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The Year in Review 2002

Gone but not forgotten

Paul Wellstone, Thomas Whalen, Philip Berrigan, the victims of the D.C.-area sniper attacks, Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret, Howard K. Smith, Harvey Kirck, John Gotti, Stephen Jay Gould, Stephen Ambrose, Dave Berg, Mildred Wirt Benson, Timothy White, Timothy Findley, Billy Wilder, Lew Wasserman, John Frankenheimer, Milton Berle, James Coburn, Richard Harris, Rod Steiger, Bruce Paltrow, Kim Hunter, Dudley Moore, Katrin Cartlidge, Ted Demme, Dean Riesner, Jonathan Harris, Robert Urich, John Agar, Katy Jurado, Linda Boreman (Linda Lovelace), Spike Milligan, James Gregory, LaWanda Page, Teresa Graves, Kevin Smith, Glenn Quinn, John Entwhistle, Joe Strummer, Waylon Jennings, Dee Dee Ramone, Jam Master Jay, Layne Staley, Ray Brown, Lionel Hampton, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez, Peggy Lee, Aaliyah, Robbin Crosby, Lonnie Donegan, Rosemary Clooney, Ray Conniff, Horace Lee Hogan, Jean-Paul Riopelle, Chuck Jones, Frank Shuster, Bill Blass, Eppie Lederer (Ann Landers), Ruth Handler, Roone Arledge, Ted Williams, Johnny Unitas, Hoyt Wilhelm, Darryl Kile, Sam Snead, Seattle Slew, Thor Heyerdahl, Dave Thomas, Michael the Archangel.

Gone and forgotten

Civil rights, the Freedom of Information Act, the Clean Air Act, Al Gore, Andrew Cuomo, H. Carl McCall, the Democrats, the War in Afghanistan, transgender rights, That’s My Bush, Ames department stores, Mohawk Mall, Mars Music, Ally McBeal, spinning.

Gone and back again

John Poindexter, Elliot Abrams, the Gulf War, Donny Osmond, Whitney Houston, Chuck Barris, the Center Square Dunkin’ Donuts, heroin.

Vill to power: Henry Kissinger.

Gone and back and gone again

Henry Kissinger

Gone and back and gone and back again

Jimmy Carter

Gone and back and gone and back and who the hell really knows?

Osama bin Laden

Gone and back and gone and back and going again

Michael Jordan

Make them go away

The Bush administration, Fox News, CNN, the Rockefeller Drug Laws, Christina Aguilera, Michael Jackson, Kelly Ripa, reality shows, big-box stores, Chinese buffets, locally produced commercials.

Gone with his hood tucked between his legs

Trent Lott

Gone but still living in our thighs

Ben & Jerry’s mint cookies’n’cream

Just plain gone

Anna Nicole Smith

Yes, Dear, we really are fucked

The Republican Party took advantage of voter apathy, Democratic impotence and tragedy in Minnesota to take control of both houses of Congress, leaving relatively few obstacles in the way of the Bush-Cheney agenda of waging war, dominating world oil markets, transferring wealth to the already wealthy, and allowing fundamentalist Christian values to seep into policy. Lord have mercy.

Next time, why don’t you just campaign in Jesse Helms masks

With the GOP already in control of the White House and the House of Representatives, and the Senate slip-sliding away, the Democratic Party fearfully clung to the center, ignoring the poor, the slaving class, minorities and progressives in a desperate attempt to appeal to the SUV set. The Dems even matched their opponents’ calls for war while ignoring the issue potentially most damaging to Republicans: the widespread, loathsome corporate fraud that came to light in 2002. Given a choice between real Republicans and fake Republicans, voters—the relatively few that were inspired to turn out—chose the real ones.

Going Down

A plane crash killed Paul Wellstone, Democratic U.S. senator from Minnesota, less than two weeks before Election Day, leading to a bizarre series of events: To replace Wellstone on the ticket, Democrats resurrected former Vice President Walter Mondale, who led in the polls until Republican strategists successfully cast Wellstone’s funeral as inappropriately political. In the end, Republican Norm Coleman edged out Mondale and helped the GOP secure control of the Senate. Meanwhile, there were whispers that the plane crash was an act of political assassination, though little concrete evidence of any specific cause has yet to emerge.

Open mouth, insert foot, lose position: Trent Lott.

We’re shocked, shocked to find a racist in our midst

Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott was forced out of his Majority Leader seat after his gaffe at Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday party, in which Lott suggested that we’d have been better off if Thurmond had won his 1948 bid for the presidency—in which he ran on a segregationist platform. What the hypocritical Republicans who called for Lott’s head failed to acknowledge was that Lott was merely voicing sentiments he—and many of his colleagues—had held all their lives. But don’t trust us—look at Lott’s voting record.

