Children are becoming increasingly depressed because they are obsessed with achieving celebrity or having supermodel good looks.
That is the conclusion of a study of 400 children aged between nine and 12 which was unveiled yesterday at the conference.
Psychologists found that those who believed happiness was linked to unattainable levels of money, fame and beauty were more likely to suffer from depression. Among the group, 16 were found to have clinical depression while 112 were found to be vulnerable to depression in the future.
The research, which was led by Dr Helen Street from the Queen Elizabeth Medical Centre in Western Australia, focused on children's beliefs about happiness and how these related to their goals in life.
A significant relationship was identified between the children's understanding of happiness and their vulnerability to depression.
Depressed children were more likely to believe that happiness was something achieved through the acquisition of money, fame and beauty. These children wanted to be rich and famous above all else in life.
Happier children were more inclined to believe that feeling good was about healthy attitudes and the experience of pursuing goals, whatever the outcomes might be.
They were more likely to seek positive relationships with others and to feel that they were developing personally through life.
Dr Street said that the research highlighted an important link between children who were driven by achieving material goals and their experience of depression.
"It is suggested that unhealthy conceptions of happiness as an outcome dependent upon the acquisition of wealth, fame and beauty are contributing to increasing levels of childhood depression in Western society," she said.
"Misconceptions of happiness as an outcome rather than a process lead to unhealthy motivations controlling goal settings and pursuit and to a tendency to increasing levels of rumination and depression."
Ecstasy 'makes users depressed for life'
By Sophie Goodchild and Kat Johnson
16 March 2003
A generation of young clubbers is risking long-term brain damage by taking the drug ecstasy, according to new research published yesterday. Academics are now warning that taking only one or two pills can lead to lasting depression.
A two-year research study carried out by psychologists from London Metropolitan University found that people who had tried ecstasy on only a few occasions had depression levels four times higher than those who had taken a range of other drugs but not ecstasy.
The findings presented to the British Psychological Society's annual conference in Bournemouth yesterday suggested that taking ecstasy left users susceptible to major problems triggered by stress or emotional turbulence.
The results were based on studying 519 volunteers, including current and past ecstasy users, and others who had either never used drugs or had used a number of drugs other than ecstasy, including alcohol and cannabis.
Participants were given a standard psychological questionnaire designed to discover to what extent they suffered from depression. A score of 25 on the questionnaire indicated clinically depression.
Non-ecstasy users, including those taking other drugs such as alcohol, nicotine, cannabis, amphetamines and cocaine, had average scores of about four. But the scores of even non-frequent ecstasy users, including many who had only tried the drug once or twice, reached levels of 16 or 17. Frequent users scored values of up to 28 which put them in the category of clinically depressed even though they were generally not aware of the fact.
Ecstasy is currently listed as a class A drug along with cocaine and heroin although recreational users deny that it has any lasting side effects.
There have been 202 ecstasy deaths recorded in England and Wales between 1997 and April 2002. The dangers of the drug were first highlighted by the death of schoolgirl Leah Betts in 1995 who collapsed after taking ecstasy on her 18th birthday.
A report by the Home Affairs Select Committee recommended the downgrading of the drug and anti-drug abuse charities say the Government is sending out the wrong message by linking it with heroin and cocaine.
Lynn Taurah, who carried out the research with Dr Chris Chandler, said that ecstasy users did not realise they were depressed and she warned people to stay away from the drug.
"People often think taking ecstasy just once or twice won't matter, but what we're seeing is evidence that if you take ecstasy a couple of times you do damage to your brain that later in life will make you more vulnerable," she said.
Ms Taurah added that findings supported evidence from animal studies suggesting that even small doses of ecstasy destroyed brain neurons that produced the important chemical messenger serotonin, which is closely linked to mood. Seven years after the initial damage there was no sign of the neurons repairing themselves.
The animal data raised the possibility that ecstasy may have a whole range of adverse effects involving memory, impulsiveness, decision-making, sleep, and mood.
The research has been received with some scepticism. Dr Jon Cole of Liverpool University, whose own research concluded that the adverse effects of ecstasy had been exaggerated, said that scientists had yet to produce conclusive evidence that the drug had a long term negative impact on users.
"Depression among ecstasy users is not unique. It is the same with people who abuse alcohol," said Dr Cole. "All the evidence so far points to the fact that all these side effects may be down to other factors."
Shock jock Howard Stern sues over "Are You Hot?"
Fri Mar 14, 3:41 AM ET
By Janet Shprintz
HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - Shock jock Howard Stern sued Telepictures Prods. and ABC on Thursday, claiming the reality series "Are You Hot? The Search for America's Sexiest People" is a ripoff of the videotaped version of his radio show, which airs on E! Entertainment Television.
The suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, also names as defendants series creator Mike Fleiss and co-executive producer and show runner Scott Einziger.
Einziger is the former producer of Stern's television show. Stern's former head writer, Jackie Martling, also was hired for "Hot," but is not named in the suit.
Stern's attorney, Marty Singer, was not available for comment. A representative for Telepictures, the producer of the series, said the company does not comment on litigation.
According to the complaint, which seeks more than $10 million in damages and alleges unfair business practices, unfair competition and misappropriation of trade secrets, Stern developed a segment on his show called "The Evaluators," in which he and his guests decided if a contestant was hot enough to be a playmate in Playboy magazine.
The suit claims "Hot" is strikingly similar to Stern's "Evaluators" in that it has a single male host and a panel of three blunt and harsh judges who use a laser pointer to highlight body parts during the critiquing process.
Stern also claims he was in negotiations to develop a show based on "The Evaluators" for network or pay cable before "Hot" was developed. Once "Hot" was broadcast, talks for Stern's show broke off, he alleges.
Stern, who has been complaining publicly about "Hot" for weeks, said on his radio show Wednesday that he planned to sue ABC over "Hot" because it ruined a deal for a similar show he was working on with another network.
"Hot," which started to air last month, has not been a ratings success and was described by Daily Variety's review as a "poorly executed soft-core porn special that thinks it's a genuine beauty contest."
Juke box jury computer program 'predicts hit songs'
Record companies are to test a "juke box jury" computer program that can tell if a song is likely to top the charts.
Like the guests on the TV pop show, launched in the 1960s and revived in the 1980s, the software predicts whether a tune is going to be a "hit" or a "miss".
The program, called Hit Song Science, correctly forecast the success of jazz songstress Norah Jones months before she topped the US charts and won eight Grammy awards.
Record company bosses were so impressed that five major labels have decided to try out HSS for themselves, New Scientist magazine reports.
HSS, produced by the Spanish company Polyphonic HMI, of Barcelona, looks for songs that match the musical traits of known hits.
Each song is run through a set of signal filters that identify and measure more than a dozen musical patterns, including melody, harmonic variation, beat, tempo, rhythm, pitch, chord progression and fullness of sound.
The program's designers found that in the past five years of Billboard magazine's Top 30 chart listings, hits were concentrated into a number of small clusters sharing similar traits.
Polyphonic HMI's chief executive Mike McCready said: "There are a limited number of mathematical formulas for hit songs. We don't know why."
Peter Bentley, of University College London, who also designs musical software, said it may only reinforce tried and trusted formulas for success.
"The music industry is not exactly renowned for its daring exploits," he said. "If you rely on the computer too heavily, you will miss out on the new things."
Atlanta's famed Music Midtown festival has revealed the lineup for its 10th anniversary edition, set for May 2-4. The 120 acts will include such luminaries as Aimee Mann, Bob Dylan, Ben Harper, Buddy Guy, Crosby, Stills, & Nash, Def Leppard, Eve, Fat Joe, Godsmack, Gomez, India.Arie, LL Cool J, Ratdog, Shaggy, Sheryl Crow, and Tony Bennett.
Other artists slated to play include 3LW, Ashanti, B-52s, Caitlin Cary, Cam'ron, Cracker, Donnie, Drivin N Cryin, Edgar Winter, Everclear, G. Love & Special Sauce, the Isley Brothers, Jack Johnson, K-Ci & JoJo, Les Claypool's Frog Brigade, Medeski, Martin, & Wood, Saliva, Sixpence None The Richer, Steve Winwood, Susan Tedeschi, and Tonic.
The three-day festival, which traditionally draws about 300,000 fans, will take place on a 40-acre area sectioned off in midtown Atlanta. Tickets go on sale Friday (March 14) via Ticketmaster. Three-day passes will cost $45.
The festival will have 11 stages, some of which will feature music from specific genres such as blues, cajun and zydeco, and African and Cuban music. New this year, the Audio Underground stage will feature electronic and DJ acts. For more information, including a full list of performers, visit the event's official Web site.
DMX Retiring From Hip-Hop, Plans To Read His Bible
DMX Retiring From Hip-Hop, Plans To Read His Bible
03.10.2003 7:48 AM EST
SANTA MONICA, California — DMX is hanging up his collar.
The barking MC took a break on the set of his next movie, "Never Die Alone," on Wednesday to confirm rumors of his retirement from hip-hop.
"That's the truth. It's my last album," X said, referring to his upcoming fifth record, It's Not a Game.
DMX will continue to act and oversee his Bloodline Records label, but neither will be his priority.
"I'm going into the church," he said. "I wanna take some time off — you know, read my Bible and just get more into the word."
Family will also take precedence. "I got kids, and one of my children is at that stage where you have to be around. He's 8 months, and I don't wanna be a stranger to my children. That's more important to me than all this."
DMX promised to go out with a bang on It's Not a Game, which he described as even more autobiographical than his previous releases. The album is finished and will likely surface before summer, but that's about all X will reveal. "It's top-secret stuff," he said.
One thing fans can expect is a collaboration between DMX and the red-hot 50 Cent.
"He's an individual after my own heart," X said of 50. "I'm glad he's here. Once again, hip-hop was getting a little bit too slippery, a little too shiny. So it's good, it's refreshing, to have someone bring it right back to the streets."
After It's Not a Game drops, the Ruff Ryders' top dog will prep new albums from his kennel of Bloodline acts, including Bazaar Royale, Big Stan and Kashmir.
"I'm hands-on with all my artists, that's why it's called Bloodline, 'cause it comes from the dogs, you know," X explained. "It's like before you get a dog, you find out what his Bloodline is and then you know who his parents were, you know how many fights they had, you know what's in their blood, so to speak."
DMX said he may produce some of his artists' tracks, but he'll focus more on general guidance.
"I know I needed to learn a few things coming into the rap game. It's like, all right, you're a talented rapper and you write songs, but it's different putting an album together. So I try to show 'em what to do and what not to do and how far to go with it."
DMX joins a long list of rappers who are promising to retire in the coming years, including Dr. Dre, Ja Rule and Master P (see "Dre, Ja Rule, P. Diddy Have All Threatened To Retire — But Will They?").
Word Experts in 'Agreeance', Vindicate Fred Durst
Fri Mar 7, 9:07 PM ET By Dan Whitcomb
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The experts are in agreeance. Rocker Fred Durst was right after all.
Durst, lead singer of the rap-metal band Limp Bizkit, was widely mocked after he deviated from the script at the Grammy Awards to offer an anti-war sentiment that grated on the ears of grammarians: "I just really hope we're all in agreeance that this war should go away as soon as possible."
Wordsmiths everywhere agreed: Durst is dumb, they said.
Barry Koltnow of the Orange County Register called him "illiterate." The Atlanta Journal Constitution said its copy desk was "in agreement that 'agreeance' isn't a word."
The Weekly Standard called the performer "Fred Dunce" and as far away as Sydney, Australia, the Sunday Telegraph newspaper called it a "fact" that agreeance is not a word.
But it turns out that Durst has some heavy linguistic hitters on his side. The North American editor of the Oxford English Dictionary told the New York Observer newspaper that "agreeance" is, in fact, a word.
"It's in the OED," editor Jesse Sheindler told the paper. "He did use it correctly.
Sheindler said that "agreeance" was an obsolete word, having passed out of circulation by about 1714, but noted that it was still used occasionally -- especially in Australia.
And Hagit Borer, chairwoman of the University of Southern California's linguistics department, also defended Durst, calling his word choice "innovative" and noting that the English language was malleable.
"It's not a conventional usage but I wouldn't say it's wrong," Borer told Reuters. "It indicates is that he was making creative use of the language. That doesn't make it wrong."
"People no longer really use 'dreamt' for example," she said. "They use various other forms. This is how the language changes. People don't remember a form so they make up new one."
Meanwhile Durst, who also made headlines with his fling with pop star Britney Spears (news), was feeling vindicated.
"Agreeance is a word according to the Oxford English Dictionary," Durst said in a posting on his Web site (http://www.limpbizkit.com). "So the dumb asses at the Orange County Register and everyone else are welcome to intern at Flawless Records until they learn enough about journalism to write for a major daily newspaper."
NEW YORK - City bus and subway fares will jump by 50 cents to $2 this spring under a decision Thursday that will affect more than 7 million daily commuters on the nation's largest mass transit system.
The increase, the first since November 1995, will take effect May 4.
The fare hike will put New York on par with Philadelphia, with its $2 base cash fare for subways. A ride in New York will be more expensive than one in Chicago ($1.50), Atlanta ($1.75), San Francisco (soon to be $1.25) or Boston ($1).
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (news - external web site) said it needs the money to deal with an estimated $952 million deficit over the next two years.
"We can't do everything that everybody wants," MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow said during a public hearing. "It's impossible."
After the vote, a crowd chanted at board members, "Shame on you! Shame on you!"
"As you've heard, again and again, New Yorkers are outraged," Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz told the board. "It makes absolutely no sense to even consider a fare increase."
The board also boosted tolls on its bridges and tunnels, including the Triborough Bridge and the Queens Midtown and Brooklyn-Battery tunnels, by 50 cents to $4. Fares will also rise 25 percent on the Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road commuter lines May 1.
The board also decided to close 62 part-time token booths and phase out subway tokens, which were created in 1953 when fares rose from 10 cents to 15 cents and turnstiles were unable to accept two coins at once.
The token has been remodeled several times, but is now overshadowed by the popular Metrocards. Getting rid of the tokens saves the agency $6 million.
Sony Music Plans Layoffs
Thu Mar 6, 2:29 AM ET
By Justin Oppelaar
NEW YORK (Variety) - The long-rumored restructuring at Sony Music is expected to take a hefty bite out of the record giant's sales staff, with some form of combination of sales forces at flagship Sony labels Epic and Columbia to be part of the deal, sources close to the company said.
Exact figures are still being worked out, but the sales cuts will likely be well into the dozens when the smoke clears. Recent reports put the total number of expected layoffs around 1,000 staffers -- though Sony insiders insist that number is high.
Sales cuts would follow a general trend in the industry in recent months. Both EMI and Warner Music laid off swathes of sales staffers in rounds of cost-cutting over the past two years, in an effort to streamline their operations and trim costs.
Recently installed Sony Music chief Andrew Lack -- who came on board after turning around NBC's news division -- is winding up his evaluations of the company's various business units, and is said to be close to laying out his plan.
Sony executives maintain that the company won't go public with its restructuring scheme until after Sony Corp (news - web sites). finishes its fiscal year on March 31. Others close to the situation, however, argue that the company will act sooner, to keep the bad news on last year's books.
At least some of the bloodletting has begun in Sony Music's distribution arm, however, with sources reporting that the unit's chief Danny Yarbrough has departed, and several other high-level execs are on their way out.
With Sony Music a financial laggard within the Japanese conglomerate, Sony's corporate brass had reportedly been unhappy with former Sony Music chief Tommy Mottola's inability to keep costs under control.
Hank Ballard, the singer/songwriter whose hit "The Twist" ushered a nationwide dance craze in the 1960s, has died. Ballard, who was suffering from throat cancer, died yesterday (March 2) at his home, friends said. Friend and caretaker Anna Ayala said Ballard's birth records indicate he was born in 1927, but biographical information lists his birthdate as 1936.
In 1958, Ballard wrote and recorded "The Twist," but it was only released on the B-side of a record. One year later, Chubby Checker debuted his own version of "The Twist" on Dick Clark's Philadelphia television show.
