Saturday, June 07, 2003

Wal-Mart to Block Some Magazine Covers

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will begin obscuring the covers of some women's magazines stocked in checkout lanes, shortly after a decision to stop selling some men's magazines over their racy content.

The company has begun testing "U-shaped blinders" that will cover the photos and language on the covers of Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Marie Claire and Redbook, spokesman Tom Williams said at the company's annual shareholders meeting Friday.

"That's to accommodate those customers who are uncomfortable with the language on some of the magazine covers," Williams said.

The company has been testing the blinders in some of its stores, he said, and they are expected to be in every Wal-Mart store by July.

In early May the company announced that it was pulling men's magazines Maxim, FHM and Stuff off of store shelves because of their racy contents. Those magazines often feature scantily clad female celebrities on the cover.

Teen Fined for Not Filing $3 Tax Bill

When 17-year-old Laurie Hanniford worked as a part-time swim instructor three years ago, she made $316 and paid $3.16 in local taxes. Last month, she was fined $352 for not filing a local tax return.

Hanniford, a high school junior, pleaded no contest and got the fine reduced to $77. But the ensuing outrage from her parents and the parents of about two dozen teens who received the same treatment has prompted officials to consider softening the ordinance.

"It's the stupidest thing I've ever heard of to fine her - she was 14 at the time - for taxes that have already been paid," said the teenager's mother, Sarah Hanniford.

When Laurie read the certified letter containing the words "failure to comply will result in your arrest," she called home from the post office.

"She couldn't drive, she was crying so hard," her mother said.

The Capital Tax Collection Bureau sent three notices for Laurie to the Hannifords' Carlisle residence, asking her to file the return, said bureau director Bill Harbeson.

When the bureau didn't receive a response, it had a district justice issue a criminal complaint. The Hannifords said they received no notices. Harbeson said many people think the letters are junk mail.

Complaints over the pursuit of delinquent returns are nothing new, Harbeson said.

"You think people want to pay taxes?" he asked.

He said the bureau, which collects taxes from 75 area municipalities and school districts, pursued 7,024 such complaints last year, including a small number of minors.

Township Council Chairman Tom Faley said he would try to persuade lawmakers to exempt those who make less than $2,000 from taxes. State law already allows tax exemptions for those earning less than $10,000.

In the meantime, Faley says he worries about more teens getting black marks on their criminal records.

"I don't know where this is going to stop," he said.

Cloning Could Make Champion Gelding a Dad

There's a not so funny side to the thoroughbred who could win The Triple Crown.

Unlike Secretariat and other superstar sires, Funny Cide is a gelding. That means he can't reproduce, costing his owners millions of dollars in stud fees and ending a champion's lineage.

But a scientist who recent helped clone a racing mule believes Funny Cide could probably buck the odds right now.

"I feel quite confident that technically it can be done. It will be a natural extension now that we've cloned the mule," said Dirk Vanderwall, assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Veterinary Science at the University of Idaho. "It is extremely likely that, yes, we can clone an individual animal like Funny Cide."

Vanderwall and two other scientists are responsible for the May 4 birth of Idaho Gem, the first clone from the horse family. Vanderwall said scientific scuttlebutt is that two cloned horses, one in Texas and another in Paris, will be born soon. Sheep, cows, pigs, cats and rodents have already been cloned.

A clone, however, doesn't mean an exact double. Environmental factors and even the "gene expression" in a cloned animal can make an offspring different from the "founder," he said. But Idaho Gem so far isn't showing any physical problems or anything other than the racing spirit of its champion founder, Taz the mule.

"From the moment of birth, (Idaho Gem's) just been very healthy and vigorous and continues to be," Vanderwall said Friday.

Vanderwall said Funny Cide's celebrity status as a champion who can't reproduce is fueling a surge in interest in cloning.

Funny Cide's owners, busy preparing for Saturday's race, didn't immediately respond to a request. The 3-year-old already has won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and can win the Triple Crown Saturday at Belmont.

And no one can talk to a horse, of course, but the protectors of the breed want no part of cloning. Rules ban cloning, artificial insemination and anything other than "the result of a stallion's natural service with a broodmare," according to requirements of The Jockey Club, since 1894 the protector of the thoroughbred breed's integrity.

"I don't think you'll see any cloned horses being registered for a long time, if ever," said Bob Curran Jr., the organization's vice president for corporate communications. He also said a clone's foals and the foals' offspring would be prohibited.

