The Week: What Caught Our Eye

June 11, 2022

The back of a boat on Lake George with a flag blowing, and mountains in the backgroundCosmo says Lake George is a legit getaway for lovers of wine and fresh mountain air, and who could argue? (Jeff Killeen) 

Dear Colleagues and Friends:

Cockroaches brought the national spotlight to Albany, N.Y., this week. 

Four people, arrested while protesting rent laws at the state Capitol, were being arraigned in Albany City Court when someone freed hundreds of cockroaches in the courtroom. A $80,000-a-year employee of the State Senate Democratic Conference Services Office was charged with creating the distraction that set the stage for the cockroach invasion. The roaches were cleared, the Senate employee was fired, and order was restored, at least for now. No less an Albanian than William Kennedy once declared it a city of “improbable … political wizards, fearless ethnics, spectacular aristocrats, splendid nobodies, and underrated scoundrels. ‘’  To which we can now add chaos-creating courtroom cockroaches. O, Albany!

SUPREME DISCONTENT: The problems at the U.S. Supreme Court are far more worrisome. Nina Totenberg has covered the Court for NPR for more than four decades. Her reporting in the aftermath of the leaked decision overturning Roe v. Wade found a workplace of turmoil and broken trust, ill-equipped to investigate the source of the leak. There is antipathy for Chief Justice John Roberts. Her conclusion: the court itself “is not in a good place. … In short, it's a very perilous time for the Supreme Court.”

CANCER HOPE: A small group of rectal cancer patients at New York's Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center were given an experimental treatment for six months, and at the end each one’s tumors had disappeared. There is much more to be learned, but the result is a source of optimism for cancer researchers. “Paradigm shift is often used,” a researcher at the University of North Carolina told NPR, “but this really absolutely is paradigm-shifting.”

IMAGE OF PEACE: The world may not know her name, but few who have seen it can forget the image of a young girl, naked and screaming, her skin burning from the napalm that was dropped near where she and her cousins played on June 8, 1972, in the Village of Trang Bang in South Vietnam. Kim Phuc Phan Thi was nine when Nick Ut snapped a photo that would become the indelible image of the Vietnam War, published on newspaper front pages around the world and winner of a Pulitzer Prize. In an essay for The New York Times, she writes about the physical and emotional scars of that time, their effect on her life, and how she ultimately came to find peace and devote herself to the cause of providing medical and psychological assistance to children victimized by war. “That picture will always serve as a reminder of the unspeakable evil of which humanity is capable,” she writes. “Still, I believe that peace, love, hope and forgiveness will always be more powerful than any kind of weapon.”

NEW NEW YORK LEADERS: Joe Martens is the go-to-guy when New York State government needs a sure and steady hand in the Adirondacks. The state’s former commissioner of Environmental Conservation is returning to his post as chair of the Olympic Regional Development Authority in Lake Placid, just ahead of the 2023 World University Games, which are expected to draw more than 1,000 athletes for 11 days of international competition.

MEANWHILE, the State Senate has confirmed Gov. Kathy Hochul’s appointment of Kathryn Flacke Muncil to serve on the Lake George Park Commission, the independent state agency that oversees protection of the lake and the surrounding 300-square-mile area lying within three counties and 12 municipalities. She chairs the board of the Fort William Henry Corp. and inherits the mantle of public service from her late father, Bob Flacke, the only person in New York State history to serve as both the New York State Commissioner of Environmental Conservation and chairman of the Adirondack Park Agency.

AND BENITA LAW-DIAO will join the board of the Adirondack Park Agency, the first Black commissioner in its 50-year history. A Latham resident, she is an avid hiker and member of the board of John Brown Lives!, the Westport, N.Y., organization that carries on the spirit of abolitionist John Brown, promoting social justice and human rights.

