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Friday, February 27, 2004

Irony

Someone's going to draw a tasteless connection between her tragic death, the film she was viewing, and the fact it happened the day her employer pulled the plug on Howard Stern, but it sure isn't going to be me.

WICHITA, KS - A woman collapsed Wednesday during a screening of "The Passion of the Christ" and later died at a hospital.

The Wichita Eagle identified the woman as Peggy Law Scott, 57. No cause of death was immediately available.

Scott was attending a 9:30 a.m. showing of the movie with some co-workers from Clear Channel Radio when she collapsed about 20 minutes before the end of the movie.

KAKE-TV, which was filming a story on local reactions to the film, reported that Scott collapsed during the film's bloody crucifixion scene.

Two medical professionals who were at the movie tried to revive Scott, said Ken Crockett, a spokesman for Warren Theatres.

Emergency dispatchers said they responded to a report of a woman who wasn't breathing and might be having a seizure.

Scott was taken to the St. Joseph campus of Via Christi Regional Medical Center. Roz Hutchinson, a spokeswoman for the hospital, confirmed the death.

An autopsy will be conducted on Thursday, according to a spokeswoman for Sedgwick County.

Scott was the general sales manager for KRZZ and KKRD radio stations.

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Real terror at the airport

One of the most important things a pilot checks before taking off is the aircraft's "weight and balance"

The reason for weight checking is obvious- you don't want to load the plane with more stuff than it can lift.

Balance is also important. Weight has to be optimally distributed so that the plane's center of gravity is somewhere close to the wings' main lifting force. Think of a see-saw. When people of equal weight are on either end, very little effort is required to move up and down. Put a toddler on one end and a full-grown adult on the other, though, and the toddler won't be able to generate enough force to equalize the see-saw.

I remember when AirTran first started service between Chicago and Pittsburgh. For the first month or so, there were just a handful of passengers taking the 7 a.m. flight from Midway to Greater Pitt. The gate agent made a big deal about being grateful for our decision to fly AirTran, and bumped us to first class to show his sincerity. Of course, the reason the wanted us in the front of the plane is because the jetliner in question -a Boeing 717- has its engines in the rear. It's tail-heavy by design, so the front seats have to be loaded up first to guarantee the plane's weight and balance calculations fall within acceptable limits. We were moved from economy to first class only because they had no other ballast available.

So, what does this have to do with airport terror? The National Transportation Safety Board's investigation of the fatal crash of US Airways Express Flight 5481 in South Carolina revealed the plane was overloaded. Weight calculations are done assuming the average passenger and his winter clothes weigh about 185 pounds. The NTSB discovered that figure was off- the average flying fatso tips the scales at 195 these days.

So, the NTSB has recommended that the airlines actually start weighing their passengers from time to time.

This has the potential for civil disobedience on a massive scale. Take my mother, for instance. She refuses to be weighed by anyone; not even her doctor knows her true weight. And I suspect Mom is not alone in her attitude.

I pity the airline employee who says Mom has to get on a scale before she's allowed to board the plane.

Forget concealed handguns and sharp objects. The most potentially deadly objects out there are little old ladies who are adamant about concealing their poundage. Try to get my mother on a scale, bud, and you're going to wish you were dealing instead with a rabid Taliban member with an Uzi.

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Thursday, February 26, 2004

Free Howard

"You have the right to free speech, as long as you're not dumb enough to actually try it."-The Clash

I'm not a rabid Howard Stern fan. I listen from time to time, and I'm frequently entertained by his raucous sense of humor and his highly-underrated interviewing skills.

When things get a bit too raunchy or offensive for me, I simply turn off the radio or change stations.

The point is, Stern is a known quantity. His career is based upon assaulting what's nebulously defined as good taste.

Clear Channel/Viacom has yanked Stern from its stations in an effort to atone for the Super Bowl fiasco. It's an empty gesture, gentlemen. And it's an offensive one; far more offensive than the occasional jejune content of Stern's broadcasts.

Stern has an appropriate venue for expressing himself. The Super Bowl half-time show was totally inappropriate for a sports broadcast. Empty gestures like Stern's suspension do nothing but emphasize the hypocrisy that permeates the broadcasting business and its regulators.

I find Rush Limbaugh highly offensive, but I don't begrudge him his success or the right to express his views. I just don't listen to him. If you don't like Stern... don't listen to him, but don't deny others the right to tune in.

William Bennett said "Hypocrisy is better than no standards at all.".