It soon topped the charts and launched a dance craze that prompted the creation of other Twist songs, including "Twist and Shout" by the Isley Brothers and "Twistin' the Night Away" by Sam Cooke.
In a 1996 interview, Ballard described music as his medicine. "If you're looking for youth, you're looking for longevity, just take a dose of rock'n'roll," he said. "It keeps you going. Just like the caffeine in your coffee. Rock 'n' roll is good for the soul, for the well being, for the psyche, for your everything. I love it. I can't even picture being without rock 'n' roll."
Ballard was discovered in the early 1950s by writer-producer Johnny Otis. He was lead singer for the Royals, which changed its name to the Midnighters. Ballard's songs were sometimes banned from 1950s radio for their sexually suggestive lyrics.
By the early 1960s, he had charted 22 singles on the rhythm and blues charts, including "Work With Me Annie" -- the biggest R&B hit of 1954, selling more than 1 million copies. The song was part of a well-known trilogy of risque R&B numbers that included "Annie Had a Baby" and "Annie's Aunt Fannie."
Ballard and the Midnighters didn't suffer from Checker's version of "The Twist." By the mid 1960s, the group had three simultaneous hits in the pop top-40: "Finger Poppin' Time," "Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go," and their original version of "The Twist."
Ballard, who was born John H. Kendricks in Detroit, grew up singing in church in Bessemer, Ala. At 15, he moved back to Detroit and set out to form a doo wop group while working on the Ford Motor Co. assembly line.
Rapper Trick Daddy is facing assault charges in Miami after witnesses told police he brandished a gun and threatened to kill a man during a dispute following a basketball game. The South Florida rapper, whose real name is Maurice Young, surrendered early Wednesday and was charged with aggravated assault with a firearm, possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, Miami-Dade police spokesman Robert Williams said.
Trick Daddy has a history of drug and weapon related arrests. He was convicted in 1991 on charges of cocaine possession, carrying a concealed firearm, and violating probation. He served two-and-a-half years in state prison, state attorney spokesman Ed Griffith said.
Trick Daddy was released later Wednesday after posting $22,500 bond, Miami-Dade County Jail officials said. He faces a maximum 35 years in prison if convicted on all charges.
The alleged assault occurred Feb. 3. Witnesses told police that Trick Daddy was playing basketball with friends when he got into a dispute with Pernell Paige, 27. The rapper left the court but returned armed and threatened Paige, police said. Williams said Trick Daddy calmed down and left without firing or striking Paige.
Phone messages left at Paige's home, and the rapper's record labels, Atlantic and Slip-N-Slide Records, were not returned. Jail records list the rapper as being 26, but other records, including his driver's license, list him as being 28.
The artist, who has also gone by the stage names Trick Daddy Dollars or T Double D, last August released his fifth album, "Thug Holiday." The set debuted at No. 2 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Chart and No. 6 on The Billboard 200.
A lawyer for Great White frontman Jack Russell said the singer is asking for immunity from prosecution before agreeing to testify to a grand jury investigating last week's tragic nightclub fire in Rhode Island. "We'll be there [Friday]," attorney Neil Philbin, who represents Russell, said. "What happens next remains to be determined."
A grand jury investigating the fire at the Station in West Warwick -- the fourth-deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history -- met Wednesday at a National Guard compound but no one has yet testified, sources said. Talks among lawyers took place yesterday (Feb. 27), and the grand jury was expected to reconvene today to continue its review to decide if criminal charges should be issued. Great White had just begun playing when flames broke out in the club.
Meanwhile, Gov. Don Carcieri said the death toll from the Feb. 20 fire had dropped by one, to 96, and that all the victims had been identified. The final count was determined after the medical examiner finished examining all the remains; the discrepancy came as investigators were identifying body parts. About 60 people remained hospitalized, including 36 in critical condition.
Fire investigators believe the shower of sparks from the pyrotechnic display ignited soundproofing behind the stage, sending flames through the one-story wooden building.
Those connected with the band maintain they had the nightclub's permission to set off the display, something the club's owners deny. Attorney Thomas Briody said when his client, Great White tour manager Daniel Biechele, met with a "high-ranking club representative" a week before the show, the Station told him the club wanted pyrotechnics.
"Any suggestion that Great White did not have permission to display pyrotechnics is simply false," Briody said.
NEW YORK - Dionne Warwick, who was arrested at an airport last year after authorities found marijuana in her bag, is blaming someone else for putting it there.
"Apparently, somebody that didn't want to get caught thought it would be better off in somebody else's bag," the pop singer recently told The Associated Press.
The 62-year-old was arrested in May and charged with a misdemeanor after baggage screeners at Miami International Airport said they found marijuana joints inside an empty lipstick container in her bag. Charges were dropped after Warwick agreed to a plea bargain deal, which included a drug treatment program.
Warwick says she's not a drug user. "Drugs of every sort, including aspirin, are not anything I even think about," she said.
The Grammy-winning singer, whose hits include "Do You Know the Way to San Jose," and "Walk On By," says she learned a lesson from the incident: "It taught me not to travel with an open bag."
"You never know what's going to end up in it," she said.
Members of the band Great White have been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury that will investigate the West Warwick, R.I., nightclub fire that killed 97 people last week, authorities said. The grand jury will convene tomorrow (Feb. 26), law enforcement authorities said on the condition of anonymity. One official also said investigators have searched the home of one of the club's owners.
The developments came one day after thousands turned out to honor the dead at three separate memorial services.
Investigators have been trying to determine who is to blame for Thursday's inferno, which was apparently sparked by the band's pyrotechnics and swept through the one-story, wooden building in just three minutes. The band has said it received approval to use the special effects, but the club's owners have denied giving permission.
Attorney General Patrick Lynch said the owners, brothers Jeffrey and Michael Derderian, have not answered investigators' questions since the fire. "I believe the Derderians might be able to provide some answers that may assist all of us," Lynch said late yesterday. Kathleen Hagerty, an attorney for the Derderians, said the brothers provided information to West Warwick police and have arranged to share information with the attorney general.
The pyrotechnics apparently set fire to soundproofing behind and above the stage. State law bars flammable acoustic material like polyurethane foam from the walls of gathering spaces like bars. "If it was [polyurethane], then the governor's going to want an answer to the question, 'Why was it there?'" said Gov. Don Carcieri's spokesman, Jeff Neal.
Paul Vanner, who described himself as a sound engineer and stage manager at the club, told The Boston Globe and the Boston Herald he warned Michael Derderian three months ago that pyrotechnics were being used by bands in the club and the practice should be stopped. "I told them, 'I don't know those dudes from [expletive]'," Vanner said. "They are lighting fires in your club. Tomorrow they're gone. Tomorrow we're here. I can't guarantee safety in your club."
Soundproofing experts who have seen video of the disaster say they believe the material used at the Station was polyurethane foam, a commonly used, inexpensive alternative to fire-resistant panels many experts prefer. "It's a common mistake many people make, not evaluating their materials," said P.J. Nash, a national soundproofing distributor in San Diego. "Polyurethane foam is extremely flammable, and if you breathe that smoke, it's going to knock you out in a minute."
A polyurethane panel typically costs about $150 while a melamine panel, which experts say withstands heat, sells for nearly $250. The club passed a fire inspection Dec. 31, but it wasn't clear if the soundproofing material was checked or would normally be looked at during a routine inspection. Fire Chief Charles Hall declined to comment on the investigation.
Authorities have begun interviewing employees at nightclubs in other states where employees say Great White used pyrotechnics without notice.
At the memorials, the focus was on the victims. "This state is like a close-knit family," said Tricia Colon, a middle school teacher who attended last night's service at the West Warwick Civic Center. "If you don't know someone who died or was hurt in the fire, you know somebody who knows somebody. It's that closeness that's going to pull everyone through this."
It was standing-room-only at the 2,000-seat center, just a few miles from the charred ruins of the Station club. In nearby Warwick, about 400 people sang hymns and prayed for the victims at an interfaith service. And hundreds more attended a prayer service in Pawtucket.
Among the crowd at the civic center were school bus drivers who had worked with victim Robert Reisner, 29, and drove his bus to the service. "There is no doubt in my mind that he was letting people out of the club in front of him," Danny Manns recalled. "He was a gentleman."
At St. Gregory the Great Church in Warwick, one pastor asked grieving families to hold up pictures of their lost relatives so mourners can "know for a moment those you loved."
"It's true that some good may come from this disaster, but the event itself is only tragic and will never make sense," said the Rev. John E. Holt of the Rhode Island Council of Churches. He saluted families for their "quiet courage."
The governor ordered state agencies to fly the Rhode Island state flag at half-staff. Carcieri also asked President Bush to declare the fire a state disaster, which would make Rhode Island eligible for federal aid.
About 80 survivors of the blaze remained hospitalized yesterday; about half were listed in critical condition.
(AP) A 70-year-old woman was in fair condition Monday after an alligator ripped off part of her arm as she trimmed brush outside her condo, officials said.
The 8-foot 3-inch alligator latched on to Helena Couto's arm just below the elbow Sunday and tried to drag her into a nearby pond, said Gary Morse, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
She was saved by a resident who managed to pull her away, More said.
"A neighbor came to the rescue and had her by the legs," he said.
A deputy shot and killed the alligator.
Wildlife commission officials cut into the alligator and retrieved the arm, which was then flown to Tampa General Hospital where Couto was awaiting surgery to reattach it, Charlotte County spokesman Robert Carpenter said.
Hospital spokeswoman Ellen Fiss wouldn't say Monday whether the surgery was successful.
Howie Epstein, 47, former bassist for Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, died at a hospital in Santa Fe, N.M. late Sunday night. Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano says that while the cause of Epstein's death was as yet undetermined, the musician had been transported to the hospital by a female companion who told police that Epstein had been using heroin, and had also been taking prescription antibiotics for an illness.
"We are deeply saddened at the news of Howie's passing," reads a statement from Petty & the Heartbreakers. "It's difficult to put into words how much we loved him and will miss him. The world has lost a great talent and a kind and gently soul. We can only take solace in knowing he is now at peace. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and his many friends."
Epstein played with the Heartbreakers from 1982, when he replaced original bassist Ron Blair, until last year; at that time, the band said it had parted company with him "because of his ongoing personal problems." In 2001, Epstein and his then-girlfriend, singer Carlene Carter, were arrested in New Mexico after three grams of heroin were found in the couple's car.
A melee involving hip-hop fans and would-be rappers today (Feb. 24) in New York's Times Square caused MTV to cancel its weeklong "MC Battles" rapping contest, MTV and police officials said. Thousands of people had lined up overnight and in the early morning outside MTV's studios in Times Square to enter the contest organized by the cable network and the Def Jam label, but overcrowding led to pushing and shoving on the streets.
Two police officers were injured and four people were arrested for disorderly conduct, a police statement said.
"We apologize to anyone who traveled far or waited for a long time for the contest, but we'll provide information soon about future plans," said Dave Sirulnick, executive VP of news and production for MTV, a unit of Viacom Inc.
The freestyle rap contest was part of MTV's "Hip-Hop Week" programming that started today. Contestants had to be 18 years and older to be considered. The first 1,000 eligible and aspiring MC's would have had the chance to freestyle before a panel of MTV and Def Jam judges for a chance to win a Def Jam recording contract and $25,000.
Overboard Shoes Drifting Toward Alaska
Mon Feb 24, 9:09 AM ET
ANCHORAGE - Thousands of pairs of Nike basketball shoes are washing up on beaches from Washington state to Alaska after spilling from a container ship in Northern California.
There's just one hitch to finding a free pair.
"Nike forgot to tie the laces, so you have to find mates," said Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer, an oceanographer who tracks sneakers, toys and other flotsam across the sea. "The effort's worth it 'cause these Nikes have only been adrift a few months. All 33,000 are wearable!"
A beachcomber told Ebbesmeyer about the shoe spill after finding two new blue-and-white EZW men's shoes washed up near Queets on Washington's Olympic Peninsula on Jan. 9 and 16.
Unfortunately, they were sizes 10 1/2 and 8 1/2. Both were lefts.
A little research by Ebbesmeyer confirmed that a ship lost cargo Dec. 15 during a storm off Cape Mendocino, including three 40-foot containers each carrying an estimated 5,500 pairs of shoes.
"Nikes will be soon in your neck of the sea," Ebbesmeyer said in an e-mail message to the Anchorage Daily News last week. "Only two have been found, so your readers can be amongst the first to report in!"
Sister of TV host Oprah
Winfrey found dead
Investigation continues, cause of death pending
NEW BERLIN - The sister of television talk show host Oprah Winfrey was found dead in her residence Wednesday morning, police said today.
The body of Patricia Lloyd, 43, was found inside her home by her husband, Kenny, at about 5:25 a.m. Wednesday, said New Berlin police Lt. David Dunn. Dunn said investigators learned that Lloyd was the sister of Oprah Winfrey.
Dunn said the cause of Lloyd's death was unknown this morning. The investigation into her death continues.
"We don't want to speculate until we get some facts from the medical examiner's office," Dunn said. "We are looking at anything possible but right now we don't think there is any type of criminal activity."
A Waukesha County medical examiner's office spokeswoman said an autopsy was completed Wednesday but the cause of death is pending.
Officials with the Oprah Winfrey show could not be reached for comment by press time.
Winfrey is the award-winning host of "Oprah," the daily news and talk show seen nationally from Chicago. She has also starred in several movies, including "The Color Purple."
Dozens Killed in R.I. Nightclub Fire
Pyrotechnics Show Caused Massive Blaze
The Associated Press
Friday, February 21, 2003; 8:16 AM
WEST WARWICK, R.I. –– A nightclub erupted into flames during a pyrotechnics display at a rock concert, killing at least 39 people and injuring more than 150 as mobs of concertgoers frantically rushed to escape the raging fire.
It was feared the toll would climb as firefighters sifted through the charred shell of the building, said West Warwick Town Manager Wolfgang Bauer.
The fire broke out across the ceiling above the band, and quickly spread over the crowd, filling the building with thick, black smoke. The entire club was consumed by flames within three minutes, West Warwick Fire Chief Charles Hall said Friday.
He said the club had recently passed a fire inspection, but didn't have a permit for pyrotechnics. There was no sprinkler system.
Most of the bodies were found near the front exit, some of them burned and others dead from smoke inhalation, Hall said. He said some appeared to have been trampled in the rush to escape.
"They tried to go out the same way they came in. That was the problem," Hall said. "They didn't use the other three fire exits."
The blaze broke out at about 11 p.m. during the first song of a Great White concert at The Station in West Warwick, about 15 miles southwest of Providence. A fireworks display that was part of the show apparently ignited the ceiling and sound proofing behind the stage, and flames quickly engulfed the club.
"All of a sudden I felt a lot of heat," said Jack Russell, the band's lead singer. "I see the foam's on fire. ... The next thing you know the whole place is in flames."
He said he started dousing the fire with a water bottle but couldn't put it out, then all the lights went out.
"I just couldn't believe how fast it went up," he said.
Hours later, only a blackened shell of the one-story building was left.
It was the second deadly U.S. club disaster in four days. Early, Sunday, 21 people were killed and more than 50 injured during a stampede in a Chicago nightclub that began when a security guard used pepper spray to break up a fight.
In Rhode Island, more than 160 people were taken to area hospitals, Bauer said. Firefighters worked through the morning Friday to pull charred bodies from the building as onlookers watched — worried about missing friends.
"They were completely burned. They had pieces of flesh falling off them," said Michelle Craine of West Warwick, who was waiting to hear about a friend who was missing. "It was the worst thing I've ever seen."
Chaos erupted moments after the fire started. Witnesses said dozens of people dashed toward the door, and some of those who escaped were later seen staggering into a triage center. Rescuers carried dozens of people on stretchers.
Hundreds of firefighters and police from across the region and dozens of ambulances were on the scene. Rescuers were pulling badly injured victims from the fire as ladder trucks poured water over the flaming skeleton of the building.
