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  THE WEEKLY RUNDOWN FOR APRIL 11.  
   
   
   
 

 

Start editing the highlight reel. Parts of Baghdad were jubilant on Wednesday as "coalition" tanks drove through the middle of town. One question - where are all the women in Iraq? They certainly weren't partying in the streets; you have to wonder just how secular Iraqi society is. Arabs all over the world were outraged when a U.S. Marine covered a statue of Saddam with the American flag. The flag was quickly replaced, but the damage might have been done. In response, the military has banned the display of American flags on vehicles, buildings, statutes, command posts and pretty much everywhere else except the U.S. embassy. Remember, fellas, we're supposed to be liberating, not conquering. What the TV didn't show were snipers firing into a quickly dispersing crowd and the fighting that continued in other parts of the country. (Yes, the war is still going on.) And Saddam, like bin Laden, is either dead or in a cave. Perhaps they're hanging out together. Hey, that would finally be a link between Saddam and September 11.

Who's next? Anyone but Saddam. Ahmad Chalabi, head of the opposition Iraqi National Congress (INC), could be Iraq's next leader (well, after Gen. Tommy Franks leaves town). Chalabi left Iraq when he was 13 and lived in London before graduating from MIT. The CIA, which started the INC, now considers Chalabi an outsider to those in Iraq. The State Department says Chalabi can't be trusted and is still waiting for him to account for about $2 million he received as part of an Iraqi intelligence collection project. However, Rumsfeld and Cheney love him, and, clearly, they always get their way.

 

 
   
 

 

Kinda makes you wish for J. Edgar Hoover again. Wait … no. An FBI agent named J.J. Smith was arrested Wednesday and charged with espionage after the Bureau found out he was having an affair with a Chinese double agent who then passed U.S. secrets back to Beijing. Over the course of 20 years, Smith would visit Katrina Leung at her home and "debrief" her. (So that's what the Feds are calling it these days.) Allegedly, Smith would bring classified information over and leave it unattended. Leung, clearly not as stupid as Smith, would then photocopy the documents without him noticing. What's even soapier is that Leung was having an affair with another agent at the same time. This one, a little smarter, warned Smith that Leung was using him for information, but Smith didn't cease his liaison with Leung or tell his superiors. The Bureau has experienced several embarrassing spy cases recently, most notably Robert P. Hanssen, a counterintelligence agent who sold secrets to the Soviet Union for more than 20 years.

Sue now while you still can. The House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday prohibiting victims of gun crimes from suing gun makers if the weapon was obtained lawfully and used properly. The bill came out last fall but was pulled from the agenda following the D.C. sniper attacks. Several sniper victims have sued the gun shop where accused snipers Lee Malvo and John Muhammad bought their weapons. House Republicans, who don't like to let anyone sue, all voted for the bill. They were joined by 62 Democrats. The bill passed 285-140 and is destined for the Senate, where its fate remains uncertain.

 

 
   
 

 

Let's not forget the rest of the Middle East. At least five Palestinians were killed Wednesday in the Gaza Strip after Israeli soldiers shot at a suspected Hamas militant and those surrounding him. The Israeli military claimed the group was standing near a rocket launcher when the shots were fired. Seven other Palestinians died Tuesday in an Israeli missile attack. At the funeral, Palestinians chanted "God is great! Revenge! Revenge!" in the streets.

These kids never got a break. A Siberian school for the deaf caught fire Monday, killing at least 21 students and one teacher. Ten other students were hospitalized. The village of Sydybal has no fire department, so trucks had to travel from 12 miles away. The wooden building, circa 1927, was pretty much gone by the time help arrived. Fires are common in the area, as most wooden buildings are heated only with a stove. Russia's fire statistics are some of the worst in the world. In a year, 18,000 Russians will die in a fire. That's 50 people a day.

 

 
   
 

 

Not that you could afford to fly it anyway. British Airways and Air France will cease Concorde jet service, the airlines announced Thursday. The two companies were the only ones to use the supersonic jet, which has a history of crashing. Air France said that recent flights have been filled only at 20 percent capacity and that the money- and fuel-burning aircraft dragged its profits down by nearly $54 million last year. Concorde tickets cost almost $7,000, or $39 a minute, for a three-hour flight. The dozen Concordes owned by British Air and Air France will be donated to museums so people can see exactly what it's like to be rich and go ridiculously fast at the same time.

 

 
   
 



Life: Straight to video. NBC greenlighted a TV movie about rescued POW Pvt. Jessica Lynch, even though they might not have her permission to do so. Your life story can be made without buying the rights from you, it seems. (The Black Table correctly predicted this development last week, further justifying our rampant cynicism.)

The Masters - not only commercial-free, but also protest-free. A federal appeals court denied a petition by Martha Burk, chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations, to protest at the gates of Augusta National, home of the Master's Tournament. Burk wants to demonstrate her disapproval of Augusta's male-only membership. But really, how many women want to a join a club that has a guy named "Hootie" as its president?

 

*BT*

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