Friday, January 4, 2008

Louis J Sheehan Esquire 30009

The 2008 presidential race has raised many questions about the candidates' personal histories. Will Barack Obama's past drug use preclude a White House future? Will Christian conservatives forgive Rudy Giuliani his two divorces? Will voters forgive Hillary Clinton for forgiving Bill?

And what exactly did Democratic candidate Dennis Kucinich see hovering above actress Shirley MacLaine's house 25 years ago?

This fall, Ms. MacLaine revealed in her new book that the Ohio congressman had seen a UFO and felt "a connection in his heart and heard directions in his mind." In a Democratic presidential debate in late October, Mr. Kucinich acknowledged seeing something airborne that he couldn't identify and then defused the issue with a joke about opening a campaign office in Roswell, N.M., the capital of unexplained sightings.

Since then, the long-shot candidate has refused to elaborate on the experience.

Now, after keeping quiet about the incident for a quarter of a century, the two people who say they were at Mr. Kucinich's side that evening have come forward to describe an event which they say left them convinced that there's intelligent life in outer space.

"At no time did I feel afraid, even though I felt very small," says one witness, Paul Costanzo. "I sensed that I was in the presence of a greater technology and intelligence."

The close encounter, says Mr. Costanzo, took place in September 1982 at Ms. MacLaine's former home in Graham, Wash. -- an expansive estate on a ridge above the Puyallup River, with a view of Mount Rainier.

The 61-year-old Mr. Kucinich, who declined several requests to comment for this article, had been the wunderkind mayor of Cleveland in the late 1970s and had met Ms. MacLaine through Bella Abzug, the late New York congresswoman and feminist. The actress says she quickly realized she and Mr. Kucinich were kindred spirits. Years later he asked Ms. MacLaine to be the godmother of his daughter.

"We just thought the same," Ms. MacLaine says in an interview. "We have the same political points of view."

When Cleveland voters ousted Mr. Kucinich after one tumultuous term, Ms. MacLaine offered him her home as a sanctuary where he could write his memoirs. He lived there for the better part of a year.

Also in residence was Mr. Costanzo, a Juilliard-trained trumpet player and jujitsu black belt, who worked as Ms. MacLaine's assistant, personal trainer and bodyguard. He and Mr. Kucinich became good friends, and Mr. Costanzo, now 55 years old, served as deputy campaign director and security chief for the congressman's unsuccessful 2004 presidential run.

Ms. MacLaine -- well-known for her fascination with things mystical and extraterrestrial -- was in Canada that weekend in 1982, performing her one-woman show. But Mr. Costanzo's girlfriend at the time, a model and actress who is now 50 years old, was visiting when the UFO incident took place. She spoke after Mr. Costanzo requested she do so, and on condition that her name not be published.

Here's what happened, according to separate interviews with Mr. Costanzo and his former girlfriend:

The day was strange from the start. For hours, Mr. Kucinich, Mr. Costanzo and his companion noticed a high-pitched sound. "There was a sense that something extraordinary was happening all day," says the girlfriend. She and Mr. Costanzo say that none of the three consumed alcohol or took drugs.

As they sat down to a dinner, Mr. Kucinich spotted a light in the distance, to the left of Mount Rainier. Mr. Costanzo thought it was a helicopter.

But Mr. Kucinich walked outside to the deck to look through the telescope that he had bought Ms. MacLaine as a house gift. After a few minutes, Mr. Kucinich summoned the other two: "Guys, come on out here and look at this."

Mr. Costanzo and his girlfriend joined Mr. Kucinich, where they took turns peering through the telescope. What they saw in the far distance, according to both witnesses, was a hovering light, which soon divided into two, and then three.

After a few minutes, the lights moved closer and it became apparent that they were actually three charcoal-gray, triangular craft, flying in a tight wedge. The girlfriend remembers each triangle having red and green lights running down the edges, with a laser-like red light at the tail. Mr. Costanzo recalls white lights, but no tail.

Mr. Costanzo says each triangle was roughly the size of a large van, while his former girlfriend compares it to a "larger Cessna, smaller than a jet certainly." Neither recalls seeing any markings, landing gear, engines, windows or cockpits.

The craft approached to within 200 yards, suspended over the field just beyond the swimming pool. Both witnesses say it emitted a quiet, throbbing sound -- nothing like an airplane engine.

"There was a feeling of wanting to communicate something, but I didn't know what," says Mr. Costanzo.