"It was calm at first, everyone thought it was part of the act," said John DiMeo, who was sitting at the bar near the front door when the fire started. "It happened so fast."
Russell told WJAR-TV he checked with the club's manager before the show and the band's use of pyrotechnics was approved. He said he felt the heat of the flames while on stage.
"This place went up like a Fourth of July," he said.
The club has passed a fire code compliance inspection Dec. 31 in order to get their liquor license renewed, Hall said. He said no sprinkler system was required because of the building's size, but a license would have been required for the pyrotechnics.
The allowable capacity for the show was 300, but Hall said there were fewer people than that inside.
Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri, who was in Stuart, Fla., to attend a governors' conference, said he planned to return to the state Friday morning.
"Our hearts go out to all of them. Our hearts and prayers to all of the families that have been impacted by this. ... There's no words to describe," Carcieri said. "This is a terrible tragedy. It should not have occurred. Why it occurred is one of the questions that needs to be answered."
Great White is a heavy metal band whose hits include "Once Bitten, Twice Shy" and "Rock Me." The band emerged in the Los Angeles metal scene of the late 1980s, selling 6 million albums and earning a Grammy nomination in 1990.
They continued to tour and make albums in recent years, maintaining a strong allegiance of fans from their glory days of the 1980s.
At Least 39 Dead At Rock Show Fire
02.21.2003 7:59 AM EST
Flames engulf the nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island.
At least 39 people were killed and authorities expect the number to rise as they investigate a fire that engulfed a Rhode Island nightclub Thursday night, killing dozens and injuring more than 160.
The Station, in West Warwick, about 15 miles southwest of Providence, caught fire as a result of a pyrotechnic mishap during the first song by '80s metal band Great White, at about 11 p.m., according to the Associated Press. A spark or flame apparently ignited something in the ceiling and spread throughout the venue within minutes, leaving little more than one wall standing by the time firefighters extinguished the blaze a few hours later.
More than 160 people escaped and were taken to local medical centers, many with severe burns and others injured as a result of being trampled as they attempted to exit. Many of those dead were found near the front door, and dozens were still missing or unaccounted for in the early morning hours after the fire.
"They were completely burned," West Warwick resident Michelle Craine told the AP. Craine was one of the many people still awaiting news on missing friends feared dead in the blaze.
A witness told The Providence Journal about 300 people attended the concert. Among those who were still missing in the hours immediately following the disaster was Great White's guitar player.
Moments after the ceiling caught fire, chaos ensued and people rushed to the exits.
Hundreds of firefighters and police, and dozens of EMS workers from neighboring areas as far as Massachusetts, rushed to the scene, and rescuers were pulling injured victims to a makeshift triage area set up across the street from the venue.
Great White singer Jack Russell told WJAR-TV that the band's use of pyrotechnics was approved by the club. An investigation looking into several factors, including whether the Station had a license to use fireworks, is underway. A fire official told CNN that a permit for pyrotechnics had been applied for, but not granted.
Rhode Island Governor Don Carcieri is planning to return to his state from Stuart, Florida, Friday morning (February 21).
The tragedy struck just four days after a disaster in a Chicago club, E2, left 21 people dead and more than 50 injured. That incident was the result of a mass rush to flee the nightclub after a security guard used pepper spray to dispel a fight.
A witness told The Providence Journal about 300 people attended the concert. Among those who were still missing in the hours immediately following the disaster was Great White's guitar player.
Moments after the ceiling caught fire, chaos ensued and people rushed to the exits.
Hundreds of firefighters and police, and dozens of EMS workers from neighboring areas as far as Massachusetts, rushed to the scene, and rescuers were pulling injured victims to a makeshift triage area set up across the street from the venue.
Great White singer Jack Russell told WJAR-TV that the band's use of pyrotechnics was approved by the club. An investigation looking into several factors, including whether the Station had a license to use fireworks, is underway. A fire official told CNN that a permit for pyrotechnics had been applied for, but not granted.
Rhode Island Governor Don Carcieri is planning to return to his state from Stuart, Florida, Friday morning (February 21).
The tragedy struck just four days after a disaster in a Chicago club, E2, left 21 people dead and more than 50 injured. That incident was the result of a mass rush to flee the nightclub after a security guard used pepper spray to dispel a fight.
DeathByMedia::Dateline Used Supermarket Tabs as Sources
Tuesday, February 18, 2003
By Roger Friedman
NBC News' Dateline Used Supermarket Tabs As Sources
NBC News' Dateline may have crossed the line Monday night not only in good taste, but in ethics as well. There's a lot they didn't tell you about their reporting on Michael Jackson. Let me tell you now.
For one thing, the show did not admit that they had offered Jackson $5 million for the rights to his documentary outtakes. This is something we reported here exclusively. Also, Dateline did not mention that they had offered to bump their own special — the one which ran Monday night — if they got the rights to those outtakes.
Instead, Dateline made a big deal of Fox TV paying for the outtakes, which will be shown on Thursday, as if NBC would never stoop to such a thing. But I have the deal memo right here that shows NBC Business Affairs honcho Marc Graboff offering Jackson the $5 million.
I also have seen a deal memo instructing another NBC executive, Claudia Eaton, to dangle a "pre-emption" of the entire Dateline show as bait if Jackson agrees to the $5 million offer. Eaton, by the way, is the NBC exec in charge of Access Hollywood, the NBC-owned syndicated tabloid show. The memo offers Access host Pat O'Brien as a possible host for the NBC news show.
What's more, Dateline then attacked F. Marc Schaffel, the producer of the outtakes video, dragging up his history as a porno producer. They didn't interview Schaffel, or attempt to, Schaffel's friends say.
Those same friends also say that Dateline made the digression because Schaffel wouldn't make that $5 million deal with them. Dateline also did not mention that a great number of rock music acts — such as Britney Spears and Counting Crows — use porno directors for their videos.
Friends of Schaffel, who produced Jackson's "What More Can I Give?" project, say he is considering legal action against NBC.
Dateline also didn't tell you Monday night that a good deal of their reporting was based on tabloid journalism — and I mean real supermarket tabloid journalism, the kind of stuff Tom Brokaw has probably never read in his life.
Author Randy Taraborrelli, for example, is the author of a Jackson unauthorized biography published by the late, lamented Birch Lane Press, a publisher that grew out of the old tabloidy Lyle Stuart company. Furthermore, Taraborelli's Jackson book was published in 1991, long before many of Jackson's scandals broke.
Dateline's other big journalistic "coup" was getting an interview with the editor of a new book called Freak: Inside the Twisted World of Michael Jackson. What Dateline didn't bother to say is that that book is published by American Media, the company that owns the National Enquirer, The Star and The Globe. The book has no author per se.
I'd like to know what Tom Brokaw thinks of NBC using the National Enquirer as its source material. Chet Huntley and John Chancellor must be rolling in their graves.
As for the rest of the Dateline special, the many redundant and repetitive references to Jackson's plastic surgery were unnecessary. I think everyone knows that Jackson's had a lot done to his face. What NBC might have done was look into Jackson's finances.
This column reported last July that Jackson is in serious financial peril; that he is severely leveraged and owes $200 million to Sony Music for a countersigned loan against the Beatles catalog, which Jackson owns. Neverland is highly mortgaged.
Michael's own personal music catalog is used to keep him afloat. He needed a $2 million loan to buy a watch he took on permanent approval from a Beverly Hills jeweler. Sotheby's has just sued him for over a million for paintings they claim he bought but didn't pay for.
The tabloids have never done that leg work. And NBC apparently trusts them for its back up.
Neither did the Dateline crew bother to try to identify who Michael's "friends" were in their "exclusive" home video. Seen in many of the pictures was a young man named Frank Cascio, who now is about 22, but who has been hanging around with Jackson since he was a teenager .
In court papers, connected to the lawsuit from former business manager Myung Ho Lee, it states that Jackson had loaned Cascio's father $600,000 to start a restaurant in New Jersey. The restaurant does not exist, making one wonder what the money was used for.
Dateline also got a real "scoop" with a man identified as Ray Chandler. The mystery — literary reference intended — is who Ray Chandler really is. His actual name is Ray Charmatz. He's the uncle of the 13-year-old boy who brought the sexual molestation charges against Jackson 10 years ago.
In Mary A. Fischer's excellent 1994 article about the case, she suggests that Chandler/Charmatz conspired to extort money from Jackson. Fischer also wrote that since the boy's parents were barred in the $20 million settlement from writing a book, Chandler/Charmatz was soliciting publishing deals.
No book was ever published in the United States, but a book was published in Europe with confidential material only the family could have had access to.
Aretha Franklin has met with prosecutors investigating an arson fire that destroyed her $1.8 million mansion in suburban Detroit. The veteran R&B artist appeared Friday with her attorney, Saul Green, and answered every question asked of her during the two-and-a-half hour meeting, according to prosecutor Deborah Carley.
"She was fully cooperative," Carley said. "She gave us quite a bit of information that we will be following up on, so the investigation is definitely ongoing."
Prosecutors have stressed that Franklin is not a suspect in the Oct. 25 fire that destroyed the 10,000-square-foot home in Bloomfield Township, about 20 miles northwest of Detroit. Franklin's son, Edward Franklin, and security guard Tyrone Jarrett Sr. appeared for depositions last week. Edward Franklin's attorney said his client invoked his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination.
In January, prosecutors subpoenaed Franklin, her son, Jarrett, and family friend Dr. George West. West is expected to meet with prosecutors in coming weeks.
Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff had checked into a luxury hotel in Miami late last year when detectives showed up at his door. They arrested McGriff, 42, on a weapons charge -- but only as a pretext. By then, McGriff was a key suspect in a secret investigation into alleged ties between the rap music industry and drug trafficking.
Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, N.Y., who are heading the investigation, have refused to discuss McGriff -- a convicted crack cocaine kingpin who spent a decade behind bars -- or any other aspect of a case that has shaken the rap world. But law enforcement sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said authorities are investigating McGriff's involvement with the Murder Inc. record company.
Investigators are trying to determine whether drug proceeds could have been funneled into the popular label, headed by McGriff's childhood friend, Irv Gotti, and home to Grammy-nominated stars like Ja Rule and Ashanti, the sources said.
Both McGriff and Gotti have denied any wrongdoing. Gotti's only offense has been "helping out a friend," his wife, Debbie Lorenzo, told the New York Daily News. "He's got a big heart."
A lawyer for McGriff insisted his client's recent business ventures, including a movie deal with Murder Inc., were legitimate. "Kenny saw the light after spending time in jail," said the lawyer, Robert Simels. "Why would he go back to that kind of life when he could get into the entertainment business? That's where the money is."
The life McGriff once lived was the stuff of gangsta rap. A Queens native, McGriff rose to power during the 1980s when he took over a "quasi-religious sect" in his neighborhood known as the Five Percenters and transformed it into a ruthless crack-dealing crew called the Supreme team, court documents said.
At his peak, McGriff and his nephew, Gerald "Prince" Miller, employed scores of dealers in and around a Queens housing project, documents said. They took in $200,000 a day. The team used rooftop sentinels with two-way radios to thwart police. It inflicted violence against rivals and traitors, resulting in at least eight murders in 1987 alone.
A raid led by federal agents that year resulted in McGriff's arrest and seizure of drugs, cash, weapons, and "instructional manuals on criminal activity," documents said. He was convicted of narcotics conspiracy charges and sentenced to a 10-year term.
Once released from prison, McGriff renewed his association with Gotti by helping Murder Inc. produce "Crime Partners 2000." The straight-to-video film, due for release next month, stars Ja Rule, Snoop Dog, and Ice-T.
McGriff's lawyer says his client had wanted to make a living writing scripts. But, unconvinced he had gone straight, a team of NYPD and federal investigators put him under surveillance last year, one law enforcement source said. Authorities had hoped to quietly gather evidence against possible suspects, including drug traffickers in the rap industry.
But a recent escalation of violence -- including the unsolved, execution-style slaying of rap icon Jam Master Jay of Run-D.M.C. in Queens -- prompted investigators to begin making arrests and seizing documents during raids on the offices of Murder Inc. and other locations last month.
Investigators believe the publicity drove McGriff underground last December, forcing them to track him down. "All wiretap activity stopped and he disappeared," one source said. Acting on a tip, investigators found McGriff in the Miami hotel, where he had checked in using a $1,000 cash deposit and an alias. He had holed up in his room with a younger woman and a small stash of Ecstasy and Viagra, the source said.
McGriff was charged with regularly taking target practice at a Baltimore firing range -- a felony for a convict. His trial has been set for March.
(2/13/03, 6 p.m. ET) -- Jimi Hendrix's body has been relocated to a new memorial in the Seattle area. The late guitarist's remains were disinterred last November 26, one day before what would have been his 60th birthday, and moved to another site in Greenwood Memorial Park And Cemetery in Renton, Washington, where he was laid to rest in 1970.
Hendrix's body and his original headstone, along with the remains of his late father Al Hendrix and Al's wife Ayako "June" Hendrix, are now in burial vaults at the new location, a granite-and-marble memorial featuring a 30-foot-high dome that is supported by three columns dressed in rainbow marble. In addition, the cremated remains of Nora Hendrix, Jimi's grandmother, are to be relocated to the site.
It's expected that work on the project--including a life-size bronze sculpture of the guitarist--will be completed by the spring.
The work is being done under the auspices of Experience Hendrix LLC, the company formed by Al Hendrix and currently run by his daughter, Janie Hendrix.
Unfortunately, not everyone in Hendrix's family is happy. Jimi's brother Leon, who is suing the estate claiming that he was basically cut out of his father's will, says he wasn't even told that Jimi's body was being moved, and that he was at the former site just two weeks ago praying to what was an empty grave. Janie Hendrix denied the charge, telling LAUNCH that Leon knew the body was to be moved.
Hysteria runs riot; networks fuel the fear
By Jennifer Harper
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Sixty years ago, enterprising and patriotic Americans saved tinfoil and bacon grease to help defeat Hitler during World War II, heeding the old Office of War Information motto, "Use it up. Wear it out. Make it last."
Some pockets of panic in California did develop immediately after the Pearl Harbor attack of December 7, 1941. However, when Japanese balloon bombs drifted near the West Coast or Nazi U-boats were spotted off New Jersey, Americans learned how to extinguish an incendiary bomb or spot the silhouettes of enemy submarines.
They were not making a run on the local supplies of bottled water and duct tape in a hysteria somewhere between snowstorm panic and the last shopping day before Christmas.
But then, the good folks on the home front were not pummeled by a 24-hour media with time to fill.
"Are you ready?" asked ABC News yesterday, trotting out a "Good Morning America" home-improvement editor to demonstrate how to turn a laundry room into a fallout shelter with duct tape and plastic dropcloths.
"Duct tape sales rise amid terror fears," noted CNN.
MSNBC offered mixed messages, saying that "jittery Americans were stocking up for disaster" while offering an online poll that said 71 percent of the respondents were "doing nothing" to ready themselves for terrorist attacks.
Some were already weary of the fear-mongering.
"I'm not afraid of these jerks," said one Westwood One Radio Network host yesterday. His listeners concurred, many saying they would not join the race to hoard duct tape.
Others used the stuff to shore up their agendas.
"Washington is urging people to prepare for chemical attack by purchasing duct tape, while it fails to provide fire departments with funds for protective suits or bioterror detectors," a New York Times editorial said yesterday.
Though the Federal Emergency Management Agency revamped its "Are You Ready?" citizen-preparedness guide after the September 11 attacks, the media pounced upon the same information rereleased Friday as "breaking news."
TV reports were immediately emblazoned with orange "high alert" banners and rife with talk about poison gas, microbes and imminent threats. Even pet owners were advised to pack an emergency kit for their dogs, complete with "bottled water and food supply."
Syracuse University broadcast analyst Robert Thompson says news organizations have slipped into the instant "bunker mentality" they adopt during bad weather.
"Americans are subjected to split-screen broadcasts which show the terrorist alert symbol on one side and weather and fashion on the other," Mr. Thompson said yesterday. "What do they focus on? Many buy into fearful hype."
