Tag Archives: commercial

Obama administration announces rule to deal with illegal fishing, seafood fraud

The Obama administration on Dec. 8 issued a final rule to implement the Seafood Import Monitoring Program to address illegal fishing and seafood fraud in the United States.

This rule will require imported seafood at risk of illegal fishing and seafood fraud to be traced from the fishing boat or farm to the U.S. border, helping to stop illegally caught and mislabeled seafood from entering the United States.

This is a statement by Oceana senior campaign director Beth Lowell:

Today’s announcement is a groundbreaking step towards more transparency and traceability in the seafood supply chain. We applaud President Obama for his ambitious plan to require traceability for imported seafood ‘at-risk’ of illegal fishing and seafood fraud.

For the first time ever, some imported seafood will now be held to the same standards as domestically caught fish, helping to level the playing field for American fishermen and reducing the risk facing U.S. consumers.

But the problem doesn’t stop here. We must continue to build on this important work and expand seafood traceability to include all seafood sold in the U.S. and extend it throughout the entire supply chain.

Without full-chain traceability for all seafood, consumers will continue to be cheated, hardworking, honest fishermen will continue to be undercut, and the long-term productivity of our oceans will continue to be in jeopardy.

American consumers deserve to know more about their seafood, including what kind of fish it is, and how and where it was caught or farmed. While Oceana celebrates today’s announcement, there’s still more to do in the fight against illegal fishing and seafood fraud.

 

About Oceana…

Oceana’s investigations of fish, shrimp, crab cakes and most recently salmon, in retail markets and restaurants found that, on average, one-third of the seafood examined in these studies was mislabeled — the product listed on the label or menu was different from what the buyer thought they purchased, often a less desirable or lower-priced species. Oceana has observed threatened species being sold as more sustainable, expensive varieties replaced with cheaper alternatives and fish that can cause illness substituted in place of those that are safer to eat.

In September, Oceana released a report detailing the global scale of seafood fraud, finding that on average, one in five of more than 25,000 samples of seafood tested worldwide was mislabeled. In the report, Oceana reviewed more than 200 published studies from 55 countries, on every continent except Antarctica, and found seafood fraud in 99.9 percent of the studies. The studies reviewed also found seafood mislabeling in every sector of the seafood supply chain: retail, wholesale, distribution, import/export, packaging/processing and landing.

The report also highlighted recent developments in the European Union to crack down on illegal fishing and improve transparency and accountability in the seafood supply chain. According to Oceana’s analysis, preliminary data out of the EU suggests that catch documentation, traceability and consumer labeling are feasible and effective at reducing seafood fraud.

For more information about Oceana’s campaign to stop seafood fraud, please visit www.oceana.org/fraud.

Eyes in the sky: Drone growth elevates fun, raises privacy concerns

As many as a million kids and kids-at-heart had their wishes take flight when they unwrapped a drone during the holidays.

Consumer technology took a turn in 2015 and propelled domestic drones to new heights in popularity in late 2015 and early 2016.

But policymakers and privacy advocates see gray areas as more and more pilots send their small unmanned aircraft into blue skies.

More drone pilots than planes

Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Michael Huerta announced in mid-January that there were more registered drone operators than registered planes in the United States. The FAA reports 320,000 registered manned aircraft and more than 325,000 registered drone owners.

The number of drones in the United States likely is higher — because operators might own more than one small unmanned aircraft and other operators might not be registered, according to Huerta.

The FAA launched a Web-based drone registration campaign just before Christmas, anticipating drone sales to skyrocket to a million during the holidays. The agency requires registration by operators of drones weighing more than 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds, if they plan to fly outdoors for hobby or recreation. Registered drone operators receive a number that must be affixed to their aircraft.

An FAA exemption program exists for operators of drones for commercial activities — including bridge inspections, movie and television filming, aerial photography, mapping and surveying work, pipeline inspections and first-responder investigation and surveillance activity.

