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02/19/03: Lawsuit Filed Over Movie Ads
A class-action lawsuit was filed today in Chicago against Loews Cineplex Entertainment Group and the approximately 2,445 screens and 263 theatres they own and operate. The lawsuit alleges that Loews Cinemas purposely deceive moviegoers as to the actual starting times for feature films, with the goal of generating a captive audience for advertisements. By publishing misleading starting times in newspapers, on marquees and on their tickets, the movie theaters breach their contracts with moviegoers and engage in a deceptive trade practice. The effect is to waste purchasers' time by forcing them to sit through unwanted commercial messages. Purchasers are effectively forced to watch commercials on their own dime and time.
More information can be found at :

02/18/03: Bush Poo-Poos on Protesters

Feb. 18 -   President Bush declared Tuesday that he wouldn't be deterred by global protests against war with Iraq. His comments came as the United States and Britain prepared to push for a new U.N. Security Council resolution that could open the way for war after a two-day open debate on Iraq in the General Assembly. Diplomats said they expected council negotiations on the resolution to be wrapped up by the time chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix delivers his next report on Iraq - March 1.


BUSH SAID that the size of the protests against a possible U.S.-led war against Iraq was irrelevant.        "Size of protest, it's like deciding, 'Well I'm going to decide policy based upon a focus group.' The role of a leader is to decide policy based upon the security - in this case - security of the people."


Millions of people around the world took to the streets over the weekend to protest such a war.


 "Democracy is a beautiful thing, and that people are allowed to express their opinion," Bush said. "Some in the world don't view Saddam Hussein as a risk to peace," he added. "I respectfully disagree."


He said such a war remains a final resort, but "the risk of doing nothing is even a worse option as far as I'm concerned."


Though he called a second resolution "useful," Bush added, "We don't need it."


The new U.N. Security Council resolution will likely be circulated late Wednesday after two days of open debate with the 191 members of the General Assembly, who can voice their opinions starting Tuesday on the Iraq crisis.


   "I still believe that we should have a second resolution," British Prime Minister Tony Blair told a news conference at his Downing Street residence in London. But he declined to comment on the timing or content of a resolution, which could open the way to military action.


 U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte and British Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock met Monday afternoon to discuss the content and timing of a second resolution. Diplomats said the EU's internal rifts could open again soon over the timing of any military action, with governments under fierce pressure from giant antiwar demonstrations.


Both Washington and London have said they already have the authorization they need in a resolution passed in November and in earlier resolutions, to go ahead with a military strike. But the British oppose any military action without a second resolution.


 Asked how much longer U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq could continue, Annan said there was no fixed deadline.        "But at some stage, the council may decide that we're just wasting our time and we should call a halt to the inspections," he added.


 European Commission President Romano Prodi said: "We cannot forget the millions in the streets this weekend. So we came together to send a message to the world: Europe is united and its distinctive voice must be heard."


France, Russia and China - all opposed to war now - are pushing to prevent a rush to war and let inspectors do their work while the United States and Britain insist that time has run out for Saddam to disarm peacefully. Only Spain backed Washington and London in Friday's debate.


Nonetheless, officials in London and Washington were moving ahead, toning down what was supposed to be a very tough resolution. Diplomats said the final text will place Iraq in material breach of its obligations and reiterate that Saddam now faces serious consequences, but it likely will not make an explicit call to arms.


In a move that could hamper U.S. plans to open a northern front in an Iraq war, Turkish leader Tayyip Erdogan warned Washington on Tuesday not to take NATO partner Turkey's support for a U.S.-led war against Iraq for granted.


The close allies have been negotiating a deal to allow tens of thousands of U.S. troops on Turkish soil to launch a secondary "northern front" against Iraq, should the United States attack Baghdad for allegedly building weapons of mass destruction.


One of the main sticking points in U.S.-Turkish negotiations is the economic aid package that would compensate Turkey for any losses incurred in an Iraq war, diplomats said. There also are disagreements on military issues such as the command structure in case of a joint Turkish-U.S. operation in northern Iraq.  

02/14/03: Apple co-founder moves out of mansion due to cell phone
Los Angeles Times -
Apple Computer co-founder and wireless entrepreneur Seve Wozniak is moving out of his castle-style mansion in Los Gatos because he can't get a digital cell phone signal there.

Wozniak and his then-wife moved into the $1.7 million home in 1986 and over the years added rooms and fanciful medieval features, such as hidden tunnels, for his children. He also outfitted the home with the latest computer and communications equipment.

