When Bill Frist tried to diagnose Terri Schiavo via videotape last year, he was taking a page from the intelligence world’s playbook, a recently declassified 1979 CIA report reveals. The report examines the use of “medical intelligence” in diagnosing the illnesses of foreign leaders without the benefit of a direct examination, a process labeled “remote medical diagnosis.” Such diagnoses are facilitated by face-to-face encounters, but they can also be carried out using photographs, videotape, and even voice analysis (to identify stroke victims). The most useful images, the authors note, are those “obtained in more informal settings, particularly such sporting occasions as golf, hunting, and swimming when attire and postures are more revealing of the subject’s physical condition.”
As an example of a successful remote diagnosis, they cite the case of Leonid Brezhnev: in 1973, an “astute personal observation by a medical analyst” correctly diagnosed the Soviet leader with cardiac arrhythmia (he had a pacemaker installed shortly afterward) and with teeth so rotten that his face drooped and his words slurred. The latter diagnosis, the authors note, enabled the CIA to dismiss later theories that he had cancer of the mouth or had suffered a stroke. They also discuss the successful diagnosis of French President Georges Pompidou, whom CIA analysts observed in the early seventies developing a “characteristically puffy face” possibly indicative of cortisone treatments for multiple myeloma. This analysis was vindicated when Pompidou died from the disease, which he had hidden from the public. However, it’s possible to keep a foreign leader’s ailments secret even from the CIA: when Golda Meir passed away in 1978, aides revealed that she had been suffering from malignant lymphoma for over a decade—and the authors admit that they “had been entirely unaware that she had this lethal disease.”
—“Remote Medical Diagnosis,” M. Maxfield, R. Proper, and S. Case, Central Intelligence Agency
Not every post-9/11 military intervention has cost us the hearts and minds of the local population, according to a new poll sponsored by the Program on International Policy Attitudes. The poll, based on a random nationwide sample of Afghan adults and carried out late last year, finds that 83 percent of Afghans have either a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” impression of the U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, and 70 percent rate the security situation in their region as either “excellent” or “good,” while only 5 percent call it “poor.” Eighty-three percent of respondents said their country was moving in the “right direction,” a similar percentage told pollsters that the toppling of the Taliban was a “good thing” for their country, and 79 percent approved of American military operations against al-Qaeda.
—“WorldPublicOpinion.Org Poll of Afghanistan,” Program on International Policy Attitudes
Every commuter has a least-favorite bottleneck, but if you live in Los Angeles you may have quite a few of them, according to a study prepared for the Federal Highway Administration which lists the twenty-four worst bottlenecks in the United States. Five are in Los Angeles, including the worst of all: the intersection of U.S. 101 and I-405, which generates 27,144 hours of delay every year. The worst bottlenecks on the East Coast, meanwhile, are in Atlanta, and just off the dreaded Capital Beltway around Washington, D.C.
—“An Initial Assessment of Freight Bottlenecks on Highways,” Cambridge Systematics Inc.
In yet another sign of political polarization, Democrats and Republicans can’t even agree on how well the economy is doing. Throughout the 1990s, there was little partisan disagreement on the topic: even during politically fraught periods like the Republican Revolution of 1994 and the impeachment of Bill Clinton, voters on both sides of the political divide held roughly similar views about the health of the American economy. Since George W. Bush’s election in 2000, though, Democrats’ and Republicans’ perceptions of economic matters have steadily diverged, to the point where in a recent Pew poll, 56 percent of Republican respondents rated the state of the economy as either “excellent” or “good,” whereas only 28 percent of independents and 23 percent of Democrats judged that it was doing well. This divide holds true regardless of income: poor, middle-class, and well-off GOP voters were all far more likely than their Democratic and independent counterparts to say that the economy was in “excellent” or “good” shape.
—“Economy Now Seen Through Partisan Prism,” Pew Research Center for the People and the Press