When demolition contractors implode Cincinnati's Cinergy Field on Dec. 29, they will also be striking another blow against modernism in stadium building.
Cinergy will join the Kingdome, Three Rivers Stadium, and Fulton County Stadium as the latest multipurpose stadium to fall to a blasting crew. The new Great American Ballpark is located right next to Cinergy and will take the old ballpark's place as the first thing drivers see upon crossing the Ohio River from Kentucky on I-75.
Part of the stadium came down months ago to make room for the new park's construction. Crews two years ago took down left field and center field stands. Experts say that about 1,000 blasts will level the rest of the park in 37 seconds.
Multipurpose stadiums are one-size-fits-all buildings that fans and teams grew to hate. Even though they were perfectly functional, few miss them at their demise.
Technology vs. pollsters
Many pollsters missed the GOP's surge to recapture the Senate this year, and some analysts say it's because polling is behind the times.
The problem: New technologies that hinder telemarketers also hurt pollsters.
Those "Hi, I'd like to ask you a few questions" phone surveys are central to the polling business. Yet more and more households use technology that drives cold callers away: cell phones, caller ID, voicemail, and the like. This means that crucial demographic groups are harder to reach.
These developments are less harmful to major polling agencies that work with random samples over a long time, but they do cramp instant polls, state polls, and pollsters with small budgets.
Pollsters have found the public less and less responsive to polls over the last decade. Technology only adds to this mix. A rising concern for pollsters is households that use only cell phones and no landlines. | Chris Stamper
Stadium seating discriminates. That's what a federal court ruled in a case against AMC Entertainment. U.S. District Court Judge Florence-Marie Cooper ruled that movie theaters with stadium seating violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Stadium seating exploded during the theater industry's building blitz of the 1990s. Kansas City-based AMC launched a 24-screen multiplex in Dallas with stadium seating that made the design standard fare for multiplexes.
AMC promoted the unobstructed view, saying that the design can "virtually suspend the moviegoer in front of the wall-to-wall screen." That's what got them in trouble.
Bill Clinton's Justice Department filed suit in 1999, claiming that wheelchair-bound patrons are denied good seats and are cramped in the first few rows. This allegedly violated Title III of the ADA.
Judge Cooper agreed: "A movie-theater owner who provides wheelchair seating only in the front rows of the auditorium deprives persons with disabilities of equal access, benefits, and services in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act."
The decision could be a nightmare for theater owners, who may face major renovations to make thousands of auditoriums with stadium seating handi-capable. Usually the good seats must be reached by climbing stairs, which may require replacement. | Chris Stamper
Salon's swan song?
Salon is sinking. The left-leaning online magazine launched as a dot-com stock during the Nasdaq bubble. But the experiment has lost $79.7 million, and has now suffered delisting from the market. Salon was intended to be the beacon of a new class of online writers--and a test of whether new media could stand up to ink-and-paper. Its slant was somewhere between The New Republic and The Nation.
Salon succeeded in attracting a cult following-and it tried to reach those readers with premium subscriptions costing from $18.50 to $30 a year. But Salon hasn't been able to overcome the same problem that traumatizes the entire Internet: ad sales. The strong point of Web publishing is that distribution costs are far less expensive and publication is much quicker. Yet online ads are hard to sell because buyers distrust them. So prices are low.
To keep itself above water, the site tried a curious idea called "ultramercials": A reader who clicks through a lengthy ad receives several hours of free access. (True to the "limousine liberal" label, the first sponsor was Mercedes-Benz.)
If Salon fails, it could discourage other entrepreneurs from trying large-scale Web publishing. The company's stock looks grim. Shares that once sold for over $15 in 1999 now trade for less than a dime. | Chris Stamper
Warning! Your computer is not optimized!" Messages like this pop up constantly while surfing the Web. These fake error messages are banner ads pitching software utilities. Now a class-action complaint claims these scare tactics are illegal.
Spokane attorney Darrell Scott, who works for the Lukins & Annis law firm, filed suit against advertiser Bonzi Software late last month, seeking $500 for every American who encountered the controversial ad. Since those ads are so common, vast numbers of people might be eligible to collect damages.
