Friday, August 31, 2007

Bye-bye (for now), blogosphere

Everyone deserves a few days off, right?

At least, that's our defense, and we're sticking to it.

We'll meet you back here on Tuesday, bright n'early.

A happy (and safe) Labor Day to all!

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Trading soul for java

The new Starbucks has opened on 300 N. Charles Street — and as much as I hate to say it, I actually kind of liked it. Yes, it’s true, the caffeinated beast of business that I always labeled as a corporate monolithic infestation has some appeal. Of course, I had to sign over the rights to my first-born child for a Chai Tea Latte, but it was quite tasty. And I can always adopt.

There were free samples to be had on the street, but it wasn’t exactly bustling outside due to the upcoming Labor Day weekend. It did seem odd to choose this Friday to open, and it was no shock that the newly minted baristas were staring at a barren store. Probably a good thing, since the employees were still learning — and arguing — about what goes in what, how grand a grande is, and how lite is a latte.

Before I wandered on up to the second-floor lounge level, I perused the featured CDs while Ella Fitzgerald crooned in the background. Fourteen bucks for a CD is a price I would never pay, but maybe when you’re hopped up on coffee beans, you lose all rhyme and reason. Being a music purist, I did feel a little queasy seeing jazz and blues discs on the counter next to after-coffee gum and boutique beverage accessories.

Is nothing sacred?

Enough was enough. As I walked back to our newsroom, I could feel the glare of the local mom & pop shop — just 100 steps away from the new Starbucks — follow me across Charles Street. However, I was proud to have managed to escape the antithesis of small business without selling my soul any further.

Although I do have to name my first son Frappucino.

-FRANCIS SMITH, Special Publications Assistant Editor

There’s nothing like the state fair

There is something about going to the state fair that takes us to a better place…a place where we can stroll the midway eating cotton candy while barkers shout at us trying to get our hard-earned dollars; a place where the Ferris wheel climbs high and the breezes cool us off on a hot August night.

Sure, in the harsh light of office life, thoughts of the fair seem like stolen moments from our youth, a time before we were too busy to just have innocent fun for a few hours.

But that’s what it was—and what it still is.

It’s not the manufactured world of Disney or the voyeuristic adventure that is the Ocean City boardwalk. It’s a place that, but for fashions and a few rides, is not so different than it was 20, 50 or 100 years ago. It’s a place filled with families and music, the smell of popcorn and candy corn in the air. It’s the kind of place we can take our kids and watch them run around laughing while we enjoy an ice cream with no television or e-mail to distract us.

Where else can we find that?

What are your memories of the Maryland State Fair? Was it a family tradition to go each year? Do you take your kids every year?

Let us know what your fair experience was like.

—LOUIS LLOVIO, Business Writer

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Still looking for WMDs? Found ‘em!

You know how when you’re desperately looking for something and it ends up being right under your nose? Well, those pesky weapons of mass destruction that were the rallying cry for entering Iraq may have been easier to find than we originally thought.

Reuters is reporting that the U.N. found vials of a chemical agent, which was removed from Iraq in 1996, in a U.N. building near its headquarters in New York. Maybe our search should have started on the East River instead of the Euphrates?

Among the agents stumbled upon was Phosgene, which was actually used in World War I, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Chemical warfare and all its grandeur — minus the dreaded, foreboding acronym WMD — was introduced to the world well before our current collection of Middle East madmen.


However, in this case, we all can breathe easy (no pun intended) — officials said there was no danger from the recently discovered vials.


-FRANCIS SMITH, Special Publications Assistant Editor

Wi-Fi for none?

Looks like residents of San Francisco and Chicago won't be getting citywide wireless Internet anytime soon.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported this morning that EarthLink backed out of its proposed contract, just one day after Chicago's plan fell apart. Earthlink and AT&T were both contenders in Chicago.

Philadelphia signed Earthlink to provide its citywide network, an initiative that began in 2005 and is just now coming to fruition (about half the 135 sq. mile area is covered to date). Anyone who's recently visited the City of Brotherly Love know how it's working?

How strong's the signal in Annapolis now that the state capital has free public WiFi?

And is a citywide wireless network truly a feasible, good idea?

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Left Behind?

Remember Ellen Sauerbrey?

Former minority leader of the Maryland House of Delegates, two-time unsuccessful Republican candidate for governor, former U.S. Representative to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, and now Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration.

Sauerbrey was on CBS News’ “60 Minutes” last Sunday, explaining why the United States government has admitted so few Iraqis to America, even though the Iraqis are translators who assisted the U.S. military, and whose lives — and those of their families — have been threatened by insurgents who accuse them of “collaborating” with the enemy.

According to “60 Minutes” correspondent Scott Pelley, there are about 100,000 Iraqis who have worked for America. Add their families and the number climbs to perhaps half a million people at risk. And how many have been admitted so far? “About 100,” Pelley said.

Although the State Department has said it would consider 7,000 applications, and admit some 2,000 to 3,000 people this year, there has been very little progress, according to Pelley.

Sauerbrey, who is in charge of the State Department’s refugee program, said the problem is the “very thorough security checks” that the U.S. put in place after Sept. 11, 2001. “ … It takes a lot of time to work people through the security process,” she said.

But the translators have already been vetted by the U.S. armed forces. They’ve worked with Americans in very sensitive positions, and they were trusted. Now they feel “left behind.”

“60 Minutes” also reported that. according to Julia Taft, a former assistant secretary of state who headed the program that saw the admittance of Vietnamese refugees into this country after the U.S. withdrew from Vietnam, there were 131,000 people admitted to the United States over an eight-month period in 1975.

“President [Gerald R.] Ford said, ‘Let them come. Let’s help them. This is what we must do for them. They deserve it,’” Taft recalled. And communities all over the United States accepted the refugees.

“It was a huge enterprise. But it never would have worked had there not been the sustained commitment on the part of the administration working with Congress to make it happen,” Taft said.

Where is the determination on the part of the Bush administration and Congress to help people who have helped us?

Asked if she’s not seeing the kind of political will and leadership in this case that she dealt with in 1975, Taft, a lifelong Republican, replied, “I’m afraid that’s the case.”

-PAUL SAMUEL, Associate Editor

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Severed Head Gets Attorney's Goat

Some people consider “The Godfather” to be a life-guide.

However, none take it as literally as the Corleone-wanna-be who sent a message to prominent Milwaukee-area defense attorney Robin Shellow via a goat head yesterday.

