And another thing...

WAY OF THE WORLD. Slang expressions, born at the grass roots and raised in the neighborhoods, often have a fairly short shelf life. You don't hear anybody talk like the Bowery Boys anymore (unfortunately), or say 'boss' when they mean good (fortunately). But sometimes idioms infiltrate the language and enter everyday usage, which appears to be what has happened with the surfer dude/valley girl/skater argot propagated in movies such as 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High,' 'Clueless' and 'Wayne's World.' At a recent conference in Washington, an Army lieutenant colonel, a veteran of the 1991 Persian Gulf War, mentioned being among the 26 million whose personal information was lost along with a Veterans Affairs Department notebook PC. VA had sent letters notifying the veterans and active-duty personnel whose data was lost. This career military man said: 'I got the letter and was, like, 'No way!' ' (But in the letter, VA secretary Jim Nicholson was, like, 'Way.') Nothing to get postal about, everybody uses these phrases. Just thought it was worth, like, mentioning. Whatever.

NO ONE IS SAFE. Defending against hackers and criminals is one thing, but the Homeland Security Department could be out of its league against one of the most relentless, insidious scourges of modern times: telemarketers. The Associated Press reported recently that private hotlines between DHS and the nation's governors, which are supposed to be used only for national emergencies, were ringing with calls from people selling time shares and long-distance plans. Sure, they're just the telephone equivalent of spam, but you still don't expect it on high-priority, emergency official lines. Makes one wonder if the old Cold War Red Phone ever got hit, and how President Peter Sellers would have handled the call. Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, whose office got some of the telemarketing calls, said DHS has moved to solve the problem by putting the hotline numbers on the federal Do Not Call Registry. As if!

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