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web posted November 20, 2000

ABC Radio fires Matt Drudge

ABC Radio has dropped Internet gossip columnist Matt Drudge's syndicated talk show.

Drudge said he believed his show was canceled as punishment for reporting on ABC's activities. A network spokeswoman denied the accusation.

"I guess I was a bad Mouseketeer," Drudge told The Associated Press on November 13, a reference to ABC's parent Walt Disney Co. His dismissal was reported in Monday's edition of The Washington Post.

Julie Hoover, an ABC spokeswoman, said it was strictly a business decision made by Bob Callahan, president of ABC's broadcast operations, without participation by Disney or ABC News.

She said the company concluded that Sunday nights were not a particularly profitable time for political talk on radio.

Drudge said he thought the timing was odd because he had been talking with ABC executives about expanding his show and doing it on weeknights. He estimated he had 1.25 million listeners for his show, which is aired in 135 markets across the country.

Hoover said ABC concluded, with Drudge's assent, that a weeknight show didn't make sense since political talk shows on radio work best in drive-time.

Drudge said ABC News officials are unhappy with him because he has been critical of network analyst George Stephanopoulos and reported on political stories that the network was reluctant to run.

ABC News President David Westin argued against hiring Drudge when his contract was signed in July 1999, the Post said.

Drudge will be continuing his show until his contract expires in December, Hoover said.

"There are no bad feelings between ABC Radio and Matt Drudge," she said.

Drudge's Saturday night TV show on Fox News Channel ended in acrimony last year. He stopped doing the show by mutual consent shortly after the network barred him from showing a picture of a fetus undergoing surgery. Drudge is against abortion.

Sheen calls Bush a "white knuckle drunk"

Here's some unasked-for advice to George W. Bush from TV president Martin Sheen: Get thee to rehab.

Gosh, do you think the Republican Texas governor will heed what a well-known Democratic activist says?

Unlikely, but Bush may make an exception for Sheen, who plays President Josiah Bartlet on The West Wing and who recently called him a "white-knuckle drunk."

Martin SheenWell, Sheen says he's only trying to help. The star of NBC's fictional White House drama was offering some 12-step advice to the Republican presidential candidate, whose 1976 DUI arrest made headlines just prior to the election. Sheen said he was making the remarks not to insult Bush, but to force him to acknowledge the severity of drug and alcohol dependence.

Sheen is a recovering addict himself and made the remark while addressing a group at a Vista Del Mar, Calif., treatment center.

Sheen famously dished out some tough love to son Charlie Sheen, taking out an arrest warrant against his bad boy son in 1998 to force him into drug rehabilitation. Charlie, who just joined the cast of ABC's Spin City, now says he's clean and sober, thanks to dear old Pop.

Bush has admitted that he used to have a drinking problem, but swears that he stopped drinking at age 40.

"[Bush] is still in denial about it," Sheen, a vocal supporter of Bush's rival, Vice President Al Gore, said, according to The Associated Press, "You have got to be in a program. I did not make up the rules about that."

Butterfly ballots no problem for first-graders in mock vote

Students at Arnold Elementary School said the "butterfly ballot" was as easy as the ABCs.

Which would probably leave Vice President Al Gore wishing some voters in Palm Beach County, Fla., had paid more attention in the first grade.

While election workers in Florida try to unravel the confusion surrounding the Nov. 7 presidential election, children in Heather Patrick's first-grade class had no problem navigating the infamous butterfly ballot.

In a mock vote on November 13, Patrick's class overwhelmingly chose Texas Gov. George W. Bush by a 13-4 margin. And hardly anyone was confused.

"All I did was follow the arrow pointing to the hole next to Bush's name," said 6-year-old Amy Laws. "I thought it was pretty easy."About 19,000 of the so-called butterfly ballots were thrown out during lthe vote in Florida because voters had marked them improperly. The first-graders at Arnold Elementary School, however, had no trouble with the Citizen Patriot-supplied ballots.

Of the 21 pupils voting, 17 chose one of the two-party candidates, two voted for Libertarian candidate Harry Browne, one chose Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan and there was one spoiled ballot. That voter playfully punched a hole for Bush, Buchanan and Browne.Six-year-old Emma Stark said completing her ballot was a piece of cake. "I didn't have any trouble voting for Gore," she said. "I just pushed my pencil through the spot on the paper. Is that all I have to do?" The 6- and 7-year-old voters had already studied the election process and were keeping tabs on the vote recount in Florida. A small bulletin board with newspaper headlines about the election hung on the wall outside their classroom door.

"The first thing Emma wanted to know this morning was whether or not we had a new president," said Kimberly Stark, Emma's mom.