Red, orange and yellow flowers, with a tree and barn in the backgroundBright little day stars; Scattered all over the earth; Ye drape the house of mourning; And ye deck the hall of mirth — Martha Lavinia Hoffman, To the Flowers

BACK IN THE GAME: Baseball fans, and especially Mets fans, remember the saga of Kumar Rocker. He’s the fireballing right-hander the Mets chose with the 10th pick in last year’s baseball draft after a stellar collegiate career at Vanderbilt, only to balk at signing him after reviewing medical information concerning his shoulder and arm. Hoping to show major league teams that he’s just fine ahead of this year’s draft, he pitched competitively for the first time in more than a year, before a legion of scouts in Troy, N.Y. Pitching for the hometown Tri-City ValleyCats, Rocker touched 99 mph with his fastball, striking out six batters over four innings. He’s hoping no doubt to someday compete and try to prove himself against players like Byron Buxton of the Minnesota Twins, a bundle of speed, power and dynamism who teammate Carlos Correa called “the best player in the world, no doubt about it.” 

RACING REGULATOR: Lisa Lazarus’ job, as she sees it, is to give horse racing a future. And that starts with persuading the humans involved that it’s in everyone’s interests to knock off the doping and other unethical behavior that are contributing to a long decline in popularity and interest. The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act established a Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority that Lazarus chairs, with a mandate to write and strictly enforce national standards meant to protect the health of thoroughbreds and their riders. “I guess my best pitch to anyone who will listen is, give us a chance to start from the get-go,” Lazarus, a lawyer who spent 10 years in the NFL front office, told Joe Drape of The New York Times. “To show that this is a sincere and real effort that is going to have a major impact on how people view the sport.” Said the COO of the Jockey Club: “She’s tough. She’s smart. She is organized and a great communicator. Clearly, she is what the sport needs.”

A LANDMARK RENOVATION: For international visitors, the Guinness brewery is the number-one attraction in Ireland – no surprise. But a close second, with as many as a million visitors a year, is the library at Trinity College in Dublin and its Long Room, a place of legend and the nursery of Edmund Burke, Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett, Bram Stoker and other writers, philosophers and artists. The Long Room holds some of Ireland’s most ancient volumes, including the Book of Kells, a ninth-century gospel considered the greatest surviving relic of Ireland’s early Christian golden age. Frightened by what happened at the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, Trinity College is undertaking a full renovation and, for the first time since 1732, the library will close for three years in October.

ENVIRONMENTAL MATTERS: The U.S. Interior Department said it would phase out single-use plastics such as cups, straws and food containers on land and facilities it oversees, including National Parks, by 2032. In New York, the Department of Environmental Conservation announced a new initiative to combat the spread of aquatic invasive species in the Adirondacks, requiring operators of motorized boats to have their vessels inspected and certified before launching in waters in, and immediately adjacent to, the Adirondack Forest Preserve. The Adirondacks also are dealing with the return of spongy moth caterpillars, which did considerable damage to a variety of trees in 2021. And in Utah, the rapidly drying Great Salt Lake — it has lost two-thirds of its surface area — has people concerned about potential exposure to airborne arsenic, which is found in high levels in the lakebed, among other catastrophic outcomes. One biology professor told The New York Times that, while the ecosystem hasn’t collapsed yet, “we’re at the precipice. It’s terrifying.”

EMPTY CHAIRS: Public swimming pools across the U.S. are reducing hours or not opening at all because of a shortage of lifeguards, though not necessarily for the reasons we’ve come to expect. The pandemic meant two years of very little lifeguard training on top of expiring certifications, an official with the American Lifeguard Association told NPR. A news station in Raleigh, N.C., reported that half of the city’s public pools were closed.

BEEN A LONG TME: It’s not every day that a bona fide living rock legend and the soundtrack of your youth visits your neighborhood record store, but Ed Martuscello and his cool customers kept it low key when Robert Plant popped in to browse before an evening performance in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Martuscello is the owner of Sweet Side Records in Glens Falls, N.Y., and he told The Post-Star that Plant, the former Led Zeppelin front man, purchased a few records and exchanged fist bumps with a few customers who otherwise kept a respectful distance.

UTICA REVIVAL: Like many old industrial cities, Utica, N.Y., has seen an erosion of manufacturing jobs, and with them, population. Once home to 100,000 people, Utica, by the 1990s, was hallowing out. Then the refugees started coming, first from Bosnia, later from Myanmar. The affordability of housing, combined with the availability of nearby jobs at a Chobani factory or the Turning Stone Resort Casino, has encouraged many of the refugees to build their lives in Utica — an estimated 17,000 over the past four decades.

