Ross Mackenzie

Iraq, Iran, the Palestinians, the Libby trial, fools - er, presidential hungerers - rushing in: The past weeks have seen much ink given to those big items - and to these smaller ones..

Remember Jessica Lynch, the cute exemplar in the tradition of Joan of Arc? The sweet young thing joined the military, fought fiercely in Iraq, was captured, maimed, rescued, and returned home to a heroine's welcome. Now she's a mom. Will she continue on her exemplary road by - you know - actually marrying the dad?

J.K. Rowling's publisher has announced it will release the seventh (and last) installment in the incredibly popular Harry Potter series July 21: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." The success of the Potter series is verified in this single datum: No. 6 in the series, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," when released in July 2005, sold 6.9 million copies in the first 24 . . . hours.

Where's the Macaca Chorus when we need it? Pause for a moment to think on Jim Webb, Virginia's new senator with a justly earned reputation for insulting, oh, every third person on the landscape. Now he has moved on to insulting every third person's intelligence. Selected by the Democratic leadership to respond to President Bush's SOTU (State of the Union) address, Webb said - (BEGIN ITALICS) inter alia (END ITALICS) - this: In addition to the majority of Americans, "the majority of our military" does not favor American involvement in Iraq. The military don't support the mission? Get real.

A parallel line goes like this: So searing was the Vietnam experience that anyone with any sense who served in Vietnam opposes sending more troops to Iraq; just poll Vietnam veterans serving in Congress, and you'll see. USA Today did. Of the 12 Vietnam veterans in the House, at least six favor a troop increase - or "surge." Of the five in the Senate, only John McCain does - but, physically at least, he was perhaps the most seared of all.

The top recent good news? Maybe this: The rate of decline in deaths from cancer nationwide, first detected in 2002, is accelerating. Medicine is turning the tide.

Increasingly worried about China's military rise and North Korea's games with nuclear-warheaded ballistic missiles, Japan may be rousing from its post-World War II pacifist slumber. The current government has just upgraded its Defense Agency to a full-fledged ministry. What's more, with Japan now able to field ordinary troops, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (a) supports his country's candidacy for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, and (b) seeks repeal of the Japanese constitution's war-renouncing Article 9.

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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