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A struggle for U.N. seat

Times Staff Writers

On one level, it looks like a simple struggle between Venezuela and Guatemala for a seat with the big boys on the U.N.'s Security Council.

But the competition that’s been going on for months behind the scenes has also become a referendum on the United States’ often-resented role in the world body.

The U.S. backs the bid by Guatemala, which led or tied the General Assembly voting through 10 rounds of balloting but not obtaining the two-thirds vote needed.

Diplomats suggest that if the stalemate continues, a compromise candidate for the Latin American and Caribbean seat may be sought.

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For its part, Venezuela, whose president, Hugo Chavez, called President Bush “the devil” in a U.N. speech last month, vows to fight on. “We will not withdraw,” says its envoy. “We are fighting to the end.” Page A6

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Mattel tickled with toy sales

If you’re just learning about the Tickle Me Elmo laughing plush toy by reading this, it may already be too late for you.

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The $40 “extreme” edition of Elmo -- which, when tickled, rolls onto the floor in fits of laughter and then stands back up for more -- is already sold out at many major retailers, and El Segundo-based Mattel Inc. is working frantically to make new supplies.

Toys from this year’s animated movie “Cars” are driving themselves off shelves. And even the aging Barbie brand has shown new signs of life.

All of which is great news for Mattel, which reports that net income rose 6% to $239 million for the period ending Sept. 30.

That’s up from $225.3 million a year ago.

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Analysts say this bodes well for the toy industry as a whole as it comes up on the all-important holiday sales period.

“The whole industry is looking a lot more upbeat this year than it has in years past,” says one analyst. Page C1

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Court won’t untie knot for Scouts

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The U.S. Supreme Court lets stand lower court rulings in California and elsewhere that allow cities, schools and colleges to deny public benefits to groups that refuse to comply with broad anti-discrimination rules involving sex and religion.

The court’s action is a setback for the Boy Scouts, who were denied use of subsidized Berkeley dock space because the Scouts exclude gays and atheists.

The Supreme Court’s decision to not make a decision sets no legal precedent. The justices could revisit the topic at some later date. Page A14

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Uh-oh, more eyes in sky at stoplights

Just when you thought you were going to make it through on the green, here comes a yellow and then a quick red.

The L.A. City Council’s Public Safety Committee signs off on a tentative list of 22 additional intersections where high-resolution cameras are to be installed to catch those drivers who think they’re special. Page B2

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On the Web, try: www.broken4now

Weather watchers around the world can’t get at the Pierce College weather station in Woodland Hills. That’s the one that logged the record L.A. temperature of 119 degrees July 22.

A new computer-security firewall installed two weeks ago is so secure it’s apparently also blocking National Weather Service access. Page B1

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The earth shakes, the church crumbles

If you’re going to have a major earthquake of 6.7 magnitude in Hawaii, Sunday’s was the one to have. No fatalities, no major injuries, no tidal wave. The governor says the state is “open for business,” and most services returned to normal on Monday. Some roads are damaged, and the Kalahikiola Congregational Church has lost a wall. Page A12

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THE CRITIC: ‘Are these the best books of the year? That’s impossible to answer -- and I don’t think it’s pertinent in any case. More important is to see them as expressions of their moment, as impressions of where literature is right now.’ David L. Ulin on the National Book Awards. Calendar, E1

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BUSINESS

Will Porky Pig lose the baby fat?

It looks like Uncle Donald, Goofy, Mickey and the gang and, who knows, maybe even Pluto, will be starting to eat for the long run.

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Walt Disney Co. says it will soon begin serving more healthful food in its theme parks. We’re talking replacing the fries and soda with juice and veggies in kids’ meals.

Not only that, the company says it will reward food vendors who agree to follow the more healthful dietary guidelines by licensing its characters to them. Page C1

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After 14 years, a new addition

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Fourteen years ago, the downtown Los Angeles office market collapsed. And the distinctive skyline, dominated by the 72-story U.S. Bank Tower, has changed little since.

No longer.

Prominent L.A. architect Richard Keating confirms he is working on a design for a new 50-story tower at Figueroa and 7th streets.

