News Shorts May, 19, 2004 

WAL-MART LOSES DEFAMATION CASE

On May 7, after less than four hours of deliberation, an Ada County jury awarded $104,428.80 to two Bosnian immigrants accusing a Boise Wal-Mart of character defamation. The case stemmed from a 2002 incident where Zeljko "Jake" Lemez and Enes Merdanovic, both of whom were employed by a tire recycling company that did business with Wal-Mart on Overland, were accused by Wal-Mart of stealing tires. Lemez and Merdanovic's employer was told that a videotape of the crime existed and the pair were ordered not to return to Wal-Mart. Both men were subsequently dismissed from their positions although it was later shown in court that no videotape existed.

Over the three-day trial, the jury found that Wal-Mart acted either maliciously or with reckless disregard for the truth of their charges, and had subsequently relayed false information to Lemez and Merdanovic's employer. The jury's award covered not only lost wages but also noneconomic damage to the reputations of both Lemez and Merdanovic. The award was further influenced by evidence from the Bosnians' lawyers, Sam Johnson and Jason Monteleone of Boise firm Johnson and Monteleone, that given the prevalent values of supplanted Bosnian communities in America, a false accusation of theft is particularly heinous and slanderous.

CITY COUNCIL MEETINGS FROM THE COMFORT OF YOUR HOME

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter and Treasure Valley Public Access Television (TVTV) have joined forces to present live televised coverage of Boise City Council's weekly meetings. Starting last Tuesday, May 18, each Council broadcast will air on Cable One Channel 11 at 7:30 p.m. and will be rebroadcast the following Wednesday at 9:30 p.m.

OREGON TAKES OVER UNIVERSITY PLACE FEDERAL INVESTIGATION

The U.S. attorney's Idaho office recused itself from the investigation into the University Place debacle and passed the tainted baton on to the U.S. attorney's Oregon office due to possible conflict of interest. The investigation into the University of Idaho Foundation focuses on the University Place real estate deal in Boise, which lost $28 million.

The Idaho Attorney General's office is also conducting an investigation into the matter.

HISTORIC DAY FOR GAYS

May 17 now marks two historic civil rights events: The Brown v. Board ruling 50 years ago that public school segregation denied black children equal education, and on Monday Massachusetts became the first state to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

"Here come the brides. So gay with pride," were the new lyrics sung for the marriage of Julie and Hillary Goodridge, lead plaintiffs in the landmark case that legalized same-sex marriages in Massachusetts and ushered in a new matrimonial era.

Over 1,000 couples flocked to city and town halls across the state to take their marriage vows.

This watershed moment in equal rights history is marred with uncertainty. Numerous states are trying to amend their constitutions to prohibit same-sex marriages. President George W. Bush on Monday reiterated his desire to write discrimination into the U.S. Constitution through an amendment banning same-sex marriages. Other states' recognition of the same-sex licenses has yet to be resolved. In addition, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney invoked a little-known 1913 state law prohibiting the issuing of a marriage license to out-of-state couples if the their marriage would not be recognized in their home state.

Also on the horizon are lawsuits identical to the case that won marriage in Massachusetts, which may reach high courts in New Jersey and Washington state by the end of this year.

"We get calls every day from lesbian and gay people who are left vulnerable because they cannot secure the basic protections and security for their relationships that marriage provides. The legal patchwork that some couples can piece together without marriage does not come close to the protections of marriage itself," says Kevin Cathcart, executive director of Lamda Legal, which is suing for marriage on behalf of lesbian and gay couples in New Jersey, New York, Washington and California. "Unless same-sex couples can get married, they are not treated equally under the law. And when they can get married, nobody else is harmed--heterosexual marriages remain intact and aren't jeopardized in any way by same-sex couples being treated equally."

SODA POP WOES AND CANCER SCARES

Americans' consumption of carbonated beverages rose 450 percent from 1946 to 2000 and during the same time period esophageal cancer rose 570 percent according to a recent study conducted by Tata Memorial Hospital in India and presented at Digestive Disease Week, the annual meeting of physicians and researchers in gastroenterology held last week in New Orleans.

The study also learned that countries with an annual per capita consumption of over 20 gallons of soda pop also experienced a dramatic rise in esophageal cancer, while countries that consume less than 10 gallons of soda per year (including Eastern Europe, Japan, China, Taiwan, Korea and India, among others) had little increase in esophageal cancer, according to a report posted on www.cancerfacts.com. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture stats Americans consumed annually 10.8 gallons in 1946 and 49.2 gallons in 2000.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"Massachusetts should not become the Las Vegas of same-sex marriage."

--Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney

U.S. NATIONAL DEBT CLOCK

The Outstanding Public Debt as of May 18 is $7,148,705,309,904.43.

The estimated population of the United States is 294,081,363, so each citizen's share of this debt is $24,308.60.

The National Debt has continued to increase an average of $1.58 billion per day since September 30, 2003.

Source: www.brillig.com/debt_clock/

WAR IN IRAQ

U.S. CASUALTIES: As of 10 a.m. Tuesday, May 18, 785 U.S. service members have died since the war in Iraq began in March 2003: 573 in combat and 212 from non-combat-related incidents and accidents. Eleven U.S. soldiers died last week.

Source: U.S. Department of Defense

IRAQI CIVILIAN DEATHS: Estimated between 9,148 and 11,005.

Source: www.iraqbodycount.net

COST OF WAR: $114,089,000,000.

Source: costofwar.com

--Compiled by Cynthia Sewell and Nicholas Collias

Got a news tip? E-mail cynthia@boiseweekly.com or call 344-2055 ext. 3020.

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