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George Lucas aiming to release the Star Wars movies in 3D - MovieWeb

According to The Hollywood Reporter, George Lucas is such a fan of the latest 3-D technology that he is planning to remaster all of the Star Wars films for rerelease in 3-D.

Appearing as part of a sextet of high-profile directors promoting 3-D and digital cinema at ShoWest on Thursday, Lucas said he hadn't yet committed to a precise schedule but hoped to have the first film ready for the 30th anniversary of the original Star Wars movie in 2007 and that he would then rerelease one Star Wars film per year in 3-D.

Lucas was joined by James Cameron, Robert Zemeckis, Robert Rodriguez and Randal Kleiser. Peter Jackson joined the group via a pretaped 3-D segment. They all implored the exhibition community to invest in digital projectors, which would allow theaters to show their upcoming movies in 3-D. Cameron is in preproduction on the 3-D film Battle Angel, planned for a 2007 release. Zemeckis has two 3-D features in production, and Rodriguez is readying The Adventures of Shark Boy & Lava Girl in 3-D for release in the summer. Jackson, who is currently filming King Kong, announced no specific 3-D plans, but according to sources he has installed a 3-D master suite in his production offices in New Zealand.

 
Dangerrrr: cats could alter your personality

Times Online
eptember 21, 2003

The Sunday Times

Dangerrrr: cats could alter your personality
Jonathan Leake, Science Editor

THEY may look like lovable pets but Britain’s estimated 9m domestic cats are being blamed by scientists for infecting up to half the population with a parasite that can alter people’s personalities.
The startling figures emerge from studies into toxoplasma gondii, a parasite carried by almost all the country’s feline population. They show that half of Britain’s human population carry the parasite in their brains, and that infected people may undergo slow but crucial changes in their behaviour.

Infected men, suggests one new study, tend to become more aggressive, scruffy, antisocial and are less attractive. Women, on the other hand, appear to exhibit the “sex kitten” effect, becoming less trustworthy, more desirable, fun- loving and possibly more promiscuous.

Interestingly, for those who draw glib conclusions about national stereotypes, the number of people infected in France is much higher than in the UK.

The findings will not please cat lovers. The research — conducted at universities in Britain, the Czech Republic and America — was sponsored by the Stanley Research Medical Institute of Maryland, a leading centre for the study of mental illness. The institute has already published research showing that people infected with the toxoplasma parasite are at greater risk of developing schizophrenia and manic depression.

The study into more subtle changes in human personality is being carried out by Professor Jaroslav Flegr of Charles University in Prague. In one study he subjected more than 300 volunteers to personality profiling while also testing them for toxoplasma.

He found the women infected with toxoplasma spent more money on clothes and were consistently rated as more attractive. “We found they were more easy-going, more warm-hearted, had more friends and cared more about how they looked,” he said. “However, they were also less trustworthy and had more relationships with men.”

By contrast, the infected men appeared to suffer from the “alley cat” effect: becoming less well groomed undesirable loners who were more willing to fight. They were more likely to be suspicious and jealous. “They tended to dislike following rules,” Flegr said.

He also discovered that people infected with toxoplasma had delayed reaction times — and are at greater risk of being involved in car accidents. “Toxoplasma infection, could represent a serious and highly underestimated economic and public health problem,” he said.”

In Britain, concern over toxoplasma is growing among health experts — especially as the number of pet cats has grown to about 9m. Roland Salmon, an epidemiologist with the National Public Health Service for Wales, said: “The evidence is that cats are the main cause of infection.”

Toxoplasma moves in a natural cycle between rats and cats. Rats acquire it from contact with cat faeces and cats reacquire it from hunting infected rats. It has long been known that humans can become infected with the parasite through close contact with cats.

Pregnant women are advised to keep clear of the animals because the parasite can damage unborn babies. People with damaged immune systems, such as Aids victims, are also vulnerable.

Until now, however, the parasite has always been thought harmless to healthy people because their immune systems could suppress the infection. But this view seems certain to change, especially in the light of research at Oxford University.

Scientists there have found that when the parasite invades rats it somehow reprograms their brains, reversing their natural fear of cats. It is this same ability to destroy natural inhibitions that is thought to be at work in humans.

Doctors Manuel Berdoy and Joanne Webster at Oxford University are studying how toxoplasma alters rat behaviour and the chemical weapons it uses to subvert the brain.
Berdoy said: “The fact that a single-celled parasite can have such an effect on the mammalian or even human brain is amazing.”

One startling fact to emerge from research is the great differences in levels of infection. In France and Germany, for example, about 80%-90% of people are infected — nearly twice that in Britain or America.

“I am French and I have even wondered if there is an effect on national character,” Berdoy said.

Dr Dominique Soldati, a researcher at Imperial College in London, is studying ways of blocking toxoplasma from getting into cells. “Once you are infected you cannot get rid of this parasite and the numbers of them slowly grow over the years,” she said. “It’s not a nice thought.”

