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April 1, 1996

Mad Cows and Englishmen

Dear Neighbors:

Quiet an interesting issue, this is. And I'm expecting some interesting reaction.


Jeffrey Itell


Washington, DC Dentists Arrested in Chair Scandal April 1, 1996

Six Washington, DC dentists were arrested yesterday in a scandal that is certain to shake the very foundations of dentistry.

These dentists were arraigned on charges of invasion of privacy, infliction of emotional stress, and fraud. These dentists (whose names are being withheld at the request of the FBI) had purchased dental chairs that were also lie-detectors, enabling these dentists to know whether or not their patients had actually told the truth about flossing.

"It was a scam," reported Special Agent John Ruckus. "Here were patients who believed that they could simply floss on the morning of their dental appointment and their dentist would never know. Instead, their dentists really knew. Without this sophisticated --and illegal-- technology, dental patients would have been able to continue to live the lie of flossing once a year."

Agent Ruckus said that the FBI is investigating several hygienists, too. "We don't know whether the dental hygienists were involved, but if they were, we may bring charges of assault with a deadly weapon against them." Agent Ruckus explained that if these hygienists knew their patients were lying about flossing at the same time they were exploring their mouths with those pointy-metal things, then the hygienists would have been inclined to scrape and poke harder than normal.

Unfortunately, the FBI was not able to arrest the manufacturer of this chair, because the chair was made by a German company, the Olivier-Hoffman Group, and secretly imported into the United States. "We are continuing to investigate," Ruckus said. "But with the Washington, DC crackdown, dentists across the country are forewarned: The FBI is watching."

Bill Adler, Jr. Adler & Robin Books Literary Agency "Number 1 in New York Times Bestsellers" "Number 2 in Computer Books"


Pat Buchanan announced today he is leaving the GOP to form the Mercantilist Party.

"Pat Buchanan's research into the tried and tested way of the past have carried him far beyond the good old-fashioned tariff," he told cheering supporters in Colonial Williamsburg, where the national convention will be held. "Why settle with just protecting domestic jobs, when there is ample precedent through international law for just taking them away from those foreigners?

"Manifest destiny may be a phrase today's weaklings and fifth columnists despise," he added, "But for Pat Buchanan, it's as important today as in 1896, 1846 or 1812!" He promised, if elected president, to grant statehood to Cuba, Taiwan, all of Canada and Ukraine.

Buchanan denied reports he plans to merge the Mercantilists with Ross Perot's Reform Party. "Ross plans to offer to buy the election to save the country the expense of the campaign and besides, there's room for only one monarchist in this party," he added with a characteristic belly laugh.

Buchanan also unveiled the party's new bumper stickers. One reads "Join the Old World Order, and Be a Gold Hoarder." The other reads "Nothing's More Revolutionary Than the 16th Century," and features a portrait of Sun King Louis XIV.


News Release -- April 1st, 1996

V-chip rating system extended to books

CLA endorses 'V-barcode' plan

The Canadian Library Association today announced its intention to comply with the wishes of millions of Canadians who had signed a petition decrying the increasing presence of "vivid imagery of sex and violence" in books targeted at children.

"Once my daughter started reading books in the 'Goose Bumps' series", says one concerned parent, "reading became like an addiction to her." Even though the books were so violent and scary the girl had nightmares. "Soon she started reading beyond her grade level and was getting into books with 'adult themes'." The problem, say most busy parents, is that kids can visit the local library and borrow anything they choose, regardless of their family's values.

The new book rating system, modeled after television's highly successful V-chip, has been dubbed the V-barcode, because each book will have a machine-readable "barcode" on the spine that encodes a rating of the book's contents on several scales: sex, violence, coarse language, drug use, religion, and 'alternative lifestyles'.

