Monday, December 10, 2007

We're moving!

On the Record has evolved.

We've got a new home at WordPress; we hope you'll stop by. The new site has a much cleaner look and some cool new features. It'll also help us grow our web offerings in the months ahead.

We have a new feed, so make sure to change your feed subscription if you read us by RSS.

If you don't - try it! Then you can keep up with us even more easily.

Not to worry - our archives will still be accessible on our new Web page.

All the best,

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Law blog round-up

Here's an instructive anecdote about two lawyers talking capital gains and child support over coffee. The upshot: judges must consider recent capital gains in any requested recalculation of child support but are not required to then factor them into a revised support amount.

A bit about blog law on a law blog: The Volokh Conspiracy speculates about the differing levels of protection various media may have against charges that they - Canada's McClean's magazine, in this case - are publishing hate speech.

Today from the Supreme Court: Below-guidelines sentencing is OK in certain cases. Most notably for cities like Baltimore, judges can consider the disparity in prescribed punishment for crack cocaine vs. powder cocaine crimes.

-BRENDAN KEARNEY, Legal Affairs Writer

Quoth the Ravens: Never more … is football a club just for men

I used to hate football. I used to loathe Sundays when the television was commandeered for hours on end of what appeared to be mere chest-thumping male chauvinism.

Then, one day, I decided to stop ignoring it and to start asking questions. And as it turns out, men really love to talk about football.

What does it mean to be “2nd and 2”?
Do you need both feet in for a catch to count?
What is a safety?
Why did the ref stop the play with a flag?
What makes the special teams “special”?

Through this process I learned many things, but most importantly I learned how much I truly love the strategy, hard hits, story lines, play calling (sometimes), and fan and community camaraderie that all come with football.

I thought I was an anomaly, but 46 percent of Ravens fans are female. More than ever, women are putting down their apron, donning a jersey and trekking out to M&T Bank Stadium for the beer-drinking, brat-eating and touchdown-cheering revelry that is football.

This has not gone unnoticed by the Baltimore Ravens, who hold an annual Football 101 Festival for women and recently introduced a women-only fan club called Purple. But if you ask me, we women already enjoy plenty of perk without a special fan club.

For instance, our wait to get in the stadium or use the restroom is considerably shorter than that of our male counterparts. When my boyfriend and I attended training camp, he received one autograph and I received six. Women even save money on jerseys by purchasing them in youth sizes.

Really though, the biggest perk is standing in the stadium, wearing a Ray Lewis jersey, screaming out the players names (“Reeeeeeeed”) and being a part of a club that is bigger than just football. And I, for one, am glad that it’s coed.

Any fellow female fans care to share their love of the game?

-EMILY ARNOLD, Special Publications Editor

Friday, December 7, 2007

Pearl Harbor attack remembered at Port of Baltimore


This morning, the Baltimore Maritime Museum and Port of Baltimore commemorated the 66th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor aboard the United States Coast Guard Cutter Taney.

The USCGC Taney, the last surviving warship still afloat from the attack of Pearl Harbor, hosts one of the largest commemorations in the country annually on December 7th. Every year, survivors attend the ceremony to remember “the day that will live in infamy” and to share their personal accounts with others.

Above, WWII Pear Harbor survivors onboard the USCG Taney, left to right: Edward Robertson, Thomas Talbott, and Warren Coligny. Photos by Eric Stocklin.

Baltimore: Middle of the drunken pack

Well, it could have been better, but it could have been worse. Baltimore is the 46th safest drunken city in a recent survey by Men’s Health magazine. Not bad out of 100.

The survey, which is being reported by KNBC in Los Angeles, looked at drunken driving, liver disease, and other alcohol-induced crimes. But seriously folks, I have never felt that Baltimore is a city that drinks to excess, though we are prone to a certain type of brew.

However, some of our neighbors are more extreme examples from the survey. Richmond, Va. was the ninth best, while Washington was the eighth-worst.

So what do you think? Is Baltimore really that much safer than Washington when it comes to alcohol consumption?

-ANDY ROSEN, Business Writer

Give me the holiday experience, or not

With holiday shopping now hitting a fever pitch, shopping centers are doing everything they can to lure consumers and get them to stay and shop longer. Examples include the ubiquitous Santa’s Villages and traditional dressings of the season.

Baltimore-based marketing firm the Becker Group takes it one step further and gives its clients everything from 70-foot trees to interactive 20-foot high snow globes, with the goal of making a mall’s common space an immersive holiday experience for busy families.

How important is this to you? Sure, you can pop in and out of free-standing Target or Best Buy, but would it be a better experience to trundle the family up and head to the mall to enjoy the atmosphere instead?

-BEN MOOK, Assistant Business Editor

Women who launch businesses explain motivation

No surprise here: a survey has found that the desire for work-life balance and the ability to self-manage were the reasons women wanted to start their own businesses.

This summer’s Make Mine a Million $ Business survey sent voluntary e-mail questionnaires to women registered on the organization’s Web site. Almost two-thirds of the women who participated in the survey said they were mothers.

“After having a successful career in corporate America, I wanted to create some options,” said Maureen Borzacchiello, president of Creative Display Solutions, a West Hempstead, N.Y.-based firm. “It was (about) taking control of my life and being able to say, ‘If I want to have a child and work part-time or work at 2 in the morning, I have that option.’”

Make Mine a Million $ Business is a program that sponsors contests and provides financing, mentoring and workshops to help women entrepreneurs reach $1 million in annual revenues.

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Comcast rolls out yule log in HD

Comcast wants you to know that the “cultural viewing phenomenon” of the yule log will be available this holiday season, in HD.

That’s right - through January 4, Greater Baltimore area customers can watch the yule log on their televisions at any time … even, as Comcast suggests, “as the backdrop for a weekend holiday party or on Christmas morning as families open their presents.”

It will be a high-tech log: the newly-produced version was filmed in 1080i picture and Dolby 5.1 sound.

According to the cable provider, last year Comcast customers viewed the yule log in HD more than twice the number of times as the standard-definition version.

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

The jobs of the future

We’re going to need more makeup artists in the future (high-def TV, you know). Financial advisors, too. By the year 2016, we’ll be crawling with ‘em.

At least, according to the Department of Labor, which released a 10-year forecast for the hottest 30 occupations in the near future.

Of note: information technology folks (of course), home health care workers (to care for aging Baby Boomers).

