And now some fresh pickings from the wartime grapevine.
A businessman in the running for “Republican of the Year” is a successful entrepreneur – but not the kind the GOP usually showers with praise. Floridian Chris Hill was named one of the 500 businessmen of 2001 by the National Republican Congressional Committee. But it turns out he has made his fortune selling glassware normally used to smoke marijuana. In fact, he's now facing up to 20 years in the pokey on federal charges of distributing drug paraphernalia. More than 5,000 stores nationwide sell pipes like Hill's under the brand name Chills. They're illegal only if the vendors know customers will use them for drugs. Hill says the whole thing is a misunderstanding. But a spokesman for the Republicans says the party will revoke Hill's award. Earlier, the party issued a similar award – also on a temporary basis – to a Virginia inmate serving time on charges of child abuse.
Meanwhile, the residents of Franklinton, La., have taken on the American Civil Liberties Union – and the townspeople seem to be winning. After an ACLU lawsuit, a court ordered town officials to remove from public property four signs that read, "Jesus is Lord Over Franklinton." So pastors in the community led an effort to encourage residents to place signs on their own property. Now hundreds of placards proclaim, "God Is Lord Over All." The trend isn't limited to homeowners. Cars and a few businesses are sporting the signs, too. A spokesman for the ACLU says he's satisfied the signs were removed from public property – and says his group is not "anti-religious." Joe Cook, executive director of the Louisiana ACLU, says of messages displayed on private property: "Let the words fly."
A group called the Coalition for a Just Cincinnati is encouraging entertainers to boycott the city until local leaders pay take what the group considers the proper approach toward race relations, law enforcement methods and economic development. The protest was spawned in part by riots that rocked the Queen City last spring – after a white police officer shot an unarmed black teenager during a nighttime encounter on a darkened street. The boycott already has helped shoo away Bill Cosby, Wynton Marsalis, the O'Jays and The Temptations. Now the Cincinnati Arts Association is threatening to sue the coalition, with an eye toward seeking damages for the boycott. The arts group says the cancellations so have cost it $76,000.