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Pastor Shaken, Not Stirred, by Millennial Martini Plan

Is San Francisco, once one of the real swingers of American big cities, losing its ability to have fun?

A plan by the august Westin St. Francis Hotel on Union Square to display a huge millennium martini glass as part of the New Year’s celebration is drawing fire.

This just a few weeks after city officials, citing money and safety, canceled plans for a big millennium bash at the civic center and a fireworks splash over the Golden Gate Bridge.

The hotel envisions a seven-story, inflatable martini glass anchored atop its roof, with an enormous swizzle stick and a 10-foot olive that will slide into the drink precisely at midnight, a la the dropping ball in New York’s Times Square.

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But the idea has run afoul of a powerful religious leader, the Rev. Cecil Williams, pastor of the nearby Glide Memorial Church where the congregation includes numerous folks battling alcohol-related problems. Williams is worried that the display will reinforce the idea that the only way to celebrate is by getting drunk.

The hotel is not wavering.

“We are entirely respectful of the interfaith community,” a hotel spokeswoman said, “but we feel that the martini is an icon of today’s world.”

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A prayer for the heart and a kick to the head: Martial arts enthusiasts in the Northern California city of Fairfield are flocking to karate classes given by Eugene Ray, 47, real estate agent, karate master and born-again Christian. His following has grown so big that he’s had to relocate to a bigger church site: the Lighthouse Christian Center.

Ray offers a mix of Christian teachings and karate instruction. He got the idea two years ago when the fellow on the next Stairmaster turned out to be a minister eager for ways to get people into church.

“Christians are supposed to turn the other cheek when people get angry at them,” Ray said. “But there’s nothing to say you can’t move your head first.”

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People and the things they do: If you’ve seen on-duty Marines at Camp Pendleton or Twentynine Palms wearing brown T-shirts, savor the memory.

One of the new commandant’s first orders was to ban brown T-shirts. Marines henceforth will wear only green T-shirts.

So what’s the big deal, green or brown? Let’s put it this way: The Army wears brown.

* As it readies for a downtown ballpark for its Padres, San Diego is tussling with its homeless problem.

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Planned are several carrots (more shelters, more social services) and a big stick: a state law, never before used in San Diego, calling for 90 days in jail for anyone with a third conviction for public drunkenness.

* A veteran San Diego police officer goes to court next week to face a misdemeanor charge in the on-duty death of his beloved partner: a 7-year-old German shepherd.

The police dog died of heat stroke after being left in the squad car outside headquarters one day in July. The charge is animal cruelty.

The officer is still on duty but no longer on the dog detail.

* An unidentified onlooker on an overpass pelted CHP cars with eggs during Friday’s televised chase from Rancho Cucamonga to San Diego.

* Who says the governor lacks a sense of humor?

Several state prison guards are accused in federal court of arranging fights among prisoners. Now Gov. Gray Davis has named Don Novey, boss of the prison guards labor union, to a spot on the state Athletic Commission, which arranges boxing matches.

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Hold the chalupa: Tom Morrow, columnist for the North (San Diego) County Times, swears the following is true: A customer goes into a fast-food place and orders a tostada. Employee asks if the customer wants the tostada with lettuce.

“Minimal, please,” says the customer.

“Sorry,” replies the employee, “we’ve only got iceberg.”

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One-offs: Plans by profiteers to sell items purchased from the recent auction of Heaven’s Gate cult stuff through an online auction service have hit a snag. The service is worried about lawsuits by former members of the cult. . . . The California canned fruit industry reports bumper sales, thanks to Y2K warnings about stocking a three- to seven-day supply of food and water. . . . How popular is the nameless baby panda at the San Diego Zoo? The panda-cam link providing 24-hour live video on the zoo’s Web site (https://www.sandiegozoo.org) had more than 4 million hits in November. The cub won’t be on display until January, but she gets a name Wednesday in a binational ceremony. . . . Bah-bah-bad news. The value of California wool production is a third of what it was a decade ago. Too many sweaters chasing too few people.

EXIT LINE

“Please don’t give so much coverage to flakes, gadflies and idiots.”

San Diego County Health Department Director Dr. Robert Ross, providing suggestions to reporters on how to improve coverage of health issues.

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California Dateline appears every other Tuesday.

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Earthquake Insurance

The California Earthquake Authority reports that 17% of all homeowners, renters, condominium and mobile home owners have residential earthquake insurance. Here are the 10 companies in California through which the most earthquake insurance has been purchased, ranked by their 1998 market share.

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Market Total Premiums received Company share policies (in millions) State Farm 22% 333,801 $125.6 Allstate 15% 202,156 $88.1 Farmers 11% 177,277 $66.8 United Services Auto Assn. 9% 87,777 $51.2 Geovera 5% 42,188 $27.7 Safeco Group 4% 59,538 $24.5 Fireman’s Fund 3% 22,980 $18.9 Auto Club of Southern California 3% 42,630 $16.0 California Fair Plan 2% 17,191 $12.6 Travelers/Aetna 2% 16,211 $10.8

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Sources: California Department of Insurance, Statistical Analysis Bureau

Researched by TRACY THOMAS/Los Angeles Times


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