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No cyanide in the care packages, please. Saddam Hussein was captured by American forces last Saturday, looking dazed and homeless. It must be humiliating to be checked for lice. Now Saddam is in a secret prison. U.S. officials would say only that Saddam was still in Iraq, though media speculators figure he's at Baghdad International Airport, formerly known as Saddam International. (Man, that's got to be more humiliating than the lice. Cue Nelson Muntz: HA- Haah!) According to The New York Times, "Key Al-Qaida leaders are held in small groups in undisclosed locations in friendly Third World countries around the globe, where they face lengthy CIA interrogations with no promise of ever gaining release." If nothing else, this assures The Black Table that the CIA does do all the clandestine stuff we hoped it did. We were getting scared the spooks just sat around and "analyzed" things all day. Boor-ring!




Kids don't even use condoms. Will they use this? A panel of medical experts recommended to the Food and Drug Administration that "Plan B," an emergency contraceptive/morning-after pill, be sold over the counter. The vote to drop prescription requirements was 23-4. While the FDA usually follows the advice of its panels, protocol likely won't make a difference in this case. Plan B has been available by prescription since 1999 and used by 2.4 million women in the U.S. The drug, essentially a highly concentrated birth-control pill, is most effective within 24 hours after intercourse. It would retail for about $30. Critics say the pill is tantamount to an abortion, or would at least encourage casual, unprotected sex. Proponents say the drug would prevent unwanted pregnancies and give women more control over their bodies. Plan B is an approved drug in 101 other countries and is available over-the-counter in 33 of them. American really need to get over this sex hangup. And, as always, use a condom. The Black Table does not find babies "cute" or "amusing." Especially when their moms are 17.

Take the assassin bowling, take him bowling. John W. Hinkley Jr., the man who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan on March 30, 1981 but was found not guilty by reason of insanity, can leave the grounds of his mental hospital unsupervised for the first time since 1982. Reagan supporters are aghast, but Hinkley's doctors no longer deem him a threat to himself or others. And the law says you have to let them out if that's the case. Hinkley wants to go out on New Year's Day, but that could be tricky. A complete itinerary must be submitted to the court two weeks before each outing. A copy is also forwarded to prosecutors and the Secret Service, which still monitors Hinkley. No word from Jodie Foster, the one Hinkley was trying to impress by shooting the president. Note to dudes: Girls love it when you're all psychotic. Wait. No they don't.




Iran lets the sunshine in. Trying to dispel U.S. claims that it has a secret nuclear weapons program, Iran said U.N. inspectors are welcome to drop in. By signing the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency protocol, Iran agrees to the tenets of the 1968 Nuclear Proliferation Treaty - a global effort to reduce nuclear capabilities. Part of reductions is snap inspections, a point of contention in secretive Iran. Those against the protocol believe these inspections are analogous to opening the borders to spies. But Iran, looking warily at its neighbor Iraq, knows the deal. As long as the Bush Administration believes Iran (which gained Axis of Evil status a couple years ago) has nuclear weapons, there's nothing preventing a preemptive strike. Please see Iraq for details. Good move, Iran. We're glad you're paying attention. Things might calm down a little in 2004, though.




Hope he's good at PR. John A. Thain will become president of the New York Stock Exchange on January 15. The NYSE took a beating last fall, when former president Richard Grasso resigned after people figured out how utterly ridiculous his compensation package was. Thain made $12 million a year as the No. 2 guy at Goldman Sachs. He'll make $4 million a year running the exchange. Hope he remembered to open a savings account. Running the NYSE is a tough gig, especially when most investors find everyone involved with the exchange to be overpaid and underhanded. Thain is expected to make some changes, mostly in the regulatory area.




There'll be a lot more sex in prison. A busted Chinese sex party for 400 Japanese men resulted in two life sentences for the organizers and a dozen other lengthy terms for hotel employees. The September party lasted for three days, staffed by 500 Chinese hostesses, or prostitutes. Adding insult to insult, the party coincided with the anniversary of Japan's 1931 invasion of China. Insert punchline A into joke B. The party cost $37,000 and was sponsored by a construction company as a "thank-you" to its employees. Again, be creative.


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