Wednesday, October 31, 2007

An issue of (gun) control

One of the contributors to Red Maryland scoffed today at City Councilman Jim Kraft's attempt to bring legislative powers to the Baltimore City Council to regulate guns.

"The faith of liberals in laws, no matter how sporadically or inefficiently enforced, never ceases to amaze," writes RM's streiff.

For his part, Kraft argued at Monday's council meeting, "Our colleagues in other parts of the state don't really understand the severity of the gun problem in Baltimore. We need to be able to pass our own laws."

streiff's argument:

1. The criminals in Baltimore who use firearms -- and there are many -- wouldn't be deterred by the prospect of breaking a law.

2. It has been "fairly well documented" that Baltimore juries are reluctant to convict accused felons. (Can any attorneys speak to this?)

The situation's definitely a bleak one, but Streiff seems to be of the opinion that there's nothing we can do to curb the illegal use of firearms in the city ("assuming for the sake of argument that criminals can be deterred at all").

Would a stricter gun control law have any effect on violent crime, and should the City Council be able to pass one?

Is there anything that can be done legislatively, or are outreach programs and community centers a better approach?

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Black bear brouhaha

After a lot of protesting and politicking, Maryland’s black bear hunting season ended much more quietly than it started.

The hunt ran from Monday, Oct. 22, to Thursday, Oct. 25, with 51 bears killed. Our Department of Natural Resources had a target of between 50 and 70 bears, with 59 percent of the successful hunters living in the hunt area of Garrett and Allegany counties.

DNR opened up Maryland’s first bear-hunting season in 2004 after 51 years. This year, 2,804 hunters put their name in the lottery for a permit, with 452 getting to participate. Doesn’t exactly sound like a free-for-all bloodbath to me.

All these numbers may seem cold and meaningless to those groups who vehemently campaigned against the hunt, but I would be curious to see how many of those upset with the hunt actually live in the western counties where the bear population is centered. Also, if the DNR couldn’t use a well-managed hunting program to control the population, what other methods could they use for a species that has bounced back in recent years?

The DNR is not the NRA, and it would seem to me that the biologists in the field have a better understanding of the issue than those on their soapbox several counties away.

-FRANCIS SMITH, Special Publications Assistant Editor

Under Armour’s next challenge

Now that they’ve conquered the sports world, Under Armour is looking to take over the malls of America.

The apparel maker is kicking off its crusade at the Westfield Annapolis Mall Thursday when it opens up a 4,500-square-foot store — just a fraction of a 240-000-square foot addition at the mall.

The store is worthy of a TV studio — with CNBC in town to do a live spot that’s exactly what it was when I visited yesterday. You walk into it from the mall through a tunnel and are welcomed with gray walls and lights hanging down. The company was going for the look and feel of a stadium’s underbelly — sans the musty smell of standing water, I would assume.

Like most stores these days, there are bright colors, blaring bass-driven music and videos. In all, it’s designed to attract the younger sports enthusiast.

But the question is, will this work? Are amateur athletes really going to go to the mall for their gear when they can run into the nearest Dick’s Sporting Goods? Will they undertake the challenges of holiday traffic and parking lots filled with minivans to buy their latest running shoes when they can go online?

Only time will tell. But I’m not one who likes to wait. So let me know: Will you frequent the mall for the latest Under Armour gear or will you keep going to Dick’s, Modell’s or the World Wide Web?

-LOUIS LLOVIO, Business Writer

On the agenda: freedom for cable?

Reports are swirling today, suggesting that the FCC will change the rules that keep apartment-dwellers from choosing their own cable providers.

The change, which would allow residents in apartment buildings to choose providers similarly to how cell phone service operates, is on the agenda for today's hearing.

NYT quotes Kevin J. Martin, chairman of the commission: "Exclusive contracts have been one of the most significant barriers to competition."

Mr. Martin has also pressed the cable companies to offer so-called "a la carte" plans that would permit subscribers to buy individual channels, or groups of channels, at lower rates than they now pay. Here's what cable operators say about prices at present (PDF).

Are your choices for cable service limited, like mine are? I have only one choice in my building: Comcast, which is notorious for terrible customer service.

Would you be interested in an a la carte plan? If so, which channels would you want?

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Pandering and porn

This morning, SCOTUS began the process of deciding whether the "pandering" provision of the PROTECT Act is too vague.

The crux of today's
arguments (PDF): whether the Act (which criminalizes the possession and distribution of child porn) is so broad that it includes fictional material and legitimate promotions for films such as Traffic, Lolita or American Beauty, which feature sex scenes involving under-age characters.

A reporter from our sister blog,
DC Dicta, was present at the arguments and blogged on the proceedings.

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Towson U president plays nicely online

Bob Caret, president of Towson University, has a Facebook profile and a blog - and he's proud of it.

In a recent BBJ article, the school administrator discussed the level to which he's embraced social media to "connect" with his students.

"I don't think we have any choice when it comes to using the new technology," Caret told the BBJ.

And even though he only has about 50 friends (the average college student has a couple hundred, at least), Caret only befriends students that he knows personally - a rarity on the site, where students often compete for the most "friends".

Caret's level of restraint wasn't echoed by Salisbury Univ. President Janet Dudley Eshbach, who came under fire earlier this month when her family photographs - and captions - were considered inappropriate by some viewers.

Do you have a Facebook profile? Have you checked out your son or daughter's? What kind of privacy settings would you set?

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Unwedding day

Married couples all over Pennsylvania are freaking out after a judge in York County — my old stomping ground, and just across the Mason-Dixon line from Baltimore County — ruled that only clergy with a regular congregation can perform marriages.

Court of Common Pleas Judge Maria Musti Cook made the ruling last month in a case where a wife sought to void her marriage because the “minister” who solemnized the occasion was ordained online by the Universal Life Church.