Indeed, some news coverage has centered on consumer panic and the sudden appearance of "homeland security" sections in local hardware stores.
"The trouble is, if we connect the dots between some of the really serious news events — the possible dissolution of NATO or divisiveness within the United Nations — then that gets scary," Mr. Thompson said.
"We have reached a new era which requires us to go on living life knowing the 'big event' may be just around the corner," he said. "That's what people do in other countries."
News coverage in dire national moments is still a work in progress, however.
"There is a massive difference between a crisis and a catastrophe, and in the case of a bioterror attack, the effect of media coverage on public perception could be the deciding factor between the two," notes Barbara Cochran, president of the Radio Television News Directors Association.
The group issued its own practical guidelines on bioterrorism, terrorism and war coverage two months ago, urging members to "present the facts as clearly, objectively and dispassionately as possible."
Charles Figley, a Florida State University trauma psychologist who has studied media disaster coverage for two decades, faults federal offices for issuing guidelines open to interpretation by both the media and the public.
"Ideally, you want the vast majority of people to be on alert, but not dramatically alter their daily routines," Mr. Figley said yesterday. "People should already have an emergency plan in place anyway for bad weather, industrial accidents or the like."
Changing disaster scenarios requires flexibility, he said.
"We learned there's no magic bullet, no one way to modulate public information to prompt people to do the right thing, at the right time," Mr. Figley said. "But if unsubstantiated warnings go out, people don't pay attention after a while."
Weinstein's Miramax dominates the
Oscar lineup with 40 nominations.
By Robert W. Welkos and Susan King, Times Staff Writers
And the Oscar goes to . . . Harvey Weinstein.
Love him or loathe him -- and many in Hollywood do both -- the gregarious, burly co-chairman of Miramax Films had a hand in 40 Academy Award nominations Tuesday, including three of the five best picture nominations: "Chicago," "Gangs of New York" and "The Hours."
Miramax dominated the numbers game on a day filled with other intriguing developments, including a nomination for a director who's a fugitive from justice (Roman Polanski of "The Pianist") , a screenplay nod for a writer who doesn't exist (Donald Kaufman of "Adaptation") and even an animated film honor for one of the year's biggest box office bombs, Disney's "Treasure Planet."
On the acting front, Meryl Streep made Oscar history when she received her 13th nomination, edging past screen legend Katharine Hepburn. Jack Nicholson moved into position to win his fourth Academy Award, which would be the most for any actor. Paul Newman proved at 78 that he still has the chops -- and the blue eyes -- to land a best supporting actor bid, for "Road to Perdition."
Tuesday's nominations marked a rousing conclusion to a sometimes difficult year for Miramax Films. Derailed by failed acquisitions like "Pinocchio," costly flops such as "Below" and "They," budget overruns on "Gangs of New York" and unflat-tering media attention, Miramax still garnered more nominations than any other studio. Weinstein's company financed "Chicago," and co-financed "Gangs of New York" and "The Hours." He and his brother, Miramax Co-Chairman Bob Weinstein, also are listed in the credits as executive producers of "The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers." The only best picture nominee without a Weinstein connection is Focus Features' "The Pianist."
Miramax's 40 nominations constitute the biggest Oscar haul for one studio in nearly three decades, but they fall short of a record. United Artists holds that honor with 45 nominations in 1940. But working for Miramax isn't a walk in the park for filmmakers, as director Martin Scorsese learned in his battles with Weinstein in bringing "Gangs of New York" to the screen. Still, after the film received 10 Oscar nominations Tuesday, Scorsese used the opportunity to toss a bouquet to the Miramax mogul.
"He's a showman," said Scorsese, who received a best director nomination. "I think he's in the tradition of ... David O. Selznick, who made these extraordinary films that people argue about today, that have flaws in them but are the essence of Hollywood's Golden Age. In a certain sense, Weinstein is going in the same direction in the modern world."
Weinstein, who was part of a group that tried unsuccessfully to shift part of the Oscars show to New York, issued a modest statement on the nominations windfall: "Everything is cyclical. Thankfully things worked out for us this year."
Overall, "Chicago" had the most razzle-dazzle with members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who honored the film with 13 nominations, including Renée Zellweger for best actress, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Queen Latifah for supporting actress, John C. Reilly for supporting actor and Rob Marshall for director. No musical has received so many nominations since 1964's "Mary Poppins" -- and no musical has won the best picture Oscar since 1968's "Oliver!"
Other best actress nods
Joining Zellweger in the best actress category are Salma Hayek for her performance as Mexican artist Frida Kahlo in "Frida," Nicole Kidman as emotionally devastated novelist Virginia Woolf in "The Hours," Julianne Moore as a troubled '50s housewife and mother in the melodrama "Far From Heaven" and Diane Lane as a commuting suburban adulteress in "Unfaithful."
Moore was also nominated for supporting actress in "The Hours," playing yet another troubled '50s housewife and mother.
"It's insane, it's absolutely insane," the actress said in Los Angeles of her double nomination. A day after "The Hours" had premiered in London, Kidman was on the phone Tuesday discussing her second consecutive Oscar nomination. "Oh my God, oh my God!" she said giddily. "I'm smiling." In Paris, where she is promoting "Frida," a Miramax film she helped produce, Hayek was emotional as she spoke on the phone Tuesday morning. "I have not stopped crying," she said. The first actress of Mexican descent to be nominated in this category said the dreams of her family were riding on her performance: "I don't want to disappoint them."
Like Hayek, Lane is a first-time nominee. The former child star poignantly recalled that her father, who died a year ago, got to see "Unfaithful" and told her "she rang the bell." Lane added: "He said, 'You may go all the way, baby.' "
Familiar faces dominated the best actor category. The only first-time nominee is Adrien Brody, who plays a brilliant Jewish musician hiding out in Nazi-occupied Poland in the Holocaust drama "The Pianist." He will go up against Nicholson as a bitter widower in "About Schmidt," two-time winner Michael Caine as the disillusioned British journalist in "The Quiet American," former winner Daniel Day-Lewis as the homicidal kingpin in "Gangs of New York" and another former winner, Nicolas Cage, as screenwriting twins Charlie and Donald Kaufman in "Adaptation."
Caine confessed Tuesday he couldn't sleep because he was fretting over whether he'd be nominated. "The nerves never go if you are sensitive about these things," he said from his home outside London.
Caine, who was 68 when he made the film, quipped that even at his age, he got the girl. "I used to tell journalists, 'I don't get the girl anymore, I get the part.' Here, I got the girl and the part. It's probably the last time."
In London promoting "Adaptation," Cage said he was in the midst of a radio interview when "I heard a big 'whoop' sound from the other room and colleagues came in and told me what happened."
Facing off against Scorsese for best director are Polanski for "The Pianist," Stephen Daldry for "The Hours," Rob Marshall for "Chicago" and Pedro Almodóvar for "Talk to Her."
Scorsese, who has never won an Oscar, is the sentimental favorite. He recently captured the Golden Globe and is up for a Directors Guild of America award.
The New York-based filmmaker admitted that he didn't feel part of the Hollywood establishment when he lost the Oscar for 1980's "Raging Bull."
"Later on, with 'GoodFellas,' for a few seconds I thought I would get it," Scorsese said Tuesday, hoarse with the flu. "I felt if it didn't happen, it didn't happen." But this time it may happen, because Scorsese has been vigorously campaigning for his film. "I've been with it since I was 9 or 10 years old. I'm not going to abandon it."
Daldry, a British theater director, considers himself "lucky" to have been nominated for best director for the only two features he has made. He was a nominee two years ago for "Billy Elliott."
One nominee will almost certainly not be walking up the red carpet for the 75th annual Academy Awards show on March 23. Polanski, the Paris-based Polish filmmaker who was previously nominated in this category for 1974's "Chinatown" and 1980's "Tess," fled the country in the late 1970s and remains a fugitive for having unlawful sex with a then-13-year-old girl.
Perhaps the biggest surprise among the director nominees was Almodóvar, who was not nominated by the DGA for his Spanish-language drama about two men and the comatose women they love. Another first-time nominee was Marshall, a former Broadway dancer-turned-choreographer and director who made his feature directorial debut with "Chicago."
"I can't believe it!" said Marshall, calling from Paris, where the film is opening.
All 5,816 members of the academy vote on best picture nominees; branches or screening committees vote on nominations in the other categories. The entire membership is eligible to vote on the winners. Usually, the supporting actor and actress categories are the most unpredictable -- and toughest competition. This year is no exception.
Queen Latifah, the popular rap singer and actress who plays a wily jail matron in "Chicago," was nominated along with her co-star Zeta-Jones, who returned to her musical comedy roots with her sultry stare and athletic dance routines, portraying a woman who murders her husband. They are competing against former Oscar winner Kathy Bates in "About Schmidt," two-time winner Streep in "Adaptation" and Moore for "The Hours."
Bates, who won for best actress in 1990's Stephen King thriller "Misery," said, "Jack and I really clicked. It seemed effortless to work with him, and we had such a good time."
She added that they shot the nude hot tub sequence in one day. "We would get out of the tub every now and then, although the water was nice and warm, but we didn't want to get our skin too wrinkly."
In the twilight of his career, Newman received a best supporting actor nomination for his role as the Depression-era mob chieftain in "Road to Perdition."
A 10-time nominee and best actor winner for 1986's "The Color of Money," Newman will go up against four seasoned characters actors, including Chris Cooper in "Adaptation," John C. Reilly in "Chicago," former winner Christopher Walken in "Catch Me If You Can" and Ed Harris in "The Hours."
Perhaps the story of Nia Vardalos, who was nominated for best original screenplay for the surprise hit "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," could inspire tomorrow's Oscarcontenders: "I'm one of these people in this industry who never practiced my Oscar acceptance speech," she said. "I wondered if one day I could do craft services for that show. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be invited."
Music producer will contend shooting was accidental, friend says
By LINDA DEUTSCH, AP Special Correspondent
Published 6:00 p.m. PST Tuesday, February 11, 2003
LOS ANGELES(AP) - Phil Spector will contend the shooting death of an actress at his suburban mansion last week was accidental, a close friend of the legendary music producer said.
"I believe his defense will be that this was a tragic accident," said Marvin Mitchelson, a prominent Los Angeles attorney who has been friends with Spector for about 12 years and has traveled extensively with him.
Mitchelson said Tuesday he could not provide details of how an accidental shooting might have occurred but said, "I've spoken with various individuals connected with the case, and I'm 100 percent certain it's not a homicide."
Mitchelson said he had not spoken directly with Spector since the producer's arrest Feb. 3 at his $1.1 million home in the Los Angeles suburb of Alhambra.
Spector, 62, remains free on $1 million bond. Sheriff's investigators have not yet presented a case to the district attorney's office.
"We haven't seen any evidence yet, so we can't comment," district attorney spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said.
She said she expects the case to be presented to the DA's office sometime before Spector's scheduled March 3 arraignment.
Spector's lawyer, Robert Shapiro, who once represented O.J. Simpson, has refused to discuss the case publicly. His office conveyed a message Tuesday, simply stating, "No information will be coming out."
Los Angeles County sheriff's Lt. Dan Rosenberg, who is investigating the case, said his department has decided to make no comment on what investigators have discovered.
"Our role is to complete a very comprehensive, unbiased investigation," he said. "We know that he will be going to trial, and we don't want to taint the jury pool. We want to give Mr. Spector the opportunity to have a fair trial."
Another close friend of Spector, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Lana Clarkson's body was found seated, slumped in a white antique chair in the foyer of Spector's home. She had been shot in the face.
Clarkson, 40, an actress who was working as a hostess at the House of Blues, had met Spector once before at the club, the friend said. But the night she accompanied him home in his chauffeur-driven limousine was their first date, the friend said.
According to the friend, there were no witnesses to the shooting and no one else in the house when it occurred. The friend indicated the gun was owned by Spector and that there may have been more than one gun in the house. Spector was known to collect guns.
In the aftermath of Clarkson's death, stories circulated about Spector's past history of carrying a gun and sometimes waving it around in recording studios.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers are hitting the road this summer. Fronting an eclectic bill that boasts opening acts that include rapper Snoop Dogg and emo-punks the Mars Volta, the Peppers will launch a 26-date North American tour in St. Paul, Minnesota on May 1.
After having just finished playing extensively in Europe, the newly-announced showcase will mark the first time the punk posse has headlined a concert circuit this side of the Atlantic since dropping By the Way last July. With plans to rock out arenas and amphitheatres throughout the U.S. and Canada, the group will wrap the tour in Salt Lake City on June 21.
In August the Peppers will then head back to Europe to headline several major events, including the V2003 festival in England. British rock group Coldplay are scheduled to headline as well.
According to the band’s official Web site, more North American dates will be added to the itinerary shortly. Tickets for several shows will go on sale to the general public beginning Friday. Venues for many markets have yet to be announced.
Red Hot Chili Peppers tour dates, according to the label spokesperson:
5/1- St. Paul, MN @ Xcel Energy Center
5/2 - Madison, WI @ Alliant Energy Center Coliseum
5/4 - Omaha, NE @ TBA
5/5 - Kansas City, MO @ TBA
5/7 - St. Louis, MO @ TBA
5/9 - Moline, IL @ Mark of the Quad Cities
5/10 - Grand Rapids, MI @ Van Andel Arena
5/12 - Ottawa, ON @ TBA
5/13 -Toronto, ON @ TBA
5/15 - Montreal, QC @ TBA
5/17 - Albany, NY @ Pepsi Arena
5/19 - East Rutherford, NJ @ Continental Airlines Arena
6/2 - West Palm Beach, FL @ Coral Sky Amphitheatre
6/3 - Orlando, FL@ TD Waterhouse Centre
6/5 - Raleigh, NC @ TBA
6/6 - Charlotte, NC @ Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre
6/8 - Atlanta, GA @ TBA
6/10 - Shreveport, LA @ TBA
6/11 - New Orleans, LA @ TBA
6/13 - Selma, TX @ Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre
6/14 - Houston, TX @ Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
6/16 - Dallas, TX @ TBA
6/18 - Oklahoma City, OK @ The Ford Center
6/20 - Denver, CO @ TBA
6/21 - Salt Lake City, UT @ TBA
Hey, dude, you're getting a cell! Benjamin Curtis, the 22-year old actor who portrays "Steven," the Dell Guy, in those bothersome computer commercials, was arrested late last night (2/9) on a marijuana possession charge, The Smoking Gun has learned. According to police, Curtis was nabbed after cops spotted him buying a "small bag of marijuana" from a dealer on Manhattan's Lower East Side (at Ludlow and Rivington for you Gothamites). Curtis is currently being held in Central Booking and is scheduled to be arraigned later today in Manhattan Criminal Court. Curtis, who lives in lower Manhattan, was charged with criminal possession of marijuana, a misdemeanor. Omar Mendez, the 19-year-old alleged dealer, faces drug sale and possession charges. (1 page)
Sue To Get Out Of Recording Contract
02.07.2003 3:29 PM EST
Incubus filed suit against Sony Music on Thursday seeking to be released from their recording contract with Sony subsidiary Epic Records.
The suit — filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in Santa Monica on behalf of singer Brandon Boyd, guitarist Mike Einziger, drummer Jose Pasillas and bassist Alex Katunich — asks a judge to allow them to set aside their original deal, which they claim they have satisfied.
"This isn't Courtney Love or some other artists where we're walking away from a deal," said the band's manager, Steve Rennie, referring to a suit settled last year in which Love sought to rescind her deal with Universal Records subsidiary Geffen (see "Courtney Love Ready To Face Geffen With Less Ammunition"). "We are seeking the right to be free agents because we believe we've met our obligations, and there's nothing to say that we won't turn around and re-sign with Sony. They're the #1 candidate for the next seven years."
Rennie acknowledged that under their current seven-album contract, Incubus owe Sony four more albums; the band will reach its seven-year anniversary with the label this summer. As part of their suit, Incubus are seeking to establish their rights under California Labor Code Section 2855, the so-called seven-year statute which bars personal service contracts in excess of seven years.