Criminal rehab, Bush style

John Poindexter, Elliot Abrams, Henry Kissinger—if you’re a good Republican with criminal activity in your past, there’s a place for you in the current administration. Ollie North can’t be far behind.

Your honor, I just couldn’t make ends meet on my $3.2 million salary

Faith in corporate America crumbled as executive after executive was found to have inflated earnings, hidden expenses, used shell companies to obscure company finances, manipulated share prices—anything to make a killing cashing in on stock options, ordinary shareholders be damned. Oh, funny thing, their accountants and stock analysts played right along, approving their accounting practices and touting the stock to ordinary suckers while cashing in their own before it tanked. Question is, will Kenneth Lay and the rest of the Enron looters ever see the inside of a jail cell—and if they do, how long before their very good friend in the White House lets them out?

With Special Guest Star George W. Bush

A videotape of a 1997 going-away party for then-Enron president Rich Kinder surfaced in early December. Loaded with laugh-filled skits, it featured rappin’ executives, jaunty accountants, and recently indicted former Enron honcho Jeffrey Skilling praising “hypothetical future value accounting” as a way to “add a kazillion dollars to the bottom line.” Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush made a cameo, as did his son, George W. Bush. Federal prosecutors expressed interest in obtaining a copy of the tape.

Old Dirty Bastards

January 2003 will see the end of the careers of two stalwart U.S. Senate Republicans with a combined tenure of 78 years: Jesse Helms of North Carolina and Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. Thurmond ran for president on a segregationist ticket in 1948, and called the 1965 Civil Rights Act “the worst, most unreasonable and unconstitutional legislation” ever voted on. Helms was infamous for gay-and race-baiting, including blocking numerous African-American nominees to the federal bench. Neither will be missed.

Savvy Pataki

Gov. George E. Pataki cruised to reelection with an array of supporters that would make any Democrat drool: labor unions and environmentalists, Hispanic voters, a startlingly high percentage of New York City voters—and Democratic Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings. Some carped at the governor’s tactics, pointing out that Pataki bought much of this support with sweetheart deals for labor and targeted financial aid to a certain upstate city, but Pataki just smiled and picked out the party favors for his victory celebration.

And could you trim around my hedges while you’re at it?

In February, Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings announced that $6.5 million in Federal money earmarked for a Lark Street makeover would be shifted over to projects on New Scotland Avenue—ironically, in Jerry’s front yard. Lark Street would get a scaled-down $2 million facelift. At first neighborhood activists protested, but eventually signed on to the mayor’s plan—this is one case in which they really couldn’t fight city hall.

Not Gore in Four

Al Gore announced in December that he would not run as the Democratic challenger against George W. Bush in the 2004 election for president. Gore, who many believe was the legitimate winner of the 2000 election (and who did win the popular vote), voiced concern that another campaign against Bush would focus too much on the last presidential election, ultimately decided by the Supreme Court, as one reason for his sudden announcement. By dropping out of the race he has opened the door for other Democrats to take a shot at the run for the White House. But are any of them up to the challenge?

It’s Just Those Crazy Europeans

Is anyone in the United States against a war with Iraq? It would be hard to tell by picking up the newspaper or turning on the television. Just this past October, more than 30,000 people descended on Washington D.C. in what many have called the largest protest since the Vietnam War. However, the story was buried on page A-8 of The New York Times. Another protest in San Francisco turned out over 20,000. Once again, there was scant coverage of the event. But when 10,000 people turned up in London and over 30,000 in Italy, both stories made the front page of The New York Times. What gives?

All That Spending and Still No Secret Service Protection

Candidates in New York’s governor’s race spent approximately $146 million in 2002, a national record for a statewide election. Gov. George E. Pataki was elected for his third term after spending $48.4 million, but Independence Party candidate B. Thomas Golisano carried the lion’s share of the spending. The Rochester billionaire spent $73.9 million of his own fortune is his third unsuccessful bid for the governorship. Though Golisano’s work with his company, Paychex, earned him the title of Top CEO by Fortune magazine in 2001, his political investing seemed a bit shabby. If spending just a fraction of his estimated $5 billion fortune garnered him 15 percent of the vote, why didn’t Golisano spend the $300 million to guarantee plurality?

What’s Michael Moore’s Number?

