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And you thought there wouldn't be payback. Remember back in the day when France, Germany and Russia wouldn't join the U.S. in invading Iraq? There is always a cost. And now the cost is lost opportunity. The U.S. decided to bar those countries (and others) from bidding on $18 billion worth of Iraq reconstruction contracts (more for Halliburton, we guess). And get this -- the day after that happens, President Bush calls the leaders of France, Germany and Russia to ask them to forgive Iraq's debts. Are you kidding? The Black Table imagines it would be eminently satisfying to hang up on the President of the United States.

The Pentagon said bidding would only be open to the 63 countries that have contributed militarily or politically to the Iraq war. Everyone else (even dorky, friendly Canada) gets dissed. The Pentagon snootily explained that the restrictions were necessary "for the protection of the essential security interests of the United States." No one's buying, Pentagon. Not even Canada. And they'll believe anything.




Gore supports another monosyllabic name. Former Vice President Al Gore endorsed Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean in a surprise announcement on Tuesday. Joe Lieberman, Gore's running mate in the 2000 election, didn't even get a phone call. Ouch. Gore said Dean "really is the only candidate who has been able to inspire at the grassroots level all over the country." The endorsement came five weeks before the Iowa caucuses, the official start of the primary race. In Iowa, Dean and Rep. "Not Richard but Dick" Gephardt are running close. Dean and Gore appeared together in Iowa and Harlem (How different can you get in a day? Where'd they go after that? Utah?) on Wednesday to officially announce the endorsement. Lieberman stayed home and fought an overwhelming desire to drink Jack Daniels straight from the bottle and listen to Metallica's "One" on repeat.




Hey Europe -- just Xerox ours, okay? Poland threatened to veto a new European Union constitution if it isn't allowed as many votes as other member nations. Poland plans to join the EU next year. Poland is supposed to have 27 votes on the EU Council of Ministers. France and Germany, both of which have bigger populations, will get 29 votes. A new plan to distribute votes according to population is on the table, and Poland could lose the strength of its influence. Spain is also peeved about the proposed rules, but is blaming Italy for not dealing with the dispute. Italy now holds the EU's rotating presidency. No is impressed with Poland threatening to veto club rules before it's even a member, but the threat is worrisome to other EU member nations. Leaders hoped to work everything out before this weekend's summit, but a solution does not look likely. The Black Table suggests Europe just borrow the U.S. constitution, crossing out "United States of America" and replacing it with "Europe." It's much easier that way.




Invest like its 2002. The Dow Jones Industrial Average crossed the 10,000 line Thursday for the first time in 18 months. Not since May 24, 2002, has the Dow closed above 10,000. The market spiked despite bad news in employment indicators - jobless claims rose by 13,000 applicants to 378,000 in November. Retail sales increased 0.9 percent, when analysts expected sales to rise only 0.7 percent. They dipped 0.3 percent in October. Though manufacturing jobs continue to dwindle, Bush's tax cuts did give the economy some electroshock treatments, which are always good for the short term. Let's hope it lasts. The Black Table has lots of lots of cats to feed in retirement.


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