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  THE WEEKLY RUNDOWN FOR AUGUST 15.  
   
   
   
 

 

Hell no, they won't go. Shi'ite Muslims took to Baghdad's streets Wednesday to protest the U.S. occupation in Iraq. Thousands screamed "No, no to America," in response to allegations that a low-flying military helicopter buzzed a religious school. After protests in Basra over a lack of water and electricity, the U.S. administrator of Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, said it was important "to remind ourselves of a range of rights that Iraqis enjoy today because of the coalition's military victory." Bremer encouraged Iraqis on Tuesday to "standup and denounce" both himself and Saddam Hussein. Cute, Bremer, but it's hard to protest when you're thirsty and hot and the lights are out. Will Americans follow suit? Three more soldiers are dead this week, bringing the total up to 67. That's 67 soldiers dead and 475 injured since May 1, when "major" combat operations ended, according to the president. That's one fresh corpse every day and a half. People love those odds.

 

 
   
 

 

Nothing more stubborn than a Texan. Since July 28, Democrats in the Texas Senate have been hiding out in New Mexico to avoid voting on a congressional redistricting bill. Republican senators voted Tuesday to fine the elusive 11 Democrats if they didn't return within 48 hours. After that, the absent senators will have to pay $1,000 for the first day, $2,000 for the next, then $4,000 and finally $5,000 for every day after that. Upon hearing of the news, the Democrats said in a press conference -- at their Albuquerque hotel -- that not one of them would pay the fines, especially not out of their personal funds, as the Republicans demanded. Republicans say the Democrats can't vote on the redistricting until they come back and pay the fines; the Dems likened that to charging them to vote. Gov. Rick Perry said he would continue to call special sessions of the legislature (now held in 30-day blocks) until the redistricting issue was addressed.

Another thankless job in the Bush Administration. President Bush nominated Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency this week. Leavitt is known as a moderate who sometimes gets industry heads and environmentalists to agree with each other. Democratic presidential hopefuls Sens. Joe Lieberman and John Kerry said they will oppose Leavitt's nomination, with the help of the country's leading environmental group, The Sierra Club, which doesn't like him, either. Leavitt believes that environmental policy should be decided at the local level, an idea which the environmentally nonchalant Bush Administration champions.

 

 
   
 

 

Remember Afghanistan? They're still dying. A bus bomb killed 15 people (including six children) after exploding in Kabul on Wednesday. Twenty more people died in a clash between Taliban guerrillas and Afghan government soldiers just shy of Pakistan's border on Tuesday. The violence spiked just after the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) gained control of the multinational peacekeeping force that is trying to tame Afghanistan's remote and lawless regions. Since the U.S. removed the Taliban from power in its search for Osama bin Laden, Afghanistan is again the world's largest opium producer. U.S. government estimates predict it will take another $1 billion (at least) to rebuild Afghanistan into any semblance of order.

 

 
   
 

 

That's a 10-4, good buddy. Walkie-talkies aren't just for geeks anymore, Verizon Wireless hopes. The largest cellular carrier plans to introduce a new headset on Monday that will mimic the "push-to-talk" feature used by Nextel. Callers will be instantly connected to one of up to 10 friends without being troubled with dialing or other such nonsense. The feature is most popular with businesses, but Verizon wants to push the feature to families and teenagers. Because who doesn't want their mom in touch with them at every second? Sprint PCS is expected to introduce its own walkie-talkie service soon. And all this because no one picked up on text messaging.

 

 
   
 

 

Vote with your stomach. Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry appalled the people of Philadelphia on Tuesday by visiting Pat's King of Steaks and asking for swiss cheese. Owner Frank Olivieri informed Kerry that the only thing that comes on a steak is Cheez Whiz.

Happy Birthday, Wiffle ball! The pithy plastic ball turns 50 on Sunday, much to the joy of drunk, unathletic people everywhere. And the kids. Never forget the kids.

 

*BT*

Aileen Gallagher, author of three children's books, (and another one, about muckraking, on the way!) writes Weekly Rundown every Friday.