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Ted Turner offers view on Iraq, nuclear threat at Toledo event

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Ted Turner responds to questions from the audience at the Rotary Club event at SeaGate Centre.

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Media mogul-turned-philanthropist Ted Turner yesterday gave about 400 people a sample of his wit and wisdom during an hour-long luncheon at the SeaGate Centre sponsored by the Rotary Club of Toledo.

There was no speech.

The noontime event featured Mr. Turner being "interviewed" on stage by Phineas Anderson, the local Rotary president, while the two were seated in padded, high-back chairs.

They stayed there as Mr. Turner fielded questions from the audience on topics from nuclear proliferation to media fairness and waxed poetic about anything from preserving land to promoting renewable energy.

Mr. Turner said he fears the United States is "on the verge of going to war with Iran."

"I know the leadership in Iran is a little bit nutty," he said. "But, uh, how 'bout our leadership?"

He said he was disappointed by President Bush's decision to invade Iraq.

"I don't like war in general and I don't like the war in Iraq in particular. It's a waste of money," he told the crowd.

Later, while addressing reporters, he told The Blade he can't think of a viable way of ending the war. "We shouldn't have been over there in the first place," he said.

The unconventional format was both a blessing and a curse.

It was a blessing in that organizers had to come up with something quick because of Sunday's fire at the Park Inn, where the event was supposed to be held. Though the blaze was confined to a transformer in an underground vault, it caused enough smoke for the building to be evacuated that day and for the event to be moved to the SeaGate next door.

The SeaGate's acoustics and echo, though, made it harder for Mr. Turner, 68, to hear questions, even from people talking into a microphone just a few feet away. Mr. Turner said he has suffered hearing loss in recent years.

Mr. Anderson, who helped him by repeating each question, said there would have been less of a communication problem if they had been able to use the Park Inn.

Mr. Turner, the maverick CNN founder who once presided over a cable TV empire while owning the Atlanta Braves baseball team and being one of the nation's highest-profile yachtsmen, congratulated former Vice President Al Gore for winning an Oscar in the Best Documentary category for An Inconvenient Truth.

He called former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev the 20th century's most important figure for ending the Cold War peacefully.

He encouraged people to help end nuclear proliferation through a group called the Nuclear Threat Initiative, founded by himself and former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn (D., Ga.).

Now supported by billionaire investor Warren Buffett and other high-profile figures, the Nuclear Threat Initiative brought Mr. Turner to Mr. Anderson. Mr. Anderson, the retired head of Maumee Valley Country Day School, has been raising money for it locally.

Mr. Turner has pledged $1 billion of his own fortune to the United Nations Foundation for projects that promote a more peaceful, prosperous, and just world.

He said the world's biggest problems are: nuclear proliferation, climate change, the loss of tropical rain forests and other natural resources, and population growth.

Contact Tom Henry at:

thenry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6079.

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