He loved his people

Nikita Khrushchev visited the United States in 1959 and the cold war continued. Boris Yeltsin visited the United States 30 years later and the seeds for the Soviet Union's eventual fall were sown.

The Kremlin announced yesterday that Yeltsin had died. He was 76. The cause of death was not disclosed.

Yeltsin will be eulogized as the first elected president of Russia (1991). But what he should be remembered for was his love for the Russian people. It was his desire to see Russians enjoy comforts he had seen in America that spurred him to seek democracy for his people.

Unfortunately, Yeltsin proved incapable of bringing forth the civil society needed to nourish that democracy. His tenure didn't birth his fondest wish for the Russian people: "I want to see their lives improve before my own eyes." But in dismantling the Soviet system, at least he gave them that hope.

And in this corner . . .

Round One of the greenhouse-gas celebrity grudge match was a draw.

In one corner was Karl Rove, presidential adviser and global-warming denier. In the opposite corner was the An Inconvenient Truth tag team of singer Sheryl Crow and documentary producer Laurie David. Their encounter took place Saturday night in Washington at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, a vanity fair for journalists, politicos and celebrities.

It began when David/Crow approached Rove and asked him to "take a fresh look" at the science of global warming. That's a bit like asking a shark to take a fresh look at a seal, but kudos to the tag team for trying.

Rove launched into a defense of the Bush administration's policy, gamely staying on-message at a venue where half the people are tipsy and the other half are clamoring for Sanjaya's autograph. Neither side gave ground.

As Rove turned away from the women to go back to his table, Crow touched his arm, apparently not finished with him. "Don't touch me," Rove warned her.

The women commented later in their blog on the Huffington Post, "How hardened and removed from reality must a person be to refuse to be touched by Sheryl Crow?"

One might also ask, "How vain must someone be to assume that everyone wants to be touched by her?" Maybe Rove was in a hurry because his dessert was melting, what with his boss' foot-dragging on global warming. Whatever, let's hope that Round Two is televised on pay-per-view.

Co-sleeping deaths

About three years have passed since a public awareness campaign in Philadelphia warned against infants sleeping in the same bed as adults. As with some vaccinations, a booster shot is needed to emphasize that message.

The city Department of Human Services and Department of Public Health are set to hold a news conference this morning to sound an alert once again.

An analysis of infant deaths in Philadelphia between January 2006 and March 2007 showed that 49 involved what is known as co-sleeping.

Other risk factors were often present in co-sleeping deaths. Still, over the past three years in Philadelphia, the number of deaths in which co-sleeping was involved was at least twice as high as the number of fatal child-abuse cases.

Debate continues about the merits of co-sleeping vs. the dangers. But isn't a crib better than a coffin, when there is even a small chance that an infant could be accidentally suffocated or strangled?

Great feet

By itself, it won't turn Philadelphia into Titletown, U.S.A.

But the longest journey begins with the first step.

In this case, the step was taken in soccer shoes, worn by the members of the Philadelphia Kixx of the Major Indoor Soccer League.

The Kixx won the MISL title Saturday night in Michigan, defeating the Detroit Ignition (Ignition?!) by a score of 13-8.

No, millions won't line Broad Street tomorrow to salute these champions. Indoor soccer is a niche version of what is, in America, a minor sport.

But a title is a title, and the Kixx players and coaches deserve Philadelphia's cheers and applause.

One thing that's nice about this team is that, while its players hail from as far away as Macedonia and Trinidad, many of them are homegrown, products of local soccer programs.

Particular praise is due player/coach Don D'Ambra (out of North Catholic and St. Joseph's University) and Peter Pappas, two Kixx players who've been with the franchise for its entire 11 years of existence, and have now won their second MISL title.

Hail to the Kixx, the first Philly team since the minor-league hockey Phantoms to kick the city's sporting demons in the teeth.

Smoking ban spreads

Just around the one-year anniversary of New Jersey's progressive indoor smoking ban, another state - Maryland - decided to follow suit.

Meantime, in Harrisburg, Gov. Rendell, as part of his comprehensive health-care reform, is pushing for all of Pennsylvania to follow the health-conscious example of Philadelphia in clearing the air.

Eighteen states and other major cities, such as Washington, have enacted protections. Even the exemption granted Atlantic City casinos has been lifted.

All that puts into perspective the contention of the New Jersey Restaurant Association that hundreds of restaurants, bars and taverns have seen sales cut in half and some are threatened with closure.

The association's anecdotal evidence doesn't outweigh the overall boost to nightlife - not to mention, public health - of smoke-free restaurants and other venues seen in other places that have gone smoke-free.