— San Diego city schools just got a solid pat on the back from the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network of New York. The group rated 42 of the country's largest public school systems on whether they were safe and friendly places for lesbian and gay students and staff. San Diego, along with San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Miami's Dade County, Florida, were the only districts to get an "A." Twenty other districts got either a "D" or "F," including Orange County, Phoenix, Chicago, and Kansas City. Working-class Oakland, across the bay from San Francisco, got a "C." Ratings were based on whether the districts protected gay students and staff from discrimination and harassment, whether they provided gay-oriented curriculum material, and whether they supported lesbian and gay student clubs ... A San Diego outfit that claims it has the secret for the perfect Domino's pizza delivery bag is being sued by an Ohio company for patent infringement. The controversy started last May when San Diego's Phase Change Laboratories, Inc., announced it had purchased the rights to a super-secret "Phase Change Material" that "has the ability to reversibly absorb and release heat at a constant temperature during melting and freezing for an extended period of time." In lay terms, that means pizzas are supposed to stay "at a desirable 160 degrees to 170 degrees Fahrenheit for over an hour." R.G. Barry Corp. of Pickerington, Ohio, claims Phase Change stole the idea. The case is set to go to court in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Smoking death

War has broken out between Governor Pete Wilson and ucsd epidemiologist John Pierce over Pierce's latest report that declines in smoking have slowed in California thanks to a huge increase in cigarette advertising and cutbacks in the state's anti-smoking campaign. Pierce's study found that tobacco advertising grew 20 percent after 1993, and the state, under Wilson's prodding, chopped tobacco-control programs by 40 percent, according to an account in last week's San Francisco Chronicle. "The tobacco industry outspent the program by nearly ten to one," Pierce told the paper. After the ucsd report was made public in June, Wilson cut off funding for further research. "We were terminated," Pierce said. Observed Stanton Glantz, a University of California at San Francisco professor, "John Pierce seems to have an uncanny ability to come up with results the governor doesn't like. His latest report shows the administration has succeeded in wrecking the program. His reward for that is a bullet through his head." Wilson's hand-picked chief of Chronic Disease and Injury Control had another version of the firing. "If you hire a guy to paint the house, and he shows up late and insults the wife, are you going to hire him again?" Pierce, he added, was "just a difficult guy to work with," turned in his reports late, and used "abusive language." Release of the report itself was held up for months while a panel of state "experts" tried to find flaws in it, the Chronicle said.

Sick bay

Cases of viral meningitis have taken off on a dangerous rise in San Diego County, state health officials say, climbing from 71 cases in the first eight months of last year to 313 for the same period this year ... Republican congressman Brian Bilbray, targeted by congressional Democrats for defeat by San Diego city councilwoman Christine Kehoe, may not be as vulnerable as first thought. According to a report in the Sacramento Bee, Republicans are so confident in Bilbray's reelection that they have been sending money originally destined for Bilbray's campaign to Contra Costa County, where the gop hopes to beat first-time congresswoman Ellen Tauscher ... San Francisco cops are complaining that a new automatic system designed to catch red-light runners on film has been taking pictures too blurry to use in court. San Diego's U.S. Public Technologies installed the system ... U.S.A. Today reported last week that San Diego is one of 14 cities in a survey of 25 that couldn't provide taxi cab accident figures for the years 1990 through 1996.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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