Of interest: theatrical and performance makeup artists, veterinarians and gaming surveillance officers.

Other expectations: minorities will make up a greater percentage of the workforce, and seniors will work longer.

Click here to read the full list.

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Patriots-Ravens game draws largest-ever cable audience

Even though the home team wasn’t victorious, the Baltimore Ravens may be able to find solace at the top of the cable ratings.

Monday night’s game on ESPN averaged more than 12.5 million homes and 17.5 million viewers, the largest audience yet on cable.

Alright, maybe the Patriots had something to do with it, too.

The AP reports:

The previous highs were 11.8 million households for last year’s Giants-Cowboys “Monday Night Football” game and 17.2 million viewers for Disney Channel’s “High School Musical 2″ movie in August.

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

UMd. dubbed one of the "ugliest" college campuses

If you attended the University of Maryland at College Park, as I did, you might be used to defending your alma mater to outsiders after gameday riots or the like.

But this is a new one to me: the blog Campus Squeeze has listed UMd. as No. 20 on the Top 20 Ugliest Colleges in the USA (hey, at least we're better than Rutgers, listed as No. 19).

Drew University in New Jersey also made the list at No. 11, NC State is No. 7 and the No. 1 "most ugly" college: Drexel University in Philadelphia.

I always thought Maryland's campus - while not in the best of neighborhoods - was beautiful. Anyone feel its position on this list is justified?

Which Maryland campuses are the nicest? The least attractive?

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

St. Mary's newspaper runs sobering ad for coffin giveaway

Talk about shock value.

The St. Mary's Today newspaper has run an ad announcing a "free coffin giveaway" to the first drunk driver to kill himself or herself this holiday season.

Editor Ken Rossignol, whose brother was killed by a drunk driver in 1975, has long crusaded against drinking and driving.

Here's the text of the advertisement:
Free Coffin Giveaway to the 1st DRUNK DRIVER TO KILL THEMSELVES DURING THIS HOLIDAY DRINKING AND DRIVING SEASON! Tired of all the nagging of loved ones, stupid commercials from MADD, cops, judges and addiction counselors? Throw a final bender this Christmas and get a cheaper funeral by being the ST. MARY'S TODAY Christmas Party DWI Dead Driver Winner! We will throw in a FREE wooden coffin...however, you could just call a cab and save us the pile of scrap lumber.

As you can imagine, news outlets like WJLA, Newschannel 8 and USA Today have expressed interest in the story.

St. Mary's Today also regularly prints the names of those arrested for Driving While Intoxicated in Southern Maryland.

Thanks to The Law & Lawyers Blog for the tip.

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Choosing a new chief judge

OK, I confess: I'm a law dork. It's hard not to get sucked into law-dorkdom when you've covered Maryland's legal community for the past couple of years.

Anyway, because of my dork status, I've been thinking a lot today about who will replace Judge Joe Murphy as chief of the Court of Special Appeals.

UB law prof Byron Warnken suggested to me yesterday that the governor would probably pick someone who has been on the court a while, but not someone who is too close to retirement. If we're talking about judges who will reach the mandatory retirement age soon, that eliminates Judges Davis, Salmon and Sharer, all of whom will turn 70 in the next three years.

On the other end of the spectrum, using a three-year cut-off would eliminate only the court's newest member, Judge Woodward, who was appointed in May 2005.

Warnken also seems to believe that Judge Adkins will likely win the retiring Judge Cathell's seat on the Court of Appeals, and that Judge Barbera is heavily favored for the Court of Appeals seat that Judge Raker will vacate in April, so he thinks they are not likely candidates for the chief judge spot.

That leaves five possibilities: judges Hollander, the two Eylers, Krauser and Meredith.

Do you agree with this list? Anyone have any guesses about whom the governor might favor? (For the record, Warnken predicts James Eyler.)

-CARYN TAMBER, Legal Affairs Writer

Maryland man sues Borat

Maryland driving instructor Michael Psenicska is suing the makers of the movie "Borat," alleging that the producers lied to him about the motives for the film.

Psenicska, who is a high school math teacher in Baltimore, has owned a driving school in Perry Hall for 32 years. The lawsuit seeks $100,000 in compensatory damages and unspecified punitive damages.

From the AP:

Psenicska's lawsuit says Fox and Cohen fraudulently induced him to sign documents approving his appearance in "Borat" just before he was filmed giving Cohen's Borat Sagdiyev character a driving lesson.

According to the lawsuit, the film's staffers had promised they were producing a documentary about the integration of foreign people into the American way of life, a subject that interested Psenicska because he was in the business of teaching foreigners to drive.

Yet, it says, when filming began, Borat did a hugging and kissing routine, struggled with his seat belt like a child, drove on the wrong side of the road, made ethnic slurs, said women had small brains and rolled down a window and offered a female pedestrian $10 for "sexy time."

Twentieth Century Fox spokesman Gregg Brilliant said Psenicska consented to the filming.

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

New Maryland political Web site has deep pockets

Last week I was asked, "Are you a Maryland political insider?"

The query came from the Observer Media Group in the form of a promotional e-mail for PolitickerMD.com, a new online presence in a modest niche - Maryland government and politics.

The editor, "Wally Edge," promises "original reporting, analysis, commentary, rumors" and more - covered "from Maryland by Marylanders."

But here's where it gets even more interesting: one local blogger isn't so sure about the "local coverage."

Adam Pagnucco writes on Maryland Politics Watch that the Observer Media Group, which also operates PoliticsNJ.com, is owned by Jared Kushner, a wealthy 20-something from New Jersey whose family has made a bundle in real estate. Kushner made headlines when he bought the New York Observer in 2006.

And New Jersey and Maryland aren't the only Kushner-owned political blogs out there.

Pagnucco also notes the many campaign contributions that Kushner has made to politicians, mostly Democratic, especially New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey.

So what do you think? Are you a "Maryland political insider" and will you be checking out this Web site?

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

How long did it take you to get to work?

A local radio DJ noted this morning that if the government ever decided to do away with waterboarding, the form of torture could easily be replaced by a snowy commute.

I've got two and a half hours, from Bethesda to Baltimore - but I know someone out there can beat that.

Did anyone have better luck with public transit?

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Please don't foul the P.A. announcer


Philip Hochberg, the lawyer and longtime P.A. announcer profiled in Monday's Maryland Lawyer, showed his true grit last weekend at the BB&T Classic basketball tournament in Washington, D.C.
(Hochberg, a sports lawyer, announced Redskins games for 38 years until 2001 and has announced George Washington University basketball games and University of Maryland football games for more than 30 years.)