The developer of the project at 755 S. Figueroa is Robert F. Maguire, who developed some of the best-known edifices from the last boom. Page C1

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SPORTS

Jeff Burton in a class by himself

After losing 175 consecutive NASCAR races, Jeff Burton finally won again. It happened last month, and afterward, Burton didn’t burn rubber, didn’t turn doughnuts, didn’t throw any punches. He drove around the track clockwise, thanking the crowd. Then he stopped and shook the hand of the second-place finisher.

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Burton’s steadiness and dignity have always been in the forefront, and now they have him in the forefront of the Chase for the Nextel Cup. Says Burton: “I’m just old enough to appreciate how hard it is.” Page D1

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It rains water, not baseballs

Monday’s scheduled playoff game in St. Louis is rained out, giving the Mets and Cardinals time to regroup and National League officials time to order enough baseballs to last through this pitching-deprived series.

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Perhaps the one-day layoff will revive a few tired arms; Mets relievers have pitched almost as many innings in the series as have Mets starters. One member of New York’s rotation, though, might not get another chance: Steve Trachsel could be benched in favor of left-hander Darren Oliver in Game 7, if the series goes that far. Page D4

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CALENDAR

‘Reds’: Faded or still vibrant?

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Warren Beatty’s 1981 epic, “Reds,” is being re-released today on DVD, and the actor-director tells Tina Daunt what it was like to see the film again recently with an audience. Beatty also discusses how “Reds” has held up, and what Ronald Reagan told him about it after a White House screening. Page E3

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The ubiquitous YouTube

Here are a few ways to describe YouTube: video bulletin board, merciless thief of copyrighted material, instant museum, populist avenging angel. Here’s how columnist Patrick Goldstein sees it: a “triumph of bottom-up culture and another sign that old media businesses ... are going to see more of their audience migrating to the Internet.”

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Where it’ll all end remains to be seen. But in sorting out the legalities of posting TV clips on the website, Goldstein poses a key question: How much of this is piracy, and how much is free promotion? Page E1

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Hot air rises, then cools

KFI-AM’s perch atop the local radio ratings turns out to be short-lived. After hitting No. 1 three months ago -- the first AM station to reach the No. 1 spot in almost 20 years -- it falls to No. 8 in the Arbitron rankings for summer. Meanwhile, four of the seven top-ranked stations in the L.A. market broadcast in Spanish, the report shows.

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A KFI executive notes that summer isn’t a good time for talk radio, because many adult listeners are on vacation. Page E2

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Timberlake’s togs

Justin Timberlake, fashion guru? That’s the plan. Tonight, as part of L.A. Fashion Week, a line of clothes from Timberlake and Trace Ayala makes its runway debut.

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Timberlake and Ayala incorporate varying cultural influences into the clothes. “In my music I mix hip-hop, rock, electronica -- I don’t know what it is, but it sounds good to me. And we want to do that in fashion. We are the generation of the mash-up,” the singer says. Page E1

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Outlaw in a box

“Nashville Rebel” not only describes Waylon Jennings, right, and his place in music, but it’s also the title of a four-disc boxed set of his music. Critic Robert Hilburn says the retrospective reminds us how scorching and sensual Jennings’ voice was, and how keen his taste was in songs. Page E5

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ON LATIMES.COM

Looking to Seoul for answers in L.A.

Waters clean and serene: Could our mayor have stumbled upon a vision for the future of the Los Angeles River in far-off South Korea? All this week, reporter Duke Helfand travels with Antonio Villaraigosa and his entourage of local dignitaries as they visit China, South Korea and Japan. At their latest stop in Seoul, the travelers found what seems to be the model of the modern urban waterway, the once-putrid Cheonggyecheon stream that has been cleaned and repaved, with waterfalls and footpaths. Surveying the brook trickling between looming office towers, the mayor renewed his pledge to remake the L.A. river as part of an emerald necklace of green spaces across the city. latimesblogs.latimes.com/villaraigosa

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Fleiss flies on: Months after making news with claims she was about to start a male brothel, the notorious ex-Hollywood madame Heidi Fleiss is claiming to have lined up some big-name talent. In an interview with Vegas blogger Richard Abowitz, Fleiss jokes that Mike Tyson could be joining her employ. latimes.com/vegasblog.


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