“The future is really here with drones,” said recreational pilot Kevin Fontaine of Green Bay. “They can be adapted for all kinds of fun and games and also used in all kinds of work. I first heard of them from a photographer friend. He was using a drone outfitted with a camera to make a zombie movie.”

The zombie flick, Horror in Mount Horeb, hasn’t reached a movie-going audience, but many films and TV programs featuring scenes filmed using drones have shown up on large and small screens.

“Drones have been instrumental in capturing some of the most iconic cinematography in recent memory,” said Randy Scott Slavin, founder and director of the New York City Drone Film Festival. 

“Drones are the most important cinematic tool since the tripod,” said Slavin, who referenced drone footage for the Oscar-winning opening sequence of Skyfall, the infamous Hamptons party scene in The Wolf of Wall Street and the many landscape images in the Netflix series Narcos.

This year’s festival — the first such event dedicated to movies filmed using drones — is March 4–6. The final day features “Day of Drones,” with screenings and demonstrations by drone builders and pilots. One activity, “Drone Vision,” provides an opportunity for the curious to strap on a pair of goggles to see what a drone camera sees as it zips around New York City’s Liberty State Park.

Fontaine said he’d like to refine his drone flying skills to take aerial landscape photographs this spring.

“I’m still learning how to use it and there’s a lot of potential,” he said. “But for now, it’s a toy.”

In the toy chest

Drones can be purchased for less than $50 and more than $500, but most cost $120–$200. They’re wowing consumers and retailers at toy fairs and trade shows.

At 2016 toy fairs, Odyssey Toys is showcasing the Pocket Drone, a collapsing video drone that’s about the size of an iPhone 6 — light enough and small enough to fit into a pocket. The built-in high-definition camera captures images to a 4GB SD card and the drone, which can be operated indoors or outdoors, features LEDs for night flying.

Another “wow” at fairs is a toy built for pilots as young as 10 — Spin Master’s Air Hogs Connect: Mission Drone, which combines drone-flying and smartphone gaming.

“It will be interesting to watch what happens as consumer unmanned aerial vehicle technology continues to evolve,” said Phil Solis, research director at ABI Research. The company monitors the tech market and predicts that consumer drone shipments will exceed 90 million units and generate $4.6 billion in revenues by 2025.

It also will be interesting to watch what happens with the regulation of drones as consumer, commercial and government use prompts concerns about criminal applications and security breaches — and raising questions about privacy rights. 

Rules and regulations

In December, the Center for Democracy and Technology proposed a set of voluntary best practices for drone operators, intending to protect privacy rights and support the industry.

The nonprofit, which advocates civil liberties and a free Internet, recommended:

• Commercial drone operators establish a privacy policy that describes the purposes for which the drone is used and the types of data the drone collects.

• Private drone operators should not intentionally use a drone to enter private property without the landowner’s consent.

• Private drone operators should not use drones to collect personal data without consent where an individual has an expectation of privacy; for persistent monitoring of individuals; or for employment, credit or health-care eligibility.

• Private drone operators should try to avoid collecting, retaining or disclosing unnecessary personal data without consent. When possible, unnecessary data should be destroyed or de-identified.

• Commercial drone operators should take basic steps to secure the personal data they collect.

Federal guidelines established by Congress require that recreational drone operators keep unmanned aircraft in their sight and below 400 feet, stay clear of manned aircraft, remain at least 25 feet away from individuals and vulnerable property, avoid flying and using drugs or alcohol, and avoid photographing people in areas where there is an expectation of privacy.

Drone pilots also must respect the no-fly zones established by the FAA and, increasingly, under state and local law.

A focus this legislative season in Wisconsin and elsewhere was on drone use near prisons. 

Drones were deployed to deliver contraband — drugs, pornography, cellphones and weapons — to prisons in Maryland, Ohio and Oklahoma in 2015. In Wisconsin, a pilot lost contact with a drone that landed on the grounds of the Waupun Correctional Institution.

