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May 18, 2005

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Around Town Around Town (May 18, 2005)

YOUTH AND LYTTON . . . Given the ongoing civic debate about Lytton Plaza, it was only natural the topic would come up during last Monday's joint meeting between the Palo Alto City Council and the Palo Alto Youth Council. A new egg-shaped artwork, Digital DNA, recently debuted in the public space. Meanwhile, a developer is moving forward with plans to renovate the downtown plaza, probably sans Egg. Although Lytton Plaza appears to be a popular place for youth, Youth Councilman Martin Fukui warned it was only a particular subset of youth, a "new generation of washed-out '70s hippies." Others on the Youth Council agreed they were scared to visit the plaza because of the hooligans; most who spoke agreed the aging plaza needed a modern upgrade. Speaking of Digital DNA, artist Adriana Varella reported last week that surveillance equipment will no longer be apart of the artwork. Originally, she had hoped to install cameras in the plaza and in the artwork to dissuade vandals. (The artwork's original incarnation burned down in a warehouse fire last May.) "The Big Brother alternative is incongruent to our modus operandi," Varella reported in an e-mail to the Weekly. Since the unveiling last week, Varella has received various responses to the artwork, which is made of recycled computer parts and is meant to honor Palo Alto's role in "birthing" Silicon Valley. "Some people loved it. I was told that somebody was praying by it!?" Varella wrote. "Others hated it. One complained about spending tax dollars into 'that.' I asked: Do you prefer to spend our money on the war? That made her think about it."

SPARING THE AIR . . . Last Thursday, Gunn High School's transportation team, Gunn Organization For Alternative, Safe Transportation, or GOFAST, was presented with a Clean Air Award in San Francisco. The coalition of parents, city officials and school staff came together four years ago to reduce traffic, increase safety and promote alternative means of transportation to and from school. "The group has made great strides in reducing the number of solo automobile drivers around campus, and as a result, the amount of vehicle emissions in the area," according to a press release from the American Lung Association of the Bay Area, which presented the awards.

POLICE INPUT . . . Have something to say about Palo Alto's police officers? Here's your chance. As part of creating its new five-year "Strategic Plan," the department is asking for members of the public to respond to a survey. It's on the department's web site:

NEWSWEEK EDITOR'S TALK CANCELLED . . . Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker was expected to speak at Stanford University on Monday night on the topic of media choices in a new era. The talk was cancelled, though, after a nationwide controversy erupted over the weekend surrounding the magazine's May 9 report that claimed two U.S. interrogators flushed a Quran down the drain at Guantanamo Bay. On Sunday, Whitaker issued an apology saying the story -- which had incited mass protest across the Muslim world, according to Reuters -- was based on a single anonymous source, and not confirmed. The next day, the story was retracted. That same Monday, the university's student newspaper, the Stanford Daily, cited Communication Professor Jim Bettinger as saying had to stay in New York to deal with the story's aftermath. The talk was the annual John S. Knight Lecture. It its place, the Knight Fellowship program hosted a symposium on media credibility, which was originally scheduled for Tuesday.

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