Copyright 2005 Times Newspapers Ltd.
 
It's Insurance a la Cart: Costco Stores to Market Health Plans

Los Angeles Times

By Debora Vrana
Times Staff Writer

June 9, 2005

Costco Wholesale Corp., the low-cost bulk supplier of breakfast cereal, motor oil and diamond rings, is adding health insurance to its warehouse shelves.

In a pilot program to be launched next month in Southern California, Costco will offer family and individual coverage to its customers who pay $100 a year for "executive" membership, company officials said. The insurance is aimed at people such as contractors, waiters and students who are self-employed or cannot sign up for plans at work.

Although other discount stores such as Wal-Mart and Target have begun offering limited health services in their stores, Costco says it will be the first to offer insurance to members. About 18 million households nationally belong to Costco, including 3.4 million who pay for executive membership.

Company officials would not quote premiums but said the insurance would be 5% to 20% cheaper than policies individuals could buy on their own. Costco expects to offer coverage statewide by the end of the year and may eventually make it available to regular members, said Dellanie Fragnoli, assistant vice president of insurance services at Issaquah, Wash.-based Costco.

"It's one of the more requested services by our members," Fragnoli said.

Since 2003, Costco has offered group health insurance to its small-business members in the West through Cypress-based PacifiCare Health Systems Inc., said Cheryl Randolph, spokeswoman for PacifiCare.

The new program, also offered through PacifiCare, will be different in that it is tailored to individuals and families.

The preferred-provider plan, also known as a PPO, which encourages members to see participating doctors, will come in two forms offering similar benefits. One option will have a $1,500 annual deductible for individuals and a $3,000 deductible for families. The other, with lower premiums, will have deductibles twice as high, Costco said.

Coverage for both plans will include prescription drugs; co-payments for most office visits will be $35. Premiums will vary depending on age, location and health status.

Initially available only through Costco's 34 warehouses in Los Angeles, Orange and parts of Riverside and San Bernardino counties, the plan will be sold over the Internet and through a call center.

Costco can offer a discount in part because of lower administration, advertising and brokerage costs, Randolph said.

"They believe they can be cheaper than everyone else, not because of the bulk or the [lack of] frills, but because they are cutting out the middlemen, the broker," said J.D. Kleinke, a healthcare economist in Portland, Ore.

Costco is licensed to sell health insurance and receives a commission, but it "is significantly lower than what is generally paid," Fragnoli said.

Kleinke said consumers didn't really care who their health insurance provider was.

"They just want the cheapest way to see their doctor," Kleinke said.

Although discount retailers selling health insurance may seem like an odd mix, it points out the need consumers have for alternatives, given the rising costs of health insurance, Kleinke said.

Other major retailers including Target Corp. and Longs Drug Stores Corp. also have moved into the healthcare arena. At some Target stores in Minneapolis, shoppers can visit walk-up clinics staffed mostly by nurse practitioners for minor ailments, such as a bladder infection or seasonal allergies, with no appointment and little or no waiting. Target is contracting with Minneapolis-based MinuteClinic Inc. to run the clinics.

In Davis, Calif., this year, Longs unveiled its own in-store clinic. And also this year, the Wal-Mart Stores Inc.-operated Sam's Club began offering a discount program to members that cuts by as much as 50% the cost of some health services not covered by insurance, such as laser eye surgery and dental care.

This area is going to continue to grow, predict healthcare specialists like Kleinke, as rising costs push people to find new ways to insure themselves.

"We're not going to solve this problem," Fragnoli said. But "there is some value in Costco being in the arena. It keeps the providers on their toes."

Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times
 
Update: Hotels Vote to Lock Out Workers

Los Angeles Business Journal Online

By DAVID GREENBERG
Los Angeles Business Journal Staff
Six L.A. area hotels agreed to lock out 2,380 unionized workers after Unite HERE members walked off the job at the Hyatt West Hollywood, a member of a bargaining group with the other six hotels.

The Los Angeles Hotel Employer’s Council voted late Thursday in favor of the lockout after about 120 workers struck the Hyatt West Hollywood over health care reimbursements. The hotels said the lockout would not take effect until midnight Saturday, giving the union time to accept a "best and final" contract offer.

“This is what we call a defensive lockout – it comes in response to a strike,” said Fred Muir, consultant to the hotel council.

Tensions have been high since a contract between Unite HERE Local 11 and nine large hotels expired in April 2004. (Two have since dropped out.) The union has been seeking to align contract expiration dates throughout the country in 2006. The hotels have offered substantial pay increases but they want a longer contract.

The health care payments arose from earlier negotiations. To put pressure on the union, the hotels began deducting $40 in monthly health care premiums last July, but then stopped making the deductions in January. Since then, the union has been seeking reimbursement for premiums the workers paid in the interim.

David Koff, research analyst for Unite HERE, said the local’s 2,500 workers were forced to pay more than $650,000 in health care premiums.