The incidents prompted lawmakers to take up bills creating no-fly zones.

Simple steps to directing with a drone

Randy Scott Slavin, founder and director of the New York City Drone Film Festival, offers five steps to movie-making with a small unmanned aircraft:

1. Read. Read the operating manual for the drone and read federal regulations and any local and state rules on piloting a drone.

2. Practice. Drones are unique and have different flight characteristics. The only way to improve as a pilot is to practice.

3. Shoot. Slavin says “shoot constantly” with drone cameras.

4. Imagine. Drones put cameras in new places and can use cameras in new ways to re-invent how stories are told on film.

5. Share. Edit and share footage online and at festivals. It’s too late to enter the 2016 New York festival — nycdronefilmfestival.com — but not too late to prepare for 2017.

— Lisa Neff

Reach Lisa Neff at lmneff@www.wisconsingazette.com.

Wisconsin Assembly votes to prohibit drones over prisons

The Wisconsin Assembly began a push on Feb. 18 to get tougher on rogue drone use, passing a bill that would prohibit flying the machines over prisons and another that would create penalties for using them in crimes.

The bills follow a series of incidents across the country in which smugglers flew drugs, pornography or other contraband over prison walls. Wisconsin has not dealt with drone smuggling, but legislators say they want to be proactive.

The first bill would impose a $5,000 fine for flying a drone over a state correctional institution.

The bill’s authors removed a provision that would have allowed municipalities to establish additional no-fly zones for drones. The provision would have allowed municipalities to impose fines up to $2,500.

Drone operators and technology advocates testified at the hearing that it would create a patchwork of regulations, limit opportunities for commercial drone operators and clash with federal rules.

The second bill would increase penalties someone used a drone in a crime. People who used a drone to commit a less-serious misdemeanor would face up to $10,000 in fines and up to a year in jail. If it is a more serious misdemeanor, the status of the crime would change to a felony, with a maximum penalty of $10,000 in fines and up to two years in prison.

Defendants who use a drone to commit a felony would see their fines increase by $5,000 and face up to an additional five years in prison.

The Assembly passed both bills on voice votes this week, sending them to the Senate.

The Federal Aviation Administration requires drone operators to register with the agency and has been developing other regulations for drones, or unmanned aircraft systems. Almost 300,000 drone owners registered in the first month since Dec. 21, when the requirement began.

Local and state lawmakers have stepped in with their own regulations across the country, with some criticizing the FAA for being too lax. About 45 states considered restrictions on unmanned aircraft systems in 2015, according to the FAA.

The FAA warns it could lead to a “patchwork quilt” of regulations and stipulates that local and state regulations must fit with federal rules. 

Packers debut development plans for new ‘Titletown District’ near field

The Packers unveiled plans this month for a new business district west of Lambeau Field, a development that will feature a four-star hotel, brewery and restaurant and a 10-acre public plaza.

It has been dubbed the “Titletown District,” borrowing on the nickname assigned to Green Bay for being home of the 13-time world champion Packers.

The Packers said they would invest about $65 million into the project. When adding in estimates from other organizations involved, the total initial investment could be as much as $130 million.

Packers president Mark Murphy said the team doesn’t plan to seek public money for the project, though it might look into some tax credits normally associated with such developments.

“We continue to build on Lambeau Field as a destination, and to bolster economic development in the area,” Murphy said at a news conference at Lambeau Field.

“And with the way we continue to acquire land around Lambeau Field, we continue to have an eye on the future and trying to further regional economic development in this area.”

Like other NFL teams, the Packers are flush with cash, bolstered in part by the windfall from the league’s massive broadcasting deals. The Packers last month reported that revenue from the 2015 fiscal year topped $375 million, up 16 percent from the previous year.

