The best that can be said for 2007? It's almost over.

Proving once again that America got the wrong Bush brother as president, Jeb Bush wryly noted that "intellectual curiosity" is something "the next president of the United States is going to need to have." Imagine how much fun the holidays were at the Bush homestead.

Recall that George W. Bush won the White House by a margin of 537 votes in Florida only because in 1994 brother Jeb

lost

the Florida governor's race by 63,940 votes.

If Jeb had won that election - and Floridians were only delaying the inevitable; he took it in 1998 - then

Jeb

would have probably been the GOP nominee, and perhaps the president, in 2000. And George W. today would be a well-liked former governor in line to be next baseball commissioner. History: a game of inches.

The nation's capital had plenty of ridiculousness to go with its tragic irony. The State Department saw fit to issue new, redesigned diplomatic license plates for the 11,619 diplomatic vehicles of our foreign guests. Something must have been wrong with the old ones (in service for 23 years). The cost of the switch - not to mention the redesign - hovers around $300,000. True, with a federal 2007 budget of $2.8 trillion, this is really just a matter of pennies. But surely those pennies could have been better spent elsewhere.

Or maybe not. The U.S. Mint revealed this year that the cost of making a penny had risen to . . . wait for it . . . two cents. Why? The price of zinc is up. And zinc makes up most of our copper pennies these days.

Like Japanese soldiers bunkered on a remote Pacific island in 1955, planning ways to stop the Allies' advance, some of us are still fighting the Terri Schiavo wars. There was welcome news on that front when a Venezuelan man was declared dead after a car accident. He was taken to the morgue and stored. When the coroner began the autopsy, the deceased woke up. Things are not always as they seem.

In the midst of a slow-motion catastrophe, Russia's population is sinking like a stone, by 750,000 each year. By 2050, its population will have dropped by a third. To combat this, the governor of Russia's Ulyanovsk region declared a sex holiday, urging couples to take the day off and make boom-boom for the motherland. Children born nine months later - on June 12, 2008 - will receive gifts from the government, including cars, televisions, and other fabulous prizes.

Not all countries are so eager for children. The Italian newspaper La Stampa reported on the trials of a 13-year-old girl in Torino. She was impregnated by her 15-year-old boyfriend. She wanted to have the baby. Her parents did not. They took her to court, where a judge ordered her to abort.

In Seattle, the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding, an Episcopal priest, had an interesting life journey. A Christian minister for more than 20 years, she has now decided she's a Muslim, too. That is, in addition to being a Christian. "All I know," she told a Seattle Times reporter, "is the calling of my heart to Islam was very much something about my identity and who I am supposed to be. . . . I could not not be a Muslim.

"It wasn't about intellect," she said. Well, obviously.

Incidentally, Rev. Redding teaches a class on the New Testament at a Catholic university. If only everyone were so ecumenical.

In Sydney, the Muslim cleric Feiz Mohammed was caught on tape urging his flock to teach their children to die as jihadist martyrs. "We want to have children and offer them as soldiers defending Islam," he said. "Teach them this: There is nothing more beloved to me than wanting to die as a mujahid. Put in their soft, tender hearts the zeal of jihad and a love of martyrdom." Jews, he added, are "pigs."

In Saudi Arabia - which is, remember, an American

ally

- a woman was sentenced to 200 lashes. Her crime: being the victim of a gang rape. It's instructive to note how the Saudi judicial system works. The 19-year-old woman was originally sentenced to only 90 lashes, for being alone with a man not related to her. But a higher court reviewed the case and revised the punishment

upward

to 200 lashes and six months in jail. The rapists may receive as little as 2 years in prison.

In late December, the girl was unexpectedly pardoned by King Abdullah, who took pains to make clear that his intervention didn't mean he doubted the judges' decision. One is tempted to call it a Christmas miracle, but that sort of thing is frowned on in Saudi Arabia, where it is illegal to own a Bible or wear a cross around your neck.

Not everyone takes such a dim view of women's rights. After 500 years of all-male guards, the Tower of London got its first female Beefeater in 2007.

And David Beckham, the Anna Kournikova of men's soccer, moved to Los Angeles. One suspects this was England's retaliation for having been forced to accommodate Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow for the last decade. America got the better of that deal.

Finally, proving that there is (sometimes) justice in the world, the hot-hot-hot New York blog Gawker published its first book, the humbly titled

Gawker Guide to Conquering All Media

. Gawker was reported to have received a $250,000 advance. The Internet, you may have heard, is the future.

Nielsen BookScan reported that in its first month of sales, the

Gawker Guide to Conquering All Media

sold 242 copies.

Happy New Year to you all.

Contact Jonathan V. Last at jlast@phillynews.com.