“This has been an issue that agitated the workers from the beginning,” said Koff. “We started at this hotel but it could expand.”

The union is looking for a two-year agreement that would be retroactive to April 15, 2004, when the previous contract expired. That would line Local 11’s agreement with those in several other cities, giving the union more bargaining power.

© 2005 Los Angeles Business Journal Associates
 
Frosty reception for hotels' offer / Co-payment changes fail to impress union

San Francisco Chronicle
George Raine, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 8, 2005

The union representing workers at 14 San Francisco hotels won't formally reject the employers' most recent offer until they resume talks today, but the response has already been telegraphed.

"To say our people were unimpressed is an incredible understatement,'' Mike Casey, the president of Local 2 of the hotel workers union, said Tuesday.

On May 31 -- after more than 100 days with no negotiations -- the two sides met, and the hotels presented a contract proposal that would lower workers' co-payments for doctor's office visits and emergency room visits, compared with a previous offer.

The employers said the offer was made "in an effort to reach a settlement that provides hotel employees with a secure, long-term contract.''

The revised payment plan for office and ER visits is $10 and $20 respectively, compared with payments of $15 and $75 in the earlier proposal. Casey characterized the latest offer as an insignificant movement in negotiations.

One of the major issues dividing the two sides, which have been at odds over a new contract since August, is health care eligibility.

Currently, workers at union hotels need to work only two shifts a week in three out of four weeks to qualify for full health benefits. The employers want to increase the number of shifts to five, arguing that the change would be minimal.

Casey of Local 2 warned that the requirement would eliminate health benefits for as many as 1,000 people, who are banquet servers and people who are hired from a hiring hall, called extras.

Casey said he intends today to bring up language issues, a labor term referring to matters that do not affect the employers' bottom line. These include diversity in the workplace, uniforms and laundry expenses, which are still unresolved.

Steve Trent, a spokesman for the employers, said, "We are happy to be back at the table, and we look forward to the union's counterproposal. We hope the union's position will be a meaningful step toward reaching a fair and equitable contract for our employees.''

The 14 major hotels are represented by a bargaining organization that negotiates labor contracts that influence hotel workers' contracts throughout the city.

The member hotels include the Argent, Crowne Plaza, Fairmont, Four Seasons, Grand Hyatt, Hilton, Holiday Inn Civic Center, Holiday Inn Express & Suites at Fisherman's Wharf, Holiday Inn at Fisherman's Wharf, Palace, Hyatt Regency, Mark Hopkins, Omni and St. Francis.

E-mail George Raine at graine@sfchronicle.com.

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URL: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2005/06/08/BUG9UD52D31.DTL

©2005 San Francisco Chronicle
 
Union Strategy Taking Its Toll

Los Angeles Business Journal Online

By DAVID GREENBERG
Los Angeles Business Journal Staff
In the year-long game of poker between unionized hotel workers and owners of large hotels in Los Angeles, the owners appear to hold the weaker hand.

An aggressive boycott campaign has cost the hotels millions of dollars in lost business. Two of the nine hotels have dropped out of the Los Angeles Hotel Employer’s Council (both were sold; the new owner of the Hyatt Regency Los Angeles cut its own deal with the union and the St. Regis hotel will be converted to condominiums). And a third hotel manager is urging accession to Unite HERE Local 11’s demand for a contract that would expire in 2006, to line up with expiration dates in other large cities.

“Local 11 has outmaneuvered us,” said John Stoddard, general manager of the Wilshire Grand hotel. “What I’m saying is stop fighting them and give them the ’06 agreement.”

When the previous contract expired more than a year ago, there appeared little hope that Unite HERE Local 11 could prevail. The larger and deeper-pocketed grocery workers’ union had just lost a bruising battle with supermarket chains, and the contests had similar parallels.

Both unions represented lower-skill workers in industries where employers were aggressively seeking to cut costs. Both were at a disadvantage as a regional union fighting owners with nationwide, and in the case of the hotel owners, worldwide resources.

Knowing that it couldn’t afford to strike, the union launched a boycott of the hotels, even though a successful boycott was sure to cost workers in the form of lost hours. And it pressed on with a tactic of delaying negotiations, showing a willingness to work without a contract until 2006 if need be.

*The full story is available in the May 30 edition of the Los Angeles Business Journal.

© 2005 Los Angeles Business Journal Associates
 
Biltmore Strikes Deal With Union

Los Angeles Business Journal Online
By ANDY FIXMER
Los Angeles Business Journal Staff

In another blow to the local hotel coalition whose members have been boycotted for months, downtown’s Millennium Biltmore Hotel will no longer oppose the efforts of a union to line up a contract with cities across the country.

In return, the union will stop urging Biltmore clients to boycott the hotel.

In response to the deal, the Los Angeles Hotel Employers Council – a group of seven hotels collectively bargaining with the union – filed charges of unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board.