02/11/03: 'Jihad' Valentine Gets Yanked Off Shelves
U.S. National - AP

Tue Feb 11, 3:49 AM ET

By TODD SPANGLER, Associated Press Writer

PITTSBURGH - Target Corp. pulled boxes of Valentine's Day cards from its shelves after one contained the word "Jihad" and a parent interpreted the message as a veiled terrorist threat.

A spokesman for the retail chain said Monday the company was removing "I Spy" box sets of Valentine's Day trading cards from its stores after a parent in Pittsburgh contacted the store and law enforcement.

Among several other items, the card contained the word "Jihad" and the message, "It's Time to Be Mine." The FBI said it was looking into the origin of the card.

"Jihad" refers to the Islamic concept of the struggle to do good. In particular situations, that can include the waging of holy war, and extremist Muslims often employ the term with that meaning.

The publisher, Scholastic Inc. in New York City, said any association with terrorism was unintended. The company said it regretted causing any distress.

Aimee Spengler Dolan, a spokeswoman for the publisher, said the card in question was a portion of a photo and riddle from "I Spy School Days," published in 1995.

"Jihad" was the name of a child in a class the author visited, the publisher said. Scholastic said it changed the name in subsequent reprints of the book to Jared in 2001 but that the valentines used original artwork.

Nick Poillucci, 37, said he purchased the set at a Target on Saturday for his 3-year-old daughter to give out in her preschool class. He said he noticed the word "Jihad" upon opening the box at home.

"At first, we just thought it was in really bad taste or maybe some radical in the art department of this company or something," Poillucci said.

He said he became more concerned because a drawing of a clock in the picture had red lines emanating from it, as if it might suggest an explosion.

02/03/03: Picasso Reproduction Covered at UN
found on

NEW YORK.- The Guernica work by Pablo Picasso at the entrance of the Security Council of the United Nations has been covered with a curtain. The reason for covering this work is that this is the place where diplomats make statements to the press and have this work as the background. The Picasso work features the horrors of war. On January 27 a large blue curtain was placed to cover the work.

Fred Eckhard, press secretary of the U.N. said: "It is an appropriate background for the cameras." He was questioned as to why the work had been covered.

A diplomat stated that it would not be an appropriate background if the ambassador of the United States at the U.N. John Negroponte, or Powell, talk about war surrounded with women, children and animals shouting with horror and showing the suffering of the bombings.

This work is a reproduction of the Guernica that was donated by Nelson A. Rockefeller to the U.N. in 1985.

Here is a link to see the painting:

01/30/03: Post Office Missing Millions of Tubs

U.S. Government - AP
Post Office Missing Millions of Tubs

WASHINGTON - They're great for storing tax files and video tapes. Some people use them for footrests or planters. They sit in garages holding junk or newspapers. And they belong to the post office, and the post office wants them back.U.S. Government - AP Post Office Missing Millions of Tubs

Each is about a foot tall, 18-inches long by 13-inches wide, with the words "U.S. Mail" on the sides. They are vital to getting the mail sorted, processed and delivered.

Two years ago the U.S. Postal Service had 20 million of the tubs. Today they're down to 20,000.

So they're offering an amnesty: Return the tubs, no questions asked, and ignore the warning on the tubs that says people who steal them will be prosecuted.

Bring the tubs to the local post office or leave them for letter carriers to collect.

The tubs are handy, but they cost the post office $3.25 each. The service doesn't want to buy another supply of them.

01/29/03: UnAmerican Film Festival Back By Popular Demand

The Unamerican Film Festival is back by popular demand with a new lineup of smart, silly, and shocking short political films! Following up on its critically acclaimed launch at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival, the Unamerican Film Festival is embarking on a 2003 world tour with upcoming screenings in Tokyo, at the Berlin Film Festival, in Paris, and at the New York Underground Film Festival.

Last year's Unamerican Festival caught the attention of the international media and celebrities like renowned actress Tilda Swinton and filmmaker Michael Moore. Since then the buzz surrounding the Festival and its revolutionary films has only grown.

The Unamerican Film Festival is a volunteer-run, non-corporate sponsored event, named after the notorious House Un-American Activities Commitee (HUAC) -- the arm of Congress that probed Hollywood on a witch hunt for communists. The Festival promotes shorts and trailers for longer format films to provoke audiences to debate the controversial and critical issues with which the films grapple. For this year's Unamerican, Festival organizers Esther Bell and Ted Passon have combed through hundreds of submissions, selecting films that fearlessly tackle subjects generally glossed over in the mainstream from white privilege and anti-globalization to media bias and the anti-war movement.

