Stories by Donna Foote

  • Keeping The Stars Safe

    Most of this year's Academy Award attendees are already familiar with "screen tests"--just not the kind they'll experience on March 24. As they near the Kodak Theater, stars, guests and fans alike will be subjected to the most intensive security screenings to ever take place on Hollywood's biggest night. Every limo will be searched, every evening bag will be checked and every body will be "mag'd" (via metal detectors known as magnotometers). Security has always been tight the evening of the Oscars, but in the wake of 9/11 and with the ceremony's new location, the Academy's taking many additional protective measures.Attendees will have to show proof of identity before they are permitted to sashay the half-block walk along the famed red carpet to the theater's grand spiral staircase. And for the 450 lookyloos perched in bleachers across the street, snagging a spot will have been almost as challenging as winning an Oscar: fans were required to email seat requests seven weeks in advance...
  • Islam, Arabic And Afghanistan 101

    The emergency management Team at UCLA normally convenes to deal with earthquakes. But at 10 a.m. on September 11 it met to handle an entirely different emergency. Though the campus of 60,000 people appeared to be in no physical danger after the East Coast attacks, the team of top administrators declared a "policy crisis" requiring a rapid response. "We agreed that it was important to connect the event with what we do here every day--which is teach and learn," recalls Brian Copenhaver, provost of UCLA's College of Letters and Science. Within the week an e-mail titled "Urgent Call to Action" had gone out to all 3,200 faculty members, seeking volunteers to design and teach a series of one-unit, pass/fail seminars related to the events of September 11--without pay.By the time the fall quarter began two weeks later, UCLA had come up with 50 (yes, 50) new courses taught by some of the marquee names on campus. Chancellor Albert Carnasale signed on to teach "National Security in the 21st...
  • One View Of The Taliban

    Benazir Bhutto served as prime minister of Pakistan from 1988-90 and again in 1993-96. Her husband, Asif Zardari, has been in prison in Pakistan since 1996 on charges of corruption. Pakistan's military government is now led by President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who has promised to cooperate in the American effort to combat terrorism. NEWSWEEK's Donna Foote asked Bhutto, who now lives with her three children in exile, for her take on the Taliban and the current crisis.NEWSWEEK: The Taliban came to power in Afghanistan while you were prime minister of Pakistan. Why did you support the Taliban?Benazir Bhutto: The Taliban were actually students in university who decided to go back to Afghanistan after the Russians left. My reports were that the Taliban were being welcomed by the people and that they were building peace. Initially we thought the Taliban was a stabilizing force. My government was keen to establish ties with Central Asia, so we were quite pleased and we encouraged them...
  • Letter From Lax

    For scores of passengers milling around the American Airlines terminal in Los Angeles this morning, the word "cancelled," illuminated over and over again in alarm red across the arrivals board, provided the first hint that something horrible had happened. With no TVs anywhere near the check-in counter, it was left to American attendants in Terminal 3 to inform annoyed passengers of what had just transpired. Then, around 9:30 a.m. (PDT) the families of the victims began to arrive at Terminal 3, and the personal magnitude of today's tragedies became abundantly clear. "Leave us alone," was all the two sobbing couples could say to the press as American personnel whisked them to a private lounge.Three of the four hijacked commercial flights involved in today's attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were cross-country flights, full of jet fuel, bound for Los Angeles. Federal officials shut Los Angeles International Airport indefinitely Tuesday, rerouting flights and trying to...
  • Trials--And Errors

    Gretchen Stewart thought she was doing the best thing for her 3-month-old boy when she allowed the doctor to include him in a human experiment. Little Gage was a fussy baby who seemed to be filled with as much gas as a balloon. The doctor, Susan Orenstein of Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh, said he was suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disorder, a painful condition that causes babies to vomit during or after feedings. Although the problem usually disappears by the 2d birthday, in severe cases it can result in what pediatricians call "failure to thrive." Orenstein was therefore conducting a clinical trial to see whether a combination of the heartburn drug Propulsid and the ulcer drug Tagamet could help children like Gage. On May 27, 1999, Stewart signed the informed-consent document to enroll Gage in Orenstein's 100-patient trial. Every day, he received baby-size oral doses of the two drugs. Six months later, on the day before Thanksgiving, Gage's grandmother gave him his...
  • In California, Smoke And Fire Over Pot

