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  THE WEEKLY RUNDOWN FOR JAN. 17  
   
   
 

IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS:

Get Your (Korean) War On: South Korea said Thursday it is prepared for war on the Korean peninsula. Diplomatic efforts are ongoing, but South Korean leaders aren't waiting around to find out if North Korea wants more rock, less talk. The Bush administration has offered North Korea food and energy aid if it would give up the nukes, but South Korean officials in Pyongyang (the capital) called Bush's plan "pie in the sky."

South Korea's defense minister said his army is "prepared for the worst-case scenario." The rest of the world doesn't even want to think about what that might mean, though it likely has something to do with Anna Nicole Smith. The last war on the Korean peninsula lasted from 1950 to 1953. About 54,000 Americans were killed (almost as many as in Vietnam, which lasted three times longer) but almost two million people died either as part of a U.N. coalition fighting force or as civilians.

Warhead? No, that's a planter!: Iraqi weapons inspectors found 11 empty chemical warheads Thursday that were reportedly in "excellent" condition. "Empty" means only that there were no chemicals in them at the time, but that's not saying much. Chief Inspector Hanz Blix said earlier in the week that the U.N. team hadn't found a "smoking gun" in Iraq, but the empty warheads will likely be close enough for Messrs. Bush and Blair to ready ... aim ... With thousands of American troops and tons of equipment already in the region, our military is just awaiting the chief's orders.

ON THE NATIONAL FRONT:

To life, to life!: In the final days of his administration, Gov. George Ryan of Illinois commuted the sentences of all inmates on death row to life in prison on Jan. 12. Gov. Ryan gained fame in anti-death penalty circles for calling a moratorium on further executions in January 2000. Critics called the commutation an attempt to divert attention from a corruption scandal involving the Illinois Secretary of State's office. Illinois prosecutors contend that Ryan surpassed his authority because the blanket clemency affected some whose convictions were under appeal. Of course, Ryan is very likely about to be indicted for his own indiscretions, so, you know, maybe he wanted to have some friends if he hits the big house.

Affirmative action or briefs?: President Bush has asked his White House attorneys to file an amicus (friend of the court) brief in the U.S. Supreme Court against the University of Michigan's affirmative action policy. Michigan currently uses race as a "plus factor" in its admissions process, meaning essentially that a minority candidate gets a bonus point on his application. (The "plus-factor" was coined by Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell, who wrote the majority opinion in the 1978 landmark affirmative action ruling, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke.)

The Bakke opinion provided a test to determine when race could be legally be used as a factor for college admissions. Michigan contends that its admissions policy follows the Bakke criteria. President Bush said Wednesday that the plus factor amounts to a "quota," a term that sends chills down all Republican spines. Amicus briefs are usually filed by those who might not be directly involved in a particular case, but will be directly affected by its outcome. Or, if it's the Bush administration, amicus briefs are filed by those who have a political statement to make.

THE BUSINESS SECTION:

Off the Case: AOL Time Warner Chairman Steve Case announced his resignation on Sunday. Case, who had run AOL since 1985, led the 2001 merger with Time Warner, creating the world's largest media company. AOL stock hit $56 a share at the time of the merger and then slunk south, along with the rest of the market. The Monday after Case's announcement, AOL traded at about $15. Addled shareholders are now looking for someone else to blame, since it clearly wasn't their fault for not selling the stock earlier. That special someone will likely be Case's replacement, who is yet unnamed. Tom Hanks will play Case in the upcoming TV movie, "You Got Screwed: An AOL Shareholders Tale."

ELSEWHERE:

Throwing his yarmulke in the ring, Senator Joe Lieberman announced his intention to seek the Democratic nomination in 2004 on Monday. If he succeeds, Lieberman will be the first Jew to head a national ticket. In 2000, Lieberman simultaneously ran for vice president and for the Senate, where he was an incumbent from Connecticut. Lieberman is known as one of the few Democrats who shuns Hollywood star-fucking. We'll see how long that lasts. The money's in the movies, Joe. Especially the R-rated ones. Still, it's a groundbreaking moment in American politics; a major Presidential contender with a combover.

The kids are most definitely alright, according to Pete Townshend. Townshend was arrested (but not charged) as part of a UK police investigation into child pornography. Townshend, leader of The Who, claimed that he had used his own credit card to enter a child pornography site on the Internet as part of a "research" project for his autobiography. Research. So that's what the kids are calling it these days.

It's no vibrating broom, but (almost as good) Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix will be published on June 21. The long-awaited fifth book in the series is supposed to be even longer and darker than the last one, which made The Brothers Karamazov look like Pat the Bunny. Pre-order now so you don't have push the brats out of the way come summer.


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