The hotel owners, in a 4-3 vote, filed the charges claiming that the union was improperly negotiating with individual properties – something not allowed under collective bargaining agreements. Fred Muir, a consultant to the hotel employers council, wouldn’t disclose which member hotels voted against filing the charges.

“It’s through their coercion of individual members of the council that we believe violate National Labor Relations regulations,” Muir said. “We also accuse them of not bargaining collectively in good faith.”

David Koff, a research analyst for Unite HERE Local 11, defended the outside agreements with hotel owners saying they did not constitute an outside contract. “They are still entitled to freedom of speech,” Koff said. “They have agreed to advocate for and recommend to the members of the employers council that they should accept the … proposal the union has had on the table for quite some time.”

Ivan Lee, the Biltmore’s general manager, would neither confirm nor deny the deal with the union, expected to be formally announced at the end of today. “We don’t have anything to disclose at this stage,” he said.

The Biltmore’s decision underscores an on-going dismantling of what appeared to be a formidable alliance of hotel owners who were seeking concessions from their employees when the contract expired nearly two years ago.

Last month, the owner of the Wilshire Grand agreed to similar terms as the Biltmore. As members of the Los Angeles Hotel Employers Council neither hotel can legally cut separate deals with the union. However, the two owners have agreed to vote in the union’s favor.

Besides the Biltmore and Wilshire Grand, six hotels that never joined the employers council and instead bargained independently with the union have all reached deals expiring in 2006 – the date when contracts in large cities nationwide are set to be renegotiated.

Muir wouldn’t address whether the NLRB filing indicated the employers council is concerned the union has driven a wedge between owners.

A union-led boycott has also cut into the bottom lines of employer council hotels, despite also reducing the hours of the workers it represents. The union estimates the boycott has cost the hotels between $10 million and $13 million in canceled room nights, conventions, corporate meetings and banquets by 114 confirmed clients.

The employers council has offered the union a five year contract that would give all full-time employees a $1,000 signing bonus, a 22 percent raise over the life of the contract and free family health care.

© 2005 Los Angeles Business Journal Associates.
 
Judge Clears Way for Grocery Strike Suit

MSN Money - Associated Press News

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A federal judge ruled Wednesday that California authorities can proceed with an antitrust lawsuit against three grocery chains over a profit-sharing pact they forged during a prolonged labor strike-lockout.

Attorney General Bill Lockyer sued the three grocers -- Albertsons Inc., Kroger Co., which owns Ralphs, and Safeway Inc.'s Vons -- in February 2004, alleging the chains' deal to share costs during the strike violated antitrust laws and hurt consumers by discouraging competitive pricing.

The chains maintained federal labor laws governing collective bargaining shielded them from liability.

In his decision, U.S. District Court Judge George H. King concluded the potential anticompetitive effects of the grocers' mutual aid pact did not "follow naturally from the collective bargaining process," and was not protected from potential antitrust liability.

King made no determination on whether the grocers violated antitrust laws, but his ruling clears the way for the state to pursue its case.

"They can't hide behind immunity to shield their conduct," said Tom Dresslar, a spokesman for Lockyer. "We're confident that now that we've overcome this hurdle, we will be able to convince the court that this agreement violates federal law."

Messages left after hours to representatives for Ralphs, Albertsons and Safeway were not immediately returned Wednesday.

After union leaders ordered the strike against Safeway's Vons and Pavilions chains on Oct. 11, 2003, Albertsons and Ralphs responded by locking out their employees. In all, about 59,000 workers were idled at 859 stores.

About a month into the walkout, the United Food and Commercial Workers union withdrew picket lines at Ralphs stores. As a result of the profit-sharing agreement, Ralphs and sister chain Food 4 Less, which was not a target of the strike, paid Vons and Albertsons $146.2 million, according to court documents.

The strike lasted more than four months, cost store owners more than $2 billion by some estimates and resulted in the permanent loss of many customers.

© 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 
NHL and Union Agree to a Revenue-Linked Cap

Chris Foster and Helene Elliott
From Times Staff and Wire Reports

June 9, 2005

The NHL and NHL Players' Assn. have agreed to a salary cap system based on team-by-team revenue, sources familiar with the negotiations said, a major step toward ending their labor dispute.

Negotiators, who met Wednesday in New York, have carved out a plan that calls for a salary cap linked to each team's revenue — the NHL is pushing for a link at 54%. The projections for the first year of the collective bargaining agreement would put the cap at $34 million to $36 million with a $22 million to $24 million minimum.

The amount would cover all player costs, including medical coverage and bonuses, as well as salary. The plan will also have a dollar-for-dollar luxury tax that goes into effect at the midpoint between the cap's ceiling and floor, $29 million.

While other issues remain, a source said that a deal could be in place in two weeks.

Salary arbitration, qualifying offers and free agency could stall negotiations, as could the 24% across-the-board salary rollback offered by the union in December.