While announcing the Maryland game against Virginia Commonwealth University Sunday night, Hochberg became an innocent bystander in a crash collision between Terp Bambale Osby and the scorer's table. Hochberg put his left arm up when he saw the 6'8", 250-pound center falling toward him, but it was clearly an unfair fight.

I'm sure the BB&T crowd would have forgiven the 65-year-old an "injury time out" from his announcing duties, but the old pro went right on calling the game while the medics bandaged up his swollen and bleeding hand. Talk about tough!

The Terps didn't fare any better - they lost to VCU, 85-76. Hochberg reported Tuesday that his hand is still swollen but at least he's getting a free DVD of the collision from the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, which aired the game and replayed the scene on its sports show.

"It's the first time in 50 years of doing basketball P.A. that that's happened," Hochberg wrote in an e-mail. "I'll survive."

IĆ­ll bet you lawyers out there have some stories of your own about unusual injuries on the job - care to share?

-LIZ FARMER, Legal Affairs Writer

Have you switched to LED holiday lights?

The National Zoo is touting the use of environmentally-friendly LED lights in its holiday displays. "Zoolights," which runs through Dec. 30, has "larger-than-life displays" of many of the Zoo's popular critters.

And (wee!) sponsor Pepco "will educate visitors about simple practices they can adopt in their households to save energy."

Have you used these LED lights on your home or Christmas tree? How do they look?

National Geographic says that if everyone replaced their conventional holiday light strings with LEDs, at least two billion kilowatt-hours of electricity could be saved in a month - enough to power 200,000 homes for a year.

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

D.C., Baltimore score points for walkability

A report to be released today by the Brookings Institution ranks the Washington, D.C. region as the nation's most walkable.

And guess which city placed No. 15? Yep, the home of the Ravens - Baltimore.

Christopher Leinberger, a real estate developer and urban planner who conducted the study, counted the number of "regional-serving walkable urban places" in each of 30 metropolitan areas in the U.S. (By "regional-serving" he meant to exclude so-called "bedroom communities." The area had to have jobs, retail or cultural institutions that draw people in).

And even though many people's guess for the top spot would go to the Big Apple, the Wasington region outranked New York on a per-capita basis, with one walkable place for every 264,000 people. At No. 15, Baltimore placed behind Pittsburgh (No. 9) and Philadelphia (No. 13).

From the story:

Leinberger attributes Washington's success with walkability to several factors, including a large population of 20- and 30-somethings and recent strong economic growth. But the chief factor, he said, is the success of the Metro. The 31-year-old rail system has transformed the region, shaping development and making the walkable urban model more viable.

Like Washington, does Baltimore need a stronger rail system to move higher up the list?

Which neighborhoods in the Baltimore area would you consider walkable? Mount Vernon? Federal Hill? Hampden? Let us know.

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Short-listed for the Court of Special Appeals

As we reported Friday, the Appellate Judicial Nominating Commission whittled down the whopping list of candidates for the Court of Special Appeals to eight.

I’m wondering what everyone out there thinks of the names that were passed along to the gov. Anyone who applied and should’ve made the commission’s cut but didn’t? Anyone on the short list who doesn’t belong there?

It looks like O’Malley will have his work cut out for him because there are some very well-respected names on the list. O’Malley also has ample chance here to increase female representation on the court, which, as my colleague Brendan Kearney pointed out last month, is not proportional. I’ll also point out that the gov has a shot at appointing the first black woman judge on the Court of Special Appeals.

-CARYN TAMBER, Legal Affairs Writer

Monday, December 3, 2007

AT&T to hang up on pay phones – but is anyone listening?

When was the last time you used a pay phone?

AT&T is betting that you’re so attached to your iPhone that you can’t remember.

The company announced today that it will disconnect from its share of the pay phone business by the end of 2008.

And – get this – InformationWeek reports AT&T expects “independent providers” to fill the service gap.

Maybe they’d be interested in a story our own Ben Mook wrote last year, when he reported that larger companies operated almost 90 percent of the pay phones in the state. (In Maryland, Verizon has by far the lion’s share of the industry).

There’s no question the industry’s declined: WaPo reported that the number of pay phones dropped by 50 percent in Maryland between 2000 and 2006, down to 24,784 from 43,336.

In his story, Ben even quoted Mason Harris, president of Rockville’s Robin Technologies Inc.: “The industry has gotten very uncompetitive for the independent businessperson,” Harris said in 2006. “It’s just not a level playing field.”

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Law blog round-up

Here are a few law links for your blustery Monday morning:

-The Supremes won’t hear (PDF) Maryland v. Paulino (PDF), a.k.a. the buttocks case. That means the Court of Appeals’ decision stands; the court voted 4-3 in June to throw out the drug conviction of a man whose buttocks cleavage was searched by police at a car wash.

-A gay Iranian man from Rockville apparently faces deportation. According to an article in the Gay City News, Hassan Parhizkar’s immigration problems stem from him hiring a man he thought was a lawyer, but who was allegedly a con man posing as an attorney, to handle his initial claim for political asylum.

-17-year-olds can no longer vote in the Maryland primaries, complains WaPo letter-writer.

-A New York judge has pledged not to shave until state judges there, who make $136,000 a year and haven’t gotten a raise in nine years, get a salary hike.

-CARYN TAMBER, Legal Affairs Writer

Video-sharing Web sites become a science

If you think YouTube is not credible enough or too cluttered to be of use to you (or you're worried about pesky copyright laws), you might be interested in SciVee.

The video-sharing startup is designed to give scientists a venue to share their lab discoveries and lectures in a receptive online environment. And today, SciVee enters the beta phase.

The AP reports:

Funded by the National Science Foundation, SciVee encourages scholars with a paper hot off the press to make a short video called a "pubcast" highlighting the key points. It also accepts unsolicited submissions that have no connection to any published work.

Phil Bourne (above right), a pharmacologist at UC San Diego, launched SciVee this summer after seeing his students hooked on YouTube. Bourne wanted a reputable virtual place where researchers could trade techniques without the potpourri of topics found on general video-sharing sites. "It's quite a quantum leap for scientists to present their research in this way," Bourne said.


But hey, check out the videos for yourself. And let us know what you think.




