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Friday, June 13, 2003  

From the news desk

*Asian workers attack European boss

Disgruntled former employees of a car dealership in Indonesia responded violently in a dispute over wages, injuring a foreign supervisor.

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) - Fired workers from a local Volvo dealership in Indonesia attacked their Swedish boss with spears after negotiations over severance pay went awry, police said Friday.

Michael Olsson was stabbed in the back and slashed in the face at a meeting with the workers last week in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, police said.

Four men have been arrested in the attack. Three were among 31 workers who had recently been fired from the dealership, police said. A fourth was a member of right-wing youth group known for thuggery, they said.

Whenever I see a story like this one, I am ambivalent about linking to it. Look at the headline. It conjures up images of primitives in some backward country. The article itself also reflects that image. First-world man, a Swede, attacked by Third World people, Indonesians, and -- with spears.

I spent my share of time on the copy and news desks when I was a full-time journalist. I tried to eliminate any references that seemed racist or culturally insensitive in copy, if I could do so in a way that did not alter the truth of the story.

What about this story? The foreigness of the manager is key to understanding the conflict. It appears the men are attacking a symbol of foreign ownership instead of seeing him as a person. Not saying he is Swedish would be misleading. I also can't think of a way to eliminate the use of spears from the lead and headline. The novelty of the weapons is what made this a story international wire services picked up. I would have let the story run pretty much as it is, despite my reservations about the image it projects. However, if challenged by people who were concerned about the imagery, I would have understood their complaint.

I haven't posted any entries about the recent claims of cannibalism in the Congo and North Korea for the same reason. But, if I were still working for a newspaper, I would have quieted my qualms and hit the Send button. It might be gruesome and conjure unpleasant stereotypes, but it is news.

*Innocence Project frees three

Barry Scheck has done it again. He and his students are the ticket to freedom for three men wrongfully convicted of rape.

MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) - Three men imprisoned since 1986 in the rape and murder of a teenage roller rink worker had their convictions thrown out Wednesday after advanced DNA testing failed to link them with the crime.

John Kogut, 39, John Restivo, 44, and Dennis Halstead, 48, were ordered to post $300,000 bail before they could walk out of prison for the first time in 17 years.

The Innocence Project at Cardozo Law School in New York City, which consists of Scheck and his students, facilitated the testing of DNA found on the body of the victim. It claims credit for exonerating 130 persons inprisoned for cimes they did not commit.

"Once again, DNA testing has exposed the tragic fact that innocent people are accused, tried and convicted on a regular basis in the American criminal justice system,'' Scheck said.

Prosecutors have alluded to retrying the men and insisted they be released on bail. However, the response suggests that any additional evidence the three are guilty is not convincing enough for authorities to oppose their conditional release.

*Springer launches pre-campaign site

A former Cincinnati mayor with credibility problems that rival those of some "liberals" in the blogosphere has not given up his hopes of returning to politics in a larger role. Though polls have revealed high negative impressions of Jerry Springer, a host of rowdy talk shows who embarassed himself with an admission of using the services of prostitutes, he seems to be determined. He has now opened a web site dedicated to his political ambitions.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Television talk show host Jerry Springer launched a Web site Wednesday to test voter support for a possible U.S. Senate campaign.

T-shirts, autographed photos and compact discs of Springer playing a guitar and singing country songs will be sold on the site, said Mike Ford, his political adviser.

Springer is considering a run for the U.S. Senate as a Democrat. A competitor for the nomination has dismissed his latest move as "a cynical attempt to manufacture support."

Even if Springer gets the nomination, the race will be an uphill battle.

The Democratic candidate will take on incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. George Voinovich, who isn't expected to have serious competition.

You know, I thought Jerry Springer was older than 59. It seems as if he has been around forever, in one role or another. I am of two minds about his candidacy. Despite unsavory aspects about him, he seems to have the fire in his belly needed to launch a strong campaign. But, what are we saying as Democrats if we need Jerry Springer to carry our mantle? Is there no experienced politician from the party who could challenge Voinovich without undergoing the hits he will on his sleazy sexual history and talk shows? If not, why not? Where are the candidates who should have been nurtured for possible senatorial races 10 or 15 years ago?

Thank you notes

Again, thank you to all the readers I have received supportive email messages from. They reassure me that there are people who can see through a smokescreen just as well as I can.

A special thanks to Richard E. for the gift from my Amazon wish list.

7:30 AM