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"Acting is half shame, half glory. Shame at exhibiting yourself, glory when you can forget yourself" -- The late Sir John GielgudEdited by Robert McNattReturn to top

Open Access Isn't a Closed Issue in L.A.

When Steve Case of America Online and Gerald Levin of Time Warner announced their companies' merger, they told regulators that Time's cable systems would be open to all Internet service providers. Indeed, AOL had often pressed regulators to impose open access.

But now that AOL is on the verge of gobbling up a huge cable company, it is opposing government-mandated open access in one of the country's largest markets. In Los Angeles, where the City Council is set to approve the transfer of Time Warner's cable licenses to AOL before June 11, a council advisory committee recommended that the city include AOL's and Time Warner's open-access pronouncement as a condition of the transfer. The companies counter that the market can ensure that access, and they want the city to butt out. After all, says AOL Senior Vice-President George Vradenburg III, rivals Cox, Comcast, and Cablevision already voluntarily pledge open access.

That logic doesn't fly in L.A. Councilman Alex Padilla now says that the city may ultimately mandate open access for all local cable operators. Time Warner says it wants an "acceptable" resolution in this latest battle over who decides what comes on cable.By Catherine Yang; Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top

A New Kind of Privacy Policy

Remember Sandra Bullock in The Net? The bad guys erased her driver's license from computer databanks, then her bank accounts, and finally all mention of her whatsoever. Welcome to the crime of identity theft.

Bullock faced bullets to straighten it all out. You, however, can just buy insurance. Both Chubb Group and Travelers have recently added ID crime to their homeowners' coverage. Chubb's is free; Travelers' is an optional $25 per year--and will also be sold as a free-standing policy starting in June. The insurance helps cover the damage when a stolen Social Security number, credit-card number, or other piece of personal ID is used for financial gain. Chubb pays up to $25,000 and Travelers up to $15,000.

The money is often needed for the heavy legal expenses incurred to repair damaged credit. "Consumers tell us they've spent hundreds of hours attempting to set straight their credit reports," says Federal Trade Commission official Betsy Broder. The FTC has fielded 14,000 calls on the subject since November, she says. With identity theft at these levels, the new policies may find a market.By Joan Oleck; Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top

A Global-Warming Critic's Hot Stock

Frederick Seitz is the granddaddy of global-warming skeptics. For over a decade, the former president of the National Academy of Sciences has written, spoken out, and offered congressional testimony to debunk the validity of global warming and stall the Kyoto Protocol, the global pact to curb greenhouse gas emissions. And he chairs two Washington think tanks as his bully pulpits: the George C. Marshall Institute and the Science & Environmental Policy Project (SEPP).

But for 28 years, Seitz was also a paid director and shareholder of Ogden Corp., an operator of coal-burning power plants that stands to lose financially should the Kyoto Protocol become law. After retiring from Ogden in 1998, Seitz sold most of his 11,500 shares last year at 26. It's now at about 8.

Seitz denies any conflict of interest: "I'm speaking as a scientist who feels the issue of what has caused global warming is as yet unresolved." SEPP could not be reached for comment. Jeffrey Salmon, Marshall's executive director, was "vaguely" aware of Seitz's holdings, but "it wasn't an issue." Seitz's apparent conflict may yet raise questions about his impartiality.By Lorraine Woellert; Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top


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