This year’s governor’s race proved that a political party touting a wholly progressive agenda doesn’t stand a chance in New York unless it is fronted by a celebrity. Just ask the Green Party. The Greens became an A-list political party in New York four years ago when its gubernatorial candidate, “Grandpa” Al Lewis, secured more than 50,000 votes. But this year, Green candidate Stanley Aronowitz—a CUNY sociology professor, author and cultural critic—failed to receive the 50,000 votes required to maintain the party’s official ballot line. The Greens are now suing the State Board of Elections to allow New Yorkers the right to enroll in their party.

Politicians for Pot

It’s either no longer hip to be square or it’s a great time to talk some shit about smoking dope. Almost every candidate in New York’s governor’s race came out in support of medicinal marijuana prior to Election Day. But expect no change as Gov. Pataki, the major abstainer, ended up winning. Though the majority of candidates said they supported legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes, Marijuana Reform Party candidate Thomas K. Leighton cried poseur and said the pot issue was his.

How Much More Do You Want Him to Give?

With the control of both houses of Congress up for grabs this year, campaigning got ugly—just ask Max Cleland. Prior to his run as a Democratic Senator from Georgia, Cleland served in Vietnam and lost three limbs. But since the version of the Homeland Security bill Cleland supported was different than President Bush’s, his challenger, Saxby Chambliss, pulled the un-American card and attempted to paint Cleland as less patriotic than he—a nonveteran who’d vote with the president. Beside the campaign support Chambliss received from Vice President Dick Cheney and President George W. Bush, one campaign ad against Cleland featured images of Osama bin Laden. Georgians bought it, and Chambliss unseated Cleland.

Well, Maybe if it Wasn’t All the Way in South Africa

President Bush didn’t want to take time out from his summer vacation to attend the United Nation’s World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, but he did send Secretary of State Colin Powell. Many nations were angered that Powell, a representative from the world’s largest economy and source of industrial pollution, presented the typical U.S. ideas toward global environmental policy. Such shortsightedness, exemplified by the administration’s refusal to acknowledge the Kyoto Protocol, angered many nations but surprised few.

The Gelded Age of Environmental Protections

The Bush administration decided to ease restrictions on industrial polluters, particularly coal-fired power plants, this year. The Bushies effectively castrated the Clean Air Act by increasing the amount of money that power plants could spend on modifications before having to install updated air pollution controls. Critics said the measure allowed industrial polluters the leeway to bring their pollution controls up to par whenever the hell they feel like it.

If I Gave ‘em Too Much, They’d Pull Me Into Court

With great fanfare, George W. Bush signed a 77-percent budget increase for the Securities and Exchange Commission in July. And dang it, he was going to get tough on corporate crime. Right. Four months later he slashed the promised increase, much to the chagrin of SEC chairman, Harvey L. Pitt. Until he was pressured to step down, Pitt was a vocal advocate for more money in the SEC’s budget.

Smallpox, Anyone?

Anthrax? That is so 2001. No, a domestic smallpox attack from an Axis of Evil nation tops the U.S. Things to Fear list this year. Why should we be scared that smallpox would be released domestically, even though the disease has been eliminated worldwide since the late 1970s? Washington says Saddam has smallpox, but the Bush administration isn’t showing its hand. Well, the threat must be serious enough for President Bush to have smallpox vaccines—estimated to kill two in every million vaccinated and cause serious health complications in many more—prepared for every U.S. citizen, right?

Will Learn for Shelter

Extensive debate, delay and confusion from all parties involved led to the construction of Albany’s third middle school being put off until at least 2005. The ACSD officials are looking anew for a plot of land, and the district’s sixth graders, who were supposed to have new homes in the reconfigured middle school structure, may soon receive unscripted lessons as first-world refugees.

I Didn’t Want to Supersize Me

McDonald’s, Wendy’s, KFC and Burger King all faced lawsuits from people claiming that the fast food they’d eaten throughout their lives caused their obesity and health problems. No shit. These folks are claiming that the nutritional information about the crap they were shoving in their faces wasn’t clear enough. Maybe it’s time for the fast food chains to steal a page from the tobacco industry’s book and place warning labels on their products: “Warning: This burger may stop your heart,” or “Warning: These fries may lead to cankles.”

Guns Don’t Kill People, People with Military-Strength Guns Kill People

As “experts” on network news shows were clamoring about white vans and alleged links to Al Qaeda in the D.C. sniper case, investigators were pulling two sleeping males from a blue Chevy Caprice. The snipers who killed 10 and injured three over the summer did so with a Bushmaster assault rifle, a knockoff of the military AK-47 model. Many gun-control advocates took the opportunity to note that weapons more powerful than the Bushmaster could be for sale to the public in 2004 when the federal assault-weapons ban expires.

