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Jell-O wrestling is a firing offense at the South Pole

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Jell-O wrestling isn't all that unusual. A staple of biker bars and fraternity parties everywhere, it typically involves wiggling, jiggling and giggling. But at the bottom of the world, on the McMurdo ice station, Jell-O wrestling recently became a firing offense — at least for one employee of Centennial-based Raytheon Polar Services Company, which holds the ten-year contract to staff the United States Antarctic Program.

Last week, the unnamed man was dismissed after employees of the U.S. Inspector General's office, conducting an audit of Antarctica's McMurdo Station, discovered the aftermath of a Jell-O wrestling party. According to news reports, the employee defended himself, saying "No one was injured...no equipment was abused or damaged, no one complained to HR, there was no inappropriate behavior, clothing or nudity."

Raytheon Polar Services spokeswoman Valerie Carroll wouldn't confirm the details but said the incident was only "part of the reason" the employee lost his job.


Jell-O wrestling

The story is just one of a series of odd tales to float up from Antarctica over the years: many involve binge drinking in what is a very isolated place, especially during the long, dark months of March through October, when only about 150-200 people live at McMurdo. And last June, a story hit the wires about a shipment of 16,500 condoms that was delivered to McMurdo just before the dark winter began.

"All kinds of people work there. All kinds of activities take place. There are lots of traditions, lots of fun things," Carroll says. Many of them are unusual, but she wishes the scandalous ones hadn't overshadowed some of the others. For instance, there's an art festival, a music festival (called IceStock), and the "Race Around the World," in which people run around the South Pole (every way you look is north). There's also a big bash every Halloween at which people dress in costumes they've brought along.

But the Jell-O story comes at an awkward time for Raytheon, which has about 400 employees working in the Denver area and trains many of the 1,200 people to head to the South Pole here, since the deadline to re-bid on the Antarctica program is this month. The National Science Foundation, which funds the $1.6 billion program, will make a decision this year sometime and then award the next ten-year contract.

Probably not in the budget: Jell-O.

No food-stamp soup for you! And speaking of low-budget food items, Ari Armstrong, founder of www.freecolorado.com and columnist for the Grand Junction Free Press, can tell you all about them. Armstrong likes nothing better than to fire up his libertarian indignation against the meddling of big government, abuses of personal liberty and the suppression of free-market ideals. And with Barack Obama's multibillion-dollar stimulus plan grabbing headlines, he should have lots to fume about.

So what's the latest target of his cerebral ire? Food stamps. That's right: food stamps, those little things that help struggling families eat. Sick of complaints that people on food stamps can only afford unhealthy meals — and sick of the federal food-stamp program in general — Armstrong spent a week chowing down on $4.72 of groceries per day and says he's hardly ever eaten better. Reporter Joel Warner grabbed lunch with Armstrong during the experiment to talk the politics of food. And since Armstrong didn't have enough to share, Warner brought his own meal — a nice, expensive, freshly baked loaf of bread, the food Armstrong said he missed the most. You can read about the resulting food fight on the Latest Word blog at westword.com.

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