The statute is sometimes referred to as the De Havilland Law, in honor of late screen legend Olivia de Havilland, who in the 1950s fought to have most entertainment employment contracts in California limited to seven years. In 1987 the Recording Industry Association of America successfully lobbied for an exemption to the law, allowing labels to sue artists for damages from undelivered albums.
Incubus signed with Sony imprint Immortal Records in 1996 and have been in renegotiation talks with the label for eight months, Rennie said.
A Sony spokesperson would not comment, but the record company released a statement Thursday in response to the suit. "We have the highest regard for Incubus and their music and take great pride in the work we have done together to build a worldwide audience for them," it read. "Incubus are signed to an exclusive recording contract with Sony Music."
"Under current standard industry practice, Sony Music has been handsomely rewarded financially during this period," read a statement from the band's management, "while the members of Incubus have received relatively little financial compensation from their creative and professional efforts in connection with the sale of their music."
The standard recording industry contract is for seven albums, which, given the typical two- to three-year cycle of recording and promotion, could tie an artist to a label for anywhere from 14 to 21 years, according to the Recording Artists Coalition, an artists' rights group.
While the case runs its legal course, Incubus continue to work on songs for their new album, with no plans to enter the studio at this time, Rennie said. The album will follow up Incubus' third full-length release for Sony, 2001's Morning View
CHICAGO — What role R. Kelly's recent arrest in Florida will play in his Chicago case remains to be determined, but that very question created a hiccup in the proceedings of the singer's preliminary hearing on Friday the Cook County Criminal Courthouse.
Though the prosecution was scheduled to complete the discovery process this week, that matter has been delayed for another month, much to the consternation of the judge slated to oversee Kelly's child pornography trial.
When prosecutors handed over a packet of photographs, saying that a new matter had come to light since Kelly's last motions hearing in December, and then requested more time for expert analysis, Judge Vincent Gaughan scolded them for not being ready (see "R. Kelly Arrested On Child Porn Charges Again").
"I'm not going to let this go on," Gaughan said. "If your experts aren't done [by the next court date], I expect them to be in this courtroom to explain why."
Gaughan admonished defense attorney Edward Genson as well. Whenever Gaughan grants permission for Kelly to leave the jurisdiction, as he had for the singer's Powerhouse concert in New Jersey and his "Ignition" video shoot in Florida, Kelly is required to call a probation officer daily to check in. However, the prosecution complained Kelly had failed to do so on four of the days during his court-consented trip, constituting a violation of the terms of his bond.
Genson replied that Kelly failed to make two of those calls on his advice, due to a misunderstanding of procedure, and one call because he was in jail in Florida. He provided no explanation for the failure to make the fourth call. Gaughan ultimately ruled that Kelly had violated his bond and scolded the singer for doing so, but not before also scolding his attorney for talking over him.
"You better listen to me," Gaughan said.
"I've learned that," Genson interjected.
"You can't learn that if we're both talking at the same time," Gaughan countered testily.
Though Gaughan dressed down both Kelly and his attorney for the bond violation, he imposed no sanctions. Kelly, who stood in front of the judge with his hands behind his back, did not speak.
Kelly's next court date is March 7. His new album, Chocolate Factory, is due February 18.
Last week's documentary about Michael Jackson astonished the world. But Jonathan Margolis, the British writer who knows him well, says Jackson is as good a parent as anyone - and better than most
Sunday February 9, 2003
This is, perhaps, not the best week for declaring that Michael Jackson is rather a good father. But I do so now on the basis of more than Martin Bashir's television documentary.
I spent several months working with Michael and his guru and friend, the former Oxford University rabbi Shmuley Boteach, on a still-unfinished book about, interestingly, the importance of adults retaining their childlike qualities.
I got to like Michael and his children a lot. He is sweet, charming, intelligent, thinking, and highly eccentric. He is also deeply sad - not in the contemporary sense of being inadequate - but sad as in melancholic, unhappy and damaged. He is, in my judgment, a good man.
His older children, Prince and Paris, whom I spent a considerable time with, are bright, well mannered, unspoilt and unaffected.
Apart from knowing the unconventional Jacksons a little bit, I am now in my forties and a father of more than average experience for my age. I have co-raised three children, the youngest now a teenager, and have hardline, bordering on over-protective, views on parenting.
I get upset at seeing shaven-headed little kids been thumped in Sainsbury's and even angrier at casual middle-class child cruelty. I shout 'child abuser' at smug parents on bicycles who show off their green credentials by towing little Archie through traffic at exhaust-pipe height in those baby trailers.
Although it was in the best traditions of compelling, car crash TV and will win shedloads of awards, the synthetic empathy and tendentious self-aggrandisement of Bash Ears (as George Best, another victim, amusingly calls this clumsy, fake Louis Theroux) were too much for me.
The film did show the Michael I know: naive, simplistic, autocratic and with disastrous taste in furnishings. I am sure, however, that he is not a child molester, inadvisable sleepovers or not.
He has studied childcare with dedication. He is committed to thoughtful, non-violent parenting. He handles Prince and Paris with a skill and patience that puts mine to shame. And, no, they never wore masks when I was with them. Nobody I know thinks ill of Michael's parenting abilities either, even post-Bashir.
Aware that I am acquainted with him, a variety of people rang me last week to say how angry they were. Have we become so cynical and paranoid, one professional man demanded, that it is impossible to love kids quite asexually without provoking suspicion? 'For Christ's sake,' he ranted, 'when I was small I had books about Noddy and Big Ears sleeping in the same bed, and nobody thought anything of it.'
I have also earwigged conversations on buses and trains. Certainly, there is s******ing and bafflement over Michael's transparent fibbing about plastic surgery but the consensus is that he seems really nice, if a bit loopy.
The sleepovers aside, which sound a bad - but not intrinsically evil - idea we all know where the other grounds lie for concern about Michael's parenting.
First, the masks. I spent several weeks around Michael without once seeing his trademark surgical mask. One evening in London, when he came to Britain for his Oxford Union speech (which I helped him with a little) we were going out. The hotel was surrounded by fans. As we left his suite, Michael whipped out a black silk face mask. I looked quizzically at it and shrugged as if to ask 'What's that all about'? He winked, lifted the corner of the mask and whispered: 'Razzle-dazzle 'em.'
And that, I think, is the explanation for the masks and those weird burkas he has been putting on the kids for public occasions. For Michael - he of the tawdry Grecian urns at hundreds of thousands of dollars a pop - this is glamour, mystique, showbiz razzle-dazzle. Think Thriller, the video. He is teaching his children, whose privacy is invaded more than that of any British royal brat, to get used to it.
The same goes for the birth story, which even Michael's supporters found a little icky. For those who missed it: Michael told how he rushed Paris, his daughter, home from hospital so precipitately that she was still bloody from the birth, if not attached to her mother.
Again, the problem is that owing to his own odd upbringing, he thinks such a thing is glamorous and exciting. Then again, if he is so obviously fantasising about the plastic surgery, why do we believe him about the birth? I suspect it didn't quite happen as he describes it.
I take a revisionist view of the time last November that he dangled his new baby, Prince Michael ll, known as Blanket, from his Berlin hotel suite, the most famous balcony incident since Verona.
I suspected then that this was something of nothing, and Bashir's footage proved it. I am amazed that intelligent writers still refer to it as an authentic dangle. The film shows it was no stunt but, at worst, a momentary error.
Michael has an exceptionally athletic build and huge, strong hands. He is very confident in his physical strength. The crowd below was baying to see the baby, and he held him up at an open window, knowing how strong and capable he is. The baby wriggled awkwardly, Michael went 'whoops', and pulled Blanket safely back in before he did the child a mischief.
What we saw, crucially, from the footage filmed from inside the hotel room was that there was no balcony - merely a section of railing to stop guests falling out of the tall window.
Finally, there is the vibrating movement Michael made with his knee while bottle-feeding Blanket. This does worry me, although not as much as the green muslin Michael placed over the nipper's head. I imagine that was because the singer was already becoming deeply untrusting of the creepy Bashir.
What worried me about the outcry over the knee is that I used to make that movement with all my babies to calm them. Most of mine cried when I stopped, and giggled when I started again.
Parents make mistakes, often near-fatal ones, all the time without being investigated by social workers. If Bashir had been in Leeds in 1980, he would have caught me changing the bulb in a table lamp that was still plugged in. The phone went, and while my back was turned my stray baby daughter came within a millimetre of electrocution.
To me, Michael is level-headed. While other celebrities are gullible, for instance, when it comes to such cults as Scientology and Kabbalah, he has seen them off, despite high pressure, celeb-on-celeb salesmanship from both.
He is that strong in his convictions. Love her as he does, for example, he disagrees profoundly with his friend Elizabeth Taylor, the children's godmother, who believes the odd smack is all right.
Michael has his own views on what is weird. He regards it as disgusting that his friend Princess Diana's children were encouraged by their father to witness the gory aftermath of a fox hunt.
I saw Michael's amazing empathy with kids many times. He talks to them as though they are adults. He will not tolerate them interrupting an adult conversation, but is unusually attuned to young voices asking questions or requesting a drink, when most of us choose to pretend slightly deafness.
Abused children inevitably advertise their suffering with introversion, aggression, shyness, sullenness, distrustfulness and depression. But, neurotic, eccentric and downright flaky as their famous father is, I don't see any of the above in Prince and Paris.
Michael's is an eccentric domestic arrangement, but infinitely better, I suggest, than the average experienced by Hollywood kids. Moreover, he chooses exceptionally sensible, middle-aged women as nannies.
Nobody thinks anything of it when celebrity mothers exclude fathers from their children's lives. Liz Hurley has been lionised for doing so.
I would say Michael Jackson has given more thought to parenthood than most of us parents who don't suffer from the sobriquet, Wacko.
If STEPIN FETCHIT was living today he'd be a well praised, super promoted billionaire
Usually the much overused statement of moving forward after a tragedy takes our minds to a better place, thus using time to tuck whatever event it was further into the back of the mind. But in this case, and at this time, we have great reason to stop and pause at what is swirling around us in the name of rap music and hip hop right now, as we head into 2003.
With Eminem's 8 Mile setting all types of attendance records for a hip hop movie, around the same time of JAMMASTER JAY'S murder, the culture of hip hop has reached a crossroads that resembles a crossed skull with bones. I looked around and peeped my career from 1987-2002, and what I saw was a bookend of two significant DJ killings with a whole lotta death, murder and misinterpretation in between. My first year it was the Bronx murder of BOOGIE DOWN PRODUCTION'S SCOTT LAROCK, all the way up to JAY two weeks ago. The commonality in these cases was that the murderers were not apprehended. This climate as I mentioned in past articles could be the glaring signs of modern day good ol amerikkkan COINTELPRO. The problem is that the hip hop nation continues to be in denial thus refuses to even lift a mirror to examine the facts.
ELVISIFICATION anybody? EMINEM is the new ELVIS but before you go running off to the headline races, peep it. In his movie, which is literally ROCKY 6, what is shown is his hard working climb to the top. I've said for years now that EMINEM was gonna win out with the skill of wit, tongue and vocabulary as well as being a white man in amerikkka. Many successful rappers other than the JAY Zs and NASIRs have shunned this basic artillery. Today we literally have rappers who simply cannot speak, much less have a limited vocabulary of 50-100 words. In the past we accepted this as regional slang and accent, whereas a rapper chose to not use the king's English, as opposed to not knowing it entirely. Right now some cats have rejected the notion of using wit and words which in 'rap' certainly leads to an oxymoron. At the recent press conference for the 'fundraiser' for JMJ DEF JAM's FOXY BROWN was ushered up to speak on behalf of the youth, and then tells the press she's not good at speaking. ???? I was wondering the reason that we were seeing a lot of FOXY BROWN, again the air stunk with yet another brewing marketing campaign at a most inappropriate time. With this in mind EMINEM has gained the throne of hip hop consciousness if you can call it that, by default. The hip hop nation slides into settling for 'dumbassification' while the opinion, wit, and words come from a white kid from the suburbs of DETROIT. Nothing wrong with EM being brilliant, the kid is like a rap ROY JONES Jr. Did yall hear the BENZINO answer? It's just that his black peers have settled for not working as hard on the elements or skills of rap and hip hop, choosing to dwell on dumbsh*t. This is ELVISIFICATION in a different manner than what happened with rock and roll. Rhythm and blues pros would still understand the obligation of great artistry to the roots of the matter. Here in rap the tenants treat the 'condo like the projects'. Giving it away in the sloppy process of it all.
IN RAP THE TENANTS TREAT THE 'CONDO LIKE THE PROJECTS'.
Yes, I repeat in rap the tenants treat the 'condo like the projects'. Project and ghetto mentality has a badge with a price tag attached to it. This is different than any other time before, whereas through modern technology, and the mirror of culture black folks have accepted 'masslavementality'. A syndrome which results in an importance of a people, place, or thing being measured by its quantity as opposed to its quality. The numbers sold in a capitalistic society is its paramount rule. When this philosophy reaches the measurement of people, it reflects the soul of a corporation, which in essence is a living machine. Nigga-izm is booming in amerikkka to the point that if STEPIN FETCHIT was living today he'd be a well praised, super promoted billionaire. The sad fact is that because of our disconnect with our history, both in real terms and in culture, 98% of cats wouldn't know who the hell I'm talking about. Yes... the numbers game has festered this ignorance by any means necessary in the rap game.
THE GAME OF MONEY In the numbers game, the game of money has eclipsed the rap game, the music game, the film and TV game and even the games in sports. Every time you open a sports page it's more about how someone is getting paid as opposed to how well they've played. It's the same in the business of the arts but is magnified in hip hop to an unreality. With the prevelance of this hustler attitude it's no surprise that the music game has allowed 'a criminal element' to participate in the hip hop business. Perhaps these execs were skurred or punked into doing business of the culture over a shady card table like that.
Again at the JMJ 'fundraiser' I tried not to be inappropriate in front of JAY's wife who was still in shock from it all. The fundraiser was supposed to raise money for JAY'S mortgage for his $250,000.00 home in QUEENS and to settle with the feds a combined tax figure of about $230,000. The amerikkkan feds threatened to seize JAY'S estate. This was the reason for the 'fundraiser'! Many peeps at the conference thought that it was to raise funds for whoever would give info on the killer. The previous figure was a paltry award of $10,000. No one would give their life finger pointing a killer for that amount. You can spend that on a limited SEAN JOHN wardrobe alone.
Really when you have an inner circle of SIMMONS, COHEN, RUN, DMC and JMJ, you would expect that all of the individuals involved would be taken care of for life and not be in financial urgency. Not when the individuals who sold DEF JAM, a label that JMJ and RUN-DMC endorsed and built, market and brag to the world HOW MUCH MONEY THEY MADE. HOW THEY EACH GOT at least $50 MILLION SITTIN IN THE BANK FROM IT, AND GOT ADJACENT COMPANIES WORTH $250 MILLION, AND ARE BREAKING OFF CATS MULTI MILLIONS IN NEW BIDDING WAR DEALS. No, a 'fundraiser' is unacceptable when all it takes is two so called men walking into a room and coming out with a check. (Which apparently ended up happening after all, and this is a good thing. I applaud them for doing the right thing in this matter for JMJ it's just the right thing to do, nuff said.)
EVERYBODY DIES BROKE So in the super process of this paper chase, whether its LIONEL HAMPTON or JMJ, certain media types, as well as the public, are alarmed with the financial status revealed in the press. This has also sent a signal to the artistic community of 'getting paid by whatever means necessary'. Even if it means to sacrifice your 'souls'. Yes on paper there's more money in the so-called black community, thanks to the illusion of a working credit system, but how much is it galvanizing society from a control aspect? Little and none. Thus the soul of the black community has been sold and traded like MANHATTAN ISLAND for the lure of mere trinkets. Today artists refuse to die broke, but are dying young in the process. Since you cannot take anything to the mystery of the hereafterS everybody really dies broke. Peeps are leaving their bills and estates for their families to squander amidst the chaos. And we defend it as long as it makes money, because it's the god of amerikkka. It reminds me of the BIGGIE disclaimer in the hit JUICY where he was only hustling drugs so that his daughter could eat. Uh, yeah so she could grow up in a climate well fed to be victimized ultimately by cats who do the same thing??? Still, I've been saying for years that this sickness is traceable.