-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Army, Navy rally at Inner Harbor

In preparation for today's Army/Navy game, to be held at M&T Bank Stadium, there was a pep rally Friday afternoon at the Inner Harbor. Mayor Sheila Dixon was in attendance, as were the Army and Navy bands and supporters.

Photographer Rich Dennison was there to capture the event.


Friday, November 30, 2007

High speed Navy ship docks at Inner Harbor

The HSV-2 Swift, a 323-foot U.S. Navy high-speed vessel, docked by the Visitor’s Center at the Inner Harbor Friday.

You can visit the ship, which is in Baltimore as part of the Army-Navy game festivities, from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Monday. It is scheduled to leave Tuesday.

-ERIC STOCKLIN, Photographer

Wisp opens for the season


Maryland's only ski resort said it will open Saturday.

The Wisp resort at Deep Creek Lake has been making snow for about three weeks and has produced enough to blanket several of its beginner and intermediate trails.

Beside skiing, Wisp has a new attraction called a "mountain coaster." Spokeswoman Lori Epps says it's a cross between a roller coaster and an alpine slide that allows people to ride on rails down Marsh Mountain.

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Photograph by Eric Stocklin.

Fewer holiday parties on the calendar

Here at The Daily Record, there’s been a lot of talk lately about office holiday parties. We published a guide for throwing one in our post-Thanksgiving issue; we also compiled a Holiday Gift Guide; our own fiesta is next Friday, at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

But not every employee has a raucous party to look forward to this year.

Inc.com reports that fewer employers are throwing holiday parties this year due to “growing economic uncertainties.”

Only 85 of 100 leading businesses surveyed said a celebration was in the works – the third-lowest level since 1991.

Of the parties that will be held, only half will be in the evening and just two-thirds will offer holiday spirits.

Bah, humbug.

Thanks to our sister blog in Long Island for the link.

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

In memory of Delegate Jane Lawton

The Town of Chevy Chase has sent out notice of a memorial service for Delegate Jane Lawton, D-Montgomery, which will take place on Sunday afternoon in Bethesda.

The town asks for contributions in memory of Delegate Lawton to be made to memorial funds in her name at The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Montgomery County Abused Persons Program.

For additional information on the service, visit www.janelawton.org.

If you had any interactions with Delegate Lawton or views on her accomplishments, please share them.

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Photo courtesy janelawton.org.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The world of sports: Billionaires vs. billionaires

When Major League Baseball’s players went on strike, the question was whether you wanted to support the millionaires or the billionaires.

Now, in the case of the NFL Network vs. Humongous Cable Companies (including Comcast, Cablevision and Time Warner), you can decide between billionaires and billionaires.

It’s really hard — at least for me — to want either side to win.

When the NFL started the NFL Network in November 2003, the big issue was on what level of service it would be carried by cable systems. Basically, the NFL wanted its network to be included on service levels that cable customers didn’t have to pay extra for. The cable operators, on the other hand, wanted to place the NFL Network on “sports tiers” that customers had to buy.

The dispute caused the NFL Network to be originally carried only on DirecTV and a handful of small cable systems.

Eventually, the NFL and the Humongous Cable Companies struck an agreement, and for a couple of years the NFL Network was available on lesser tiers. This summer, however, Humongous Cable Companies moved the network to premium services, which cost customers an extra $2 to $8 per month.

(I left out many details, but, believe me, you really don’t care about them.)

So now you’re up to date.

And, unless you’re paying extra for it, you’ll need to listen to tonight’s game between the 10-1 Dallas Cowboys and the 10-1 Green Bay Packers on WBAL radio or go to your favorite sports bar.

What’s your opinion on who’s to blame?

—ED WALDMAN, Managing Editor/Business

Survey: Even at highest levels, women lawyers earn less

A new study (PDF) says female equity partners earn a lot less than male equity partners — nearly $90,000 a year less than their male counterparts’ median of $625,000. Though to someone making a reporter’s salary, $537,000 a year is a princely (princessly?) sum, this is still really not cool.

Anyone out there have any thoughts on the disparity, its causes and possible fixes?

-CARYN TAMBER, Legal Affairs Writer

Air the turtle!

Being a biased University of Maryland-College Park graduate, I’ve always wondered why no local TV affiliates have ever worked out an agreement with the school to broadcast Terrapin football and basketball games. It seems like it would be a good move to grab some ratings and boost the number of viewers for whichever channel chose to be so bold.

Even despite an endless line of injuries, the football program and Coach Friedgen just clinched a bowl bid in a must-win game; the men’s basketball team and red-faced Gary Williams are always entertaining; and last but definitely not least, the Lady Terps are wearing out opponents on the hardcourt on their way to an early 9-0 record and No. 3 ranking nationwide — all with Coach Brenda Frese expecting twins very soon.

There are a lot of Terp supporters who I’m sure would like to see more airtime for their fearsome turtles, especially with the Ravens season being dead in the water and the baseball team that plays across the street from them in its usual state of disarray. Just consider that there have been multiple bowl appearances in the past five years for the football team, a men’s national basketball championship in 2002, and a women’s national basketball championship in 2006.

Am I a delusional sports fan, or do local networks really “fear the turtle” enough to make them nonexistent on the airwaves?

-FRANCIS SMITH, Special Publications Assistant Editor

Just how big was Bromwell’s break?

State Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell, who admitted dealing in favors, got a six-month break on the start date of his 7-year prison term. But lawyers for Bromwell and his wife, Mary Patricia (who faces her own year-and-a-day term), say it’s a matter of special circumstances, not special treatment, since the couple’s two youngest children are just 11 and 14 years old.

Even Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathleen O. Gavin, who prosecuted the case, agreed that such an allowance for parents of small children who are sentenced to incarceration at the same time is not unprecedented.

“It happens,” she said after the Bromwells broached the idea in court Nov. 16.

William B. Purpura, Mrs. Bromwell’s attorney, said sentences have been staggered in cases with similar facts in other federal districts and in state courts. He said even business partners have been allowed to serve their sentences roughly consecutively.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to say people involved in white collar crimes get this break and those involved in drug crimes don’t,” said Herbert Better, a former assistant U.S. attorney and now at the Baltimore office of Zuckerman Spaeder LLP.

What do you think?

-BRENDAN KEARNEY, Legal Affairs Writer

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ponying up for club-level care

I’m back on the job today after an illness prompted me to visit my beloved doctor for the last time. It was my last encounter with her because as of Jan. 2, she’ll have left her Columbia practice – and all insurance participation – to form her own “membership practice,” as many popular physicians have done recently.

