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Gulf War II: Electric Boogaloo. Air strikes and artillery barrages marked the start of war with Iraq on Wednesday, March 19. British and American marines moved toward the city of Basra, Iraq's major port. Other forces began the push toward Baghdad. The ground war began when the Marine First Division destroyed two Iraqi armored personnel carriers just south of the border. Iraq fired missiles at American bases in Kuwait in retaliation of the air strikes, but no significant damage was reported. News of the first sorties were met with condemnation from international leaders including Mikhail Gorbachev and Mexican President Vicente Fox. Antiwar protests across the globe bespoke the absence of a U.N. resolution in support of this conflict.


We're going to Wally World. Rand Beers, the National Security Council's (NSC) senior director for counter terrorism, resigned from his post this week. Beers has denied that his resignation is out of protest against the war in Iraq, despite a common refrain from the anti-terrorism community that the war would divert attention from counter-terrorism. One former intelligence official told United Press International that "we have sacrificed a war on terror for a war with Iraq." The CIA warned Congress last year that an invasion of Iraq could increase international terrorism. Beers has held his current position since August; before, he fought drug traffickers in Columbia.

This is the second resignation to hit the NSC in the past 18 months. Deputy National Security Advisor Wayne A. Downing, a retired army general, left his post in August 2002. Diplomat Mary Wright, the No. 2 official in the U.S. Embassy in Mongolia resigned Wednesday. In her letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell, Wright said, "I strongly believe that going to war now will make the world more dangerous, not safer." It is only a matter of time before the Bush White House somehow threatens these defectors and they all say they resigned because they were "tired" or "had a headache."

Seriously, though … that's two high-ranking counter-terrorism officials leaving their post since 9-11 … including the senior director quietly resigning while the press is distracted by that little war thing. Doesn't that seem strange to you?

Safe for now. The Senate voted Wednesday to close the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. With a 52-48 vote, senators kept drilling revenues out of the annual budget resolution. No revenues means no drilling. Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, who supported the drilling, claimed ANWR oil was vital to energy security and the economy and called the area "frozen tundra."

While ANWR got a reprieve, the issue could come up again unless an outright ban is placed on drilling. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, one of nine Democrats seeking his party's nomination, has sponsored a bill to turn the area into a legally protected wilderness. Sen. Stevens, who views Lieberman's bill as a threat to his state, has referred to ANWR as "a presidential football in 2004." Note to Dems: With the way things are going, no one is going to give a crap about the environment in 2004. Instead, people will want to have a job and feel safe. Please look into that.


Maybe this will make a difference. Mahmoud Abbas is the new prime minister of Palestine, further diminishing the role of Yassir Arafat. Considering that Israel and the U.S. are boycotting Arafat, there's a chance that the peace process might actually move if Abbas is in charge. (Where have we heard that before?)

Arafat remains in control of security forces and will get the final say on peace talks with Israel, but Abbas controls the cabinet and the day-to-day running of the government. Think of Arafat as chairman of the board, and Abbas as the CEO. Abbas has three weeks to come up with a cabinet. Let's hope he moves around a little more than Arafat, who has left the city of Ramallah for only a day since December 2001. (Granted, if he leaves, Ariel Sharon will probably kill him, but, hey, you think he'd try to sneak out once in a while. Maybe catch a movie. Watch some cricket. Something.)

Foreign exchange students, beware! More European women are contracting the HIV virus, and a report says 51 percent of new patients contracted the disease from heterosexual contact. With this stat comes the risk that more infants will be born already infected with HIV. Researchers are worried that the heterosexual community is more complacent concerning HIV than it was a few years ago, back when HIV and its AIDS follow-up were considered a certain death sentence.

Perhaps American women are not so easy, however. (Yay! USA! USA! Let's roll!) Stateside, only 31 percent of new HIV cases are found among heterosexuals, with another 51 percent of cases contracted by homosexuals. The rest are not contracted sexually. The Black Table would like to remind you to either use a condom or spend more quality time alone.


Don't quit your day job. Barry Diller resigned Wednesday as chairman and CEO of entertainment powerhouse Vivendi Universal. Rumors abound that Diller wants to bid for Universal but doesn't think he can get it, especially with heavy elbowing from the likes of Sumner Redstone and Rupert Murdoch. Diller once called Vivendi his "night job," and preferred to concentrate on running his other company, USA Interactive, owner of TicketMaster, Home Shopping Network, and dozens of other reasons to never leave your house.


Yet another thing to blame on your parents. Attention fat people -- it's not you, it's your parents. Binge eating is genetic, as opposed to the popular notion of, you know, a lack of willpower. The gene at fault produces too little of the protein that tells the brain that the stomach is full. Fourteen million American binge regularly. Here at the Black Table, we're binge drinkers. No gene for that yet. If they find one, don't tell us.

Roll up the red carpet. No Barbara Walters? No terrible pre-Oscar show? What are Joan and Melissa Rivers going to do? The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has announced that its March 23 Oscar broadcast will be subdued in deference to war. The stars will go directly into the Kodak Theatre, where it will be far more difficult to make fun of them.



Aileen Gallagher, author of three children's books, writes Weekly Rundown every Friday.