On Display: Lead Feet and Big Mouths

July 19, 2007

Would you fight a speeding ticket, or would you just keep your mouth shut and pay it?

Central New Yorkers who choose excuses and explanations over a guilty plea will become time-fillers on cable TV tonight at 8, when Court TV returns to traffic court in Ithaca for two back-to-back episodes of “Speeders”:

traffic-stop.jpgShow spokesman Susan Ievoli related highlights of the two previous episodes that featured Ithaca.
On the June 28 episode, a cosmetology student, pulled over for speeding to class, explains that she doesn’t have her license on her because it’s in a different purse that didn’t match her outfit, Ievoli said.

On the July 5 episode, a college student pulled over for speeding “goes on and on about his hatred for cops and how he tries to beat the broken system,” Ievoli said.

Tonight’s episode will be the third time Ithaca has been on the program, Ievoli said, and it will feature a young woman speeding to a first date, and a speeder who says that he “is rushing to a job site before the concrete dries.”

The Ithaca Journal

Excuses, excuses. At least in CNY, convicted speeders usually don’t have to empty their bank accounts. The New York Times tells us today of outrage in Virginia, where fines for speeding 20 miles per hour or more over the limit were recently raised to as much as $2,500, to pay for road construction. There’s so much anger, that the state legislature is thinking about repeal.

Whatever the fine structure, it seems like most of us feel the same way about speeding: As long as it’s somebody else who gets pulled over and has to pay the penalty, that’s just… well, fine.


Sundaes On Wednesday

July 11, 2007

Sundaes are good on any day of hot summer weather, and when you’re publicizing a community, any additional claim to fame puts a cherry on top of your campaign.

So Ithaca, on Wednesday, July 18th, will serve up 3,000 free cherry sundaes, hoping to cement (or maybe freeze) in place its claim of being the birthplace of this celebrated stack of ice cream, fruit and syrup.

cherrysundae.jpg The sundae claim garnered national media attention in 2006 as Ithaca and Two Rivers, Wis., waged a tongue-in-cheek summer-long, publicity generating battle over who can claim origins of the sundae. Earlier this year, Ithaca High School seniors Meredith Buchberg and Laura Willemsen unearthed more evidence supporting Ithaca’s claim to the first sundae, at the former Platt & Colt’s pharmacy, and refuting Two Rivers’ claim, though the Wisconsin city also had its own sundae event.

Sundae Dinner will feature original Ithaca “Cherry Sundays.” The historic treat will be recreated using ingredients that closely match the homemade original—premium Purity vanilla ice cream and imported Fabbri Amarena cherries. Ice cream fans who want a modern sundae should BYO chocolate, nuts and whipped cream.

The Ithaca Journal

They’ll serve up the “Sundae Dinner” from 7 to 9pm on the 18th, as part of a downtown summer concert by a Louisiana Zydeco band. The ice cream treats are officially free, but if those enjoying them make a small donation to ease hunger, it’ll put a cherry on top of the whole event for its sponsors, and for people in need.


State Capitol Gangs Go To War

July 6, 2007

No sooner does “The Sopranos” end, than another drama of petty but dangerous dealings and small-time intrigue begins. It’s already on its way to becoming a long-running saga: the feud between Joe “The Horse” Bruno and Eliot “Steamroller” Spitzer.

Eliot offered Joe a sitdown the other day about dividing up their territory and getting on with business, but they don’t even agree on where Steamroller wanted to hold the meet, and Horse raised the ante with charges that Spitzer had put the law on him:

brunospitzer.jpgThe meeting never happened, and the two men are continuing to feud after Mr. Spitzer’s staff suggested Mr. Bruno may have improperly used State Police escorts and helicopters and Mr. Bruno then suggested that Mr. Spitzer was spying on him.
The state inspector general said she would investigate Mr. Bruno’s allegations that the Spitzer administration used the State Police to “conduct surveillance” of his whereabouts.
The governor’s staff vigorously disputed the allegations but agreed to allow the inspector general, Kristine Hamann, an appointee of the governor, to review the matter. Mr. Bruno, the Senate majority leader, has also called for the attorney general and the Albany County district attorney to convene grand juries to investigate potential criminal wrongdoing.

The New York Times

Possible storyline for the next episode: Joe and Eliot try to get each other impeached, and end up exposing the crimes of assembly leader Sheldon “The Accountant” Silver. Watch as cop confusion ensues, with FBI agents who’ve been probing Bruno’s business dealings for more than a year, tripping over the State Police who are driving him around (or maybe spying on him), and investigators for the Albany County D.A.’s office, pursuing a grand jury investigation, add to the merry mixup.

The moral of the story, “Sopranos” fans, is that power struggles can be fun to watch. But when our top bosses go to the mattresses, public service goes to sleep with the fishes.

Peace Message In Motion

July 1, 2007

A 15 year old boy from Ithaca is very dedicated to the cause of peace. No need to stop the presses for that bit of news. But he has stopped hundreds of thousands of people in their tracks- for a few minutes each- with the way he’s getting his message out.