I'm just asking for a little consistency.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2004

If they're Socialists, it must be Tuesday...

My Chicago apartment is just a few blocks away from Loyola University. I consider this to be a Good Thing, since it means there are a large number of relatively low-cost establishments which cater to students with little or no money.

There's a wonderful coffee shop directly across from my building, owned and operated by colorful locals. There's a laundromat/laundry next door, which charges by the pound. There's a bar with the best pizza in Chicago, where you can watch The West Wing and Law and Order and Joan of Arcadia instead of wall-to-wall sports.

Proximity to college-age people also means one is exposed to folks with purple hair, immense tattoos, odd musical tastes and non-mainstream political beliefs.

Take the Socialists. Every Tuesday evening a half-dozen of them wait at the Granville Red Line stop, handing out newspapers telling us how the government lies, cheats and steals from us. Exactly how socialism differs in this respect from capitalism isn't clear to me. The only quasi-successful form of socialism of which I'm aware is on Star Trek, where people don't use money any more and are dedicated to the overall improvement of society. I assume the existence of holodecks and replicators have something to do with this, where you can spend an afternoon in a Rigelian sex fair and then have a thick steak, washed down with copious amounts of Dom Perignon and finished off by an aromatic Cohiba, just by issuing verbal orders to a computer who sounds suspiciously like Gene Roddenberry's widow.

Anyway, the problem with these Red Line socialists is what I perceive to be a lack of conviction. They haven't been around since December, when the temperatures first plunged below freezing. Now that it's a bit warmer and the weather is more accomodating, they're back.

Sorry, guys. Even the special-interest-pandering, beltway-beholden traditional capitalists brave New Hampshire in February to get their message out. You have to show some gumption to get me to listen to your message.

Summer soldiers and sunshine patriots are bad enough. Sunshine Socialists are just pathetic.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Comparative Christianity

How many Christians does it take to change a light bulb?

Charismatic: Only 1
Hands already in the air.

Pentecostal: 10
One to change the bulb, and nine to pray against the spirit of darkness.

Presbyterians: None
Lights will go on and off at predestined times.

Roman Catholic: None
Candles only.

Baptists: At least 15.
One to change the light bulb, and three committees to approve the change and decide who brings the potato salad and fried chicken.

Episcopalians: 3
One to call the electrician, one to mix the drinks and one to talk about how much better the old one was.

Mormons: 5
One man to change the bulb, and four wives to tell him how to do it.

Unitarians:
We choose not to make a statement either in favor of or against the need for a light bulb. However, if in your own journey you have found that light bulbs work for you, that is fine. You are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your light bulb for the next Sunday service, in which we will explore a number of light bulb traditions, including incandescent, fluorescent, 3-way, long-life and tinted, all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence.

Methodists: Undetermined
Whether your light is bright, dull, or completely out, you are loved. You can be a light bulb, turnip bulb, or tulip bulb. Churchwide lighting service is planned for Sunday. Bring bulb of your choice and a covered dish.

Nazarene: 6
One woman to replace the bulb while five men review church lighting policy.

Lutherans: None
Lutherans don't believe in change.

Amish:
What's a light bulb?

(thanks to Grace McGarvie on alt.quotations)

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Monday, February 23, 2004

Shades of redrum...

Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven was always a bit too bizarre for my tastes, but I never realized just how bizarre. According to this website, playing Stairway backward reveals the satanic message:

"Oh here's to my sweet Satan. The one whose little path would make me sad, whose power is Satan. He'll give you give you 666, there was a little toolshed where he made us suffer, sad Satan."

I guess the only question I have is... what kind of pathetic existence must you lead to listen to Stairway backward?

This Satanic message business has been going on for years. But by far, the best Stairway story comes from the superseventies web site:

On January 23, 1991, John Sebastian, owner and general manager of KLSK FM in Albuquerque, New Mexico, played the song for twenty-four solid hours to inaugurate a format change to classic rock. It played more than two hundred times, eliciting hundreds of angry calls and letters. Police showed up with guns drawn, once after a listener reported that the deejay had apparently suffered a heart attack, later because of suspicion that- this being eight days into the Gulf War- the radio station had been taken hostage by terrorists dispatched by Zeppelin freak Saddam Hussein. Weirdest of all, lots of listeners didn't move the dial. "Turns out a lot of people listened to see when we would finally stop playing it."

Listen to it more than twice in a row, and I think you'll understand why the cops showed up with their weapons drawn.

