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  THE WEEKLY RUNDOWN FOR MAY 30.  
   
   
   
 

 

Where's the Bush? Prime Minister Tony Blair entered Iraq on Thursday, the first foreign leader to visit the war-tattered country since the fall of Saddam Hussein. About 20,000 British soldiers remain in Iraq and Blair spoke to roughly 400 of them from a former presidential palace in Basra. Blair touched on the divisions the war brought in his own country, but stood by Britain's involvement. He acknowledged "disagreements in the country" about the war but told soldiers that there was "no dispute in Britain at all" about supporting the troops. The British p.m. also met with L. Paul Bremer, American head of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, to discuss security problems and other concerns in the post-war Iraq. American soldiers wondered where their leader was, but then remembered he only flies in to greet the troops if they're less than 50 miles away from the U.S. coast. And then only, ever, in a fighter jet.

 

 
   
 

 

Nothing but a dirty little move. President Bush signed into law the second biggest tax cut in history Wednesday, but a last-minute revision means that most families with incomes between $10,500 and $26,625 will not receive the boosted $1,000 tax credit for children. The credit was included in the Senate's version of the bill, but was dropped when the bill went to conference between the Senate and the House in an effort to reconcile two versions of the same plan. The Senate blamed the House for trying to cram in too many higher-income tax cuts at the expense of poorer families. The House said the Senate shouldn't have capped the cuts at $350 billion, so there. "Nyaah," said the Senate, and on and on. The tax cuts are great for the one in four taxpayers who receive dividends and the one in 10 who have capital gains. By the way, Congress loves the new tax plan. At least 57 percent of our nation's legislators reported dividends or capital gains on their 2001 tax returns. No wonder they voted for it.

Endangered species are going the way of the dodo. Uh, right. The federal government does not have the money to comply with a court order to create safe habitats for 32 endangered species, the Bush administration said this Wednesday. The Fish & Wildlife service is $2 million short and cannot complete the surveying and other steps it needs to take to designate a "safe habitat." For once, the Black Table will refrain from completely blaming the Bush Administration. Clinton's Fish & Wildlife director said in 1999 that Congress should consider revising the process as the safe habitats are costly and "provide little additional protection to most listed species." The service requested $8 million to designate habitats, or two-thirds of the total cost of listing an endangered species. Congress gave the service $6 million. Time for a bake sale.

 

 
   
 

 

Separatist but equal. The 12,500 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (Yes, that acronym is in fact MILF and yes, it's still funny) agreed to a unilateral ceasefire on Monday in the Philippines. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was all about a ceasefire, but urged MILF (while giggling, we're sure) to demonstrate its commitment to peace by denouncing links to terror groups such as al Qaeda. MILF has been fighting for 25 years to create a separate Muslim state in the Philippines. President Bush promised Macapagal-Arroyo that the United States would "underwrite peace" in the region and then vowed to give the country $356 million in security assistance (read: soldiers and guns).

 

 
   
 

 

Disregard the bleak economy that's sitting in the living room. Not as many people sought unemployment this week as last week, but things are still awful out there. A whopping 424,000 Americans filed a new claim for unemployment in the week ending May 24, down from 433,000 claims during the week before. The unemployment rate is holding steady at 6 percent, but that's a tricky figure. The rate measures only those people who are actively looking for work, and thousands have simply stopped. The recession (which according to economic bigwigs began in March 2001) has forced employers to shed 2.1 million jobs, 525,000 of which were cut in the last three months. Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve, warned recently that these dismal numbers were a sign of businesses wary to spend again and consequently are a speed bump to recovery. Economists predicted that the end of the war would spark a hiring boost, but so far new job opportunities are hiding in a cave with bin Laden and Saddam.

 

 
   
 

 

It's still a waste of time, but now everyone has SuperVision! The journal Nature reported Thursday that video games still make you sluggish and sedentary, but they do improve your visual perception. (Like you really need an excuse to play more Vice City.) Researchers found that frequent gamers were better than non-players at interpreting visually complex situations. Gamers can keep track of multiple items in a visual field at once and process fast information changes better than people without a PS2. Test subjects (all non-gamers) played Medal of Honor an hour a day for 10 days in a row. A control group was stuck with Tetris. The Medal of Honor people were far superior killing machines than the Tetris dorks.

Old comics never die. Happy 100th birthday to Bob Hope! The "cowardly" comic, famous for his appearances before American troops from World War II to the first Gulf War, was besieged by greetings from around the world. Hope is too frail to make public appearances anymore, but his children stepped in for the ceremonies on Thursday. Hope will mark the event at home with his wife Dolores, 94, and his family.


*BT*

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