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  THE WEEKLY RUNDOWN FOR JAN. 24  
   
   
 

World:

Send it back. China has forced thousands of North Korean refugees to return to their impoverished homeland or hideout in mountains to escape capture by police. China has been supporting the North Korean government (also Communist) to keep it in power and to prevent the torrents of refugees who will likely show up at already-overpopulated China’s doorstep if Pyonyang topples. China considers the North Koreans “economic migrants” who have no legal reason to remain in the country. Human rights groups call them “refugees,” and claim those sent back to North Korea face imprisonment, torture and possible death.

And there’s your pick-me-up from the Weekly Rundown. We’re like soothing FM radio around here.

National:

It’s still legal. Wednesday marked the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The resulting opinion made abortion legal throughout the land and created a political litmus test of “pro-life” or “pro-choice” in the decades that followed. This year, pro-choice activists rallied with greater urgency than usual, feeling that a Republican White House and Congress will toughen abortion laws. Six Democratic presidential hopefuls publicly stated their support of what Richard Gephardt, once an ardent pro-lifer, termed a “question of choice.”

Keeping in touch with the homeland: Former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge was unanimously approved by the U.S. Senate on Wednesday as head of the new Department of Homeland Security. The Senate voted 94-0 to approve Ridge for the job, which entails leading the nation’s big bureaucracy: 170,000 government employees working for 22 separate agencies. Good thing we’ve got that color-coded system going to keep everything straight; the department doesn’t even have its own office yet. We guessing that puts us at Alert: Teal.

Business:

You want profits with that? McDonald’s posted its first-ever quarterly loss Thursday, saying $203.4 million went missing in the deep fryer. Revenue was up in the fourth quarter of 2002 (October-December), but the expenses related to closing 719 underperforming restaurants soured the bottom line. Residents of McDonaldland will be evicted at hundreds more stores in 2003, the company said. (Mayor McCheese was not available for comment.)

In happier news, a federal judge tossed out a lawsuit Wednesday accusing McDonald’s of causing obesity in teens. The judge pointed out that there are other places to eat besides McDonald’s, which, if you live in the nation’s suburbs, is a point you might debate. The teens now plan on hitting IHOP for the Never Ending Pancake deal. Careful of that bottomless cup of coffee; it could be hot.

Elsewhere:

Praise the voters! Rev. Al Sharpton – who, as Saturday Night Live’s Tina Fey constantly points out, has never held an actual job -- filed his intention to run for president on Tuesday. Sharpton has run for office three times in New York (once for mayor and twice for the Senate) and couldn’t even win the primary. The AP reported that Sharpton planned to “bring the party back to its liberal roots.” Sharpton’s Harlem headquarters caught fire on Wednesday. Seeking to soften his image for voters, Sharpton did not blame the fire on white people. (It was electrical, actually. But we think the wires might have been white.)

No, she did not choke on a ham sandwich: Nell Carter, star of Broadway and the 1980s sitcom Gimme a Break died Thursday at the age of 54. Carter won a Tony in 1978 for her performance in Ain’t Misbehavin’. Lowpoints of Carter’s life include, at age 2, witnessing the death of her father when he stepped on a live power line.

*BT*