Citing the new, Post-Attack American Mindset© and declining ratings for reality programming, ABC has canceled a reality program planned by superstar actors Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. According to The New York Times, the show The Runner would have followed contestants as they traveled around the U.S. fulfilling assignments and trying to escape being identified. "Every viewer could have potentially captured the runner, winning whatever prize money had been accumulated to that point," the Times said. Meantime, TV fans recently have been treated to a much more exciting show called The Messenger, which, interestingly enough, has received much cooperation from news broadcasters. According to guidelines established by the program's anonymous writers, participants travel around the U.S., depositing envelopes filled with anthrax into mailboxes -- without being identified. An innovative plot twist: Distribution of prize money is handled by the FBI, who will award as much as $1 million to anyone who can help them identify Messenger contestants.
TV rebuffs aside, two D.C. postal workers -- Thomas Morris Jr. and Joseph Curseen -- died this week, apparently of anthrax inhalation. As this goes to press, two other postal workers are ill. Our sympathies go out to their loved ones.
In light of the ongoing anthrax scare, folks in the office of U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin) ask that constituents please e-mail any correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Watch out, peaceniks, there's a new foe in town: Conservative radio host Dr. Laura Schlessinger announced on-air Wednesday her "call against ending the war on terrorism." In keeping with her typical calls for intolerance, Dr. Laura will devote her Friday morning program to debunking the "so-called peace movement" and chronicling its "divisive rise" on college campuses. The nationally syndicated call-in show airs 9am-noon on KLBJ AM 590.
It's the end of an era down in Manchaca: The cafe inside the Manchaca Volunteer Fire Hall kitchen will close Oct. 26. Starting next week, the VFD will cease daily cafe operations to make room for -- of all things -- fire equipment. But never fear, fair catfish noshers: VFD President Clarence Vogel will still run the kitchen -- as he has for the past 20 years -- for Manchaca's famous Friday night catfish fry. (Every Friday from 6-10pm, catfish and live bluegrass -- with no cover charge!) According to Vogel, his joint's got the coldest beer in town -- at least "as cold as your mother-in-law's lip," he elaborates.
On Tuesday, Dept. of Public Safety Capitol troopers arrested another Austinite for making a bomb threat at the Capitol. On Oct. 13, DPS spokespeople said, 53-year-old Gerry Hudson made a 911 call claiming an acquaintance was planning to bring a suitcase of explosives into the Capitol building. Hudson is being charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine. DPS spokeswoman Lorraine Ronquillo said this is one of "several" threats the Capitol has received since Sept. 11. All have turned out to be hoaxes.
According to the FBI's annual Uniform Crime Report, police arrested nearly three-quarters of a million people for marijuana violations in 2000. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws says that's the highest number ever recorded -- and it exceeds the total for all violent crimes combined, they add.
The annual, national March for a Moratorium on the death penalty takes place Saturday, Oct. 27. In Austin, meet at Republic Park (Fourth and Guadalupe) at 1pm. Participants will march to the Capitol, where a rally is scheduled for 3pm.
ARS/Osgood Services hope to clothe Austin's coldest residents through Operation Warm-Up Blanketing Austin. Coats and blankets collected between now and Nov. 25 will go to local charities for immediate distribution to low-income children and families. Call 345-4050 for more info.
For the record, the controversial mega-condo project Villas on Guadalupe, proposed just north of UT, will be located at "2717 Guadalupe and 2804-2810 Hemphill Park." The project went to Zoning and Platting Commission under the new address earlier this week. Heretofore, the Villas went all the way from the old Planning Commission (which viewed the condos dimly) to the City Council dais under a nonexistent -- and physically impossible -- address on Guadalupe. Once this error was finally caught, the approval game had to start all over again. This gives the gift of time to the North University Neighborhood Association, which bitterly opposes the project.
Before going on its weeklong hiatus, the U.S. House passed an anti-money laundering bill in an effort to stymie terrorists. The bill passed 412-1 -- the one holdout being Republican Ron Paul of Surfside, whose Dist. 14 includes the western half of Travis Co. Paul objected to a provision putting broker-dealers under the same requirements as banks when reporting "suspicious" activity by their customers. The New York Times quoted Paul as saying that the law would require authorities "to waste time snooping through the financial records of innocent Americans."
Also from the Times, the latest classic Bushism: "You mark my words: People are going to get tired of the war on terrorism. And by the way, it may take more than two years" (Oct. 18, in a meeting with Asian news editors).
Conservative weekly journal Human Events reports that last week, Republican Reps Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., and Texas' very own Lamar Smith announced that the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus will push 14 immigration reform proposals in the name of fighting terrorism. Among the most frightening: "Restore political ideology as grounds for exclusion and/or deportation." We're guessing that "reactionary xenophobia" won't be one of the deportable ideologies.
