Ross Mackenzie
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For us, as for many, August is vacation time. She and I purposely withdraw - from electricity and phone and a world too much with us (about which more in a column to come). Yet, life goes on, and those in the newspaper business must stay current.

This annotated review of August's news, principally happenings in non-local realms, may help others catch up - just as it helps your correspondent..

Let's see:

- Israel dismantled its settlements in Gaza. About the same time, oddly, the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. threatened to divest its holdings in four U.S. companies (Caterpillar, Motorola, ITT and United Technologies) if they continue selling Israel military equipment and technology usable in Gaza and the West Bank.

- In Iraq, amidst bombings and death and mayhem, authorities seemed to move toward completing a constitution, but questions remained as to (a) whether it ever would become the law of the land there and (b) if it did, whether it would create more problems than it resolved. The fundamental question in Iraq persists: Is a unified democratic country possible, or is Iraq's future one of fracture into Kurdish, Shiite, and Sunni segments?

- For his part, President Bush insisted the U.S. will stay the Iraqi course. He told the Veterans of Foreign Wars we owe it to the 2,000 Americans killed in the two Gulf Wars not to withdraw too soon: "Each of these men and women left grieving families and loved ones back home. . . . Each of these heroes left a legacy that will allow generations of their fellow Americans to enjoy the blessings of liberty. . . . We owe them something. We will finish the task that they gave their lives for." Here, Army recruitment limped along. In Britain, Prime Minister Tony Blair prudently moved to expel hate-mongering denizens of the Islamist fringe. In the Jordanian port of Aqaba, rockets missed two berthing U.S. ships.

- Per-barrel oil prices bubbled upward, helping push average per-gallon gasoline prices above $2.60 nationally. Some members of Congress talked of holding hearings to point fingers and lay blame - which, of course, they bear none of.

- U.S. borders kept leaking illegals. The rising tide of illegal immigrants into this country now totals more than 9 million.

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Ross Mackenzie

Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.

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