Cooter and Skeets to Bid Farewell to Rabbit Ears

It’s official: The FCC decided this year that by 2004, every television set must come equipped with a digital tuner. The change in technology will eventually have all TV consumers viewing digital signals, so the analog waves can be taken over by the federal government and reallocated, most likely with devious purposes—closed circuit, Congressional porn. Never mind that the prices of these upgrades will fall on consumers or that televisions bought in the next few years may become obsolete—what the hell are we to do with all these metal coat hangers and tin foil?

U.S. Retards Killing Practices

In June, The U.S. Supreme Court decided 6-3 that the execution of the mentally retarded constituted cruel and unusual punishment and was therefore unconstitutional. The court of last resort first considered the matter in 1989, but didn’t decide to halt such executions until reviewing the case of Daryl Atkins, who was an accomplice to a murder at age 18. Atkins lawyer protests that his client’s IQ is 59, equivalent to that of a 9-to-12-year-old child.

The company you keep: John Walker Lindh.

He Didn’t Look so Dirty in Court

John Walker Lindh, raised in a quaint, liberal San Francisco suburb, emerged on national television last December as the American Taliban: bearded, wild-eyed and dirtier than Pigpen. In July, Lindh arrived in federal court somber, gaunt and shaven like a skinhead. His guilty pleas to charges of conspiring to kill U.S. nationals and aiding terrorist organizations resulted in 20 years in federal prison.

Chip—Fab!

UAlbany’s Center for Excellence in Nanotechnology got a big boost this summer when Gov. George E. Pataki unveiled a $400 million plan to lure SEMATECH North, the Austin-based computer-chip consortium, to the Capital Region. Jobs, technology and money are expected to follow suit, but what will the City of Albany due to keep the flock of technology workers from moving to Clifton Park?

They Brought Down the House

In the Most Egregious Waste of Local History category: Retail giant Target demolished the 164-year-old Defreest-Church House in the town of East Greenbush. The house stood on the ground that would eventually be the 125,000-square-foot store’s parking lot. Protesters offered an alternative construction plan, where the store would lose 25 parking spaces and the house would be saved, but it was ignored.

We Will Protect You and You but Defiantly Not You

A gay rights bill that had been pending in the New York State Legislature for 31 years was signed into law by Gov. George Pataki. Only 31 years? The Sexual Orientation Non Discrimination Act makes it illegal, under New York state’s human-rights law, to discriminate against people because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or straight. However, the language in the bill doesn’t provide protection for transgender people, making the bill’s passage a bittersweet victory for the LGBT community. So what’s up with the selective protection?

Some Guys Have all the Luck

Former Rensselaer County Executive Henry Zwack, who was indicted then finally acquitted on multiple charges of perjury in connection with the county’s no-show employee scandal, was once again indicted and then acquitted on 34 felony and misconduct charges while in office.

Give Me Your Guyanese

Schenectady Mayor Al Jurczynski attempted to reinvent his city by attracting Guyanese immigrants to move there from New York City. Too bad the influx of Guyanese could not help the city out of its financial woes. A state audit revealed that Schenectady administrative department was borrowing money from capital projects and reserve funds to help finance city operations. As a result, New York bond rating firms have threatened to cut off the city’s borrowing.

Breed ’em and Weep

A showdown looms between area Catholic hospitals and the state over the new women’s health bill that, if signed into law this year by Gov. Pataki, will require employers that offer health insurance to pay for contraceptives as well. The Catholic church doesn’t approve of sexual relations that completely block the possibility of conceiving a child, so the law would go against its religious beliefs.

My So-Called Life as a Crackhead

Noelle Bush, daughter of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and niece of President George W. Bush, was sent to jail three times this past year for drug possession. The first arrest was made last January when she tried to fill a false prescription for Xanax at a drive-through pharmacy in Tallahassee, Fla. She was then court-ordered to a drug treatment facility. In July, she was jailed for three days after she violated the terms of her sentence when a treatment worker caught her with prescription pills. In October, she was busted again, this time for possession of crack cocaine. She served 10 days for that violation.

It Was a Gas, Man

After three days of a tense standoff, Russian security guards stormed a Moscow theater where Chechen rebels were holding 700 people hostage. The Russian Special Forces used an incapacitating gas in their attempt to siege the building. The gas is believed to have killed 118 of the hostages. Russian authorities refused to identify the type of gas used, making it difficult for doctors to treat those survivors suffering from poisoning. Many believe that the gas contained Valium or a form of B2, a hallucinogenic. While the Russian government did apologize to those who lost loved ones in the raid, they wouldn’t admit that the cause of death was due to poisonous gas but rather blamed it on heart attacks, dehydration and shock.

