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The summertime alien problem

I have resolved to spread a message of tolerance to these aliens. Especially since they're already here. And writing tickets.
Jim Gabour
9 August 2011

There is a movie in theatres at this very moment called ‘Cowboys & Aliens’. Hollywood and Steven Spielberg think we are ready for an 1850's Wild Western where the Clint Eastwood-esque hero carries a raygun across the desert to reach and destroy multi-legged Bad Guys.  I myself paid to see it, and found it no more unbelievable than a furious afternoon among the same-suited bi-peds on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

But of course nothing surprises me in the heat of Summer 2011. 

Even before the movie, UFO sightings had risen some forty percent since the beginning of the summer according to various media to whom such things are important. The Government says: "It's the heat. People get hot and see flying saucers. Naturally-occurring sort of phenomenon," they say. 

PhDs specializing in mass psychology are making highly official-sounding statements on network news about "minor thermal hysteria".  The PhDs wear long white coats to the press conferences.  The coats always clinch their theories. The authority costume is very reassuring to everyone. No one could doubt the coats. They work really well. American made. 100% natural cotton fibre. Pre-shrunk. 

People like the heat idea. The affliction sounds good to them. The public these days also being happily in the mood for losing control. 

Low-level bankers and lawyers have started missing work the last two full moons. Middle-management executives as a group are taking an inordinate number of sick days, many doctoring themselves en masse with the yogic purges increasingly available at most tropically-inclined health clubs. 

All of society is affected. During the past month, thirty-odd thousand members of the Enlightened Church of Divine Righteousness have trooped into the sinful heat of New Orleans for their annual religious convention, delegates from all over the world maintaining their physical and spiritual health by doctoring themselves with 500mg salt tablets imported from the site of James Abram Garfield's last apparition. 

The twentieth President of the United States, his body allegedly taken from the surface of the planet in one of the aforementioned saucers, has supposedly seen fit to reveal his essence as a drawing on a vending machine in an Exxon ladies room near Elko, Nevada. A church scholar versed in apocalyptic visions of former chief executives says Garfield appears to be advocating salt tablet use in blood-boiling climes. $21.29 for a hundred-count UV-resistant bottleful, direct from the blessed station attendant's hands, with an equitable percentage to the church's soul-revival fund.  On sale in your hotel lobby. 

Much to other local businesses' chagrin, however, the thousands of convening church members came to New Orleans with only the Ten Commandments and a ten-dollar bill, and broke neither during their visit.  It was too hot to do anything fun, they said.

It isn't just resident humans of religious persuasions who are feeling other presences in the heat, however. Commercial and residential real-estate agents are claiming in ever-increasing numbers that the electronic wake of alien visitors' ships are lowering their sales totals. Ned Rander of Little Rock, Arkansas, spoke for the industry in his desperate keynote speech before the Suburban Realtor's Convention in late July. The gist of his plea was quoted in cutlines under a two-column picture of the speaker's dais in the current Property Movers' Gazette:

“Heat rays!" exclaimed Brother Rander (above right, with toaster) in his emotional closing remarks. "The scientists know they are there.  Massive rays shining right down through this planet's stagnant, inflamed atmosphere, for Godsake!  The alien thermal beams become more intense every day! And we, we see the results: single-family-dwelling sales drop to nothing!  We Certified Housing Agents, we're out there doing our noble but futile best to preserve democratic life as we know it, in an uncaring world being transformed by power-mad aliens into a global tanning booth!” 

The trade paper dutifully reported that Ned has been known to have mild bouts of paranoia since a recent bladder surgery, but his message rang true and strong with the concerned realtors hearing and reading those prophetic words. 

The beacons, and summer movie plots, are reportedly also touching other vulnerable white-collar brains, causing insurance sales forces to have disturbing en masse daydreams about interplanetary abduction.  And the settlements required by such actions. Their only hope is that the aliens can soon be legally defined as God, and their Acts, by definition, exempt.

Worship services are being encouraged. 

Tabloid newspapers stained with the chicken blood of supermarket check-out stands report "Unconfirmed Air Force Sightings" on a daily basis, publishing fuzzy photos of dark or light rounded or square-edged space craft every other cover throughout the summer. The photos, usually taken by a trucker named Derek Wizzer from Wyoming or a housewife named Aline Lodenlach from the suburbs of St Louis, are quite artistic. They are inevitably accompanied by line drawings of the inhabitants of the dark or light round or square vehicle. To me these aliens always look like Xavier Cougat. My bartender thinks they more closely resemble Louis Prima. Most of my acquaintances agree that the alien planet is definitely Latin and musical. 

I spotted another of the drawings on the smudged front page of a newspaper displayed near the cash register of a French Quarter deli a few days ago. On the lookout for a refreshing, picnic-style meal, I was buying a pound of decoratively-packaged quasi-dairy product, which I had ever-so-slowly removed from a massive cooler by way of mini-vacation. The label identified my purchase as "cheese food", making me wonder, in my current interplanetary state of mind, if it is actually feed for growing other cheeses. But as I paid that day, I read the displayed article and looked at the new alien pictorial. 

It was then that I recognized the figure in the photo. I was, and remain quite sure, that the illustration is modeled after the meter maid who works the Dauphine street night shift near my home.  I have always suspected the portly woman with the nose mole has a bigger purpose in the Universe than collecting quarters from errant car-parkers. 

Since viewing that article I have resolved to spread a message of tolerance to these aliens.  Especially since they're already here. And writing tickets. 

Though, as long as I continue to ride my bicycle, I believe the disguised visitors can do me little personal harm, it's a whole new sweaty cosmos out there.

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals


To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.


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