"This isn't about censorship", says Keith Spicer, who recently joined the CLA as policy director after leaving the CRTC, "this is about choice, ... about empowering parents to make choices." Under the new system, parents will select their family's "tolerance levels" on each scale. These are encoded as a barcode on their child's library card. When a child wants to borrow a book, the librarian simply passes the library card and book over a scanner (just like the ones used in the supermarket) and a screen instantly displays whether authorization should be granted. "It's a marvel of technology", bubbles Spicer, "it's just like the child's parent is there, saying to the child -- 'No, we don't borrow that kind of book in this family.'".

The CLA dismisses complaints the system will be burdensome. "We already have barcodes on most books, so the cost of the new system will be incidental", said a CLA spokesperson. Library patrons can expect to pay an additional $5 per year over their normal borrowing fees.

"The V-barcode is just a small part of the overall solution for dealing with violence in books," says Spicer. "The best way of dealing with bad books is to have more good books, and we hope that once children stop borrowing the bad books publishers will start printing books of better quality."

There are still a few wrinkles to be worked out, however. Some skeptical parents think children might start hanging out in libraries -- where they can still read books they aren't allowed to borrow. Still, to many parents, the new system gives a parent more control over what their child reads than is the case without this technology. "It's a social experiment worth trying", says one parent, "It will be interesting to see what guidelines will be drawn up and who will be doing the drawing. It will force people to reflect on ethics and reading, which is something we could afford to be more reflective about."

Enthusiasts of the V-barcode would like to see its use expanded. "We'd like to see the V-barcode system adopted in bookstores", says Keith Spicer, "We've already got a pilot project going with the Cole's Bookstore chain and the Bank of Montreal where the parental tolerance levels are encoded into the mag-stripe on the child's bank card." A book purchase can be declined at the checkout if it exceeds the family's tolerance levels. "Cash purchases," says Spicer, "are still a problem."

Louise E. Gant


In a surprise development which can only serve to strain relations between D.C. and Maryland, the Department of Public Works has accused Montgomery County of responsibility for the record number of potholes on District streets. The potholes, which began to appear in late January after the record snows melted, were widely assumed to be the result of alternate freezing and thawing combined with the abrasive effects of plowing. Not so, says the District. At a hastily called news conference, DPW spokesman Rock E. Rhodes shocked reporters by accusing Montgomery County of stealing asphalt from city streets to build their extensive network of speed bumps in Chevy Chase and Bethesda:

"As you're well aware, potholes in the District are at an all-time high this year. Surely some of them were caused by the unusually harsh winter, but the record numbers cannot be justified by this alone. Based on the results of our undercover investigation, we feel confident that our suburban neighbors have been 'borrowing,' to put it mildly, parts of our streets to construct their maze of speed bumps throughout the county. Let me assure D.C. residents that we will repair our potholes as funds permit, even as we continue our investigation into this blatant assault upon our physical infrastructure."

Montgomery County spokesman Hy Street quickly dismissed the charges as pure fantasy:

"In all my years in public service, this is the craziest thing I've ever heard. If there's one thing Maryland excels at, it's building speed bumps.....and we don't need help from anybody to do it, legal or otherwise. They obviously have nothing better to do with their time, except for giving out parking tickets. Stealing football teams, yes.....but asphalt -- no way!"

D.C. officials sheepishly disputed Street's contention that the potholes were the result of inept plowing techniques: "How can you accuse us of plowing the streets with our blades too close to the ground? If there's one thing we can't be accused of….. it’s plowing, period!"

Alan Grossberg



At the 1994 annual awards dinner given by the American Association for Forensic Science, AAFS president Don Harper Mills astounded his audience in San Diego with the legal complications of a bizarre death. Here is the story:

On 23 March 1994, the medical examiner viewed the body of Ronald Opus and concluded that he died from a shotgun wound to the head. The decedent had jumped from the top of a ten-story building intending to commit suicide (he left a note indicating his despondency). As he fell past the ninth floor, his life was interrupted by a shotgun blast through a window, which killed him instantly. Neither the shooter nor the decedent was aware that a safety net had been erected at the eighth floor level to protect some window washers and that Opus would not have been able to complete his suicide anyway because of this.