BROADWAY BOUNDHeather Hayes of South Glens Falls High School and Spencer Boyce of Saratoga Springs High School in upstate New York were chosen Best Actress and Best Actor in the regional High School Musical Theater awards, hosted by Proctors in Schenectady. Now, they’re off to Broadway for a week of intensive training at The Julliard School and a performance in the National High School Musical Theater awards, a celebration of outstanding students in vocal, dance, and acting performance.

ESG ON DEFENSE: Blame it on $5 a gallon gas. The ESG push in corporate America is getting new scrutiny. ESG is shorthand for the environmental, social and governance criteria by which supporters believe corporate performance should be assessed – rather than looking exclusively at shareholder returns. But now come the arguments over who’s greener, what constitute environmentally responsible practices, and which companies and nations are benefiting financially.

SEEING GREEN: Icilio “Bill” Bianchi, who served 11 years representing his Suffolk County district in the New York State Assembly, is Long Island’s newest cannabis entrepreneur. Bianchi, who’s 91 and says he’s never smoked, told Newsday he plans to dedicate 40% of his greenhouse space in Riverhead to cultivating cannabis through Peconic Growers LLC. He anticipates investing $100,000 to $200,000 in the new crop.

BOOSTING BROWNFIELDS: Communities saddled with blighted and underutilized properties — often a result of unaddressed environmental impacts — are getting a boost from a federal program meant to clean up contaminated properties and return them to productive use. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is set to receive a $1.5 billion boost in its brownfields program, funds that Bloomberg Law reports will be used to clean up hundreds of brownfields and assess 18,000 sites, while assisting hundreds of communities in identifying “equitable reuse options to cultivate healthy, resilient, livable neighborhoods,” according to a detailed EPA breakdown of the funding.

LIVES

ANN TURNER COOK lived in anonymity for decades, while her smile of warmth and curiosity won worldwide appreciation. In 1928, Gerber Baby Foods chose her winsome face to represent its brand. She was the original Gerber baby. Fifty years later, the company revealed her identify.  She was 95.

JAMES EUGENE SEALS was a child of the Texas oil patch, where his dad earned a living by day while making music with his mom at night. A fiddler visited the Seals home one evening, and Jim was so fascinated his father bought him one out of the Sears catalog. He grew up to be half of Seals and Crofts, the 1970s soft rock duo that made it big with “Summer Breeze” and “Diamond Girl.” He was 79.

BOB PITKIN was the philosopher-king of Aspen, Colo., the longtime sheriff of Pitkin County who practiced a form of law enforcement that emphasized peace over prosecution. He was a gentle giant who liked to help people come to a better understanding of each other. The Aspen Daily News said: “He didn’t believe incarceration was a solution for personal issues like drug use. He relied on the Latin phrase De minimis non curat lex — The law does not concern itself with trifles.” He was 77.

ALMOST FINAL WORDS

“It’s not what you say out of your mouth that determines your life, it’s what you whisper to yourself that has the most power.”
—    Robert T. Kiyosaki

THE SIGNOFF

IN GOOD HANDS: A woman in Albany, N.Y., was desperately searching for her lost dog downtown this week when she saw a commotion and wondered if anyone had seen the dog, named Blue. Someone had. A few minutes later, actor Hilary Swank, in town to shoot a movie, pulled up in a car with Blue in her lap.

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PLEASE SHARE: Feel free to pass this along to your friends and colleagues.

THANK YOU to our contributors: Bill Callen, Bill Richmond, Claire P. Tuttle, Jeff Killeen, John Brodt, Lisa Fenwick, Tina Suhocki, and Tara Hutchins.

FACING OUT is what we do. We help companies, organizations and individuals work effectively with their most important external audiences – their customers, their shareholders, their communities, the government and the news media.  www.behancommunications.com

Facing Out features news and other nuggets that caught our eye, and that we thought might be of value to you, our friends and business associates. Some items are good news about our clients and friends, others are stories that we hope will leave you a bit more informed or entertained than you were five minutes ago. As always, we welcome your ideas and feedback.  

Let’s make it a conversationmark.behan@behancom.com

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