Chris Foster and Helene Elliott

Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times
 
SACRAMENTO / Ballot OKd on use of public workers' union dues

San Francisco Chronicle
John Wildermuth, Chronicle Political Writer
Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Teachers, firefighters and other public workers would have to give written consent before their dues could be used for political purposes under an initiative that has qualified for a likely special election ballot.

"We need to protect public employees from the insult of having money taken from them and spent on causes they may violently disagree with,'' said Lewis Uhler, who sponsored the initiative.

Union officials argue that the measure is a Republican attempt to hamstring unions that have consistently supported Democratic candidates.

The union dues measure, along with another that would more than double the time a teacher would have to work before being granted a permanent job, got the OK late Monday from Secretary of State Bruce McPherson, who announced that they each had more than the 411,198 valid signatures needed to make the ballot.

Both measures will go on the next statewide ballot, now scheduled for next June. But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to call Monday for a special election, which would put the measures before voters on Nov. 8.

While the teacher tenure initiative is one of a package of measures being backed by Schwarzenegger, the fight over union dues is likely to be the nastiest -- and most expensive. In 1998, unions spent more than $17 million to defeat Proposition 226, which would have put similar restrictions on all unions, public and private, making it tougher to raise money for political purposes.

"This time we're focusing exclusively on public employee unions,'' Uhler said. "People are upset with their overreaching arrogance and even greed in collecting pay and benefits, with pensions no other taxpayer could enjoy.''

While Schwarzenegger has not endorsed the measure so far, his allies are pumping money into the anti-union effort. In the past week, the state Republican Party has put $200,000 into Uhler's campaign, while the Small Business Action Committee, run by former Schwarzenegger aide Joel Fox, has given $555,000.

Democrats and union leaders have pledged to fight all of Schwarzenegger's initiatives.

"For reasons I still don't understand, it seems the governor is going to call a special election on issues most people don't care about or don't know about,'' said Gale Kaufman, a veteran Democratic strategist who is heading the opposition to Schwarzenegger's initiative effort. "He is spending $80 million for an election on initiatives that will impact horribly on working men and women.''

An initiative that would require that parents be notified before their minor daughters receive abortions already is on the ballot.

E-mail John Wildermuth at jwildermuth@sfchronicle.com.

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URL: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/06/08/BAGLHD54SK1.DTL

©2005 San Francisco Chronicle
 
Public Workers Under Fire
fulltext

Schwarzenegger Targets A Last Bastion of Security
By Harold Meyerson

Thursday, June 9, 2005; Page A21


America has a problem with its public employees. They are not downwardly mobile enough.

Policemen, firefighters, teachers, hospital nurses -- they still belong to the one part of the U.S. economy where the New Deal hasn't been repealed. Fully 90 percent of them have defined-benefit pensions as of old. In the private sector, just 60 percent of employees have retirement plans, and a scant 24 percent still cling to defined-benefit plans. Fully 86 percent of public employees are covered by on-the-job health insurance; in the private sector, the rate has fallen to 66 percent.

According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, public employees make on average $49,275 a year. A sub-princely sum, that, but better than the $34,461 that is the average annual income of private-sector workers.

There are a number of reasons public employees have been able to preserve the kinds of benefits and, in some instances, living standards that were once more common to American workers generally, but chief among these is unions. While 37 percent of public-sector workers are unionized, just 8 percent of private-sector workers are. Through their power at the ballot box, public employees have maintained the ability to bargain with their employers, who are either elected officials or their appointees. For all intents and purposes, their private-sector counterparts have lost the power to bargain collectively.

But are decent living standards in one sector sustainable when they're dependent on the taxes of an increasingly beleaguered private sector? More and more, conservative political strategists see an opportunity to weaken the Democrats -- traditionally the beneficiaries of public-employee union support -- by pitting private-sector voters against public-sector ones. That certainly was Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's goal earlier this year when he backed an initiative that would have terminated the defined-benefit pensions for California's state and municipal employees and shifted them to 401(k)s instead.

Schwarzenegger's plan had a few glitches -- most notably, ending survivor benefits for widows and orphans of police officers and firefighters killed on the job. Facing an onslaught of criticism, Schwarzenegger backed off the initiative. But the war between Arnold and California's public employees has spread across many fronts. He's been embroiled with nurses on the question of nurse-patient ratios, and with teachers over his reneging on a funding commitment to public schools. He's been losing every one of these fights, with his support in the polls dropping from 60 percent to an anemic 40.

Now, a number of Schwarzenegger's business backers have funded yet another initiative, this one to curtail the ability of public-sector unions to fund political campaigns (including those for and against initiatives). The governor -- unless he trades off his support for this measure in return for concessions from the Democratic legislature -- is likely to back it.

Though the attacks from the gazillionaire governor on the state's public servants have only backfired, Arnold's handlers do not sound daunted. On Sunday the Los Angeles Times, reporting on a series of bi-weekly phone calls that Schwarzenegger and his strategists hold with his leading business backers, quoted veteran Republican operative Don Sipple, in one recent call, telling the assembled Arnoldistas how they'd go after the public employees.