The perennial NFC contender has a national fan base and one of the league’s most popular players in MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

But they’re unique from the 31 other NFL franchises in that they are a publicly owned team in the league’s smallest market. That creates bonds with the community that most NFL towns don’t have with their teams.

Plans for the plaza call for a “park-like setting” with year-round programming including fitness-related activities and cultural opportunities. There would be an ice-skating rink in the winter.

Future phases of the project could include residential buildings. Groundbreaking will likely start this fall with the goal of completing the project by fall 2017.

“Now as I look to the future, developing Titletown is an important factor to further (the) game day experience for our fans, which will always continue to be priority,” Murphy said.

But the driving force, he said, was to make sure the space was used year-round by the community as it evolved into an “authentic Wisconsin neighborhood.”

The Titletown district has been in the planning stages for years as the team bought up land. Thursday’s announcement ended months of speculation.

The three anchor tenants will be the 150-room Lodge Kohler hotel, run by the plumbing-and-hospitality company Kohler Co.; Hinterland brewery; and Bellin Health, a major Packers sponsor.

Herbert Kohler Jr., chairman of Kohler, said signing up for Titletown was “almost a no-brainer.”

“This is the first time for the Packers, a big development district like this,” Kohler said. “So they’re new to the game, and we knew we would have to design a special hotel for this particular location.”

Anchored by Lambeau Field to the east, the district already has a tenant to the far west with a Cabela’s retail store.

A similar commercial district is near the New England Patriots’ home in Foxborough, Massachusetts, called Patriot Place. Murphy said Titletown would be different because it would include residences and the public plaza.

On the Web …

Visit “Titletown.”

Cracks in nuclear reactors prompt call for worldwide inspections

The discovery of thousands of additional cracks in critical components of two Belgian nuclear reactors prompted Greenpeace to call for immediate checks of nuclear power plants worldwide. 

The cracks were found in the steel nuclear reactor pressure vessels in nuclear reactors Doel 3 and Tihange 2 in Belgium. The vessels contain highly radioactive nuclear fuel cores and the failure of the components can cause catastrophic nuclear accidents, according to Greenpeace.

On Feb. 13, two leading material scientists announced that the pervasive and unexpected cracking could be related to corrosion from normal operation, with potential implications for reactors worldwide.

Responding, Greenpeace Belgium energy campaigner Eloi Glorieux, said, “What we are seeing in Belgium is potentially devastating for nuclear reactors globally due to the increased risk of a catastrophic failure. Nuclear regulators worldwide must require reactor inspections as soon as possible, and no later than the next scheduled maintenance shutdown. If damage is discovered, the reactors must remain shut down until and unless safety and pressure vessel integrity can be guaranteed. The nuclear industry, already in crisis, is faced with an aging nuclear reactor fleet at increasing risk of severe disaster.”

In reaction to the findings, the director-general of the Belgian nuclear regulator of the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control has said that this could be a problem for the entire nuclear industry globally. He added that the solution is to begin the careful inspection of 430 nuclear power plants worldwide.

Problems were initially discovered in the summer of 2012 and both the Doel 3 and Tihange 2 reactors have been shut down since March 2014, after additional tests revealed advanced embrittlement of the steel of the test sample. The integrity of the pressure vessel must be absolute due to the radioactive releases that would result if this component were to fail.

As nuclear reactors age, radiation causes pressure vessel damage, or embrittlement, of the steel. According to the statements of the two materials scientists on Feb 13, the damage in the Belgian reactors may be partially caused by a problem resulting from the migration of hydrogen into cracks in the steel liner of the vessel — exacerbating and expanding that cracking. Greenpeace said it appears that hydrogen from the water within the vessel that cools the reactor core is getting inside the liner, reacting and destroying the pressure vessel from within.

FANC has issued a statement confirming that the additional tests conducted in 2014 revealed 13,047 cracks in Doel 3 and 3,149 in Tihange 2.

