HOT OFF THE PRESS sept.28.1999
In this issue: A woman is abused in a controversial episode of Millennium; Scandal rocks the herbal supplement industry; Michigan man to be hanged for swearing in front of women.
Ground-Breaking Television to air on FOX
divisiontwo staff writer
This week on a landmark episode of the hit Fox drama Millennium, network executives and series producers are pushing the boundaries of network television and taking the show into an area no previous episode has dared tread. According to a press release by Millinnium executive producer Chris Carter, this week's episode will center on a woman being kidnapped by a "sociopathic character" (played by John Ritter of Three's Company), abused, and possibly killed. Carter teases, "You'll have to watch to find out if she lives."
Almost a million viewers are expected to tune in to the special episode this Thursday; that's nearly three times the size of the show's previous peak audience. "We think this is a positive step for the series and for the Fox network in general," said chief programming executive Kevin Chou. "No network drama has ever dared show a woman being abducted and abused by a crazy man. We're targeting the episode not only at our usual demographic of males aged 18-20, but at boomers and early teens as well. Heck, Grandma might even be interested. Why don't you call her and ask? She's probably lonely."
But calling Grandma isn't what many concerned viewers have been doing the past few days. Since the announcement last Wednesday, the network's switchboards have been jammed with more calls than the system can handle. Paper mail to the network has tripled, and traffic on the studio's website has increased tenfold, allowing foxnetwork.com to finish third in last week's website rankings, just under the popular Yahoo! portal site and a site where users can swap pictures of zoo animal genitalia. According the Tiffy, the intern who opens and shreds the paper mail, most of the comments she has glanced at "have contained the word 'the' somewhere." Erik, the intern who deletes the email sent to the network, added that "a lot of the subject lines are about making money fast on the web, but once in a while they're about the shows. I just delete everything with a neat macro I wrote."
Cindy Blouzmen, a women claiming to be the chairgirl of a group called the National Organization for Women, spoke out about the episode in a letter she sent directly to Fox network executives. "I don't know what kind of publicity stunt you guys are trying to pull," she wrote in pink pen, "but every single week Millennium shows a woman being kidnapped and abused in some way. I know because I see the commercials sometimes when I'm watching Futurama."
Fox Network President Michael Stilstein said he was "saddened" to read Ms. Blouzmen's comments, but mentioned that he has already ordered some of his top men to review the direction of the entire series and form recommendations as to how to make it more female-friendy. Already there has been talk of possibly including some product placement from companies like Revlon, Playtex, and Mattel, makers of the popular fashion doll Barbie, in future episodes. "Women will tune in to the show if the series speaks to them on a deep, personal level," said Stilson.
But despite the recent hype and media scrutiny, it appears that actual public reaction to the announcement may be rather tepid. Divisiontwo man-on-the-street interviewer Cal Sindel reports that most people he spoke with today either hadn't heard of the show, hadn't heard of Fox, or thought he was talking about Moesha, a show of similar content on the UPN network. "I'm surprised no one has heard of this show," said Cal, "especially since it's been on for four seasons now and I have every episode on tape. It really is very good once you get into it."
When asked if he had found a girlfriend yet, Cal looked down at his shoes and shook his head no.
Scandal Rocks the Herbal Supplement Industry
In an announcement that shook the herbal supplement industry like a killer Turkish earthquake, the University of Minnesota's drug research team which looked into many of the most popular supplement offerings claimed that as many as 97 of the 100 popular herbal supplements they tested had little or no value. In a few extreme cases, they added, some have even been shown to have negative effects on the human body.
The tests were conducted by the University of Minnesota Biology Department in Minneapolis, Minnesota, by a rotating group of freshmen and prospective freshmen. For each supplement, the eyelids were severed off a group of ten kittens, ten puppies, and a control group of five guinea pigs. The drugs were then powderized, liquified, and painted onto the corneas of each restrained animal. The drugs were rated on a scale of 1 to 10 according to the level of apparent pain each animal experienced. The guinea pigs in the control group had their eyelids severed but received no ocular treatments, and then were sold to several U of M fraternities for a dollar each.
Topping the U of M's listing of the most painful, and therefore unhealthy, natural supplements were Lemon Peel Extract, St. John's Wort, and Echinacea. According to documentation released with the findings, all of the 60 kittens and puppies the these supplements were tested on went blind as a result of overnight ocular contact. Additionally, "significant vision loss" was reported in animals after treatments with as many as 35 of the supplements tested.
But these findings don't come without a their share of controversy. Spring Valley Co., a major distributor of many of the supplements mentioned in the report, called the findings "inconclusive" and stressed that there needs to be more testing done before these supplements can be definitively declared unhealthy. "We still don't have any clue what happens when rabbits are given rectal injections of Lemon Peel Extract, St. John's Wort, or Echinacea, for example," he pointed out.
