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The Fly

Arnie's Army

Proponents of Propositions 68 and 70, be very afraid. Arnold Schwarzenegger is coming to town to kick off an anti-68 and 70 campaign beginning this week in Irvine and Thursday at the San Jose Convention Center. Prop. 68 could greatly expand the amount of gambling in the state through increased gaming operations at racetracks and card rooms if Indian casinos don't agree to increase state contributions by 25 percent. If Prop. 70 passes, Indians will be able to negotiate 99-year agreements with the state while limiting some types of gambling to Indian casinos. Proponents of the measures say this is one way to make Indians pay a "fair share" for the services they use at a local level. Opponents say they're a smokescreen for pro-gambling interests. Schwarzenegger opposes both propositions because he says it will hurt the state's budget, put a burden on local police agencies and increase traffic. Though his arguments seem lightweight, they carry weight with voters. The last time the governator endorsed two propositions, 57 and 58 last spring, both passed by wide margins. Political types will be anxious to see whether Schwarzenegger's golden touch with those budget issues carries over into gaming issues.

Shrinking the Bench

Times are tight at the $5 billion Knight Ridder organization. How tight? Editors at the Merc and Contra Costa Times have decided to share reporters covering San Francisco and Oakland baseball and football teams. The Times will cover the A's and Raiders, the Merc gets the Giants and 49ers. The move, according to Merc executive editor Susan Goldberg, will save $50,000 in travel costs. "It would be fair to say that we don't relish making these moves," Goldberg said in an email posted on the Stanford-based Grade the News website. "However, given the financial realities, this is a way to save a considerable amount of money while having a minimal impact on readers." Sports fans probably won't be too thrilled, but Grade the News director John McManus says if the papers must cut, it's better to cut the sports section. "It's not very important news anyway," he says. More disturbing, he says, has been the trend to share political reporters in Sacramento, which not only creates an ethical dilemma (are papers tricking readers into thinking stories are exclusive when they're not?), it also arguably constricts journalistic competition for news stories. The one silver lining? No reporters were laid off as a result of the contraction.

Happy Halloween

When CBS reported this September that the FBI is planning a "massive" surveillance and interrogation operation starting the first week of October to disrupt any possible pre-election terrorist strikes, they weren't kidding. Now, the Northern California chapter of the ACLU, along with other civil rights organizations, is calling for defensive measures. "We think this is a totally wrong-headed approach to law enforcement," rails the ACLU's Mark Schlosberg. "When you conduct law enforcement based on blanket assumptions of people, it alienates the very communities that you're conducting law enforcement on. At the same time, they're being very secretive about it as well. We sent a letter back in July asking to meet with the FBI, and they never even responded. We sent a FOI request that they have refused to process quickly. They are not really forthcoming with information about this program." Meanwhile, in the first two rounds of questioning that the feds conducted post-9/11, out of the 8,000 individuals questioned, no terrorists were found. No wonder more roundups are needed.

Counting the Vote

Last week, when a court in Riverside County ruled that the local registrar of voters doesn't have to divulge backup data collected by touch-screen E-voting machines to verify a recount, voter-rights advocates were dealt a blow. Santa Clara Country voters, however, needn't worry. At least that's how it seems, after Fly gave the county's registrar of voters a ring. In Riverside, a local Republican candidate, granted a recount of a close race, protested when the county's registrar declined to allow her access to audit and backup data from the machines. The recount, the Electronic Frontier Foundation tells us, "amounted to a reprint of the same potentially erroneous information." The court, though, ruled it was the country registrar's choice on whether to provide access to the backup information. In Santa Clara County, Elma Rosas, a spokesperson for the registrar of voters, tells Fly that the county's touch-screen machines have two sets of data: one that is stored in cartridges and another that is stored in the machines itself. The county, Rosas explains, depends on the backup data for both the actual count and the recount. "We see what the cartridges say, and we download the information from the machines," she says. "It's a very wide-open and public process." However, Rosas says, the data will not be released to the public; instead, the public can watch as the data is compiled. "That should be a red flag for you ... about the overall design to the machines," warns EFF's Matt Zimmerman. "The answer to a lot of these questions is, 'This is all top secret. We wouldn't give them out because that somehow would risk the integrity of the voting process.' You should be opening this up as much as possible. What they're really saying is you can watch us press the print button on these machines. What I would be interested in is whether the county would turn over relevant data such as the audit trails."

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From the October 6-12, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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