D.C. in brief

Journalists discuss 2004 election

A group of political correspondents said the 2004 presidential election will be one of the closest in history at a panel discussion at the National Press Club last week.

The pundits spoke to about 200 people at a March 29 installment of the GW-sponsored Kalb Report, which is named after its moderator, renowned journalist Marvin Kalb.

“It’s going to be a one- or two-point election,” said Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for USA Today. “Wouldn’t you be surprised if someone won with 55 percent of the vote?”

Panelists said they based their predictions by visiting swing states and talking to residents there. Peter Maer, CBS News White House correspondent, said he expects some Republicans to vote for Sen. John Kerry, the probable Democratic nominee, this November.

“One man told me, ‘I’ve always voted Republican, but this time I’m not. I don’t like being conned, and I’ve been conned about weapons of mass destruction,'” said Maer, referring to the failure to find biological and chemical weapons in Iraq.

Ron Fournier, head White House correspondent for the Associated Press, said voters would focus on the quality of Iraqi war intelligence and an economy that is not as strong as it was during President Clinton’s tenure.

He also said voters will be particularly interested in the findings of the September 11 commission and allegations by Richard Clarke, a former White House aide who said that President George W. Bush ignored warnings about the terrorist attacks.

“These allegations cut at the heart of President Bush’s strong suit: the war on terrorism,” he said in an interview after the event. “Anything that undermines that is pretty dangerous.”

The panelists also commented on the Bush administration’s campaign to discredit Clarke’s allegations. In recent weeks, administration officials have appeared in a variety of television interviews to refute Clarke’s claims.

“The amount of time that top presidential aides have spent on this issue … is suggesting they are scared,” Maer said.

-Ryan Holeywell

Georgetown theater to install closed captioning devices

Georgetown’s Loews Cineplex will be one of 12 District-area movie theaters to provide captioning for the deaf following a preliminary court settlement last week.

The tentative agreement stems from a class-action lawsuit filed against the AMC and Loews Cineplex chains, which deaf rights activists said have failed to make captioning available in its theaters. A federal judge will need to sign off on the agreement before captioning devices in 12 theaters in D.C., Maryland and Virginia can be installed, The Washington Post reported.

Using a system called rear-window captioning, viewers will be able to read subtitles that flash on a plexi-glass screen attached to their cup holders, The Post reported. The system will not affect the way non-deaf filmgoers watch a movie.

Aaron Fudenske, who is deaf, told the federal judge presiding over the case that the settlement gives “a real benefit now” to the approximately 120,000 deaf people living in the United States, according to The Post.

“If we wait, go to trial … it may be five or seven more years before I can go to a first-run American film,” said Fudenske, who testified through a sign-language interpreter, The Post reported. “By then, my daughter will be older, and I’ll miss seven more years of movies with her.”

In addition to Loews’ Georgetown theater, movie houses in Union Station, Mazza Galleria and Tenleytown will be installing the equipment.

-Michael Barnett

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