The Insider

Ghosts in the Machine
Ah, the dangers of the computerized newsroom. Last Wednesday, a Houston Chronicle copy editor allowed the paper's new Whirlwind computer program to fly on automatic pilot through a spell check of a story on Netscape Communications Corporation, with some interesting results. Whirlwind decided Microsoft Corporation needed a new name, and altered references to Bill Gates' brainchild to give it a little more of a, well, jolt. For example: "Netscape represented the chance to get in at the start of another technological dynasty like Apple Computer, Oracle Corporation or Microvolts." Hmm. Whirlwind also changed an analyst's comment to, "They see this as the Microvolts of the Internet." The program further decided to rename IBM something a tad less dignified, as when it referred to "the Notes Productivity Program of Bum's Lotus Development Corporation." By the way, Chronicle master Hearst owns 11 percent of Netscape, whose name was spelled correctly throughout. A Chronicle wag reports Whirlwind has had so many glitches the paper's management tried to erase the bad taste by renaming it "Millennium." The stiffs at the terminals, though, have dubbed the problem program "Armageddon."

Blue Language
The coy slogan, "You can beat the rap, but not the ride," used to be some Houston police officers' way of bragging that suspects who mouthed off might absorb a few clandestine pops on their way to the station. Times have certainly changed, judging by a lawsuit filed by HPD Officer Carl Turner. Turner stopped motorist Larry Scimmons last October to investigate whether the car he was driving was stolen; a check determined that, while the car had previously been stolen, Scimmons was its proper owner. Despite being cleared, Scimmons, Turner claims, "took great exception to the stop." For their part, Scimmons and his sister claimed that as Turner drove away from the scene, the officer silently mouthed "fuck you" at them. Although an HPD sergeant at the scene didn't witness what the lawsuit terms "the mouthing," he reported the alleged incident to HPD Internal Affairs. What he didn't do was take a sworn complaint from the civilians. IAD investigated, took a denial statement from Turner and then accused him of violating the HPD code of truthfulness. Chief Sam Nuchia ordered Turner to serve a one day suspension without pay as punishment. A civil service commission hearing upheld Nuchia's decision, so now Turner has filed for an injunction in state district court to prevent the city of Houston and HPD from investigating any officer without first taking a sworn complaint.

Chatty Joe
Convicted S&L fraud man Joe Russo is busy chatting with government prosecutors in hopes of having his sentence of 42 months in Club Fed cut in half. Russo attorney David Berg confirmed the sides are talking, but wouldn't comment on street buzz that Russo is assisting the Feds in building a final round of S&L cases against former associates of Russo. Berg did deny that Russo had anything to do with a recent S&L-related indictment returned against Houston developer Kenneth Schnitzer or the recently filed FDIC suit against Maxxam's Charles Hurwitz for his role in the collapse of United Savings Association.

The Insider is compiled for your edification by Tim Fleck.


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