The plaintiffs call the ads FUI, for Fake User Interfaces. The acronym sounds like "phooey" for a reason: The ads resemble legitimate warnings. The suit claims that millions of people were distracted from their work so their computers could be "hijacked to [the] defendants' commercial website."
The law firm's website points out specific ads. One says, "Your current connection may be capable of faster speeds." Another says, "Your computer is currently broadcasting an Internet IP address. With this address someone can immediately begin attacking your computer."
Mr. Scott claims these ads violate the users' privacy and property. The ads appear as imitations of Windows dialog boxes, including the fake "OK" button. By mimicking real system messages, the ads eventually push users to start ignoring warnings that pop up on their computers. He claims these devices made Bonzi the third-most-visited website in the world. | Chris Stamper
Is it worth the risk?
The smallpox vaccine will exit the history books soon. White House officials say that the government will direct 500,000 emergency workers and 500,000 military personnel to receive inoculations. Eventually, the government will offer inoculations to all Americans but won't encourage average citizens to have them.
Routine vaccinations against smallpox ended in the United States in 1972. About half of the population may already have some protection from the decades-old injections.
The government faces some serious issues concerning smallpox. For example, the FDA wants to test a children's vaccine dose on a trial group of a few dozen toddlers and preschoolers. But the experiment has raised safety and ethics questions: Why risk side effects if the vaccine would only help children in the unlikely event of a bioterrorist using smallpox as a weapon?
Another problem involves legal liability: What happens if people are injured or killed by the vaccine? One idea is to build a compensation fund for any victims. Another is to protect those who administer the inoculations from lawsuits. Experts estimate that 15 people will face life-threatening injuries for every million vaccinated--and one or two of those will likely die. | Chris Stamper
Corinne Wilcott faces charges of fetal homicide for allegedly kicking a pregnant woman. Her lawyer claims Pennsylvania's Crimes Against the Unborn Child Act is unconstitutional.
Erie Police say the two were attending a graduation party when a fight broke out. Prosecutors contend that Ms. Wilcott attacked Sheena Carson and threatened her fetus because Ms. Wilcott's husband was the father. Ms. Carson testified that Ms. Wilcott kicked her at least twice in the stomach.
The Wilcott case could pose a challenge to fetal homicide laws, which 27 states have passed. Tim Lucas, Ms. Wilcott's attorney, claims that the fetal homicide law and legal abortion do not mesh. "There are conflicting statutes about what constitutes a human person," he said.
The state Supreme Court ruled last year that the state could use the law to prosecute cases of murder, voluntary manslaughter, and aggravated assault. Prosecutors say the law is valid and that they plan to press for the charge.
Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, said this was an ordinary case. "Criminal defense lawyers are using Roe vs. Wade to say their state laws are inconsistent with federal law and not that Roe should be overturned but that state laws should be overturned," he said. | Chris Stamper
Will virtual babies help save the lives of real babies? A new invention is going beyond ultrasound to take the next step in prenatal experience: a virtual fetus that mom can touch and feel.
This ultrasound system known as e-Touch Sono uses a special force-feedback mouse to mimic the texture of the baby's face and skin. Mom experiences the sensations by wiggling the handle of a device attached to a computer. The system also produces 3-D pictures that can be copied onto a CD-ROM.
Backers are billing the $250 procedure as a way to help mothers bond with their babies. Mothers don't actually interact with the fetus, but the simulation is supposed to be a heartwarming experience. The developers also plan to start making 3-D sculptures of unborn children for parents to have before delivery.
Conceivably, pro-life advocates could use this technology to convince expectant mothers that their fetus is human life. By feeling the baby's virtual skin, mothers considering an abortion could realize that the child is more than a blob of tissue.
The core technology, which was created by Albuquerque-based Novint Technologies, has many potential uses. E-touch lets people mimic feeling with technology. The developers say that in the future, a user might feel a sweater before buying it online or learn to repair a car with virtual reality. | Chris Stamper