Brief items of interest
As happy as we are that Austin American-Statesman editor Rich Oppel is a) working and b) getting out of the office, we are curious as to why, throughout his lengthy Sunday feature, he refers to his subject neighborhood by the accurate-but-a-bit-arcane label "Barton Heights," instead of the equally accurate and much more common "Zilker." (There is, for example, no Barton Heights Neighborhood Association.) Perhaps he thought he was in a different part of town ...
The Party Pig across from the Chronicle offices is decked out for Halloween, but it looks like July Fourth at the cash registers as good citizens flock in for their flags and flag-like objects. Having seen too much bad behavior already, we encourage readers to not bark at Pig employees if the proper ass-kickin' accouterment is not readily available. Also, if you know how to affix miniature flags to the doors and windshields of late-model cars, your skills are needed in the parking lot.
Also close to Chron HQ: A Sears auto center whose entrances are decorated -- unintentionally, no doubt -- with piles of dead crickets. It's an absolutely ghastly sight. Poor little buggers.
It's official -- George W. Bush is the most popular president ever! His 90% approval rating makes him more popular than his father, JFK, FDR, Britney Spears, God, the missionary position, and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Recently Dubya was seen entering the White House carrying the Civil War history April 1865: The Month that Saved America. That would also have been the month Abe Lincoln was shot.
The Texas Civil Rights Project announced Monday it will make its legal services available to Arab-Americans who believe themselves to be the victims of discrimination or assaults in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on New York and D.C. "TCRP will do all that it can to help lower the level of this kind of hate crime in Texas," says TCRP director Jim Harrington. "We are committed that every Texan be free of any kind of hate crime or violence associated with an individual's race, color, religion, or national origin. We encourage people who have experienced this kind of degrading treatment to contact us." TCRP's Web site is www.texascivilrightsproject.org and its intake line, 474-5073, is open for hate crimes reports on Thursdays from 11am-1pm -- or any time during an emergency.
Almost immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and D.C., a Brazilian-based rumor took off across the Internet, claiming that footage aired on CNN depicting Palestinians celebrating in the streets was actually footage shot at the beginning of the Gulf War in 1991. Not so, say CNN, the Brazilian Universidad Estal de Campinas-Brasil (UNICAMP), and Reuters, the news agency that actually shot the footage. UNICAMP's administration released a statement saying the rumor was basically a chat-room conversation that took on a life of its own. Meanwhile, CNN spokeswoman Caroline Rittenberry says the Atlanta-based news station is being inundated with calls about the rumor. "It just won't die," she says, "but we're happy to get the calls. You wouldn't believe how many people just assume it's true."
The University of Texas Green Party is sponsoring a forum titled "Rethinking Corporations, Strengthening Democracy," Oct. 2-6 on the UT campus. For more info, call 471-1903 or go to www.utexas.edu/students/utgreens.
Austin anti-war activists are hosting too many events to list here. We recommend going to www.nowarcollective.com to schedule your protesting week.
The Save Our Springs Alliance, joined by other local activists, has extended an invitation to the Greater Austin Chamber and the Real Estate Council of Austin to join them in asking the Travis County Commissioners to postpone the county bond election in November. Their argument: Given all the other pressures in the world today, why do we need to engage in divisive issues like roads and taxes? Robin Rather, acting independently, first floated the idea last week at a meeting of enviro and business leaders, and since then others have jumped on board. Chamber leaders were scheduled to discuss this on Wednesday afternoon, as we went to press.
Bad news for the workaday world hit doubly hard on Tuesday. Advanced Micro Devices announced it would cut 1,000 Austin jobs during the next nine months with its closure of two chip-making plants. And the online business resources company Hoover's Inc. laid off 14 employees in Austin and closed its London office, cutting a dozen jobs there. Hoover's had made other cuts earlier in the year.
