or no president, that a potential recovery for Schiavo would be impossible.

Deadly School shooting — in the small Minnesota town of Red Lake after a school shooting.  Six of them, at the town's school, four students, a teacher, and a security guard one of the dead students is apparently the lone shooter.  Fourteen or fifteen other students have been injured, two critically.  Details are still sketchy.  The FBI has just released numbers, not names.  But the town's Fire Director, Roman Stately, has told several news organizations that one student committed all the crimes — all 22 or 23 shootings.  The officer said his first victims were his own grandparents and his grandfather was a police officer in Red Lake.  The guns used by the shooter may have belonged to that officer.  Fire Director Stately said the unidentified student moved to the school and began firing at everybody he saw….Stay tuned to MSNBC for details.

Giant problem — It may turn out that the "dog and pony... and steroid show" staged by the House Committee on Government Reform last Thursday was more important than it looked.  The man poised to break baseball's all-time home run record — already accused of using steroids illegally — is reportedly under investigation by a San Francisco grand jury.  Barry Bonds is being, "looked at"… quotes the attorney for a former girlfriend of the Giants' slugger. Hugh Levine says his client, Kimberly Bell, testified to a grand jury last week.  Bell reportedly told the grand jury that in 2000, Bonds told her that he had begun using steroids.  He has repeatedly denied such use.  He even told the grand jury that, in December of 2003, which could be the problem.  An attorney for Bonds says the entire steroid investigation — seemingly aimed at manufacturers and distributors — is actually just a cover for the real target: Bonds himself.

Laughable legislation — It's an instinct as old as this country itself.  From books, to some immigrants, to playing baseball on Sunday — we've adhered off-and-on to one brief wisdom: When in doubt, ban it!  TV ads for Viagra and the like and what one politician is calling "sexually suggestive" cheerleading are under fire.  (You realize this would mean that there would be absolutely nothing on television on Sundays during football season, don't you?)…Democratic Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia is touting a from broadcast television between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.  Moran says,  "You can hardly watch prime time television or a major sporting event with your family without ads warning of the dangers of a 'four hour' experience airing every ten minutes."  The "experience" to which the congressman refers is the alarming disclaimer so often uttered in a low, rushed tone near the end of each ad.  Representative Moran also noted that when Bob Dole was doing the commercials, it didn't really bother him….Meanwhile, the unrelated story from Texas, where state representative Al Edwards has introduced a bill banning "sexually suggestive" bumping and grinding during high school cheerleading routines.  Edwards says "it's just way too sexually oriented, you know, the way they're shaking their behinds."  Any offending squad would have their funding cut and be prohibited from performing for the rest of the year.  Representative Edwards has something of a reputation for creative proposals, most notable his 1990 bid to punish drug dealers by chopping off their fingers.