The organization uses DNA tests to verify parentage in some cases and sends inspectors to investigate if a horse's breeding is disputed. "We can't be present at every breeding in the country, but if we have reason to suspect that someone has been using prohibitive practices, we can and will send out our registrar to investigate," he said.

A breeder found to have cloned could be banned from including any other horses in the American Stud Book, the official registry.

"So they are risking a lot," Curran sa

$25,000 pesos to feed and no return... just plenty of horse know how!!
Juan Valdez zipping his coffee says "is nice that all these horses allways win but never pay off" always calling for another $25 bucks for bucwheat... lets have fun!!! I´d give $25 bucks to say I have a piece of a winner on the golf green... Keep up the good work and ask for more money!!!

Funny Cide takes his shot at the Triple Crown, cheered on by racing fans riveted to the story of the inexpensive red gelding, his small-time owners, obscure trainer and vindicated jockey.

Only 11 horses have ever swept the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes, and none since Affirmed 25 years ago.

"It's certainly the gift of a lifetime to have a chance like this, but I've got to produce, too," said Barclay Tagg, who trained for years in anonymity until Funny Cide emerged.

A year after a record 103,222 fans showed up to see War Emblem's failed Triple Crown bid, an even bigger crowd was expected Saturday at Belmont Park.

"We have more advantage than any horse running in the race," jockey Jose Santos said. "He's run three times here and he won all three times. I know the track very well. Everything is working in Funny Cide's favor."

Maybe even the weather.

Saturday's forecast calls for a 60 percent chance of late afternoon rain around post time. Funny Cide has trained on a muddy track in recent days at Belmont, and his main rival Empire Maker can handle a soft track, too.

The weather wouldn't dampen the celebration if Funny Cide wins and earns the $600,000 purse and a $5 million Triple Crown bonus to be shared among the New York-bred gelding's 10 owners, and Tagg and Santos.

The owners are six high school pals from tiny Sackets Harbor, N.Y., two retirees, a caterer and a health care executive who pooled their limited resources to buy Funny Cide for $75,000.

"Even the Hollywood guys couldn't come up with this one. It's a great story," said D. Wayne Lukas, who seeks his fifth Belmont victory with 20-1 shot Scrimshaw.

Funny Cide's feel-good story took a turn for worse when Santos was investigated for allegedly using an illegal electrical device to prod the horse to victory in the Derby. The accusation was based on a photograph, and it was later found to be baseless.

"I respect him," said Jerry Bailey, who will ride Empire Maker.

Funny Cide was an upset winner in the Derby, then put away the Preakness field to win by 9 3/4 lengths three weeks ago.

Five rivals will try to stop Funny Cide's roll in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont, the longest of the Triple Crown races.

Whether Funny Cide can sustain his ability to race at or near the lead over a distance rarely run by most horses is the big question.

"It's going to be the best ride of my life since the Triple Crown is on the line," said Santos, who could become the first Latin American jockey to sweep the series. "I think he's going to get a victory."

If he does, Funny Cide would join Secretariat, Citation, Seattle Slew, Affirmed and seven others in the exclusive Triple Crown club. A loss, and Funny Cide becomes the 17th Derby-Preakness winner to fail in the Belmont — and fifth in the past seven years.

"It looks like he's coming up to this race the way he did the Preakness," said co-owner Jack Knowlton, managing partner of Sackatoga Stable. "He goes out there and just keeps shooting those bullets. This horse is just incredibly consistent."

None of the opposing trainers is willing to concede the race to Funny Cide, especially Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel, a Brooklyn native who has yet to win a Triple Crown race.

He trains Empire Maker, who was second in the Derby despite a bruised foot and skipped the Preakness.

"There's nothing more I'd like to do better than win the Belmont," Frankel said.

Even if it means preventing a Triple Crown?

"I'd love it," he said. "I want everybody that's going to hate me to hate me. I want to be the villain."

Funny Cide is the even-money favorite on the morning line. Empire Maker is second choice at 6-5. Dynever, who missed the Derby and Preakness, is the third choice at 5-1.

The 25-year gap between Triple Crown champions is the longest, and the same span between Citation's success in 1948 and Secretariat's in 1973.

"It would be wonderful if we could pull off the Triple Crown, but I don't think life will be over if we don't," Tagg said.

The Belmont field, from the rail out, is: Empire Maker, Supervisor, Scrimshaw, Funny Cide, Dynever and Ten Most Wanted.

As any Jeanketeer worth his or her salt (or chocolate!) knows, my two sweet kitties, Priscilla and Garfield, mean more to me than just about anything. (I guess hubby Rick would have to top the list, but between you, me, and the lamp post, sometimes I wish Rick would magically turn into a cuddly kitty himself!)