Access Texas and the Texas Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (TARAL) Education Fund have just released "Where Can a Woman Go?" -- a study of 222 hospitals across Texas, evaluating the degree to which local, general-care hospitals provide emergency contraception, abortions, and sterilization. Key findings: Only 15 counties in Texas -- less than 6% -- have an abortion provider. And an astonishing 67% of surveyed hospitals do not offer emergency contraception in their emergency rooms, even to rape survivors. Out of five hospitals surveyed in Travis County, two provide emergency contraception in limited circumstances, two provide referrals only, and one would not participate in the survey. None said they perform abortions.
The Texas State Conference of the NAACP will hold its 65th annual state convention Oct. 4-6 at the Hilton Austin Airport hotel. Speakers include Texas Supreme Court Associate Wallace Jefferson and Houston Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee.
The Deep Eddy Pool Resolution, requesting historic designation for the bathhouse, passed the Parks Board on Tuesday night. Tonight the resolution goes to the City Council as a consent item, and passage is expected. The Friends of Deep Eddy Web site (www.deepeddy.org) is up and running.
Leave it to the Aggies to go Dutch with knee-jerk nationalism. At Saturday's football game against Oklahoma State, the fans at Kyle Field's three-level stadium followed orders to wear red (top section), white (middle), and blue (bottom) -- thereby recreating the national flag of the Netherlands.
From the Department of Potentially Seditious Laws: According to United Press International, at a Sept. 21 press conference, Larry Ellison, chair and CEO of Silicon Valley software giant Oracle, said the U.S. should issue national identification cards. Oracle, he added, would provide the government with the software to do so free of charge. Regarding the privacy issues involved -- and the possible constitutional violations of such a move -- Ellison said that in a high tech society, privacy is just an "illusion."
Meanwhile, results of a Sept. 19 poll conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found respondents "strongly favored" the use of national identification cards, as well as "relaxing" the rules on CIA-led assassinations. Hmm. In the recent terrorist attacks, IDs wouldn't have made a damn bit of difference. Reports show that the terrorists were either in the country legally or had stolen other people's identities.
On Monday, 43-year-old Austinite Federico Segura was arrested and charged with making a false report of a bomb threat on the Capitol in the wee morning hours of Sept. 12. No bomb was found, and DPS spokeswoman Lorraine Ronquillo said the department has no idea what the man's motive was. Segura is currently being held in the Travis Co. Jail. The false report is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a $4,000 fine and/or one year in jail.
The U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development has extended the deadline for urban empowerment zone applications until Oct. 22. This gives the city of Austin time to talk to people in East and Southeast Austin, our proposed empowerment zone. A community meeting was held at Rosewood-Zaragoza Neighborhood Center on Monday to respond to concerns of East Austinites who were surprised to find this application being filed on "their" behalf. Another community meeting will be held Oct. 9 at 5:30pm at Rosewood-Zaragoza, 2802 Webberville.
Airlines' corporate honchos missed no opportunity when it came to lobbying for the bailout package passed by Congress last week. American Airlines employees report that in the days before passage, they were encouraged to lobby their Congressmen by e-mail and phone during work hours. Yet following "victory," many received the news they had been laid off -- including Patty McCarty Reinhart and Betty Lower, two Austin-based American employees recognized by the Chronicle for "Best Airline Service" in 1998's "Best of Austin" issue.
And as confirmed by Houston Continental Airlines spokesperson Julie King, Continental CEO Gordon Bethune left a voice mail on employees' home telephones identifying Austin Rep. Lloyd Doggett by name for his opposition to the initial bailout bill. King said the message, which called the bailout "essential for air carrier survival," was part of Bethune's regular voice mails to all employees (a daily message in the 10 days following the terrorist attacks). She said she could not confirm whether the message -- as described by those who heard it -- accused the Congressman of "threatening the solvency of the airlines."
In a time of crisis, it's good to know one threat to the American way of life has been defused: Napster has agreed to settle its lawsuit with the recording industry, to the tune of $36 million. Napster founder and publicity pig Shawn Fanning will, however, get to keep his lifetime supply of University of Michigan gimme caps ...