Some days I read as many as eight newspapers, plus a few more online. It's a habit that baffles my wife and 4-year-old daughter and, I'm guessing, the long-suffering fellow who empties my recycling bins every week.

But as much of a news junkie as I am, I confess there are days - oh, maybe even an entire week every now and then - when I become an ink-stained ostrich.

On those occasions, the headlines are so depressing, so enraging, so befuddling, that I read as much of the front page as a citizen of good conscience absolutely must. Then I bury my head deep in the paper, where life can sometimes be a tad cooler and quieter and, if all goes well, exhilaratingly goofy.

It was there, for instance, that I learned

•The famous "axis of evil" phrase in last year's State of the Union address actually began as "axis of hatred," but - according to former Bush speechwriter David Frum - it was changed to "evil" because it sounded more theological.

The axis, it turns out, included just Iraq at first, but officials later decided to add Iran. (Well, yes, the alliteration is vaguely soothing.) North Korea was later tossed in, apparently in part to avoid singling out Muslim countries.

I'm OK with this equal-opportunity evil-bashing, I suppose. But couldn't we have picked a nation for the No. 3 spot that we knew wouldn't swing back? Like, say, France?

•Just in time for the wildly successful (and stupid) TV show "Joe Millionaire," a Web site has popped up that offers printable ATM receipts bearing fake bank balances. Apparently it's popular among some guys trying to pick up women. I gather it goes like this: See someone you like at a bar? Just jot down your phone number on the back of a piece of paper touting a bogus balance of $314,159. Rather pathetic.

•Scientists, according to a story buried deep inside The New York Times last week, have for the first time "taken particles of light, destroyed them and then resurrected copies more than a mile away."

Yep, it's a primitive form of the transporter, as seen on "Star Trek."

Unfortunately, there's still considerable doubt such a contraption would ever work for teleporting humans. As one of the researchers gently put it, "You're not very sure to arrive."

•Jerry Springer is once again considering a run for the U.S. Senate from Ohio. I do have to grudgingly admire Springer's cool-headed assessment of the situation. "There are pluses and minuses," he says of his potential candidacy. "The plus is that I'm known by everybody. The minus is that I'm known by everybody." Sounds like a campaign slogan to me.

(Daryl Lease is a columnist for the Herald-Tribune in Sarasota, Fla.

© 2002 New York Times News Service

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