"The goal of the Unamerican Film Festival is to promote films and socially conscience ideas that are underrepresented or neglected by the mainstream media," explained Festival Director and filmmaker Esther Bell. "In a time when democracy and freedom are being outlawed in the name of Homeland Security, it is more important than ever to promote artists of all genres whose work strives to preserve the democratic ideals upon which The United States was founded.", explained festival director, Esther Bell.

For a list of tour dates, the complete lineup of films, or to bring the Unamerican Festival to a town near you, explore the Unamerican's web site at

01/12/03: Death Penalty System Seen As Broken in Illinois - Massive Clemency

CHICAGO (Jan. 11) - Denouncing the death penalty system as broken, the governor of Illinois commuted the sentences of all the state's death row inmates on Saturday, granting clemency to more than 150 people in a dramatic move likely to fuel the national debate about capital punishment.

Gov. George Ryan -- a Republican who leaves office Monday after one term -- reduced the prisoners' sentences to a maximum of life in prison without parole. Three will receive shorter sentences, meaning they could some day be released.

"How many more cases of wrongful convictions have to occur before we can all agree that this system in Illinois is broken?" Ryan told a cheering audience at Northwestern University Law School that included several wrongfully convicted former death row inmates.

"I realize that my decision will draw ridicule, scorn and anger from many who oppose this decision," he said, acknowledging the feelings of relatives of crime victims, many of whom fought clemency. "I'm going to sleep well tonight, knowing that I made the right decision," he said.

The move follows an examination of the state's capital punishment system ordered nearly three years ago after investigations found 13 prisoners on death row were innocent.

There are 156 inmates on death row, and another person has been sentenced to death but is not yet in state custody.

Ryan said he was a staunch supporter of the death penalty when he took office four years ago, but began to change his mind after watching a wrongfully convicted man walk free -- only 48 hours before he was scheduled to be executed.

In a speech quoting Abraham Lincoln and Mahatma Gandhi, Ryan called fixing the death penalty "one of the great civil rights struggles of our time" and lashed out at the state legislature for failing to pass reforms.

Democrat Rod Blagojevich, who takes over as governor on Monday, criticized Ryan's decision. "A blanket anything is usually wrong," he said. "There is no one-size-fits-all approach. We're talking about people who committed murder."


On Friday Ryan pardoned four men convicted of murder, saying confessions were tortured out of them by Chicago police. One of the four used a paper clip to scratch professions of innocence on a bench in an interrogation room even as he was being forced to admit to a crime he did not commit, Ryan said.

Leroy Orange, one of the four men pardoned, told CNN he was very grateful to Ryan, and looked forward to "having a positive influence" on his children and grandchildren after 19 years in prison. He was convicted of fatal stabbings in 1984.

Ryan's review prompted new questions about capital punishment in other states, but none has gone as far as Illinois in reexamining the issue.

Sen. Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat, called for a national review of the death penalty and a moratorium on executions.

Illinois is one of 38 states with death penalty laws. The federal government also has reinstated the death penalty.

Human rights group Amnesty International USA said Ryan's actions may empower other states to end capital punishment.

"Gov. Ryan has set an important precedent for elected officials who question the fairness of the death penalty but fear political repercussions," executive director William Schulz said in a statement.

A commission Ryan created to review the Illinois system found the poor were at a disadvantage, too many crimes drew the death penalty and police abuse and jailhouse informants too often played a role in capital convictions.

While opinion polls indicate most Americans still favor capital punishment, support has been eroding and the American Bar Association has called for a national moratorium.

The United States is the only Western democracy in which the death penalty is still used. The punishment has been abolished by its closest neighbors and allies, who routinely denounce the practice in the United States.

From 1976 when capital punishment was reinstated through the end of 2002 there have been 820 U.S. executions, 71 of them last year. There are nearly 3,700 men and women under death sentence in the United States currently.

01/11/03: Man Arrested In Gits' Mia Zapata's Death
Saturday, January 11, 2003 - 04:33 p.m. Pacific

Florida man arrested in 1993 murder of Seattle punk-rock singer

Police late last night arrested a 48-year-old Florida man in the 1993 rape and murder of local punk-rock singer Mia Zapata.

The man, identified by Seattle police as Jesus C. Mezquia, was linked to the killing by DNA evidence. Investigators from four jurisdictions converged on Mezquiaís house in the Florida Keys at 11:15 p.m. Mezquia, who lived in Seattle at the time of the murder, was arrested without incident. He will be held in the Miami-Dade County Jail until he's extradited to Seattle.