The ruling currently applies only in York County. At the same time, Pennsylvania state legislators have introduced a bill that would exclude those ordained by mail or over the Internet from performing marriages.

What do you think of the ruling and the proposed law? Are Cook and the legislators taking a stand against phony clergy? Or are they setting themselves up as arbiters of whose faith is real and whose isn’t?

-CARYN TAMBER, Legal Affairs Writer

Haunted halls of academe

According to a story on the Capital News Service wire, several buildings at some of Maryland’s colleges and universities are haunted.

At the University of Maryland, College Park, the Rossborough Inn on U.S. Route 1 is home to “Miss Betty,” who is rumored to have been a nurse at the inn during the Civil War. She has been sighted by several people wearing a yellow dress.

At Morrill Hall, mysterious noises and smells have been detected, and on stormy nights, according to Anne Turkos, an archivist at Hornbake Library, people have heard a piano playing in Marie Mount Hall, even though there hasn’t been a piano in the building for years.

For more ghostly tales, check out the Web site of the Maryland Ghost and Spirit Association, which tracks and documents apparitions around the state.

What ghostly spirits have you seen or heard?

-PAUL SAMUEL, Associate Editor

Monday, October 29, 2007

Doing the minimum

The U.S. Congress is doing its best to do nothing with the alternative minimum tax (AMT) yet again. It seems the tax that was intended to affect only a certain higher-income tax bracket will hit a larger swath of taxpayers than it did last year. What’s the reason? No adjustment for inflation.

Is there a reason for not having this adjustment that a regular accounting-impaired individual like myself could understand? Better yet, does anyone think the AMT will ever simply do what it was intended to do?

Of course, our representatives and senators have known all year long that this had to be dealt with, yet it’s still on the books with no real resolution. So, now the IRS is only a few weeks away from having its paperwork and software ready for this upcoming tax year, and our lawmakers’ inaction or action will have serious consequences.

Either more income-earners fall under the AMT than last tax year, or the whole filing process is delayed from the get-go (due to new forms and software required to deal with congressional changes) if Congress does the unexpected — and does something.

-FRANCIS SMITH, Special Publications Assistant Editor

Law blog round-up 10/29

Happy Monday! Here are some legal links to check out today:

-A New Jersey-based federal district judge granted a sentence reduction request by an inmate serving his time at the Passaic County Jail, ruling that the conditions there are “shameful.” Judge Katharine Hayden made her decision after hearing about overcrowding, mold problems and toilets that stand only a few feet from where inmates eat. To all criminal lawyers out there: are there Maryland prisons that rise (or sink, really) to this level? Thanks to law prof Douglas Berman at the Sentencing Law and Policy Blog for the link; Berman calls the sentencing reduction “remarkable.”

-The Legal Profession Blog has a post about an Ohio judge suspended for his obnoxious courtroom behavior. I wonder if there are any predictors of which lawyers, once appointed or elected to the bench, will end up contracting black robe-itis? Does gender have anything to do with it? Age? Type of law practiced?

-Adam Liptak at The New York Times has a column about the serious dearth of minority lawyers at big firms. He doesn’t mention any of the Maryland firms, but I’ve looked at the numbers online (you can see for yourself by searching here) and can say that most of the firms here aren’t doing too well on diversity, either. In fact, of the ones I’ve looked at, most have not a single Hispanic lawyer. Is there any way for firms to rectify this?

-The ABA is calling for a death penalty moratorium.

-CARYN TAMBER, Legal Affairs Writer

Business news anchor or adult film star?

According to Radar magazine, I know Fox Business better than Rupert Murdoch himself.

That's because I scored an 8/10 on its "Fox Business Anchor or Porn Star?" quiz.

Now, the attractiveness of cable news anchors is no secret; neither is its influence on hiring decisions.

You can view pictures and descriptions of the anchorwomen on
newsgroper.com, where the reviewer says he watches the channel on mute. Some of their advice ("Always take your receipt") and backgrounds (reporter for Lifetime Television) is slightly hair-raising. However, one is a former Goldman analyst and CNBC correspondent and another worked for CNN.

Are Rupert's cronies better-looking (or less qualified, or both) than their counterparts at CNBC or MSNBC?

Or, are they unfairly targeted because Murdoch makes waves?

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Lend me your ears

In an assault case involving a severed ear, the Court of Special Appeals has reversed the conviction of a defendant who was prohibited from presenting testimony regarding his peaceful character.

Last week the court reversed the conviction of Rhashid Nutter, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for biting off his ex-boyfriend’s ear.

This case evokes parallels to other episodes involving ear assaults:

There is the infamous Mike Tyson assault during his heavyweight fight against Evander Holyfield. The ear bite seen around the world can still be seen in all its wince-evoking glory in this YouTube clip.

There is also oft-told story of the tragic life of famed painter Vincent Van Gogh. In one account, Van Gogh argued with his friend, and fellow painter Paul Gauguin and threatened him with a razor. In a fit of remorse, Van Gogh later cut off a piece of his own ear — the evidence of which can be seen in the famous “Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear.”

Not romantic, but tragic in its own right, is one of the odder European wars of the 18th Century — The War of Jenkins’ Ear. England and Spain went to war after British sea captain Robert Jenkins claimed the Spanish coast guard had cut his ear off after boarding his ship in violation of the Treaty of Seville. Eight years after the incident, in 1738, the pickled ear in question was brought to Parliament and reportedly gave legislators the smoking gun they needed to proceed with a war.

The War of Jenkins’ Ear lasted until 1742 and produced no clear winner. Fighting continued, however, as the hostilities expanded and became the War of Austrian Succession.

Any other famous incidents involving ear assaults I’ve missed?

—BEN MOOK, Assistant Business Editor

Friday, October 26, 2007

First responders to fire... an insurance company?

Wildfires are ravaging homes in southern California this week, but there are a select few homeowners who may be able to rest easy.