The best thing about being unemployed is all the time I get to spend with my fuzz-fuzzes. But Rick has really been on my tail (pun intended!) to find a job, so last Thursday, I went out and spent the morning filling out job applications at the local Kinko's and the Pamida and places like that, and submitting them to would-be bosses half my age. (Aack!)

I got home around 2 p.m. and noticed that Rick's pickup truck was still in the driveway. I knew he had the afternoon off, but he usually fritters away his free time at Tacky's Tavern or down at Swinton's Creek fishing and drinking with his buddies. As I walked through the door, Rick practically sprinted up to me. (It was the most movement I've seen out of him since he warmed benches on the high-school wrestling team!)

"Jean, you won't believe what I just saw," Rick said. "You know that fat orange cat of yours who farts a lot? Turns out he's a cold-blooded killing machine."

At first, I thought all those video games and chop-socky movies had finally softened Rick's brain. But he led me to the kitchen and pointed to a small, grayish thing lying on a dishtowel on the counter. Upon closer inspection, it proved to be a mouse, lifeless and still.

Rick said that about 20 minutes before I got home, he heard a loud clatter in the bedroom.

"I went for my hunting knife, just in case I'd have to take out some punk," he said. "But then I see your dumb cat, what's-its-name, Heathcliff (he knows perfectly well it's Garfield and that "its" gender is male!), running into the bathroom with this mouse in its jaws."

And that's where things got really horrifying.

"I stuck my head around the doorway, and your cat was playing hacky-sack with the mouse, batting it around with its paws," Rick said. "The cat would drop the mouse for a second, but before it could get away, Heathcliff would smack it silly."

"But the cat wasn't done yet," Rick continued. "It grabbed the mouse in its jaws again, jumped into the open shower stall, and started the same crap over again. It's like the shower stall became an arena of death. I even saw the mouse fly in the air a couple times. Finally, he must of finished it off, 'cause it ain't moved for a while."

Well, I must have looked about as stunned as that poor little mouse. (And it wasn't because I'd just had my longest conversation of the year with Rick!) I remember staring down at it. Aside from a little blood, it didn't look all that battered. In fact, it looked like it was sleeping peacefully. Even though it was just a tiny dead mouse, it appeared, well, almost beautiful. Its little feet and ears were very delicate, and its whiskers looked like they could come alive with a twitch. There must be a God, I thought, because who would put such tender care into creating something so small? I felt myself tearing up a little. I almost didn't care that Rick had put the mouse on my very best dishtowel, the one with the geese on it.

I noticed Garfield perched on the back of the couch, calmly washing his paws, but it was like looking at a stranger. Was this the cat I had known and loved for so long? Was he not actually the sensitive, caring pet I knew and loved, but rather a cruel, remorseless murderer? Was this the same critter who chased spots of dancing light on the carpet, and who almost toppled over every time he tried to lick his big, fat tummy? (File this one in the "You Think You Know Someone" department...)

Suddenly, I couldn't bring myself to pet Garfield. I couldn't even look at him. The catnip toys that litter the floor all looked like little dead mice to me. I imagined helpless, adorable mice floating belly-up in his water dish. Later, as I watched TV, little Priscilla tried to jump on my lap. I nudged her off. Even though she hadn't taken part in the atrocity, she was a cat, and therefore capable of the same grotesque acts.

It didn't seem right to call Priscilla and Garfield kitties anymore. They were cats. How could Garfield be so cruel to that dear little mouse? How could he give in so easily to his animal instincts? He had plenty to eat, lots of toys to amuse himself with, large windows to look out of, and comfy places to sleep. Then I began rethinking his past behavior. When he stalked and pounced on his toys, was he actually pretending to stalk prey, and not playing a fun, innocent game of kitty soccer? When he watched the birds through the window, perhaps he wasn't merely having secret telepathic conversations with his feathered friends, but instead sizing them up as potential prey. Then I thought about our relationship. Was I not "Mommy Jean" at all, but merely a two-legged food provider? Was his seemingly affectionate behavior nothing more than a clever ploy to get more food out of me?

It's like discovering that your best friend stole money from your purse to buy drugs.

After a sleepless night—I kept the door closed so the cats couldn't sleep on the bed with me, so I was kept awake with their scratching and mewling—I called Sandy, our apartment manager, and told her about Garfield catching a mouse in our apartment. Sandy said other tenants had complained of mice, too, and that an exterminator had been sent to the building. She said tenants had already found some dead mice, probably killed by the exterminator's poison.