TRACING THE BREAD CRUMBS TO THE BIG BAD WOLF; THE WHITE MALE EXEC HIRES THE NEGRO TO CREATE, PROMOTE, FINANCE, AND PROTECT NIGGAISM.
I'm so tired of cats who have opinions on proven scientific studies that are based on little data, research, readings, or facts. The studies of new technologies using images were predicted when I was studying it in college 20 years ago. Maybe that's the damn problem. I'm clear enough to know its documented science, and have read NOAM CHOMSKY, MARSHALL McCLUHAN, subliminal advertising effects, etc. Now, through the super-media uses of music, film and high tech gadgets it is possible to blur the lines between fantasy and reality. I wrote DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE on this premise. Challenging information. But the problem comes from peeps who have no inkling, but still have the turd of an opinion passing along. Why should I even entertain a challenging theory from some music cat who barely knows the business that they're in?
Again, at the 'fundraiser' I challenged all of us in hip hop to take it back by the horns as men and women, look at ourselves in the mirror and hope to balance the stereotypical imagery that can fester and cultivate the climate. Yes, I connected hip hop's imagery to contributing to the 'thug climate' that eventually again claimed one of ours. Immediately I was sort of wisked away. A disclaimer was ushered after me about how hip hop is not connected to the violence. At all. This is bullsh*t.
When I was a kid WATCHING a great football game would send us in the streets afterwards trying to replay what we just saw. BRUCE LEE movies had us kids kicking coke machines in the theater afterwards. A love song made you call your girl. Now how the hell can a negative image NOT do the same, especially when that adult stereotype looks so familiar? Yes, amerikkka loves the 'NIGGRO' ******s created from hired negroes and my rebellious self is clear on tracing these crumbs to the big, bad, wolves who duck the accountability of all of this. The JIMMY IOVINES, TED FIELDS, TOMMY MOTTOLAS, DOUG MORRISSES. Big head honcho white men who hire negroes to cultivate the climate of 'niggativity'.
But why should these white men be accountable for upholding this imbalance projected to where black people live? The negroes they hire don't live in the hood either. JMJ was killed in the hood, where some of them used to live. The press conference during the 'fundraiser' was soooo detatched from the understandings of today's youth and the neighborhoods they struggle in. What we have is a host of 25-40 year old fraud negroes polishing up and packaging 'ghetto fabulous mentality and lifestyle' for the masses, while buckdancing weak ass excuses when something goes terribly wrong. As in this case. I say we the community start identifying these 'culture bandits'.
TURN ON THE LIGHTS AND CALL THE LAW All of this still 'keep it real' talk is a bs excuse. In sports old, current and next come together in all star weekends and Hall of Fame celebrations. ****, even in other forms of entertainment they get together on joyous notes and occasions. In the rap world we get together at the yearly funeral, not from natural causes but murder is the case. Ball players come from the same environment, but thanks to coaches, their agents, rules and regulations and officials a certain LAW keeps them all in check, for the sake of the preservation of the game. In hip hop it's the wil, wil westS logic is not common . Instead, its comparable to people racing to a table gobbling food with their bare unwashed hands.
SO, WHEN I SPOKE AT MY LECTURE AT THE PLANET HIP HOP SEMINAR IN NEWARK, NEW JERSEY the point was simple and clear. It takes those in the rapgame to protect and preserve the integrity of the art above and beyond the call of duty at all costs. Ernie Paniciolli, Afrika Bambaataa and Kevin Powell brought it with an informative lecture and panel discussions. It was not just laced with many speakers and domestic and international hip hop artists, but well attended at the NJPAC New Jersey Performing Arts Center. A beautiful occasion also spearheaded by April Silver a sister who's a mover and shaker in raptivist activity for the hood. Of course the NY POST was there and they just misquoted me terribly in printing that I said JAY-Z and Ja-Rule were the cats I was calling gangsters. This is inaccurate. When I lecture I name a bunch of names but attach them to their respective issues. Of course the press hears the crowd go nuts and immediately match them with the only names they recognize. Still it was fire. But while I got you here...
First of all, when I speak I don't MINCE my words. I'm sharp and clear and I DON'T stutter. I made NO mention at all about JAY-Z BEING A GANGSTER. He's the best, smartest and most skilled... love him for that. BUT, if I made any mention at all it was about him using his power to the best advantage for the people. I was CLEAR about that... and if it's a challenge... so be it.
NUMBER TWO, I made NO mention of JA RULE in the first person, instead I blasted how silly BET looked in dedicating the day to JMJ and then showing the number 6 video where JA RULE was doing his 'murdah' thing in front of a MURDER INC sign. Not his fault. He had nothing to do with that. Inappropriate and stupid on BETs part.
NUMBER THREE, If I said anything it was about the transformation of IRV GOTTI from a nice college cat into 'the skrewface exec'. He's too smart for posing and promoting that like its natural. If I said anything about DEF JAM it was to BE in charge, put DMX and JA to 'BOX' IN Madison Square Garden like MEN and raise money for the youth, or some real **** instead of hiring more security at DEF JAM.
NUMBER FOUR, I did blast the record biz for ALLOWING the criminal element into the GAME. THE GAME OF MONEY eclipsing the game of rap... but they never mentioned the DAVISES, IOVINES, AND OTHER white execs I scathed. Those are examples who I said don't know a bank note from a musical note. I DIDN'T name music cats like JAY-Z or JA-RULE who need to stick to music and great rhymes as well as entertaining young kids watching them and buying their music.
Devils advocate synopsis.... I SAID DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE 14 YEARS AGO... BUT STILL THE NEW YORK POST IS GONNA BE THE POST who I've blasted before. STILL.... if somebody did say those things and the POST COVERED IT LIKE THEY DID.... what defense does the rap world have????????
OPERATION TAXIDRIVER OK my resolution is to keep working on the positive and synergize the efforts of cats who wanna say and do the right thing. THAT'S REAL. I'm not paying attention to suburban murder music. It gets real wack when these kids can't even draw references to the names they spit. FRANK NITTI wouldn't give a black cat a piece of a minute. So Terrordomes in 2003 are gonna accent upon the good.
So, soon peep the RED ALERT BDAY PARTY, my visits to two schools, the VH1 JMJ RUN-DMC tribute, F.A.M. photo session. OPERATION TAXIDRIVER with BOB LAW and the gathering of organizations across the land. What I think about the JA RULE - B BROWN video, my two day spin in LONDON, the ant gang rally in L.I. and the writing gigs as well as the re-tooling of www.rapstation.com which has merged with a few areas.
My anger is focused on taking our culture back and at least watering the seeds with the nutrients rather than insanity. Out.
MORTAL WOUNDS:The Unseen Agony of Black-on-Black Homicide
by NewsRoom/LA Times
The Unseen Agony of Black-on-Black Homicide
An endless scourge of murders of and by African Americans is little noticed elsewhere, but those who must live with the aftermath are changed forever.
The homicide zone
There is no easy solution. Education may be one of the keys. Better family foundation may be another. My prayers go out to all the families having suffered loss and more prayers to those lost who need guidance.
Submitted by: powell
10:10 AM PST, Feb 6, 2003
It is time for us young black people to realize that we are the future and we really need to get a reality on the importance of preserving our generation. As a mother of two young males we can't always focus on the negative. We need to ask the lord to touch this community in a real way.
Submitted by: Kim P.
3:34 PM PST, Feb 5, 2003
By Jill Leovy, Times Staff Writer
Lewis Wright was at a pay phone when he learned his son had been murdered.
He was staring into morning traffic, and a deep weariness swept over him. He wanted to close his eyes and make it go away.
Wright is lean, a musician and security guard from Alabama. His son, Lewis Jr., was a bright, sometimes troubled boy. He had a long, narrow face like his father's, played the clown at school and liked to joke about his skinny legs. At 16, he still called his father Daddy, still came running when his father's car pulled up.
Wright could hear the boy's mother, Debra Steadman, crying into the phone that day. Police were saying Lewis Jr. had been shot on a South-Central Los Angeles street, she told him. Wright hung up, and sped to her house.
They spent the rest of the day trying to track down Lewis Jr.'s body. The hospital had no record of him. Things weren't adding up. Secretly, Wright began to hope. He concocted a story: They had switched Lewis Jr.'s name with someone else's. Maybe it was all a mistake.
The truth caught up with him at the Los Angeles County coroner's office, a sprawling concrete building in Lincoln Heights.
Wright and Steadman were called to a small briefing room.
A man in a suit brought a photo, and laid it face down on the scratched hardwood table. It still might be somebody else, Wright thought.
The man slid the photo across the table.
Wright watched: A white rectangle, moving slowly toward him.
When it reached him, he found his hands were shaking.
"I was scared," Wright recalled two years after the death of his only child, "afraid just to actually turn it over."
People across Los Angeles know there is a murder problem.
But most don't have to see it.
Residents in black neighborhoods have that burden. African Americans have long lived with a homicide epidemic that one veteran detective calls the Monster.
Young black men in Los Angeles County for years have been far more likely to be murdered than anyone else. Four times more likely than young Latinos. Eighteen times more likely than young white men.
Last year, homicides in Los Angeles jumped 10%, prompting Police Chief William J. Bratton to call for a new anti-gang campaign. The rise in homicides made headlines. But the killings fell into an old pattern. For the fifth year in a row, about 40% of the victims were African American, even though blacks compose just 11% of the city's population.
Such numbers put black and white communities at the extremes of personal safety. Santa Monica, for example, has a murder rate similar to that of the safest European nations. By contrast, South-Central L.A. -- just a few miles away by freeway--has a murder rate double that of Bogota, Colombia.
Authorities say most black homicide victims die at the hands of other blacks. Witnesses often are afraid to step forward. Few killers are caught. They live alongside law-abiding neighbors, bragging, bullying, daring justice. Or they have been killed themselves.
People know where these murders take place: Slauson, Florence, Manchester, Century, Imperial. Residents from elsewhere in Southern California see these exits along the Harbor Freeway and drive past.
They know. But they don't know.
To lose someone in this way is to endure a catastrophe the world scarcely seems to notice. It is to wait behind yellow tape as your child dies beneath the hands of paramedics. It is to pull up your son's T-shirt and count the bullet holes in his back. It is to feel angry at blacks, angry at whites, angry at police, angry at killers still on the loose.
In interviews over four months in homes, hospitals and police stations and on city streets, dozens of people who have been affected by homicide spoke of the invisibility of this pain.
Nearly all expressed the sense that society cares less when victims are black. For all the notoriety of gangs and urban violence, they said, the suffering caused by the black-on-black homicide problem remains largely unseen.
The accounts that follow are from those forced to look.
This is the first in an occasional report on murder in Los Angeles.
Monday: Surgeons work to save a gunshot victim at Martin Luther King/Drew Medical Center.
A Mother's Loss: 'My Everything'
Wanda Bickham was in bed when the phone rang.
She picked up the receiver and heard a voice talking.
"Tyronn's been shot -- " the voice said.
Bickham reacted instinctively. She hung up.
Tyronn was 22, an aspiring fireman, just finishing the academy. He was broad-shouldered, striking, with eyes lined by thick black lashes. He had been homecoming king of Compton High School.
At night, after work, he would sprawl in his favorite corner of the couch and talk about his day as Bickham cooked him dinner. To Bickham, who never married and had no other children, Tyronn was "my everything," she said. "My whole life."
When her phone rang again, she let it go to voice mail. She sat staring.
It rang a third time.
The caller was Emond Taylor, Tyronn's childhood friend. Earlier that night, he had been with Tyronn when a white Altima pulled up and a young man got out and shot Tyronn in the chest.
Later, Bickham was at Martin Luther King/Drew Medical Center where, after a long wait, doctors told her that her son had died. She became hysterical, friends recalled. She ran through corridors, then passed out.
When she came to, she was taken to a small, curtained room. Tyronn's body lay on a gurney. Bickham saw his sheet-covered form, and her body stiffened.
She braced her hands against the door frame to keep from being ushered in.
Bickham has prominent cheekbones, a beauty mark under one eye, and whimsically dyed red hair. She is girlish, and sits cross-legged on her couch as she recalls these events, more than a year after her son's death.
When she recounts the phone call, she holds out her arms, as if to push something away. "I didn't want to hear it," she says.
Later, talking of seeing Tyronn's body, she makes the same gesture. "I didn't want to see," she says.
'They Know Who Did It'
Jenell Nelson's son died in her arms. She talks about it mechanically, staring into space. She is an airport shuttle driver, thin, with dark circles around her eyes.
Jamaal, 18, had light brown eyes. He was her youngest and most spoiled. He was big, hated school, liked everyone -- immature and bighearted by turns, his mother's chief irritation, her chief joy.
The morning he died, Feb. 16, Nelson heard gunshots in front of her house.
She was outside in an instant, screaming and running, hurling herself on his body where he lay, half under a car.
"I was in his ear, screaming his name, down on my knees," she recalled. "I was saying, 'Please don't die on me, please don't die!' "
She raised his T-shirt, and saw bullet holes in his back. "I'm screaming," she said. "And I'm picking his head up. And I'm screaming, 'Please don't die, please don't die, please don't leave me!' "
With frantic fingers, Nelson searched Jamaal's braids, looking for head wounds.
Then she heard him take his last, rasping breaths.
Police had to pull her away.
The day was warm. Jamaal's body lay in the street for hours, half-covered by a sheet while investigators completed their work. Nelson noticed that her clothes were soaked with his blood.
At last, officials showed Nelson a photo of Jamaal to identify, a required procedure. They handed her a card with a claim number on the back.
Then they stripped Jamaal's body in the street and took him away.
Jamaal's murder remains unsolved. There were witnesses. The detective needs just one to talk. They are easy to find, hard to persuade.
At the wake, one of Jamaal's friends whispered to Nelson that several mourners knew who did it. It was no secret, they said. The killers were guys from the neighborhood. They had bragged about it afterward, laughed about it. Some of Jamaal's friends had heard them, and said nothing.
They knew who had done it, Jenell Nelson recalled, and there they were, in her living room, "helping themselves to the food."
An Unshakeable Image
Peter Drake Jr.'s killers shot him from behind, then stood over him and shot 11 more times. They put the gun in his mouth and blew out his teeth.
But three years later, the part his mother, Marjorie Craddock, can't get over is how they shot him through the palm of his hand.
She can't shake that image: Pete begging them to stop. Pete raising his hand to shield his face as he died.
Craddock is a South L.A. insurance agent with short, shiny black hair and a brisk Louisiana lilt. Her son had a saunter and a "sneaky smile," she said, which played around the corners of his mouth.
As a child, he would cuddle with her in bed on Saturday mornings and watch cartoons. He grew up tall, with very dark skin, a black goatee. He couldn't hold a job, and they argued frequently. But there was tenderness.
When she couldn't reach the higher cupboards in her kitchen, Pete would step up with a breezy, "Move, Shorty!" and lift her like a doll out of the way.
Sometimes now, Craddock stands at the kitchen sink and senses someone behind her.
She whirls and finds herself staring down an empty hall.
People know that black men are being murdered, Craddock said, but they assume they are all criminals. "They see," she said, "and they don't see."
The young black men who killed Peter Drake were caught and convicted of the mistaken-identity murder. When Sheriff's Det. Elizabeth Smith first interrogated them, they asked her why she was so zealous.
"People get killed all the time," she remembered one asking. "Why are you solving this one?"
They thought Pete was "just another gang member," Smith said.
They thought no one would care.
A Never-Ending Emptiness and Pain
Six years after the murder of her 16-year-old son, Roshod, Karen Hamilton sits at her dining room table, tense as a wire, rubbing her hands together. She has left dinner simmering. Her eyes are downcast. A tattoo on her arm reads, "My Son Roshod."