The Pull-Out Method

The Bush administration is under fierce criticism from family-planning advocates here and abroad for what some are calling its obvious attempt to pander to right-to-life constituents at the expense of women around the world. In July, the administration withheld $34 million in previously approved aid to the United Nations Population Fund, suggesting that the agency worked with governments that forced women to have abortions. In November, Bush announced that the United States would no longer support the Cairo Program of Action, a 1994 accord that provides educational services to women around the world, unless the phrases “reproductive health” and “reproductive freedom” were removed from the United Nations agreement, claiming that these were code names for abortion.

George Bush, Science Guy

In Febuary—after many, many months of stubbornly refusing to acknowledge reams of evidence that human activity was the leading cause of the increase in greenhouse gasses and a major contributing factor in climactic change (i.e., global warming), and insisting that the research was inconclusive—President Bush relented and declared he would offer offenders “firm incentives” to reduce emissions. The incentives? Lesser threats of mandatory regulation in the future. Bush said, “I’m confident that the environmental path I announce will benefit the entire world—you know, up here on this side and down on the underneath side where the Chinese people, the Yeti and Chilly Willy live.”

Tim Russert Predicts Big Chandler Win; Ross Crestfallen

In November, in the thick of the election season, NBC ran a series of phony campaign ads for an undefined senatorial race. In one attack ad, Bill Sterling is criticized as untrustworthy; in a defensive ad, an earnest voiceover intones, “Bill Sterling doesn’t care about politics; he cares about America and he cares about freedom. Freedom from special interests.” Swell. But Bill Sterling is actually actor Josh Brolin, and the spots were actually just NBC’s attempt to capitalize on the success of The West Wing with a new cheeseball do-gooder-in-D.C. series. You’d think that after Ross Perot, America would have had its fill of fictional candidacies.

What If We Built a Large Wooden Badger?

Snatching a high-tech, low-success fantasy from the cold-war dementia of an ex-president/actor, President Bush funded a missile-defense shield to the tune of $8 billion. When faced with criticism that the shield can’t work—never has—Bush astutely pointed out, “Well, shucks, that’s awright. Ya gotta keep in mind, at this point we ain’t even sure Iraq’s got any missiles.”

Sins of omission: Cardinal Bernard Law.

Please Forgive Me, Me, Because I Have Sinned

A sex scandal first uncovered in the Boston Diocese led to the eventual resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law, who was accused of participating in a cover-up by transferring priests who allegedly molested members of their congregations. During the ensuing investigation, four other bishops and more than 300 Catholic priests resigned or were fired, and many dioceses looked to federal bankruptcy laws for protection in the face of potentially massive legal settlements. In a related story, Protestants around the world adopted expressions even more smug than usual.

The Anarchist’s Etiquette Book

In May, 21-year-old University of Wisconsin student Lucas Helder was arrested for a five-state pipe-bombing spree, which injured six people. During his arraignment, an affable Helder answered the judge’s questions with responses such as “most definitely” and “for sure”; he also revealed that he was intending to distribute the bombs in the pattern of a giant smiley face.

Test Is a Four-Letter Word

In May, a diverse group of anti-censorship organizations sent a letter to the New York State Department of Education asking them to cease the editing of passages on the English Language Arts Regents examination. According to the executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship, Joan Bertin, the passages have for three years been stripped of any reference to race, religion, ethnicity, sex, nudity and other themes deemed to be potentially offensive, rendering the selections “confusing, if not nonsensical.” A spokesperson for the department responsible for the cuts responded, “Oh, for Christ’s sake, give us a goddamned break. We’re just trying to do our fucking job.”

Win-Win

In October, former hippie-guru Ira Einhorn was convicted of the 1977 murder of his girlfriend, Holly Maddux—for the second time. After skipping bail in 1981, Einhorn was convicted in absentia; when he was discovered in 1997 living comfortably in the south of France, the Pennsylvania legislature passed a law allowing him a new trial and promised the French government he would not face the death penalty if they allowed his extradition. As another condition of the deal, in exchange for Einhorn, the French receive Jerry Lewis, Adam Sandler and a brash, slapstick doofus to be named later.

I’m Not a Legitimate Businessman, I Just Play One on TV

New York City Mayor Bloomberg chose to skip Manhattan’s Columbus Day parade when organizers refused to allow cast members of the popular HBO series The Sopranos to ride along, claiming that the fictional mobsters were not positive representatives of the Italian-American community. Otherwise, the celebration of the famed navigator—a confused and genocidal Genoan who almost single-handedly decimated the indigenous population of Hispaniola in his inevitably unsuccessful attempt to rob them of imagined stockpiles of gold, a resource that did not even exist on the island in any substantial quantity—was a smashing success.