U of M Biology professor Rich Anderson agrees. "More money needs to be allocated for testing of this nature." Anderson hopes to get an additional $4 million from the FDA for testing on full-grown cats and dogs, as well as on racoons, beavers, and Minnesota inmates. It is only then, he warns, that a final determination can be made as to the safety of these drugs for human consumption.
Several U of M students have been actively protesting the research project, which they claim is a pointless torture of animals with no real scientific value. A total of six students and one local vagrant showed up for the group's latest protest on Monday morning. Surprised by a bigger than expected turnout, protest organizer Jenny Timmens roused the group with a dazzling and fiery oratory. "We can't let innocent kittens and puppies be killed anymore!" she shouted into the megaphone, "They're cute! I love kitties!"
When asked about whether or not the testing of natural herbal supplements in this manner is unnecessarily cruel and useless, Anderson rebutted, "if your child were to accidentally get some powdered and liquefied Echinacea in his eye, and then fall asleep with his eyes open for 24 hours, I think you would be pretty thankful that someone out there knows what to do."
Students involved in the research project agreed. "It was really cool to watch the puppies twitch and howl when you put that stuff in their eyes," said freshman Tony Detillo. Freshman Louis Risco added, "It was so cool that I even put some of the research pictures on my website."
Also making the U of M's list of dangerous supplements were Sun Valley's Rose Petal Extract, Thistle Extract, classic Indian peyote, and Avon Ever-Stay nail polish. "We only tested the nail polish because one of our mother cats had a bigger litter than we expected, and we had a few eager transfer students who wanted to get involved somehow," Anderson explained.
The complete findings of the tests will be posted on the U of M's website within the next few weeks.
Puritan, Michigan Man to be Hanged for Swearing
Trevor Holmquist, 36, of Puritan, Michigan, was sentenced to death by hanging last Friday by 96-year old judge Wallace Clarence Olson. The sentence falls under an 1842 statute that makes it illegal to swear in front of women, children, or any other "persons of infantile sensibilities", with a maximum penalty of death by public hanging.
Holmquist could not speak through his court-ordered mouth guards and tongue restraints, but his lawyer told divisiontwo reporter Garret Puele that the verdict was "tough but necessary in these times of moral decay." Holmquist's lawyer, Herbert Olson, is a 73 year-old court-appointed attorney and is also Judge Olson's eldest son.
Herbert Olson said he and his client are not planning an appeal, but that Holmquist will "take his sentence like a gentleman." At this comment, Holmquist moaned something inaudible and was promptly punched in the stomach by two sexy court bailiffs.
Holmquist leaves behind no wife and no children, a fact which Judge Olson was quick to condemn as "a blatant shirking of man's duty to God." Judge Olson also didn't like Holmquist's "disgusting long hair," his small earring, and his wrist tatoo. "Never before have I seen such a revolting, impious figure in my court room."
Holmquist was arrested in Plymouth two months ago following an incident in which a bicyclist ran over his foot in Plymouth Park, prompting Holmquist to shout the word "fuck" at the man. Judge Olson happened to be in the park that day, as were some women who were "not without earshot," according to Olson. Olson promptly ordered Holmquist arrested, held without bail, and tried in front of a jury of Olson's friends.
"Our society is in a degradation," Judge Olson explained. "We have to do what is right in the eyes of society and in the eyes of God. We cannot allow the moral fabric of our communities to be unraveled any further."
Most of the town of Puritan agrees with Judge Olson's assertion. Many local businesses have been displaying "Hang Holmquist" signs in their windows, and elementary school children are wearing "God Hates Holmquist" buttons on their uniforms to school each day. The buttons, Olson promises, will get them front row seats at the execution. "Our children need to learn positive Christian values, and what happens to people who would deny them."
Divisiontwo asked Judge Olson if he truly felt swearing was a serious enough crime to warrant the death penalty. Olson explained, "Swearing is not a crime in and of itself. In the company of men, it is okay. But in mixed company, it is a sin. It offends the delicate, childlike sensibilities of women and corrupts our children. It can also lead to miscarriages."
The American Civil Liberties Union promises it will look into the case as soon as it gets through defending a black Ku Klux Klan member's right to defecate in a public swimming pool. Ironically, perhaps poetically, this is likely to be long after Holmquist's execution, which is scheduled for Monday, October 4. Tickets are available through the Puritan City Council's website at www.puritancity.gov.
September 19, 1999: JFK Junior named Man of the Century; Students share their views on returning to Columbine; Scented candles can be dangerous.
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