Edited By Lauri Apple, Fri., Nov. 16, 2001
Pretrial hearings for Michael Scott, one of three defendants charged with the 1991 yogurt shop murders, resumed Wednesday with Scott firmly under the tutelage of a new, court-appointed lead attorney. Carlos Garcia was appointed by District Judge Mike Lynch after Scott's former first-chair attorney, Tony Diaz, argued in September that new state indigent defense laws required it. Diaz remains part of Scott's defense team. At press time, we were waiting to see if Garcia would ask for a further continuance.
Meanwhile, KVUE's 6pm newscast Monday announced the results of a snap poll the station conducted to determine whether or not Scott could get an impartial jury in Travis County. (His attorneys have asked for a change of venue.) According to KVUE, 56% of Austinites said they had already formed an opinion in the case; 44% felt they could be impartial jurors. Caveat: The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 5.8% -- enough to make any self-respecting researcher run for cover, and to render the poll completely useless. Thankfully, the change of venue decision will be based on Texas law, not on network-affiliate news polls.
Eight appears to be the magic number for media layoffs this week. PBS affiliate KLRU announced a "reorganization" last week that eliminates eight jobs. Also, eight employees of Clear Channel Radio's six local stations got pink slips on Tuesday. To blame? "The economy," said Clear Channel Station Manager Dusty Black. "We're trying to adjust our departments so that they're more efficient. That's just the way it is, there's no glossing over it." Black said the eight positions represent about 5% of Clear Channel's Austin staff.
In a study published last month in the medical journal Neuropsychopharmacology, Columbia University researchers assert marijuana smoking does not affect the "complex cognitive task performance" -- including reaction time, memory, and mental calculation -- of regular pot smokers. Their findings complement the results of similar studies recently completed by researchers at both Harvard and Johns Hopkins University.
Artist, writer, lover, raconteur, scholar, courageous fighter for justice, gentleman, and former Congressman Bob Eckhardt passed away last week, killed Nov. 13 by a series of cerebral strokes at the dignified age of 88. As his family wrote, "Bob Eckhardt loved horses, the poetry of Robert Burns, the plays of Eugene O'Neill, and the short stories of Anton Chekhov. He adored authentic Texas dog-run cabins, aged cheese, good wine, Scotch whiskey, and campfire cooking." Friends, associates, and colleagues may attend services on Saturday, Nov. 17, at 1pm at Weed Corley-Fish Funeral Home, 3125 N. Lamar. A larger memorial event will be announced in the near future. He will be dearly missed.
And the granddaddy of all Merry Pranksters has left the bus. Famed wrestler and author Ken Kesey died Saturday in Oregon from complications associated with liver cancer. The writer of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962) and Sometimes a Great Notion (1964) was also known for his participation in LSD-induced escapades aboard the psychedelic school bus "Further" with his band of Merry Pranksters, the subject of Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968). Kesey was 66.
As part of their effort to stay on top of community policing issues, the Travis County Sheriff's Office will soon move their West Command Center from downtown to a new center at Hudson Bend Road and RM 620; the new center still needs a name, and county commissioners are calling on the public to help. Anyone with a witty and appropriate name for the building should submit the idea in writing to Alicia Perez, executive manager, Travis County Administrative Operations, PO Box 1748, Austin, TX 78767, or fax the idea to 473-9542. Submissions are due Nov. 19, and a selection will be made at the commissioners' Nov. 27 meeting.
An appearance by Austin Mayor-elect Gus Garcia wasn't enough to keep two of the named sponsors of the Nov. 13 Rally for America from pulling their support for what appeared suspiciously like a GOP pep rally, reported the UT student newspaper The Daily Texan. News 8 Austin General Manager Brian Benschoter told the Texan that the station, which had initially supported the rally, stopped running promos for it on Monday. "Some of the comments made by some of the sponsors were not consistent with what we were told about the event -- that it would be a nonpartisan, apolitical community event," he said. UT Student Government also withdrew sponsorship. According to President Matt Hammond, UTSG never actually supported the rally, but a few student government reps were involved in the event. Hammond hypothesized that rally organizers (including local conservative ideologue Marc Levin) may have unintentionally assumed that the UTSG reps' participation translated into official support by the entire body.
The annual protest against the School of the Americas at Fort Benning in Columbus, Ga., is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 16. The local chapter of the American Friends Service Committee (aka the Quakers) reports that 45 Central Texans will make the trip. The SOA (which, in a PR move, was renamed the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation last January) is notorious for training thousands of Latin American soldiers, many of whom were later implicated in human rights abuses back in their home countries. (For more on U.S.-backed shenanigans in South America, see this week's "Capitol Chronicle.")
At Thursday's City Council meeting, perma-candidate Jennifer Gale announced she'd be running for a council seat in the spring. "I have chosen as my opponent Daryl Slusher, Place 1," she said, presupposing that Slusher will get the 18,000 signatures he needs to get past the city's term-limits law. Gale also gave early warning that she'll run for mayor again in 2003, telling council, "Our future former mayor [Kirk Watson] violated the constitution of the United States and wasn't legally fit to be a member of the City Council."
After enduring a summer onslaught of expensive mold insurance claims, Farmers Insurance Group announced last week that as of Dec. 30, they will stop renewing most homeowners policies. Another season could seriously threaten its financial stability, said the company. State Farm and Allstate have also stopped selling comprehensive policies to new customers because of the rising mold claims.
After spending the past two years under house arrest, the Charleston Five, a group of dockworkers and International Longshoremen's Association members from Charleston, S.C., are free. Earlier this week, the workers pleaded "no contest" to minor misdemeanor charges and received $100 fines in connection with an encounter with police nearly two years ago. Felony charges-- which S.C. Attorney General Charlie Condron pursued despite lack of evidence -- were dropped.