Warning: Keep Kids Away From Cousin Balki

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First, Jerry Falwell’s National Liberty Journal outed Tinky Winky, the “gay” Teletubby. That seemed silly enough. Not to be outdone, the Christian Actions Network, which claims 250,000 members, now wants to label all television shows with a lesbian or gay character “HC” for homosexual content, according to the SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE.

This past week, the organization’s president, Martin Mawyer, sent a letter to FCC Chairman William Kennard proposing the rating, which would be similar to those that warn parents about shows containing violence or sexual acts. If Mawyer gets his way, the mere presence of a gay or lesbian character on a show — he counted 25 on prime-time programs; 12 on NBC alone — would merit the HC warning. And the problem goes beyond the networks, says Mawyer, noting that “HBO is planning to air a program called ‘The Sissy Duckling’, [about] ‘a fuzzy little yellow bird who learns he’s gay.’ ” If, like us, you’re unsure of whether to laugh or cry, take comfort in the fact that his half-baked scheme is unlikely to be adopted by the FCC any time soon.

In fact, a little bit of research shows that the folks at the Christian Actions Network aren’t master strategists. About two years ago, the group campaigned to bring down the filthy NEA — by organizing a traveling exhibition of the NEA’s dirtiest works.




Tobacco Execs Strong-Armed Nicorette Makers

February 18

Surprise! As if tobacco execs didn’t already have enough bad karma to send them straight to hell, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES reports that Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds, among others, pressured drug companies to stop actively encouraging smokers to quit. So, instead of having a slogan like “Quit smoking — chew Nicorette gum,” Merrell Dow, the gum’s original maker, had to take the less than forceful approach of “If you want to quit smoking, we have a product.”

How did one company force another into adopting an advertising strategy that would cost it market share? One document shows Philip Morris threatening a boycott or a “Philip-Morris-funded negative publicity campaign” against one company if it didn’t restrict its advertising to “people who were committed to quitting,” instead of targetting all smokers.

The article, reprinted in the DALLAS MORNING NEWS, also highlights another memo in which the president of Merrell Dow promised Philip Morris that he was “committed to avoid contribution to the anti-cigarette effort” and that he personally was “screening advertising and promotional materials to eliminate any inflammatory anti-industry statements.” In another memo, Philip Morris threatened to withdraw its contract with a drug company’s chemical division. The company responded by withdrawing the anti-smoking message and promising never to do it again.




Sarin, Uranium, and El Al, Oh My!

February 17

Sarin nerve gas, depleted uranium, government agents in chemical suits, a high-level cover-up, and a mysterious illness. No, it’s not the plot to next week’s “X-Files,” but the story behind the 1992 crash of an El Al cargo plane in Amsterdam. In a very interesting (if poorly written) article for PACIFIC NEWS SERVICE, Yoichi Clark Shimatsu reveals that the El Al cargo plane was carrying the ingredients for sarin nerve gas and depleted uranium. Shimatsu writes that since the crash, roughly 2,000 local residents and rescue workers have since reported some very particular health problems.

The article then ventures even further into X-philia territory, alleging a Dutch-Israeli-American cover-up. In one passage, Shimatsu paints a surreal picture: “Residents report seeing helicopters, painted black and without markings, landing in their neighborhood. Others tell of a French-speaking team searching the area, and a group of men speaking English, some clad in white chemical protective suits, carrying a heavy box covered with a white cloth.” According to Shimatsu, this was all part of a secret weapons-transfer (or “tarnsfer,” as Pacific News prefers to spell it) program between the U.S. and Israel. But before quickly dismissing the whole thing as lefty conspiracy nonsense, you should know that the ASSOCIATED PRESS, and THE NEW YORK TIMES both ran similar stories (though neither are accessible on the Web).




Why the Spice Channel Costs So Much

February 15

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 promised consumers lower rates, more competition, and a wider array of choices. But aside from a slew of annoying satellite-TV vs. digital-cable commercials, things haven’t changed much.

In fact, according to OUCH!, a regular e-mail bulletin put out by Public Campaign that details “how private money in politics hurts average citizens,” things have gotten worse. (Unless, like me, you proudly steal your cable.) Most cable customers have seen their rates rise 21 percent over the last three years, and all with the blessing of the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC maintains that these rate hikes are necessary because cable companies need the extra money to deal with increased competition in the marketplace — yes, that would be the same competition that supposedly was going to lower your rates.

But that’s not the whole story. According to the OUCH! bulletin, after intense lobbying by the telecom industry, “the Senate killed a proposal that would have simply asked the FCC to study rising cable rates. On average, senators voting against the proposal got 21 percent more in contributions from cable PACs and individuals who work in the industry than did senators in favor.”

So next time you get your cable bill, instead of just cursing those bastards at TCI or Media One, be sure to include Congress in your tirade.




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