Up, Up and, uh, Weird

Millionaire broker Steve Fossett became the first man to successfully complete a solo around-the-world hot-air balloon flight. In 14 days and 20 hours, the 58-year-old traveled almost 20,000 miles before landing safely in Australia. The feat has earned Fossett several records of which he’s quite proud—including the longest distance flown by a person in a balloon, the longest time aloft—and at least two he’d rather not discuss.

Gift Wrapped in a Heart-Shaped Box, No Doubt

Just in time for the Christmas shopping season, the warring camps of Nirvana survivors settled out of court and released both a greatest-hits collection and a hardcover copy of Kurt Cobain’s private diary, thereby securing their places in the talentless carrion section of hell. Reached for comment in Heaven, Kurt had no comment—’cause he’s fucked up on heroin.

Don’t Get No Strangelove

President George W. Bush surprised even Beltway insiders by appointing former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to head the recently created panel investigating the events—and the lapses in intelligence leading up to the events—of Sept. 11. Shortly after the appointment, Kissinger stepped down, claiming conflicts of interest would prevent his effective leadership. You see, he’s interested in lying like a rug.

The Only Thing Worse Than Being Talked About

In June, amid an absolute media frenzy, Paul McCartney wed Heather Mills in a mind-bogglingly elaborate affair at an Irish castle. The couple went to great lengths to keep the details of their nuptial plans secret, but the legacy of Beatlemania still is vital and the former Beatle’s years spent managing a sometimes-invasive press proved just sufficient experience to shield the couple’s privacy. Oh, and on the same weekend Peter Gabriel married someone—a lady, we think—in a pancake house he owns, or something.

Shoebox Spirituality

Best-selling author Maya Angelou went to work for the Hallmark greeting card company, penning inspirational words for a line of cards bearing her name: “They are very hard to write and I am very proud and pleased with the results. I have to write in two sentences what I would like to take three pages to explore.” Angelou also announced that she has signed a new two-book deal for a record-breaking six-kazillion dollar advance: To a Very Special Grandma and Happy Birthday, You’re Four!!—each reported to be stories detailing the spiritual trials of strong-willed, independent women overcoming societally imposed obstacles—have already made Oprah’s reading list.

So, It’s a Demotion?

In June, Mick Jagger, lead singer of the Rolling Stones, was awarded an Order of the British Empire, inspiring saucy comments from bandmate Keith Richards: “You won’t hear us calling him Sir,” the guitarist rasped. “We’ve got other names for him.” When asked to be more specific, the living embodiment of the semi-demonic spirit of rock & roll replied, “Well, see, technically speaking, Mick’s the president of Glimmer Twins, Inc., and, with me, majority shareholder in Beggar’s Banquet International. There are lots of other titles, too, ’cause what we’ve done, right, is to create subsidiary holding companies to which we loan money, which we can then record as positive cash flow, not debt, and because it’s taken from the development budget and not the . . .”

Speak Softly, and Pack a Huge Monkey

While doing advance work for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s June visit to New Delhi, India, the personnel assigned to ensure his safety discovered a potential security risk when they were attacked by Rhesus monkeys. Rumsfeld’s trip was salvaged, however, when some quick thinking G-man thought to bring in much bigger, scarier monkeys to chase the little bastards away. Currently the big scary monkeys are beating the livin’ hell out of the smaller ones, motivating President Bush to declare them members of the Axis of Evil and to recommend an immediate regime change.

I See London, I See France

Rita Wilson, assistant principal of Rancho Bernardo High School in California, was demoted after she allegedly lifted the skirts of female students in front of male students in an unauthorized “thong check” during a school dance. Her goal, it seems, was to discover any suggestive clothing—however cleverly concealed under layers of other less-suggestive clothing—in an attempt to preempt—prevent, rather—that’s prevent sexual assault.

A Man With a Plan, and a Tan

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg flew a number of city officials in his private jet to the Bahamas, where they investigated the feasibility of retrieving decommissioned cruise ships for use as shelters for New York’s homeless population. Though no decision is expected soon, the informal commission says it will overlook no opportunity—no matter how tropical—to solve this serious social ill.

And Justice for All?

The convictions of five black and Latino men imprisoned for the 1989 rape and beating of a white woman in New York’s Central Park were overturned based on DNA evidence and the confession of a man jailed for an unrelated offense. The men, who were between 14 and 16 at the time of the attack, served between seven and 11 years for the crime. Prosecutors and police claim they still believe the men were involved in the attack in some way, but defense attorneys insist that confessions used to convict all were coerced.

