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2002: The Year in Review

The news of the world you may have missed

By SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN, Times Senior Correspondent

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 29, 2002

As the year ends, we're still wondering if Osama bin Laden is dead or alive and another war with Iraq is about to begin. In the meantime, here are some things you might have missed on the foreign front, along with a few awards to the especially deserving:

HOW DO I GET A NICE BOSS LIKE THIS? When an aide to Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien called President Bush a "moron," Chretien not only didn't get mad, he commented that the aide "has probably used that word against me a few times too."

MY, HOW TIME FLIES: In a recent poll, only 8 percent of Americans correctly identified Chretien as Canada's leader. Five percent gave other answers, including Pierre Trudeau, who died two years ago and hadn't been prime minister since 1984.

THEY AIN'T SO SMART EITHER: In the same poll, 10 percent of Canadians didn't know that Bush was president of the United States.

HE'LL WHIP THOSE IRAQIS INTO SHAPE: The Washington Post revealed that one of the U.N. weapons inspectors in Baghdad had "played a leadership role in sadomasochistic sex clubs." Jack McGeorge is also a founder of the Leather Leadership Conference, which "produces training sessions for current and potential leaders of the sadomasochism/leather/fetish community," according to its Web site. "I am who I am," McGeorge said. "I am not ashamed of who I am one bit -- not one bit."

HAVEN'T THEY HEARD OF FAX MACHINES? After the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution supporting Israel in May, four members of Congress got on a Navy plane and flew to Jerusalem to hand deliver a copy to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Cost to U.S. taxpayers: $105,000.

DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DO: When in a country with a history of anti-Western terrorism, "never travel in conspicuous groups." This advice came from a U.S. security consultant as he and a bunch of other Americans rode through Islamabad, Pakistan, in a hotel van with "MARRIOTT" stamped in big letters on the side.

THE "DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN" AWARD: To Saddam Hussein and George Bush. Didn't we go through all this in 1991?

JUST CALL HIM AL: A quick search of the Internet shows the last name of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe spelled at least four different ways, two of them by the U.S. government.

OPTIMIST OF THE YEAR AWARD: To the Afghan Tourist Organization, which posted a sign in the airport in Kabul announcing it is "ready to welcome tourists with open arms."

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE FRENCH FRIES AND COKE? Asked why trains in southern England were delayed, a Railtrack official replied: "There's a very large inflatable hamburger on the line in the Newport area."

THEY'RE MILKING THE EU FOR ALL THEY'RE WORTH: The director of a Catholic charity noted that the average cow in the European Union receives more than $2 a day in support from EU governments. That is greater than the income of 50 percent of the world's population.

MEMO TO CREATIVE STAFF: WE NEED ANOTHER SLOGAN: British chocolate maker Cadbury had to rethink its marketing strategy in Kashmir, the province claimed by India and Pakistan, after locals objected to the slogan "Too Good to Share."

THINGS WE'D LIKE TO KNOW, PART 1: If the U.S.-enforced sanctions are hurting average Iraqis so much, why is Saddam Hussein giving $25,000 to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers rather than spending it on his own people?

BEDSIDE MANNER OF THE YEAR AWARD: To surgeon Mohammad Al-Fallouji, who was banned from practicing medicine in Britain after telling a terminally ill patient: "You have cancer, I have asthma; we all have to die some time."

BEST CAR TO DRIVE IF YOU'RE GOING TO BE ARRESTED IN THE DESERT: Toyota Camry. When two American journalists were detained for taking pictures of an air base in Qatar, they had to sit in their rented Camry for two hours while Qatari authorities decided what to do with them. The car never over-heated, even though the air conditioning was running full blast in 115 degree heat.

THINGS WE'D LIKE TO KNOW, PART 2: How can it be 115 degrees with 97 percent humidity in Qatar and other Persian Gulf countries and never, ever rain in the summer?

IT'S ALL IN THE PRONUNCIATION: "I asked the barmaid for a quickie. The man next to me said, 'It's pronounced quiche.' " Luigi Amaduzzi, Italy's ambassador to Britain, on the pratfalls of speaking a foreign language.

SALESMEN OF THE YEAR AWARD: To the Moroccan hashish dealers, who are so aggressive in pursuit of customers they chased yours truly and a Times photographer down a fog-shrouded mountain at 60 mph hoping to make a sale (They didn't.)

THINGS WE'D LIKE TO KNOW, PART 3: Why do Americans call it the "Middle East" while the French call it the "Near East?"

HONEST POLITICIAN OF THE YEAR AWARD: To Spanish Premier Jose Maria Aznar, who -- unaware his microphone was still on after he delivered a speech at an EU summit -- remarked: "What a load of old crap that was."

And on that note, a healthy, happy, peaceful New Year!

-- Susan Taylor Martin can be contacted at .

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