According to WISN.com, this goat head came with its very own threatening note, all wrapped up in a pretty pink gift bag.

While this may take the cake as one of the strangest (and most disturbing) items an attorney has received, certainly it isn’t the first. (Not ascribing motives to anyone, but the car that landed in Warren Brown’s pool last week comes to mind…)

Tell us, attorneys, if you have been the recipient of any unforgettable gifts during your career.

-CHRISTINA DORAN, Assistant Legal Editor

Heir of the Dog?

Two of Leona Helmsley's grandchildren will inherit $5M each now that the Queen of Mean has passed into the other realm, but the true winner in her death is Trouble, a white Maltese toy dog.


The dog was bequeathed $12M (or between $1M and $2M per pound – you should pardon the expression). No word on whether this is multiplied by 7 when converted to canine currency.

The downside: the fluffy heir's own remains must be interred alongside Leona in the Helmsley mausoleum once the 8-year-old Trouble kicks it (likely around age 14). Tough break, Fido.

Leona's other two grandchildren from her son Jay will inherit nothing, "for reasons that are known to them," she wrote in her will.

Putting aside the preposterous directives, here's my serious question:

Leona famously snarled "only the little people pay taxes" when she was convicted of tax evasion two decades ago. Unfortunately for Leona, the federal government does impose an estate tax on U.S. citizens and residents.

You have to wonder: does an estate tax apply to a Maltese? And if so, who has to pony up for the pooch and file Trouble's taxes?

And then, yes, there’s the heir-of-the-dog problem: once Trouble’s gone to that great boneyard in the sky, who gets the leftovers?

Any estate attorneys out there had to arrange for assets left to a pet? (Subscriber-only link.)

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Local courses miss top 50 in golf course rankings

Maryland golf courses just aren't up to par, according to GOLF magazine's new ranking of the top 100 courses in the U.S.

The highest-ranked golf course in the area was the Blue Course at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, which narrowly missed landing in the top half at No. 51. Its 2005 rank was No. 45.

The top rated-rated course in the Baltimore area was Baltimore Country Club in Timonium. But its rating fell drastically, to No. 84 from No. 63 in 2005.

New Jersey's Pine Valley course held onto its top spot, and courses in New York and Pennsylvania were well represented in the top 10.

So how about it, golfers -- are metropolitan-area courses just not up to snuff? Did the magazine miss excellent courses in the state?

Thanks to our sister blog in Long Island for tipping us off.

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Attack of the giant nuns

It sounds like the premise for a bad horror flick, but it's all too real: there are 28 giant nuns on the streets of Baltimore's central business district.

Seriously.

Don't panic, though. They're just 8-foot-tall cardboard cutouts (whew!) of the Sisters of Mercy.

Their mission? To guide troubled drivers to safe harbor, aka Mercy's Saratoga Garage (227 St. Paul Street).

See, the medical center has closed its Old Pleasant Street Garage, which will face the wrath of the wrecking ball this fall.

Maybe the powers that be at Mercy figured it's harder to grumble about parking woes to an instrument of God?

Or maybe it was just a thinly veiled (get it?) attempt to grab a headline.

Either way, it's all to make way for Mercy's new $400M inpatient building, which should grace downtown Baltimore in 2010.


-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor


Photograph by Stephanie Miller.

Wilkins for AG?

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham has suggested to the White House that William W. Wilkins be appointed as attorney general to replace Alberto Gonzales, South Carolina’s State newspaper reports.

The conservative Wilkins, 65, is the former chief judge of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Maryland. He took senior status (subscriber-only) in July.

The South Carolina Appellate Law blog, which closely follows all things 4th Circuit, blogged briefly about the prospect of an AG Wilkins here.

-CARYN TAMBER, Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer

That didn't take long

The little squirt who unlocked the iPhone has announced he'll be trading the reworked gadget to a Kentucky-based cell phone repair company in exchange for a "sweet" Nissan 350Z.

George Hotz, who I first blogged about last week, will also receive 3 8GB iPhones, which he says he'll send to the online friends who helped him outsmart AT&T.

"This has been a great end to a great summer," Hotz, of New Jersey, wrote on his blog.

Is it wrong to be so jealous of a high schooler?

-JACKIE SAUTER, Daily Record Multimedia Editor

A new gizmo for dessert

Legal Sea Foods is serving up some new technology to go with raw oysters, 2-pound lobsters and wood-grilled wild salmon.

Last weekend I took my family to meet my mother for dinner at the Legal Sea Foods in King of Prussia, Pa. (I’m a very good son!)

After a lovely meal and scintillating conversation, our waiter brought the check and I pulled out my American Express card. He then brought me the credit card machine.

He explained that Legal was using the device, which uses Wi-Fi technology to connect to the restaurant’s computer, so that the waiters wouldn’t have to take customers’ credit cards away from them during the payment process. So I swiped my card in the device, entered the tip and tore off the receipt after it printed out.

Legal thoughtfully gave me four options on the tip: press “1” for 10 percent, “2” for 15 percent, “3” for 18 percent or “4” for 20 percent; I also could have picked my own figure. The percentages, by the way, were figured correctly — on the total bill before tax.

The Legal Sea Foods restaurant at the Inner Harbor is not yet using the devices, but general manager John Roemer said Monday the restaurant will switch to that system when it moves to its new location in the Verizon Building, probably around February.

From Legal Sea Foods’ Web site:
Where else but in restaurants do you hand over your credit card to someone who walks away with it?

We are serving up something new to ensure the safety of our guests’ credit cards – the ability to self checkout tableside. Now available in several locations and soon to be rolled out in all of our restaurants, the “Pay @ Table” handheld devices brings the payment process front and center. At Legal, guests will no longer have to lose sight of their credit cards and will, instead, have the added convenience of controlling the payment transaction.

Our commitment to our guests is at the heart of this new initiative, but we’ll leave no (tech un-savvy) guest behind! Our associates will gladly process your payment tableside for you if you prefer.

While it is being presented as a security precaution, I couldn’t help but wonder if this raised other security issues. For example, if Legal’s Wi-Fi network wasn’t protected, could anyone with a laptop and a strong wireless connection sit in a car outside the restaurant and “eavesdrop” on the transaction?

Would you feel safer swiping your own credit card at a restaurant?

-ED WALDMAN, Managing Editor, Business

Monday, August 27, 2007

Sick kid? Try Johns Hopkins.