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Sunday, February 22, 2004

Well, isn't this cheerful...

About the only good thing about this report is that it was developed by components of America's crack intelligence community, and we all know how reliable they are...

Now the Pentagon tells Bush: climate change will destroy us

• Secret report warns of rioting and nuclear war
• Britain will be "Siberian" in less than 20 years
• Threat to the world is greater than terrorism

Mark Townsend and Paul Harris in New York
Sunday February 22, 2004
The Observer

Climate change over the next 20 years could result in a global catastrophe costing millions of lives in wars and natural disasters.

A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a "Siberian" climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world.

The document predicts that abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies. The threat to global stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism, say the few experts privy to its contents.

"Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life," concludes the Pentagon analysis. "Once again, warfare would define human life."

The findings will prove humiliating to the Bush administration, which has repeatedly denied that climate change even exists. Experts said that they will also make unsettling reading for a President who has insisted national defence is a priority.

The report was commissioned by influential Pentagon defence adviser Andrew Marshall, who has held considerable sway on US military thinking over the past three decades. He was the man behind a sweeping recent review aimed at transforming the American military under Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Climate change "should be elevated beyond a scientific debate to a US national security concern", say the authors, Peter Schwartz, CIA consultant and former head of planning at Royal Dutch/Shell Group, and Doug Randall of the California-based Global Business Network.

An imminent scenario of catastrophic climate change is "plausible and would challenge United States national security in ways that should be considered immediately", they conclude. As early as next year widespread flooding by a rise in sea levels will create major upheaval for millions.

Last week the Bush administration came under heavy fire from a large body of respected scientists who claimed that it cherry-picked science to suit its policy agenda and suppressed studies that it did not like. Jeremy Symons, a former whistleblower at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said that suppression of the report for four months was a further example of the White House trying to bury the threat of climate change.

Senior climatologists, however, believe that their verdicts could prove the catalyst in forcing Bush to accept climate change as a real and happening phenomenon. They also hope it will convince the United States to sign up to global treaties to reduce the rate of climatic change.

A group of eminent UK scientists recently visited the White House to voice their fears over global warming, part of an intensifying drive to get the US to treat the issue seriously. Sources have told The Observer that American officials appeared extremely sensitive about the issue when faced with complaints that America"s public stance appeared increasingly out of touch.

One even alleged that the White House had written to complain about some of the comments attributed to Professor Sir David King, Tony Blair's chief scientific adviser, after he branded the President's position on the issue as indefensible.

Among those scientists present at the White House talks were Professor John Schellnhuber, former chief environmental adviser to the German government and head of the UK"s leading group of climate scientists at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. He said that the Pentagon's internal fears should prove the "tipping point" in persuading Bush to accept climatic change.

Sir John Houghton, former chief executive of the Meteorological Office- and the first senior figure to liken the threat of climate change to that of terrorism- said: "If the Pentagon is sending out that sort of message, then this is an important document indeed."

Bob Watson, chief scientist for the World Bank and former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, added that the Pentagon"s dire warnings could no longer be ignored.

"Can Bush ignore the Pentagon? It's going be hard to blow off this sort of document. Its hugely embarrassing. After all, Bush's single highest priority is national defence. The Pentagon is no wacko, liberal group, generally speaking it is conservative. If climate change is a threat to national security and the economy, then he has to act. There are two groups the Bush Administration tend to listen to, the oil lobby and the Pentagon," added Watson.

"You've got a President who says global warming is a hoax, and across the Potomac river you've got a Pentagon preparing for climate wars. It's pretty scary when Bush starts to ignore his own government on this issue," said Rob Gueterbock of Greenpeace.

Already, according to Randall and Schwartz, the planet is carrying a higher population than it can sustain. By 2020 "catastrophic" shortages of water and energy supply will become increasingly harder to overcome, plunging the planet into war. They warn that 8,200 years ago climatic conditions brought widespread crop failure, famine, disease and mass migration of populations that could soon be repeated.

Randall told The Observer that the potential ramifications of rapid climate change would create global chaos. "This is depressing stuff," he said. "It is a national security threat that is unique because there is no enemy to point your guns at and we have no control over the threat."

Randall added that it was already possibly too late to prevent a disaster happening. "We don't know exactly where we are in the process. It could start tomorrow and we would not know for another five years," he said.

"The consequences for some nations of the climate change are unbelievable. It seems obvious that cutting the use of fossil fuels would be worthwhile."

