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10/24/2003 Archived Entry: "Extreme Pumpkin Carving"

For those fright-loving, fun-craving folk who embrace Hallowe'en as fully as I do, there is "Extreme Pumpkin Carving" with an hilarious photo gallery of pumpkins produced by truly dubious minds. My patch was a compete wash this year due to a killing frost that coated the garden for three nights in a row, killing the vines and leaving the half grown pumpkins to mildew and rot. Arguably, they are now "extreme pumpkins" without my having to touch them.

My friend Gordon writes, "Am listening to a CBS "60 Minutes II" report on the recent FBI indictment
of Dr. Thomas Butler
. This is one of the most BIZARRE cases I have ever heard: Dr. Butler, a highly respected medical researcher who was working on treatment for victims of bubonic plague, and who himself reported to the FBI that his lab apparently somehow misplaced 30 vials of plague samples, has been charged by the FBI (according to one interviewee) with "everything except ripping tags offof mattresses" (including violation of some especially obscure clause in the U.S. Tax Code) --- apparently in the hope that at least _one_ of these charges can be made to stick. If convicted, he could face up to 400 years in prison --- and even if acquitted, his careers as a medical researcher and a university professor have both almost certainly been ruined.

"Butler claims that when the 60 FBI agents who materialized after he reported the vials missing could find no obvious evidence of a break-in, they immediately started investigating _him_, and, without allowing a lawyer to be present, the FBI browbeat him into signing a false confession that he _personally_ destroyed the sample vials, promising him that if he confessed to having "accidentally" destroying the samples, no charges would be filed against him. Of course, what _really_ happened was that the moment he signed the confession, the FBI promptly clamped him in leg-irons, and hauled him off to jail.

Butler feels that the Government has decided that, because of public fear of "bioterrorism," _SOMEBODY_ had to be arrested and convicted to prisons for losing the vials, and since the FBI could find no evidence of a break-in to the lab, it must have been an "insider job," with Butler being the most
convenient sacrificial lamb to haul off to be slaughtered. It was very difficult for me to make much sense of this "60 Minutes II" report, which was REMARKABLY incoherent, beyond my general impression that the reporter seemed very determined to make Butler appear guilty of _SOMETHING_. And _NOTHING_ about the FBI case against Butler makes =ANY= sense to me at all, IMO. But something tells me that this is _NOT_ going to be the last accusation of "the FBI obtained my confession a la rubber hose" that we are going to hear..."

More when I return from the road, which I'm hitting again in about two hours.
Best to all,

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