In its ongoing effort to rank just about everything, U.S. News & World Report has released its list of America's Best Children's Hospitals. Hold your breath (but not for too long), folks.

Baltimore's Johns Hopkins placed third, just behind Children's Hospital Boston. D.C.'s Children's National Medical Center was a lowly 11th place.

The top 15 appear below.

1. Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
2. Children's Hospital Boston
3. Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore
4. Children's Hospital, Denver
5. Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, Cleveland
6. Texas Children's Hospital, Houston
7. Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
8. New York-Presbyterian University Hospital of Columbia and Cornell
9. Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center, Seattle
10. Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, Palo Alto, Calif.
11. Children's National Medical Center, Washington, D.C.
12. Columbus Children's Hospital
13. Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC
14. Children's Healthcare of Atlanta
15. St. Louis Children's Hospital

Thanks to our sister blog in Long Island for pointing us to this story.

-JACKIE SAUTER, Daily Record Multimedia Editor

Baltimore County (finally) takes zoning online

Baltimore County is trying to make things easier for those requesting changes to their zoning as part of the Comprehensive Zoning Map Process. They’re doing this by putting it all online.

The every-four-year event usually meant mountains of paperwork for the planning office and several treks down to Towson for those who forgot something like their tax number.

The new system will let you apply and track progress online.

If it’s as easy as going online, will that encourage you to make much-desired or needed zoning changes to your commercial property or home? Let us know.

We’d also like to hear from those of you who’ve been through a CZMP before. Tell us your horror stories or let us know if it was painless.

-LOUIS LLOVIO, Daily Record Business Writer

No more Alberto

After weathering months of Congressional scrutiny concerning the firings of U.S. attorneys, a far-reaching domestic surveillance program, and the morale of his department, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced his resignation this morning.

Following weekend conversations with President George W. Bush, Gonzales said Monday that he would step down Sept. 17. He gave no reason for his decision in his statement and did not answer questions.

Gonzales’ resignation has been called: “sad,” “a great, great development” and “inevitable.” What do you think? Will this move defuse the controversies swirling around the Justice Department?

Who will succeed Gonzales, and how would you characterize Gonzales’ tenure?

—BRENDAN KEARNEY, Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer

Whose blues are they?

As reported in today’s Daily Record, a private guard is suing a state trooper who, according to the plaintiff, once employed him in a security firm.

Under state law, the owner of a security firm must have experience as a private detective, police officer, fire investigator, or correctional officer.

While your first thought may be that it’s a job for a former or retired police officer, many county and municipal police departments (though not the Maryland State Police, according to its licensing division) allow current employees to work private security or operate private security agencies.

However, some people have raised questions about the potential for abuse of power and conflicts of interest that could occur when officers work for public and private entities at the same time.

What do you think? Should city/county police officers be able to parlay their government jobs into private business opportunities?

-BRENDAN KEARNEY, Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer

Best. Footnote. Ever.

In a disbarment case Friday, Court of Appeals Judge Glenn Harrell wrote that the respondent’s argument did not make sense, “‘Opposite Day’ notwithstanding.”

Harrell, who has been known to be a bit footnote-happy, then referred the reader to footnote 8, which reads, in part:

“Opposite Day” is a fictitious holiday, usually celebrated by school-aged children, in which statements made on that day are intentionally false, but taken to mean the opposite by listeners aware that the holiday is being celebrated.

Harrell goes on to cite Wikipedia’s Opposite Day article, a Harvard Law Review piece and a column from the Modesto Bee newspaper.

I can only imagine Judge Harrell ordering some befuddled law clerk to dig him up some good material on Opposite Day.

-CARYN TAMBER, Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer

Friday, August 24, 2007

It’s bad and it’s back!

Muscle heads unite! American Gladiators is back!

Yep…that’s right! Harking back to the days of frosted mullets and Zubaz, the network that brought you The Office and The Cosby Show announced last week that it was bringing back America’s favorite steroid-sculpted super heroes!!

For those of you brave enough to take on these muscle-bound ruffians for your 15 minutes of fame, NBC has a simple application for you to fill out like your favorite jeans…(That’s right, we all know the girls are checking you out in those. You don’t look ridiculous at all. Promise!)

But 95-pound weaklings don’t despair! Brute force isn’t the only qualifier! Poetry can get you on the show!!! (Come on, you didn’t think they were only looking for Neanderthals, did you? They want sensitive guys and gals who can quote Whitman while challenging the Gauntlet!)

And, don’t worry if you don’t have the velvet pen, flowery prose and can’t tell the difference between Iambic and Pentameter, the all-knowing-Peacock is going to let those of you who can drop a rhyme like your favorite 90s gangsta rapper a way to get in, too.

There’s a spot on the application for you to submit a rap!! Oh yeah!!
(Wait…Bad rap. Mullets. Neanderthals. Am I the only one that has visions of Kevin Federline dancing in my head right now?)

Okay, while I go beat the PopoZao out of my head by smashing it repeatedly against the nearest wall, why don’t you drop us a poem or a rap for a shot. We’ll pass the best ones on…promise!

-LOUIS LLOVIO, Daily Record Business Writer

Snuff: More dangerous than smoking?

It’s a toss-up which is more distasteful — blowing cigarette smoke in the faces of your friends and loved ones or spitting tobacco juice profusely in their presence.

But a new study has found one might be more dangerous for you than the other.

A report published this month by the American Association for Cancer Research has some frightening findings for users of the smokeless tobacco known as snuff, a powdered variation of chewing tobacco tucked just behind the lip.

The study at the University of Minnesota Cancer Center found that snuff delivers to its user even higher levels of cancer-causing chemicals than cigarettes.

Compared to smokers, the snuff users in the study were receiving more of the carcinogenic molecules known as nitrosamines, known to cause lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, cancer of the nose and liver.

Westminster construction worker John Schneehagen, 45, learned first-hand the dangers of smokeless tobacco.

Several years ago, after two decades of using smokeless tobacco, Schneehagen noticed a bump on his tongue. He elected to ignore it for a few years.

By the time he encountered Dr. John Saunders Jr., a surgeon at Greater Baltimore Medical Center and medical director of Greater Baltimore Head & Neck Associates, Schneehagen required surgery to remove the tumor on his tongue and the lymph nodes in his neck where the cancer had spread.

Schneehagen, who has been cancer free for 2.5 years, describes himself as “lucky.” “The worst thing that happened was I lost part of my tongue, but I’ve gotten used to that,” he said in a news release from GBMC.