They are clients of American International Group, Inc., which offers a Wildfire Protection Unit for 150 ZIP codes in California and Colorado.

The unit has six trucks armed with fire retardant and hoses that respond whenever a fire comes within three miles of a client's home.

As Bloomberg reports, "such protection doesn't come cheap. It's available only to customers of AIG Private Client Group, which serves affluent individuals and their families. The average customer spends $19,000 a year on the insurance, which may also cover yachts, art collections and ransom demands."

It's worth repeating: ransom demands.

About 55,000 customers are with AIG Private Client Group in the U.S.; and about 150 homes have been helped this week.

How much would you pay for this service?

Is it right that some homeowners may lose their house, while a neighbor's home is protected?

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Above: Nick Atkins, of the U.S. Dept. of Forestry, hoses down a burning cottage near Running Springs, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 23. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The art of the power breakfast

You hear a lot of talk these days about the importance of breakfast. It's not just for nutrition's sake anymore; it's key to business success.

The WSJ published a review of the best power breakfasts earlier this week, and the descriptions were enough to get my mouth watering. Raymond Sokolov enjoyed lemon souffle pancakes and oatmeal brulee while eavesdropping on the hurried conversations of movers and shakers, coast to coast.

He writes:

For one, the power breakfast is the least exclusive, easiest reservation to cop in the whole frenzied universe of fine dining. In fact, you don't need a reservation (except perhaps at the Regency) and you absolutely don't need to spend the night in the hotel where you consume your gilt-edged lox.


Other people with my lack of star quality have also figured this out, and you will see many of them, along with normal and subnormal hotel guests in Los Angeles's Bel-Air and Peninsula hotels, at Boston's Langham as well as at the Hay-Adams in Washington and New York's Regency.

Our sister blog also dug into the topic, recently adding a weekly "Freshly Squeezed" post from one of Long Island's hot breakfast spots.

To you, I ask: do you dine out for breakfast? If so, where do you choose to start your day in Baltimore?

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Just what does DLLR do?

Many Maryland residents don’t have a very good idea of what else the state agency that certifies elevators does, according to Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation Secretary Thomas E. Perez.

Perez says this doesn’t work very well, especially for a consumer protection-focused department (fun fact: also the state’s third largest tax collector behind the Maryland Comptroller and the Federal Government).

“If people are victims of mortgage scams but they don’t know to call us, then we’re not doing our jobs,” Perez said at a meeting at The Daily Record Thursday.

So what’s he doing? Well, he’s going to the very source of much public awareness of his department: the elevator certification tag. The department is now listing facts about its activities on the certificates for all to see. Here are some examples:

Did you know? Last year DLLR’s Division of Labor and Industry investigators recovered more than $1 million of unpaid wages earned by hard-working Marylanders.

Did you know? Each year DLLR’s safety unit inspects almost 1,400 miles of railroad track, 3,800 amusement rides, nearly 6,000 high-pressure boilers, and more than 18,000 elevators to keep Marylanders safe.

But seriously, DLLR’s worth knowing about because it contains the state’s top financial regulator, oversees the horse racing industry, and manages unemployment claims among many other things. How does your business interact with DLLR?

-ANDY ROSEN, Business Writer

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Marylanders Thinking Green?

Who wants to help support the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries?

A new poll suggests most people in Maryland do. Better than four in five of the 500 residents polled on behalf of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation said making the nation’s largest estuary cleaner should be a state funding priority, the group announced Thursday.

The results come as the foundation pushes for a new fee on hard surfaces to support a “green fund” to the tune of around $85 million per year. The money would help the state meet commitments it made with other states in the watershed to reduce pollution by 2010.

But it may be tougher to get businesses and large property owners to pay 1 cent per square foot of hard surfaces. Those who own big houses (more than 3,000 square feet) in the state would pay $40 per year into the green fund, while a warehouse owner could pay up to $5,500 per year.

One side says this is fairer than previous green fund plans that would tax new construction — and say the bay needs the money.

Others say it’s still to costly, especially for folks like food retailers — given other taxes that are on the table right now. What do you think?

-ANDY ROSEN, Business Writer

A lawyer walks into a church...

The St. Thomas More Society’s 49th annual Red Mass, otherwise known as the “Lawyer’s Mass,” will be held today at 5:30 p.m. at the Baltimore Basilica.

The mass, which has been celebrated since the mid-13th century, “mark[s] the annual opening of the courts and seek[s] the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit in court deliberations,” according to the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Its name is derived from the practice of the celebrating priest, along with judges of the High Court of England, wearing red robes to the mass.

What are your thoughts on this tradition?

Will you be attending?


-CHRISTINA DORAN, Assistant Legal Editor

"Dad, call a lawyer... I wrecked a BMW"

What a fun phone call to make to your father.

A loving parent
posted on World Law Direct today that his teenage son, a Maryland college student, wrecked a brand-new BMW on a test drive. He's wondering whether his son or the dealer is liable... dealer apparently didn't ask for drivers license or insurance until after the crash.

Attorneys, can you help the poor guy out? Let us know what you think.

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Wildfires bring to light new multimedia efforts

Even though the SoCal wildfires aren't a local story, they have been on everyone's mind these last few days. With the latest advancements in interactive technology, we are able to stay informed on even microscopic news. Here's a roundup of what's happening online.

Quick links to user-generated content:
LATimes.com; CNN's I-Report; MSNBC First Person; FoxNews.com uReport and ABCNews.com's i-Caught.


View Larger Map

The Google map embedded on this page, originally built by San Diego's KPBS, is one of the most complete maps out there. You can see where evacuations are occurring (red crosses), where volunteers are needed (the green horsemen) and which areas are safe to return to (green homes).

