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JIM HIGHTOWER Owners Won’t Play Ball Speaking of the world ending not with a bang, but a whimper…looks like there might not be a baseball World Series this year. The season itself is going great guns. Ken Griffey Jr. in Seattle on a record-setting to the top. Darryl Strawberry’s comeback in San Francisco and Jeff Bagwell driving Houston home! But now: A Baseball Strike! What in the holy name of Babe Ruth is going on here? Ballplayers making $4 million a year going on strike? But wait a minute, this isn’t about players wanting more money, it’s about the owners wanting more! In the wacky world of sports, baseball owners are a special breed of wackywidely considered to have skulls denser than Jupiter’s atmosphere and to hold black belts in greed. When’s the last time a fan paid to see an owner at the ballpark? What more can owners want? Attendance at ballgames is at an all-time high, as are revenues. We taxpayers pay for their stadiums, they get away with charging us fans four bucks for a beer, the players provide the product on the field as well as the promotion off the field and any owner who wants out has a line of megamillionaire wannabes waiting with a dumptruck full of gold to buy the team. Any other business would consider this setup a wet dream beyond imagination. But baseball’s brass whines that it must have more of the pie, demanding that players accept a cap on their salaries, which is about as likely as owners accepting a cap on their salaries. These clever thinkers who own the teams are betting today’s stars make too much money to strike for long. But in the seven baseball strikes since 1972, the players outlasted the owners seven times. Forget the salary cap, extend the old contract that still gives you a sweetheart deal, and let’s play ball! Supermarket Scanner Scams Do you check your receipts at the grocery store? Few of us do… but it looks like all of us should. Jim Hightower, a former Observer editor and Texas agriculture commissioner, does daily radio commentary and a weekend call-in talk show on the ABC Radio Network The old cash registeralong with the notion that grocery items should have a price marked on themwas junked in the 1970s, to be replaced by those high-tech, zippedydoo-dah, quicker-than-the-eye-can-see, catch-us-if-you-can electronic scanners. Supermarket owners promised at the time that these computerized gizmos would be much more accurate than hand-pricing and would avoid consumer overcharges. They lied. As Mark Twain put it: “Man is the only animal that blushesor needs to.” Many supermarkets have turned their scanners into “scammers.” A recent survey by UCLA found that scanner receipts were wrong on nearly 10 percent of the items purchased. Andbig surpriseconsumers were overcharged far more than they were undercharged, leading the city’s consumer commissioner to say: “It appears the problem is intentional error.” It might only be a dime here and a dollar there out of your pocket, but trip after trip, customer after customer, chain after chain, it adds up to as much as $2.5 billion a year being electronically shoplifted by the guilty grocers. What to do? Be alert, of course, but it’s time-consuming and practically impossible for every shopper to check every price. There’s a need here for an independent government watchdog with teeth. The city of Philadelphia might be onto something with its new law requiring stores with scanners to pay fees that finance undercover inspections with heavy fines for “scammers.” To find out how you can fight scanning scams in your community, contact the Public Interest Research Group in New York at 212-349-6460. Unplug Schools Yogi Berra said, “You can observe a lot by watching.” Yes indeed, Yogiand we should all be observing what our kids are watching in school these days. Like an Exxon video teaching highschool science students that the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska did no long-term damage to fish and other wildlifeeven though Alaskan fishing has been decimated. Or a video from Monsanto falsely claiming that pesticides are essential to “feed the world safely.” Or “Channel One,” a pseudo-newscast that’s broadcast for 12 minutes every schoolday. It provides only two minutes of “news”; eight minutes of “infotainment” about new clothes, hair styles and other consumer come-ons; and two minutes of commercials from McDonald’s, Reebok and other brand-name marketers who are given a captive audience of teenagers. Forty percent of middle schools and high schools now blare Channel One at our kids. More than half of America’s schools now use these corporate videos and teaching kits in classes. Remember the childhood ditty “School Days, School Days, Good Old Golden Rule Days”? Well, these days, the Golden Rule in the classroom is, those with the gold…rule. As public education funds are slashed, corporations realize they can waltz in with free “instructional materials” and corporatize public education. But the good news is a lot of young folks are fed up with being force fed a corporate line, and in hundreds of communities they are joining with PTAs and other citizen groups to make their classrooms “Commercial-Free Zones.” Nevada and New York have already banned Channel One, and Florida, New Jersey and California have actions under way to stop these corporate flim-flammers. Public education exists to teach kids to be citizens, not consumers. If you want to know what you can do in your community, call UNPLUG, a national youth coalition working against the commercialization of America’s classrooms: 1-800-UNPLUG-1. Oa Kitchenettes Cable TV va i s. Heated Pool It v. 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