    They smoke lots of marijuana. They're gravely ill and dying. And they've got a lot on their minds besides politics. But California proponents of medical marijuana also have plenty of fight in them, particularly when authorities threaten to take away their painkiller of choice. Last week the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously rejected the "medical necessity" defense in federal marijuana cases, which may open the way for the Feds to close down cooperatives distributing cannabis to people suffering from diseases like AIDS and cancer. "We have no way of knowing what actions the Feds will take," said Scott Imler, president of the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center, where 381 pot plants are under cultivation. "But we know we're going to stay and fight." ...
  • The Sat Showdown

    When he was director of the National Science Foundation, Richard Atkinson had a mountain in Antarctica named after him. Now that he's president of the University of California, high-school students in the state might want to rechristen the capitol--or at least dedicate their yearbooks to him. Atkinson has taken on a dreaded rite of passage, the SATs, and proposed that the nation's largest and most prestigious public-university system no longer require the aptitude portion of the tests, called the SAT I. Instead, he wants UC to adopt a more "holistic" approach, which would consider activities and grades, as well as scores on the SAT IIs, tests that measure mastery of particular subjects. ...
  • Erin Fights Goliath

    Erin Brockovich is a dyslexic legal investigator with no technical expertise. So she tends to trust her gut. In 1992, her gut told her that something at Pacific Gas and Electric's Hinkley Compressor Station was making folks in that California desert town sick. Four years later a court found that residents suffered contamination by chromium VI, or hexavalent chromium, a known human carcinogen that PG&E had added to its towers for years to inhibit corrosion. PG&E agreed to pay the injured a record $333 million to settle the suit that is now the basis for the movie "Erin Brockovich."But Brockovich didn't stop there. In 1994, she had a hunch there was similar trouble at another PG&E facility in Kettleman, Calif. She and her boss, L.A. attorney Ed Masry, drove up to the plant in the San Joaquin Valley to have a look. They inspected four huge towers used to cool natural gas before it is piped throughout the state--and the nearby employee housing. Masry saw no evidence of...
  • 'Time And Again, I Stepped Over The Line'

    Former police officer Rafael Perez began talking last September, and by the time he finished, he was using the language of horror movies to describe his years in the LAPD. "Whoever chases monsters," a tearful Perez, 32, told a Los Angeles courtroom last week, "should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster himself." Perez pleaded guilty to stealing three kilos of cocaine from a police-evidence locker in March 1998. In exchange for a lighter sentence, he revealed to authorities a pattern of widespread corruption and brutality that was frightening in scope, gothic in detail. The elite anti-gang unit of the Rampart Division, he told investigators, unlawfully beat or shot suspects, planted evidence, sold drugs, intimidated witnesses and partied hard to celebrate their reign of terror.As a result of the revelations, more than 20 cops have been fired, been put on paid leave or quit, and 40 convictions have been overturned. But it will be difficult to make criminal cases...
  • It's Home Suite Hotel

    Peter Greenberg knows hotels. The travel editor of NBC's "Today" show (and a former NEWSWEEK correspondent), Greenberg logs 400,000 air miles a year and spends many months--up to eight a year--living away from home. Maybe too many. He's developed such a hotel habit that, when he began planning his house in Sherman Oaks, Calif., he realized that what he really wanted in a home was all the comforts of a great hotel. Greenberg checked into his new house last month; he calls it "home suite hotel."The house is a collection of five-star touches. In the bathroom, the waterfall showerhead is from the Savoy Hotel in London, the high-tech remote-control ToTo toilet is from the Tokyo Park Hyatt and the whirlpool bathtub is from the Peninsula in Hong Kong. The floor matches the limestone tiles in the Four Seasons Hotel on the Big Island of Hawaii. The custom cabinetry throughout the house comes from the folks who made the furniture for the Regent Hotel in Bangkok. The kitchen is equipped with...
  • Show Us The Money!