You may not have heard of Twitter, but it's an increasingly popular site that allows users to sign up for alerts in the form of text or instant messages as well as desktop alerts. John Edwards' presidential campaign made headlines when it began using Twitter to update supporters. Now, the LAFD is twittering users with traffic and fire updates. LATimes and KPBS jumped on the bandwagon, too.

On Achenblog, WaPo's Joel Achenbach
addresses the link between the wildfires and global warming that NBC made last night. His take:

"
Climate change didn't force people to build homes in dangerous places. Climate change didn't inspire the U.S. government to suppress fires for decades in places that have traditionally been prone to brush-clearing wildfires.

That doesn't mean we're not sympathetic to the plight of Californians, or folks in the Deep South who are wondering if they're going to run out of water next year because of the recent drought
."


-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

I vote for more vacation days

Our executive editor pointed me in the direction of a provocative OpEd ("Making a better world, one office at a time") by Traci Fenton that ran recently in The Baltimore Sun.

Fenton's workplace democracy platform has been gaining national attention by way of The Wall Street Journal and The Christian Science Monitor and through WorldBlu, her company, and its blog.

WorldBlu's mission: to convince businesses that democracy isn't just for governments.

As Traci wrote, "Democracy is ... understanding that the traditional hierarchical workplace structures that operated on disengagement and the delusion of control are now a recipe for defeat in today's collaborative world."

She also adds that democratic organizations trim "unnecessary layers of management," improve employee morale and increase innovation.

WorldBlu named the Most Democratic Workplaces for 2007, and you'll recognize several: 1-800-GOT-JUNK; Bethesda's Honest Tea, Linden Lab (creator of virtual world Second Life), GE Aviation's Durham Engine Facility.

Our question for you: Can a workplace function without the traditional chain of command? What decisions within a company would be better made democractically?

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Is $18 million too much?

The new Maryland Insurance Commissioner, Ralph S. Tyler, said Wednesday he will convene a hearing to see if the $18-plus million severance package for former CareFirst CEO William L. Jews (at right) is too much.

Tyler is specifically looking to see if the $17.6 million plus $800,000 in interest package violates state insurance law requiring payment to former employees be “fair and reasonable.”

The company, which saw $5.5 billion in revenue in 2006, says it did not just come up with the figure out of thin air and claims it is in line with other nonprofit Blue Shield and Blue Crosses.

“The $17.6 million referenced in Commissioner Tyler’s release is made up of about $12.6 million in retirement benefits and deferred compensation earned over 13½ years as CEO and about $5.0 million in severance payments,” CareFirst said in its statement. “Further, several expert compensation consultants retained by our board have independently concluded that the benefits due Mr. Jews are reasonable compared with those provided by similar not-for-profit Blues Plans.”

Who’s right?

—BEN MOOK, Assistant Business Editor

Don't go hungry when disaster strikes

Have the wildfires in California and the recent drought gotten you thinking about impending survival situations?

Want to show your support for the troops by sharing their diet?

Whether you're worried about earthquakes, tornados or blackouts, the
Survival Food Store is your one-stop shop. There's even an Armageddon Pack, which provides 30 days of food for a family of four.

Caution: the
MRE (military-style Meals Ready-to-Eat) includes a Flameless Ration Heater, a water-activated chemical pack that can heat the food up to 100 degrees.

Careful, though -- they sound an awful lot like Wolfgang Puck's
self-heating (and explosive) lattes.

Even campers and RV lovers like Clarence Thomas might be interested in the canned butter (no refrigeration necessary).

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Fingerprints: no longer good enough?

Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Susan Souder threw out fingerprint evidence in a fatal shooting case last week, saying it doesn't make the cut when a defendant's life is at stake.

Reporter Caryn Tamber searched for the decision’s ramifications and found that some attorneys worry that Souder’s decision could raise questions about all physical evidence.

“It has huge impact on this case individually, but more importantly, where does it end?” Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger said. “Fingerprints have been considered the gold standard of forensic evidence for 100 years. … If not fingerprints, what’s next?”

Shellenberger said the state cannot appeal the ruling prior to trial, but his office is considering whether to ask Judge Souder to reconsider.

Do you think the judge should reconsider? And what do you think about her ruling? Should fingerprints still be the gold standard?

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Proud to be a Firstborn

I did a quick poll today and realized that the overwhelming majority of those near and dear to me are "firstborns,” like me. And, according to Time, I'm in good company.

Not only are firstborns traditionally high achievers (just think Jimmy and Billy Carter - although he did bring us Billy Beer) but they're often CEOs, too.

As Time puts it, "Firstborns do more than survive; they thrive."

A poll by Vistage turned up these results: 43% of CEOs are firstborns, compared to 33% middle-borns and 23% last-borns. The same skew appears when surgeons and MBAs are polled, reports a Stanford psychologist. And, whether or not we firstborns want to be associated with them, the U.S. Congress has a statistically-significant proportion of firstborns.

An economics professor at UCLA even discovered that older siblings earn about 1% more than their younger sibling, though she questions the underlying cause: "I'd be interested in whether it's because the second child is taking the riskier jobs," she says.

Perhaps the most fascinating parts of the article were the findings by NYU professor Ben Dattner, who studied how firstborns and later-borns approach their work.

Firstborn CEOs, for example, do best when they're making incremental improvements in their companies: shedding underperforming products, maximizing profits from existing lines and generally making sure the trains run on time. Later-born CEOs are more inclined to blow up the trains and lay new track. "Later-borns are better at transformational change," says Dattner. "They pursue riskier, more innovative, more creative approaches."

Score one for the later-borns.

Does this fall in line with your experience?

Anyone know if Under Armour's Kevin Plank or Constellation's Mayo Shattuck are the eldest siblings?

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Weighty talk for lawyers

Talk about finding — and filling — a niche!