Asked about him, she is at first silent. She fidgets, clasps and unclasps her hands, then finally speaks, her voice barely audible.
She says she has never talked about his death.
Not in six years. Not even to her husband.
Tears are rising. She flicks them away. She says she wants to talk, then can't.
"Just emptiness," she whispers at last. "Just empty."
Her husband, Bobby Hamilton, watches from the back of the room. "It hurts, it hurts. It is a never-ending hurt," he said.
Roshod looked like his mother, had her chestnut-colored eyes and a way of opening his mouth wide when he laughed, as if in astonishment. He was bright, a whiz at math, too popular with girls for his parents' comfort. The phone rang all the time with calls for him.
The night Roshod died, his father heard shots from the park and ran to look. He knew Roshod was out on his bicycle.
Leslie N. Shaw Park is a manicured spot west of the Harbor Freeway on Jefferson Boulevard: a set of brick stairs, a sculpted concrete drinking fountain, an orange-and-blue jungle gym.
It was dark, and at first Hamilton saw nothing. Then, near two slender palm trees, he saw a figure on the ground. His son.
Roshod was breathing heavily. Hamilton searched his body for wounds, found a bullet hole in his leg, one in the back of his head. He carried Roshod to his car and drove to a fire station.
A detective later noted the crime scene evidence: a pool of blood, a black bicycle on its side and, a short distance away, a can of malt liquor.
Hamilton is intense and speaks with a preacher's cadence. A gold pendant around his neck swings with the force of his gestures.
Sometime after the death, Hamilton realized that the words that first sprang to his mind when he saw Roshod on the ground were from the Bible.
"O Absalom," begins the lament of King David.
"My son! my son!"
A Long Drawer in the Wall
Young black men in a passing car shot Jhana Leah Wilson in front of her mother's house in South-Central. The bullet tore through her lungs. She was 20, and had a baby girl.
"It doesn't seem real," says Jerome Wilson of the death of his daughter 18 months ago.
Black women in Los Angeles are far less likely to be murdered than black men. But like black men, their murder rate outstrips those of women in any other group. A black woman Jhana's age was seven times more likely to be killed than a young white woman, county statistics for 2000 show.
Jhana was light-skinned, her father says, with eyebrows that grew together. She loved to sing--and had no ear for it, says Wilson, a truck driver from Michigan. She wanted to be a beautician.
When Wilson arrived at the packed waiting room of King/Drew Medical Center, no one seemed to know anything about Jhana.
King/Drew's trauma waiting room is low-ceilinged and painted sky blue. There are rows of padded seats connected by metal bars, a loud TV and a guard outside the door.
Wilson waited for hours. "Just sitting there. Being real quiet," he says. He prayed.
Doctors finally took him down a hall and into a room with a drawer in the wall.
Why a drawer? he wondered.
When they pulled out Jhana, she was so pale, looked so strange, that he wanted to tell them it wasn't her. He made no sound. He felt weakness sweep through his body, but kept his feet.
Is this your daughter? they asked.
"Yeah." he said. "That's my daughter."
'Homicide Is Not Normal'
The Rev. Ferroll Robins, a Los Angeles Police Department chaplain, has brown eyes and light brown freckles across the bridge of her nose.
Her brother, Joseph Ray Paul II, 31, was returning a video to a store on South Western Avenue a year ago when a robber shot him. Joe was quiet, and had a cleft chin. He was an aspiring police officer and Robins' junior by 14 years -- the little brother she took to school.
Homicide looks different close up, Robins said. There are people who are forced to see it and there are those with the luxury of looking away.
People think it just happens "over in the 'hood," she said -- like it is the norm for black communities. "But I beg to differ," she said. "Homicide is not normal."
Robins describes a barrier that has risen between her and other people: the limits of understanding, of empathy.
After Joe was killed, friends dropped away, she said, finding her grief "too heavy."
There was her brother's birthday, six months after his murder. She was alone that night and called friends in desperation. They were squeamish -- changed the subject.
She crumpled in the center of her bedroom. She stayed there, on the floor, for hours, praying: "Please, God, deliver me from this pain."
Living With 'the Monster'
Los Angeles Police Department homicide Det. Brent Josephson calls it "the Monster." The homicide problem. The routine. The invisibility. The indifference. The overwhelmed institutions. An entire system which, in his view, leaves little room for compassion.
"There lies a body. There's the family behind the yellow tape," Josephson said. "We have three minutes for them. Then they're left with all the pain and all the loss."
Of the LAPD's four bureaus, one has 41% of the city's homicides -- the South Bureau, which spans precincts in South-Central, Southwest and Southeast Los Angeles. One South Bureau precinct, the 77th Street Division, consistently leads the city in homicides, most of them black-on-black.
The caseloads of South Los Angeles detectives are about 40% higher than those of their counterparts in the San Fernando Valley. High caseloads are tied to poor rates of solving murders. Homicide detectives in the 77th Street Division hit a low point in 2001, closing only 17% of their cases with arrests.
To retiring LAPD South Bureau Deputy Chief Willie L. Pannell, the pattern is disturbingly familiar.
Pannell is 55, a tall, black, freckled LAPD veteran of 33 years. His Southern accent is so thick that he can be hard to understand. He grew up a sharecropper in rural Georgia. Back then, in Jim Crow's South, black people lived in an atmosphere thick with fear. The law was made to protect whites.
A black man who killed a white man could expect to feel its full weight -- and then some. But a black man who killed a black man acted with impunity. As a young black man, you lived without the protection of law, Pannell said, and you knew that "nobody cared about what happened to you."
High murder rates among black men go back decades. As far back as 1950, black men nationally were 12 times more likely than white men to be killed at the hands of another. Pannell lost an uncle and a cousin to homicides by the time he was 19, and a friend was maimed by an ice pick. All three were assaulted in drunken brawls.
As in many black-on-black murders today, Pannell's relatives died at the hands of neighbors who got away with it. Nobody expected a trial. Black people were left to live alongside killers.
Then, as now, a few violent people in black communities caused great harm and suffered few consequences. Back before black men shot each other in drive-bys -- back when there was little in the way of effective law enforcement for blacks, or swift, fair prosecution of criminals in their communities -- black men killed each other, but with knives instead of guns.
Today, ask black people in South Los Angeles whether responsibility should be assigned to political leaders, or to the rest of the city, and you sometimes get blank looks.
"Why should they be asked to care?" asked Capt. Cecil Rhambo, who grew up in South-Central and now runs the sheriff's station in Compton. "Should I blame you because you're white?
"Oh, I know, people will call me an Uncle Tom. But people don't see it. We can go to school now. We can get jobs. So blame us.... Now the enemy is us."
But anger at a complacent white society also is commonly voiced.
Pannell said people living north of the Santa Monica Freeway fail to have sympathy for young black men. "People are dying like crazy down here and there ain't anyone sayin' anything," he said.
It's easy for people to see women and children as vulnerable, he said, but they don't see black men as the ones who need protection.
Pannell told of the recent murder of a "16-year-old kid, killed with a gun in his hand."
"Now, was this kid pristine?" he asked. "My preliminary view is that he was not pristine. I mean, this don't look like a nice clean thing! But he was 16. Sixteen."
The homicide problem is baffling to many African Americans, a demoralizing coda to the black struggle against oppression. "We are committing suicide," said Carlton Mitchell, an Inglewood carpenter whose brother, Paul, was gunned down outside a South-Central hamburger stand. "We don't have to worry about other races doing it to us. We are self-destructing."
Older black L.A. residents are especially likely to express such feelings. Many fled segregation in the South, battled discrimination, broke barriers in education and politics, only to see their children or grandchildren die in what detectives call blood-spot-on-the-street murders.
To Josephson, who works in the LAPD's 77th Street Division, it is "one of life's most unfair situations." He is white, ruddy, stiff and official, with a conservative, cop-style mustache.
He and other detectives typically commute from distant, more affluent suburbs. Even so, they sometimes display an allegiance to South-Central.
"This area is filled with 90% of the most God-fearing, wonderful people," Josephson said. "In the years I have worked here, I have never been without an invitation at a holiday from a family of color."
Suburban friends don't get it, he said. Work there long enough, and it gets personal.
Josephson has a wallet-sized photo of a young black girl taped to his computer terminal. She is the 17-year-old girlfriend of a murder victim. They had become friends.
He pulled off the photo, and showed the back: A silly note in ballpoint pen -- round girlish script, signed, "Love, Yvette."
Josephson put the photo back, paused, then spoke again, his voice slightly rough.
She had been murdered a few weeks before, he said.
A Glimpse of Grief
On the evening of Oct. 2, a man lies dead inside a doorway of one of the tiny stucco homes on East 74th Street, hidden from sight -- a black man, shot.
Neighbors loiter at the end of the street. Children gape from front porches, then resume their play.
A car pulls up. Brenda Thurman leaps out, her shrill voice ripping the air. She races to the police tape, whimpering, pressing her hands together in a gesture of appeal. Detectives hurry toward her, talking in low urgent voices.
Perry Thurman, her brother, 41, a father of four, has been shot.
She bends double as if punched, then reaches skyward, and screams in short bursts ending in sobs. A moment later, her mother, Gloria Martin, arrives. She is 59, a frail mother of 10 with long gray-brown braids. Her high-pitched cries also echo down the block.
Martin begs to see her son's body. An officer blocks her path. She hurls herself against him, fighting, her arms whipsawing the air. The screams go on and on.
The detectives turn away, resume their work.
Black Pride, Black Anguish
Trauma surgeon Bryan Hubbard sometimes finds himself thinking of his patients only as gang members -- a reaction, he said, to the stress of treating so many gunshot wounds.
"It's not as terrifying," he said. "You can tell yourself they were just asking for it."
He works at King/Drew Medical Center. The hospital is between two violence-plagued communities, Compton and Watts. Each year, its physicians treat more than 2,500 people who have been shot or stabbed.
Sharon Blackmon recalled the day in July when King/Drew nurses took her to the trauma center's morgue to see her son Darrin, dead on a gurney. He had been shot by a childhood acquaintance.
Darrin, 22, was tall, thin, caramel-colored, gregarious, his mother said, with dimples. He had two children by two girlfriends. He called Blackmon "Momsy," and had her name tattooed on his arm.
The body looked nothing like him, Blackmon thought. There were bloody tubes in his mouth and his face was swollen. A nurse stood over him, holding up the corner of a sheet.
Blackmon wanted to touch Darrin, unable to believe her eyes.
She started toward him. But her vision went blurry and she felt "as if my insides were dropping out." Blackness closed in. Then she was down on the scuffed gray-and-white linoleum, seized with panic, still trying to reach him, determined to get her body to obey.
She struggled up, tried to take a few steps. Blackness rushed down like a curtain falling, and her legs buckled again.
Physicians at King/Drew say the agony they witness doesn't square with the selectiveness of news coverage or the public indifference they see.
"We are not the only ones in L.A. who know what is happening here," said Ama Lacy, a young black trauma surgeon at King/Drew. "The attitude really, truly, is that, as long as it's black and brown, it doesn't matter."
It troubles Hubbard that so much of the violence is black on black. He grew up in a middle-class black family in a white Pennsylvania suburb.
"I could never figure out who is responsible," he said. "The black pride part of me wants to blame whites -- to say, you know, 'It's the fault of the Man!' But then I go back and forth. I hate to hear excuses."
The problem "is sad, and frustrating, and infuriating," he concluded. "Sad, because black men like me are dying. Frustrating, because all day, I'm just patching holes here. Infuriating, because they are shooting at each other."
Last Moments Lost Forever
A little more than a year ago, 13-year-old Marquese Prude was shot by a gang member who left him in a pool of blood on the gymnasium floor at St. Andrews Park. Marquese was a happy, quick-witted boy with big ears. His mother, Sharon Brown, wanted him to be a lawyer.
What sticks with Brown is that her son remained conscious a while before dying.
Brown is a special education teacher from South-Central; she has a steady gaze, and talks calmly about the murder, chin high, hands folded.
Nearby, her mother sits listening, slouched over the dining-room table, leaning on her arms, her face slack with misery.
Brown recalls that the paramedics were in the gym working on Marquese when she arrived. Police barred her way. I'm his mother, she pleaded. Stay out, they said.
OK, she recalls thinking. I must keep out of the way. All that matters is that they help Marquese. She joined the crowd behind the police tape. She paced, made phone calls, sat on a park bench.
This is the memory that hurts most.
If only she'd known Marquese was dying. She thinks about how she sat on a park bench as he bled to death.
She imagines herself kneeling beside him. I love you, she would have said. I'm with you, baby.
The killing was reported on TV and in newspapers. Marquese was conspicuously innocent, a random target picked from the crowd at an after-school program. There were public meetings. Politicians spoke.
The attention made his mother and grandmother uncomfortable. What about all the other people whose sons die unnoticed, they wondered.
Later, the black teenager suspected of killing Marquese was himself killed.
And that didn't feel right either.
"It's not blood we are looking for," grandmother Annie Brown said. "It's justice."
Spector Met Actress at LA Club Hours Before Death
Tue Feb 4, 7:09 PM ET
By Dan Whitcomb
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Police think legendary rock producer Phil Spector murdered a B-movie actress in the foyer of his hilltop home just hours after meeting her at the Sunset Strip blues club where she worked as a hostess, sources said on Tuesday.
Spector, a reclusive eccentric with a fondness for guns, allegedly killed Lana Clarkson with a single shot after they returned to his 33-room mock castle in the Los Angeles suburb of Alhambra from the House of Blues early on Monday morning, sources close to the case told Reuters.
The body of Clarkson, a tall blond who idolized Marilyn Monroe and starred in such films as "Amazon Women on the Moon" and "The Barbarian Queen," was found in a pool of blood in the marble foyer.
Police were called to the scene at about 5 a.m. PST (8 a.m. EST) after Spector's driver, who brought the couple there from the House of Blues in West Hollywood, heard gunshots inside.
A spokeswoman for the House of Blues said the club was deeply saddened by the death and was cooperating with police. On Sunday night, when Spector met Clarkson there, the club hosted a concert headlined by Rob Halford, former lead singer of British heavy metal band Judas Priest.
A spokesman for the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office said an autopsy was being conducted on the body of Clarkson, 40. That examination was expected to reveal whether she had been under the influence of alcohol or drugs, among other details.
A source close to the case said Spector refused to talk to police about what happened and quickly called his longtime lawyer, Robert Shapiro, the man who helped successfully defend O.J. Simpson (news) against murder charges.
POLICE COMB THROUGH SPECTOR'S MANSION
Spector, who became one of the first rock producers to become a star himself thanks to developing the "Wall of Sound" recording technique, was arrested at the scene on suspicion of murder but was free by Monday night after posting $1 million bail.
Police and prosecutors obtained a search warrant for Spector's mansion, a 10-bedroom, 8-bath chateau built in 1926 and known as the "Pyrenes Castle," and spent Tuesday combing through it for evidence.
His brand-new Mercedes, still bearing paper dealer plates, was towed away covered in the powder used by forensic technicians to remove fingerprints.
Sources close to the case said Spector, who could not return home until the premises were released by police, was staying with friends.
A spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, which was conducting the investigation, declined to comment on details of the case. Prosecutors said they did not expect to file charges against Spector until next week.
Marvin Mitchelson, a high-profile Los Angeles attorney who described Spector as his "best friend" of 13 years said the influential producer was a regular at the House of Blues, one of the city's best known music venues.
"We used to go there all time and go to the VIP room," Mitchelson said. "Apparently that's where he met (Clarkson)."
Mitchelson said that despite Spector's hard-living reputation, the rock producer had mellowed in recent years and was working hard on both a prospective film of his life and an album by an up-and-coming British band, Starsailor.
"In the last week alone I've had three e-mails from him and it's all very funny stuff," Mitchelson said. "This is a sweet man and there's no way he could do this sort of crime. It's true he's a hard-driving guy but Phil wouldn't hurt a fly."
"I've never seen him disrespect a woman," Mitchelson said. "He's just not someone who is going to attack anyone."
Bob Merlis, a longtime music industry publicist and Spector confidant, echoed Mitchelson's sentiments.
