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Wednesday, Feb 21 1996
The Million-Dollar Question
What would you do for $1 million? Chris Phipps and Brian Elliott would do almost anything -- legal -- and they placed a classified ad in SF Weekly saying just that.

"Everyone wants a million dollars. We decided to ask for it," says Elliott, a 33-year-old realtor who is making the pitch with his friend, Phipps, 30, an actor/bartender.

The ad has attracted about a dozen responses but no offers of cash. One woman mistakenly thought they were the guys who were arrested five years ago for hanging a banner off the Golden Gate Bridge asking for $1 million. An older man phoned Elliott in the wee hours to say he was nearly bankrupt and could he apply for the cash. Elliott says the old guy gets a cut of the loot if they succeed. The two intend to advance their quest with press releases, T-shirts, and ads in national publications. But they're not in it just for the money; it's an experiment in human nature, too.

"Yes, you could say we are mocking society with this," says Elliott. "But, hey, I want some new clothes."

"I want airtime," Phipps says.
"I want the love and affection my parents didn't give me," Elliott insists.

Porn Again
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 got busted in the courts before it could be used to prosecute wireheads posting "indecent" expression on-line. But before the cyberweenies roll out the victory float, they should read the Jan. 29 court decision that upheld the conviction of Robert and Carleen Thomas, the Milpitas couple who trafficked in porn on their own BBS.

As reported in these pages (see "Cyberpornocopia," March 15, 1995), the Thomases were convicted on obscenity charges in Tennessee after a postal inspector joined their for-pay BBS, from which he downloaded GIF files depicting bestiality and sadomasochism.

The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals rejected the arguments submitted by the plaintiffs and the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation that the "community standards" test of what defines pornography should not be determined by geography but by technology. The court found that it was the Thomases who knowingly transmitted their wares into Tennessee, thereby imposing local community standards on their enterprise.

The upshot of the decision is that even if the Telecom Act is completely overturned, the Net still won't be as free as print.

Front-Page Fallout
The incredibly shrinking Examiner suffered another blow last week: Longtime Page One News Editor Linda Strean resigned to become deputy city editor at the Chronicle. Word of Strean's move hit the newsroom "like a bomb," one staffer remarks. Strean was as "beloved" by fellow editors as she was reporters. But the bomb in the newsroom was apparently regarded as an act of war in the front office: The day after Strean gave notice, Executive Editor Phil Bronstein ordered her to clear out her desk and leave after closing that day's (Friday's) final edition. After an impromptu send-off of cake and flowers, the entire newsroom -- minus management brass -- bid Strean adieu with a standing ovation.

Bronstein denies that the 14-year Ex veteran, whom he calls "a great journalist," was fired; he says the two couldn't come to mutually agreeable terms for departure.

Chronicle City Editor Jerry Roberts, who hired Strean, eagerly anticipates her arrival. "She's one of the top journalists in the Bay Area," Roberts crows. "One of my first calls when I got this job was to ask her if she'd like to come over. She's a person of great integrity. ... She'll have a great effect on the atmosphere over here."

By Matt Melucci, Jack Shafer, John Sullivan


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