We received an announcement of the opening of Leventhal Weight Loss Inc., which describes itself as “the first in the nation executive weight loss coaching service for attorneys by an attorney.” According to the Washington-based company’s literature, “Lawyers in the Washington, D.C. area will now be able to lose weight even though they have briefs due, trials coming up, depositions to take, and clients coming in from out of town.”

Founder and President Mark Leventhal says he “lost over 50 pounds while practicing international trade law in a Washington, D.C. law firm and has since run and completed eight marathons, earning him the moniker Marathon Mark. … As an attorney, he fully understands the hurdles that attorneys must overcome in order to lose weight.”

Do attorneys really need an attorney to teach them how to lose weight?

Could the same be said for engineers, teachers, doctors or journalists? What do you think?

-PAUL SAMUEL, Associate Editor

Montel hosts crowd at Lexington Market

Montel Williams' message to citizens of his native Baltimore? Help is Here.

At Lexington Market this morning, the talk show host addressed uninsured Americans' access to prescription medicines.

He rolled up with the "Help is Here Express" national bus tour, which launched in April 2005 and has visited 1,500 cities to deliver information on patient assistance programs. (Williams has toured since January 2006).

One such assistance program? The everpresent State Children's Health Insurance Program. According to the release:

"America's pharmaceutical research companies support the reauthorization of SCHIP, and more than 40 of the assistance programs through PPA (the Partnership for Prescription Assistance, which is responsible for the bus tour and for which Williams is national spokesman) focus on the medication and healthcare needs of children."



Your thoughts?

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Photo by Eric Stocklin.

Some companies find it easy to be green

Last night, the EPA honored 17 organizations and businesses that are voluntarily purchasing power from renewable resources.

To put these organizations' contributions in perspective, the EPA estimates that their contributions will avoid the equivalent amount of CO2 emissions of 450,000 vehicles each year.

At the top of the EPA's "Partners of the Year" list - surprisingly - I found a municipality: the city of Bellingham, Wash (you'll find it
practically in Canada). New Jersey's own Johnson & Johnson, Texas-based Whole Foods, Massachusetts-based Staples and California's Wells Fargo & Co. were also "partners," as were New York's Pepsi Co. and Mohawk Fine Papers. For the full release click here.

I perused the EPA's Web site for Maryland interest, and discovered Montgomery County's wind energy purchases landed it a #4 spot on the
Top 10 Local Government list.

A few Maryland companies are also listed as
100% green power purchasers, including Cheverly-based MOSAIC (a print communication company), Rockville-based My Organic Market, and Annapolis's Rockfish Bar and Grill.

What are some other local companies that you think deserve recognition? And how important is it for businesses to invest in green power?

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Monday, October 22, 2007

Let’s all retire in Mount Vernon

A tip of the hat to WJZ for noting on its Web site Sunday that Money Magazine has named our own Mount Vernon area as one of the top 35 places in the country to retire.

Huh? I love Mount Vernon, but is it really a mecca for migrating senior citizens? I know retirees who have come here to enjoy elder hostels at the Peabody, but they didn’t move here afterward.

So what makes Mount Vernon so hot with the retired class? Money points out that a host of cultural attractions are within easy walking distance, not to mention lots of restaurants and pleasant places to walk.

Then I suppose there’s the Flower Mart in the spring and the lighting of the Washington Monument at Christmas. And now that I think about it, global warming is making our climate feel more and more like Florida’s every day.

After that, I’m fresh out of reasons, folks. How about you? What reasons can you think of for retiring in Mount Vernon? Let us hear from you and let’s be creative!

-TOM LINTHICUM, Executive Editor

Law blog round-up 10/22

KipEsquire’s post on A Stitch in Haste this morning confirms an important fact: reading our Web site is legal.

For all those fender-bender attorneys out there, would a procedural tweak like this one in Washington, D.C., annoy you as much as it seems to bother this blogger?

Two hundred years ago, an elite group of private attorneys, including such men as Daniel Webster, argued regularly before the U.S. Supreme Court. For most of the 20th century, the solicitor general and his staff (representing the federal government) were the only lawyers who routinely appeared before the high court, with even high-powered private attorneys only appearing a handful of times in a career.

Recently, Georgetown University Law Center Professor Richard J. Lazarus writes (hat tip to the Legal Profession Blog), Supreme Court specialists have re-emerged, and their experience seems to be paying off for their (big-business) clients. What are the pros and cons of a specialized bar for Supreme Court cases?

-BRENDAN KEARNEY, Legal Affairs Writer

Who has time to blog? Presidential cabinet members

It's Monday morning, and as usual, I'm rounding up ideas for posts. (I've been known to grumble about finding time to blog when other tasks seem more important).

But this morning, the AP tells me that two members of the presidential cabinet have MADE time to launch their own blogs, and I've got metaphorical egg on my face.

Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt and Michael Chertoff of Homeland Security are the first of President Bush's cabinet to contribute to the blogosphere.

Well, I had to see this for myself, so I logged on to
Leavitt's first.

I was impressed.


He writes the posts personally. He responded to comments from his original post on SCHIP and even links to a WaPo article about a Nobel prize winner (not Al, though). And he performed his own six-week evaluation as a blogger. He also has an amusing entry that compares "personalized medicine" to purchasing new golf clubs. ("The golf professional said to me, “now that we know how you align your clubs (medication) with your game (ailments), we can fit you properly.")

Then I browsed to Michael Chertoff's.

It's certainly not as easy to navigate, and Chertoff isn't the sole contributor - he has help from Customs & Border Protection and the Transportation Security Administration.

The
first post I saw was on IED attacks, which the Post covered with a front-page story recently (no link to that article ... ).

Although the majority of the posts seem to be rehashed speeches with a clear agenda, "An American Story" breaks from that mold. Chertoff links to an
Op-Ed piece about legal immigrants who work for the U.S. government while praising government servants.

But don't take my word for it - check it out for yourself. And let us know what you think.

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Top this

I’ve got a story in today’s paper about lawyers’ and judges’ favorite funny courtroom moments.

