War is just a metaphor for football: Osama bin Laden has brought the wrath of the western world down on his head with his sponsorship of global terrorism, but the bounty on his hide being offered by the U.S. government is not the only financial incentive now connected to his timely demise.

According to the oddsmakers at SBG Global Sportsbook & Online Casino, bin Laden’s chances of being alive on the 14th of December are roughly 50-50. At the bottom of its Web page listing current betting lines—below the World Series, the NBA title and even the English Premiere League (soccer) odds—is a listing entitled “Total days before Bin Laden dies,” with midnight of December 13 tagged as bin Laden’s elimination from life’s playoff round.

As of Thursday, Oct 25, the over/under bet for bin Laden’s numbered days is 84 (i.e., those betting the “over” wager that he lives longer than Dec 13; vice-versa for the “under” bet). However, the oddsmakers apparently think (shades of Saddam Hussein?) that the betting public will be pessimistic regarding a quick Bush sweep; the money line for the over bet is -340 (i.e., $340 must be wagered to win $100) and the money line for the under is +240 ($100 wager wins $240). The Independent would also like to know who the inside source for the bookies are on this one. Next week: Wagering tips on a guilty verdict against accused war criminal Slobodan Milosevic.

I love NY. Just let the Series go to seven games: The recent stampede of Americans throwing their support behind the victims of last month’s terrorist attacks has been an impressive and unprecedented sight to behold. Who could have imagined a mere two months ago that Montanans would ever see a sign outside a Bitterroot business that reads: “Sometimes we’re all New Yorkers.” No doubt there will be more than a few conflicted baseball fans in American whose patriotism will be put to the test by a Yankees-Diamondbacks World Series. After all, what red-blooded American in 2001 can root against a ball club sporting the “FDNY” baseball caps? Even Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker would choke back a tear seeing the Bronx Bombers pull off a fourth straight World Series victory.

That said, some of the efforts being conducted on behalf of the Sept. 11 victims could use a little scrutiny. For example, a bill introduced Oct. 2 in Congress creates a so-called “Hope Pass,” to give the survivors and victims’ immediate families free access to all federally controlled public lands.

A fairly innocuous gesture, no? Well, implicit in this “fast-track” legislation—apparently, Congress is hurrying this bill along so that victims’ families can get in some snowmobiling in Yellowstone before the ban takes effect—is that access to public lands will not always be free. In fact, the Recreation Fee Demonstration program was enacted by Congress as a test program and is due to expire on Sept. 30, 2002, after which, presumably, access to federal public lands will once again be free to everyone. One can only hope.

Interestingly, the drafters of this bill had the forethought to include the following provision: “No individual identified by the Attorney General of the United States to have been a participant or conspirator in the terrorist-related aircraft crashes of September 11, 2001 shall be eligible to receive a Hope Pass.” Whew! We nearly allowed the Taliban a free ride into Death Valley.

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