"I've been to that house numerous times for social events and it would always be very nice," Merlis said. "He was a very cordial guy and very generous. I had never seen anything to indicate otherwise. I think of him as a great friend."
Spector was just 17 when he wrote and produced his first No. 1 hit, "To Know Him Is To Love Him" -- a line taken from the inscription on his father's gravestone -- for his high school group, the Teddy Bears. The teen tycoon would go on to produce 17 top-10 U.S. hits in a decade.
He helped out the Beatles in 1970 on their "Let It Be" album, controversially putting lavish overdubs on such songs as "The Long and Winding Road" and "Across the Universe." He worked with George Harrison on his "All Things Must Pass" album and the "Concert for Bangladesh" project, and with John Lennon on such tracks as "Instant Karma" and "Imagine."
But Spector's output was overshadowed during the 1970s by tales of his dark side -- a messy divorce from second wife Ronnie Spector of the Ronettes and gunshots in the studio.
In 1979, while producing punk band the Ramones' "End of the Century," Spector allegedly pulled a gun on Dee Dee Ramone after the bass player had taken a swing at him.
John Houston, the father of singer Whitney Houston and a theatrical manager since the early days of R&B, died Sunday (Feb. 2) after a long battle with diabetes and heart disease. He was 82. Houston died at a New York hospital, a family spokesperson said, noting that his health had been deteriorating for several years.
Well before his daughter's rise to fame, Houston managed the career of her mother and his ex-wife, Cissy Houston. She sang with the Sweet Inspirations, a backing vocal group to artists including Aretha Franklin.
Relations between Houston and his daughter, who has acknowledged having drug problems, took an especially awkward turn recently when his company, John Houston Entertainment LLC, sued her for $100 million. The suit sought compensation for helping to get a marijuana charge against her dismissed and for getting her a new record contract.
Houston even made a public appeal to his daughter in an interview with the syndicated TV news magazine "Celebrity Justice" in December: "You get your act together, honey, and you pay me the money that you owe me."
Houston was born in Trenton, N.J., on Sept. 13, 1920, and was living in Fort Lee when he died, Seltzer said. His theatrical management agency was based in Newark, the city where his daughter was born. In addition to his daughter and wife, Peggy, Houston is survived by three sons.
Rock star Courtney Love was arrested at Heathrow Airport today after an air rage drama on an overnight flight from Los Angeles.
The volatile singer - widow of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain - is said to have become "extremely verbally abusive" towards several members of crew on the Virgin Atlantic 747 passenger jet.
Onlookers claimed Love, 38, went "berserk" when her nurse, who was in the economy section of the plane, was barred entry from business class, where Love, 38, was travelling.
When the plane landed, police boarded, questioned Love for 20 minutes, then arrested her. She was escorted off the plane shortly after 11am with a police officer on each arm.
Love was on flight VS8, which landed at Heathrow at 11am. It was not clear if police boarded the plane or waited for her to leave.
"She was verbally abusive towards our cabin crew and disruptive," a Virgin Atlantic spokeswoman said. "Disruptive passengers are rare but like other British airlines, we take their behaviour very seriously."
The volatile star has long had a reputation for unpredictable behaviour and is this week pictured naked on the cover of Q Magazine.
She was photographed running down a central London street during the photoshoot, which took place in December.
Love, 38, also had a "Brazilian" bikini wax in a room full of people during the shoot and poured a bottle of champagne over her head.
The star found fame with raucous guitar band Hole in the early 90s, scoring UK chart successes with Doll Parts and Celebrity Skin.
She went on to establish an acting career, picking up a Golden Globe nomination for her role in The People Vs Larry Flynt.
Love is thought to have been travelling to London to attend a star-studded concert at the Old Vic Theatre tomorrow night which is being hosted by Sir Elton John and Hollywood star Kevin Spacey.
Police sources said Love was in custody at Heathrow airport where she was being held on suspicion of endangering an aircraft and disruptive behaviour.
A source said: "A 38-year-old woman was being generally disruptive, using abusive language and refusing to sit down and put her belt on."
Meet Kenneth Patrick Porche, Jr. The 22-year-old weirdo is facing criminal charges for a bizarre incident in the women's bathroom at a Houma, Louisiana department store. Following a 40-minute standoff, Porche was forcibly removed last Sunday (1/23) from a Dillard's stall after he surreptitiously collected urine samples from female shoppers. According to this Terrebonne Parish Sheriff's Office report, Porche disabled the flushing mechanism in one toilet, then lined the bottom of the bowl with plastic film. When a woman finished using the disabled toilet--and departed the bathroom--Porche emerged from his perch in an adjacent stall to collect the remaining liquid. When collared by an off-duty sheriff's detective moonlighting as store security, Porche was carrying four zip-lock bags thought to contain urine. Two of the confiscated bags were labeled with descriptions of their contents, such as "old woman." Along with a misdemeanor criminal mischief count, Porche has been hit with a felony "ritualistic acts" charge, which carries a maximum of five years in the can--the other can. When a sheriff's deputy asked Porche if he had poached urine before, he replied, "this was the first time that he has got up the courage to do this." And when asked if he had discussed his fetish with his girlfriend, Porche said he had not, because "he believed that she would think it would be disgusting."
Keven A. Conner, better known to R&B fans as Dino, lead singer of the group H-Town, was killed in a car accident on Tuesday.
According to Houston police, Dino, 28, had just left a recording studio and was a passenger in a car being driven by his girlfriend, 22-year-old Teshya Rae Weisent. Their vehicle was struck by an SUV that ran a red light and both Dino and Weisant were killed.
Three people were in the SUV and all fled after the accident. One man, Juan Diaz, was apprehended, however, and faces felonious charges of failure to stop and rendor aid.
Originally signed to a recording contract by 2 Live Crew's Luther "Luke" Campbell, H-Town rose to prominence 10 years ago with their debut album, Fever for Da Flavor, which spawned their biggest hit, "Knockin' the Boots." In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, Shazam, Dino's twin brother and groupmate, said the trio had just finished an H-Town reunion album. Their last LP, Ladies Edition, was released in 1997.
Producer Phil Spector, noted for his work the Beatles, Ike & Tina Turner, the Righteous Brothers, and the Ronettes, was arrested this morning (Feb. 3) in connection with the shooting death of an unidentified woman at his home in Alhambra, Calif. No further details were available at deadline.
"I really am not in a position to confirm or deny, although I think we should be learning something pretty soon," Alhambra District Attorney Michael Grosbard tells Billboard.com. A message left with the Alhambra Police Department was not immediately returned.
Just two days after he got the boot, former "Bachelorette" contestant Greg Todtman got busted yesterday for allegedly trying to board a plane at Kennedy Airport with some toot.
Airport personnel said they found a small quantity of cocaine on the 28-year-old Manhattan man during a search at a security checkpoint in the American Airlines terminal about 3 p.m., Port Authority spokesman Tony Ciavolella said.
Todtman was charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance, a misdemeanor.
He was handcuffed by Port Authority cops, booked, given a desk appearance ticket and then allowed to go his merry way. Although originally headed for Los Angeles, it was unclear whether he continued his trip.
But Todtman snorted that he had no coke. He said he was carrying "two pills of codeine in my pocket" along with a chewing gum wrapper.
"I learned a lesson," he said. "Don't have a piece of aluminum foil near something that doesn't have a label on it."
ABC spokesman Kevin Brockman said Todtman needed the pills to get some shuteye. "He said the last few days have been such a whirlwind for him that all he wanted to do was get on the plane, take the pill and go to sleep," Brockman said.
Port Authority cops did not return calls seeking comment on whether the drug in question was cocaine or codeine.
Todtman was eliminated in the fourth installment of the six-episode series starring "The Bachelor" runnerup Trista Rehn. The show began in January, with Rehn choosing from among 25 men.
"The Bachelorette" has been one of ABC's highest-rated shows this year. The fifth episode is scheduled to air Wednesday.
On the show's Web site, the 6-foot, 175-pound Todtman gives his occupation as importation and said he enjoys all sports, traveling, guitar and riding his motorcycle.
The three adjectives that best describe him, he said, are outgoing, passionate and fun.
He said he would make a good husband for Rehn because "interesting introductions lead to interesting relationships."
The US space shuttle Columbia has broken up soon after re-entering the Earth's atmosphere and all seven crew aboard are presumed dead.
The space agency Nasa lost contact with the craft about 15 minutes before it was due to land at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The seven crew included the first Israeli in space, Colonel Ilan Ramon.
Contact was lost over Texas
A Nasa spokesman confirmed they had had reports that the space shuttle had broken up during its descent, and that debris had fallen about 100 miles (160 km) south of Dallas, in the state of Texas.
Relatives of the astronauts who were awaiting the shuttle's arrival were taken away from mission control.
The crew have not been officially declared dead, but US flags have been lowered to half-mast at the White House and the space centre.
President Bush has been briefed about the disaster and is expected to make a statement shortly.
The White House has ruled out any possibility of a terrorist attack on the shuttle.
Heightened security had surrounded Columbia's latest mission because of the presence of Colonel Ramon.
In Israel, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office issued a statement saying "The government of Israel and the people of Israel are praying together with the entire world for the safety of the astronauts on the shuttle Columbia.
"The state of Israel and its citizens are as one at this difficult time."
Columbia, which had been due to land at 0916 (1416GMT) was returning from a 16-day mission orbiting the Earth and had just begun its re-entry procedure when contact was lost.
I could see two bright objects flying off each side of it
Television pictures showed a vapour trail from the craft as it flew over Dallas.
It then appeared to disintegrate into several separate vapour trails, and witnesses in the area said they heard "big bangs".
Nasa has declared an emergency, and search and rescue teams have been mobilised.
According to Nasa, the shuttle was about 200,000 feet up and travelling at 12,500 mph (20,000 kph) when contact was lost at about 0900 local time.
Although the space agency did not say what had happened to the shuttle, it warned that any debris found in the area should be avoided and could be hazardous.
Commander Rick Husband, US
Pilot William McCool, US
Kalpana Chawla, US
Laurel Clark, US
Ilan Ramon, Israel
David Brown, US
Michael Anderson, US
In 42 years of human space flight, Nasa has never lost a space crew during landing.
In 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after lift-off with the loss of all seven crew on board.
Columbia, which first flew in 1981, was the oldest craft in Nasa's space shuttle programme.
Nasa has assigned a former astronaut to the family of each crew-member to provide support.
"They have been with each family since the mission began and are trying to help them cope with this terrible tragedy," a Nasa official told the BBC.
Former Nasa chief historian Roger Launius told BBC News that it looked like this was a "catastrophic failure."
The BBC's Leo Enright says that one immediate concern is the fate of the International Space Station.
Three crewmen are currently living and working aboard the station, and the space shuttle is a vital link providing them with supplies.
Europe, Japan, Canada and Russia have all invested heavily in this enterprise, which had come to rely more and more on the Americans' space shuttle fleet.
Our correspondent says alll future plans must now be reviewed, and experts must decide whether the station can remain operational or whether it should be mothballed.
(Gannett) — American citizens returning from trips to Canada, Mexico and other parts of the Western Hemisphere would be required to present a valid U.S. passport before re-entering the country under a new policy being considered by federal officials.
The policy, if implemented, would be aimed at tightening security at U.S. borders and could compel tens of millions of American citizens to obtain passports before making even casual day-trips to Canada or Mexico. At present, about 20 percent of U.S. citizens hold the documents, which now must be produced only when travelers return from trips outside the Western Hemisphere.
Typically, it would cost a family of four about $350 to get passports. The documents are valid for 10 years for adults, five years for children.
The policy would further alter the traditional laissez-faire practices at the U.S.-Canadian border, where generations of western New Yorkers had grown accustomed to passing over and back without doing anything more than answering a few quick questions.
Border security has already been tightened several times in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. U.S. border inspectors now require that citizens have a picture ID to be readmitted to the country. They recommend, but do not require, that citizens also carry birth certificates or passports.
Mandatory display of passports, which are issued only to people who have established their identity and citizenship, theoretically would make it harder for would-be terrorists to sneak into the country under false names.
Federal officials would say little about the idea, and it remains unclear how seriously the proposed policy is being entertained in Washington.
But Stuart Patt, a spokesman for the State Department’s Consular Affairs bureau, which oversees passports, confirmed this week that the passport idea “is one of many proposals being discussed” to enhance border security.
Word of the policy debate has filtered out here and there. Joel Roemer crossed the border into Ontario at the Thousand Islands Bridge in Jefferson County shortly before Christmas, and he was warned by a Canadian customs inspector that in the future, he would need a passport to get back into the United States.
"He said, ‘You’ve been informed, so be prepared the next time,’" Roemer recalled this week.
A spokeswoman for the federal agency that supervises the entry of people into this country, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, declined to comment other than to say that no change of the current policy has been announced. “The policy is still the same, where we require a photo ID,” said spokeswoman Kimberly Weissman.
Officials at the Canadian customs and immigration agencies, Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and that nation’s consulate in Buffalo all said this week that they had not heard of the proposed policy and could not comment on it.
None of them could explain why the Canadian customs agent knew to mention the proposed policy to Roemer at the Thousand Islands Bridge last month.
At present, U.S. citizens must display passports when returning from countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and other distant regions. But no passport is required to gain re-entry from anywhere in the Western Hemisphere -- Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.
Were that policy to change, one Canadian tourism official predicted little long-term impact on cross-border travel.
“From a tourism point of view, I don’t think it’s a bad thing,” said Tricia Hosking, spokeswoman for Tourism Toronto, a marketing arm of that city’s government. “We’ve enjoyed a ‘friendly’ border and have been able to get into either country (easily). But times have changed drastically. It’s important to maintain and increase border security.”
Hosking observed that getting a passport would be one more chore that travelers would have to worry about before visiting Canada. But once they have the document, it might actually speed up border transit, she said. “I think it’s a direction that our countries together are leaning toward.”
Patt of the State Department said his agency estimates about 52 million Americans have valid passports. That number is about 20 percent of the 256 million native and naturalized U.S. citizens counted in the last census.
The agency issues about 7 million new passports a year, most of them via affiliates at which citizens can file passport applications.
Whether clerk’s offices could handle a rush of new passport applicants, should one occur, is a matter of opinion.
Court officials granted a request by prosecutors to subpoena singer Aretha Franklin to obtain information about her Detroit-area home that was destroyed by arson. The Oakland County (Mich.) prosecutor's office wants Franklin and three other people to testify, prosecutor David Gorcyca said in a statement. Prosecutors declined to reveal the exact contents of the petition for the subpoenas, saying it was confidential under law.
Since the Oct. 25 fire, investigators say they have tried five times to interview Franklin. "Offers by Ms. Franklin's lawyer to answer questions on her behalf are unacceptable," Gorcyca said. "As we have repeatedly stated in the past, we need to definitively establish what facts Ms. Franklin possesses about this case, and not what her lawyer wishes us to know."
Franklin's attorney, Elbert Hatchett, said his client wants to clear up the matter and has only declined to talk to authorities because he has advised her to. He said he advised her to not talk to officials because they could try to implicate her in the crime.
The prosecutor's office has repeatedly said Franklin is not a suspect in the fire. Hatchett would not say if Franklin will comply with the subpoena or evoke her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Franklin was on tour in Houston when fire swept through the 10,000-square-foot home in Bloomfield Township. An investigation determined that an accelerant was used to start the blaze in three locations on the first floor of the $1.6 million home.
Elementary school workers involved in drug ring
January 31, 2003
Niagara Falls Police say a fifth grade teacher and a cafeteria worker at the 66th Street School were among many arrested in a suspected cocaine ring.
The school board decided to fire the cafeteria worker, Teresa Ciccarelli and suspend the teacher, Lynn Clark.
As for fifth grade teacher Lynn Clark - she'll continue to collect a paycheck until the proceedings are over, but she won't be allowed anywhere near her 66th Street School classroom; she remains suspended.
The two 66th Street School employees were among a group of 21 suspects police say were involved in a drug ring revolving around city bars.