Spies, prospectors and the Avengers

A few weeks ago my sister bought me a tablet for my birthday.

I’m a little late to the tablet-game but I’m spending entirely too much time on the thing. Ever heard a TV exec bemoan that people no longer watch commercials because they’re on their phone/tablet at each commercial break? Yeah, I’m that guy now.

Ignoring commercials aside my tablet has really increased the already nigh-toxic levels of news that I ingest daily.

And I say “nigh-toxic” because I try to keep my election news to below 50 percent, by volume, of total news consumed.

I’ve written about the need for “news of other things” before, but as a public service for the health and wellbeing of both my regular readers, I’d like to remind all of us that other things are happening, in other places, all the time.

Such as?

Seed stealing spy sentenced

Anybody remember when six Chinese nationals were arrested after digging up cornfields in Iowa back in 2013?

Ok, well … that happened. It all started n the night of May 2, 2011 a DuPont Pioneer field manager came across two men digging up a cornfield near Tama. By themselves. By hand. At night.

I have all the agricultural common sense that God gave a 9-volt battery and even I know that’s shady.

Mo Hailong and his coworker Wang Lei, while being questioned by the field manager, utilized advanced corporate espionage techniques to evade further questioning; when the field manager stopped questioning them to answer a phone call they ran away.


Here we are, five years later, and Mo Hailong, AKA Robert Mo, AKA Somebody Get This Guy a Better Alias Than Robert Mo, was sentenced on October 5 of this year to three years in prison after pleading guilty.

So why care? It took three years to get to sentencing, for a guilty plea, when they caught a spy red-handed?

If you ever see something on the ballot to increase spending for the Iowa courts system, vote yes; clearly these guys are running behind.

The Northeast is full of crazed prospectors

Much to the chagrin of fathers across the country it is time to start turning up the thermostat.

With temps dropping and winter rearing its ugly, snow-covered head, the good people at The Government ™ gave us a forecast for how much your heating bill will increase.

The Department of Energy put out a list of home-heating sources and their expected cost increases for the upcoming winter.

Natural gas up 22 percent, electricity up five percent, propane (and propane accessories) up anywhere from 21 to 30 percent.

Ok, good information from the DoE; so what’s the big deal?

The DoE continues: Heating oil is up 38 percent, and no information was available for wood-burning homes.

Have the Feds not updated their forms in the last 150 years? Do they know how much whalebone hats will cost this winter? Will there be a laudanum shortage or will I be able to allay my irritations and rebalance my humors?

Nope; turns out that heating oil is used to heat 1/4 of all homes in the Northeast, and wood-burning is used to heat 2.5 million homes, most of them in … you guessed it … the rural Northeast.

And I thought that we here in “flyover country” were consistently overlooked by the Feds. Write your congressmen, write your senator, write the President (while he still has a job) and demand that the federal government alert the good people of the Northeast about the increasing price of burning your neighbor’s old dining room set to stay warm at night. The people have a right to know!

The Niger Delta Avengers are back at it

Who doesn’t love a good sequel?

I’ve covered these maybe militants/maybe Nigerian equivalent of the Boston Tea Party before, but just a refresher: The Niger Delta Avengers is a ragtag group of former-military, academics, and fans of explosions, that have been running around the Niger Delta, blowing up oil pipeline infrastructure to protest economic disparity between coastal Nigerians and those living in the Delta.

They took a few months off after Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari said he would schedule talks with the group to address their concerns.

A few months went by, no talks were scheduled, and on Oct. 25th Nigeria’s oil output was reduced to a 10-year low after The Avengers took out a Chevron pipeline, because the company had violated the agreement not to repair the pipeline until negotiations had started with Buhari.

There are still a lot of important questions; Will foreign companies agree to an equitable sharing of Nigeria’s resources? Now will Buhari schedule official talks? Can violence, even if only against machines, ever be justified for political reasons?

I don’t know; but I do know I get to write more headlines about “The Avengers,” and that’s better than another one about Trump or Clinton any day.

Copy Editor Wes Burns is a Sunday columnist. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don’t necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. Contact Wes Burns at 641-753-6611 or wburns@timesrepublican.com.