And, boy, does it sound nice – almost like a health club membership.

For $1,800 a year (or quarterly payments of $475), I’d be one of only 400 patients under her care. I’d receive the convenience of in-office blood draws, vaccines, and personal e-mails from my doctor; all services she has cut from her current practice due to increasing costs. As she writes in her letter, “There are no copayments, no deductibles, and no insurance paperwork.” By cutting out the insurance companies, she can do more for each of her patients.

At least, the ones who can afford to keep seeing her.

The choice is mine: pony up for “old-fashioned” service, or join the masses hunting for a qualified physician who accepts my insurance.

I wonder which is the lesser of two evils?

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Same-sex marriage: Good business for Maryland?

A group of researchers has concluded that if Maryland legalized same-sex marriage, the state would benefit to the tune of $3.2 million.

The researchers are affiliated with the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Policy at UCLA School of Law, and they have done analyses on other states before, concluding that legalizing gay marriage or extending domestic partner benefits to same-sex couples would bring in money and/or cost the states little.

According to a press release on the study, some of what makes up that $3.2 million figure are these factors:

“— Extending marriage rights to same-sex couples would reduce the State’s expenditures on means-tested public benefit programs by about $1.5 million annually.

— The net impact on the State’s income tax revenue resulting from same-sex marriages would be small: the State would experience a decrease in income tax revenue of about $132,000 annually….

— The State would incur some revenue loss from transfer taxes as a result of same-sex marriage, approximately $1.4 million annually.

— With same-sex marriage, annual expenditures on state employee benefit programs would increase between $400,000 and $1.3 million….”

The researchers also postulated that if same-sex marriage were legalized, 7,800 gay couples in Maryland would wed. All those nuptials would give the wedding and tourist industries a major boost, resulting in a net gain to business of $88 million per year in the first three years, the study says.

On page 25, they’ve also got an interesting chart listing the Maryland companies that offer domestic partner benefits. Highlights include DLA Piper, Johns Hopkins, and BGE.

-CARYN TAMBER, Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer

Wildfowl art exhibit under water

In an ironic twist, a museum in Salisbury that housed wildfowl art is suffering from standing water.

The Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art is being cleaned today after an equipment malfunction required the entire collection to find a new habitat.

From the AP:

It took more than 36 hours to transfer the collection of paintings, carvings and other pieces, but museum officials say nothing was lost.

The museum will meet with an insurance company in coming days to assess the damage and see when the museum can reopen. Interim director Lora Bottinelli says it appears the water damage caused only minor damage to the collection.

Selected works include a piece entitled "Shootin' Rig" (Rick Johannsen, Port Clinton, OH), a collection of Long Island cork decoys and interpretive wood sculptures.

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Toxic game consoles?

In our most recent Uncover story, Nintendo and Microsoft are put under the microscope by Greenpeace for toxic chemicals used in manufacturing their game consoles.

Eighteen leading electronics companies were ranked on a 10-point scale, with Nintendo being the first and only company to score zero.

The creators of Mario and Luigi provided no information to consumers on the substances it uses in manufacturing or on its plans to cut hazardous materials. Those aren’t the Mario Brothers I grew up with! And my folks thought playing the cutting-edge game Pitfall on Intellivision was bad for my health.

With all the recent recalls of toys with lead in them, do holiday shoppers really need any extra worries at this point when shopping for the gamers in their family?

Anyhow, the chemical culprits to be aware of are a vinyl known as PVC as well as fire retardants that can be a hazard when released into the environment.

Of course, your children could be a hazard when released into the environment this holiday season if they don’t get their Xbox or Wii from Santa.

-FRANCIS SMITH, Special Publications Assistant Editor

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Call us if health care bill will affect your business

So who here knew that a health care expansion bill snuck through at the last second of the special session? It was not one of the highest-profile issues of the marathon, three-week legislative blitz overshadowed by the slot machine debate and measures to raise $1.4 billion in new revenue.

But it could be important for small business. Legislative analysts wrote that a plan to subsidize employee health coverage for small businesses could help add 15,000 people to the rolls of the state's insured, with a price tag around $30 million.

The coverage isn't for everyone - just businesses with between 2 and 9 employees that want to offer insurance with "wellness" options like health club membership assistance. And the source of the money is not necessary solidified forever. It could change within a few years.

Will this affect your business? If it doesn't, do you think you're being unfairly left out? Or is this a good start on helping small businesses keep their workers healthy?

I'm working on a story about this for Friday. Want to get in on it? Call me at (443) 524-8175.

-ANDY ROSEN, Business Writer

Taxes? What taxes?

In its latest edition, Business Week has published a list of 50 companies that paid the least corporate taxes over a five-year period as part of an article on the impact of proposed reforms to corporate taxation. Maryland had only one company on the list — in the top 10 no less: Bethesda-based private equity firm American Capital Strategies.

The company, which has a piece, in part or in whole, of companies like Piper Cub, Rug Doctor and football helmet maker Riddell, had an effective tax rate of 1.8 percent. That put it eighth on Business Week’s list.

According to Business Week: … “because it’s a Regulated Investment Company under IRS rules, it owes no federal income taxes so long as it distributes most of its taxable income and capital gains to shareholders. The short version: the company paid very little to Uncle Sam while distributing $454 million in dividends to shareholders.”

Just because American Capital had a low tax rate, should it be a leading example of why the country needs corporate tax reform, or is it a prime example of how a free market should work?

-BEN MOOK, Assistant Business Editor

Annapolis chosen to test new Budweiser vodka

Things are really beginning to look up for Maryland’s capital city’s image. First, this week’s Mid-East peace conference has put all eyes on Annapolis, “America’s Sailing Capital.”

Now, Annapolis will again be on par with such major metro areas as New York, Boston and Washington.

According to Bloomberg News, Anheuser-Busch is looking to Annapolis to help roll out its newest creation — “Purus,” an Italian-made organic-wheat based vodka. The beer giant is looking to continue branching out from its strictly suds history and expand its offerings.

Before going full retail, Purus will be sold through bars, restaurants and package stores in Annapolis, Boston, New York and Washington.

The new vodka costs about $35 and comes in a raindrop-shaped bottle.

Do you think Budweiser’s parent company is making the right call?