The craft held steady in midair, for perhaps a minute, then sped away, Mr. Costanzo says. "Nothing had landed," he says. "No strange beings had disembarked. No obvious messages were beamed down. When they were completely out of sight, we all looked at each other disbelieving what we had seen."

At Mr. Kucinich's suggestion, they jotted down their impressions and drew pictures to memorialize the event. Mr. Kucinich kept the notes, according to Ms. MacLaine, who said he promised her recently that he would try to find them.
In an interview with WSJ's Jeffrey Trachtenberg, actress and author Shirley MacLaine discusses the cosmic scope of her new book, "Sage-ing While Age-ing."

"It was proof to me that we're obviously not alone," says the girlfriend.

The next day, the group spotted what they thought to be military helicopters buzzing around the valley where they had made the sighting. And the high-pitched sound remained.

Mr. Kucinich called Ms. MacLaine in Canada to tell her what had happened. "He said it was beautiful, serene, and it moved him," says Ms. MacLaine, who is supporting Mr. Kucinich's candidacy. "He was not afraid of it, let's put it that way. Seeing something that close and sophisticated and gentle."

Ms. MacLaine says she has seen UFOs from a distance in New Mexico and Peru, but never up close. She was envious. "I'm the one who reports them, but they never make close visitation. What am I doing wrong?"

None of the three reported the incident to the authorities. And over the years that followed, they shared the story with very few people. "Unfortunately, people are ridiculed when they say they've had these kinds of experiences, which is why I never came forward with it," says the girlfriend.

Ms. MacLaine says she called Mr. Kucinich before she included his UFO sighting in her book, "Sage-ing while Age-ing," a recounting of her spiritual and professional journeys. "I can handle it," she says he told her.

My 80-year-old patient was too weak to get out of bed. His problems started when he felt burning in his chest and shortness of breath four days before.

His wife, a retired nurse, had been reluctant to call the doctor over something that might pass on its own. Eighty-year-old guys have their good days and bad days, after all.

But he became weaker and shorter of breath with each passing day. When his congestive heart failure became too much for his wife to manage, she called me at home on Saturday. I sent him to the hospital 25 miles away by ambulance.

She asked me if I'd be taking care of him there. I didn't answer right away.

In the last year, I've cut back on my hospital work quite a bit. After 10 years, I'd done plenty of it. Besides, the hospital hired doctors to manage cases like this. The specialists, called hospitalists, are also supposed to improve quality by riding herd on the details of care, and I get more free time.

There was a hint of pleading in her voice. In June, when her husband was ill with a urinary tract infection, the hospital doctor took care of him. He recovered just fine.

But I think the patient and his family missed me more than they let on at first. Or, maybe I'd missed overseeing the hospital stays of my patients more than I thought.

Still, I'd delivered two babies the night before. And I thought for a moment about the possibility of juggling the care of my patient with my family's weekend plans. "Sure, I'll take care of him," I said, figuring I could swing it and appreciating that his family wanted me involved.

Since the hospitalists came on board, my medical patients have been seeing less of me after they're admitted. It seemed like a winning situation all around. Initially I was all in favor of it, but lately I've been having second thoughts.

A large study published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that the rates of re-admission or death weren't significantly different for patients cared for by hospital-based physicians or their family physicians. The patients cared for by hospitalists got out 0.4 days sooner and their care cost a few hundred dollars less.

At our hospital, my batting average is better than the hospitalists. How can a family physician compete with a hospital-based specialist? Although it's not trendy to say so, I think having one doctor in charge of your care inside of the hospital and out still matters.

I believe that long-term knowledge of patients and access to their complete medical record are of immense value. Those give me an edge that helps avoid unnecessary tests and consultations with specialists. Keeping patients under my control also reduces the number of hand-offs from one doctor to another, minimizing errors.

My patient has memory problems and a complicated medical history. Another doctor would have difficulty getting the full picture from him and wouldn't be able to access his office records on the weekend without calling me. Some doctors wouldn't have made the extra effort.

In the last six months he's seen a physician's assistant at the VA, a cardiologist, a pulmonologist and a gastroenterologist in addition to me. He's had tests on his heart, his lungs and his stomach at two different hospitals. Blood work has been ordered by at least three different doctors. He didn't follow through on a sleep study and stopped two medications from his pulmonologist without telling anyone.

The patient forgot to tell the nursing staff about two of his medical allergies. I stopped them from giving him morphine for chest pain because he's allergic to it.

