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Eavesdropping on the Action During Persian Gulf War

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Admit it: Christmas is two days away, and you’re still a few gifts shy of a full load.

I can’t help you on the big stuff (in fact, I’m open for suggestions myself).

But, if you need a stocking stuffer for a dedicated Desert Storm buff, I may have something for you: “Eagles Over the Gulf, Desert Storm: The Pilots’ Stories.”

A two-cassette audio package, available at bookstores, $11.95, 130 minutes of interviews with pilots and real-life combat cockpit recordings.

Forget “Top Gun” and Tom Cruise. This is the McCoy. You are there, and Saddam take the hindmost.

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It’s the brainchild of Ed Tonini, a light colonel in the Air Force Reserve and president of an audio-video communications company based in Louisville, Ky.

When the shooting started, Tonini, using his contacts, wangled long-distance interviews with Air Force, Navy and Marine pilots fresh from their missions. Later, he obtained official recordings of uncensored communications between pilot and pilot, pilot and controller.

“Somebody once said there is nothing so elegant as the spoken word in the theater of the mind,” Tonini said.

Some of the stuff is pretty gripping: a downed F-16 pilot awaiting a rescue helicopter in a pitch-black desert, while worrying that Iraqi troops are advancing on him.

The voice of a Camp Pendleton Marine, one of the first prisoners of war, as he was displayed on Iraqi television: “My name is Guy Hunter Jr. I am an American.”

Tonini figures there’s a market for Persian Gulf arcania: people who miss sitting owl-eyed in front of CNN and debating the smartness of smart bombs.

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He figures people will buy “Eagles Over” and pop it in the car stereo while driving to work. If Christmas doesn’t produce bumper sales, he’s hoping for an uptick as we approach the Jan. 17 first-year anniversary.

Tonini has figured right before.

His firm has also done two videos, one a review of the Desert Storm air war (now being shown at the Smithsonian), the other a compilation of official film of Iraqi buildings exploding from direct hits:

“We found there are a lot of people who want to watch things blow up.”

True Grit

Speaking of that.

* In a world of job-hopping and lack of dedication, there is still the Duenas family.

For 25 years, until he retired last week, Jose Duenas, 62, crossed the border daily to go to work as a cook at the Denny’s in San Ysidro.

For 18 years, his son, Jorge Duenas, 38, has also been a cook at the same restaurant. And has made the same trek from Tijuana (frequently enduring waits of up to two hours at the checkpoint).

What will Jose Duenas do in his retirement? Work as a volunteer cook for one of Mother Teresa’s missions for the poor in Tijuana.

* North County bumper sticker, on a BMW: “Being Good Gets You Stuff.”

* The Marston Hills house where Betty Broderick (second-degree) murdered Dan and Linda may be on the market soon.

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Trigg Stewart, who bought the house for $1.2 million in April, 1990, from the Broderick estate, died of cancer two days before the Broderick verdict.

* Yes, that was an Elvis impersonator wandering around the County Courthouse in downtown San Diego.

Just a bailiff performing at a Christmas party for court employees.

The Winner Is . . . ?

Your tax dollars at work.

The Board of Supervisors paid $75,000 to the consulting firm Deloitte & Touche to write a report on the issue of privately run trash dumps vs. publicly run trash dumps.

The report said public trash dumps make better sense. So the supervisors voted last week that there will be no privately run trash dumps.

They also voted another $20,000 to Deloitte & Touche to work up a new report on how to implement the supervisors’ decision and other related tasks.

If you don’t understand why it takes $20,000 to learn how to say no, you don’t understand much about government.

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