Dead mice had been found! What if the mouse Garfield caught was already dead before he found it? Maybe my precious kitty wasn't a cold-blooded killer, after all!

Heaven knows, Rick is not the most reliable witness in the world. (This is a guy who swears up and down that he saw Cindy Crawford at the local mall's food court, and that she winked at him. I know that can't be true, because, judging from her looks, Cindy Crawford has never eaten a thing in her entire life!) How did he know that the mouse was alive when Garfield toyed with it in the bathroom? Did he take its pulse?

What most likely happened was that Garfield found the dead mouse somewhere in our bedroom, mistook it for a toy, picked it up, and went to the bathroom so he'd have some space to bop it around. Often, I find toys on the bathroom floor and the bottom of that very same shower stall Rick called "an arena of death."

It all made such perfect sense, and I felt sooo much better! Suddenly, Garfield wasn't just a "cat" anymore. His full kitty privileges were restored! I made sure to give him a few liver treats as an apology for locking him out of the bedroom the previous night. (And, don't worry, I didn't ignore my Prissy!)

In a way, I'm glad my love for Garfield was put to the test, because it emerged stronger than ever. A lot of people think kitties are cold and aloof animals, but I'm convinced that it's all a bunch of nonsense perpetuated by a bunch of Kathy Killjoys. When Priscilla is curled up purring on her Mommy Jean's lap, or when Garfield rubs against my leg and plops himself down at my feet for a belly rub, I feel sorry for the kitty-haters of the world, because they're missing out on a lot of joy. With kitties, it's nothing but unconditional love. After all, Prissy and Garfy have never mocked or judged me because of my frequent joblessness, or because of the way my inner thighs rub together as I walk, or because of my recurring yeast infections. (Unlike certain hubbies I can name!)

If you work hard, believe in yourself, and never lose sight of your dreams, you can achieve anything you want, the make-believe children's-book character Chipper Chipmunk said Tuesday.
"No matter what, I've got to keep climbing!" Chipper said on page 11 of Chipper Chipmunk Climbs Straight To The Top, released Tuesday by Scholastic Books. "No matter how windy, no matter how lofty, I must never be scared to go high, says I!"

In the book, Chipper faces numerous challenges as he attempts to climb Majestic Mister Maple. The Blustery Westerly Wind blows this way and that, rocking Mr. Maple and slowing Chipper's progress. Scornful Squirrel tries to damage his morale, openly questioning whether Chipper can climb as far or as fast as he thinks he can. And Fearsome Fox utilizes direct, physical methods of obstruction to impede Chipper's ascent.

In the end, however, the fictional woodland creature triumphs over all adversity, including his own self-doubt.

"From down there, Mister Maple seemed tall as the sky, and it scared me so much I almost didn't try," Chipper mused from the tree top. "But now that I'm up at the tippity tip-top of the tree, there's nothing at all that's as high up as me!"

After reaching the top, the pretend rodent issued a challenge to all who witnessed his feat.

"I knew I could do it—it was hard, yes, it's true. But if chipmunks can climb to the sky, so can YOU!" Chipper said, punctuating his message with a thumbs-up sign and a wink.

According to Dr. Roland Gibson of the American Council For Literature & Ethics, Chipper's core message—that people can be or do anything they want—is a fallacy widely perpetuated in children's books.

"Chipper's unshakable faith in success through hard work and persistence isn't something we typically encounter in our daily lives," Gibson said. "This groundless assumption that an individual's capacity for achievement is limitless is a particular failing of children's literature."

Continued Gibson: "Chipper's success took place in the extremely narrow field of tree-climbing, and was achieved free of such real-world factors as class, wealth, religion, or race. To assume that we can apply these lessons to our infinitely knottier, more complicated real-world lives is a wild oversimplification."

Gibson said that, with the exception of certain celebrities and politicians, statements like Chipper's are almost always made by talking animals, superheroes, omniscient narrators, anthropomorphic trains, wandering magicians, friendly dragons, sentient heavenly bodies, Jesus, and other characters subject only to the rules of narrative causality.

In spite of Chipper's good intentions, his positive message has not had much of an impact on the non-imaginary public.

"So, this chipmunk wants us to believe that just because he climbed some stupid tree, anything is possible?" said Dawn Dressler, a Wichita, KS, single mother of three. "Chipper wouldn't be so sure of himself if he had to hold down two jobs, had no dental insurance, and lost half his pension to corporate corruption. Let's see him reach for his goddamn dreams then."