    It was standing room only at MIT's Sloan School of Management last month as 150 teams gathered for the first round of eliminations in the school's "I Wanna Be a Gazillionaire Geek" contest. The students were competing to offer the best business plan for a newfangled start-up. Why work for General Motors or anybody when you can invent your own company, strike it rich--and retire before you're 30? The prizes: $50,000 in seed capital. The MIT students had digitalia and electronic commerce and the Internet on their minds: 23 of the teams had ".com" in their names, while nine began with an "e" and four more began with an "I." In the age of eBay and Amazon.com, wouldn't yours, too? In all, there were 600 contestants--ranging from the PayMyBills.com team to RoboToys to e*dental.com, which aims to provide... one-stop shopping for dentists worldwide. Each of the semifinalist teams had just a minute or less to pitch its great idea that would change the world--or at least make them rich while...
  • The Age Of Anxiety

    Dr. Mark George admits his first impulse was to back-burner his research team's startling breakthrough. If that would mean letting other brain investigators luck into the same discovery, so be it. Those guys could have the glory--along with the grief of getting trapped in the ideological cross-fire of the war between the sexes. During the mid-'90s, George recalls, "it was almost taboo to talk about gender differences in the brain." Everyone was afraid of validating old sexual stereotypes and prejudices. George wanted only to keep on quietly doing his job at the National Institute of Mental Health, leading a pioneering effort to map the human brain at work. Through positron emission tomography (PET) scanning, a high-tech way of tracing precise areas of activity within the brain, George and his team were able to witness for the first time the hidden processes of human emotion.The trouble arose when George began looking at the physiology of sorrow.He asked his experimental volunteers...
  • The Siege Of Little Saigon

    SURVEYING THE CHAOS AT A Westminster, Calif., mini-mall in the heart of ""Little Saigon'' (population: 40,000), you'd never guess the Vietnam War ended in 1975. Last Saturday, 300 Vietnamese protesters gathered at the Orange County shopping center and confronted scores of police in riot gear. Violence broke out when the angry crowd burst through the barricades--some using crying children in baby carriages as battering rams--and headed for Hi-tek, a small video store in the mall. As news of the melee spread, thousands more Vietnamese from a nearby Tet parade massed in the parking lot, joining the core protesters who'd been camped outside Hi-tek for weeks waving yellow and red flags of South Vietnam. In the end, 11 were arrested. You might think Hi-tek was harboring a war criminal, not a faded 18-by-24-inch poster. But all the fuss is over a portrait of Ho Chi Minh that has hung in the store--and the precarious balance between one man's freedom of speech and a community's right to...
  • 'You Could Get Raped'

    RANDI BARBER HAD NEVER heard anything as frightening as the messages on her answering machine. The 28-year-old North Hollywood, Calif., woman started getting the calls in early 1998: dirty solicitations from several different men. But one April day, Barber learned just how scared she could be when a stranger knocked on her apartment door. He left after she hid silently for a few minutes, but phoned her apartment later. ""What do you want?'' she pleaded. ""Why are you doing this?'' Puzzled by the hysterical note in her voice, the man explained that he was responding to the sexy ad she had placed on the Internet. ...
  • O.J. Goes On The Record

    AT FIRST O.J. SIMPSON INSISTED TO me the interview would be short. He was busy. His family was in town. He was taking his son Justin for a haircut. Two hours later he was still talking; he even called back twice to elaborate on some points. Timed exactly to the third anniversary of the murders of his ex-wife and Ron Goldman, it was Simpson's first wide-ranging print interview since last February, when he was found liable for the murders-- and hit with a $32.5 million civil judgment. Laughing easily, he sounded as sure as ever of his innocence. But he also unleashed his anger at the Brown family, the Goldroans and the system. ...
  • Seems Like Old Times

    JUDGE HIROSHI FUJISAKI HAS WON kudos for keeping the O. J. Simpson civil trial relatively incident-free. But even he isn't immune to the same malady--call it acute jury fever--that flattened criminal-trial Judge Lance Ito. The jury was into its fourth day of apparently painstaking deliberations last week when the disease struck. By the end of the week, Fujisaki had dismissed one juror, directed the new jury to start from scratch and ordered an investigation into possible jury tampering. Oh, he also turned down a defense request for a mistrial and a plaintiffs' request for jury sequestration. And he took time to scold the lawyers for talking to reporters. This trial, the judge learned, was never meant to go gently into the night. ...
  • Two For The Show