"When you get to the point of . . . 'These people are on your payroll, and they are out to roll you every day,' that creates a kind of phenomenon of anger," Sipple said. "But it takes a long time to get there."

If Arnold truly believes he can convince his fellow Californians that the police, firefighters and teachers are out to roll them every day, then the tale of the Incredible Shrinking Governator will continue apace.

But the problems faced by public-sector workers as the private sector grows steadily meaner aren't going away, whatever the outcome of the immediate battles in California. When public-sector workers were first joining unions in the '60s, they were largely playing catch-up with private-sector employees. But as Wal-Mart has supplanted General Motors as America's largest private employer (and GM announced a cutback of 25,000 more workers Tuesday), it's the teachers and their public-sector cohorts who have emerged as the relatively more advantaged -- and politically exposed.

From the period of the three decades after World War II, when the long boom in the American economy was felt in every class and quadrant, we have devolved into a nation of separate economies -- increasingly insecure private-sector workers, a public sector where the guarantees of the New Deal order still pertain and a stratum of mega-rich whose investment income is taxed at lower rates than the incomes of those who work for a living. If we can't create more security in the private sector (and universal health insurance would be a good start), the modest security of a work life in the public sector will surely be eroded, too.

meyersonh@washpost.com

© 2005 The Washington Post Company
 
Eighth-grader wins spelling bee

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Eighth-grader Anurag Kashyap is good at math, science and geography. But rapid-fire spelling -- that's his forte.

Whizzing through words most people never heard of, the 13-year-old from Poway, California, won the 2005 national spelling bee championship on his second try as a contestant.

"I was really nervous because I worked really hard on that and I wanted to do good," Anurag said Friday on ABC's "Good Morning America." He had to guess at a few words he hadn't studied, including "priscilla" (a ruffled curtain) in the third round, Anurag said.

But he exuded confidence as he spelled the final, winning word Thursday. He rushed through "appoggiatura" (melodic tone), and ran into his father's arms and burst into tears. He said he felt "just pure happiness" and later coined his own word, "ecstatic-ness."

A straight-A student, Anurag has represented his school at the California Geographic Bee and recently took part in state-level math and science competitions.

He beat out 272 other competitors in the 19th round of the 78th annual National Scripps Spelling Bee to win $30,000 in cash, scholarships and books.

Anurag sailed through "prosciutto," an Italian dry-cured ham, and "sphygmomanometer," an instrument for measuring blood pressure.

He sometimes spelled so quickly that only the judges appeared to be able to follow him.

Anurag tied for 47th in last year's spelling bee. That experience "helped me to know what I should study to ... like, win this thing," he said at a news conference, repeatedly hiding his face behind a cardboard number that hung around his neck during the contest.

Tied for second place were 11-year-old Samir Patel, who is home-schooled in Colleyville, Texas, and Aliya Deri, 13, of Pleasanton, California.

"I'm disappointed," Samir said, adding that he will try again next year.

Aliya, who will begin high school next year and be ineligible for the 2006 contest, said she was happy with how well she did.

She said after the contest that French is one of her favorite subjects.

"Though you wouldn't know it by the way I spelled the last word," she said. She was eliminated when she missed "trouvaille," a lucky find.

Samir delighted the audience with several of his questions and comments. Twice on hearing a word he had to spell that was familiar to him he said, "Yes!"

Upon correctly spelling "filiciform," in the sixth round, the home-schooled Samir yelled, "Thanks, Mom!"

Samir ultimately stumbled on the word "Roscian," meaning skilled in acting. Two years ago, when Samir tied for third place, bee winner Sai Gunturi predicted he would be a force to be reckoned with.

Each speller won at least $50. Anurag gets $28,000 in cash, scholarships and savings bonds, plus books from Encyclopedia Britannica.

The contest is administered by E.W. Scripps Co. The youngsters all won local contests sponsored by newspapers.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Find this article at:
http://www.cnn.com/2005/EDUCATION/06/02/spelling.bee.ap/?section=cnn_us

 
Antidote To Secrecy

By David S. Broder
The Washington Post
Sunday, June 5, 2005; B07

fulltext

The great benefit of W. Mark Felt's decision to identify himself as "Deep Throat," the famous Watergate secret source, is that a whole new generation of Americans now has a chance to learn just how perverse were the values that infected the Nixon White House.

Some -- but not all -- of the surviving Nixon loyalists reacted in "shoot-the-messenger" fashion to Vanity Fair's revelation that the former No. 2 man in the FBI was the shadowy figure who helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein unlock the Watergate story in the pages of The Post.

Chuck Colson, Nixon's special counsel, who was jailed for his part in the criminal conspiracy hatched in the Oval Office, told NBC's "Today" show that he was "in a state of shock" at learning it was Felt, because "I never thought anybody in such a position of sensitivity in the Justice Department would breach confidences."

