The Kansas City Star can't seem to get its anti-war numbers right.

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The Kansas City Star can't seem to get its anti-war numbers right.

In general, we feel sorry for Kansas City Star readers' representative Doug Worgul, who has to answer the phone whenever anyone's pissed at the paper. But our hearts aren't bleeding for him when it comes to the Star's latest insult to several hundred Kansas Citians.

Back on January 19, a crowd of people stood near the J.C. Nichols Fountain on the Plaza, holding up anti-war signs, cruising for dates and cheering as passing cars continually honked to signal their agreement that George Bush is a lunatic. Rally organizer Brad Grabs counted 628 people -- many of whom were flabbergasted to read the next day that "almost 200 people" had demonstrated against war with Iraq.

Since then, they've been badgering Worgul about what everyone knows was a ridiculous undercount. Hell, we even saw one of the Star's vice presidents at that rally; giddily down with the cause, he estimated the crowd at 1,000 before we told him to calm himself. But the Star is sticking to its guns.

Worgul tells us that reporter Peter Boylan "felt he came by his count honestly, accurately and fairly." Besides, he argues, there's no way to objectively verify the size of a crowd at any political rally -- suggesting that organizers' estimates are inherently suspect. Which only makes us wonder: Did Sprint really lay off 2,100 workers in November, as company officials said -- or was it secretly more like 6,300?

Anyway, Worgul says he doesn't take his job personally but this one bugs him. "Twenty-five years ago I drove my Volkswagen bus ... to a No Nukes rally. Rally participants estimated 250,000 people there, but news reports put the number at 25,000. We were outraged and sure it was the evil capitalist monolith conspiring with fascist police dogs to suppress the numbers and keep the truth from getting out."

That's heavy. But it doesn't sway Brad Grabs. "I don't think it was a conspiracy," he tells us. "I think it was just really irresponsible reporting."

For the record, crowds have remained well above 200. This past Sunday the rally felt like a college campus on the first day of spring. Women pounded on drums and shook tambourines, inspiring revelry on the nearly 66-degree day. Grabs estimated 611 people. And we saw several Star reporters dressed in parkas, griping about how it was only 22 outside.

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