Ordinarily, Dr. Mills continued, a person who sets out to commit suicide ultimately succeeds, even though the mechanism might not be what he intended. That Opus was shot on the way to certain death nine stories below probably would not have changed his mode of death from suicide to homicide. But the fact that his suicidal intent would not have been successful caused the medical examiner to feel that he had a homicide on his hands. The room on the ninth floor whence the shotgun blast emanated was occupied by and elderly man and his wife. They were arguing and he was threatening her with the shotgun. He was so upset that, when he pulled the trigger, he completely missed his wife and pellets went through the window striking Opus. When one intends to kill subject A but kills subject B in the attempt, one is guilty of the murder of subject B.

When confronted with this charge, the old man and his wife were both adamant that neither knew that the shotgun was loaded. The old man said it was his long standing habit to threaten his wife with the unloaded shotgun. He had no intention to murder her - therefore, the killing of Opus appeared to be an accident. That is, the gun had been accidentally loaded.

The continuing investigation turned up a witness who saw the old couple's son loading the shotgun approximately six weeks prior to the fatal incident. It transpired that the old lady had cut off her son's financial support and the son, knowing the propensity of his father to use the shotgun threateningly, loaded the gun with the expectation that his father would shoot his mother. The case now becomes one of murder on the part of the son for the death of Ronald Opus.

There was an exquisite twist. Further investigation revealed that the son, one Ronald Opus, had become increasingly despondent over the failure of his attempt to engineer his mother's murder. This led him to jump off the ten- story building on March 23, only to be killed by a shotgun blast through a ninth story window.

The medical examiner closed the case as a suicide.

Nelson Maurice


BARRY ADMITS PROBLEMS: Doesn't know what to Do- (Washington, DC), IN a stunning confession before the DC Oversight subcommittee, DC Mayor Marion Barry admitted that he had no idea how to manage a city and had been snorting cocaine in an attempt to find vision. He now knew that this was a bad idea and that he was clueless on what to do about the city's future. He asked the committee if he should fire all those people he hired while in a drug induced stupor. "I don't know why i hired half those people, I must have been smoking too much crack".

In a related development, Council Chairman Dave Clarke admitted he too had no idea how to manage a city and that he "Was in it just for the money and to meet cool chicks", he thought the best thing to do was jointly resign and find some professional managers to run the city.

Local pundits were stunned to learn of the announcements saying they would have to update their invitation lists before commenting.



Tidbits Heard Around Town

Mayor Barry has decided to head a "drug free" program called "DON'T SAY NO."

Jack Kent Cooke was seen dating someone his own age. He dropped-off his date at the Hebrew Home for the Aged.

Washingtonian Magazine published an article with substance regarding a meaningful subject.

The Washington Post Sunday Magazine Section did not look like a spin-off of Parade Magazine.



Training Your Golden Retriever to Retrieve Email

Have you always wanted to train your golden retriever to retrieve your email for you? Well, if you follow a careful training program, your golden retriever will be retrieving email for you in no time at all. This breed of dogs naturally seeks to retrieve things. It's in their blood. So it's just a matter of teaching your retriever to do what comes naturally to have him help you get your email.

For best results start your training when your dog is very young. After your dog has become accustomed to retrieving sticks and tennis balls you might try hurling an old keyboard once in a while. When your dog brings your keyboard back to you, scratch your pooch behind his ear while saying, "Good dog. Thatta boy. Good dog."

Place the keyboard at your feet and encourage your dog to randomly paw keys on the keyboard. Lavish praise on your pooch when he hits keys that are close to the keys you use to retrieve your mail.

Reward your dog with tasty treats only when he starts showing an interest in how your email program works. Golden retrievers are naturally intelligent dogs. If they see you sitting at the computer they are bound to become curious about what steps you take to retrieve your email.