Pat Buchanan, who sharpened his rhetorical claws as a Nixon speechwriter, told "Today's" Matt Lauer, "There's nothing heroic about breaking faith with your people, breaking the law, sneaking around in garages, putting stuff from an investigation out to a Nixon-hating Washington Post."

Colson added that Felt "broke the confidence of the president of the United States. If you're a president of the United States, you've got to have somebody in the FBI you can talk to with the confidence you talk to a priest."

And Buchanan threw in the extraordinary assertion that "what he did was help destroy an enormously popular president and, partly as a consequence of that, what 58,000 Americans died for in Vietnam was poured down the sewer."

In these comments, Americans born in the 1970s, '80s and '90s can learn everything they need to know about the dangerous delusions of the Nixon era. The mind-set that created enemies lists, the blind loyalty to a deeply flawed individual, the twisting of historical fact to turn villains into heroes and heroes into villains -- they are all there.

Such tendencies are not unique to one White House; they go with the territory. They must be consciously resisted by men and women of conscience working within an administration and checked by those on the outside -- notably journalists -- whose job it is to monitor the presidency.

That is why excessive official secrecy is always suspect and why the isolation of a president behind a closed circle of advisers can lead to abuse of power.

To get a balanced view of what Felt did in becoming a source for the Watergate reporters, it is wise to bypass Colson and Buchanan and listen to William Ruckelshaus.

As deputy attorney general, he followed the example of his boss, the late Elliot Richardson, and resigned rather than carry out Nixon's order to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox.

When I interviewed Ruckelshaus last week, he said there were obvious dangers when "somebody who is involved in an investigation," as Felt was involved in the FBI's investigation of the Watergate break-in, "puts out information to the press. You can hurt innocent individuals and damage the investigative process.

"But if you see the White House and the head of the FBI [L. Patrick Gray] interfering with the investigation, what are you going to do? If you go public with the charges, who is going to believe you?"

Mark Felt did what whistle-blowers need to do. He took his information to reporters who diligently dug up the evidence to support his well-founded suspicions.

The republic was saved and the public well served. That Colson and Buchanan still don't get it speaks volumes about them.

davidbroder@washpost.com

© 2005 The Washington Post Company
 
Justices Say U.S. May Prohibit the Use of Medical Marijuana

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By LINDA GREENHOUSE
The New York Times

WASHINGTON, June 6 - The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the power of Congress to prohibit and prosecute the possession and use of marijuana for medical purposes, even in the 11 states that permit it.

The 6-to-3 decision, a firm reassertion of federal authority, revealed a deep fissure within the coalition that over the past decade has provided the majority for a series of decisions curbing Congressional power and elevating the role of the states within the federal system. Two members of that coalition, Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Antonin Scalia, voted this time to uphold federal authority.

The decision overturned a 2003 ruling by a federal appeals court that shielded California's Compassionate Use Act, the medical-marijuana initiative adopted by the state's voters nine years ago, from the reach of federal drug enforcement.

The appeals court had held that Congress lacked constitutional authority to regulate the noncommercial cultivation and use of marijuana that did not cross state lines.

But "the regulation is squarely within Congress's commerce power," Justice John Paul Stevens said for the majority on Monday. He added that the court's precedents interpreting Congress's authority under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution had clearly established "Congress's power to regulate purely local activities that are part of an economic 'class of activities' that have a substantial effect on interstate commerce."

The decision, Gonzales v. Raich, No. 03-1454, was not necessarily the last word on medical marijuana, either from the courts or from other branches of government. Under the terms of the opinion, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, will now consider other challenges to the application of federal drug law.

These include an argument made by the two women who brought the case that it is a violation of their constitutional right to due process to deprive them of what they say is the only drug that eases their suffering from a variety of painful conditions.

Because the two patients, Angel McClary Raich and Diane Monson, prevailed in the Ninth Circuit on their Commerce Clause argument, the appeals court did not address the other issues they raised.

Advocates for medical marijuana, meanwhile, emphasized on Monday that the state laws remained in effect, meaning that state officials would not prosecute patients who used medical marijuana, and that the prospect of federal enforcement was fairly remote. Allen Hopper, a lawyer with the Drug Law Reform Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, noted that the federal government handles only about 1 percent of marijuana prosecutions.

Justice Stevens, noting that "perhaps even more important than these legal avenues is the democratic process," suggested that the executive branch might reclassify marijuana for medical purposes or that Congress might take up the matter.

The first option appeared quite unlikely, given the response by John P. Walters, the Bush administration's "drug czar," the director of national drug control policy. "To date, science and research have not determined that smoking a crude plant is safe or effective," his official statement said, adding, "We have a responsibility as a civilized society to ensure that the medicine Americans receive from their doctors is effective, safe and free from the pro-drug politics that are being promoted in America under the guise of medicine."

The House of Representatives is due to vote next week on an appropriations amendment that would prohibit the Justice Department from spending money to enforce federal drug laws against patients using marijuana for medical purposes. While the amendment failed last year, 19 Republicans voted for it. It was not brought to a vote in the Senate.

