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Good News, Cokeheads! 

You've never seen prices this fabulous before!

Hear ye, budget-conscious cokeheads: According to the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services, prices for powdered cocaine have fallen sharply in recent months, while supplies have reached all-time highs. A gram can now be purchased for the low, low price of $40-$60, compared to $80-$100 at this time last year.

Not surprisingly, the promise of cheap, plentiful whitey has sent coke's popularity through the roof, especially among white youth. "Fifteen years ago, people realized that [coke] was dangerous and people were dying," says the department's Stacey Frohnapfel Hasson. "It's coming back, because there's a new generation of people who don't know much about it."

The ODADAS monitors drug use through a group of 10 "key informants," people who never touch the stuff -- wink, wink -- but just happen to intimately know the trade. The department's latest data shows that coke use is up in all parts of Ohio except Akron-Canton, which is probably lying.

Frohnapfel Hasson attributes Ohio's increased stash to "our wonderful system of major highways," which has made the state a popular destination for smugglers from Havana to Alberta. But users need fear not, she assures us. Increased demand won't drive up costs anytime soon. "It's not like gas prices."

News a sniper could use

Cleveland Police thought Action News showed a little too much action during the standoff at Case Western.

Sergeant Donna Bell says police were concerned that station 19/43 might give away SWAT team positions by broadcasting live from its chopper while the gunman played cat-and-mouse with the cops. "We did request by phone to their news desk that the live feed showing the SWAT team be immediately blocked," Bell says.

She declines to say whether the stations complied, but anybody watching that day can tell you they did not.

Steve Doerr, news director for 19/43, says his stations didn't show any footage that would have been useful to the gunman, and laughed off the notion that the gun-toting loon would have been watching television anyway. Considering his newscasts' ratings, it's a valid argument.

"If the police have a problem, they can pick up the phone and talk to us," Doerr says. "I know that they did call us that night and ask us to make sure the chopper didn't give anything away, to which we said, 'Cool. Fine.' And I never heard another word from them."

Diary of a madman

The alleged Case Western Reserve shooter, Biswanath Halder, was an avid online scribe who ran his own website called Worldwide Indian Network. A hack against his site supposedly provided the motive for the shooting spree.

Many of his pages have been taken down. But thanks to the magic of Google, if you do a search for "Biswanath Halder," you can check out snapshots of the pages by clicking on the word "cached" at the bottom of the search results. Among the things you'll find:

Halder railing against a variety of perceived evils, including the war in Iraq and Nike's exploitation of foreign workers. It also includes these lines: "We condemn the cowardly terrorist attacks of September 11 that claimed thousands of innocent lives. No cause can possibly justify such actions . . .We call for peace and justice, not revenge."

The lawsuit he filed against Shawn Miller for allegedly destroying his website, which asks for more than $25,000 in compensation.

Halder's résumé and employment chronology.

A blog from someone who apparently lived in the same Little Italy building as Halder. It includes the following entries: "Biswanath Halder (that odd old Indian guy you always see at Fribley and Leutner) lives on the third floor of my apartment . . ." "Woke up to the sound of Biswanath Halder calling so I can take him to this place where they'll fix his computer. He's this weird Indian guy that lives on the third floor. I could go on and on about it but he gives Indians a bad name so I won't . . ."

We’re still better than Lima

Film producer Ted Hope has won props far and wide for American Splendor, a biopic of comic-book artist Harvey Pekar, Cleveland’s curmudgeon laureate. The art-house flick is now getting a healthy dose of global exposure at the Cannes Film Festival in France.

But in talking recently with The Washington Post about how the film might be received in Frog Land — where nothing American is considered too splendid these days — Hope took a backhanded swipe at our fair city. “I’m very curious how the title American Splendor will go over this year,” a laughing Hope told the paper. “But I think people will get it when they see the movie — after all, Cleveland is not what you think of when you say the word ‘splendor.’”

Nor is it what film critics apparently thought after seeing Office Killer, a 1998 slasher parody Hope produced. “Some of this is insulting, all of it is tedious,” wrote one reviewer. Other critics called it an “anemic homage,” a “tired, gloomy vacuum,” and “awkward goulash.” But we hear the French loved it.

Danys's secret

Last Wednesday, children filled the William Cullen Bryant School gym to pay reverence to Indians players Danys Baez and Brandon Phillips, there as part of the Major League Lunch program.

"What made you wanna play baseball?" asked one fourth-grader. Baez blushed. He squirmed. Then he mumbled something about the game being "fun."

Emcee Jeff Phelps, of Fox 8 fame, explained that Spanish is Baez's native tongue, and that his English is a work-in-progress. But that's not really the full story, kids. No, Punch smelled a cover-up.

The truth is that Baez grew up in Cuba, an island country where the water's bad, the missiles are Soviet, and the baseball players ain't millionaires. It does, however, have a very respectable selection of tobacco products.

But in Cuba, young men are asked to trade in their baseball uniform for one sporting the logo of the Cuban military. "Defence of the socialist homeland is the greatest honour and the supreme duty of every Cuban citizen," says the constitution. That means everyone does two years as a soldier -- whether you have a 95-m.p.h. heater or not.

So the real answer to the question is: Danny Baez is a goddamned draft-dodger. Instead of defending the socialist homeland, he skated to a $14.5 million contract in America. We just thought you should know this, children.

No scarlet letter

When we last left Jennifer Downey, the president of Ambiance -- a.k.a. "The Store For Lovers" -- was crossing swords with Bill O'Reilly on Fox News. Captain Sphincter was not pleased that Downey made her living selling sex toys and helping women cross the threshold to the Big O.

Cleveland businesswomen, however, don't seem particularly bothered by the way Downey collects her coin. They elected her president of the local chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners. The group is dedicated to helping businesswomen build strategic alliances and transform public policy. We're not quite sure what that means, but we're behind them 100 percent.

Downey says that the theme of her presidency will be "Enhance Your Experience." Coming from someone in her line of work, it sounds like a party you won't want to miss.

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