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Rusty Saber

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by Joe McAdoo

People ask me where I find news stories reported on in this column. I read as many newspapers as I can lay hands on. I believe some little-known stories say more about life in America than front page headliners about the president and his interns, special prosecutors, congressional hearings, and yes, even basketball.

I've created a category system in which to place these news events that helps me better understand them. Some categories and stories follow:

The Greatest Understatement of the Year So Far, At Least: The U.S. Border Patrol found 35 illegal immigrants crammed in the back of a truck at a check point between San Diego and Los Angeles. According to the story, the driver, a Mexican citizen, may be charged with smuggling. He may be charged? What else would they do with him? Talk about understatement.

If he is charged, I believe I know what his defense should be. He should claim this was the worst case of carjacking in history: "There I was," he should say, "minding my own business, when these 35 people jumped into my truck and ordered me to take them to L.A., or else. What was I to do?"

This truck driver needs to hurry with his defense claim, however. At Tucson, Border Patrol agents report that in one week's time, six loads of illegal immigrants had been found hiding in motor homes. In one RV they found 73 illegals. I assume they became suspicious because of the arms and legs poking out of the windows. If the driver of the RV gets wind of the carjacking defense first, the truck driver is out of luck.

Stress Test Tales: Michael Dyer Jr., a 15-year-old from Dayton, Ohio, has dropped his lawsuit against his high school because it had ordered him to stop wearing tongue jewelry to school. His lawyer said the sweet lad with holes poked in his tongue to hold jewelry dropped his suit to spare his family the stress the suit would cause them.

Unfortunately, the family must still endure the stress of having this little clod with jewelry stuck through his tongue hanging around the house. The happy ending of this story is that the school said the kid still wouldn't be allowed in class until he gets rid of the tongue jewelry.

Feel-Good Legislation: The Pine Bluff, Ark., City Council is considering a proposal to allow nightclubs to remain open until 5:00 a.m., but they must stop serving alcohol at 3 a.m. Supporters believe the extra two hours will give drunks time to sober up before driving.

Anything that keeps drunk drivers off the road sounds good on paper, however, like most feel-good legislation, it probably won't accomplish much. Why would drunks stick around to sober up? They didn't come to the bar to get sober; why hang around if you can't buy any more booze?

Why would the bar owner want to stay open if he can't sell it to them? I doubt he would want to baby-sit a room full of surly drunks likely to create trouble because they can't continue to pickle their livers. Drunks, acting like drunks, likely would fight, throw up on the floor, or do the time-honored drunk thing and pass out. I wonder if the city fathers have considered police patrols near the bars arresting drunks as they drive away?

What is Life Worth, Anyway?: In Washington state (I can't recall which city), a driver of a pick-up truck struck and killed two people in a crosswalk. As I understand the story, the driver wasn't under the influence of alcohol or drugs. His crime: "Failure to stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk."

He was fined (this isn't a typo) $119. If my grade-school math teacher taught me to divide properly, this means that, in Washington, a life is worth $59.50. Had the driver been smoking a marijuana joint, the value of the victims might have been a little higher.

Finally, from my home state of Kansas comes a story in the category Say It Ain't So: The Kansas legislature is considering a bill to make the polka the official state ethnic dance and the square dance the official folk dance. The square dance I understand, but I didn't know the polka was big in Kansas. North Dakota, perhaps, but Kansas?

Good heavens, can the accordion be far behind as the official state musical instrument? Say it ain't so. Enough small news; everyone can now return to the Bill Clinton-Ken Starr Chronicles and, of course, basketball ...

(Joe McAdoo is former chairman of the communication department at Drury College and a Springfield public relations consultant.)

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