Trevor Dougherty uploaded “Stand Up For World Peace” to YouTube on June 18th. And his work of stop-motion animation quickly captured the world’s attention.

Before success with “Stand Up for World Peace,” Dougherty was selected to be a guest editor by You Tube — a role that allowed him to choose the videos featured on the Web site’s front page for four consecutive days in late May. He credits persistence to his success in moving up out of the mire of videos on the Web site to being featured on the front page.

Dougherty and his parents lived in Pretoria, South Africa, before moving to Ithaca three years ago, where his father worked as the director of development and communication for Habitat for Humanity in Africa and the Middle East.

“I saw a lot of things you don’t see in the United States when I lived in South Africa,” Dougherty said. “I feel the need to help people who are suffering.”

The Ithaca Journal

If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s what Trevor and some friends came up with, at his home in Cayuga Heights:

[YouTube= http://youtube.com/watch?v=cVe_IuhffDs%5D

Tainted Toothpaste Keeps Turning Up

June 28, 2007

It proves how just one contaminated product, turned loose on the world, almost takes on a life of its own.

Toothpaste from China, contaminated with poisonous diethylene glycol by greedy, corner-cutting manufacturers, keeps turning up all over the place:

pacifictoothpaste.jpgAfter federal health officials discovered last month that tainted Chinese toothpaste had entered the United States, they warned that it would most likely be found in discount stores.

In fact, the toothpaste has been distributed much more widely. Roughly 900,000 tubes containing a poison used in some antifreeze products have turned up in hospitals for the mentally ill, prisons, juvenile detention centers and even some hospitals serving the general population.

The toothpaste was handed out in dozens of state institutions, mostly in Georgia but also in North Carolina, according to state officials. Hospitals in South Carolina and Florida also reported receiving Chinese-made toothpaste, and a major national pharmaceutical distributor said it was recalling tainted Chinese toothpaste.

The New York Times

The Chinese government doesn’t want to poison us; it wants to keep the huge profits from trade with the U.S. rolling in. But recent signs of game-playing- shutting out some U.S. exports to China for minor or imagined defects- is not the way to solve this thing. Only strict enforcement of product safety standards in both countries can restore consumer confidence and, most importantly, protect health and lives.

Fayetteville Bags L.L. Bean

June 26, 2007

A pleasant surprise for CNY shoppers– an L.L. Bean outlet store- the first in New York State- will open at the Fayetteville Towne Center in late September.

llbean.gif“Store Front” columnist Bob Niedt has the details in this morning’s Post Standard. This will not be a tiny space, at 15,000 square feet in the former Thomasville furniture store, and will sell closeout items at a discount, along with regular merchandise featured in the Bean print and Web catalogues, and the flagship store up in Freeport, Maine.

As the Circus noted recently, the arrival of brick-and-mortar Beans in New York means the end of a sales tax break for local customers of this retailing institution, but it’ll be fun to have them in the neighborhood.

And of course, you have to wonder what Bob “Destiny” Congel is thinking about COR Development, owners of Towne Center, bagging Bean before he could line up a branch of the venerable outdoor retailer for Carousel Center, or one of his other mall properties. Then there’s Macerich Companies, which has a Bean store in Virginia and may have hoped to add one to a rebuilt Shoppingtown in DeWitt. Now, with an outlet coming to Fayetteville, just a couple of miles away, that’s not gonna happen.

“I’m Your Smarter Brother”

June 25, 2007

It stirred a lot of interest worldwide last week, along with discussion, jokes, and maybe a few hard feelings among members of individual families: The finding by Norwegian researchers that first-born siblings have higher IQs than the sisters and brothers who follow them.

Now, comes the inevitable second wave of analysis: If this is true- and it is based on ten years’ worth of intelligence tests and family records from the 1960s and 70s- what are the underlying reasons?

familysilhouette.jpgPsychologists say that filling the role of the responsible firstborn, while important to academic achievement, still does not account for eldest children’s higher average scores on intelligence tests. Robert Zajonc, a psychologist at Stanford University, has argued that in fact having a younger sibling or two diminishes the overall intellectual environment for eldest children — who otherwise would be benefiting from the rich vocabulary and undivided attention of parents.

This helps explain why, under the age of 12, younger siblings actually outshine older ones on I.Q. tests.

Something else is at work, Dr. Zajonc said, and he has found evidence that tutoring — a natural role for older siblings — benefits the teacher more than it does the student. “Explaining something to a younger sibling solidifies your knowledge and allows you to grow more extensively,” he said.

The New York Times

By that reckoning, the oldest child becomes a kind of “senior partner” with his or her parents in bringing the younger siblings along toward success in school, and eventually responsible adulthood. Rather than being a reason for jealousy, maybe it’s a reason for gratitude: to an older sibling who helped, or a younger one who helped with a first-born child’s own education and confidence.

And that IQ advantage? The study says it’s only three points. As older children age and start losing brain cells, the younger ones won’t have far to go in catching up. And they, in the end, will be the smarter ones.