Mrs. Raich, one of the plaintiffs, speaking along with her husband and lawyers in a telephone news conference, said she would continue to use the marijuana that was prescribed by her doctor and is grown for her by friends. "I don't have a choice but to continue because if I stopped I would die," she said. She suffers from a wasting syndrome, among other ailments, and said that only marijuana gave her the appetite to eat enough to maintain her weight.

The women brought the case after federal agents arrived at Ms. Monson's home in 2002 and, after a three-hour standoff, seized and destroyed her six plants. The two women sued for a declaration that the federal Controlled Substances Act did not apply to their situation.

The opinion by Justice Stevens was joined by his allies in many recent battles over federalism, Justices David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer, and by Justice Kennedy, who did not provide an explanation for his vote.

Justice Scalia, by contrast, explained himself at length. He did not sign the majority opinion, instead offering a separate concurring opinion that was no less definite in its support for federal authority.

"Where necessary to make a regulation of interstate commerce effective, Congress may regulate even those intrastate activities that do not themselves substantially affect interstate commerce," Justice Scalia said. He cited opinions from the early 1940's, after the Supreme Court rallied to support the New Deal and gave Congress a degree of power over national affairs that was not seriously challenged until the Rehnquist Court began invalidating federal laws in the mid-1990's.

Chief Justice Rehnquist was one of the dissenters on Monday. He and Justice Clarence Thomas joined a dissenting opinion by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor; Justice Thomas also wrote a separate dissenting opinion.

As a prime mover of the court's federalism revolution, Justice O'Connor did not hide her dismay. The court's opinion provided a roadmap to "removing meaningful limits on the Commerce Clause" and "threatens to sweep all of productive human activity into federal regulatory reach," she said.

Justice O'Connor said that while she did not support the medical marijuana initiative as public policy, it represented the kind of innovation and "experiment" that came within the latitude the Constitution allows the states.

"The states' core police powers have always included authority to define criminal law and to protect the health, safety and welfare of their citizens," she said, adding that "whatever the wisdom of California's experiment with medical marijuana, the federalism principles that have driven our Commerce Clause cases require that room for experiment be protected in this case."

Justice Thomas said that "if Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything, and the federal government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers."

The sharpest dispute was over the meaning of two of the core decisions of the Rehnquist Court's approach to federalism. Both struck down federal laws, the Gun-Free School Zones Act and the Violence Against Women Act, on the ground that they exceeded Congressional authority, and both were decided by five-member majorities that included Justices Kennedy and Scalia.

While Justice O'Connor declared that the marijuana decision was "irreconcilable" with the earlier ones, Justice Scalia disagreed. Neither of the earlier decisions "involved the power of Congress to exert control over intrastate activities in connection with a more comprehensive scheme of regulation" comparable to federal drug laws, he said.

Besides California, states allowing use of marijuana for medical purposes are Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Vermont.


Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
 
Supreme Court Rejects Women's Sports Case - Yahoo! News

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By GINA HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer

The Supreme Court refused Monday to consider reinstating a lawsuit that accuses federal officials of discriminating against male athletes in enforcing equal opportunities for women.

Justices without comment rejected an appeal from the National Wrestling Coaches Association and other groups that have been fighting federal policies under the anti-discrimination law known as Title IX.

At issue for the court was whether the challengers showed that the law directly caused a reduction in men's sports, and whether they should be allowed to sue federal officials.

The Supreme Court has indicated a special interest recently in Title IX, the 1972 law that bars sex discrimination in any educational program receiving federal funds.

In March, justices ruled 5-4 that a teacher or coach who claims sexual discrimination on behalf of others is protected from firing under the landmark law. That decision expands the scope of the law to protect whistleblowers as well as direct victims.

Then last month, the justices told a lower court to reconsider whether Michigan high schools discriminated against female athletes by scheduling their basketball and volleyball seasons during nontraditional times of the year.

The latest case involved claims that the government is forcing colleges to discriminate against male athletes, because of a requirement that the ratio of male and female athletes be similar to the overall student population.

"If unchecked, the gender quota ... will continue to cause sweeping injustices and discrimination in colleges nationwide, and is already being applied to public high schools," justices were told in a brief filed by the Eagle Forum Education & Legal Defense Fund.

Over the past two decades, the number of wrestling teams at NCAA schools has dropped from 363 to 222, while football teams increased from 497 to 619, according to NCAA leaders. Title IX has been blamed for part of the decline.

In addition to men's wrestling team cuts, other schools have dropped outdoor track, swimming programs and ice hockey, the court was told.

A divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said that the lawsuit should have been filed against individual colleges that eliminated men's sports, not the federal government.

Title IX covers admissions, recruitment, course offerings, counseling, financial aid, student health and student housing, as well as athletics.

The case is National Wrestling Coaches Association v. Department of Education, 04-922.

Copyright � 2005 The Associated Press.