-BEN MOOK, Assistant Business Editor

Monday, November 26, 2007

Firefighters: aiming to extinguish terrorism?

Firefighters tend to enjoy hero status as first responders who arrive with only one agenda: to put out the fire and help the wounded.

The government is adding another to the job description: to be lookouts for possible terrorist activity.

Unlike boys in blue, firefighters and EMTs don’t need warrants to enter homes and buildings – an enviable position that allows them to scout for blueprints or bombs.

As you might imagine, critics are concerned about an invasion of privacy:

Mike German, a former FBI agent who is now national security policy counsel to the ACLU, said the concept is dangerously close to the Bush administration's 2002 proposal to have workers with access to private homes — such as postal carriers and telephone repairmen — report suspicious behavior to the FBI. "Americans universally abhorred that idea," German said.

That hasn’t stopped Homeland Security from training NYC firefighters to spot signs of terrorist activity. If the training’s successful in New York (and a fire chief quoted in the story says it’s turned up a few “hits”), the government intends to expand it.

D.C. firefighters were recently given the same access as police to terrorism-related information. They carry the knowledge with them to the 170,000+ homes and businesses they routinely enter each year.

Are we safer now that we have more sets of eyes on alert for terrorist activity? Or is more of our privacy slipping away?

Will this hold up in court?

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Image courtesy wvs.topleftpixel.com.

Law blog round-up

Welcome back! To start off your week back at work, here are a few law links you might enjoy:

- Brian Higgins at the Maryland Intellectual Property Law Blog writes about a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland, in which the Orthodox Union, which certifies food as kosher, alleges that Baltimore-based Wilder Foods has been using the OU symbol on its packaging even though its spices have not been certified kosher. Update: Wilder tells The Daily Record that the products are certified kosher, but by a certification agency called EarthKosher, rather than by the Orthodox Union.

- Ron Miller at the Maryland Injury Lawyer Blog thinks plaintiffs’ lawyers undervalue herniated disc cases.

- Adam Liptak of The New York Times has an interesting story on what happens to unclaimed money from class-action settlements. Thanks to the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog for the link.

- The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has indefinitely suspended a Maryland lawyer whom our Court of Appeals suspended last year. Her name is Candace Calhoun and she recommended that a client accept an $8,000 settlement, then charged him $9,500 in fees.

- And of course, there’s also more on Rod Rosenstein’s nomination to the 4th Circuit, such as blogger Hoystory ridiculing the Maryland senators’ opposition to the nomination.

-CARYN TAMBER, Legal Affairs Writer

Sunday, November 25, 2007

President Bush on Annapolis peace conference

The White House released President Bush's statement on the Mideast peace conference to be held in Annapolis this week. Today, Syria agreed to join in the talks.

Read Bush's remarks below.

I am pleased to welcome Prime Minister (Ehud) Olmert, President (Mahmoud) Abbas and representatives of more than 40 countries to the United States for the Nov. 27 Annapolis Conference. The broad attendance at this conference by regional states and other key international participants demonstrates the international resolve to seize this important opportunity to advance freedom and peace in the Middle East.

This conference will signal international support for the Israelis' and Palestinians' intention to commence negotiations on the establishment of a Palestinian state and the realization of peace between these two peoples.


It will also provide an opportunity for the Israelis, the Palestinians and their neighbors to recommit to implementing the roadmap, with the U.S. monitoring their progress by the parties' agreement. Finally, the conference will review Palestinian plans to build the institutions of a democratic state and their preparations for next month's donors' conference in Paris.


I remain personally committed to implementing my vision of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.


The Israelis and Palestinians have waited a long time for this vision to be realized, and I call upon all those gathering in Annapolis this week to redouble their efforts to turn dreams of peace into reality. I look forward to my discussions with Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas this week, as well as to addressing the conference along with them on Tuesday.

Above: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and his wife Aliza arrive at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. Sunday, Nov. 25.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Dog owner gets $3,100 tab for bitten bark

A Pennsylvania man and his canine companion are being held accountable for the cost of three trees that fell victim to her penchant for bark.

The story, from the AP:

This summer, Tyler Port allowed his dog, Rossman, to run loose in a park. The dog apparently had a habit of chewing bark off trees, and Port was cited for failure to keep the dog under control.

John Iorio, the city's dog law officer, also is seeking $3,100 to cover the cost of replacing three honey locust trees, which a consultant said may die.

"Rossman," a pit bull, apparently also likes to hang from tree limbs by her teeth.

Do you think the dog and her 22 year-old owner should have to buy the Altoona park new trees?

Can't wait to see what area dogs will do to the artificial turf fields that are on the way in Howard and Anne Arundel counties.

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Friday, November 23, 2007

Who needs Black Friday when you have Cyber Monday?

Did you see reporter Louis Llovio's story today about the effect (or lack thereof) that Black Friday has on small, local retailers?

While the masses descend on area shopping malls and chain stores today, other retailers are gearing up for their day in the sun - on Monday.

They're online retailers, and they're hoping that you'll all rush to work on Monday, browse to your favorite dot com, and order massive amounts of Christmas gifts.

See, a few years ago, a marketing association began calling the Monday after Thanksgiving "Cyber Monday" - a PR campaign based on the myth that the day brought in sweeping sales numbers.

A couple years ago, BusinessWeek discovered that the day wasn't even in the top 10 of most online sales for the year (in reality, it was about No. 12). The story even attempted to trace the "Cyber Monday" myth to its roots.

It might be a moot point now: the National Retail Federation says enough online retailers are behind the idea this year to offer some can't-miss discounts.

And you don't even have to worry about parking or waking up at 4a.m.

Will you do most of your holiday shopping online or in person?

Much as I like the idea of click-click-clicking my way to a stress-free holiday, I can't seem to bring myself to give up the thrill of the hunt.

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Rodriguez, Rogers go it alone

Alex Rodriguez, the New York Yankees third basemen and recently named American League MVP, sidelined his lawyer, super agent Scott Boras, last week and instead consulted Goldman Sachs bankers and renowned investor Warren Buffett on his way to signing another landmark contract.

Rodriguez’s former teammate with the Texas Rangers, pitcher Kenny Rogers, has also cut ties with Boras and is representing himself in his contract talks with the Detroit Tigers.

Boras has developed a reputation as a tough negotiator, to his benefit — his stable of clients could easily make up an All-Star team — and now, apparently, to his detriment.

