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So it’s finally official: Alan Grayson has a better than snowball’s chance in hell of becoming our next congressman! Why? Because the largest impediment to his failed campaign in 2006 for this very same seat is no longer a problem!

Alan Grayson is ditching the goatee! Be afraid, Ric Keller, be very afraid. On Nov. 30, Happytown™’s deep-throated sources relate, Grayson spoke to the Orange County Young Democrats at some bar, because that’s where all good young Democrats hold their meetings. He told them that he was testifying on the Iraq War before the U.S. Senate on Dec. 7 and said that if everyone wanted him to, he would shave the goatee that has annoyed us for more than a year now (see “Hey Dems!,” Aug. 31, 2006). And everyone wanted him to, loudly.

Grayson spokeswoman Carol Cox confirmed via e-mail, “`Alan` said that he would let them decide whether he would testify with or without the beard. People went nuts. They were banging on the table and shouting, ‘Shave the beard! Shave the beard!’”

Which is what we’ve been saying forever, but he didn’t listen to us. Anyway, it looks like we might get a real race this time. Grayson not only has the resume and brains for the job, but he doesn’t look like a comic-book villain either. And we’re just cynical enough to believe that that cost him a ton of votes last year.

If you need yet another reason not to eat at Burger King -– as if the Florida-based chain’s artery-clogging menu and insipid commercials weren’t reason aplenty – here it is: The King has managed to gut an agreement that would have paid the migrant workers who pick its tomatoes (let’s carry on the feudal metaphor and call them serfs) an extra penny per pound.

You may recall that Taco Bell had been the subject of an ongoing boycott over the same issue, until that company agreed to pay the extra penny in 2005. In April, McDonald’s also agreed to a pay hike to benefit its tomato pickers. But Burger King has dug in its heels and refused any pay hikes.

That dickish move encouraged the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, which represents the majority of tomato growers in the state, to threaten its members with a $100,000 fine should they agree to the extra penny per pound for workers. Reggie Brown, the executive vice president of the group, is quoted in the Nov. 29 New York Times as saying a surcharge to benefit migrant workers would be “pretty much un-American.”

In his Times editorial, Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, says Burger King claims it has no control over the labor practices of its suppliers. Oddly enough, when animal rights activists complained about how chickens and hogs destined for the chain’s grills were treated, the company came up with strict new regulations for meat suppliers.

So chickens and hogs have rights in the kingdom; migrant workers have none. Down with the King.

Shopping, as we all know, is the most important activity we undertake as Americans. It is the lifeblood of our economy, the very underpinning of our way of life. It is what separates us from the terrorists.

Which must be why the Orlando Sentinel covers the shopping beat so rigorously this time of year. (We refuse to entertain notions of a desperate newspaper publishing upbeat stories about consumers spending themselves into oblivion to keep advertisers happy, so don’t even go there. This is journalism.)

We’ve been keeping a running tally of the number of holiday shopping stories the Sentinel has published since Black Friday (Nov. 23 this year) and are astonished to learn that the count has reached 14 as of Nov. 30. That’s only four less than the number of stories they published about Iraq in the same period!

For the most part, the coverage has been fairly standard: Will they buy this year or not, will it be big-ticket stuff or cheap shit, will the weather be a factor in spending, etc. It’s the sheer volume of stories that impresses – more than one a day.

The Sentinel: It’s the story of you … at the mall.

Remember the compelling results of the Orlando Police Department’s 40 days of prayer? There were hugs as crime was magically whisked from the City Beautiful (except for the assaults, shootings, car break-ins and burglaries, of course).

So with those results in mind, we’ll be sure not to miss Saturday’s Third Annual Day of Prayer at 10 a.m. at Jones High School. It was with “Jesus joy” that the Church of Healing and Prosperity announced the day of “powerful praise” to pray for Orange County students, teachers, administrators, parents, local, state and federal government officials, and the community.

We have warm fuzzies just thinking about how that day of prayer will magically relocate Evans High School to a welcoming community, drop millions in the school district’s lap to build new schools and fix the lingering desegregation lawsuit.

Oooooh, burn! Back in May when we were feeling particularly queer (The Queer Issue, May 31), we discoursed on the Matthew Shepard Act and how much we thought that – even though Florida already includes gender preference in its own hate-crimes legislation – it was a good idea because it let the feds get involved during sentencing.

In October we reported that the bill had sailed through the House and Senate by piggybacking on a Department of Defense funding bill. Queers are clever like that.

But recently the Human Rights Campaign sent us a frantic e-mail detailing a possible derailment of the whole thing. Seems that as the House and Senate are compromising on a version of the Department of Defense bill right now, conservative forces are trying to pull the Matthew Shepard chapter out of it. But conservatives aren’t the only threat; progressive Democrats who hate bombs, but love queers, could be ruining the whole elaborate scheme themselves with their two-fingered peace salutes. The lesson? Never dance with the devil in the pale moonlight.

Do you remember the acid indigestion brought on by the three-hour-old tostada coagulating on your 20-year-old green plastic lunch tray back in elementary school? We do, and our stomachs have never been the same.

But over at Moss Park Elementary School, where they’re still shoveling slop (albeit with a “health” edge, as mandated by the county), they’re finding a different, greener way to dispose of the piles of uneaten chicken patties, corn-dog nuggets and beef riblets steaming up the spit guards: They’re turning them into compost (insert poop joke here).

Under the guise of an experiment to see which works better – composted material or regular fertilizer – in the garden, students are biodegrading their lunches, tilling them into the soil and waiting to see what, if anything, pops up. Government cheese grows no sweet fruit, trust us.

Oh, and speaking of fruit, whatever the kids do grow will be donated to a local wildlife refuge, because you wouldn’t want to be feeding schoolkids unprocessed food, now would you? They only like the “smiley” potatoes (seriously, they’re on the menu).

This week’s report by Billy Manes, Deanna Sheffield and Bob Whitby.

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