A lengthy inquiry by the Phoenix New Times into the attacks on McCain and his behavior as a prisoner concluded that there is little substance to most of the allegations, although there is nothing to prove or disprove them. What the POW-MIA malcontents really don't like is McCain's support for normalization of relations with Vietnam and what they see as his lack of over-the-top respect for their cause. Some disdain what they see as his use of his POW status to enhance his reputation as a presidential candidate.

A few go further, even insisting that it was McCain's own fault that his arms and legs were broken when his Phantom jet plummeted to earth. They claim he was never tortured in prison. According to the conspiracists, the North Vietnamese liked McCain so much they even constructed a monument to him in Hanoi. He had a Vietnamese wife and children, was brainwashed, and then sent home to the U.S. to carry out Red instructions.

McCain says he was held in solitary confinement for much of the time, tapping messages through the walls of his cell to other prisoners. At a brunch the weekend before last for the Patriots, a group of former POWs and Medal of Honor winners who travel around the state relating their own experiences with McCain at the "Hanoi Hilton" and elsewhere in Vietnam, Orson Swindle, who slept next to McCain for more than a year as a POW, warned supporters to beware of a rise in smear stories as the campaign entered its final phase.

Commented McCain's chief of staff Mark Salter, "Nobody believes these idiots. They're a bunk of jerks."


No Child Is an Island
Winston Gonzalez

As his grandmothers prepared to return to Cuba empty-handed and Republicans in Congress mounted a major offensive to make him a U.S. citizen in the tradition of Winston Churchill, little Elian Gonzalez headed back to preschool in Miami for more daily inundations in the goo of right-wing Cuban expatriate propaganda.

In the kindergarten at Lincoln-Marti School in Miami's Little Havana, Elian, 6, will learn to disdain Communists and support prayer. He will learn about the evils of abortion and homosexuality. Throughout his school years, he will be expected to turn to the school's main text, The Citizens Training Handbook (subtitled Discipline, Morale, Civism, Urbanity), written by the school's owner, Demetrio Perez, for guidance on everything from correct U.S. foreign policy to table manners. The book states that certain undesirables—"habitual drunks, adulterers, and sexually immoral people"—are not to be allowed entry into the U.S. It contains tips on history, such as that Richard Nixon got a bum deal when he was forced to resign and that most Americans now realize this and are sorry about what happened to the former president. Needless to say, young Elian will be instructed that Cuba under Castro is a wicked place.

Interestingly, the guide also tells students that "from birth, children desire and need their parents' attention. . . . They need their parents to speak to them, hold them and caress them." But this should not be taken to mean that Elian should be with his father in Cuba, Perez points out. "The father is not really the father," he says. "In Cuba, Castro thinks for everyone. He is the father, and the child does not need Castro to care for him or make decisions."

Power of Prayer

Plagued by the worst chemical spill in Indiana history, Orthodox Church Christians in Indianapolis came up with a creative solution that didn't cost a cent—prayer. Some 25 Christians gathered at the edge of the White River, in which thousands of fish have died since December, seeking divine intervention. Evoking a connection with Christ's baptism, one priest poured water from the Jordan River into the White. A cross was then dipped in the river three times. "Lord have mercy," the parishioners proclaimed.

Unfortunately, during the week the service took place, 900,000 more gallons of partially treated sewage was dumped into the river, according to the Indianapolis Star.

Additional reporting: Kate Cortesi

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