Many fans have long held sports agents in low esteem, as interlopers who meddle in the business of players and teams.

Were last week’s decisions to consult money men in lieu of a lawyer or go completely pro se specific to Boras, or have players come to see their lawyers like the fans - as impediments rather than indispensable advisors and advocates?

-BRENDAN KEARNEY, Legal Affairs Writer

Local IT industry up in arms over new taxes

As of Monday morning, legislators agreed to levy a 6% tax rate on “computer support services, data center support, custom programming, consulting and disaster recovery services.”

I know, that’s not news to you.

What is, is this: the state’s IT industry (along with small local businesses and workers) is angrily asking, “What gives?”

After all, “The IT industry is ... helping to maintain the competitiveness of Maryland’s businesses.” So says Roger Cochetti, a director at the Computing Technology Industry Association.

Roger keeps going, telling InformationWeek:

"Just at the time that most cities, states, provinces, and countries around the world are encouraging the computer industry to locate there, the Maryland Assembly and Governor chose to discourage the computer industry from locating and providing services in the 'Free State," he said.

Cochetti said the tax could encourage Maryland IT users to outsource computer services.... He called the move one of the "least informed and most harmful actions ever undertaken by the Maryland State government."

Do you think that more companies will keep IT in-house to avoid paying these taxes to local outside vendors? Or outsource operations? Would you?

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Update: New Orleans DA's office saga nears resolution

Turns out that no one wants to be without the District Attorney's office in New Orleans.

The Associated Press reports that the city and state of Louisiana will pay the majority of a $3.4 million judgment against the DA's office. The judgment was awarded to 36 employees (35 white and one Hispanic) who were fired shortly after Eddie Jordan took over in 2003.

As the AP puts it:

The district attorney's office, with a $12 million annual budget, had struggled to find a way to pay the judgment while the city and state argued over who has responsibility for the office.

[Mayor Ray]Nagin had earlier resisted bailing the district attorney's office out, saying it would set a dangerous precedent, but he said this deal avoids that. "The city is advancing the money to the district attorney's office," Nagin said. "They will pay us back."

You can read my original post on the situation here.

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Doctors get hooked up for Web

If you subscribe to the notion that your Web site is like an online version of your office, then doctors should have a waiting page before visitors are allowed in.

Not so with members of the International Association of Dental and Medical Disciplines. In case you’re wondering what the mission is of such an organization, the group states its membership is “comprised of dentists and physicians who are working together to empower doctors to wrestle back control of medicine from insurance companies.”

One such treatment for the plague of insurance companies?

The group sets up its members with a Web site equipped with online bill pay and prescription refill orders (and Flash).

After all, an online parenting magazine polled parents last month and 76 percent of respondents said they would use a Web site to ask for refills if possible, and 56 percent said their physicians didn’t have a Web site.

The cost of an IADMD membership is $1,899 per year. For a full-service Web site alone, that’s not bad.

Come to think of it, I have no idea whether my doctor has a Web site. I sign up for yoga classes online, but have never bothered to Google my primary-care.

A quick search turned up empty.

Does your doc offer web services? Would you like her/him to?

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

To bear or to ban?

The Supreme Court announced today that it will consider the constitutionality of Washington, D.C.’s long-time handgun ban — and in doing so, the right of individuals to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment.

The case stems from a federal security guard who, with the backing of a rich libertarian, challenged the District’s 31-year-old gun control law that prevented him from keeping a gun in his home. In a split-decision, the federal appeals court sided with the security guard in March.

The Supreme Court’s decision had been widely anticipated by the parties, each of which petitioned the Court to hear the case, along with several states who filed briefs, including Maryland, and advocates on both sides of the issue nationwide.

Does the Second Amendment give an individual the right to bear arms, or was it just created to maintain “a well-regulated Militia?”

If the Supreme Court decides next year that the ban is unconstitutional, what effect do you think that will have on Maryland’s gun laws, and on gun-related crime in places such as Baltimore City and Prince George’s County?

-BRENDAN KEARNEY, Legal Affairs Writer

National Harbor looks for buyers

In an email that our Presentation Editor received this morning, National Harbor offered him an “exciting opportunity”: an invitation to schedule a sales appointment.

Developers of the project, on the banks of the Potomac River in Oxon Hill, claim to have 9,500 people interested in “all that National Harbor has to offer.”

In today’s real estate market? Must be nice.

According to a Daily Record cover story about the construction of the mixed-use Mecca, “National Harbor will include (PDF) the Gaylord resort, five other hotels, 2,500 residential units, 1.5 million square feet of commercial space, four piers and two marinas.”

That’s a lot of space, even with 9,500 people on a waiting list. No wonder they’re applauding Todd Zimmerman’s “longtime interest in National Harbor.”

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Does Rosenstein lack "Maryland perspective" for 4th Circuit post?

Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy has a post mocking The Sun for its editorial Sunday supporting Sens. Mikulski and Cardin in their efforts to block Rod Rosenstein’s path to the 4th Circuit.

The Sun said Rosenstein does not have deep roots in Maryland and lacks the “Maryland perspective” the conservative appeals court needs.

Kerr writes:

Can any one explain this “Maryland perspective” of the law? Is it genetic? Are there classes you can take to learn it? Books you can read? Can it be acquired quickly, or must it age like a fine wine during decades of residence?


Or is it supposed to be a proxy for political views, with the idea being that a true Marylander isn't particularly conservative?

-CARYN TAMBER,
Legal Affairs Writer

Monday, November 19, 2007

Notes from the (state house) floor

We journalists were packed like sardines into a legislative office Sunday, watching senators and delegates negotiate critical details of a $1.4 billion tax package (PDF). In some cases, it was almost like trading baseball cards as members of key House and Senate Committees bargained and compromised away differences between the chambers’ tax proposals.

This was not exactly quid pro quo, but the respective chambers made it clear that there were things they just could not do. Time was short, as the special session of the General Assembly drew close to the end of its third week. Legislators were determined to finish by Monday, so it was time for “consensus.”

House members, for instance, made it clear, that delegates could not support a change in the in-state residency requirement for the personal income tax. The Senate wanted to change it from six to three months. Senators would not go above 5.5 percent on the income tax rate, contrary to a House proposal to set the top bracket at 5.75 percent.

It was interesting to watch such momentous decisions take place so quickly, but special sessions are short. Do you think there was enough time for our solons to fully consider the budget changes?

-ANDY ROSEN, Business Writer

Baltimore: becoming safer by comparison?

