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Better Read This Today

September 02, 2002

One rarely noted blessing of Labor Day and summer's unofficial end is the changed definition of what's news and, therefore, what's on the nation's chatter agenda. People return to work and school these days and to doing what's more likely to matter than sitting on a beach worrying whether they set the air conditioner too low back home.

As recently as last week came reports that more states now were allowing legal trust funds for pets; news that 1992's devastating Hurricane Andrew was even stronger than thought; and the revelation of a very, very long-awaited decision that Earth's earliest known asteroid impact probably occurred 3.5 billion years ago, give or take.

More than 15 states now recognize legal trust funds for pets, averaging $25,000, in the event of their owner's death. (Yes, we know some believe no one can own any living thing.) No states recognize pet bequests to owners.

To be honest, no one knows exactly how strong Hurricane Andrew was in August 1992 because it blew away south Florida's wind-measuring instruments. Which makes it possible for experts to announce without great fear of contradiction that its winds were not merely 145 miles an hour but probably way over 155. This no doubt brings inner peace to those who collectively suffered more than $25 billion in losses.

About the meteorite, geologists say it was 12 miles wide or maybe 30, and erased global land life, which explains the absence of Daytimer entries back then.

August was also a tough time to be wildlife this year. Experts (who else could get away with this stuff?) began poisoning Maryland ponds and lakes to kill all northern snakehead fish, described as voracious predators from China that threaten native fish. No spokesmen extolled immigrant snakehead family life or aquatic ambition, rising from lowly pond alien to alpha fish.

October and November have always been very bad months to be a deer in Wisconsin. This year, add August. State, uh, experts--creating a cure without a recovery--ordered the extraordinary slaughter of 25,000 deer because some might have contagious chronic wasting disease. Feel better?

On the brighter side of summer's news, LifeGem Memorials of Chicago says it has perfected a procedure to turn cremated human remains into diamonds that can be worn by survivors. A full carat of pressured ashes costs $22,000.

But after today, we can no longer talk about such things.

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