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"Sign up now, get free gun."


What's next -- offering a free derringer with every mammogram or a free Uzi with the purchase of a La-Z-Boy? You just might see it happen, because guns sell. The managers of a Radio Shack in Hamilton, Mont., found that out after they placed a giant sign above their Super Store: "Protect yourself with Dish Network. Sign up now, get free gun." The managers had hoped that the sign would lure new customers from the Bitterroot Valley, but they were surprised when hundreds of passersby stopped their cars to take pictures of the sign or dropped in to see if the offer was legitimate. Buyers got to choose between a "Hi Point 380 pistol or a 20-gauge shotgun," reports the Billings Gazette, though all had to undergo background checks at the nearby Frontier Guns & Ammo. "We're not just giving guns to felons," assured Radio Shack store manager Fabian Levy. Almost all of the new customers told Levy and storeowner Steve Strand how much they liked the gun promotion, but Strand said he was surprised to find that many women -- including some in their 60s and 70s -- showed up only because they wanted a free gun. 


In the Good News Department, the Rodale Institute concludes that organic farming trumps chemical-intensive agriculture, turning the conventional wisdom on its head. The Rodale scientists in Pennsylvania found that after 27 years of side-by-side comparisons, organic farming produces the same corn yields with less water pollution and healthier soil, reports And in Wyoming, an engineer for a proposed $4 billion-$6 billion, 1,000-turbine wind farm south of Rawlins found that the average wind speed in the area for January was a high and consistent 42 mph. If the wind farm is built as planned on a ranch owned by the Anschutz Corp., it would produce enough power for 600,000 homes, reports the Casper Star-Tribune. Meanwhile, in the Western Bad News Sweepstakes, the state of Arizona is surely a contender. The former CEO and current board chairman of Intel, Craig Barrett, criticized Arizona's coming deep cuts in education and told the state's lawmakers recently that if Intel had it to do over again, the company would not locate there: "I hate to say it, but I think Arizona would not be in the top 10 locales to make that investment," he told the Arizona Republic. So far, Intel has spent $14 billion in the state, with another $5 billion to come for a planned new computer chip fabrication plant in Chandler.

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HCN in the outhouses of the West

From my Alaska trip: I flew into a small town that is not reachable by road, then hopped on a motorboat and drove across lakes and rivers for 2.5 hours to reach the scientists' camp way out in the boondocks -- out there they have a few rough cabins and a generator that makes electricity only in the evening and two outhouses -- and lo and behold, for reading material in the outhouses they have issues of the Economist magazines and HCN -- amazing to discover HCN readers way out there!

Ray Ring, HCN Senior Editor