Suffolk County can’t make up its mind about whether or not they want to sell Long Wharf back to the Village of Sag Harbor. Didn’t know Sag Harbor didn’t own it, did ya? They did once. But in the Great Depression, when they found they didn’t have the scratch to keep it up, they let the County take it off their hands for $1.
A year ago, Suffolk County offered to sell the wharf back for $1. The Village looked at what needed to be done—reinforcing part of it, painting part of it, possibly putting a railing along its borders—and said, okay, we’ll take it, but you pay for the work to be done. After awhile, the County said never mind.
Now the County has formed a committee to look into whether or not they want to sell Long Wharf to the Village. Rumor has it the committee will consist of nine people who have spent big bucks for the Brooklyn Bridge, but later found out the person who sold it to them didn’t own it.
In Manhattan’s Chinatown two weeks ago, police swooped in and arrested a shopkeeper for selling counterfeit designer handbags. An undercover agent came into the store, went over to a sales clerk named Wing Sun Mak, asked him if three bags that had the Burberry plaid on them and one handbag with a fake Louis Vuitton insignia on it were for sale. After getting a positive response, the law handcuffed the perp and took him away where he was remanded to jail for the night and then arraigned in Criminal Court at 100 Centre Street.
The name of the store is Fook On Sing Funeral Supplies and everything inside is made of cardboard or cheap plastic, including the bags and the insignias.
One of the owners of the store, Amy Mak-Chan, called The New York Times to explain what had happened. She also explained why everything is cardboard or plastic. It’s part of Chinese culture.
“When people die,” she said, “they feel they are going to need things in the next world. They might want a car and a house and other nice things. People buy things here, to give them as gifts at the funeral.”
There are a number of stores in Chinatown that make a living selling cardboard merchandise.
Many of the things being sold are just miniatures of the real thing. For example, you can buy a small two-foot-tall cardboard house, or a two-foot-long cardboard Mercedes. Other cardboard things for sale include flat-screen TVs, cellphones, double-breasted suits (made of paper) and even doll-sized smiling servants to wait on the deceased in the hereafter. You can also buy fake money—there were stacks of it on shelves—but the police apparently missed that.
The local Councilwoman, Margaret Chin, spoke to The Times.
“It’s hard to understand how someone could mistake this for criminal activity,” she said.
Nearby to her in the store was a three-foot-long cardboard BMW. A yellow Post-it note had been attached to cover the insignia on the front.
A government employee named Thomas Drake has been burdened with the possibility of 35 years in prison for four years of making public secret documents. Drake works in the department that keeps track of secret documents.
Two weeks ago, a judge dropped all felony charges against the man, and upbraided the Obama Administration for pursuing the case.
The story is that Drake found documents—this was during the Bush Administration—that had no business being classified as secret. There were, for example, documents showing that about a half billion dollars had been spent on some miserable attempt to do something with computers that didn’t work out. The administration was filing them as secret to get rid of the embarrassment. There were other bury it under the carpet things too.
Drake told a reporter about the documents, expecting he would be considered a patriotic whistle-blower for exposing waste and abuse. Instead, his superiors, after reading what he did in the newspaper, recommended he be charged as a criminal for revealing government secrets. By this time, the Obama Administration was in office. Officials then charged Drake with being in violation of the Espionage Act for what he had done. He could spend the rest of his life in jail.
At the same time this was going on, Obama was ordering a whole new study of what gets classified as secret and what does not. He wanted all secret material reviewed, and those not secret declassified. Unfortunately, in the two and a half years he has been in office, practically nothing during this review has been declassified and huge amounts of new stuff have been classified. Last year, 77 million documents were declared secret, as opposed to 45 million the year before.
The sticking point in Drake’s case was that the judge wanted this computer information read to him in open court and the government refused to do so. As a result of this, finally, the former director of the Information Security Oversight Office during the Bush Administration, J. William Leonard, took the stand, said he knew about that document and said he had never seen “a more deliberate and willful example of government officials improperly classifying a document.”
With that, Judge Richard Bennett called the whole thing “unconscionable” and threw out the case. After testifying, Leonard then filed a formal complaint about the prosecution of Drake with the Justice Department and the National Security Agency.
Proctor & Gamble withdrew a magazine advertisement the other day, deeply embarrassed at what they had done.
The product they were advertising was Olay Definity Eye Illuminator cream, and the promise was that it would reduce wrinkles in the skin around the eyes. The advertisement showed before and after photographs of a British model named Twiggy, popular in the early 1970s. She is now 60 years old. Before using the cream she had wrinkles around her eyes and afterwards she did not.
A member of Parliament, a woman named Jo Swinson, a liberal Democrat from a district in Scotland, took great offense at this. She claimed that the after picture had to have been digitally retouched. She also said that if people saw this ad and used this product without getting the same result, it would have a negative effect on their perception of their own body image. In other words, it would be cruel. She filed a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in England, went public with it on the Internet and was soon joined by 700 other outraged people wishing to join her in the complaint.
Two things have come of this. One is that the suits at Proctor & Gamble looked into this, found that, indeed, an enthusiastic designer at their ad agency had airbrushed the picture, apologized and pulled the ad. The second thing that happened was that the ASA waded in with its own comments.
“We considered that the combination of references to ‘younger-looking eyes’ including the claim ‘reduces the look of wrinkles and dark circles for brighter, young-looking eyes’ and post-production retouching of Twiggy’s image around the eye area was likely to mislead.”
On the other hand, the ASA continued, the public expected models to get all gussied up and styled and made up, and that any reasonable mature woman would realize you couldn’t look like Twiggy did by just using this product. “The image was unlikely to have a negative impact on perceptions of body image among the target audience and was not socially irresponsible.”