Friday, June 15, 2007

Air America

The president has Air Force One. But the FBI has something leaner, meaner, and yet arguably porkier.

FIRST CLASS. Congress is spending $3.6 million of your tax money to maintain a $40 million Gulfstream V jet tricked up with security and communications gear. Its official purpose is to fly "crucial missions" into Iraq, but it also spends a lot of time schlepping FBI Director Robert Mueller around.

From the Washington Post:
[FBI officials] said that Mueller's logistical and security advisers have urged him to use the plane routinely. "It's not like he is the one checking the box for which plane he uses," Assistant Director John Miller said. "He is the CEO of the FBI's part in the war on terror. That means every trip he makes -- whether to rally the troops in field offices, to negotiate agreements with partners overseas or to explain to the public the changing threats and solutions -- furthers the operational mission of the bureau."
For $40 million and all the high-tech toys you can fly with, we at the Lightning Round would have asked for "Blue Thunder" instead. At least it came with a firestorm gun turret.

LOVERS, NOT FIGHTERS. "Don't ask, don't tell" apparently doesn't extend to the Air Force labs, where a watchdog organization discovered a proposal for a gay bomb.

From KPIX-TV, San Francisco:
As part of a military effort to develop non-lethal weapons, the proposal suggested, "One distasteful but completely non-lethal example would be strong aphrodisiacs, especially if the chemical also caused homosexual behavior."

The documents show the Air Force lab asked for $7.5 million to develop such a chemical weapon.

"The Ohio Air Force lab proposed that a bomb be developed that contained a chemical that would cause enemy soldiers to become gay, and to have their units break down because all their soldiers became irresistibly attractive to one another," [Edward] Hammond [of the Berkeley Project] said after reviewing the documents.
The military later rejected the idea. But it does get us thinking, or at least laughing. Your Lightning Round has said before that hormone control is the key to snuffing the fire of anger. However, we didn't mean stoking the flames of passion.

NAME'S THE SAME. Unfortunately, that stereotypical crack about "more chins than a Chinese phone book" has a grain of truth. Too many Chinese are sharing the same last name, causing a nomenclature crisis.

From AFP:
Current Chinese law states that children are only allowed take the surname from either their mother or father, but the lack of variety means there are now 93 million people in China with the family name Wang.

In a country of around 1.3 billion people, about 85 percent share only 100 surnames, according to a nationwide survey conducted by the Ministry of Public Security in April and published in the China Daily newspaper on Tuesday.
Chinese officials are considering an amendment letting children take hybrid last names.
For instance, a father named Zhou and mother named Zhu could choose to call their child either Zhou, Zhu, Zhouzhu or Zhuzhou, the report added.
Yes, it's tongue-knotting, but it's better than the AOL solution: who wants their children named Wang1284? And if Wang married Chung... let's not go there.

ALWAYS THE FIVE-FINGER DISCOUNT, ALWAYS. Wal-Mart has a growing problem with shrinkage, the economically-correct term for shoplifting.

From the AP:
[Retail consultant Burt] Flickinger and other analysts say the increase in theft may be tied to Wal-Mart's highly publicized decision last year to no longer prosecute minor cases of shoplifting in order to focus on organized shoplifting rings. Former employees also say staffing levels, including security personnel, have been reduced, making it easier for theft to occur. And a union-backed group critical of the retailer's personnel policies contends general worker discontent is playing a role.
Wal-Mart's official stance, according to AP:
The new policy seeks prosecutions of first-time offenders only if they are between ages 18 to 65 and steal at least $25 worth of merchandise.
Reading that correctly, we can get Grandfather Joe to slip out with the plasma screen. Jeffy, you've got that case of Miller Lite.

We jest, yet we offer this serious question: aren't those magnetic inventory control tags supposed to sound an alarm at the door when somebody walks off with the goods? Or did somebody steal that, too?

Something else to note: part of the role of the Wal-Mart greeter -- that person who rolls you a cart when you walk in -- is to create not only a friendly shopping environment, but also the perception you're being watched. That only works if the greeter isn't watching the stacks of new DVD releases and waiting to strike like an asp.

FROSTED FLAKES. Kellogg's is bowing to the food police, promising to reformulate both its cereals and its advertising.

From the New York Times:
The Kellogg Co. said Wednesday that it will phase out advertising its products to children younger than 12 unless the foods meet specific nutrition guidelines for calories, sugar, fat and sodium.

Kellogg also announced it will stop using licensed characters or branded toys to promote foods unless the products meet the nutrition guidelines.
Tony the Tiger's stripes just turned yellow. The cereal giant says these changes are voluntary, which your Lightning Round finds fruit-loopy seeing they come a year and a half after the company was threatened with a lawsuit from the usual health suspects: the Centers for Science in the Public Interest, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, and two Massachusetts parents. Those suits are now evaporating.

We wonder why Kellogg's didn't let these cases go to court. We know, we know, it's less expensive to settle, but seeing advocacy groups bully corporations into tougher nutritional standards affrights us, especially when we all find ways around those standards anyway. Powdered sugar donuts, anyone?

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