We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident

In West Chester, Pa., a high school was named for Bayard Rustin, a civil rights activist and aide to Martin Luther King Jr. Bayard, who graduated from the district in 1938, was also gay, a former Communist Youth Party member and a conscientious objector during World War II. Every once in a great while, something really cool happens in America.

Minstrel Show

Photos from a Halloween party in 1988 showed Albany City Court Judge Cheryl Coleman in blackface dressed up as Tawana Brawley. The photos caused quite a controversy in the African-American community, leaving many to question if Coleman—who said she did not intend to offend anyone—is racist and if she should remain on the bench.

Mother of the Year

Terese Milbrat tricked her daughter Hannah into thinking that the 7-year-old had cancer so that she could collect money from her Ohio community. She even went so far as to shave the young girl’s head, and give her sleeping pills to give the appearance that the child was receiving chemotherapy. She placed a bandage on the girl’s back to cover a supposed “port” where chemotherapy was administered. She then sent her to counseling to prepare to die. Milbarat collected more than $10,000 in donations before her scam was revealed.

The World According to Rupert

The Federal Communication Commission has begun to review rules that currently limit the number of television stations, radio stations and newspapers that a company can own locally and nationally. The review takes place every two years, but this one has added significance because the current Republican-dominated FCC has shown a greater willingness to ease regulations than the FCC of the Clinton administration. Many critics contend that allowing media conglomerates—such as Viacom Inc., General Electric Co., Walt Disney Co. and News Corp.—to own even more properties could lead to an unwillingness to cover news that parent companies or their affiliates might find unflattering, giving people a limited perspective on many issues.

Only You Can Promote Forest Fires

Terry Barter, a U.S. Forest Service employee, admitted to starting Colorado’s largest forest fire. Barter, who patrolled the area where the flame began, 55 miles southwest of Denver, staged the fire to look like an escaped campfire. But once investigators found inconsistencies in her story she was forced to admit that she caused the blaze that destroyed over 26,700 acres in Pike National Forest.

Oscars of Color

It had been 35 years since Sidney Poitier, the first African-American man to win Best Actor, took home his Academy Award. Denzel Washington broke this embarrassing—to Hollywood—losing streak with his win for Training Day at the Oscars last March. Even more epochal was Halle Berry’s Best Actress nod for Monster’s Ball, as she became the first black woman to ever win that award.

If You Build It?

WAMC, the Albany-based public radio behemoth, opened the $1.2 million WAMC Performing Arts Center—Linda Norris Auditorium on Central Avenue last February. Designed to host concert performances and live radio programs, the space struggled to find its niche as a midsize venue.

For $50, whaddya expect?

Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings proudly opened the impressive and beautiful new Hudson River Way bridge over I-787 in August. Unfortunately, by the end of September, many of the bricks adorned with personal messages and dedications—bought at $50 and $250 a pop by 10,000 members of the public—were deteriorating and unreadable. Caveat emptor.

The Kennedy Saga Goes On

In August, Kennedy family cousin Michael Skakel was convicted in the 1975 killing of his then-neighbor, 15-year-old Martha Moxley. Sentenced to 20 years to life in prison, Skakel was tried as an adult—though he was 15, thus a juvenile, at the time of the killing. He plans an appeal.

Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow

Things went from bad to worse for actor and accused wife-killer Robert Blake. First, the former Our Gang kid was denied bail. Then his lawyer quit, angry that Blake had agreed to a TV interview. On the bright side, however, Universal issued a deluxe DVD set of Baretta episodes—no doubt the royalties will help Blake buy smokes in the big house.

My Big Fat Greek Profits

In a year of megabudget spectaculars, it was an independent film by little-known playwright-actress Nia Vardalos that really clicked with the public. Celebrating love, family and unapologetic ethnic humor, My Big Fat Greek Wedding turned a $5 million investment into a $218 million gross.

Burning Logs, Higher Ratings

WPIX-TV in New York City resurrected an old Christmas favorite, the Yule Log. It was TV at its simplest: a crackling fireplace and gentle holiday music for two hours. This visual comfort food was the highest-rated morning program in New York City, beating Good Morning America, the Today Show, and an assortment of cartoons and religious services.

Let’s All Go to the Lobby

More than 1.5 billion movie tickets were sold this year—the highest number since 1959, when Ike was in the White House, Erastus Corning was in Albany City Hall, godless Communists were in the Kremlin, and Ben-Hur was on the big screen.

