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Clever idea on paper
February 22, 2001
BY ART GOLAB STAFF REPORTER
Add one more item to the list of things you can use once and throw away: disposable cellular phones. A New Jersey toy inventor has devised a method to make a cell phone out of paper. It's the thickness of three credit cards, with circuits made of metallic ink. "We're printing phones," said Randi Altschul, who patented her paper phone, which she plans to sell for $10, loaded with 60 minutes of talk time. When your time is up, you can toss the phone in the garbage, said Altschul, who lives in Cliffside Park, N.J., and has been inventing toys since the 1980s. She has licensed more than 200 board, card and electronic games, many based on characters like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Power Rangers. She said she has working models and that orders have been coming in for the phones, which she hopes to start shipping in late summer to convenience stores, airport vending machines and other outlets. She's aiming to sell to teenagers, tourists and "people who want convenience," who probably use phone cards now and haven't bought cell phones because they think they're too expensive to use. Former Bell Laboratories scientist and University of Illinois professor Ralph Nuzzo said Altschul's idea could work. "The idea of printing electronics on paper is certainly possible," said Nuzzo, who's a professor of chemistry and materials science and engineering in Champaign. "But I'm not sure whether or not you could get the functionality of a cell phone for 10 dollars. You'd have to leave lots of stuff out." Altschul said her phones lack such features as a digital display and the ability to speed-dial favorite numbers, "but the voice quality is as good as your thousand dollar phone." Users of the paper phones also will be able to buy more calling time by hitting a button on the phone and giving a credit card number, said Altschul. She said the thought of a paper phone came to her four years ago while driving. "I kept losing the cell site, and I wanted to throw my bloody phone out the window," she said. "Then, the idea popped in my head." If the phone thing works out, Altschul has another idea in mind: a paper laptop computer. *** Phone number shortage no problem for disposables So in an era when phone numbers are getting scarce, where might millions of phone numbers be found for use on disposable phones? Paper phone inventor Randi Altschul says that's not a problem with her $10 phones, which, like some pay phones, can't receive incoming calls, so they don't need assigned phone numbers. Finding numbers for a more expensive version of the paper phone that can accept calls is an issue that needs to be worked out with federal regulators, Altschul said. But she's optimistic. "When there's a need, there are ways to do things," she said. One possible answer is already in use by companies that offer pre-paid wireless service on regular cell phones. When the pre-paid minutes are used up and no extra minutes are purchased, "Thirty or 60 days later, that number is recycled," said Travis Larson of the Telecommunications & Internet Association, a group of wireless providers and equipment makers.
Peotone in Ryan budget
February 22, 2001
BY DAVE MCKINNEY AND JAMES FULLER
SUN-TIMES SPRINGFIELD BUREAU SPRINGFIELD--Stoking the debate over a third Chicago airport, Gov. Ryan signaled his intent to begin buying up land for a proposed Peotone facility as part of his nearly $50 billion state budget unveiled Wednesday. After years of stalemate on the pet GOP initiative, the move is sure to set off a vigorous legislative battle this spring over the future of aviation in the Chicago area. But that isn't the only place Ryan might encounter difficulty with his spending priorities. His bid to give public schools the lion's share of new money could be jeopardized by the state's slowing economy, some lawmakers warned. Overall, the budget plan Ryan outlined to a joint session of the General Assembly contained no tax increases or new tax cuts. It represents a 3.2 percent increase in spending over the current year, which is less than half the amount this year's budget jumped from Ryan's first year in office. "Today, I present to you a $49.97 billion state budget for fiscal year 2002 that will continue to improve our schools, create job opportunities, fix our roads, get our children the health care services they need, clean our air and water, and help keep our neighborhoods safe," the governor said. But it was Peotone that got all the attention. For two years, Ryan socked away money to start buying Will County farmland. With former President Bill Clinton holding Peotone in check, no land was bought. Now, with a potentially sympathetic Republican in the White House, Ryan said he has directed his transportation chief, Kirk Brown, to begin buying the land necessary to start the project--even though federal officials haven't completed an environmental impact study of the Will County site. "It's just time that we moved on this," the governor told reporters. "We have a new administration in Washington that I think is conducive to what we're trying to do, and we'll probably get that impact statement sooner rather than later." In his speech, the governor shied away from new O'Hare runways, which long have been viewed as a necessary component for any airport deal in the Legislature. Later, the governor reiterated his opposition to O'Hare expansion but indicated his willingness to talk about the idea with Mayor Daley and other parties. "At this point, everything is on the table, but I'm not convinced that new runways are going to solve our problems. I think the new airport is going to solve our problems," Ryan said. "That's why I'm for Peotone." The governor's initiative prompted a chilly reply from Daley, who has opposed a Peotone airport because of its potential impact on Midway and O'Hare airports and because of continued opposition from the major airlines that use the city's airports. "As I've said many times, I have no objection to the state's acquiring land for an airport. It will be up to the airlines to decide whether they want to finance the construction of a new airport on the site," Daley said in a statement.
