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Increasing violence in Mexico means big profits to U.S. makers of bulletproof limousines. In an Atlanta Journal story, limo makers from Austin to Detroit report a surge in orders from south of the border, especially Tijuana and Mexico City, where wealthy families fear for their lives. "It's like people are saying I need an armored car right away - yesterday," the paper quotes a Texas manufacturer as saying. "Suddenly there's a threat, a phone call or something, and they want it now." The Texan claims sales jumped by 100 percent in the past year. Spurring the rush was the August kidnapping in Tijuana of Japanese Sanyo executive Mamoru Konno, later freed after his company put up a $2 million ransom. The cost of armoring a car is $45,000 to $75,000. Security consulting is also a big business. Ex-CIA operative Pete Palmer told the paper he has trained more than 200 wealthy Mexicans in security methods such as recognizing the signs of surveillance before a kidnapping.

Haley's last hurrah?

The race to succeed outgoing GOP chairman Haley Barbour is getting hot, and although Barbour claims he's neutral, some observers are skeptical. An editorial in the conservative Weekly Standard takes aim at Bill Greener, a Virginia-based political consultant who was handpicked by Barbour to run 1996's GOP convention in San Diego. Greener, who ran history's most expensive national political convention and got into a public fight with Governor Pete Wilson over who was going to pay for the cost overruns, picked up more than $130,000 in consulting fees and housing allowance during his San Diego stint (he stayed in expensive oceanview La Jolla digs paid for by the local host committee). Now he's working for GOP chairman-hopeful Jim Nicholson, allegedly at Barbour's bidding. But the strategy may backfire, says the magazine. "More than a few" committee members "were muttering about this 'consultant' strategy, tired of the influence of what they see as a Washington-based crowd that underperformed" in the '96 elections. "This may well allow 'outsiders'...to pick up more votes than anticipated."

Probably for medicinal purposes

A 15-pound package of pot sent from San Diego to the St. Louis Municipal Dump has landed the landfill manager in jail, charged with "attempted possession of marijuana," a felony. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the 24-year-old manager was busted when he accepted the package from a delivery service. The paper reports that pot goes from "$1000 to $1200 a pound in the St. Louis area and about $500 a pound in Southern California.

L.A.'s gain

Ex-KFMB-TV news reporter Doug McCallister, who lost his job after he was busted in June for assaulting a fellow passenger aboard a Southwest Airlines flight from Sacramento to San Diego, is back on the air, but not in San Diego. McCallister pled guilty to the assault in July and was sentenced to six months' probation and a $1000 fine. During sentencing he told the judge he had joined Alcoholics Anonymous after the drunken melee. McCallister, who told the judge at the time of sentencing he was "currently unemployed," said he had been a journalist for 25 years. Now he's back at it, at KCOP-TV in Los Angeles, reporting on the familiar round of landslides, traffic wrecks, and murders.

Spy vs. Spies

The New York Daily News claims a San Diego Marine reserve sergeant is a threat to the U.S. intelligence establishment. "Armed with a personal computer and a network of contacts around the world, Eric Nelson has developed an e-mail system that consistently beats the Defense Intelligence Agency's reporting on terrorism, chemical and biological warfare, political profiles, background on hot spots, nuclear weapons, international crime and political analysis." The paper quotes U.S. Marine Colonel G.I. Wilson at the Pentagon as saying Nelson "really covers the ground. And best of all, he is quick. His secret is that he only uses open [i.e., unclassified] sources. He has been immensely successful. All the armed services use him." The threat, says the paper, is that Nelson's operating cost is "$20 a month from his own pocket." Concludes the News: taxpayers "might start wondering whether they really need a $30 billion intelligence community with all its satellites, spies, and station chiefs."

Contributor: Matt Potter

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