Read it to find out what article of clothing criminal defense powerhouse Margaret Mead lost in open court and how Judge Darrell Russell’s choice of words completely stumped a defendant.

Then post your own funny courtroom moments in the comments section.

Can you top the ones I found?

-CARYN TAMBER, Legal Affairs Writer

Friday, October 19, 2007

Dismissing domestic violence?

Earlier this month, Anne Arundel County Judge Paul Harris acquitted a man of domestic assault because he was unsure the woman did not consent to the attack.

At the trial, police testified to witnessing the assault at a Laurel gas station in June 2006, but the prosecution couldn’t find the victim to testify. Harris said the couple could have hypothetically been engaging in sadomasochism, and that the jury instruction on the charge required proof that the victim did not consent.

What do you think about the decision?

-CHRISTINA DORAN, Assistant Legal Affairs Editor

Nonprofit numbers

Thanks to Perspectives from the Pipeline for turning me on to an interesting set of facts about the nonprofit world.

In a 2006 report on the industry, the Meyer Foundation and CompassPoint Nonprofit Services discovered:

• 75% of executive directors plan to leave their job within the next five years, and 9% have already taken steps to do so.

• An overwhelming number of executive directors (73%) identified fundraising as the most desired area of board improvement.

• Only 26% of executives have ever asked for a raise, despite widespread dissatisfaction with financial compensation.

• Executives cited fundraising and finance as their least favorite aspects of their job and the areas in which they most needed to build their skills.

• Only 18% of executive directors under 45 are people of color.

We’d like to hear from people from the local nonprofit community. Does this ring true? If so, should we be worried? What should be done about these concerns?

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Negotiating for Mideast peace and a place to park

The parking in Annapolis could go from bad to worse in November.

The city known as much for lousy parking as it is for sailboats is going to see the perfect storm of visitors when the General Assembly and the leaders of the free world converge at the same time.

I can see it now: Condi Rice fighting Michael Busch over a parking meter along Ego Alley.

Really, what are people going to think about our capital city when correspondents from around the world have to park at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and take a bus in to cover what could be the creation of a Palestinian state?!

Anyway, at least us regular Annapolis visitors have our own favorite parking spot. I’ve been using mine for more than eight years now. Am I supposed to park there? No. Do I? Yes. Where is it? I’m not telling you.

But what choice do I have? I was in Annapolis yesterday to cover a Board of Public Works meeting and I tried to do it right. I looked, trust me, I looked.

Surprise surprise, all the garages were full! All the meters were either only good for a half-hour or taken. So I parked where I always park. And you know what? It felt good.

I’m sure I’m not the only one with a secret parking spot in Annapolis. Let’s do Condi a favor and let her know where she can find a hidden gem of a parking spot so she can focus on peace in the Middle East and not the guy on the bus next to her who is looking at her boots.

Share your favorite spot with Condi (anonymously of course. Wouldn’t want to see you towed away!)

-LOUIS LLOVIO, Business Writer

A matter of degrees

The most amusing top-10 list I've encountered this week came from ScholarPoint: Most Unusual College Degrees.

Even if you're an avid snowboarder, chances are you're not aware it could have been your college major ("Adventure Recreation" at Green Mountain College, VT). Same goes for professional nannies (Louisville, KY-based Sullivan U).

Here's one with a surprisingly sunny future: Golf & Sports Turf Management at Mississippi State, which places 90% of its graduates in jobs.

The top spot on the list, Master Ranching, was profiled by the AP not long ago.

What do you wish you could have majored in, pragmatism aside?

Personally, I think a Blogging major would be pretty cool.

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What is on your holiday wish list?

The special publications staff of The Daily Record is almost as busy as a certain someone’s elves as we prepare for the holiday season and the inaugural publication of the Luxury Gift Guide.

This year’s guide will make your holidays even brighter, helping you plan an unforgettable company party, impress your client roster and, of course, find, buy and give the perfect gift to everyone on your list — all while keeping pace with your busy work (and party) schedule.

As part of this year’s issue, we will be publishing the extravagant holiday gift wishes of our readers. Remember writing your wish list as a child? Sending letters to Santa? Here is your chance to relive the nostalgia of childhood, because The Daily Record wants to know:

What special item is on your wish list this year?

Perhaps a Porsche Boxster? A half-carat diamond watch from Tiffany? A trip to Australia? Or simply an official Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot range model air rifle?

Please respond to the blog or email me (emily.arnold@mddailyrecord.com) with your holiday wish. After all, you never know who may be reading.

-EMILY ARNOLD, Special Publications Editor

Scotus: Who's good for a laugh?

Our sister blog, DC Dicta, has issued a verdict on which of the Supremes is funniest this term and the result may surprise you. So far, Justice Antonin Scalia has gotten the most laughs, according to oral argument transcripts.

Second runner-up? Hail to the Chief: John G. Roberts, Jr.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has yet to produce laughter this term, and Justice Clarence Thomas (our favorite due to Winnebago fame) hasn't commented since fall of 2005.

Scalia also finished first in a survey of the October 2004 term by Jay D. Wexler, a law professor at Boston University, as
reported in The New York Times. (Prior to that term, transcripts did not identify the justices by name.)

Are conservative justices the quickest with a quip, in your experience?

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Four-letter words at work

I guess there's no more need for corporate retreats or office holiday parties, now that English researchers have discovered an unlikely source of team morale-boosting: swear words.

Supposedly, these office no-nos can boost camaraderie among co-workers and reduce stress.

So "sticks and stones can break our bones, but words will never hurt us" rings true, eh?

Anyone else prefer a morale-boosting happy hour instead? Swearing's fun, but it won't pay my tab.

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Adrian Fenty and the nexus of the universe

At Naylor Road and Alabama Ave. SE yesterday, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty announced that the District's cab zoning system would be replaced with a standard metered fare.

