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We're not going anywhere. President Bush reiterated his resolve Tuesday to stay in Iraq on despite near daily casualties and last week's bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad. The president described these setbacks as "a test of our patience and our will" but added the nation would "press on to victory." What defines this victory and at what cost, the president didn't mention. In the past, the Bush administration painted Iraq as a terrorist state. Since no connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda was ever confirmed, and the military has yet to dig up those wily weapons of mass destruction, the president has switched his spin. Now Iraq is
a potential haven for terrorism. So it looks like we'll just have to stay there forever.

This math couldn't be clearer. The Black Table consulted its old statistics handbook and noticed that more soldiers have died in Iraq since Bush declared an end to major fighting in May than perished during the actual war part of the war. Between March 19 and May 1, 138 soldiers died. Since May 1, an additional 142 were killed. That's 280 in total. How long does the president think people will stand for this? How long till Election Day again?




Man, it's always the bureaucracy. A report issued by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board blamed NASA's management and culture for the January explosion that killed the entire space shuttle crew. Chronic budget problems marginalized safety precautions and management decisions before and during the Columbia's flight worsened the matter, the report said. Pathetically, the board found that similar complaints were made following the 1986 Challenger disaster. Houston, it seems, never fixed the problem. Before another flying deathtrap takes to the stratosphere, the board recommended 15 actions NASA must take to prevent another incident. The report also named several long-term changes NASA can make to improve itself. And if it doesn't, little kids are going to have to find something else to want to be when they grow up.




The truth, North Korea, is that no one likes you. Six nations, including North Korea, are talking in Beijing this week to reach an agreement about the communist nation's nuclear weapons program. Five nations, excluding North Korea, want the whole program to end. In opening the talks, Japan told North Korea to dismantle its weapons and start following international arms agreements, like the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. No word on whether China, Russia, the United States and South Korea should dismantle their nuclear weapons. Guess that'll have to wait for some other summit.




This deficit is bigger than the sun. The sun! That projected $401 billion budget deficit (what you get when you spend $401 billion more than you have) in 2003 looks like it'll be $480 billion in 2004. And things will just get worse if Bush continues to give tax breaks to his wealthy constituents while occupying a foreign country for millions of dollars a day. By 2004, the deficit will likely hit the $1.8 trillion range. Apparently, that's a real number. Look for the gap to move into the gajillion vicinity circa 2020.




Discharging Private Lynch. Jessica Lynch can feel free to cash in on her status as a POW because she was honorably discharged from the military this week. A book by former New York Times reporter Rick Bragg is due out at the end of the year and an unauthorized TV movie by NBC is in production. Cash in, Ms. Lynch. Something good should come out of Iraq.

Guess the stripper didn't strip enough. An Illinois mother pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery Monday for beating up a male stripper in July 2002. The irate mom beat the stripper with a bottle and punched and kicked him. Turns out the stripper was late and not the stripper they were looking for. Lesson learned: Don't mess with the mother of the bride. Ever.



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