The Texas Civil Rights Project will present the Rev. Ed Krueger and María Guadalupe Torres Martínez with the Henry B. González Annual Civil Rights Award at its annual Bill of Rights Dinner on Saturday, Oct. 27. The activists will be honored for their organizing efforts at maquiladoras in the Rio Grande Valley, as well as Krueger's organizing work with the United Farm Workers in Starr and Hidalgo counties. The dinner takes place at the Hilton Austin North, 6000 Middle Fiskville Rd., at 6:30pm. For more info, call 474-5073 or go to www.texascivilrightsproject.org.
Can you turn water into wine? Scale tall buildings in a single bound? If so, the UT School of Journalism wants you -- to apply for the department's chairmanship, that is. Now accepting applications, the department will begin screening candidates for the job on Nov. 1, and, according to the school's employment ad in the October issue of American Journalism Review, "will continue until the position is filled." The search actually began last year, but so far the department has failed to replace former chairman Prof. Steve Reese. Rumors wafting from of the communications building during last year's search charged that the department was seeking a superhero sort of person who could combine a strong commitment to academic research and continued professional development, provide leadership and foster unity among the faculty, and expand alumni relations. Still, Prof. Rosental Alves, head of the chairmanship search committee, said he is confident the department will be able to fill the spot by early 2002. "It's not easy to find what we're looking for," he said, "but it's not impossible."
Is City Hall for sale? Not really, but drinks, snacks, and trinkets will be for sale in the new City Hall. This week Council is expected to decide whether to use 3,800 square feet of the Antoine Predock-designed building for "a cafe and City Store concept." That's less than the 10,000-plus square feet of retail -- part of a planned shopping strip on Second Street -- that was to be part of City Hall back when the downtown-revival train was humming.
Austin City Council Member Daryl Slusher turned up at the Travis County Democratic Party roast for the House delegation Monday night, although not precisely to take part in the festivities. Slusher, who currently must step down because of term limits, was working the crowd, nomination petitions in hand, to collect signatures for a third-term bid. To run again, he must accumulate roughly 18,000 signatures by February. "I don't have a lot of confidence in the Attorney General's opinions," said Slusher, referring to the possibility that the AG might rule only a much smaller number of signatures are needed under existing law. (Slusher hadn't made a reservation for dinner, but the Dems made room for him anyway.)
House Speaker Pete Laney, Galveston Rep. Patty Gray, and lame-duck Austin Mayor Kirk Watson took turns roasting the Travis County Democratic delegation (Elliott Naishtat, Glen Maxey, Dawnna Dukes, and Ann Kitchen) Monday night. Laney raised a few sparks when he described Naishtat, who sometimes wears cowboy boots at the Lege, as only lacking "a stick horse and a cap gun" to qualify as a bouncer at the Broken Spoke. But Maxey -- reminded from the dais a couple of times that he remains "the only openly gay man in the Legislature" -- got off the best shot when he closed the show by volunteering for the Watson-for-AG campaign. "I'll visit every rural district in Texas and endorse John Cornyn," he quipped. Touché.
Speaking of political celebrities, Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, called "Naked City" at deadline and identified himself as the "only out-of-the-closet pacifist in the Legislature." He reminded us that the largest U.S. grassroots anti-war group, Peace Action, is holding its national convention in Austin Nov. 8--10 at the Holiday Inn South. Speakers will include Jim Hightower, UT professors James Galbraith and Bob Jensen, Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies, among others. For more info or to register, e-mail email@example.com, or call 512/480-8487.
On Sunday, Oct. 28, opponents of the current war on terrorism will join peace activists from across the state at 1:30pm in Republic Park (Fourth and Guadalupe) and march to the Federal Building for a 2:30pm rally.
An ordinance regulating front-lawn parking that was scheduled for introduction at today's (Thursday) council meeting has been postponed. Proposed by Council Member Danny Thomas in response to complaints from several different neighborhood associations, the ordinance would prohibit Austinites from parking functional and "inoperable" motor vehicles (cars, vans, trucks, and motorcycles) on front and side yards. Cars would need to be parked on a driveway, defined as a permanent hard surface (in other words, sheets of cardboard wouldn't do) or graded gravel area. Violators would be fined $40, though early payees would be charged only $20. To maintain flexibility -- and to avoid angering neighborhoods that can not or do not want to comply -- Thomas's ordinance would permit neighborhood planning teams to exempt their planning areas.
As Billie Woods of Neighbors for Neighbors also called to remind us, Marcia Ball and her band perform a benefit show for NFN, 6-9pm, Sunday, Oct. 28, at the Broken Spoke, 3201 S. Lamar. The event also will feature both silent and live auctions. Advance tickets ($15) can be purchased at the Broken Spoke and at Book Woman, at the Elgin Bank, and at the First National Banks in Bastrop and Elgin, or $20 at the door. With any luck, Elliott Naishtat will be bouncing that night.
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