More than 55,000 Americans will be diagnosed with head and neck cancer this year, and the disease will kill 13,000, according to the American Academy of Otolarygology — Head and Neck Surgery.

Do you or people you know use smokeless tobacco? How dangerous do you think it is? Should it be regulated more stringently? Tell us what you think.

-KAREN BUCKELEW, Daily Record Business Writer

Born free

Someone finally managed to break the lock that ties the iPhone to AT&T's network.

Of course, it was a 17 year-old.

The New Jersey teenager confirmed to the AP this morning that he was using his iPhone on T-Mobile's network, the only other major U.S. carrier that's compatible with iPhone technology.

From the story:

While the possibility of switching from AT&T to T-Mobile may not be a major development for U.S. consumers, it opens up the iPhone for use on the networks of overseas carriers.

"That's the big thing," said George Hotz, the Glen Rock, N.J., teen who accomplished the feat.

The phone, which combines an innovative touch-screen interface with the media-playing abilities of the iPod, is sold only in the U.S.

-JACKIE SAUTER, Daily Record Multimedia Editor

Not just at Christmas

Karen Buckelew reported today on the finances of the Salvation Army's Baltimore Area Command, which focuses its charitable efforts on area schoolchildren, the homeless and disaster relief.

From
the story:

It also is a charity that has been stretching its resources to meet evolving needs. Its $504,802 deficit for fiscal 2006 was a 70 percent jump over the previous year’s shortfall.

The growing deficit was a wake-up call for administrative cuts, said Lafeea Watson, development coordinator for the Baltimore Salvation Army. “There was some belt-tightening,” said Watson.

During the past year, the organization has cut programs, closed its Highlandtown Boys and Girls Club and turned over management of its residential camp in Monkton. It has replaced paid contractors for maintenance and informational technology services with volunteers. It has secured corporate grants for services that once taxed its operating budget.

Almost 700 children participated in the Boys and Girls Clubs in Middle River, Glen Burnie and South Baltimore last year. Operating the Glen Burnie club costs just over $11 per child per day during the academic school year.


Many of us attended after-school programs or clubs or visited rec centers as youth. For me, it was Longwood Recreation Center in Brookeville, MD.

What about you - any memories from after-school programs to share?

Above: Wanda Newton, executive director of the Salvation Army Baltimore Area Command Boys and Girls Clubs, plays with 5-year-old Mikayla Gonzalez at the club in Glen Burnie.

-JACKIE SAUTER, Daily Record Multimedia Editor

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Remembering the man who shot George Wallace

Word that Arthur H. Bremer likely will be freed from a Maryland prison in a few months brought a rush of memory to me Thursday - as one of the handful of reporters who saw him on the fateful day in May 1972 after he shot Democratic presidential candidate George C. Wallace on the Laurel Shopping Center parking lot.

I was working in the Baltimore Sun newsroom amid the commotion wrought by one of the rare events big enough to make Maryland the center of the media universe, but not involved in the immediate coverage of the story. When my shift ended in late evening, I found my way into the game wearing another hat – as a paid-by-the-story local stringer for the British news agency Reuters.

With Wallace, the segregationist Alabama governor, hospitalized in critical condition, federal authorities were coy about where Bremer was being held and when and where he would be hauled before a U.S. magistrate for an initial court appearance. The Sun’s federal court reporter had been assured it would be the next morning, perhaps in Hyattsville.

I joined a small media stakeout at the old federal courthouse, in Baltimore’s then-main post office on Calvert Street, where the hapless Bremer – bloodied and bruised from his pummeling in the crowd after shooting Wallace – arrived amid tight security for an unannounced and brief late-night appearance.

Few events in my 40 years at The Sun could rival the spotlight that Bremer’s crazed act brought to this area. I can remember the day in 1968 that Republican presidential nominee Richard Nixon named Maryland Gov. Spiro T. Agnew as his running mate (phones at the city desk, which I was answering, rang off the hook with the question, “Spiro Who?”), and the story’s other bookend in 1973 when Agnew unexpectedly turned up in that same Baltimore courthouse as Bremer to resign the vice presidency and pleaded no contest to tax evasion (and me, sitting back around the fifth row, about to earn a big raise from Reuters).

But Bremer was really my first big-time story, if only through a piece of the action. Wallace awoke from surgery paralyzed for life from a bullet in his spine, but for a day politically triumphant after winning Maryland’s Democratic presidential primary. He died in 1998.

Thirty-five years after the shooting, now recently retired from The Sun, I would love to chat up that unrepentant sad-sack loser Bremer – who has declined interview requests and done his best to avoid any spotlight. Many aspects of his life before the shooting have emerged, adding up to a portrait of a socially and sexually awkward outcast who stalked Nixon before turning his gun on Wallace.

Is he still crazy after all these years? Long denied parole, he remains an enigma.

But with credits for good behavior behind bars, he will soon walk among us again.

-DAVID ETTLIN, Temporary Assistant Business Editor

It’s like Netflix, only it’s books

Do you think the price of books has grown prohibitive? Is $25 or $30 too much for the latest James Patterson or Dan Brown thriller?

BookSwim.com, a Web site now in beta, hopes there are plenty of people who feel that way. The company is looking to take the Netflix model of movie rentals and apply it to the world of books. Subscribers can rent books, keep them as long as they want, and return them as often as their plan allows.

Like Netflix, users line books up in queue for shipping depending on the plan. Also like Netflix, there is no charge to ship or return the books. The site says it has more than 150,000 titles in its library.

Plans start at $19.99 per month for the company’s three-at-a-time option. As an example of what they have, BookSwim’s top rentals are:

1. A Thousand Splendid Suns
2. Nineteen Minutes: A novel
3. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
4. Bright Lights, Big Ass: A Self-Indulgent, Surly, Ex-Sorority Girl’s Guide to Why it Often Sucks in the City, or Who are These Idiots and Why Do They All Live Next Door to Me?
5. The Yiddish Policemen’s Union: A Novel

Bookswim might just be on to something. The site was pretty much shut down Wednesday afternoon due largely to high traffic in the wake of blog and media attention like a mention on Lifehacker.com and a write-up at C/net’s Webware site.

—BEN MOOK, Assistant Business Editor

The Bow Tie Club for Law

Awhile back, the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog created the Bow Tie Club, an exclusive society made up of top lawyers, judges, etc. who have made the bow tie their own.

Following in Law Blog maestro Peter Lattman’s footsteps, let’s get some nominations in the comments section for a Maryland chapter of the Bow Tie Club.

