Scoring a run for Hitler

PEOPLE

To listen to Marge Schott speak is to understand why America is the land that invented political correctness. These people do need to be restrained.

Schott, high-profile owner of the Cincinnati Reds baseball team, provoked an explosion of anger from America's Jewish community when she said in a television interview broadcast at the weekend that Hitler "was good at the beginning but he just went too far".

Under pressure from Major League Baseball, the sport's controlling body, she issued an apology later in which she said, "I will continue to try to be more sensitive to all people."

She has not been trying very hard so far. It turns out that in 1992 she made exactly the same remark about Hitler in an interview with the New York Times. Then in 1993 she was fined $25,000 (pounds 16,500) and suspended from baseball for eight months after delivering herself of a series of spectacularly abusive remarks. Her players were "million-dollar niggers"; Martin Luther King Day was "nigger day"; Jews were "money-grubbing".

Schott is more than just insensitive, it appears. She delights in her awfulness. During an office party last year, the Washington Post reported, her St Bernard dog set about a bowl of mayonnaise with his giant, drooling tongue. "Marge," said the wife of of one of her staff, "Scotzzie's gotten into the food." "That's terrible," Schott replied. "That's expensive mayonnaise." So she picked up a knife, stirred the bowl until the evidence of the animal's slobbering had disappeared and cried out, "Come on, everybody. Eat up!"

Someone who as a matter of principle would never feed her guests dog slaver is Julie Andrews. In her latest principled stand, the star has turned her back on the 1996 Tony Awards, rejecting a nomination that still could win her a prize for her performance in the musical Victor/Victoria. The reason, apparently, is solidarity with her husband, Blake Edwards, who directed and produced the show, as well as co-stars, Tony Roberts, Michael Nouri and Rachel York. Andrews also egregiously extended the vocabulary range we have come to associate with the stars. "I have searched my conscience and my heart and find that I cannot accept this nomination - and prefer to stand instead with the egregiously overlooked," she said in an emotion- packed speech after curtain calls at the Wednesday matinee performance.

If Julie Andrews were to set off in an aeroplane for the North Pole, and turn back 150 miles short of her target, there is no question but that she would come clean when she got home. She would not, as Richard Byrd did 70 years ago, allow herself to be paraded in New York and receive medals from President Coolidge. Researchers of Byrd's recently discovered flight diary say he and his pilot were concerned about an engine leak and turned around about 150 miles from the top of the world. "It's quite clear to me he exaggerated and knew it," said navigation scholar Dennis Rawlins.

Apparently engine noise made communication difficult during the flight on 9 May 1929, and Byrd and Floyd Bennett exchanged questions and answers in the diary. At one point there is a blank in the diary where something has been erased. Rawlins determined that the erased line was a question by Byrd to Bennett. "How long were we gone before we turned around?" The reply is, "8 1/2 (hours).

"This is not the sort of question one expects from a navigator who has been keeping close track of times and distances," Rawlins said in his report. "It also sounds like the turnaround was pretty sudden. And it doesn't feel like the words of someone who has just reached a great goal."

Rawlins said Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and his crew should be recognised as having made the first flight over the North Pole, three days after Byrd's.

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