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Dispatches The Buzz

EDITED E.T.: When E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial rolled back into theaters for its 20th anniversary release, parts of the Steven Spielberg fantasy were changed. Some footage includes improved special effects thanks to new technology, but Variety's Todd McCarthy reports that other changes reflect new political sensibilities. He notes that the minor changes are hard to spot without comparing the 1982 and 2002 versions. "More controversially, Spielberg has digitally erased the guns brandished by the authorities chasing the boys and E.T. in the film's terrific climax and replaced them with walkie-talkies," Mr. McCarthy writes in the Hollywood trade paper. "In a similar bow to contemporary sensitivities, he has also replaced the word 'terrorist' with 'hippie.'" The writer argues that these changes may constitute "wimping out," but they don't necessarily change the viewer's experience of the film. ENTITLED TO VIAGRA: Should the government force taxpayers to pay for someone else's Viagra? The New York Post reports that New York's Medicaid insurance program used $6 million worth of tax dollars on prescriptions for the drug. The agency claimed it was simply following federal mandates. Back in 1998, federal regulators demanded that Medicaid pay for Viagra. New York governor George Pataki's administration initially opposed the guideline, complaining that the little blue pills would be sold on the street. Soon the state reversed course, according to the Post, and allowed the payments if the patient had a physical exam and a diagnosed ailment. Conservative Party chairman Michael Long attacked the funding, saying that it wastes taxpayers' money and those who want Viagra can get it through private means. "This has nothing to do with life-or-death issues," he told the paper. "This is not chemotherapy pills, or penicillin pills, or insulin for diabetes." HIRED GUNS? Linda Chavez offers an unusual solution to America's terrorist visa scandal: privatize our border guard. "I have no faith that the INS can ever reform itself and actually do the job of policing our borders and keeping out the bad guys," she writes in her syndicated column. "Maybe it's time we looked to the private sector to do the job the government clearly isn't performing." The problem Ms. Chavez finds is that once someone enters the country with a visa, he can go anywhere. The government can't track him, and a congressionally mandated system to record entries and exits isn't fully functional. "The INS's response to the hijackers' visa snafu has been typically bureaucratic," Ms. Chavez charges. "First, claim the problem wasn't as bad as it looked-after all, INS officials claimed, the visas were approved before the terrorist attack, it just took an extra eight months to notify the flight school. Second, shuffle a few mid-level managers around, as if that were equivalent to holding them accountable." HITTING DODGEBALL: Public schools across the United States are banning dodgeball, the classic playground game. Joseph Brean of Canada's National Post reports that "school boards in New York, Maryland, Virginia, Maine, Ohio, and Texas have struck the game from their curricula after years of lobbying by critics." The purpose of dodgeball is to eliminate other kids-and that's too individualistic. "It's a form of legalized bullying," Stu Auty of the Canadian Safe School Network told Mr. Brean. "It's an overt way that children can be marginalized in a gym, and that's not good." BUILDING DYNASTIES: Tipper Gore contemplated running for the U.S. Senate in Tennessee; even though she changed her mind, Tod Lindberg notes in The Washington Times that this shows the "dynastic character of American politics." Besides the Bush dynasty, Mr. Lindberg notes the Gores, Cuomos, and Clintons. One rising heir is Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the lieutenant governor from Maryland who is widely expected to become the next governor. This isn't just nepotism, according to Mr. Lindberg. It's branding. A familiar name is "the easiest way to overcome the biggest barrier to entry to a career in politics, namely, that no one knows who you are, and therefore no one will give you the time of day, let alone a $1,000 campaign contribution." Mr. Lindberg doesn't seem to be bothered by political careers that grow in family trees, however. "Dynastic politics has its unsavory elements" he writes, "but experience as the son or daughter or wife or husband of a politician may be the best training for the job you can get."