Money can’t buy good press

By: - July 6, 2007 12:00 am

New York Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno (R) has asked the Albany County district attorney to investigate The Times Union of Albany for extortion, alleging that a salesman from the paper pressured him to buy advertisements in exchange for favorable coverage, according to a New York Times dispatch. The Times Union’s publisher called the allegation “preposterous” and a mischaracterization of the sales call. The episode is the latest skirmish between the state’s top Republican and the Times Union, which has published several articles this year questioning Bruno’s business dealings and most recently his taxpayer-financed helicopter flights to New York City, where he attended GOP fund-raisers.

Kentucky first dog Abby, already a celebrity with her own Web site , soon may make an appearance in a children’s book, the Associated Press reports. A spokeswoman for Gov. Ernie Fletcher (R) called plans for a book deal for the white-furred West Highland terrier still “preliminary.” A government watchdog group called the idea a waste of taxpayer spending. But teachers praised the idea, noting that children’s interest in dogs may spur them to read and learn about state history.

Celebrity status may be hard to come by, but honorary citizenship, not as much. CBS’ “The Late Late Show” host Craig Ferguson was named an “honorary Nebraska citizen” and “admiral of the Great Navy of the State of Nebraska” by Gov. Dave Heineman (R). Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale said the honor doesn’t guarantee Ferguson any homestead property in the land-locked state but does entitle him to a filet of Nebraskan beef, the Omaha World Herald reports. The Scottish-born Ferguson, en route to his U.S. citizenship, has been urging local and state officials to grant him honorary citizenship through his show’s Web site . So far, the governors of Alaska, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota and Texas have obliged, according to the newspaper.

An Iowa state employee who inspected other employees’ Internet usage was fired for visiting porn sites on the job. Furthermore, he isn’t entitled to unemployment benefits, an administrative law judge ruled, calling Thomas Rice’s actions an “egregious” abuse of trust. Supervisors at the Iowa Public Employees Retirement System claimed the technology specialist, who earned ,500 a year, viewed dozens if not hundreds of pornographic images and movies throughout the workday during a nine-day period in March. “If they fire me, they’re going to have to go through and clean house,” Rice testified, according to the Des Moines Register . A department spokeswoman said six employees have been disciplined for similar violations over the past four years.

It could be lights out for some state buildings in Arizona next year. The Arizona Republic says that the Legislature put aside million less in the state budget to pay for state utility bills than it did last year, even though the state ran short of money this year to pay for its electricity and water use. The state budget recently signed by Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) includes .7 million to cover delinquent utility bills, such as about ,000 owed to the Phoenix Water Department. 

Forget the briefcase. Hawaii environmental health specialist Josh Marvit soon will be carrying a surfboard to work, the Honolulu Advertiser reports. The state Department of Health employee will use a new surfboard rigged to monitor water safety and water quality in key surfing spots starting at world-famous Waikiki Beach. Instead of relying on water samples taken from shore or by boat, Marvit will ride the surfboard to check for bacteria contamination at two surf sites three times a week as part of a study done in cooperation with the University of Hawai’i Medical School and the Surfrider Foundation O’ahu Chapter.

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