A new list of the nation's most dangerous cities is out, and Baltimore didn't even make it into the top 10 - just a lowly 12. (In context, Washington, D.C. is No. 27, and New Orleans is No. 65).

The controversial report, issued by CQ Press and based on the FBI's crime statistics, considered 378 cities with at least 75,000 people. It took into account per-capita rates for homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and auto theft.

Here's their top 10 most dangerous:

1. Detroit, Michigan
2. St. Louis, Missouri
3. Flint, Michigan
4. Oakland, California
5. Camden, New Jersey
6. Birmingham, Alabama
7. North Charleston, South Carolina
8. Memphis, Tennessee
9. Richmond, California
10. Cleveland, Ohio.

The AP reports that critics argue the study isn't making accurate comparisons:

"You're not comparing apples and oranges; you're comparing watermelons and grapes," said Rob Casey, who heads the
FBI section that puts out ... the data for the Quitno report.

As for the safest, here's the top 5:

1. Mission Viejo, California
2. Clarkstown, New York
3. Brick Township, New Jersey
4. Amherst, New York
5. Sugar Land, Texas

It should be noted that the media blitz may be motivated, in part, by CQ Press's publication of a $49 book, City Crime Rankings.

Based on your travels, which cities would be in your top 10 list?

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Law blog round-up

Your blog round-up for this Monday morning — er, afternoon:

—“There’s something hilarious about an institution as staid as the Supreme Court awkwardly sitting around trying to hash this one out,” says the DCist blog of the possibility that SCOTUS will take the Maryland buttocks case.

The Sun weighed in yesterday on the Rosenstein nomination. Unsurprisingly, they’re not pleased.

—In further 4th Circuit news, another of the President’s nominees, Duncan Getchell, has been sued for defamation. Hat tip: How Appealing.

—What a mess in South Carolina! Thanks to Feminist Law Professors for the link.

Volokh Conspiracy writes about candidates jockeying for law prof support.

-CARYN TAMBER, Legal Affairs Writer

Taxes, taxes, taxes

When reporter Andy Rosen was preparing for the weekend ahead on Friday, no doubt he knew it would be a long one.

And it was.

From Annapolis, he filed updates from the Special Session for the web on Saturday and Sunday; an updated story, which he filed at 2:45a.m. this morning, was posted to our Web site today.

The conclusion of the marathon session? Lawmakers agreed to raise $1.4 billion in new taxes, including sales tax expansion, a rise in the corporate income tax, and increased personal income taxes for the wealthy.

Reactions?

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Friday, November 16, 2007

Too busy for the holidays?


Pretty soon many of us will be opening our Christmas presents with a Bluetooth headset in our ears, barking orders at office assistants and settling lawsuits under the mistletoe.

That seems to be the way things are headed, at least if you believe a recent poll by staffing firm OfficeTeam.

It found that four out of ten of us won't take any additional days off around the holidays - only the ones our employers provide. Another one in six will only take an extra day or two off.

Is this because we've all already used our vacation time (boy, that camping trip in June was worth it), or because we're simply too busy to detach from work?

WaPo writes: "Research shows that one-third of people who don't use up their vacation think they're too busy to get away."

Are you too busy to enjoy the holidays?

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Where the women judges aren’t

U.S. District Judge Andre M. Davis hosted five Egyptian jurists Thursday morning at the federal courthouse in Baltimore as part of their tour of the American judicial system.

The visiting judges were among 30 women who were named to Egypt’s bench in April in an acknowledged quest for diversity by a country that saw its first female judge less than 5 years ago.

Their crash course in the workings of U.S. courts began in a conference room where Davis and his colleagues meet every Wednesday to videoconference with their peers in Greenbelt.

The contrast between the seminar participants (a black American man and five Egyptian women) and the portraits on the wall (of four white men — three federal judges and a chancellor from centuries past) was stark.

The United States has certainly come a long way since the days of all-white, all-male benches and bars — far enough to teach Egypt a thing or two.

But wait: of Davis’ peers on the U.S. District Court in Maryland, how many are women? Two, out of a total of 10 judges, or two out of 13 if you also count the senior judges.

There are also only two women on the seven-member Maryland Court of Appeals, and four on the 13-member Court of Special Appeals. And needless to say, there’s only one woman on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Seems the teacher must keep learning, too.

-BRENDAN KEARNEY, Legal Affairs Writer

An unconventional Thanksgiving feast

Today’s Maryland Business cover story is about Marylanders who plan to turn to restaurants, grocery stores and catering companies to handle the cooking chores of a Thanksgiving feast.

For the first time in my life, I’m set to be one of them. Only I won’t be in Maryland. Another person in our editorial department is in the same situation. So as helpful as the story is to those who plan to stay in state, where should the rest of us look to guide our holiday plans?

The answer just might be OpenTable.com.

Want steak in Manhattan? Sushi in Fort Worth? Fusion cuisine in Boise? There’s a good chance the site can find you the restaurant and make you the reservation. I’m already searching for my Thanksgiving dinner. I’m in the mood for a good fettuccini carbonara – just like the Pilgrims would have had if they’d had more options.

So whether you’re looking for a hassle-free holiday – or you’re just a glutton with diverse tastes – check it out. Let us know what you find.

-JOE BACCHUS, Web Specialist

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Superheroes Online

It’s the increasingly classic story of old media trying to reach out to a new media world – only this time the characters have capes and spandex.

Marvel Comics – they of Spider-Man, the X-Men and Captain America – this week announced thousands of its old comics would be made available online. Just $59.88 annually will get you into the archive.

So why are you reading about this on a business blog?

Because comics are big business these days. The Marvel movie “Spider-Man 3” pulled in $885 million at the world-wide box office, according to IMDB.com. The X-Men franchise has also pulled in a few hundred million dollars for the company. The death of Captain America earlier this year was front-page news across the country. Front page news – for the death of a fictional character.

Brad Meltzer, author of novels and assorted comic books, says the Web site is what the industry needs right now, according to a Washington Post story:

"They're building the next generation of readers; they're creating geeks as we speak," Meltzer said. "This is how you, potentially, save comics in a world where kids just want to sit in front of a glowing computer.

Personally, I think it’s just a great way to re-live some of my pre-teen geekdom. What do you think? Will online comics – or online versions of any popular print medium – ever replace paper and ink?

-JOE BACCHUS, Web Specialist