Books not bombs

John McCaslin
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Posted: Sep 04, 2003 12:00 AM

Washington area residents might be surprised to learn that universities in the District of Columbia and Virginia are among the "Top 10 Activist Campuses" in the world, as rated in the September-October issue of Mother Jones.

But let's first visit No. 1: the University of Tehran.

"Not to dis American students, but their Iranian counterparts earn our top spot for unflinching dissent in a nation where speaking out can lead to imprisonment, or worse," note the magazine's editors in their 10th annual roundup of the top activist campuses.

But skipping to No. 4, we find Washington's Howard University, which recently hosted "Black Tuesday," a massive protest to urge the Supreme Court to uphold affirmative action.

"Kicking things off with a teach-in and poetry slam on March 31, students then marched on the court, where thousands camped for the night," Mother Jones reports. "The next day, 6,000 students - 2,000 from Howard - rallied."

No. 6 (beating out No. 9, the University of California at Berkeley) is James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., where the governing board voted 8 to 5 in April to ban the distribution of the so-called morning-after pill at the campus health center.

At which time sophomore Krissy Schnebel swung into action.

"Under her direction, activists collected 2,714 signatures in two days, far surpassing the 10 percent needed to bring a bill to the student senate," the editors write. "Schnebel then wrote a bill condemning the ban; it passed by an overwhelming 54-to-6 margin."

The Top 10 also include: California Community Colleges, New York University, the University of Michigan, University of Chicago, Yale University and St. Joseph's University -- the latter Catholic institution in Philadelphia making the list after 100 graduating students and 30 faculty members walked out of a speech being delivered by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) when he likened homosexual sex to bigamy, incest and polygamy.

HERE SHE IS

For the first time, the 51 contestants for the Miss America pageant are coming to Washington in advance of the Atlantic City, N.J., pageant. Dinner tonight (Friday, Sept. 5) with all 51 beauty queens at the Washington Hilton is to be followed by dancing.

The current Miss America, Erika Harold, and every state contestant will be joining members of Congress, top law enforcement officials and business leaders for the first fund-raising event of "Fight Crime: Invest in Kids," an anti-crime organization of more than 2,000 police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors and crime survivors.

At the dinner, Harold will be honored along with Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, Massachusetts Secretary of Public Safety Edward A. Flynn, and Charles Kolb, president of the Committee on Economic Development, for their support of children's programs proven to cut crime.

BURNING QUESTION

"If Saddam is alive," President George W. Bush said in April, "I would suggest he not pop up his head."

A threatening remark that may have given best-selling humorists Henry Beard and John Boswell the idea for their ingenious new pop-up book, "Where's Saddam?" (Broadway, $9.95)

Flip-up tabs, just like in our favorite children's books, conceal Dubya's (all decked out in his cowboy outfit in this storybook) unexpected and very funny finds.

"Is he still in Baghdad?"

No, but isn't that an equally elusive Osama bin Laden peeping out from the trunk of that cab?

"Is he hiding in the desert?"

No, that's an Elvis imitator at the Sands hotel.

"Is he in the great state of Texas?"

No, behind the doors of the Alamo are the smiling faces of The Dixie Chicks.

"Has he moved to 'the burbs'?"

No, that's Bill and Hillary (oh, and Monica).

"Is he in hell?"

No, that's Michael Jackson holding two boy dolls.

Then where the heck is Saddam?

Like Dubya, the authors have no idea.

WMDS OF SORTS

U.S. Marine Cpl. Ravi Chand has returned from his tour of duty in Iraq and rejoined his old "unit" at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

In fact, the corporal, who saw combat in Iraq and stuck to his pure vegetarian diet throughout the war, led a demonstration Thursday (Sept. 4) in front of the White House, highlighted by PETA members dressed as an oversized knife and fork and holding signs reading, "President Bush: Found Your WMD - Meat's the Biggest Killer of All."

PETA sought to make the point that eating meat kills far more Americans each year than war or other weapons, in addition to "terrorizing" billions of animals.

"Meat-eaters make every day a 9/11 for animals in slaughterhouses," says Chand, whose deployment took him from Kuwait through Nasiriyah and on to Baghdad. "Nonvegetarians are the real terrorists - they need to lay down their weapons and pick up some healthy, humane eating habits."

PETA will launch a nationwide "Weapons of Mass Destruction" billboard campaign later this month.