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  THE WEEKLY RUNDOWN FOR JAN. 31  
   
   
 

World:

The Hawks Have It. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon won reelection Tuesday, despite a record low voter turnout of 68.5 percent. (In 2000’s U.S. presidential election, 67.5 percent of registered voters went to the polls, and that was a good year.) Sharon’s reelection showed Israelis’ support for actions against Palestinians that many in the international community have criticized as hard-line.

The Labor Party, considered the doves to Sharon’s hawkish Likud Party, lost much of its clout and now has only 19 seats in the nation’s parliament, know as the Knesset. Likud now dominates Parliament as well; it’s the fifth time in 10 years Israelis have chosen a new government. These guys should meet Drew Barrymore.

Over the next month, Sharon must create a coalition government, a difficult task in a country as factionalized as Israel. In his victory speech, Sharon acknowledged the challenge: “I say to all the parties, the differences between us are dwarfed by the murderous hatred of the terrorist organizations of anything Israeli and Jewish, the threat of the war in the Gulf and attacks on Israel and the economic crisis that is ripping Israeli society apart.”

We at the Black Table can think of nothing funny to say about Israel that won’t get us into trouble. Sorry. Well, we’ll give it a shot. A priest, a minister and a rabbi walk into a bar … You know, nevermind.

National:

Too Bad John Ashcroft Couldn’t Be There. President George W. Bush gave his Constitutionally mandated State of the Union address on Wednesday and alternately bored and scared the bejesuses out of many Americans. In first 45 minutes, Bush pitched his dividend tax cut, promised funding for hydrogen cars and pledged $15 billion to Africa to fight AIDS. Finally, Bush got to Iraq – you know, that place where we’re going to war -- and he, when talking about the more than 3,000 terrorist suspects who have been arrested or killed, started getting all vaguely gangsta on us.

“Many others have met a different fate. Let’s put it this way: They are no longer a problem to the United States and our friends and allies.” He went on to say that the terrorists’ names were three words, rhymes with (wild hand motion) and were bigger than a breadbox.

Bush outlined his case against Iraq, but the speech was not the all-out declaration of war that some expected. Instead, Bush explained all the terrible things Saddam Hussein does to his people and what he could do to the rest of the world. He also didn’t waver from vowing the U.S. would act solo against him if necessary. Sound bites included: “If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning” and “The dictator of Iraq is not disarming. To the contrary, he is deceiving.”

Osama bin Laden, who, like Schroedinger’s Cat could be alive or dead, was not mentioned at all.

Packing the courts. In an effort to avoid controversy – and, of course, causing a bunch of controversy in the process -- Senate Republicans have decided to consolidate hearings for judicial nominees. The federal appellate courts are vastly undermanned, largely because Congress blocks more judicial nominees than it confirms. Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee complained that clumping together three nominees at one hearing made it difficult to ask questions. Republican senators rebuffed the notion, claiming that the three-for-one deal was simple efficiency. Since the federal government has a solid reputation on acting fast in all matters, this makes total sense.


Business:

The Big Turner-round. AOL Time Warner accountants hit the ledgers Wednesday and figured out the company was worth $45.5 billion less than they thought. Whoops. In 2002, AOL lost $98.7 billion, the biggest loss in history for a U.S. company.

The America Online service lost 176,000 subscribers in the fourth quarter. Though 26.5 million Americans use AOL (for reasons unknown to the Black Table -– Hey, AOL subscribers, we’re just curious: Is your bathroom indoors?), this is the first time the number of subscribers has fallen. As soon as people figure out how to add a .com to the end of an AOL keyword, expect more subscribers to switch it up.

As AOL’s stock dropped, company vice chairman Ted Turner decided he would take off as well. He is AOL’s largest individual shareholder, owning more than 4 percent of the company. In his free time, Turner plans to dress monkeys as soldiers and make them re-enact the Civil War.

Otherwise:

He’ll kill her, too. Referring to it as “an abuse thing,” Sydney Simpson, daughter of the acquitted and still-searching-for-the-real-killers O.J. Simpson, called police Wednesday after getting into a fight with her father.

The police report described the argument as being over “family issues.” No charges were filed. Please stand by as The Black Table mulls over what they possibly could have been arguing about.

No one’s going to roll that guy for his shoes. Richard Reid, America’s very own shoe-bomber, was sentenced to life in prison Thursday for trying to light a fuse on his shoe with the intention of blowing up a jetliner in December 2001. Reid has claimed he is a member of al-Qaeda, but that link was never conclusive. Besides, we hear al-Qaeda prefers flying jets into skyscrapers over lighting their shoes on fire.

Speaking of feet… “Joe Millionaire” finalist Sarah Kozer is not only in “sales and design” (huh?) but also, apparently, into feet. Kozer’s spokesman admitted to the great SmokingGun.com Web site that she participated in bondage and fetish films while she was “working her way through law school.”

(Note: Kozer is not a lawyer.)

We’re reminded of David Cross’ classic line about young actors in Los Angeles.

"When people first move to L.A. they're like ‘I'm gonna make it! I’m gonna be a celebrity!’” Cross says. “But six months later they're like, ‘um, please don't get it in my eye?’”

Whatever happened to waitressing for extra cash?

*BT*