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W hat kind of people call in to conspiracy-theory radio shows? I haven't met many of them, but they're out there -- sweating, trembling, and ferociously dialing. Their enthusiasm has rejuvenated the world of talk radio, proving once and for all that Orson Welles' theatrical paranoia is nothing compared to the real thing. I'm just grateful the radio programs keep these folks safely indoors; who knows what kind of terror they might unleash otherwise.

And while we're on the subject of strange people, what kind of man would sue his own wife for smoking? Richard J. Thomas, for one. Or as he likes to be called, Dick. You may be wondering, as I was, who is this Dick who would drag his spouse to Federal court? You'll understand when you read this article about the crusty, colorful man who successfully used the legal system to kick his wife's habit.

Final question: What sort of person wants to have heart-to-heart conversations with his computer? If you guessed a linguist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab, you are correctamundo. Find out how Justine Cassell is harnessing the power of human expressions to make computers that can not only think, but emote. (Pretty cool, but I won't be truly impressed until they invent a computer that gets paranoid, dials radio shows, and sweats.)

See you next week,

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The Waiting Game
Margaret Renkl on the agony of waiting for Christmas morning. [10]
Margaret Renkl

Shopping Simple
Walter Jowers hunts Brenda's Christmas present. [11]
Walter Jowers

Odds & Ends
Timed-release news capsules from the flipside. [12]
Devin D. O'Leary

Mr. Smarty Pants
Our resident know-it-all unearths the latest trivia. [13]
R.U. Steinberg

Volume I, Issue 28
December 15 - December 22, 1997

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Tune in on Terror
America's radio network of conspiracy theorists and unrestricted talk radio. [2]
Liz Murray Garrigan

You, Robot
In MIT's Media Lab, linguist Justine Cassell is trying to do what techies can't -- make computers more human. [3]
Tom Scocca

Burning Passion
Smoking out the audacious things one man did for love. [4]
Keith O'Brien

Brain Storming
Memphian Dr. Darel Butler discusses his work with controversial Nobel Prize-winner Stanley Prusiner. [5]
Debbie Gilbert

Hot and Bothered
Lessons from last week's global-warming summit in Kyoto. [6]
Debbie Gilbert

Rethinking Republicanism
Now that the New Paradigm's a washout, what's the GOP thinking on the national front? [7]
Daniel Casse

The Rich Get Richer
A Boston think tank keeps track of how the extremely wealthy got that way. Hint: pick rich parents. [8]
Peter Werby

Petrified With Fear!
If you steal petrified wood from northern Arizona, be prepared to pay the otherworldly consequences! [9]
Leo Banks

Now What?
Can't get enough news? You're in luck -- more news is created every day. Our Now What? page offers a plethora of recommended links to help keep you living in the present. [14]

Talk Back
Our online BBS is an open forum where you can say anything you like about current events, controversies, or anything else that might be stuck in your craw.

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