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Hope they don't take America's cues on voter turnout. Iraqis could be at the polls within a year, but reality dictates it will probably take a lot longer. Consider this: The 25 Iraqis who sit on a governing council took more than two weeks to choose their leader. (They finally decided that the position of council president will rotate among nine of the 25 council members, who will each serve a month. It's like assigning the whole country to act out "Choose your own adventure" books.) Iraq's civilian administrator, Paul Bremer said, "our work here will be done" after successful general elections. When Iraqis aren't arguing about the future of their country, some are trying to go the easy way by attacking occupying U.S. soldiers. In the past two weeks, at least 18 soldiers were killed, raising the body count to 51 since May 1, the day President Bush said major military operations were over.




God answers The Black Table's prayers. Retired Rear Admiral John Poindexter is leaving the Pentagon, perhaps for the last time (if we're lucky). The convicted felon led the "Information Awareness Office" at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. That's right -- he's the one who wanted to go through your credit card and health records and rifle through your email to make sure you're not a terrorist. Since people didn't seem to love that idea so much (and Congress severely limited its implementation), Poindexter suggested a terrorist futures market. Instead of betting on the price of wheat, potential investors could place their money on the chances of potential political assassinations and terrorist attacks. The New York Times broke that story on Tuesday morning. By Tuesday afternoon, amid a chorus of nationwide "HA-hahs," the Pentagon shelved the idea. Glad someone there knows how to say no.

Pushing sex without marriage. The Bush Administration is backing efforts toward a federal ban on gay marriage. A recent decision by the Supreme Court overturning laws against homosexual sex has pushed the gay marriage issue into the forefront. In a rare press conference, Bush said, "That's really where the issue is heading here in Washington." The president wants a federal law defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and "we've got lawyers looking at the best way to do that." Even the Vatican thinks gay marriage is being bandied about too seriously. Pope John Paul II approved a 12-page set of guidelines to fight efforts toward gay marriage, which the Church called "gravely immoral."




More Talk, Fewer Weapons. North Korea seems to be ready to have a sit-down about those pesky nuclear weapons it insists on having. Though North Korea has been pushing for one-on-one talks with the United States, the communist country would be willing to sit down with representatives from the U.S., China, South Korea, Russia and Japan. Of course, all this news is from North Korea via a Russian diplomat, so who knows when these talks will actually occur. Besides, isolated and impoverished North Korea has never seemed interested in dismantling its weapons programs before. Let's hope this intervention works.




Americans will buy whatever he's selling. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is the man behind the anti-terrorism fund. His consulting firm, Giuliani Partners LLC (a company so successful from the beginning that it can get away with a crappy, uninformative Web page), teamed up with Bear Stearns & Co. to launch a $300 million investment fund). The fund will invest in companies that offer protection against terrorism, such as security and public safety ventures. These companies are making a lot of money lately; The Department of Homeland Security had $37.5 billion to kick around in 2003. Bear Stearns is providing the bucks for the deal; Giuliani Partners is providing the cachet and the business contacts.




We lost another couple good ones. Legendary entertainer Bob Hope died this week at the age of 100. Hope was a radio, television and film star, but probably best known for entertaining troops from World War II through the first Gulf War. Record producer and Sun Records founder Sam Phillips died at age 80 on Wednesday. Phillips was the one who decided Elvis ought to get a recording contract. He had the right idea. (Note: Phillips died while watching a Chicago Cubs game, which, well, isn't surprising.)

It's a birthday sandwich, and there's alcohol in the middle. Happy 26th birthday to The Black Table's EIC Eric Gillin, who's celebrating in Boston on August 1. And a happy 24th birthday to Patrick Cadigan on August 2, who reads The Black Table if the Internet's on.



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