Dispatches > In Brief

In Brief

News highlights from around the world

Issue: "Will Kurds stand alone?," June 1, 2002

A classic returns

Dum de dum dum. Dragnet, the cop show once considered a 1950s relic, is making a comeback. The show is set to appear in mid-season on ABC, debuting after Monday Night Football closes its season. It comes as CBS and NBC have already decked their schedules with cop shows, including three hours of Law & Order variations plus two editions of CSI. Dragnet was perhaps the most pro-cop show in history. It debuted on radio in 1949, featuring stories taken from Los Angeles police files and "Joe Friday" as the archetypical cop. The show went off the air in 1959 and returned from 1967-1970. When Jack Webb, who portrayed Friday, died in 1983, the LAPD gave him a full-dress memorial service. Later years were not kind to Dragnet, as comics depicted it as silly camp or as too conservative for the times. A 1987 movie version had Dan Ackroyd portraying Friday as a doofus chasing an evil televangelist. But the show's subtle influence remained. Even people who never saw Dragnet have seen shows inspired by it-or know phrases like "Just the facts, ma'am" and "the names have been changed to protect the innocent." "Dragnet is the single greatest cop-show franchise in television history," Law & Order creator Dick Wolf, who will produce the new show, told the Hollywood Reporter. "It provided the blueprint on which everything has been built."

Scientologists surrender

Lawrence Wollersheim fought the Church of Scientology in court for 22 years, and now he's collecting $8.6 million in a settlement against the group known for unusual therapies, celebrity members, and heated controversy. Mr. Wollersheim, who joined the church in 1969, claims the group made him suicidal. His lawsuit says that at one point the group held him on a ship for 18 hours a day and deprived him of food and sleep-all as part of a mini-navy assembled by founder L. Ron Hubbard. A jury awarded Mr. Wollersheim $30 million in 1986. An appeal brought that number down to $2.5 million, a figure that the Supreme Court upheld in 1994. The judgment collected interest over the years, until Scientology officials finally paid up last month. The deal came just before the case was headed back into court.

Pumping up GOP liberals

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Is Arnold Schwarzenegger trying to muscle his way into GOP politics? The liberal Republican actor took his first step into serious political activity by throwing his weight behind a California ballot initiative to spend more on extracurricular activities in state schools. The 54-year-old star of The Terminator and True Lies also supported liberal Republican Richard Riordan's failed quest for the governorship of California, even appearing at one of Mr. Riordan's rallies. During a speech last week at the annual meeting of the California Society of Newspaper Editors, Mr. Schwarzenegger sounded a concern of many conservatives-that after-school idleness can lead to drug abuse and delinquency. "When [kids] go to school at the age of 6 there's an empty bucket there," he said, "and someone by the time they're 18 will fill that bucket." But his solution was drawn directly from the liberal playbook: $400 million more in state spending on public education.

Still snooping

The U.S. Government requested fewer wiretap warrants last year-but that doesn't mean the feds tap less these days. The modest decline was attributed to new, streamlined procedures that were enacted after the 9/11 attacks. The government received court approval for 934 wiretap warrants in 2001 compared to 1,003 in 2000. Attorney General John Ashcroft said that under the Patriot Act, warrants don't expire as quickly and can be used sometimes across jurisdictions. That means authorities make fewer requests. "The Patriot Act provides some measures of efficiency that can be of assistance to us, and I think it would be fair to interpret the data in light of that," he said. Experts say that investigators also may be using other tools, such as subpoenas for a suspect's financial records. Wiretaps are a common target for law-enforcement critics, who worry about privacy violations of innocent people. But authorities say they are crucial for catching terrorists and other criminals. The federal government used a surveillance warrant to search the offices and director's home of a charity with ties to Osama bin Laden, the Benevolence International Foundation.

Nabbing Napster

Is the Napster saga over? The Bertelsmann conglomerate is buying up the struggling music-swapping (aka copyright-infringing) company. Napster began in a dorm room and boasted 60 million users, who traded music files for free, at its peak. Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker built the software to trade MP3s and wound up creating a sensation. After a court forced Napster offline, the company tried to develop a paid service. In the meantime, the labels launched their own subscription services (to mixed reviews), as song traders moved to other networks. Napster's absorption does not mean the piracy war is over, but an industry plan to stop such music trading is floundering. The Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) was supposed to digitally wrap songs in unbreakable code. Music on CDs would be SDMI-protected and play only on SDMI-compliant devices. It didn't happen. No hackerproof code ever came and new digital players like the Rio and Nomad sprang up that played standard MP3 files. Now the labels want legal measures to stop song trading. Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings (D-S.C.) has proposed a bill to require any "interactive digital device" sold in the United States to prevent users from making unauthorized copies of copyright material.


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