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  INCOMING! JANUARY 9, 2005.  


Iran will resume "research" on "fuel production" today, which could be a polite way of saying that its nuke factories could be back in production. International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors broke the seals on research sites over the weekend. Iran is one of several signers of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, so if it makes nice, the rest of the world has to sit back and hope for the best. The U.N. is supposed to keep its eye on Iran, but this is also the body that didn't seem to notice that Saddam Hussein was getting rich and starving his people with the oil-for-food program. In short, don't throw away those duck-and-cover leaflets just yet.

The BBC reports tentative plans for Central American foreign leaders to meet about the proposed wall between the U.S. and Mexican border. Seriously, did <EM>anyone</eM> notice a mid-December House vote to build a 2,000 mile-long security fence protecting us from those pesky Mexicans? What a vote to get lost in the holiday shuffle. Don't worry, Canada. You're due for a "study" about the use of barriers on the Northern border. Our elected officials will vote 260-159 to build a fence for Mexico, but Canada gets the bureaucratic love of endless PowerPoint presentations.






Happy one year anniversary to the Italian Smoking Ban. For 12 months, you've been taking all the fun out drinking. But now bar and restaurant owners want to boycott the part of the new law that requires them to rat out their smoking customers to the police. Has the Italian government heard of omerta? Ambitious bartenders do not head straight to the polizia. They put their head down and keep pouring. If you can't smoke, you should at least be allowed to continue breathing.

Thomas Paine anonymously published Common Sense on this day in 1776. The pamphlet influenced the Declaration of Independence and provided the propaganda that inspired a ragtag bunch of toothless, illiterate farmers to stand up and fight the spiffily dressed British regulars. This kept us all from the horrible fate of referring to cigarettes as "fags." Thanks to Thomas Paine, we only call homos fags, like you're supposed to.






The official plan to rebuild New Orleans will be released today. The report will recommend that New Orleans residents be allowed to return to the city and rebuild anywhere they like. The mayor's rebuilding commission, which authored the report, suggests that the city should caution residents from moving back to the hardest hit areas, but not forbid them. But many development experts believe that some areas, especially the slogged Ninth Ward, will remain underpopulated and eventually return to marshland. Whatever happens, stay tuned for the gulf coast to be the site of more building corruption than any adolescent mobster has ever dreamed of. From the unions to the developers, it's a gold mine for the building trade.

The Federal Trade Commission approved the merger of AOL and Time Warner on this day in 2001. What a year that was! Remember how big that deal was? Old media joins new media -- fantastic. Trouble is, while people are still reading these days, they're not so much using dial-up internet access. Or needing someone to help them get online and use "keywords." Now, only a deal with Google can make AOL relevant again, and Time Warner wished it had stuck to the "Kitchens and Bathrooms" books.





Welcome, German Chancellor Angela Merkel! We hope you get plenty of rest in preparation for your visit with President Bush tomorrow. He's such an enthusiastic conversationalist you'll be up all night chatting about a variety of subjects, including:

  • How you grow beer in gardens;
  • The history of walls in Germany;
  • Regrettable pasts, escaping from.

Sci-fi nerds worldwide are hoping their computers will try to kill them today. HAL, the computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey, went operational on January 12, wrote author Arthur C. Clarke. (1997 in the book, 1922 in the movie.) The Stanley Kubrick film of the same name went operational in 1968 as one of the first movies it was really fun to sit through completely fucked up.

Finally, congratulations to the winners of the sixth international festival of snow sculptors in Siberia. Seventeen teams froze their asses off for five days sculpting snow to fit the "Christmas" and "New Year's" theme. Not only are those two holidays way over, but does turning the snow into art really make Siberia a good time? Doubtful. But then again, we can't even make good snow angels.






It's an unlucky day, especially for President Bush, who passed out after choking on a pretzel on this day in 2002. While not quite Gerald-Ford-falling-down funny, or even pitiable, like George H.W. Bush vomiting in the lap of the Japanese prime minister in 1992, Bush's pretzel incident at least provided some material for "Saturday Night Live." And considering Bush is never, ever funny on purpose, we'll have to take what we can get.

You know who else liked pretzels? Martin Luther King Jr. Actually, that could be utter bullshit (some people just don't like snacks, you know?), but we got a day to fill here before we take Monday off to think about Civil Rights.




Aileen Gallagher is a managing editor of The Black Table.


INCOMING! runs every Monday on The Black Table.