There are a few obvious ones already, namely everyone’s favorite sartorially gifted state court chief judge, Court of Appeals Chief Judge Robert M. Bell (pictured at right with Fred Godman of The Daily Record). The chief judge even presented his Supreme Court counterpart, Chief Justice John Roberts, with a Maryland flag bow tie when Roberts spoke at the Maryland Judicial Conference last year. (Roberts accepted the gift and told Bell he’d wear it “on an appropriate occasion.” No word on whether that occasion ever presented itself.)

Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Larry Daniels should also be inducted into the club. Real estate attorney Ronald P. Fish, who passed away in June, would have made a wonderful charter member; when my colleague Brendan Kearney interviewed his friends and associates for an obituary (subscriber-only link), they told him that Fish was famous for his extensive bow tie collection, even possessing one in the shape of a fish.

The Daily Record’s own “Raising the Bar” columnist Paul Mark Sandler wrote (subscriber-only link) a few months ago that “[m]any lawyers avoid bow ties based on the belief that juries will not trust someone wearing a bow tie, but those who argue appellate cases or non-jury trials have no hesitation to wear them.” Is this true? Do any trial lawyers out there flout the conventional wisdom and wear that professorial accessory with pride before a jury?

Who else should be a part of our Maryland chapter?

-CARYN TAMBER, Daily Record Legal Affairs Reporter

To buy, or not to buy?

As problems with the housing markets persist and credit standards tighten, automobile showrooms are starting to feel the crunch.

Tom Markides, owner of Prestige Imports in Randallstown, said in a story in Thursday’s Daily Record that his dealership, which sells higher-end used cars such as Lexus and Mercedes, has always had a good mix of customers with both good and bad credit. But with banks tightening their standards, it has become more difficult to get customers financed. Borderline customers are finding it extremely difficult to get car loans, and it’s even getting tough for customers with perfect credit or significant down payments to get financed, he said.

So, tell us, are you going to put off buying a new car or are you going to try and cash in on dealers’ desperation to move inventory?

Let us know.

-LOUIS LLOVIO, Daily Record Business Writer

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Blogs need controversy

I’ve decided the Blogosphere is a lonely place and maybe what makes a good blog posting is a little controversy.

The world of rap music is familiar with controversy. Take the reported feud between rappers Kanye West and 50 cent (pictured at bottom) regarding whose latest album will do bigger sales volume during the first week of release. That kind of public debate is guaranteed to generate some media buzz.

Better yet, what if businessmen followed the same model for their business competition? Suppose Under Armour Inc., founder Kevin Plank (top) said, “If my third quarter profits in athletic shoes aren’t greater than Nike’s, I’m going to get out of this athletic footwear business”?

I bet that would generate some media buzz. It might even make covering Baltimore businesses a little more exciting and unpredictable. Plus, it would definitely generate some more traffic to my blog posts.

My fingers are crossed. I’m ready, Kanye and 50. And maybe, Under Armour or some other Baltimore company could add to the mix. I’m still waiting for those third quarter profit results.

-TODD ZIMMERMAN, Presentation Editor

For love or money

Can’t buy me love?

A poll of the nation’s youth by the Associated Press and MTV has found that today’s young people ages 13 to 24 rank money nowhere near the top of the list of things that make them happiest.

Instead, friends and family are rated tops, followed by God, pets and favorite pastimes. But at the same time, poll respondents say money can help them find happiness and the lack of money can cause unhappiness in their lives.

Do these findings ring true for young people you know? And what’s the bottom line for you on love and money? Let us know.

-TOM LINTHICUM, Executive Editor

Trouble brewing

The attorneys general of Maryland and 29 other places have asked federal regulators to crack down on companies that sell alcohol-and-caffeine blends, claiming their ads target young people and make questionable health claims. (AP, “Attorneys general target drinks that mix alcohol with caffeine”; The Daily Record, Aug. 22).

The companies are using popular nonalcoholic “energy drinks” as a springboard to their alcohol-containing products, one AG claims. “Beverage companies are unconscionably appealing to young drinkers with claims about the stimulating properties of alcoholic energy drinks,” Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers said.

The companies say the products — Miller Brewing Co.’s Sparks and Sparks Plus; Anheuser-Busch’s Bud Extra; and Charge Beverages’ Liquid Charge and Liquid Core drinks — are simply malt beverages with caffeine, which comply with all federal requirements.

Is the beverage industry preying on under-age drinkers, holding out the promise of a beer buzz with an edge? Is an ad that replaces a nuclear power plant's tower with a can of Liquid Charge making a health claim? Are imbibers of any age likely to think that adding caffeine to alcohol turns it into a health drink?

What do you think?

-BARBARA GRZINCIC, Managing Editor, Law

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The baddest of the bad bosses

One of the worst bosses in the country could be looking over your shoulder right now.

The unnamed scoundrel is somewhere in Maryland, according to the just-completed “My Bad Boss Contest” from Working America, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO.

“A Miscarriage of Justice” tells the story of a Maryland woman who lost her pregnancy, took a week off from work and returned to increased hours and zero sympathy.

“I come back to work to a boss whose entire demeanor has changed. He actually says to me, with a sneer, ‘Well, I hope you had some good time off." Yeah, miscarriages are great, man. Can't wait to do it again sometime. Can you believe that?”

All that’s missing is a pale horse and three equally unpleasant buddies.

The story doesn’t get any better from there. And it was only one of the six semi-finalists. Imagine how bad the others must be.

Rallying against workplace Napoleons seems to be a popular subject at the moment. The Wall Street Journal ran a column Tuesday on the difficulty of navigating the bitter demeanors of coworkers with even the smallest bit of power. Several states are even considering legislation that would let employees sue for “an abusive work environment,” according to the Los Angeles Times. (Free registration)

The Times piece raises an interesting question: are bosses really getting worse, or are today’s employees simply less tolerant of abuse? Let us know what you think.

And maybe you’re sitting there wishing you’d known about the “My Bad Boss Contest.” If so, here’s the perfect place for an anonymous rant, though please omit names of bosses and places of work. And if any of the posted stories seem familiar, now would be a good time to run, because that boss looking over your shoulder is probably about to explode.

-JOE BACCHUS, Daily Record Web Specialist

Back to School

It’s time to get the kids ready to go back to school. It’s time to argue about what clothes they will wear, whether they need a laptop and the hundreds of other minor little details that drive us parents with school age kids crazy.

