A New and Shining Land 
The government of Tuvalu reacted to todays announcement of the existence of Tamu Massif, the world's largest volcano. Tuvaluan officials are looking into the feasibility of Tamu Massif becoming an a future homeland for the people of the likely-doomed island nation.

"As you know, Tuvalu is disappearing beneath the rising ocean level," explains Roger Funafuti, of the Tuvalu Geophysical Union. "Global warming is causing our lands to more and more by swallowed up by the sea. We see this undersea volcano as a potential source of a new island for our people. This thing is the size of your New Mexico. New Mexico! That's around 10,000 times the size of our current homeland!"

Social scientists explain that Tamu Massif is an inactive volcano and is unlikely to develop into an island in the near future. "It is, after all, two kilometers under water," explains Christopher Nanumea, of Tuvalou's Society for Social Change. "In order to build an island from this volcano, we need to make it active and the best way to do that is to anger the volcanoes "gods".

"For millennia, island people have sacrificed virgins to calm raging volcanoes," Nanumea continued. "Now we have to shift gears and find truly -- how shall I say? -- 'experienced' people who be sacrificed to Tamu Massif. We hope to find some monumentally naughty individuals."

When asked how many of these people he expects to volunteer for human sacrifice, he answered a surprised exclamation, "None! Goodness, no. Who in their right mind would do so. No, we're relying on old-fashioned greed to get out non-virgins. Watch for an exciting offer of a tropical time-share 'with benefits' in your mail box," chuckled Nanumea.


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Just Like Home 
Top scientists have discovered a new Earth-like planet that seems to show signs of life. A joint team of sky watchers from the USA, France, Japan, and Fiji have, until now, kept the exact coordinates of the planet a closely guarded secret until they could verify their observations.

"We are all quite excited by this," exclaimed Hidayo Tenge, senior star gazer for the project. "Not only is there an abundant quantity of water, but the size of the planet is, as close as our measurements allow, identical to Earth! Further more, spectral analysis seems to indicate the presence of elements in the atmosphere, such as lead and mercury, that normally only show up in such great quantities if there has been some sort of industrial activity. There is even a significant amount of Peroxyacetyl nitrate."

"We are preparing a series of radio broadcasts that will be beamed in the direction of the new planet," added Martin Kirby, US stellar ponderer. "We hope, in time, to hear a reply from them."

"Anyway, we're getting ahead of ourselves," continued Kirby. "We've asked the press here to announce the direction in which the new planet lies. Or is it lay? Let's go with 'lies'. We found this when we pointed the Hubble telescope at x-axis 12.393932, y-axis -30.780718, and z-axis -2.782142."

"No, no ... my colleague meant to say z-axis POSITIVE 2.782142," corrected a tense Benoit Redin, manager for the project.

Kirby went on to insist the z-axis was, indeed, negative, leading Redin to thank the members of the press for attending what he explained was actually a very preliminary briefing and to expect clarified announcements in the near future.

"Light refreshments with beer and wine," mentioned Redin, "are now available in the lobby."

"Lots of beer and wine," he added, after a pause.


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And a Hard Rain Will Fall 
Astroclimatologists meeting in Helsinki have proposed a new, combined strategy for addressing the seemingly unrelated issues of global warming and so-called killer asteroids. "We are just going to ignore the asteroids and hope that one of the big ones slams into Siberia," explains Aleksei Flavitsky, leader of the Russian delegation. "The whole idea of trying to change the path of a significantly large asteroid is not only technically unfeasible, it is counterproductive."

Asked to explain, Flavitsky continued, "We are currently experiencing a period of global warming compounded by a refusal of those in power to do anything about. Some of them honestly do not believe the planet is getting warmer, but even those who understand the problem are refusing to do anything. They say is is bad for business. If we can get an asteroid to hit Earth -- a really big one, or possibly a small comet -- we suddenly get gigatonnes of debris into the atmosphere. Less sunlight hits the ground and everything cools down for a few years." Analysts suggest that Flavitsky's hope that such an impact will occur in Siberia has less to do with a dislike for Siberia than it does for an interest in mining the rare metals that may come with an asteroid.

"I don't much care the for effect this will have on living organisms," interjects British scientist Oliver Skipsey, "but I must agree, it will cool things down a bit. It may, perhaps, lead to unprecedented mortality, especially in urban areas, but there will be pockets of humanity that will survive."

"My greatest fear," Skipsey admits, "is that we'll be left with a world consisting primarily of small rodents and preppers."

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News of the News 
The news, as we know it, is a never ending thing. We can turn on the TV or look at our mobile devices and find a constant stream of text and talk about what is happening in the world around us. All too often, however, it's the same news we took in ten minutes before. All too rarely, is it news of substance, with news organizations favoring the latest gyrations of pop stars over the happenings that shape humanity on the other side of the globe. At other times we are regaled with the latest accomplishments of sports teams, while problems close to home are ignored.

It is a shameful state of affairs. We now have the ability to hear more of what's happening in the world, to experience more of life's breadth, but instead we recycle the same minutia for hours at a stretch. We don't ever get depth from the limited number of events that repeat before our eyes. We don't experience the width or depth of the ocean of information that is out there; instead, we're limited to splashing around in a puddle.

There was a time when "news" wasn't pushed at us all day long. Once upon a time, one-hour news shows were a novelty. For the longest time, the major broadcast networks took 30 minutes each day to acquaint us with what was happening in the world and around the country. The knowledge we gained from those half-hours was concise and informative. We learned about injustice and fought for civil rights. We learned about the war in Vietnam and demanded an end to it. We learned about the death of a president and mourned as one. We learned important things, for the most part, and tried to make good use of the information.

Before that, evening news programs were even shorter. It was fifty years ago today that the CBS Evening News expanded from 15 minutes to 30 and became the USA's first half-hour weeknight news show. News programming gave us the who, what, when, where, and why for the day, then moved on to other news on another day. Today, we settle for less news and it's spread as thinly as technology will all.

And that's the way it is.

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That Voice 
In a world where "In a world ..." has been used to introduce thousands of movie trailers, one man stood out from the crowd. A man whose voice was cut from stone and whose intonations carried the certainty of doom or glory. Don LaFontaine didn't set out to be "that guy from the movie commercials"; he started out as a production assistant writing copy for the promotional clips, recording the music, recording the voice-over artist, and mastering the final version that would be sent to a studio's advertising office for release to the public.

A one-man army of audio-visual production, all of that was to change when the voice talent his studio had engaged failed to show up for a recording session. LaFontaine, with little other choice available, read the copy himself. It wasn't the voice that was supposed to be on the trailer for "Gunfighters Of Casa Grande", but it was a placeholder so that the people at Columbia Pictures could get a feel for how it was going to sound. They liked it; they didn't want it changed and released it to the waiting public. LaFontaine pocketed the voice-over fee and decided it might be fun to do more of this.

He took his work seriously, but didn't take himself too seriously. For years, until he became extremely famous, he would often record outgoing messages for people's answer machines for free, as long as they let him do what ever he pleased. He also had few reservations when it came to parodying himself, as he did for one of his numerous guest voice actor roles -- "In a world . . . there, I said it. Happy?"

He inspired, and continues to inspire, voice-over artists. However, since he left this celestial orb five years ago today, movie trailers don't sparkle quite the way they used to.

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