    FOR FOUR MONTHS THE JURORS sat through a parade of witnesses who covered the same ground that had been beaten into the nation's psyche during the criminal trial. The mountains of blood evidence, the gruesome crime-scene pictures, the tales of spouse abuse. Yet pity the O. J. Simpson civil-trial jurors who zoned out, thinking nothing had changed. By the time closing arguments in the wrongful-death suit were presented last week, they had heard a case that had changed in tone and fact from the criminal case--from $160 designer shoes to the dramatic testimony of Simpson himself. And as they began deliberations this week the biggest difference--and question--was the jury itself. Would this mostly white jury view the evidence differently from the mostly black criminal jury? And how would the nation, black, white and otherwise, interpret its conclusion?The most remarkable thing about last week's closing arguments was the absence of a racial theme. At the criminal trial, the nation was...
  • The Trial Winds Down

    AS ANY FAN OF COURTROOM drama knows, what a difference a friendly lawyer makes. Last November O. J. Simpson was hammered by the plaintiffs' lawyer in his first appearance before the jury hearing in his wrongful-death civil suit. Last week, returning to the witness stand, Simpson finally got the chance to begin telling his story--the way he wanted to tell it--under the gentle guidance of his attorney Robert Baker. If his string of denials the first time was unconvincing, on Friday he was charming and thoughtful, giving jurors his portrait of his troubled relationship with Nicole Brown Simpson. But even as he said the two had been "very much in love," he depicted his ex-wife as emotionally erratic and running with a crowd he didn't like.It was not a surprising performance by the charismatic former football star and actor. He has always maintained that he could convince people of his innocence if he could just talk to them. But after the shaky direct examination last year, it was...
  • Then Nicole Said, 'Good Night' And 'I Love You'

    WHEN JUDITHA BROWN was called to testify last week at the civil trial of O. J. Simpson, the striking dark-haired woman rose from her second-row seat and dropped her glasses. It was a poignant moment, reminiscent of another night when she left her glasses behind at a restaurant. Once she took the stand, in the final full week of the plaintiffs' case, she told what little she knew of the deaths of her daughter Nicole Brown Simpson and her acquaintance Ronald Goldman, the waiter who brought the eyeglasses to Nicole's home. Mrs. Brown spoke movingly of her premonitions on the night her daughter was killed, and of Nicole's final words in a phone call. "And then she said, "Good night' and "I love you.' And I said, "I love you,' and those were the last words," she said, sobbing. ...
  • Stream Of Denials

    AS IN ANY BIG CASE, THE END OF THE O. J. Simpson murder trial left behind loads of evidence and exhibits. So the plaintiffs' lawyers in the civil trial did what good lawyers do: they subpoenaed it. They also did something else: they read it. It was a massive amount of information, from transcripts to phone records to laboratory analysis to tape recordings. It was so much stuff that lead attorney Daniel Petrocelli took to listening to some of the tapes in his car while driving home. ...
  • Taking His Stand

    THE CONVENTIONAL WISDOM LAST week was that there wouldn't be a Perry Mason moment. There wouldn't be a time when O. J. Simpson would suddenly break down on the stand or make a mistake so bad as to be decisive. For once the analysts were right; that momentous occurrence didn't happen. Yet as the day anticipated by millions was drawing to an end, plaintiffs' lawyer Daniel Petrocelli approached Simpson and began a series of questions that stilled the courtroom: ""You used the Bronco to go to Nicole Brown's condominium that evening . . . You had gloves. You had a hat. You were wearing a dark sweat outfit. And you had a knife?'' Simpson, hesitating ever so slightly, answered: ""That's absolutely not true.'' ""You confronted Nicole Brown Simpson and you killed her, didn't you?'' Petrocelli continued. ""That is absolutely not true,'' Simpson replied, now turning his body to face the jury. ""And you killed Ronald Goldman, sir, did you or did you not?'' Petrocelli demanded. ""That is...
  • Playing The Victim Card

    ANY HOLLYWOOD PRODUCER KNOWS the formula for a sequel: take the basic story and add a little twist to keep the folks happy. And so it is with the civil installment of the O. J. Simpson murder case. The wrongful-death case, which opened last week, had the same feel of the criminal trial. Simpson, more pounds on his frame and gray in his hair, alternatively grimaced and smiled like he had the last time. His family members sat behind him (""Great birthday present, huh?'' Simpson said of his mother's 75th). Nicole Brown's family listened carefully, and so did Ron Goldman's parents and sister, who sobbed at times. And as the new lawyers laid out their cases in opening statements, there were the now familiar stories of domestic abuse, DNA evidence and Kato Kaelin.Yet the lawyers unveiled enough tantalizing goodies to ensure that O.J. II isn't going to be a total rehash. The lawyers representing the Brown and Goldman families made it clear they didn't feel bound by the prosecution's failed...
  • It Was The Best Of Juries, It Was The Worst Of Ju