But let’s all take a minute to think about what we’re actually doing: We’re enjoying a luxury.

Sure, not many of us parents — or kids — consider back-to-school shopping a luxury. But it is.

Face it, because of our hard work, our kids can get two or three pair of new jeans every fall, we can decide whether we want to get them the good laptop or the better one. And, hell, some of us even get to buy our kids a new car!

The thing is, we’re the lucky ones. Our kids are the lucky ones.

For every kid out there choosing between the straight or boot cut for their new jeans, there are a handful of kids that can’t even get pencils.

According to the Maryland State Department of Education, there are 290,000 kids in the state getting free or reduced lunches because they are so poor their families can’t afford them. If lunch is a luxury, then what is a backpack?

Sure, we can go back and forth all day about school funding and a million other things, but that doesn’t change the fact that thousands of kids are going to start school in the next couple of weeks without the most basic school supplies.

So do those kids a favor. When you are out shopping this week and next, do what you can. Buy a couple extra backpacks, another packet of pencils, a few extra reams of paper and donate them. Most counties have drop off sites, so give them a call. If not, call the schools. Trust me, people care and will get the supplies into the right hands.

And, when you’re doing it, take your kids. They’ll learn a lesson before the school bell of the year has rung: In this life, there is a difference between “want” and “need.”

-LOUIS LLOVIO, Daily Record Business Writer

Lottery wins big

OK, someone needs to explain this to me. After complaining to fellow Daily Recordian and all-knowing blogger Andy Rosen, I am still in a state of confusion — nothing new if you ask those who reside in our newsroom.

The Maryland Lottery announced it has achieved record sales for the 10th consecutive year, amounting to $1.577 billion. Now that’s all well and good for the lottery — and the state, which gets $494 million in returned revenue — but how does that not fall under the “evils of gambling” so often linked to those hellacious pieces of machinery known as slots?

On top of the Pick 3, Pick 4, Mega Millions and monitor-style lottery games like Keno, Keno Bonus and Racetrax, there are the bundles and bundles of scratch-offs that clutter every gas station sales counter. Yet, the thought of slot machines at a racetrack where people are already wagering their money is somehow blasphemy.

The latest battle between good and evil involves Rosecroft Raceway and Penn National Gaming Inc. Penn, a national casino operator, is in the midst of buying Rosecroft, a harness racing track. Penn National already runs several facilities that have slots, and odds are they would like to see the Prince George’s County track be the next.

On top of the “moral” roadblock Penn National will face, Rosecroft’s nearby neighbor may be an issue. Some developers seem to think if Rosecroft did end up with sinful slots, that the National Harbor would also have to have them. Now, what would a $2 billion, 300-acre, mixed-use waterfront development along a 1.25-mile panoramic stretch of the Potomac River in Prince George’s County want to do with slot machines?

Either way, I would wager that after all the debating and protesting, the state will still have a deficit. Not that I’m a betting man.

-FRANCIS SMITH, Special Publications Assistant Editor

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Eastern Shore: going once, going twice...

Four more Eastern Shore residences will be on the block this Friday, according to a release from an auction company today.

As our reporters have covered in recent weeks, auctions have become an increasingly popular way to unload homes in areas like Somerset County's
Smith Island and Trappe, in Talbot County (subscriber-only links).

From the release:

The properties in Crisfield include one three-bedroom home that was built in 2005, one three bedroom restored Victorian with a wrap-around porch, two fish ponds and excellent ‘fixer-upper’ potential, and one four-bedroom cape cod that was built in 2006 and has never been occupied. The mixed-use property is currently a three bedroom home. However, it is zoned for commercial use which increases the potential for this property. ... A charming and upscale two-bedroom waterfront rancher is also being offered in Cambridge.

The most amusing part of the release comes at the end, however. After noting that the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy predicts 160,000 new residents will call the Eastern Shore home in the next 25 years (... whoa), Express Auction quotes Ed McGuirk, broker of record for Shore Realty of Maryland: "
Crisfield is a diamond in the rough."

Any takers for these gems?

-JACKIE SAUTER, Daily Record Multimedia Editor


Watch our original video from our reporter's trip to Smith Island.

Scam goes to pieces

Some people will go to any length to make a few extra bucks. But is $200,000 worth a lifetime of stomach problems and jail time? Apparently, one couple was willing to take that risk.

In a scam that hit Gaithersburg and Bethesda as it traveled up and down the East Coast from D.C. to Boston, Ronald Evano (and, allegedly, his wife Mary) collected thousands of dollars in insurance payments after intentionally eating glass at restaurants.

Here's how the plan broke down: the husband or wife would put glass shards in a dish and then, claiming stomach pain, would be rushed to the hospital to be treated for glass ingestion. The hospitals got stuck with the bill while the Evanos took cash in settlements with the restaurants.

Over the course of eight years, the Evanos performed the scheme at least 12 times and collected more than $200,000 in fraudulent insurance claims, according to a federal indictment. Court documents say the couple used at least 15 aliases between them and left more than $100,000 in medical bills unpaid.

Mr. Evano
pleaded guilty Wednesday in the U.S. District Court in Boston to conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, identity theft, Social Security fraud and making false statements on health care matters. Mrs. Evano is still eluding the feds.

The Evanos scammed two Maryland establishments out of about $40,000 from claims in 1999 and 2000, according to the indictment. In the first instance Mr. Evano claimed he ingested glass at a Bethesda hotel’s buffet. He was treated at nearby Suburban Hospital where he vomited blood and eventually passed two large pieces of glass, the indictment said. The hotel settled for $19,213 and Suburban was left with a $3,000 unpaid bill.

A year later, Mrs. Evano showed up at Suburban claiming she had consumed glass at a Gaithersburg hotel restaurant. The hospital was left with $4,000 in unpaid bills and the Evanos made off with a $20,000 settlement, according to the indictment.

Mr. Evano is being held at Norfolk County (Mass.) Jail. He faces up to 100 years in prison and is scheduled for sentencing on Oct. 4.

-LIZ FARMER, Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer

BLOG POLL: Worst lawyer ads

Samurai warriors? Lawyers in bad toupees? Those “you-have-a-phone ads” — love ’em, hate ’em or respect them as the pioneers in lawyer advertising?

In short, what’s the worst lawyer ad you’ve seen?


(Anonymous responses are welcome, but if you’d like credit for your answer when we post the results please include some way to reach you, or e-mail brendan.kearney@mddailyrecord.com)

-BRENDAN KEARNEY, Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer

Friday, August 17, 2007

Flash from the past

It’s a new day in Maryland politics… well, maybe not.

