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By DENNIS DAILY, United Press International   |   March 20, 2002 at 9:34 PM   |   Comments

ACTOR DOWNEY BEHAVING BETTER

Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr. is apparently behaving himself. And an Indio, Calif., judge seems to be happy with his progress in a drug rehabilitation program. According to published reports, during Downey's latest visit to court the judge noted that he was pleased that the young actor was doing well and said that "I hope your (program of rehab) continues to be of some benefit to you. I will see you back here on July 19." Downey said little more than "Thank You" during his latest day in court. There is a possibility that when he returns to Riverside County Superior Court he could be released. Meanwhile, there are indications that Downey will again try to restart his flagging career. He is due on the set in a few weeks to work on a Mel Gibson-produced project called "The Singing Detective."


FILM NO ONE WOULD TOUCH COMES TO CABLE

When young director Henry Bean brought his gritty drama "The Believer" to the last Sundance Film Festival, it played to rave reviews, but none of the major studios would touch it. It deals with a Jewish boy who renounces his beliefs and becomes a neo-Nazi skinhead. The film beat out more traditional movies and took top dramatic honors. Now comes word that the movie is about to make its debut on TV. The film finally has been shown, not in movie theaters, but on television. Showtime gave its its first airing this past weekend. It might have come to television earlier, but due to its main plot element -- the planting of a bomb in a synagogue -- and the events of Sept. 11, it's just now being broadcast. Ryan Gosling got his start on the "All New Mickey Mouse Club" and subsequently appeared in several Disney productions. The airing could renew a controversy that has been swirling in the months since Sundance. Many in major Jewish groups have roundly criticized Bean's film.


BEWARE THE 'GUN-TOTING DENTIST'

Most people fear going to the dentist -- drills and needles and all that. But the patients of one California dentist have some other "weapons" on their minds. A Burbank, Calif., dentist -- already facing felony charges for weapons sales -- is now at the center of yet another possible scandal within the ranks of the Los Angeles Police Department. The Los Angeles Times is reporting that dentist Lawrence Wolff, may have sold nearly two dozen high-powered assault weapons to LAPD officers. Even though Wolff does have a license to sell guns, including machine guns and assault rifles, he was recently charged with a number of illegal gun sales. The charges against him came as the result of an ATF sting operation. It is reported that many of the documents that were used in the purchase of weapons by the police officers were faked.


HOW TO HONOR NIXON ... AN ONGOING QUESTION

The two daughters of former President Richard Nixon apparently can't agree on how best to honor the memory of their late father -- the only president to resign the White House. The difference of opinion has become so rancorous that the two are in court. At issue is how to spend some $12 million left to the Nixon estate by the former president's long-time friend Bebe Rebozo. Court records show that the sisters -- Julie Nixon Eisenhower and Patricia Nixon Cox -- are at odds on just what kind of monument or other honor should grace the grounds of the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, Calif. Patricia seems to be the one who has a more grandiose plan for the use of the funds. Meanwhile, courts in both California and Florida -- because Miami-area businessman Rebozo was a key contributor to Nixon's political campaigns -- continue to be the scene of debates over the status of the $12 million.


MCBRIDE AT TOP OF CHARTS AGAIN

The latest single by popular country star Martina McBride has just hit the top of the charts. The song, "Blessed," hit the No. 1 spot on Billboard's Hot Country Singles and Tracks chart yesterday. At the same time, CMT reports that McBride's photo is gracing the cover of Country Weekly magazine. She is also slated to appear on the cable network's weekly Grand Ole Opry Live broadcast this weekend. After a hectic schedule of recording and touring she hopes to take some time off in the coming weeks to take her family to Disneyland. McBride has so many fans that she is among those stars that have several "unofficial" Web sites. One of the best is called "The Magical World of Martina McBride." Try going to any search engine and type in "Martina McBride" and check out some of the links.


WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO MANUEL NOREIGA?

There was a time when the manhunt for Panamanian strongman Manuel Noreiga was the lead story on newscasts for weeks. Then U.S. troops ringed the Vatican's embassy in Panama City, after finding that Noreiga had taken refuge there. They beamed high intensity lights at the building and played rock music from a local Armed Forces Radio station day and night, hoping to ruin his sleep. A deal was struck with the Vatican ambassador. Noreiga was handed over to the GIs and eventually brought to trial on charges of international drug running. Now comes word from the Miami Herald that the former Panamanian dictator has little hope of any early release from the prison term imposed on him by an American court. Noreiga is now 66. He is currently serving a 30-year sentence. One published report notes that the former army leader still wears his uniform and, because of his perceived "military" status, regularly gets "relief packages" from the International Red Cross. ON A PERSONAL NOTE: During the time that Noreiga was holed-up in the Vatican embassy I was doing hourly newscasts for the old UPI Radio Network. Those broadcasts were carried by the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service. I have been told by correspondents who were covering the story in Panama that there were many times that my reports on the manhunt were being played at high volume for Noreiga's ears during his days in the building. The standoff at the embassy also caused a major change in Christmas travel plans for many of us. All leave was canceled at the network.


UPI DAILY SURVEY QUESTION NO. 293

We've been asking some fairly mundane questions lately, but I love the responses. So, today we're asking: "What's your favorite or lucky number? Do you have any neat stories relating to the use of it?" Put NUMBER in the subject line and send to survey@upi.com via the Internet.


RESULTS OF QUESTION NO. 288 (NEWSROOM)

Last week I asked again about the sources of news that you feel are the most reliable. I'm sending my boss a note letting him know how many of you think that venerable old UPI (United Press International) still ranks No. 1 when it comes to accuracy. Your comments reminded me of something that an old professor of journalism at Indiana University told us in the '60s: "Journalism is a double-edged sword. One edge is fact the other is grammar. They can not accurately do their job unless both are razor-sharp." Now to some of your replies: Christy says that she loves Frontline on PBS. She notes, "PBS doesn't have any advertisers to please." Amanda says she relies on local TV and asks her parents -- even though she's not old enough to remember "Father Knows Best". Lee T says he's still looking for a reliable source. "They all seem to be biased in one way or another." Lee, remember that when Henry Luce was starting Time magazine he once quipped that he had looked for reporters who had no bias. Failing to find any he hired as many people as he could, hoping their individual biases would cancel each other out. Keke agrees that you can't trust many sources and notes that it seems that many Middle Eastern news services treat Israel with kid gloves, "overlooking the atrocities they commit against innocent Palestinians." AntiM is among those who say that the news plays to the lowest common denominator. Well, as Lee de Forrest (the man who CLAIMED he invented radio) once wrote to the National Association of Broadcasters in the 1930s: "What have you done to my child, the radio broadcast? You have debased him ... wrapped him in rags of ragtime and tatters of boogie-woogie ..." Things haven't changed much, have they? GBA.

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