Why in Southeast? Because each corner at the chosen intersection represented a different cab zone, emphasizing the zoning system's flaws.


View Larger Map

It reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where Kramer gets lost at the corner of 1st and 1st ("Can the same street intersect with itself?"), what he fears is the "nexus of the universe."

Nexus or not, the scenario is one that the District's tourism directors worry is all too familiar to visitors in the nation's capital.

"Universally, the hospitality industry wants to go to time-and-distance meters," William A. Hanbury, president of the Washington, D.C., Convention and Tourism Corp., recently told The Washington Post.

I know the industry brings billions to the District, but let's forget about tourists for a minute. Do we think the zoning system was that horrible?

Is a simpler metered system the best we can do? Sound off, cab riders!

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Lawyers get a bad wrap—but a great French dip—at Idaho restaurant

A restaurant in Boise, Idaho has taken its distain for lawyers to a whole new level—and is profiting from it.

After having a year-long legal dispute with their lawyer neighbor over a swimming pool, the owners of Crescent Bar & Grill decided to implement a new concept for their restaurant: “No Lawyers.”

The restaurant sells lawyer-themed food, such as the “So-Su-Me platter” and the “Plea Bargain Burger.” Its Web site encourages patrons to submit their best lawyer jokes to win a free Crescent Bar & Grill “No Lawyers” t-shirt.

And best of all, according to the restaurant’s chipper hostess “Sarah,” while it does not refuse to serve lawyers, it does have a phony “$100 up-charge” button its lawyer customers can wear as they feast on their tasty “Lawyer Limbs.”

Lawyers, would you patronize this establishment, or do you think that it, along with lawyer jokes, perpetuates an unflattering image that the profession should not accept?

-CHRISTINA DORAN, Assistant Legal Editor

Networking for paralegals

It seems like the Great-Courtroom-in-the-Ether is quickly becoming crowded. But the latest online legal venture just might receive a unanimous affirmation, at least from the paralegal industry.

I'm referring to
MyParalegalSpace, the newest venture by paralegal - and new media entrepreneur - Jeannie Johnston, creator of Paralegal Gateway. Johnston's first creation, born in 2001, serves largely as an information portal.

Not so for MyParalegalSpace, Johnston tells
Law Crossing:

"I wanted to have the members put a face to the name and become less quick to get hostile ... I had a vision of [our site] to be more personable. [MyParalegalSpace] creates more of a community feel."

And that community has grown to almost 400 members (all verified as paralegals) in just two months.

Johnston goes on to comment that one of her goals is to help paralegals progress in their careers.

Will MyParalegalSpace accomplish this? Among paralegals, is networking a significant advantage?

What are some other ideas for industry-specific social networking portals?

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Pendergrass ponies up $1,000 for Howard health care

The message from Del. Shane Pendergrass Tuesday was, “Do as I say AND as I do.”

The Howard County Democrat made an appearance at the end of a news conference at which County Executive Ken Ulman unveiled his partially funded plan to open access to health care for many of the county’s 20,000 uninsured residents.

Ulman’s program would cost $2.8 million in its first year, with $700,000 of that to come from yet-to-be-collected donations from private corporations, foundations and individuals.

Pendergrass, the new vice chair for the House of Delegates’ Health and Government Operations Committee, thanked Ulman for his efforts and invoked her very own checkbook in praising the plan.

“The right thing for me to do today is to write the first check for $1,000,” Pendergrass said as she took the podium at Howard County Community College.

The amount is equal to what insured Marylanders pay in extra health costs each year to cover their 800,000-some uninsured neighbors, according to county health officer Dr. Peter Beilenson.

Ulman said about two dozen people had pledged money to the program, but the delegate’s was the first check cut.

“I hope that what I do will send a message,” Pendergrass told the crowd.

There was no sound of rustling checkbooks in the room after her announcement.

Tell us: Would you crack your piggy bank to help support a plan similar to what they’re doing in Howard County?

—KAREN BUCKELEW, Business Writer

WSSC turning to the tap

The utility that provides almost 2 million Marylanders with water is boycotting its bottled form.

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission announced Monday that it will forgo giving away bottled water at community events, citing the impact on the environment. (For anyone unawares, most of the bottles stack up in landfills, contributing to already-overburdened trash stockpiles).

From the release:

"One of WSSC’s core values is environmental stewardship. Every day, an estimated 60 million plastic water bottles are thrown away. Most are not recycled. Millions upon millions are ending up in our landfills," said Jim Neustadt, Director of Communications and Community Relations. "By ending our use of bottled water, hopefully we can inspire others to make a change."

-JACKIE SAUTER, Multimedia Editor

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Singing Baltimore’s praises

When Prairie Home Companion impresario Garrison Keillor takes his radio variety show on the road, to venues outside his home base of St. Paul, Minn., he usually writes and sings a song about the city that he’s visiting.

And the broadcast of “A Prairie Home Companion” from the Hippodrome Theatre on Saturday, Oct. 13, was no exception. Keillor composed a catchy song about Baltimore, which perfectly caught the spirit and quirkiness of our city.

Here are the lyrics of the song, which you can hear on the Internet here. (I didn’t recognize the tune, which may be original, although Keillor frequently adapts his songs to other, well-established music.)

Keillor had many nice things to say about Baltimore, and it’s well worth listening on the Internet to the entire broadcast, if you didn’t hear it on Saturday night on National Public Radio (or even if you did).

