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At criminal-justice newswire ABP Online’s G-Files
area, interesting records and
documents acquired through the Freedom of Information and Privacy acts
are scanned and posted online in their entirety. Among the most notable
G-Files offerings are government
documents
on
Vince Foster’s
death,

including FBI files on the case and a RealAudio recording
of the notorious phone
call to the Clearwater police.

Other topics regarding which G-Files has compiled documentation
include Andrew Cunanan
(the killer of the
fashion designer Gianni Versace) and Frank Sinatra, along with various
other historical figures, celebrities, and X-Files-ish topics such as
Roswell. The
credulous may wish to take the G-Files disclaimer to heart: “APB Online
provides these government files because of their news and research
value. But it’s important to remember that FBI and other official
documents, while valuable historical records, can contain unverified and
even inaccurate information.”

Elsewhere on APB Online: don’t miss the Serial Killer Bureau which, besides
presenting breaking news and background features on serial killer
investigations and issues across the United States, has recently
developed an interactive atlas of serial killer patterns. See what dark
deeds are taking place in your neck of the woods — and shudder.

If you’re not paranoid yet, the Web is ready to help you get there.
Check out the Nashville police department’s Rate Your Risk
interactive tests, which use
questionnaires developed by police experts to create a ballpark estimate
of your statistical risk of being a) burglarized, b) murdered, or c)
“raped, robbed, stabbed, shot, or beaten.” Don’t forget to reckon with
the malign and vengeful side of Mother Nature, either. These health
quizzes can reveal your risk for diabetes, coronary heart disease,
alcoholism, osteoporosis, and
cancer (extensive;
results mailed). Or you could always just cut to the chase and take this
fun longevity
test. (OK, OK, so maybe I’m just in a bad mood this morning.)

It was a dark and stormy night …

That opening, famously appropriated by Snoopy in the heyday of the
Peanuts comic strip, was originally used by Victorian novelist Edward
George, Earl Bulwer-Lytton to open his 1830 novel Paul Clifford.
I haven’t read Paul Clifford myself, but I can’t be missing much,
because the sheer hokeyness of its opening lines has inspired an annual
contest for the worst conceivable
opening line or paragraph for a novel. Sponsored by the San Jose State
University English Department, the contest has generated some screaming
howlers over the years.
The 1999 winners have not yet been posted — the selection process is
probably taking place as I write this — but if they’re half as funny as
last year’s winners they
ought to make worthwhile surfing.

Putting the mobile
back in automobile

Traffic congestion
really can be beat, says Peter Samuels in Issues in Science and
Technology
— and it won’t take draconian environmentalist
regulations to fix it. Anti-car supporters of increased mass transit
have in effect become a pro-congestion lobby, wanting the traffic
situation to deteriorate as much and as quickly as possible. That way
they can hope to push legislators into funding public transit while
serendipitously discouraging the individual from driving. But carpooling
and mass transit are solutions that, except for a very few big-city
subways such as New York’s, really don’t appeal to anyone who has to use
them regularly. The fact is that cars really are better: quicker,
easier, more convenient, and offering far more freedom of movement.
Instead of pouring money into transit systems no one will want to use,
Samuels recommends we use our resources to develop creative approaches
to the ways in which existing freeways and rights of way are used. That
means exploring notions such as separate truck lanes or more underground
tunnel highways. “The problems on the roads,” he says, “must be tackled
on the roads.”

Jar Jar revisited (briefly, I promise)

Speaking of the dark side: now you can read WorldNetDaily — or any
other Web page, for that matter — in Jar Jar Binks’s own
oh-so-very-special patois. Simply type into the
Jar-Jargonizer the URL of the
page you want translated into Gungan, sit back, and enjoy the pathetic
results. (Fair warning: I had mysterious difficulties on one of the two
computers on which I tried it, so it’s possible there are Macintosh
incompatibilities or other problems of some kind with the site.)

Getting the most
from frequent-flyer programs

Are frequent-flyer programs really a good deal? And does anyone ever
actually score free tickets on a desirable route? Consumer Reports’
travel newsletter has posted a scuttlebutt-filled
essay,

“Most Wanted Award Seats — And How to Get Them.” It includes details on
the most over- and under-subscribed current domestic and international
routes as well as indexing the stingiest and most generous programs
(Delta’s a bit of a Scrooge, while American gets top marks). Learn how
to use your miles wisely … and which awards are likeliest to be a
rip-off.

The best frequent-flyer site around is
WebFlyer, which regularly reviews
different programs in-depth and provides frequent-flyer news and
updates, an excellent FAQ, DealWatch (Wednesday’s last-minute savings
deals for the weekend, collected from various airlines), easy enrollment
and the Freddie Awards, which recognize the best among frequent-flyer
programs. Hard-core frequent flyers can even apply for a Mileage
Makeover
— a free,
individualized review of your mileage programs and personal goals,
promising to maximize mile earning and optimize usage — and read the
archived stories of other people’s makeovers. This sounds a little
obsessive to me, kind of one of those things that qualifies for the
get-a-life department, but I admit I might feel differently if I
traveled more often than I do.

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