He didn't remember the name of the sleeping pill the VA doctors have had him on for years. He can't sleep without it. I remembered it, and he had a restful night in the hospital. I restarted the stomach medication that I knew his gastroenterologist prescribed. He hadn't been taking it.

After three days in the hospital, he was well enough for me to send him home.

Perhaps the biggest advantage to doctors managing their own patients in the hospital is the personal touch. I provide comfort, compassion and motivation for recovery. Anybody who's ever been hospitalized knows the reassurance that comes from dealing with someone you know when you're really sick.

When a hospital physician takes over care for my patients, the most common complaint I hear from patients is that they don't know what happened while they were in the hospital. If their paperwork is slow getting back to me, I have trouble piecing together the follow-up plan.

Stepping back from inpatient care for a while gave me a new perspective. I can see what my hospital patients were missing without me involved, and I've resolved to get back to the wards. As a new year begins, the doctor is in.
Louis J Sheehan
Louis J Sheehan, Esquire
Louis J Sheehan Esquire

The preliminary investigation and a separate congressional inquiry were sparked by the CIA's acknowledgement last month that it destroyed videos of officers using tough interrogation methods while questioning two al Qaeda suspects. The Justice Department uses preliminary inquiries as a first step to determine if there is sufficient cause to warrant a formal criminal investigation.

John Durham, first assistant U.S. attorney in Connecticut, has been appointed an acting U.S. attorney to lead the investigation. The Federal Bureau of Investigation will assist prosecutors, who will report directly to the deputy attorney general. Mr. Durham has served as an outside prosecutor overseeing an investigation into the FBI's use of mob informants in Boston and helped send several Connecticut public officials to prison.

The criminal probe normally would be handled by the U.S. attorney in Eastern Virginia, where the CIA headquarters are located. Instead, Eastern Virginia prosecutors have been recused from the probe. It was Eastern Virginia prosecutors who first alerted a federal judge about the existence of the tapes and their destruction in October. Mr. Mukasey said in a statement that their recusal was made "in order to avoid any possible appearance of a conflict with other matters handled by that office."

CIA Inspector General John L. Helgerson, who worked with the Justice Department on the preliminary inquiry, also recused himself from the investigation.

Government officials have played down the importance the tapes may hold in several continuing or past terror cases. The tapes also weren't shared with the commission that investigated the 9/11 attacks. Critics of the Bush administration have alleged that the destruction of the tapes may amount to destruction of evidence, which is a crime.

CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield said: "The CIA will of course cooperate fully with this investigation as it has with the others into this matter." The CIA has already agreed to open its files to congressional investigators, who have begun reviewing documents at the agency's headquarters.

The House Intelligence Committee has ordered Jose Rodriguez, a former chief of the CIA's National Clandestine Service who directed the tapes be destroyed in late 2005, to appear at a hearing Jan. 16.

Mr.Rodriguez, who was to retire from the agency at the end of last year, has become a focal point in the debate over the tapes' destruction. According to several former colleagues, his goal likely was to protect the officers who conducted the interrogations from criticism and litigation. They have also described him as a cautious operator who probably would have ensured that top CIA managers knew of the plan.

But in trying to avert one scandal, the agency may have spawned a greater controversy. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R., Neb.), a member of the Senate intelligence panel, said last month that it was hard for him to believe "that senior members of the White House somehow didn't pay attention to this or didn't know about it."

The White House said last month that President Bush "has no recollection" of hearing about the tapes or their destruction before he was briefed about the matter in early December.

CIA Director Gen. Michael V. Hayden has said that the tapes were destroyed because the agency feared that the identities of the officers would become public and that they would become targets of al Qaeda.

But former officers familiar with the events have offered a different explanation, saying Mr. Rodriguez had long been concerned that the CIA lacked a long-term plan for handling interrogations. He also worried -- given the response to Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad -- that lower-level officers would take the fall if the videos became public, they said.

One former official said interrogators' faces were visible on at least one video, as were those of more senior officers who happened to be visiting. He said Mr. Rodriguez was concerned that "they were carrying out the direction from higher-ups in the administration" but that the people who would end up in trouble would be lower-level officials in the bureaucracy. Another former senior intelligence official said, "Jose was concerned about how all this would end. He wasn't getting instructions from anybody."

Mr. Rodriguez's attorney, Robert S. Bennett, had no comment on today's announcement.

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