back to the Black Table


Maybe he knows which cave to look in. The American military announced Wednesday that it had captured Saddam Hussein's former bodyguard, Gen. Abid Hamid Mahmud al-Tikriti. Gen. Mahmud was the ace of diamonds, in case you're keeping score. He might well be the only person who knows where (if at all) Iraq has any weapons of mass destruction and if Saddam Hussein is still alive, since he controlled access to the dictator as Saddam's "presidential secretary." Gen. Mahmud might also know where to find Hussein's two sons, Uday and Qusay. When not capturing bodyguards, American forces seized 50 members of the Republican Guard and more than $8.5 million in cash in a raid on two farmhouses. Why don't American farmhouses ever have that kind of cash?




Don't start the monopolized presses. The Senate Commerce Committee voted to repeal a Federal Communications Commission rule that weakens rules on media ownership. After it leaves committee, the bill would bring back the 35 percent cap, in which a broadcaster can only own two stations that reach no more than 35 percent of the people. The new rules raised the cap to 45 percent. Deregulation also allows newspaper, TV and radio companies buy each other, whereas before Clear Channel could only fuck up radio. Though a new bill made it out of committee, there is doubt that it will survive long on the Senate floor. Same thing goes for the House - Republicans there have already said they will block any new rules. Glad there's some discourse going on. People in this country discuss this too much. We need more unfettered action!

Who let the draft out of the bag? An Environmental Protection Agency report on the state of the environment has had references to global warming heavily edited by the White House. In the unedited report, global warming was blamed in part on increased smokestack and tail-pipe emissions. But the Bushies chopped that part. The Bush Administration also cut mention of a 1999 study that showed global temperatures had risen considerably in the past decade compared to the last 1,000 years. In its place was a reference to a study partially funded by the American Petroleum Institute that questioned that conclusion. The whole thing was deleted in order to avoid what appeared to be playing politics with the environment. Forget appearances; that's exactly how it is.




Blame Canada (for doing the right thing). Nine of 10 Canadian provinces plan to go along with the federal government's expanded definition of marriage to include gay couples. Only Alberta is a holdout, claiming it would refuse to issue marriage licenses to homosexuals. Provincial courts in British Columbia and Quebec already found the ban against homosexual marriages unconstitutional, but this is the first time the federal government will weigh in. Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said the government will draft legislation, present it to the Supreme Court for a legal test and then put it to a vote in the House of Commons. We hear Canada is much nicer than Vermont this time of year. Actually, we think they're the same place.

Protestin' in the streets. For more than a week, hundreds of Iranians have been demonstrating for freedom, resulting in dozens of arrests. Demonstrators are mostly university students in Iran who, fearing reprisals, are now resigned to honking their horns and creating traffic jams. The United States verbally supported the protests, but Iranian leaders interpreted U.S. intervention as a rallying point for protestors who usually chant "Death to America." Though the protests are encouraging, there is little hope for an overthrow of the religious regime overseeing Iran. Most student leaders are either in jail or have fled the country following similar protests in 1999 and 2002. There simply isn't enough protest power left to do much good. Is it just us, or is this the kind of regime change the U.S. should support with a little more than a thumbs-up?




It may be instant, but it'll be around for a while. The National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), the folks who regulate stockbrokers, ordered its member firms to keep their instant messenger records for at least three years. The rule means that firms must use an IM system that allows for monitoring, instead of one that simply allows for wasting time. Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL all recently introduced IM products aimed for the boardroom (the emoticons look serious and wear ties). The new rules will affect about 5,300 companies, or every securities firm that does business with the U.S. public. But really, it's IM. Those are going to be some dull transcripts.




Hungry for Harry. Harry Potter readers can rest easy -- the books will be in their grubby little hands by Saturday. (The Black Table can't wait for its copy to arrive from Amazon.) Here's a list of all the crap (besides the book) that true Potter fans dream of. Do kids really care about first editions? No, but the nerdy adults who take all the fun out of this stuff sure do.

Rest in peace, Prairie Dog. The varmint blamed for spreading monkeypox in Missouri had been euthanized. A woman contracted monkeypox after an infected prairie dog bit her. The prairie dog was a pet belonging to a local man, who has been quarantined since contracting the disease himself. The prairie dog in question was thought to have been infected by a Gambian giant rat at a Chicago store called Phil's Pocket Pets. Insert joke about anything in that sentence here.



Aileen Gallagher, author of three children's books, (and another one, about muckraking, on the way!) writes Weekly Rundown every Friday.