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Highway To Hell 

Ohio prepares for nuclear winter the old-fashioned way. By blowing it off.

Artist Derek Hess' idea of Christmas cheer. - DEREK  HESS
  • Derek Hess
  • Artist Derek Hess' idea of Christmas cheer.
After September 11 and Hurricane Katrina, everyone presumably agrees on the importance of disaster planning. Everyone, that is, except the braying farm animals of the Ohio Legislature.

Sometime in the next two years, shipments of spent nuclear-reactor fuel will start crisscrossing Ohio on their way to a storage site in Skull Valley, Utah. And this being Ohio, we're one of the only states along the route without a plan to deal with the loads.

So state Representative Michael Skindell (D-Lakewood) introduced legislation to do just that. It includes charging the transporters fees. The money will be used for inspecting trucks, railcars, and waste containers for safety; training emergency workers; and notifying communities.

But, not surprisingly, Skindell had to wait nearly a year just to get a hearing. After all, the General Assembly was dealing with more pressing matters -- namely creating license plates that read "One Nation Under God," just in case someone thinks America was split into multiple nations and no one bothered to mention it.

But after examining a map, it becomes clear why Republicans don't fear the nuclear reaper. The cities through which almost all of the shipments will pass -- Ashtabula, Youngstown, Cleveland, Akron, Toledo -- contain a total of six Republicans, all of whom winter in Florida.

There is, however, one reason to give thanks: At least Indians still have less political clout than Democrats. Which is why the nuclear waste will be dumped on a reservation in Utah, instead of University Circle.

We’re great! Just ask us!

The Cleveland 20/30 Club, a local nonprofit trying to keep young professionals in Cleveland, has always worried us. After all, people who speak of "values," "ideas," and "philanthropy" are a threat to our way of life.

But Punch was soothed by the group's recent list of "Top 25 Under 35 Movers and Shakers," which makes apparent that the club hasn't wholly rejected our time-honored traditions of cronyism and pay-to-play.

The group named Jason Therrien the top mover and shaker. He's president of the marketing firm Thunder::Tech. Perhaps more important, he's also the 20/30 Club's only platinum-level sponsor. In fact, six of the group's other honorees coincidentally work for companies listed as "Friends" of the group.

Therrien tells Punch his platinum status had nothing to do with his award. "Several people nominated me," he says humbly.

Brandon Davis was named the seventh-coolest guy in Northeast Ohio. His coolness presumably derives from being president of the 20/30 Club, though he didn't return calls for confirmation. Also making the list: the club's vice president, recruitment manager, and lawyer.

What century is this?

After the Ohio Senate banned public funding for most embryonic-stem-cell research, Punch stocked up on cigs and liquor in preparation for unleashing our best inbred jokes on the men and women of Columbus, who are attempting to model our economy after Haiti's.

But, alas, we were no match for the comic stylings of Senate Democratic Leader C.J. Prentiss. "Stem-cell research presents an opportunity to move Ohio out of the 19th century," she said.

Rubber city

Don't be surprised if someone hands you a condom during the first week of December.

Safe-sex groups will be distributing 50,000 rubbers in bars and nightclubs and on college campuses December 2-4 to commemorate World AIDS Day.

Which means that, if you're like Punch, it's time to throw away the disintegrating piece of latex that's permanently impressed in the leather of your wallet and replace it with an all-new monument to your inability to get laid.

Rollback Frowny

Other states have long known that you pay twice when you shop at Wal-Mart -- once at the store and once in your paycheck.

Due to the company's miserly wages and benefits, the average Wal-Mart worker takes in $2,000 in public subsidies each year, according to one congressional study. The tab for California alone is $86 million. And when Georgia looked at its public health-care rolls, it found more than 10,000 children of Wal-Mart workers ["Leeches at the Gate," January 19].

So Senators Robert Hagan (D-Youngstown) and Marc Dann (D-Liberty Township) joined the service employees union to push for a study to see how much Ohio taxpayers subsidize the company. Surprisingly, the Department of Jobs and Family Services actually agreed to do it. A progress report is expected next month.

Of course, the study could quickly disappear with a few well-placed "campaign contributions" by Wal-Mart executives. But for the time being, we can all dream about living in a state that actually does something for its people.

Happy *&$#@! new year

Need the perfect gift for that moping bastard in your life? Behold the 2006 Strhess calendar, featuring the drawings of Cleveland artist Derek Hess. It's 12 months of misery done up like you've rarely seen.

Ring in the new year with January's featured image: a pair of crows pecking the bloodied eyes from the head of a nude man. April blooms with a slumped-over guy who's got blood spurting from his wrists. There's a man kneeling amid garbage cans with a shiv in his back (June), another striking a spike through his own hand (July), and yet another who's been flogged to death by an angel (December).

Puppy dogs and mountain vistas didn't make the cut.

"I kinda kept the blood down to a minimum," Hess points out helpfully. "I'm not doing any decapitations or anything."

He says the calendar conveys a theme of feeling disposable. "It's as if God has turned his back on you."

And it's available in plenty of time for Christmas cheer. Order at

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor mangled steel

The Lakewood Post Office replaced its blocky old mail trucks with sleek minivans in late October, making it one of the first area communities to step into 21st-century transportation.

But in only their first week on the streets, the new rides caused three accidents, according to one carrier. Drivers are permitted two accidents per year, says post office spokesman Dave Van Allen, though it's unclear whether those are mandatory.

NASCAR reportedly is interested in sponsoring the city's holiday-mail crush.

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