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— The American Civil Liberties Union has just picked up some competition on the right. According to last week's Washington Times, San Diego management consultant Robert B. Carleson, one-time advisor to President Ronald Reagan, has set up the American Civil Rights Union "to do what the ACLU claims to do but doesn't always do." Although the group has a board of conservative heavyweights including former attorney general Edwin Meese, ex-judge Robert Bork, and Linda Chavez, Reagan's one-time chief of civil rights, Carleson claims the ACRU isn't going to be the "antithesis or the enemy" of the ACLU. In fact, he says, the ACLU "does things right in some cases. But in other cases it not only does not defend the Bill of Rights, it opposes it." Meese, who taught law at the University of San Diego between stints as aide to Reagan as governor and president, adds that the "new organization is needed to look out for all the civil rights contained in the Constitution rather than selected defense of those rights based on a liberal political bias." In rebuttal, a spokeswoman for the ACLU in Washington pointed out that the group has from time to time weighed in on the side of the Christian Coalition and Oliver North.

Perot's revenge

A maquiladora plant in Tijuana is busy churning out "Wild Bill Clinton" masks for Halloween. Each of the latex presidential faces features an extended tongue and is covered with lipstick kisses. An outfit called Morris Costumes out of Charlotte, North Carolina, is behind the parodies of the president who backed NAFTA and says the Clinton mask will probably overtake Nixon masks as historic best sellers. "I have orders going to New Zealand, Australia, South America, Argentina, Brazil. They're really going all over," company president Philip Morris told a reporter. No Monica masks, though. She's not technically a public figure and retains all rights to her own likeness ... Calbiochem-Novabiochem, a La Jolla biotech outfit, wants federal permission to traffic in cocaine, mescaline, and tetrahydrocannabinol. "The firm plans to import small quantities of the listed controlled substances to make reagents for distribution to the biomedical research community," according to a federal document ... For two years running, a ring of L.A. burglars, aged 14 to 17, preyed on their Saugus neighbors. Last week they were busted for grand theft and receiving stolen property. But their crimes weren't limited to their own neighborhood. Cops say they burglarized San Diego homes when their parents brought them here for family vacations.

Courthouse games

Six computer-game players who say there are flaws in the Internet game Ultima Online, sold by the Origin Systems subsidiary of San Diego's own Electronic Arts Inc., wanted to file a class-action suit against the company on behalf of 200,000 players. But late last month, superior court judge Judith McConnell ruled that suing as a group was out of the question, "since the effects of the alleged problems and the degree to which these problems interfere with a player's ability to participate in the game are matters of subjective taste." The computer gamers claimed that Ultima Online, played over the Internet, suffered from computer crashes and slow response times. They said they expected the game "would be accessible 24 hours a day and be played in 'real time,' where commands given via the keyboard or mouse are instantly carried out by the characters on the screen." Attorneys for Ultima Online, a medieval simulation set in the imaginary land of Brittannia, countered that most players liked the game so much they were "addicted."

Grant game

When it was announced that the Novartis Agribusiness Discovery Institute, a highly touted new research arm of Swiss biotechnology giant Novartis, would open near UCSD, there was the customary local media hype about San Diego being a biotech capital. Last week the institute announced its first major research grant: $50 million to the University of California at Berkeley ... A report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs says domestic violence in San Diego's gay households rose by 13 percent last year, from 358 to 403 cases.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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