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— Just in time for what would have been Dr. Seuss's 95th birthday last week came the latest controversy over his widow Audrey's marketing of the late child author's image and work. During his life, Seuss, real name Ted Geisel, was La Jolla's house liberal, living and working in a self-designed castle on Mt. Soledad, apart from the Oklahoma oilmen and conservative Wall Streeters who dominated the luxury burg below him. Although most of his books were for third graders, he managed to work in political themes, ranging from anti-war (The Butter Battle Book) to pro-environment (The Lorax). And although it would have made him vastly richer, he also forswore any commercial use of the books' characters for T-shirts, toys, and political endorsements. But after Geisel died six years ago, his widow Audrey opened the floodgates, licensing clothes and cartoons and cleaning up in a big way. Now a group of environmentalists in Portland, Oregon, says that Audrey has gone too far, licensing the Lorax to what they claim is a forest industry-related group that promotes clear-cutting. Washington, D.C.-based American Forests, a nonprofit group that sells ads to the timber industry in its magazine, counters that it favors only limited clear-cutting and was just using the Lorax to promote a tree-planting campaign in the new "Dr. Seuss Lorax Forest" in South Carolina's Francis Marion National Forest. -- M.P.

To Helen and Gone

In last week's story about the Union-Tribune's battle with its unionized pressroom workers, one union member, Jeff Alger, made a prediction. "They're not going to get to me, but they'd like to; I'm, like, their number-one target right now." Alger wasn't so lucky. Just hours after the story was published, U-T managers suspended the 30-year-old father of five indefinitely and told him to clear out his locker. "I didn't really expect them to be that brazen," Alger says. Also suspended in the post-publication purge: Frank Giralo, who was featured in a photo accompanying the story, and Mike Keenan, who has been active in the union's community campaign to embarrass the paper. The paper told the union it took the actions to punish Alger and Giralo for a production error that caused some papers to come off the presses slightly smudged; Keenan, the paper says, was disciplined for insubordination. The men's union, Local 432-M of the Graphic Communications International Union, smells retaliation. "When they brought us into the room to discipline us," Alger says, "there was a copy of the Reader sitting on the desk right in front of us. They made no reference to it, but it was pretty clear what was going on." Local 432-M plans to file charges with the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board), and a call by the union for a boycott of the paper now seems certain. Inside the newsroom, where reporters and editors threw out their own union in a close vote last June, sources say the pressroom clampdown is barely registering. (The paper's head of human resources and spokeswoman, Bobbie Espinosa, did not return a call seeking comment.) In the meantime, the San Diego-Imperial County Labor Council is holding a protest rally at 4:30 p.m. today, Thursday, March 11, outside the U-T's Mission Valley building to show its support for the two suspended workers. The public is invited. -- J.K.

Money from Thin Air

The Mexican government has announced it will accept bids on the privatization of the Tijuana airport until July 15. According to a report from the University of New Mexico, bidders so far include the Mexican engineering company Ingenieros Civiles y Asociados (Constructora ICA), Aeropuertos Españoles y de Navegación Aerea (AENA), Frankfurt Airport, and Grupo Pista. Promoters on this side of the border, including councilmen Byron Wear and Juan Vargas, want to create a direct border crossing into the airport from Otay Mesa, which could take business away from Lindbergh Field ... State senator Steve Peace has pulled a controversial bill he sponsored to reverse a law banning a scheme to allow cities to sell more bond debt without public vote. The move came after newspapers around the state began reporting that Pacific Genesis Group, a bond underwriter that just settled a state complaint against it for alleged bond-selling abuses, had drafted the bill. -- M.P.

Contributors: Matt Potter, James Kelleher

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