Schoharie’s 15 minutes

The Late Show With David Letterman sent staffer Biff Henderson to Schoharie in November, and then bused half of the town to the Ed Sullivan Theater for a “Tribute to Schoharie.” Letterman joked that the town was so small that they had to “timeshare a hooker with Cobleskill.” Schoharie named the road to the town sewer plant after Dave. Everyone felt the love.

If They Move, Kill ’Em

Florida fish farm owner Vicky Davidson was arrested for having her employees illegally kill a number of alligators and more than 4,000 endangered birds in a program to protect her fish stocks. Bird victims included black neck stilts, cattle egrets and eastern meadowlarks, as well numerous herons. She faces a long list of felonies and misdemeanors, including taking endangered species and witness tampering.

French Kiss-Off

When Russian skaters Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze topped Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier in the pairs competition at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, non-Russian viewers everywhere cried foul. Sure enough, something was rotten—French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne admitted that French skating federation head Didier Gailhaguet had pressured her to vote for the Russians. The Olympic officials tried to please everyone, giving the Russians and Canadians gold medals.

The Quality of Mercy is Nonexistent

President George W. Bush announced his first pardons just before Christmas: a moonshiner, a grain thief, an automobile odometer alterer, a minister/draft dodger, a man who lied on a Social Security form, a copper wire thief, and a postal worker who stole $10.90 from the mail. It was rumored that the turkey Bush pardoned on Thanksgiving had a longer rap sheet.

If The Breast Offend Thee, Cover It Up

In a act of stunning prudery, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft spent $8,650 of taxpayer money to drape a cover over two statues in Justice Department headquarters. The 12.5-foot art deco figures revealed a bit too much skin for the grandson of the founder of the Assembly of God church. As Cragg Hines wrote in the Houston Chronicle, however, “at least he didn’t blow them up.”

Please Cooperate or We’ll Arrest You. Never Mind—We’ll Arrest You Anyway

As part of the fallout from Sept. 11, the Immigration and Nationalization Service instituted a program requiring all male aliens over age 16 from select Arab or Middle Eastern countries to register. Dec. 16 was the deadline for men from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Sudan—and when thousands reported to fill out their forms, between 1,000 and 2,500 were detained in the Los Angeles area alone, according to immigration activists.

She's a maniac, kleptomaniac: Winona Ryder.

You’d Think She could Afford This Stuff

Winona Ryder, the 31-year-old actress who won the public’s heart playing quirky roles in everything from Edward Scissorhands to Girl,Interrupted, was charged with three felonies—grand theft, commercial burglary and vandalism—as a result of a shoplifting spree at Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills last December. Ryder was found guilty of theft and vandalism after a weeklong trial, and was sentenced to three years of probation. She was also ordered to pay $10,000 in fines, and to go to counseling to cure her of her denial of guilt. The clincher? Ryder is now being sought out to model the clothes she tried to steal. Marc Jacobs, one of the designers whose clothes were apparently a target of the amateur thief, has asked Ryder to be part of his 2003 campaign.

Can’t Get Out of the Rain

Poor Michael Jackson! He’s had a rough year. He was bitten on the foot by a spider (thankfully, he recovered with no permanent damage); he dangled his baby, with one arm, no less, off a balcony in Germany (this particular baby is his third, named Prince Michael Jackson II—yes, his first son is also named Prince Michael); he had a $21 million lawsuit brought against him for skipping out on two heavily publicized Y2K concerts (initiated by concert promoter Marcel Avram, who had sued Jackson before for concerts on which he’d lost money); he called Sony Music chief and former friend Tommy Mottola “racist” and “devilish” while chillin’ with Al Sharpton; and his morbidly mutated nose—is it really falling off? We all knew he was a little (OK, a lot) off the wall, but it seems that this year was the year that the self-proclaimed King of Pop seemed to spin out of control on a downward spiral of shame.

Hi Mom

The Raelian Movement rely on the media to get their word out—that the aliens who created humans through cloning now want us to be informed of them so they can visit—and their most recent announcement last week captured the attention of the media, the Pope, George W., French President Jacques Chirac and many a citizen of Earth: They created the first human clone. The group credited with the feat is Clonaid, set up by the Raelian founder, and it claims genetic tests will be provided, and that the 7-pound baby girl, Eve, is home with her mother.

Dear God: We think you slightly misunderstood what we meant by “White Christmas”

A Dec. 25 snowstorm dumped 2 feet of white stuff on the Capital Region, bringing travel to a near-standstill and changing many holiday plans. The storm broke records of many varieties, and gave Capital Region residents the first white Christmas in many, many years.


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