The arrest could mark the end of a 10-year investigation that yielded few clues and no real suspects. Traces of the killerís DNA were submitted to the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab in early 2002, but no matches were found. Police finally found a match last month from a new entry in the Florida felon database. Mezquia had been recently convicted of a felony. Police say he has a history of assaults and sexual attacks on women.

Zapata and her band, The Gits, were considered an up-and-coming punk-rock band in the early 1990s when Seattle was the focus of the pop-music world. Her body was found dumped on a dead-end street in Seattle's Central Area on July 7, 1993.

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company

01/10/03: SUV Drivers Help Terrorists?
By Gina Keating

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A new front opened in the U.S. "War on Terror" on Wednesday as newspaper columnist Arianna Huffington and three Hollywood pals launched a TV ad campaign to stop Americans from driving SUVs because the gas-guzzling cars inadvertently aid the country's enemies.

In two spots scheduled to begin running on Sunday, Huffington and friends, collectively known as The Detroit Project, plant the idea that driving the mammoth and hot-selling vehicles is unpatriotic.

The ads, which will appear through Friday in New York, Los Angeles, Detroit and Washington D.C., parody the government's public service campaign against drug-sponsored terrorism, and aim to kindle public demand for tougher fuel efficiency.

"The goal of the campaign is not to demonize people who drive SUVs," Huffington said. "We want to point out how our driving habits at home are fueling oil money to Saudi Arabia."

One spot features a hapless SUV driver named "George" pumping gas into his vehicle while an oil company executive steps into a limousine and a group of turban-wearing soldiers fire automatic rifles into the air.

"This is George," a child says in a sing-song voice. "This is the gas that George bought for his SUV. This is the oil company executive that sold the gas that George bought for his SUV. These are the countries where the executive bought the oil, that made the gas that George bought for his SUV. And these are the terrorists who get money from those countries every time George fills up his SUV."

"Oil money supports some terrible things. What kind of mileage does your SUV get?" the ad concludes.

In a series of close-ups, the second ad explores the purported consequences of buying foreign oil, juxtaposed with excuses people make for buying SUVs: "I helped hijack an airplane." "I like to sit up high." "I helped blow up a nightclub." "It makes me feel safe." "I sent our soldiers off to war."

"What is your SUV doing to national security?" it asks. "Detroit, America needs hybrid cars now."

Disney-owned ABC-TV affiliates in New York and Los Angeles have refused to air the ads because they are too controversial, Huffington said. The spots appear Sunday on network stations and for the rest of the week on cable TV news channels.

Huffington planted the seeds for The Detroit Project in her column in October by fantasizing about a people's ad campaign taking the government to task for failing to pass tougher fuel efficiency standards while waging war to protect cheap oil.

Readers flooded her "in" basket with more than 5,000 letters by the next morning, asking where to send money for the mythical campaign. Within three weeks she had raised $200,000 to paid for a week of airtime and production of the ads. Huffington recruited her hiking pal Laurie David, who had convinced her to swap her 13 mpg Lincoln Navigator for a 50 mpg Toyota Prius, and film producer Lawrence Bender and talent agent Ari Emanuel to guide the spots through production.

Although they had budgeted $50,000 to produce the spots, written by "Got Milk?" creator Scott Burns, most of the costs were waived when people learned about the project, Burns said.

The Detroit Project founders said plans to expand the campaign to more cities or to make new ads must wait on the public's response -- and their money.

"Some people will thing we went too far. I personally wanted to be very confrontational," Bender said. "September 11 was very confrontational."

For more information and to see the ad spots, visit the Detroit Project site.

01/10/03: Army SmarTruck II Ready for Action

Story Filed:1/7/03 05:00 pm

A modified Chevrolet Silverado platform fitted with modules of counterterrorism equipment just might be the next big thing for homeland security.

"SmarTruck II is engineered to meet the nontraditional challenges of today's military," said Dennis Wend, executive director of the Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command's National Automotive Center (NAC). "It provides built-in flexibility and offensive capability [for a variety of situations]."

The jet black prototype SmarTruck II unveiled at the North American International Auto Show didn't much look like a Silverado pickup truck.

Rather than the usual two axles, the SmarTruck II has three, and all six wheels drive the vehicle all the time.

This is key to the SmarTruck II's appeal, Wend said. The modification gives the SmarTruck II a 5-ton payload, so it can carry a bevy of counterterrorism equipment, much of it packaged in armored, self-contained stainless steel modules. The modules can be swapped out for other non-terrorism-related modules when needed.