Baltimore, Baltimore

Lying near the Eastern Shore

Not Washington or New York

Baltimore my Baltimore

Camden Yards and Pimlico

Little houses in a row

Home of Edgar Allan Poe

Baltimore my Baltimore

Baltimore, on the Bay

Crabs fried or sauté

Life is just a big buffet

Baltimore my Baltimore

Gimme a plate of steamed crabs

A pair of pliers, a mallet perhaps

With a napkin in our laps

Baltimore my Baltimore

It’s the city of crustaceans

Fifty different combinations

Baltimore’s crustacean-nation

Baltimore my Baltimore

Waiting for the oyster truck

Hose ’em down and get ’em shucked

And toss the shells on the rug

Baltimore my Baltimore

Let’s go to Fells Point

Dive bars and breakfast joints

The omelets do not disappoint

Baltimore my Baltimore

Babe Ruth’s birthplace is near

John Waters made a great career

Anne Tyler, she lives here

Baltimore my Baltimore

Climb the hill on Charles Street

Hear an autumn melody

From Peabody Conservatory

Baltimore my Baltimore

Mount Vernon, Federal Hill

Looking for a corner grill

Need some crab, I’m hungry still

Baltimore my Baltimore

Baltimore, Baltimore

Lying on the Eastern Shore

Not Washington or New York

Baltimore my Baltimore


In looking up other Baltimore-related songs on the Internet, I came across one, entitled “My Baltimore Song,” which is on a Web site associated with the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Council. In 1977, songwriter Randy Newman released a song entitled “Baltimore”, which is much less complimentary of Charm City.

Are there other Baltimore-centric songs out there? Which one do you prefer?

-PAUL SAMUEL, Associate Editor

Beantown blues

Boston may be the home of the “Cradle of Liberty,” but is it that different from Baltimore? I know I’m treading on sacred ground for some but come on.

Boston has Bunker Hill; we’ve got Federal Hill. Boston has Quincy Market; we’ve got Lexington Market. Boston has Fenway Park; we’ve got Camden Yards. Boston has a harbor; we’ve got an Inner Harbor.

I enjoyed my time in Boston on a recent business trip but kept thinking about Baltimore. The drivers here are more pedestrian friendly. We’ve got plenty of historic Americans who called Baltimore home, from Francis Scott Key to Frederick Douglass. And in Baltimore’s best neighborhoods, brownstones or row homes don’t cost anything near $15 million.

We could use a few more public parks, and a baseball team in the playoffs wouldn’t be bad either. But for me; I’ll stay in Maryland my Maryland.

-TODD ZIMMERMAN, Presentation Editor

A Day for Bosses

The international conspiracy in charge of bogus holidays has proclaimed today as National Boss Day.

While some of us may choose to use this occasion to celebrate Bruce Springsteen’s new album and tour or to bash George Steinbrenner, head of the evil empire known as the New York Yankees, others may want to celebrate the woman or man in the corner office.

Since both of those other Bosses have already gotten more than their share of glory and vitriol, let’s concentrate on the lower-case bosses.

Who has a boss--past or present--worth celebrating? Tell us who and why. Boss-bashing is not allowed today. That’s for the other 364 days of the year.

-TOM LINTHICUM, Executive Editor

How ‘bout them (bull)dogs?

It seems we collared some interest with this week’s cover of Maryland Lawyer, which depicted the bulldog mascot of Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge & Rice.

The bulldog is called Winston, as in Winston-Salem, location of the firm’s home office. The one in the firm’s Baltimore lobby is a stuffed animal.

Want to know more? Winston (looking far more fierce than his Charm City counterpart) even has his own bio on the firm’s Web site, just like former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and the firm’s other lawyers.

Ehrlich’s bio is longer, naturally. By about 65 words.

-BARBARA GRZINCIC, Managing Editor, Law

Monday, October 15, 2007

A world of water

Today is Blog Action Day, when bloggers everywhere are asked to tackle environmental issues. So here we go:

Oil is over $84 a barrel. Farms are being crammed with corn, at the expense of wheat and soybeans, to feed the ethanol craze that picks up with every election cycle in recent years. And nuclear power has become a topic of energy-centric conversations again — locally, thanks to Calvert Cliffs—and nationally. Don’t forget about wind, solar, biomass and on and on and on…

All are relevant resources in one way or another, and all make good news fodder and talking points for the talking heads that just seem to add more hot air to a supposedly “warming” climate. But to Marylanders, particularly those in the central part of the state and on the Eastern Shore, there’s a resource shortage that trumps all those concerns right now: H2O.

With a large part of our state under an official “drought watch,” we all should watch our water consumption a lot more closely. No, I don’t expect a Nobel prize for pointing this out, but I do wonder what people are doing to conserve this precious resource. Let us hear from you.

-FRANCIS SMITH, Assistant Special Publications Editor

Law blog round-up

A few tidbits for your Monday afternoon:

* Anonymous southern Maryland blogger Pillage Idiot has a post on a New York State judge who couldn’t stop himself from commenting approvingly about a public defender’s posterior. In the courtroom. Four times.

* Kip Esquire at
A Stitch in Haste has a good round-up about various states’ restrictions on sex offenders. He writes in part:

I am long numb to the thought that hack politicians are perfectly willing to pass a law that they have been warned is almost certain to be struck down, or that de jure exile has finally been proposed somewhere. It will be proposed elsewhere in the future.

What do you think?

* The ABA Journal has this post summarizing the case of a Connecticut lawyer who disappeared in July after admitting that he embezzled money from clients. My question: What kind of police officer publicly uses the term “offed himself” in reference to a missing person? Um, maybe some sensitivity training is in order here?

* Grant Griffiths at the Home Office Warrior has this item about the perils of working from home. To all you home-office lawyers out there: would you recommend it to others?

Want to see more Maryland-centric blog posts in the Monday morning round-up? Then please, write some, for Pete’s sake. The Maryland blawg community is small and posts sparingly, I’ve found.

People, please, don’t let poor Ron Miller at the Maryland Injury Law Blog and the Maryland Lawyer blog do all the dirty work! (And if anyone knows of some good Maryland law blogs I might be missing, post them in the comments.)

-CARYN TAMBER, Legal Affairs Writer