A little under six months into the reign of Governor Martin O’Malley somebody must have forgotten to pass the good news on to the folks over at the State of Maryland Business License Information System.

The site that allows you to check businesses licenses online seems to be stuck in the old days. Down on the bottom it shows good ole radio talk show host and private attorney Robert Ehrlich as the captain manning the helm of this fine state.

-LOUIS LLOVIO, Daily Record Business Writer

Sound the alarm - judiciously

The Las Vegas Review-Journal has been doggedly following the saga of District Judge Elizabeth Halvorson, an alleged black-robed monster who made her staff fix her lunch, handled cases inappropriately and reportedly asked a deputy if he would shoot her husband. (Thanks to Above the Law for following the story.)

The newest allegation is that Halvorson slept on the bench all the time. Unfortunately, judicial nighty-nights are nothing new; catnap claims have even been made about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (It’s actually surprising that more judges don’t nod off during court proceedings; I don’t know that any courtroom journalist can say she has never accidentally “rested her eyes” in court.)

Here’s a question for our lawyer readers: what do you do when a judge appears to be catching some shut-eye on the bench? Do you let His or Her Honor sleep? Do you speak louder, clear your throat at top volume or intentionally drop your COMAR book on the floor? Do you leave the problem to the court clerk or deputy?

-CARYN TAMBER, Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer

How much is a billion billion?

News of Michael Vick's latest legal hurdle broke on Wednesday: the Atlanta Falcons star has been hit with a "63,000,000,000 billion dollar" lawsuit by a South Carolina inmate.

Any words I could use to describe the filing wouldn't do it justice. Click here to read the handwritten complaint by Jonathan Lee Riches, which alleges that Vick stole his pitbulls, sold them on eBay and used the earnings to purchase missiles from Iran (all on behalf of Al Qaeda).

Taking the suit to a new level of absurdity, Riches requests that the money (in gold and silver) be delivered to the front gates of the correctional facility where he is serving a wire fraud conviction.

Maybe Roy Pearson (filer of the now-infamous missing pants lawsuit) has found his soulmate.

-JACKIE SAUTER, Daily Record Multimedia Editor

UPDATE: The Smoking Gun reports that Mr. Riches has filed another suit, this time against home-run hitter Barry Bonds, commissioner Bug Selig, and Hank Aaron's bat.

This you gotta see.

Have you ever heard of Inspector O?

Well neither have I, but I came across a mention of him/her yesterday when I was doing some Web surfing. According to the Baltimore city Web site, Inspector O is quite possibly the nation's first advice column on environmental health and hygiene regulation.

The site offers this description:
"Inspector O: There is a new sleuth about town to help Baltimore residents understand environmental regulations and other related mysteries. The Baltimore City Health Department is proud to introduce Ask Inspector O, a Web-based advice column for businesses and city residents about such issues as rat control, restaurant safety, pool hygiene and other important but little-understood facts of life. To ask your own question, please send an email to: AskInspectorO@baltimorecity.gov "

I'm glad to hear about the service, but I'm also a little curious about Inspector O, and what other important but little-understood facts of life he/she could be talking about. I'm thinking of some great stuff to ask Inspector O right now.

What would you like to ask Inspector O? Let me know and I'll post an upcoming blog entry about the answers.

-TODD ZIMMERMAN, Presentation Editor

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Trustworthy? Nevermore.

You've likely heard that a 92-year-old fan and Edgar Allan Poe preservationist has claimed responsibility for the legendary "Poe Toaster," a cloaked figure said to visit the dead writer's grave each Jan. 19 bearing gifts.

"We did it, myself and my tour guides," Sam Porpora told the AP. "It was a promotional idea. We made it up, never dreaming it would go worldwide."

According to the Baltimore Sun, Porpora “casually mentioned” his role in the Poe hoopla to a public relations official at the Catonsville retirement community where he lives.

Whether or not his story is true (several reports suggest that Porpora's testimony is questionable due to the timing of sightings), this anticlimactic revelation is reminiscent of another more notable letdown: the true identity of Deep Throat as FBI man W. Mark Felt.

Felt and his family -- who chose an article in Vanity Fair, of all places, as the conveyance of the sensational nugget -- released their secret a little more than two years ago. Longtime admirers of Deep Throat had to sync their romanticized profile of the informant with that of a 91-year-old stroke survivor.

It seems that the expression "taking a secret to the grave" isn't taken literally.

-JACKIE SAUTER, Daily Record Multimedia Editor

Crafting the WORD

U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland issued a news release recently applauding President Bush for signing into law S. 761, the “America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act.”

The bipartisan bill, which Mikulski, a Democrat, co-sponsored, “focuses on improving innovation in the United States by increasing the federal investment in research and education, and developing a national innovation infrastructure.”

In case you didn’t realize it, S. 761 has been tagged the “America COMPETES Act.” See, take the first letter of “Creating Opportunities …,” etc., etc., and you get COMPETES.

Here’s another one: The name of the so-called USA PATRIOT Act (H.R. 3162) is short for “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism.” Then there’s IDEA, i.e., the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which was the subject of a story in The Daily Record on Aug. 6 (subscriber-only link).

My question is, who thinks up these titles to bills that can be turned into catchy acronyms? I have a vision of some wizened, ex-English professor sitting in some obscure corner of the Congressional Research Service, patiently thumbing through his dog-eared copy of Webster’s, searching for just the right words. Then, just for fun, he finishes The New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle — in ink.

-PAUL SAMUEL, Associate Editor

Do what with a hot dog?

While it’s common knowledge that potatoes, chicken, even Twinkies and Oreos can be served up deep fried, one Maryland restaurateur is hoping customers will warm to the idea of hot dogs fried in oil.

The centerpiece of the menu at the newly-opened Doc’s Grille in the Crystal Plaza, in Laurel, is a deep-fried hot dog. Offered up alongside hamburgers, grilled chicken and barbecue pork sandwiches are Doc’s “famous” deep-fried hot dogs, with or without chili.

If the thought of taking an item of already dubious nutritional value like a hot dog and dunking it in hot oil sounds unique, it isn’t. It turns out the practice of deep-frying dogs has its own little niche in American frankfurter cuisine. For example, deep-fried dogs are a staple at Rutt’s Hut, in Clifton, N.J., where they are known as “rippers,” due to the bursting of the hot dog skin after it is dropped into the oil.