Selling America: U.S. units try to win Iraqi hearts and minds

Sheik Abdul Jabar leaned forward in his chair, stroked his beard and delivered a warning to the U.S. Army Psychological Operations soldier seated across from him.

"We don't want anyone to touch our women," the Shiite cleric said as his companions in turbans and headscarves nodded. Then came other grievances, including a vague warning about U.S. soldiers displaying pornography.

"You talk to that soldier's boss, and immediately something will be done. I guarantee it," said Sgt. Eric Viburs, of the Army's 346th Psychological Operations Company, based in Columbus, Ohio. The tension eased, Marlboros and Kufa Colas were passed around, and soon Viburs was practically family.

The Americans aren't merely interested in the sheik's friendship. They want to enlist him as a mouthpiece in the poor Shiite Muslim neighborhood where he is a leader.

Across Iraq, dozens of three-person "psyops" teams are pursuing similar missions: befriending community leaders and using them to boost Iraqis' opinions of the United States and distribute its messages.

The Army's Psychological Operations force in Iraq is the largest in U.S. history, with 11 companies and almost 1,000 psyops personnel in the country or in support roles in the United States, said Lt. Col. Glenn Ayers, commander of the 9th Psychological Operations Battalion based in Fort Bragg, N.C.

Their mission is to persuade Iraqis to do the Pentagon's bidding: report unexploded munitions, vacate a building, support U.S. troops, give up.

It's a mission as old as war itself.

"You're basically trying to sell a product, and the product is 'Please surrender at your earliest possible convenience,"' said John Pike, a military analyst with, a consulting group based in Arlington, Va.

During the war, psyops detachments helped engineer the surrender and desertion of thousands of Iraqi soldiers.

They dropped leaflets describing the proper way to hand over weapons. They carried a mobile radio station that told Iraqis the U.S. invasion force was on its way.

On the ground, the teams carry Sony MiniDisc players packed with bizarre sounds: commands in Arabic, helicopter and tank noises and sonic shrieks to clear crowds. One unit in southern Iraq deceived the Iraqi military by blaring recorded sounds of advancing tanks, Ayers said.

"We got the Iraqis to look in one direction when the real tanks came in the other direction," said Ayers.

Since the war's end, the psyops mission has changed to a "safety and stabilization" message. Teams roam Baghdad asking Iraqis about their daily problems and their opinions of the progress made under the U.S. occupation.

Information Radio, one of the U.S.-led coalition's three radio stations, broadcasts 24 hours a day. It warns Iraqis to watch for unexploded munitions, reports on moves to create a new government, explains food distribution efforts and carries other U.S. messages.

The job is similar - but tougher - than the marketing of, say, Coca-Cola, Ayers says.

"Cola is a product you already want to buy. Coke just has to convince you to buy its brand," Ayers said. "(Iraqis) don't want to buy our product. But we still have to sell it to them."

Like marketers, psyops soldiers study their target audiences.

They use groups of Iraqi prisoners who evaluate the message, often crafted by reservists who work in sales or marketing in civilian jobs. Psyops soldiers take courses in Arabic language and culture. They're comfortable in Iraqi crowds and homes.

In civilian life, Maj. Allen McCormick of West Chester, Ohio, is a marketing executive for Procter & Gamble. He devises pitches to persuade American teens to buy Pringles, Cover Girl and Scope. Now he tries to persuade Iraqi teens to embrace democracy and their American overseers.

Sometimes it's difficult to tell where the psychological operations begin and end.

"I don't tell them I'm psyop," said Sgt. Grey Wettstein of Ashtabula, Ohio, whose head is shaven and whose body is covered in tattoos. "They'll either think I'm into brain washing or I'm a psychologist."

There are three types of psyops missions.

White ops are true messages where the source is known. Gray ops are accurate, but the source is hidden. In a form of gray operation, one Baghdad weekly prints articles supplied by the military, most of which don't appear to come from a U.S. or military source. In exchange, the U.S. buys and distributes 70,000 of the newspapers.

Black ops are false rumors. The Army is prohibited from launching them. But that's not to say they don't exist.

Before the war, some Western media carried reports that, in retrospect, resemble black ops. One was that the United States might wreck Iraqi communications with a so-called electromagnetic pulse weapon. It never happened. In the second, a Kurdish group claimed Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz had defected. Aziz appeared on TV to disprove the story.

If the reports were engineered, the military says it had nothing to do with them.

"A lot of the stuff we don't deny," Wettstein said, "because it helps the situation at the time."

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