Millions and Millions Dead

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Vol 35 Issue 21

Celebrity Killed In Mid-Air 747 Collision

LOS ANGELES—Actor Conrad Janis, best known as Pam Dawber's father on the popular television program Mork & Mindy, is believed among the deceased in a mid-air collision of two filled-to-capacity Delta Boeing 747s Monday which left no survivors. Janis, who co-starred as Fred McConnell on the ABC sitcom from 1978 to 1982, was approximately 45 miles from the Pacific Coast when the tragic accident occurred. Janis, 71, also appeared in numerous films, most recently in 1996's The Cable Guy. While a search of the ticketing database has not yet determined whether any of the other 836 passengers were celebrities, the FAA has promised a full inquiry into Janis' death.

Daddy Hitting Mommy With A Chair This Time

MURFREESBORO, TN—Noises coming from the living room indicate that Daddy is hitting Mommy with a chair this time, way-back-in-the-closet sources reported Tuesday. Use of the chair—a departure from Daddy's normal yelling, hitting and kicking routine—was attributed to the existence of all the dishes in the F-word sink, as well as various other complaints. During the incident, Daddy also raised allegations of marital infidelity, which Mommy categorically denied.

Money Continues To Pour In To Some Undesignated Far-Off Point Somewhere

FAR, FAR AWAY FROM HERE—With the U.S. economy booming for the ninth straight year, money continues to pour into some undesignated far-off point somewhere, resulting in an increased standard of living for someone or another, common logic indicates. "I heard America is experiencing the greatest period of prosperity and fiscal health since the '50s," said steel-mill worker Devin Tumbusch of Philadelphia, who has not received a raise in four years. "I don't know who's benefitting from all this financial growth, but, wherever they may be, good for them." The widespread economic stability is expected to greatly benefit a whole bunch of people whom someone else knows.

Down With The League Of Nations

This blasted League Of Nations folly is about what I'd expect from that devious bastard President Wilson, meddling in foreign affairs when he should be attending to more important matters! What about all these damned Irish and He-brews and Po-lacks who are swarming into our great Re-public and ointment! Ointment! OINTMENT!

Louis Lapham Went Way Over The Line This Time

I hope you don't mind, but I've really got to blow off a little steam after reading editor Lewis Lapham's "Notebook" column in the June issue of Harper's Magazine. Over the years, I've grown accustomed to Lapham's disregard for propriety, but this time he went way over the line. I tried to keep calm, but when I read that the magazine's new "Archive" feature was meant, as he put it, to counter the popular impression that we live in a perpetual and annihilating present that severs our kinship with the past—man, oh man, I wanted to find that guy and pop him a good one.

Area Daughter Wearing Next To Nothing

ATHENS, GA—Anger, shock, and feelings of intense awkwardness were just some of the reactions in the Helstein household Tuesday as Jeremy Helstein, 46, scolded his 17-year-old daughter Erica for allegedly wearing "next to nothing."
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Millions and Millions Dead

As the body count continues to rise, a shaken nation is struggling to cope in the wake of the mass deaths sweeping the world population. With no concrete figures available at this early stage, experts estimate at least 250,000 U.S. citizens have died in the last month alone, with death tolls across the globe reaching into the millions.

The wave of deaths has left a brutal aftermath, rocking survivors with feelings of loss and horror, traumatizing the American cultural landscape to its core and leaving behind emotional devastation some say may take years to heal.

What's worse, experts say, the crisis shows no signs of letting up any time soon.

"Oh, my God," sobbed Edina, MN resident Elizabeth Kendrick, 42, whose father, retired insurance actuary Gilbert Ploman, 68, lost his life last Thursday at Shady Villa Nursing Home. "He was a good man, a kind man who never did anything to deserve this terrible fate. Why did something like this have to happen? Oh, God, why?"

As wrenching as Kendrick's grief is, she is just one of the countless Americans who feel the anguish that continues to tear the country apart. Across the nation, in millions of homes in thousands of cities, similar scenes played out, as survivors gathered to mourn, pray, and somehow pick up the pieces while attempting to make sense of it all.

In Fargo, ND, Tom Blake, 89, attended the funeral of his wife Edith, who died of a brain tumor Thursday night. In Augusta, ME, family members broke down in tears, overwhelmed by news of the hang-gliding death of 26-year-old outdoorsman Lance Blaine. And in Cicero, IL, no explanations could comfort the family of accidental auto-erotic-asphyxiation victim Bob Carpenter. Everywhere, those left behind comforted each other as best they could, looking for some kind of hope.

"This epidemic knows no bounds, follows no common denominators, and crosses all demographic lines without impunity," said Harvard University's Gregory Jameson. "Although senior citizens and the terminally ill have seemed to suffer the most casualties, this syndrome does not discriminate. Rich and poor, young and old, people of all races, creeds and backgrounds imaginable have succumbed to its relentless advance."

Friends and family comfort potential victims of the death epidemic in Manila.

"We are, all of us, at risk," Jameson said, "and medical science is powerless to stop it."

As devastating as the crisis is here at home, it may be worse overseas. World Health Organization officials are reporting similar death rates across the globe, with widespread casualties reported from as far away as Somalia, Borneo, Brazil, Malaysia and Luxembourg.

In the wake of such suffering, there is no way to adequately explain the tragedy. Yet the seemingly random nature of the mass deaths has made them even harder for the survivors to understand.

"In a situation like this, it's only natural to want to assign blame," said Dr. Frederick MacDougal of the National Center for Infectious Diseases, who recently lost a third cousin to a degenerative nerve disorder. "But the disturbing thing about this case is that no one factor is at fault. People are dying for such a wide range of reasons—gunshot wounds, black-lung disease, falls down elevator shafts—that we have been unable to isolate any single element as the cause."

"No one simple explanation can encompass the enormous scope of this problem," MacDougal added. "And that's very difficult for most people to process psychologically."

As experts continue to struggle for a solution, the nation is left to cope with the crisis one day at a time. But as it stands, the death rate is so high that most of the resources of the world's funeral homes are being called upon to deal with the vast quantities of bodies. Virtually every mortician in the nation is currently employed in some capacity to meet the demand, and more corpses are arriving daily. The cost of the non-stop interments exceeds billions of dollars each year.

As more people succumb each day, hospitals and doctors are finding themselves on 24-hour call. Taxed to the limit, the nation's health-care infrastructure is proving inadequate to handle the needs of sick and dying patients. And though sales of health aides and pharmaceuticals have skyrocketed, nothing has stemmed the tide.

Despite efforts to keep pace with the death toll, for now, all the nation can do is watch and wait. Since the crisis began, a vast majority of Americans have lost at least one family member, close friend, co-worker, distant relative, neighbor or peripheral acquaintance, or know someone who has. Yet even for the lucky few who remain unscathed, the fear remains.

"Our family has been spared so far, but for how long?" asked mother of four Karen Beemis, of Scottsdale, AZ. "Every night I lay awake in bed worrying and thinking, 'This is going to get one of us someday, too. Who will be the first? Grandma? Grandpa? My great-uncle Ted in Michigan?' There's just no way of knowing."

Meanwhile, as the world continues to grapple with this seemingly unstoppable threat, the deaths—and the sorrow, fear and pain they have wrought—continue.

As Margaret Heller, a volunteer at a clinic in Baltimore put it, "We do everything we can. But for most of the people we try to help, the sad truth is it's only a matter of time."

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