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SATURDAY BRIEFING

Bracing for shuttle launch

July 01, 2006|Andrew Malcolm and Steve Chawkins | Times Staff Writers

Today's scheduled launch of the space shuttle Discovery is a risk, but a risk worth taking, says NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin, who will not be on board.

He says balancing the possibility of another catastrophic shuttle accident against the pressure to keep to a schedule set to finish constructing the International Space Station and end the shuttle runs in 2010 "is what you pay us for as taxpayers."

Griffin has taken heat in recent weeks for pressing on with today's flight despite lingering concerns over insulating foam flaking off the shuttle's external fuel tanks. Such a foam chunk hit the shuttle Columbia in 2003 and doomed its descent.

Although some launch officials want a delay, the Discovery crew has expressed satisfaction with safety procedures.

To finish on time, NASA must launch 16 more shuttle missions, about four per year. Today's would be the second in the last three years. Page A24

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday July 04, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 43 words Type of Material: Correction
Filmmaker Richard Glatzer: A Saturday Briefing item about adult filmmakers crossing over into Hollywood movies incorrectly stated that "Quinceanera" co-director Richard Glatzer had worked in the pornography industry. Glatzer, who works in independent film and reality TV, has not worked in adult films.

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In defense of the free press process

The Los Angeles Times and the New York Times are rivals, their news employees competing on a hundred fronts around the world every day.

But today, the editors of the newspapers join together to write a response to the furor over recently published revelations of once secret Bush administration efforts to track the global financial transactions of terrorists.

Newspaper editors face excruciating choices covering the government's efforts to protect the country from terrorists, they write.

Sometimes they defer to government's stated security concerns; sometimes they don't.

But either way, they say, the decisions are carefully balanced to fulfill the press' constitutional role as a government watchdog. Page B19

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'Mafia Cops' verdict set aside

U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein concedes that federal prosecutors "overwhelmingly established" the guilt of Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa, the so-called Mafia Cops.

The judge says the former New York detectives "kidnapped, murdered and assisted kidnappers and murderers, all the while sworn to protect the public against such crimes."

But the judge throws out the convictions of both men because they were charged with racketeering after the five-year statute of limitations had expired.

In a 77-page memorandum, Weinstein orders the two to be retried on lesser charges of money laundering and drug dealing.

Federal prosecutors say they will appeal the overturned verdict. Page A14

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Japan's PM visits house of the King

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi shares Elvis Presley's Jan. 8 birthday. He also shares a passion for the King.

Fulfilling his "dream," Koizumi gets a tour of the King's Graceland Mansion in Memphis, Tenn., by President Bush and wife Laura. It's the prime minister's "sayonara summit," the last official visit before he leaves office.

And Koizumi makes the most of it, poking through memorabilia, donning Presley's sunglasses and offering several renditions of Presley hits for anyone within earshot. Page A14

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Fueling the exodus

While many Americans resent the illegal immigration of millions of Mexicans, some experts see U.S. economic policies such as free trade, privatization and government austerity as contributing to the situation. Page C1

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THE CRITIC: 'Maria Gillespie's newest work, "La Hora de Salir" (The Hour of Leaving), began in sleep and ended in a kind of wakefulness.... [It] aspired to insight into individual solitude amid the cycles of life. For one viewer, it was a rather sad dance.' Chris Pasles. Calendar, E6

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CALENDAR

Graduating from porn

With their roots in the porn industry, Wash Westmoreland, left, and Richard Glatzer are reaping some prestigious indie-film awards for "Quinceanera," a drama they wrote and directed about two Echo Park teenagers. With porn carrying less of a stigma than it once did, the transition of adult-movie vets into mainstream Hollywood in recent years has been as smooth as silk sheets. Page E1

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Gags made in Japan

Japanese comedy might be an acquired yen -- and tonight is your chance to acquire it. A wildly popular troupe called Yoshimoto Kogyo is bringing about two dozen of its top stars to Los Angeles for an evening of sketches that you don't have to be Japanese to love.

On the other hand, it might help. Those without a grounding in the fine points of Japanese humor might find some of the material a bit baffling. Unless you know Japanese -- and the show at the Kodak Theatre is not translated into English -- you might wonder what's so funny about two guys trying to squeeze the word for "egg" -- tamago -- into their 10-minute rapid-fire dialogue.

But there's also plenty of slapstick -- Stooges-san style.

Page E1

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Mexico's new opinion makers

Intellectuals in Mexico have long been a privileged bunch, showered with honors and generally venerated like those in France. But now their role as shapers of opinion appears to be fading, in large part due to newly aggressive TV and radio commentators who are usurping intellectuals' authority.

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