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Off Limits

Mr. Brown goes to Washington--not!: Brooks Brown, the Columbine student who was the subject of Eric Harris's online threats--"All I want to do is kill and injure as many of you pricks as I can, especially a few people. Like Brooks," read one Harris rant--was all set to join in Bill and Hillary Clinton's touchy-feely "Kids and Guns" gabfest aired live on Good Morning America last Friday. "They wanted someone who'd stand up to the president, and that's Brooks," says Judy Brown, Brooks's mom, who is no slouch herself at standing up to authority, including the Jefferson County sheriff.

But the evening before the Brown family's flight to D.C., the network called and said that Brooks had been bumped from the lineup of teens because, as a "witness" in an active investigation, he wouldn't be allowed into the White House. (Never mind that lately the White House has been lousy with witnesses to active investigations--many of them White House staffers.) Instead, Columbine was represented by student Tiffany, who assured the Clintons that she didn't "mean to sound like some hippie or something."

Also showing up on Good Morning America that morning was Robyn Anderson, Dylan Klebold's prom date. But Anderson, who's also considered a witness in the April 20 shootings--after all, she did buy two shotguns and a rifle for Harris and Klebold at a gun show last year--did her interview, her first since Columbine, one-on-one with Diane Sawyer.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Tanner Gun Show, where Anderson bought those guns--"with their money," she told Sawyer. "All I did was show a driver's license"--was unpacking its wares for this past weekend's show at the Denver Merchandise Mart. But in keeping with kinder, gentler, post-Columbine marketing, this version of the Tanner extravaganza was billed as a "hunting and fishing" show. And you could certainly blow away a lot of trout with the firearms on sale there.

Riddle me this: Judging from the media's saturation of Sam Riddle--spokesman for the Shoels family, former campaign manager for lawyer-turned-candidate-turned-lawyer Jeffrey Feiger, current consultant for Secretary of State Vikki Buckley--he's the man of the hour. That's $250 an hour, according to the $10,000-a-month consulting contract he has with Buckley, whose campaign he resuscitated last fall (bringing her from 27 percent in the polls on October 10 to victory four weeks later).

On Tuesday, the blabbing began with a Riddle phone interview with KHOW's Peter Boyles that turned into a stint in the studio. And what the hell--since Riddle was already in the building, he went next door to chat with Mike Rosen on KOA, then caught up with Channel 9 on his way out to yet another interview.

Just two questions, Sam. You do any of those interviews on the taxpayer dollar? (Don't tell us; tell state senator Mike Feeley, who's asked for an audit of your contract with the secretary of state.) And how do you manage to jog in the park, talk on the phone to Boyles and read press clips all at the same time?

Bombing out: Last month Newsweek reported that the Department of Energy had lost track of more than two tons of plutonium. Half the missing radioactive material disappeared from the former Rocky Flats weapons plant during its long and troubled history making plutonium triggers for nuclear warheads. But not to worry: DOE officials believe the shortage was a result of sloppy handling--stuff getting stuck in pipes and tools--rather than outright theft. If that explanation doesn't sound particularly reassuring, consider the story of an equipment supplier who ventured into the plant in the Reagan era. The source asked that his name not be published, but his insights into the way things worked at the nation's wackiest bomb factory bear repeating. "Back in the early "80s, I worked for a company that made electric forklifts," he says. "Rockwell ordered one for Rocky Flats, and we shipped it right out. About three months later, they ordered a new battery for the thing. Well, these batteries just don't run down that fast, so I called them up and asked them what was going on.

"They said it wouldn't run. I asked them if anybody had checked it out to make sure the battery was dead. They said they didn't have anybody who could do that. Yes, they had electricians, but they only worked on AC systems. Yes, they had mechanics, but they didn't work on equipment like this forklift. It was some kind of union standoff. I told them I could send them a battery, but it might not fix the problem. These batteries cost about $4,000, and the problem could be as simple as a blown fuse. I said it would be cheaper to fly me out there to see what was wrong.

"They said they couldn't do that. The forklift was stuck in a restricted area. I told them maybe we could work something out, and they finally agreed to let me come out. So I fly to Denver, rent a car and drive up there. They have me pop the hood and the trunk on my rental, look underneath the car with mirrors, take me through all these searches and checkpoints. They give me a badge that's supposed to change color if I'm exposed to radiation. Finally, I'm standing outside this one building, and the guy in charge of the forklift comes to me and says, 'It's in there. But this is as far as you're allowed to go.'

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