In Maryland, Doc’s Grille will be joining Ann’s Dari Crème in Glen Burnie, an almost 50-year-old eatery that offers foot-long dogs deep fried. Like Doc’s Grille, Ann’s offers its dogs with or without chili.

For those with a true cast-iron stomach the Internet abounds with recipes embellishing even more on the deep fried dog. One in particular is the “deep fried bacon cheese and beer dog” recipe posted at the Absolute Moral Authority site.

In a nutshell, the recipe first calls for the hot dog to be hollowed out. It is then stuffed with spray cheese — think Cheez Whiz. The cheese-filled frank is deep fried once, coated in beer batter, wrapped with bacon and deep fried again.

Anyone out there have a review for this vegetarian?

-BEN MOOK, Assistant Editor, Business

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Have I got a deal for you!

For the first time since 1981, I bought a new car that wasn’t a Chrysler.

And, for the first time since 1981, I bought a new car from someone who wasn’t named Uncle Len.

My mother-in-law’s family has had Chrysler dealerships around Philadelphia almost since there have been Chrysler dealerships outside of Philadelphia. For 25 years, buying (actually leasing) new cars for us has consisted of deciding which Chrysler vehicle we wanted, calling Town Motors of Exton, and saying, “Uncle Len, we want a Jeep Grand Cherokee. What do you have? How much is it?” We’ve done it while we lived in Dallas, Hartford, Conn. and Baltimore.

Alas, Uncle Len is in the process of selling Town Motors.

So with the lease to our 2004 Town & Country up, I had to go car shopping. And, for me at least, the process wasn’t bad at all.

I decided I wanted a hard-top convertible (go ahead, insert your mid-life crisis joke here … I’m secure enough to know it’s not true) with a manual transmission.

I drove a Volvo C-70, which is a beautiful car, but turned out to be more than I wanted to spend.

I then discovered the Volkswagen Eos (at right). Very nice looking, not flashy (at least with the top up), in my price range.

The salesman at Russel VW in Catonsville, Dave Lawell, is a nice guy and was straightforward. I told him what I wanted, he told me what they had, we found a car I liked.

I priced similar cars at two other VW dealerships, then went back to Russel. They gave me a monthly lease price that was considerably higher and had a $1,800 higher down payment – not a good combination. By now, the sales manager, Chip Defries, was involved. He couldn’t understand how the other dealership could be so low. He was certain the deal would change when I went in to pick the car up because he would be taking a loss if he sold me the Eos at that price.

But a funny thing happened over the next 48 hours. Chip essentially met the other dealer’s price. There weren’t high-pressure tactics. And even though Russel is much closer to my Ellicott City home than the other dealerships, I was prepared to go elsewhere. Chip finally asked me if he could get to within $10 of the other dealers’ monthly lease price with the lower downpayment, could we do the deal. I said yes.

The next night I was signing papers. I wouldn’t have been shocked – based on horror stories I’ve heard over the years – if the deal hadn’t been exactly as Chip described it. If the downpayment was suddenly higher, or if some guy in a plaid jacket suddenly told me that buying the undercoating for $750 was required.

But everything was exactly as agreed upon. The whole process, from first showroom visit to driving my new car off the lot, took 10 days (and it would have been nine if Maryland car dealerships were allowed to be open on Sundays, but that’s another post).

-ED WALDMAN, Managing Editor, Business

Calvert County OKs nuclear

In a world gone "green," Calvert County officials have given the thumbs-up to an old yet controversial standby: nuclear energy. A recent AP article says that the county’s elected officials sent a letter to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission giving their support for building a new reactor at Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant.

Constellation Energy Group, based here in Baltimore, filed a partial application for the 1,600-megawatt reactor in Lusby. It would be the first commercial reactor built in the U.S. in approximately 30 years.

To counter those who are sure to bring up Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, Constellation is estimating that the reactor could employ about 2,500 people and that the Calvert Cliffs facility expansion would bring another 400 full-time jobs. The county is expecting about $16 million in taxes this year from the facility — 8 percent of the county’s tax revenue. Jobs and revenue aside, there’s also the eco-friendly allure of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The flip side of that, according to groups like Beyond Nuclear, is nuclear waste — how much of it will be left over, and where can we store it safely. And this may be yet another target in the U.S. for a terrorist attack. Of course, what isn’t, these days? But should we really be adding to the 11 nuclear plants already in the Chesapeake Bay watershed?

Whether we poison the sky with an overloaded carbon cycle, or we bury a toxic combustible byproduct, policymakers seem to struggle with bringing innovation into our energy policy. Yes, wind and solar are picking up some steam in certain areas — but how long has that taken? Not as long as the wind and sun have been around, but long enough.
What do you think?

-FRANCIS SMITH, Special Publications Assistant Editor

These Little Town Blues

Ahh, so the Acela speeds through Maryland twice a day without so much as a pit stop; who cares? At least the state’s largest law firm made (subscriber-only link) “The 2007 Working Mother & Flex-Time Lawyers Best Law Firms For Women” list. Or did it?

We speak, of course, of DLA Piper US LLP, that multinational megafirm referred to around these parts as “Baltimore-based” or, when we’re feeling especially inclusive, “Baltimore- and Chicago-based.” Nobody’s ever called to demand a correction, either way.


So, why would the survey say the home office is in New York?

“We officially do not have a home office,” explains the firm’s (New York-based) spokesman, Jason Costa. Instead, Baltimore is a U.S. “foundation office,” along with Chicago and San Diego, since those are the cities where DLA Piper’s “legacy firms” started — Piper & Marbury, Rudnick & Wolfe and Gray Cary, respectively.

Apparently Working Mother wouldn’t take “homeless” for an answer, though, so “We went with the office where Heidi Levine, the partner who co-heads our Leadership Alliance for Women Group, is based,” Costa wrote in an e-mail. “There was no right answer, so we just went with NY.”

For the record, several other non-Maryland firms with an in-state presence made the “best” list, including Duane Morris of Philadelphia; Hogan & Hartson of Washington, D.C.; Holland & Knight, New York; McGuireWoods of Richmond; Patton Boggs, Washington, D.C.; WilmerHale, Washington, D.C.; and former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s firm, Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, Winston-Salem, N.C.

Above, Luke Marbury speaks at the dedication of the William L. Marbury, Jr Building on Smith Ave. Photo by Eric Stocklin.

-BARBARA GRZINCIC, Managing Editor, Law