CTA union chief may lose job
February 22, 2001
BY ROBERT C. HERGUTH TRANSPORTATION REPORTER
Racially charged statements made by a black transit union leader might cost him his job. Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308 President Jerry Williams Sr. is being accused by dissident John Koldan, who is white, of violating union bylaws that outline official conduct by publicly suggesting Koldan is racist, among other things, sources said Wednesday. Local 308 members--CTA employees working for the agency's rail division-- voted overwhelmingly last week to convene an internal committee to investigate Koldan's complaints that Williams libeled him, the sources said. The panel also would be able to recommend punishments, which could include Williams' removal. Williams said Wednesday he regrets using racially inflammatory language in regards to Koldan, an outspoken critic active in union affairs for years. "It was never my intent to call him racist or Klan," Williams said. "It's something that shouldn't have been said. I think it got a little bit out of context, it was not printed [in union literature] the way it should have been printed. . . . I should have made some corrections, but I didn't do it." Although Williams said he was sorry, he predicted the flap would not knock him from office. Both sides still are squabbling about whether last week's 142-63 vote to effectively impeach Williams constituted a required two-thirds majority, so a decision on the disciplinary committee's formation remains unclear. But the international union will settle the dispute in a day or two, Williams said. Jim LaSala, president of the international, visited town this week to try to smoothe things over, meeting with Williams and Koldan in an attempt to quell the bad publicity generated by the infighting, sources said. LaSala didn't return phone calls, but sources said the meeting wasn't very fruitful. Williams, who is black, has had a tumultuous tenure as union dissidents criticized his leadership, questioning a financial deficit and a proposed land purchase that has drawn the interest of the FBI. Dueling newsletters and fliers have traded accusations for months. In-house charges were brought against Williams by Koldan last month after Williams suggested in print that, among other things, Koldan was part of a racist cadre trying to create disharmony in the 2,400-member union, sources said. A flier obtained by the Sun-Times and signed by Williams mentions Koldan and said "one of the liars that I spoke to you about . . . has finally crawled out from under the rock where he and his little buddies were hiding." In another newsletter from Williams, Koldan isn't named, but Williams said "we know who they are . . . KKK." Williams said such words weren't meant literally. And he said he believes Koldan is behind an anti-Williams newsletter that has been unfairly stirring up members with "lies" about Williams' team. "He wants to run for office, and he'll use anything he can to ignite members," Williams said. Koldan, a CTA supervisor with 22 years at the agency, declined to comment. Meanwhile, Local 308 has been telling its members that a four-year contract has been secured for rank-and-file bus and rail employees. It reportedly includes a $3.20 hourly raise phased in over the life of the deal, a $1,000 one-time stipend and changes to the insurance plan, sources said. CTA President Frank Kruesi, however, said the contract is "not done done," and called the union's pronouncement a "little premature."