So dramatic are the report's scenarios, Watson said, that they may prove vital in the US elections. Democratic frontrunner John Kerry is known to accept climate change as a real problem. Scientists disillusioned with Bush's stance are threatening to make sure Kerry uses the Pentagon report in his campaign.

The fact that Marshall is behind its scathing findings will aid Kerry's cause. Marshall, 82, is a Pentagon legend who heads a secretive think-tank dedicated to weighing risks to national security called the Office of Net Assessment. Dubbed "Yoda" by Pentagon insiders who respect his vast experience, he is credited with being behind the Department of Defence's push on ballistic-missile defence.

Symons, who left the EPA in protest at political interference, said that the suppression of the report was a further instance of the White House trying to bury evidence of climate change. "It is yet another example of why this government should stop burying its head in the sand on this issue."

Symons said the Bush administration's close links to high-powered energy and oil companies was vital in understanding why climate change was received sceptically in the Oval Office. "This administration is ignoring the evidence in order to placate a handful of large energy and oil companies," he added.

---

Here's the specifics of the report. Have a nice day.

• Future wars will be fought over the issue of survival rather than religion, ideology or national honour.

• By 2007 violent storms smash coastal barriers rendering large parts of the Netherlands inhabitable. Cities like The Hague are abandoned. In California the delta island levees in the Sacramento river area are breached, disrupting the aqueduct system transporting water from north to south.

• Between 2010 and 2020 Europe is hardest hit by climatic change with an average annual temperature drop of 6F. Climate in Britain becomes colder and drier as weather patterns begin to resemble Siberia.

• Deaths from war and famine run into the millions until the planet's population is reduced by such an extent the Earth can cope.

• Riots and internal conflict tear apart India, South Africa and Indonesia.

Access to water becomes a major battleground. The Nile, Danube and Amazon are all mentioned as being high risk.

• A "significant drop" in the planet's ability to sustain its present population will become apparent over the next 20 years.

• Rich areas like the US and Europe would become "virtual fortresses" to prevent millions of migrants from entering after being forced from land drowned by sea-level rise or no longer able to grow crops. Waves of boatpeople pose significant problems.

Nuclear arms proliferation is inevitable. Japan, South Korea, and Germany develop nuclear-weapons capabilities, as do Iran, Egypt and North Korea. Israel, China, India and Pakistan also are poised to use the bomb.

• By 2010 the US and Europe will experience a third more days with peak temperatures above 90F. Climate becomes an "economic nuisance" as storms, droughts and hot spells create havoc for farmers.

• More than 400m people in subtropical regions at grave risk.

• Europe will face huge internal struggles as it copes with massive numbers of migrants washing up on its shores. Immigrants from Scandinavia seek warmer climes to the south. Southern Europe is beleaguered by refugees from hard-hit countries in Africa.

Mega-droughts affect the world's major breadbaskets, including America's Midwest, where strong winds bring soil loss.

China's huge population and food demand make it particularly vulnerable. Bangladesh becomes nearly uninhabitable because of a rising sea level, which contaminates the inland water supplies.

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The kgb@kgb.com e-mail address is now something other than kgb@kgb.com saga.
kgbreport.com used to be kgb.com until December, 2007 when the domain name broker Trout Zimmer made an offer I couldn't refuse. Giving up kgb.com and adopting kgbreport.com created a significant problem, however. I had acquired the kgb.com domain name in 1993, and had since that time used kgb@kgb.com as my sole e-mail address. How to let people know that kgb@kgb.com was no longer kgb@kgb.com but rather kgbarkes@gmail.com which is longer than kgb@kgb.com and more letters to type than kgb@kgb.com and somehow less aesthetically pleasing than kgb@kgb.com but actually just as functional as kgb@kgb.com? I sent e-mails from the kgb@kgb.com address to just about everybody I knew who had used kgb@kgb.com in the past decade and a half but noticed that some people just didn't seem to get the word about the kgb@kgb.com change. So it occurred to me that if I were generate some literate, valid text in which kgb@kgb.com was repeated numerous times and posted it on a bunch of different pages- say, a blog indexed by Google- that someone looking for kgb@kgb.com would notice this paragraph repeated in hundreds of locations, would read it, and figure out that kgb@kgb.com no longer is the kgb@kgb.com they thought it was. That's the theory, anyway. kgb@kgb.com. Ok, I'm done. Move along. Nothing to see here...

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