Patrick said another first-grade class picked Gore as its winner Nov. 7 and that the results of the exercises mirrored the national results.

"Our results were reflective of the national vote," she said. "After two classrooms voted, it looks like we were split right down the middle. One group of voters liked Gore, another group of voters say they like Bush.

"But the main thing here is that no one was really confused by the ballot."

Congregation holes up in church, awaiting Feds

A defiant group of about 100 parishioners whose Indianapolis church was ordered seized in a dispute over unpaid taxes held a vigil last week, eating biscuits and gravy while awaiting the arrival of federal marshals.

The congregation of the Indianapolis Baptist Temple sat in violation of a court order to vacate the premises by noon on November 14 in order for the federal government to take possession of the property. The church is involved in a dispute over $6 million in back taxes.

Marshals have seized the church parsonage but it is unclear when the authorities plan to seize the sanctuary and other church possessions.

"This is an attempt to silence dissent," he said of the government action.

Experts believe the church could become the first seized by the U.S. government in a quarrel over taxes.

Rev. Greg J. Dixon
Rev. Greg J. Dixon

The church's pastor, the Rev. Greg A. Dixon, and his father, the Rev. Greg J. Dixon, who was pastor of the church for 41 years, have been locked in a 16-year dispute with the government in which they have questioned the authority of the Internal Revenue Service.

The church stopped withholding federal income and Social Security taxes from the paychecks of its employees in 1984. Church officials say their duty to obey God supersedes laws made by humans and that withholding taxes would make the church an agent of the government.

The younger Dixon said the workers have paid their own taxes.

"We're not saying people shouldn't pay taxes," Dixon said. "We're just saying it's not the church's responsibility."

On Sept. 28 a judge ordered the surrender of the church, its school and parsonages to satisfy the lien of $6 million in back taxes, penalties and interest.

On November 13, Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist denied the Baptist Temple's request for a stay. That left no legal barriers to prevent federal marshals from taking possession of the church.

The church's struggle has attracted support across the country from independent, conservative Christians, militias and others.

Carnivore can read everything

The FBI's controversial e-mail surveillance tool, known as Carnivore, can retrieve all communications that go through an Internet service, far more than FBI officials have said it does, according to a Bureau documents and a recent FBI test.

An FBI official involved with the test stressed on November 17 that although Carnivore has the ability to grab a large quantity of e-mails and Web communications, current law and specific court orders restrict its use.

Nevertheless, privacy experts said they are worried about the breadth of Carnivore's capability and questioned why the FBI even conducted such a test in June if it intends to use the tool only for narrow purposes.

"That really contradicts the explanation that the FBI has provided as to the purpose of the system and how it works," said David Sobel, general counsel for the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center. "We've been led to believe that the purpose of Carnivore is to filter and pinpoint the particular communications that the FBI is authorized to obtain. If that's true, then why are they testing the system's ability to store and archive everything?"

Sobel's group recently obtained the FBI documents that provide the test results, as part of litigation it brought under the Freedom of Information Act.

In the lab report, FBI officials said Carnivore "could reliably capture and archive all unfiltered traffic to the internal hard drive" and could save the information on removable high-capacity disks as well.

Marcus Thomas, head of the FBI's cybertechnology section, said in an interview with The Associated Press that the test was only done to check Carnivore's "breaking point." He said the tool would not be used to capture broad swaths of Internet communications in a real-world situation.

Thomas was one of the FBI agents who approved the lab report.

"Certainly, in operation, you could set the filters up to do nothing," Thomas said. "But our procedures are very detailed, we'll only do what we're allowed to in a court order."

The difference of opinion is the latest in what has become a debate between Carnivore's capabilities and its actual use.

While law enforcement officials have admitted that Carnivore can capture much more than e-mail, including Internet chats and Web browsing, FBI officials insist it is only used to copy e-mails to a criminal suspect or from a criminal suspect in accordance with a court order.

Opponents say the "black box" nature of the system keeps the public from knowing what it can really do, and its installation at an Internet provider may cause network problems.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center started receiving batches of Carnivore-related material in October, after a court ordered the FBI to release the information.

EPIC representatives said they have received about 550 pages so far, and expect to get only about 30 percent of the 3,000 documents related to Carnivore. Most of the released documents have large portions blacked out.

FBI officials say Carnivore has been used in about 25 cases, most of them involving national security.

Congress considered several measures this year to rein in Carnivore, but none survived. Lawmakers have said that they may consider measures again next year.

An independent review of Carnivore was ordered by Attorney General Janet Reno. That report was due to be received by the Justice Department on November 17, Justice spokeswoman Chris Watney said.

Watney said the report is expected to be released to the public early this week, after it is edited to eliminate references to Carnivore's internal blueprints and other sensitive material.

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