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  THE WEEKLY RUNDOWN FOR FEB. 21  
   
   
 

National:

We really should overcome, someday. More than 100,000 demonstrators gathered in New York on Sunday to protest a U.S. war with Iraq. The protest was just one in a series of demonstrations taking place around the world. In London, 750,000 gathered in what the city deemed the "largest" demonstration in history. Barcelona's march drew 1.3 million people, and police in Rome estimated that 650,000 participated in the rally there, though the police did not count the thousands more who were not able to get to the event because of, well, the crowds.

President George W. Bush was unmoved by the protests, saying that if he altered his opinion it would be the equivalent of deciding "policy based on a focus group." British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a prominent American ally, responded somewhat more diplomatically to the protestors. "Of course I understand the concerns of the thousands that marched on Saturday, and of course I should and do listen to those concerns." This is why Tony Blair is considered the UK's Clinton.

Didn't anyone learn from Cocoanut Grove? Dozens were injured and 21 people killed Sunday night at the E2 nightclub in Chicago. Security guards used pepper spray to break up a fight and inadvertently caused a stampede. The club's patrons, initially fearing a possible terrorist
attack, segued into just another mindless mob, crushing into a narrow and
inadequate staircase. The club had been cited for several building code violations in the past, and city attorneys said they would seek jail time for the club's owner, Dwain Kyles.

The celebrities have flocked to the aid of the victims. R. Kelly pledged $3,000 to each family who suffered a loss. (Insert your own R. Kelly joke. All right, here's ours: Kelly pledges to personally visit Chicago-area junior high schools to discuss the dangers of teens traveling in packs, rather than alone with him.) Johnnie Cochran is representing several of the victims' families. Rev. Jesse Jackson called for an investigation into why the club was still operating, even though he signed a letter in April requesting the greater police protection required to keep E2 open.

World:

But can he count to 15? A German judge sentenced Mounir el Motassadeq to "life" in prison on Wednesday. The accused al Qaeda member was known in the press as Mohammed Atta's "bookkeeper." El Motassadeq served as the accountant for the group of 19 hijackers that drove jetliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. El Motassadeq admitted to keeping Atta's books in Germany and then in the United States, but said he had no knowledge of plans for the attack. And why would he, when it was just a nice bunch of guys taking lessons on how to fly a jet into a building?

The German court's maximum sentence is 15 years, which is considered the equivalent of life. Note that German time is calculated in dog years.

Money:

Good thing those SUVs are so fuel-efficient. Fears of war and some oil suppliers playing hard to get have pushed retail gas prices past $2 a gallon in many cities across the country. As the weather gets warmer and the demand for road trips increase, the American Automobile Association (AAA) thinks that prices will go even higher. AAA and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) claim that prices at the pump have increased at a greater rate than the price of crude oil; both asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate possible price gouging.

The cheapest place to get gas right now? The Gulf states, at $1.581 a gallon on average. We hear they have cheap cigarettes, too. But stick to the major highways and resist the banjo's siren song. Though you do have a real pretty mouth.

Otherwise:

Who doesn't want to be president? Former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun will also seek the Democratic nomination. Moseley-Braun's detractors have accused her of entering the race to draw votes away from the Rev. Al Sharpton, who's also seeking the Oval Office. Illinois Rep. Jesse L. Jackson said he'd heard rumors "that she is possibly being led into this race by Democratic forces who would not like to see Al Sharpton in the race or do very well." If the Democrats are afraid of Al Sharpton, the party is in much worse shape than we thought.

Former House minority leader Dick Gephardt is also running for president, he announced Wednesday. Gephardt ran in 1988 and lost the nomination to Michael Dukakis. It is too soon to tell to whom he will lose the nomination this time.

*BT*