Orbitals

News briefs on

Orbitals, WP's juicy and incisive newsbriefs, are back with news on the Bucs' attempt at book larnin', the kibash on MP3.Com and the latest on the bitch fight between Ralph Hughes and Sam Rashid.

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In This Corner...

Why don't conservative wizards Ralph Hughes and Sam Rashid just step out from behind the curtain at County Center and into the ring? Settle this rumble on the right once and for all.

The alternative is reading about these dudes for the rest of the summer and fall. News accounts of their sneaky attempts to maneuver opposing Hillsborough County commission slates into office are getting old already.

Hughes, a prizefighter in his youth, could lace on the gloves again and duke it out with Rashid, a rival for the stone-cold hearts of Hillsborough Republicans. The stocky Rashid is 31 years younger than the taller Hughes. Both guys list starboard, though, so maybe Fox would pick up the fight for its next quasi-celebrity boxing show.

Hughes and Rashid were in opposite corners at a recent Tiger Bay luncheon, with their highest-profile pair of proxies, commissioners Jim Norman and Stacey Lyn Easterling.

Norman, term-limited out of his north Hillsborough district after 10 years, is running for a countywide seat. Rashid wants revenge for Norman's refusal to back his boy, Chris Hart III, for commission chairman, as well as for other past transgressions against the Grand Old Party. So Rashid got his girl, Easterling, to relinquish a fairly safe Tampa district and give Norman a run for Hughes' money.

Easterling took up a spot at Rashid's table for the May 31 luncheon on Harbour Island. That put her right in the line of Tiger Bay emcee Steve LaBour's standup routine.

LaBour said he had the rest of a Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce report card on local public officials and institutions. County commissioners got a D. The consolation for Easterling was that she received higher marks for taking direction, LaBour joshed.

Chamber bigwigs used to be the ones who moved county commissioners around like chessboard pieces. Now that privilege belongs to Hughes and Rashid, two east Hillsborough businessmen who have never quite meshed with the downtown set.

The bigwigs aren't happy about their political impotence. The chamber is getting heavily involved in this year's local elections to clear out the renegades and make way for new transportation spending that might ease membership concerns about the Tampa area's growing traffic problems.

Hughes, Rashid and, consequently, their pawns aren't wild about that, especially plowing tax money into a light-rail system.

In Tampa, you find the tax-and-spend liberals in the oddest places, like over at the chamber of commerce.

—Francis X. Gilpin

Two days after Weekly Planet's online-music cover story "e-Play" hit the stands May 8, royalty-paying Web hub mp3.com suspended hundreds of artists the company suspected of "gaming" the site - recruiting other system users and swapping downloads in order to inflate both their stats and their paychecks. WP cover boy Mike Meengs, a.k.a. Sonic, was one of "em; his Turtle Bend page has disappeared from the site, and he reckons he'll never see the several thousand dollars his music earned during the first quarter of this year. Another site pulled was set up to benefit a charity, Child Evangelism Fellowship.

In a flurry of e-mails and message-board posts (many of which have been removed from mp3.com's own boards), several suspended artists have admitted to organizing/participating in download circles, claiming that since the company encourages members to interact and download each other's material, no breach of ethics exists. Others claim it's no coincidence that mp3.com appears to have lost money this past quarter, and that the investigation is nothing but a timely excuse to hold payments back.

Mp3.com, notoriously taciturn since its purchase by French tech/entertainment conglomerate Vivendi Universal last year, hasn't released a public statement since the May 10 suspension. The company has, however, told various suspended artists it would contact them with more information on June 14.

At least 11 artists have filed complaints at online lawsuit resource center www.bigclassaction.com, citing violation of civil liberties and theft of intellectual property. But the constantly shifting language of mp3.com's licensing/usage clauses and agreements will make such claims difficult to prove.

—Scott Harrell

Charity Begins at (the Next) Home (Game)

The Glazers are taking a boatload — a pirate ship, even — of money out of that sweet stadium deal that Tampa Mayor Dick Greco and other luminaries negotiated with the Buccaneer owners six years ago. Thus, it's nice to see the Glazers giving back to the community.

No, Old Man Glazer hasn't come up with the money to cover half the cost of Raymond James Stadium, as he promised he would in a weak moment some years ago. Hillsborough County taxpayers are still on the hook for that whole bill.

But the Glazer Family Foundation Inc. did recently donate 100,000 bookmarks to Tampa Bay area libraries, according to a press release that the relentless Bucs PR machine made sure to send out to the Fourth Estate.

Bookmarks?

Yes, bookmarks.

The bookmarks will be distributed at no charge throughout the summer to youths checking out books from public libraries in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Polk, Manatee and Sarasota counties. The bookmarks were scheduled to be at all library checkout counters by June 7.

"The Foundation is committed to educating the youth of our community," Roni Costello, executive director of the Glazer Family Foundation, was quoted as saying in the press release. "By continuing this partnership with the library, we are emphasizing the importance of reading to children."

The importance of helping the Glazer family get a tax deduction went unmentioned in the release.

These aren't just any bookmarks, mind you. These are Mike Alstott bookmarks!

"The Buccaneers bookmarks are a great reading incentive," Linda Gillon, manager of staff and administrative support for the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library System, was also quoted as saying in the release. "With the Glazer Family Foundation's help, we are letting kids know sports and reading are both fun summer activities."

OK, OK. It's more than a little cheesy to be promoting your corporate interest under the guise of making a charitable contribution to the community (the football team's upcoming schedule is on the back of every bookmark). But, hey, maybe putting a picture of the A-Train on the front of a bookmark instead of, say, a high school lit teacher's mug, will get more aspiring jocks to crack a book. The graduation rates of student-athletes at Florida's public universities could use the boost.

But here's a radical idea: How about buying some books for the library?

Been there and done that, according to Glazer Family Foundation coordinator Erika Brierley, who told the Planet that the Bucs' charitable arm purchased some books in Spanish last year for the Egypt Lake library in Tampa.

Nobody could say how much the bookmarks cost the foundation this year. The press release stated that the foundation has kicked in more than $1-million in cash, grants, tickets and merchandise for worthy causes in the Bay area during the past three years.

Patrice Koerper, public relations and partnerships coordinator for the Tampa-Hillsborough library system, said the county could always use more books. But Koerper said it is also critical to give kids an extra reason to come in and peruse the shelves. The Glazers are supplementing the library system's promotional efforts, she said.

And their own. Well, at least the Bucs didn't donate old game programs for kids to read.

—Francis X. Gilpin

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