Then one day when your dog is very comfortable at pawing your keyboard and has familiarized himself with all the keystrokes you use to retrieve your mail, say in a friendly frisky voice: "Go get email. That's a good dog. Go fetch email."

You might be surprised to see how easily your dog will retrieve your email. But don't forget that golden retrievers were bred to do this sort of thing. It's one of their instincts to log on, grab all new messages, and log off.

Once your golden retriever masters the process of retrieving your email, this activity will be one more way for you to bond with your dog. Don't be surprised if your dog bounds onto your bed early in the morning begging you to switch on the computer so it can retrieve email.

That's the point you will know to give your dog his own email account. That way you can sleep later in the morning while your pooch is enthusiastically bounding around retrieving email on his own.

Phil Shapiro


Mother of all Potholes

I was walking up Conn. Ave and decided to cross the street when this really pretty girl crossed the other way and my attention was diverted for a minute when I felt myself falling into the massive pothole in the middle of the intersection and that's when everything went dark. I woke up to a nice lady holding my head on her lap and telling me that I must have tripped over my own feet.

"No I fell into the pothole."

"What pothole?"

When I looked there was only unbroken pavement where there had been the mother of all potholes. That's very strange I thought as I struggled to my feet. I looked over on the other side of Conn Ave. and saw a DPW trash truck making trash pickups in the middle of the day and on the corner I saw hizzoner the Mayor and as I passed I distinctly heard him say to the crowd gathered around him "Of course I'll take care of that right away. You know that this part of NW is VERY important to me." I was feeling sick to my stomach and had a splitting headache. I knew that I wasn't in MY Washington, no potholes, regular trash pickups, and a responsive Mayor but where was I? The plot of an old science fiction story ran through my head, could the pothole in the real Washington been big enough to have a dimensional portal to this very strange Washington where things work right, that would make it a very big pothole even by Washington standards. I jumped onto a passing bus and the driver asked "change Sir ?" I stuffed in my dollar ten and sat down but the driver told me that the fare was only fifty cents and gave me 60 cents change. When I got home my workaholic neighbor, who had never spoken to me before, told me that she had decided to take the day off and bake cookies, would I like some? Head reeling I went into my house. How do I get back? My doorbell rang and there was a Mailman there who said "Here is your second of three mail deliveries today Sir." I ran into my study and booted up my computer and when I started checking files nothing was the same except the file of old DC.Stories, they still told about the city that I had known, good old trash infested, pothole ridden, divided Washington that we all know and love. Now my question to all of you is how do I get back because this place is boring.

Bob Levine



Abruptly demonstrating the universal human empathy that has historically separated humans from tax collectors, the D.C. Department of Finance and Revenue announced today that April 15 will be Taxpayer Appreciation Day.

The unexpected change in the department's heretofore testy and adversarial stance with regard to the city's citizens is reportedly due to the sudden realization that each and every one of the 40,000 (one in 12) D.C. residents who pay taxes is preparing to leave the city for more financially clement climes. "Regrettably," declared the department's chief, "our department may unwittingly have become part of what has been described as the 'mean downward drift in public manners.' We apologize and intend to remedy this situation with all the resources at our command."

A first step, a department spokesman reports, will be the purchase of one Apple PowerBook computer for the department's hundreds of collectors to use in recording tax payments as they are collected from furlough- and recession-wracked citizens. "We believed people could always scramble around and produce canceled checks on threat of crippling legal action if there was a question," the spokesman said. "But now it has come to our attention that banks often write down each transaction as it occurs and we decided to take a look at the technology."

Eventually, the city will expand its new outlook to a study of why D.C.'s taxes, the highest in two-state and one-territory region, and are directly proportional to the dearth of city services. A proportional adjustment, indexed to provision of services, is expected.

ANONYMOUS (No, not that one!)


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