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Tell the Fat Lady to put her AK away. Recalling his halcyon days in the Texas Air National Guard (Keeping Texas Safe From Oklahoma!), President George W. Bush landed (in a plane, we think) on a moving aircraft carrier Thursday before addressing the nation to say that combat in Iraq is over. Bush will stop short of declaring victory, because doing so would invoke Geneva Convention rules and force the U.S. to return Iraqi prisoners of war. (And we wouldn't want that!)

Thursday's speech marked the first time since the war began that the White House has asked the broadcast TV networks for airtime. Bush will leave the USS Abraham Lincoln via helicopter on Friday. The ship will continue sailing with a brief stop in San Diego before returning to its home port in Everett, Wash. The Lincoln has been at sea for nine months.

Time to work on that whole "peaceful" protest thing. U.S. soldiers fired on Iraqis civilians twice this week, killing at least 15 and wounding dozens of others. According to the U.S. military, the anti-American protest spurred rock throwing and gunfire, and the soldiers responded when fired upon. The most recent protest, on Wednesday, was in the city of Fallujah, a stronghold of Saddam Hussen's Baath Party. In other war news, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld arrived in Iraq this week, just in time for the protests. Rummy spoke to soldiers and also taped a message to be broadcast over Iraqi TV saying the U.S. is eager to return the country to them. (Yeah, Iraqis, we're with you; we don't believe him either.)




Hold your breath. Or don't. The American Lung Association issued its "State of the Air" report and found that the Los Angeles metropolitan area is the smoggiest in the country (Does Los Angeles ever change?). California cities occupy seven slots on the Top 20, with Atlanta; Knoxville, Tenn.; Philadelphia; D.C.; and New York also noted for shitty air. Boston was the only city in the Northeast Corridor that's fit to breathe. According to the report, 137 million Americans (almost half the nation's population) breathe unhealthy amounts of ozone, known to everyone else as smog. The Lung Association said any improvements were merely from a cool summer in 2001. Last summer's sizzle will likely negatively affect next year's findings, since it already negatively affected your shirt with pit stains.

Amber Alerts: Not just for 41 states anymore. President Bush signed a national "Amber Alert" law Wednesday. Amber Alerts are comprised of information issued via media outlets and electronic highway signs to help thwart kidnappings. Amber Alerts have helped rescue several kidnapped children, most recently Elizabeth Smart, who returned home after nine months of captivity when several Utah citizens recognized her kidnapper from a sketch that appeared on TV. (Elizabeth Smart was present at the signing, furthering her exploitation.) The law also: allows federal judges to order lifetime supervision of sex offenders; mandates life sentences for two-time child sex offenders; and allows judges to order pre-trial incarceration for those charged with child rape or abduction. Amber Alerts are named for Amber Hagerman, a nine-year-old Texas girl who was kidnapped and murdered in 1996.

Does anyone even say the Pledge of Allegiance anymore? If they do, the Bush administration wants to make sure that the words "under God" stick around. The White House appealed a federal appellate court decision banning California public school children from reciting the pledge if it includes the words "under God." The Justice Department's angle is that if everyone says a different pledge, "it cannot serve its purpose of unifying and commonly celebrating the national identity." Never mind the fact that "under God" wasn't added till the 1950s, when the scourge of McCarthyism made everyone a believer for fear of being labeled a commie pinko. So this is how John Ashcroft spends his time when he's not trouncing all over civil liberties and clothing libidinous statues. We always wondered about that.



this road map is really tough to fold. An international coalition (really, this one is actually international) presented a detailed peace plan to leaders of Israel and Palestine on Wednesday. The plan, known as the "road map," marks 2005 as the year for peace (so hurry up and get your bombings in now, folks!) and a "sovereign, independent, democratic and viable" Palestine. For its part, Israel is supposed to abandon West Bank and Gaza Strip settlements built since March 2001. Palestine is required to make "visible efforts" to stop attacks against Israel.

Already, this isn't going well. (We're as shocked as you!) A suicide bomber killed himself, three Israelis and injured dozens more early Wednesday morning and, on Thursday, Israeli tanks and helicopters killed eight Palestinians.

The U.S., Russia, the European Union and the United Nations all contributed to the plan. Please consult your local bookmaker for odds on the map actually getting them anywhere.

Autoclave the May Pole. Everyone's favorite Communist holiday, May Day, has been curtailed in China thanks to SARS. Residents in villages outside of Beijing have essentially barricaded their communities, posting signs telling outsiders to stay out and using guards to make sure they do. Beijing's 1.7 million students are still homebound, and public gathering places, like movie theaters, are closed. (Not that the Chinese government lets them watch anything good anyway.) China will soon open a 1,000-bed hospital north of Beijing specifically to treat SARS victims. The hospital, next to an ostrich farm, was built in eight days by 7,000 laborers. Even faster than the Pyramids!




Apple Computers, meet Apple Records. Apple launched the iTunes Music Store this week, selling about 275,000 songs in its first 18 hours. That's over 250 songs a minute. Apple offers 30-second samples for nothing, but to download the song to a Mac or an iPod, that'll run you 99 cents (Song, or long distance phone call? Long distance phone call, or song? Hmm.). Apple plans to make iTunes PC compatible by the end of the year. In the meantime, nerds are scurrying about to create a Windows version for people who don't give a shit what kind of computer they own.




They'll be lining up outside the courthouse. Some irate Creed fans sued the band Monday, demanding their money back after lead singer Scott Stapp was too fucked up to sing. While the Black Table feels strongly that, at least with Creed, you get what you pay for, it does raise an interesting legal question. Purchasing a ticket is a good as a contract. What is a band required to do to fulfill that contract? Not suck? Remember lyrics? Break a minimum amount of equipment? Creed apologized for being awful, but urged fans to "take some solace in the fact that you definitely experienced the most unique of all Creed shows and may have become part of the unusual world of rock and roll history." As if getting trashed before your show was original.

Seriously, though … it's Creed.

Happy Birthday, Pants. Levi Strauss & Co., the former canvas sales company that brought you the 501 blues, turned 150 this week. In other news, Black Table staffers Jim Cooke and Aileen Gallagher turned 26 and 25, respectively, this week. The pants will outlive us all.



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