What happened to the UFOs?

Are the space buddies scared of terrorists?

These important questions were raised (by me) on Monday night, when a British news site published this report about a strange light in the sky over southern Germany. I realized I hadn't seen a decent flying-saucer story on the wires since last summer.

It would take minutes of research to prove this, of course. But a dedicated columnist doesn't mind a little legwork. I searched the news on Yahoo, Google and BBC. The results clearly support my theory.

Google's news site offered nothing more than that same report from Germany, a Taipei Times article about a radio station called "UFO," and an International Herald Tribune feature about April Fools' jokes.

Yahoo News had a single match: an article about a snack food in Hong Kong called "Nissin UFO Oomori Yaki Soba Instant Noodles."

And this year, the BBC's Web site has published exactly one story about the space monsters — and it's about a 1950s UFO commission in Britain. (Those amused by lazy editors will appreciate that this story's photograph is the same picture used in the last UFO article on the BBC Web site, from June 2001.)

Forget those stupid Pulitzer prizes. The real Media Scandal is the shocking lack of reported UFO sightings since Sept. 11.

Is the modern-day space alien so cowardly that it won't visit Earth during wartime? During World War II, "foo fighters" swarmed around bombers. During the Cold War, the United States went bonkers over UFOs. We've even got astronauts who believe alien spaceships are hanging around Earth.

Are the ETs afraid of a nutcase like Bin Laden? Aren't the aliens supposed to be an advanced race? And if so, are they threatened by a guy with bad kidneys who has to use Hotmail to communicate with his evil minions?

Worse yet, are we bored with the spacemen?

Steven Spielberg gussied up his "E.T." for re-release last month, and the thing vanished from the multiplex quicker than a Hungarian historical romance starring Tom Green.

The X-Files is in its last season, according to news reports. We have to trust the news reports here, because nobody has actually watched The X-Files in years. They're too busy watching Alias, another hour-long suspense show with a tough redhead — but it's mercifully free of space monsters. (Meanwhile, X-Files has become a term used to mock the gullible French for buying a conspiracy book claiming a jet never crashed into the Pentagon.)

The Weekly World News used to report on presidents shaking hands with extraterrestrials. Now we get AP photos of Laura Bush being embraced by a guy in a rabbit suit.

Some egghead will probably write an article about this for an academic journal in the fall of 2002. So what? Thanks to the magic of the Internet, I can say it right now: the Great Alien-American Love Affair is over.

Sorry, Commander Xamfrangle, but I sort of met this other entity ... and, well, this hurts me more than it hurts you. And you'll always be very special to me, but ... I need to see other species right now. Maybe someday, if you could, like, stop being so noncommittal and take a little more responsibility and maybe appear in daylight ... I don't know. I'm just confused. I need space. And I need you to go back to space.

Surely I'll get a lot of e-mail about this controversial statement. But I'm ready to defend the position.

The big Star Wars show at the Brooklyn Museum of Art? Simple nostalgia for the good old days of gas lines, Jimmy Carter and friendly wookies. The new robot dogs from Sanyo? A practical solution for apartment dwellers scared of real-life killer dogs. These troubling Japanese space-alien commercials for an Internet service? Could mean anything.

* * *

Oddly, last week's column about relocating Israel to Baja California got a big response. Who woulda thunk people had opinions about the Middle East mess? Well, thanks for all the e-mail — and I apologize for only being able to answer a fraction of it. I have no assistants, no staff, no money, etc., and there are only so many hours in the night. But I do read and appreciate all of your comments.

Jerry Wallace writes:

I doubt if the Israeli Jews would be willing to pack up their grips and move to Baja, Mexico — but the idea is an interesting one and certainly does have its appeal.

David Brettler writes:

By the way, your idea is not new. The great Zionist leader Herzel first tried to find a place for the Jewish people in Uganda, Africa, but his idea was rejected because, of course, the emotional connection of Jews to the land of Israel. I'm glad that you brought [up] Mark Twain writing about how the country looked more then 100 years ago when it was settled with Arabs. It was miserably poor and full of diseases. That is not the case today. The Israelis created a vibrant, modern and beautiful country. The only achievement that Mr. Arafat has is diverting the feeling of his people against the West and Israel.

Aviv Arieli writes:

As an Israeli citizen, I believe you're absolutely correct. The logic is there, so why doesn't it happen? Because we are a nation of victims. Try to get someone to translate a small book called Badolina. I think it will give you a perspective that differs from the politicians'.

Dr. Sidqi A. Abu-Khamsin writes:

Your article about relocating Israel to Baja California is witty, funny and very original. The only thing that disappointed me is that the blame for all the mess we live in was placed wholly on the "angry Palestinians." As usual, Israel is depicted as the victim of those fanatic fundamentalists who hate democracy. No mention of the grievances of the Palestinians (occupation, Jewish settlements built on confiscated land, refugees in miserable camps for 50 years, state terrorism against civilians, etc.) is ever mentioned. Thank you for an article that is at least not 100 percent biased to Israel.

Peter Crowley writes:

Arafat is a terrible person, but that doesn't make it OK for Sharon to terrorize the press that wishes to cover the story. To get to the Zinni-Arafat meeting, you (or any other journalist) would have to pass through a fusillade of Israeli stun grenades.

Sandra R. Moran writes:

Your tongue-in-cheek article about moving Israel to Baja, California is ridiculous and maddening. I think what is the most maddening of all is that you have taken one issue from the Torah, then picked out another separate issue and tryied [sic] to link them together to make a most ridiculous and asinine argument. Then you take that argument and try to force a solution based upon that flawed faulty argument!! That is insane!!

Beth Amitai writes:

It is too bad we cannot take your suggestion seriously! You did bring a smile to me ... in all this madness.

Jose Hernandez writes:

What right do we have to give a part of land that is not ours, not even President Fox has that right, for the land belongs to the people who live there, not the government. I'm saddened by what is going on in the Middle East. I ask, why can't people just respect each other? We don't have to like each other, but just respect each other and live. The world would be a better place. So I ask you, what would you say about relocating them to Oklahoma? Then they would be safe from the terrorists, and the world would be peaceful.

John H. Sachs writes:

Odd, that you don't make the same offer to the Palestinians? Wouldn't it be interesting to read about terrorists crossing into California and blowing themselves up in Los Angeles? Maybe not a bad idea after all!

Alena Rehacek writes:

What an excellent idea! Why didn't I figure this one up?

Peter Stonefield writes:

Bravo, I am simply waiting for your invitation to discuss this with O'Reilly and a couple of reps from both sides of this misbegotten coin. As an American of Jewish descent, all I can say is ... where do I sign up? I could use a vacation and cerveza on the beach and a stint in the New Holy Land works for me. Besides, I am betting that the small Mexican criminal element in Baja would disappear with an Israeli police force at work!

Don and Joan Povie write:

At last an original solution to an otherwise insoluble problem. We have the choice of another world war or endless bickering and suicide bombing. Some choice. Will you run for President?

Steve Fonorow writes:

Please ask your boss to terminate your employment contract.

Sure, Steve! Dear FoxNews.com: Will you please terminate my contract and send me a new, lucrative contract? Thanks!

Ken Layne types from a shack behind his Los Angeles home. The author of trashy thrillers such as Dot.Con and the upcoming Space Critters, he has written and edited for a variety of news outfits including Information Week, the Sydney Daily Telegraph, UPI and Mother Jones. Since the Enron-like collapse of his Web paper, Tabloid.net, in 1999, he has been posting commentary to KenLayne.com.

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