    IF RAGE, AS EXPECTED, WILL BE THE pivotal factor in the O. J. Simpson civil trial, then the plaintiffs are off to a very good start indeed. The jury selected last week is a typical Santa Monica, Calif., panel and exactly what the plaintiffs wanted: mostly whites, well educated, middle class. The breakdown-seven whites, three Hispanics, one black and one Asian-black-is a near reversal of the predominantly black jury that acquitted Simpson last year. Simpson's lawyers weren't pleased, and that wasn't the only hit they took. NEWSWEEK has learned that Judge Hiroshi Fujisaki banned the defense's jury consultant from the courtroom. The judge's reason: Jo-Ellan Dimitrius, the consultant's colleague, violated a court gag order by appearing on NBC's "Today" show. Opening arguments were expected Wednesday. ...
  • Here Comes The Jury

    IT'S THE OPEN SECRET OF THE FIRST O. J. Simpson trial: the case was won--and lost--before the first word of opening arguments. Most observers agree that once Marcia Clark ignored the advice of high-priced consultants and let the court seat a largely pro-defense jury, there was no way to win a conviction of a living icon in the black community--especially when the distrusted LAPD was central to the prosecution's case. But this time things could be very different. ...
  • The Show Of Shows

    BOTH SIDES IN THE O. J. Simpson civil trial continued slogging away last week to select a jury. But the real action was outside the courtroom, with repercussions for both sides if the prospective jurors were paying attention. Mark Fuhrman, the disgraced former detective, did potential damage to the plaintiffs; Robert Kardashian, Simpson's longtime friend, may have hurt the defense. ...
  • The Jury Puzzle

    FOR THE PLAINTIFFS IN THE O. J. Simpson wrongful-death civil trial, it was as smooth a week as they could expect. In the time that Judge Lance Ito would have consumed in just one sidebar conference, Judge Hiroshi Fujisaki sharply reined in the smorgasbord defense of police conspiracies and corruption that served Simpson so well in the criminal trial. Mark Fuhrman's racist past? Don't look for the N-word drumbeat this time. Colombian drug lords? Not likely in this trial. A police frame-up? Not unless defense lawyers can offer evidence. ""You've tried a shotgun approach,'' Fujisaki told the defense. ""I want chapter and verse.'' ...
  • The Knife, The Gun And Those Ugly Shoes

    LIKE A STEVE FORBES POLITICAL AD IN Iowa, O. J. Simpson seemed to be everywhere last week. He spoke to the Los Angeles Times for 90 minutes, to CNN for about an hour and even to a local radio station. O.J. analysts sprang into action once more, debating whether Simpson's appearances would help polish his image or whether he was merely exploiting a free platform to hawk his $29.95 video. But now there's an even fuller, quirkier picture of Simpson's character; this springs out of the sworn deposition he gave last month in a wrongful-death suit brought by the Goldman and Brown families. The 1,534-page transcript, obtained by NEWSWEEK, reveals inconsistencies with evidence presented at the criminal trial (chart), which plaintiffs will try to exploit. It also shows Simpson as a man of huge appetites -- for golf, for public adulation, for women -- and for shoes. He is a generous and devoted father, to hear him tell it, and a long-suffering husband who endured his wife's excessive drinking...
  • 'A Marriage Made In D.A. Heaven'

    They met over a dead body. Back in 1981, young Lance Ito was part of the Los Angeles district attorney's elite gang unit. At 4 a.m. one day he was called to a murder scene in Highland Park. Margaret York was the detective on the case--part of the LAPD's first all-female homicide team. Ito and York met, dated and married within months. It was "a marriage made in D.A. heaven," says Robert Philobosian, the former district attorney who recommended Ito for his current job on the bench.Unfortunately for the tabloids, Judge Ito and Captain York-- the highest-ranking female police officer in Los Angeles and a 27-year veteran of the force-are, by all accounts, a devoted couple who deftly handle the potential conflicts posed by their careers. It may not be "Adam's Rib," but having a judge married to a top cop can be ticklish, as the O. J. Simpson circus illustrated last week. York is one of two captains who oversee LAPD's Internal Affairs Division. Her lawyer says any investigations...

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