For example, the SmarTruck II could carry water purification systems on disaster relief missions and communication systems for surveillance missions.

The flexibility could allow many government agencies-from FEMA to the FBI to the military-to share the vehicle, Wend said. "You won't need to have unique trucks with installed equipment; you can just have the modules [stationed] around the United States [ready for use when needed]."

The SmarTruck II on the show floor was clearly armed for military duty. The vehicle was fitted with a guided missile launcher that has a two-mile range and a launcher for a remote-controlled Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV).

Other features: A night vision system, a high-power (50X) zoom video system with thermal imaging and surveillance radar, 360-degree cameras including one under the vehicle to help the driver prevent undercarriage damage when driving off road, and a 12,000-pound, straight-line hydraulic towing winch.

Tires are run-flats, and the grille is covered by a large metal brush guard that's bullet-resistant to keep small armaments from puncturing the engine block.

Wend said the SmarTruck II evolved out of SmarTruck I, which was unveiled at the auto show a year ago. Testing on the SmarTruck II will begin shortly, and NAC officials hope to find interested customers wanting to buy.

But there's a hefty price premium for this kind of Silverado. Wend said it would cost $75,000 to $100,000 just for the modified chassis with six-wheel-drive system and some kind of on-board communications system.

December 21, 2002

Detroit, Michigan


A new website offering free email addresses ending in "" has been officially launched, its organizers say.

According to the site's creators, the intent of is to offer a rallying point for people opposed to the United States' likely offensive against Iraq, and a highly visible means for individuals opposed to the war to communicate their discontent.

"We feel that the United States is about to embark on a foolish, costly campaign against a paper-tiger dictator," says spokesman David Livingstone. "In our opinion, this war amounts to nothing more than a neo-colonialist gambit by George W. Bush. There seems to be no length he will not go to in order to distract people from the disastrous social effects of his domestic policy and to secure the free flow of petroleum dollars into the pockets of his energy industry pals.

"We believe that a great many Americans oppose this unilateral action against Iraq, not to mention people the world over. To this point, the media have largely gone along with the administration, but if enough of us are visible, both the media and the government will have to take notice."

The site is created by OrwellMedia, Livingstone's public relations and communications firm.

Media representatives desiring further information are invited to contact the site's organizers at (313) 320 2820, or via email at

12/28/02: Air Force to pay up for dummy bomb drop on home
Source: Saturday, December 28, 2002 Posted: 9:55 AM EST (1455 GMT)

EL PASO, Texas (AP) -- The Air Force said it will pay about $12,000 in damages to a woman whose house was hit by a dummy bomb.

Gloria Aker's west Texas home was hit last July by a bomb accidentally dropped from an Air Force F-117A Nighthawk on a practice run from Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.

Although the dummy bomb didn't contain explosives, it pierced the home's roof, flew through a bathroom, slammed through a wall, then plowed six feet into the ground. Later, a device used to locate the bomb discharged smoke throughout the house.

Aker was in her home with her two children when the bomb hit. All three were shaken but unharmed. The family has been living with Aker's parents while the home is repaired.

"My son and my daughter, they have nightmares. They're not too excited about going home," Aker said.

Attorney Mike Milligan said his client accepted the $12,000 offer this week. A spokeswoman at the air base confirmed the settlement Friday.

12/27/02: Police Seize 'Obscene' Bin Laden T-Shirt
(Mon Dec 2, 7:54 AM ET (forwarded to us))

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian police said on Monday they had confiscated a T-shirt showing President Bush (news - web sites) and al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden (news - web sites) engaged in a sexual act and were investigating whether it broke a 1931 obscenity law.

A police spokeswoman said the T-shirt, on sale in a market in the eastern state of Queensland, was seized after a complaint from the public. "I was told there was just the one (T-shirt). We had heard that it was manufactured in Bali but we're not 100 percent sure," said the spokeswoman.

She gave no details about the sexual act depicted on the shirt.

Bin Laden T-shirts, some humorous and others risque, appeared in many parts of Asia after last year's September 11 attacks on New York and Washington that U.S. authorities blamed on his radical Islamic al Qaeda network.

But few shirts have shown up in Australia, a resolute supporter of Bush's "war on terror" and vocal backer of firm action against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein (news - web sites).

12/23/02: R.I.P. Joe Strummer
We just learned that Joe Strummer has died at the age of 50 of an apparent heart attack. Our condolences go out to all who loved him.

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