Democracy 101

John McCaslin
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Posted: Apr 16, 2003 12:00 AM

Reading, writing, arithmetic and democracy.

Barring objections from fair-weather allies such as France, Germany and Russia, Uncle Sam is already ensuring that Iraqi schoolchildren - and their parents and teachers - are prepared for the new school year beginning in September.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded an initial $2 million, 12-month contract to Washington-based Creative Associates International (CAI) to address immediate educational needs and promote participation of the Iraqi people in a sustainable, decentralized educational system.

The CAI will oversee a USAID education-assistance program - "Revitalization of Iraqi Schools and Stabilization of Education" - a "rapid response" effort to increase enrollment and improve the quality of primary and secondary education through short-term-effect activities that will lay the foundation for more sustainable reform.

What that means is, apart from distributing essential school materials, equipment and supplies, teaching methods will be introduced to instruct students, parents and teachers on "democratic practices and attitudes."

About 25 percent of school-age children in Iraq are not currently attending school.

IRAQI JOKE

Iraq's minister of information went to Saddam Hussein's 10 doubles and said, "I have good news and bad news. The good news is Saddam is still alive." Ten sighs of relief as they all still were employed. "The bad news: Saddam lost a leg." -- Submitted by Donald Clark

LAMAR'S RETREAT

Like few people in America, Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee Republican and former presidential candidate and governor, made a move to examine his country from the bottom up.

So he reminded his audience last week while singing praise of Australia for its many contributions to the war in Iraq.

 "The British may be our ancestors, but the Australians are our first cousins," Alexander said. "Not only did they send troops to support us in the 1991 war in the Persian Gulf, they also joined us in military action in Korea and in Vietnam."

For this conflict, its second-largest deployment since Vietnam, Australia committed three naval vessels, 14 F-18 jet fighters, a fleet of CH-47 troop helicopters and troops, three C-130 transport aircraft, and a fighting regiment of 2,000 army, air force and naval personnel, including 500 special forces troops.

"If I may say," Alexander said, "in 1987, after I left the Tennessee governor's office, my family and I moved to Australia."

You mean the whole family moved down under?

"We lived in Sydney for six months," he said. "We did that to get to know each other as a family even better, after so many years in politics. It gave us a chance to know our first cousins in Australia, and to see our country at home in an even different way."

LYING WITH POWER

Former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry promises to expose some "dirty laundry" - or so writes Afro editor Dwight Cunningham.

In his first authorized yet unpublished biography, "Still Standing: The Untold Story of the People's Champion," Washington's "most beloved and reviled politician" will reveal many of his inner thoughts surrounding his tumultuous political career, says Cunningham.

"It was a tenure interrupted only by a prison term after Barry was caught on videotape smoking crack with a girlfriend in January 1990," the editor notes (www.afro.com).

"I lost focus," Barry explains in an early chapter. "I fell to the pressures of a high-profile, high-stakes position. My ego was compromised by people who saw me as a champion and their advocate and by women who wanted merely to lay with power."

The former mayor has yet to secure a publisher for the book, but tells Afro a documentary of his life is now being filmed.

And talk about nine lives; Barry refuses to rule out a future run for political office.

"I love this city and the people love me," he reasons.

'SHOOTING' AT LITHUANIA

The State Department has some eye-opening children's activities planned for its April 24 "2003 Take Your Child to Work Day."

The extensive list - 47 in all - includes "Things That Go Bomb - Protecting Against the Landmine Threat," "Nairobi: The Rebuilding of an Embassy," "The Anatomy of a Fraud Case," "Find the Villain," and for those preferring to remain children as long as they can, "Shoot Hoops at the Embassy of Lithuania."