On Feb. 15, the nuclear reactor operator, announced that it would be prepared to “sacrifice” one of its reactors to conduct further destructive tests of the reactor pressure vessel for research. Several years ago, the operator dismissed the cracks as being the result of manufacturing problems during construction in the late 1970s in the Netherlands, but still failed to table evidence for this assumption.

The Belgian regulator also stated that the most likely cause was manufacturing, but could not prove it and added that it may be due to other causes.

The recent announcements of the materials scientists, indicate that this problem could be far beyond manufacturing.

If confirmed, it means that the safety of every nuclear reactor on the planet could be significantly compromised.

There are 435 commercial nuclear reactors worldwide, with an average age of 28.5 years in mid 2014. Of these, 170 reactors — 44 percent — have been operating for 30 years or more and 39 reactors have operated for more than 40 years.

“As we approach the fourth anniversary of the Fukushima-daiichi nuclear disaster, evidence has emerged that demands immediate action to prevent another catastrophe,” said Glorieux. “Thousands of previously unknown cracks in critical components of two reactors point to a potentially endemic and significant safety problem for reactors globally. Continuing to operate any reactor with such cracking would be an absolutely unacceptable risk to public safety. Greenpeace demands detailed inspections of all nuclear reactors worldwide, as conducted in Belgium, and the public release and scrutiny of the results. Any reactor with such cracking must be kept offline, until and unless the cracking is understood and safety is guaranteed. Anything less would be insane given the risk of a severe nuclear accident.”

Feds agree to seafood import rules aimed at protecting whales, dolphins

The U.S. government, in a recent settlement, agreed to adopt rules ensuring seafood imported into the country meets high standards for protecting whales and dolphins

The regulations will require foreign fisheries to meet the same marine mammal protection standards required of U.S. fishers or be denied import privileges — implementing a 40-year-old provision of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

“The new regulations will force other countries to step up and meet U.S. conservation standards — saving hundreds of thousands of whales and dolphins from dying on hooks and in fishing nets around the world,” said Sarah Uhlemann, senior attorney and international program director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The U.S. government has finally recognized that all seafood consumed in the United States must be ‘dolphin-safe.’ ”

More than 650,000 whales, dolphins and other marine mammals are caught and killed in fishing gear each year, according to the CBD. The animals are “bycatch” of commercial fisheries and either drown outright or are tossed overboard to die.

Despite U.S. efforts to protect marine mammals in its own waters, fishing gear continues to pose the most significant threat to whale and dolphin conservation worldwide.

For example, the vaquita, the world’s smallest porpoise, is being driven to extinction by shrimp gillnets in Mexico’s Gulf of California. Fewer than 100 vaquita remain.

Under U.S. law and the planned new regulations, shrimp from this region would be barred from entering the United States because it does not meet the more protective U.S. marine mammal protection standards. These standards may include modifying fishing gear and closing fishing in some areas to limit the risk of entanglement.

“It’s time to do what it takes to save thousands of whales and dolphins around the world and hold our fish imports to the same standards that we require of our U.S. fishermen,” said Zak Smith of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This law will help do that. It provides real, enforceable protections for marine mammals and sets up an even playing field that allows our fishermen to be competitive in the U.S. market. If we’d had these standards 40 years ago, we wouldn’t be scrambling today to save the imperiled vaquita. Thankfully, if this law is implemented, other species won’t share their fate.”

Since 1972, the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act has prohibited the United States from allowing seafood to enter the country unless it meets U.S. whale and dolphin standards. Under today’s settlement, the federal government must make a final decision by August 2016 about how to implement this requirement and end unlawful imports. The rules will protect marine mammals and level the playing field for U.S. fishers.

“The public demands and the U.S. can — and by law, must — wield its tremendous purchasing power to save dolphins and whales from foreign fishing nets,” said Todd Steiner, biologist and executive director of Turtle Island Restoration Network. “We have the right to ensure that the seafood sold in the U.S. is caught in ways that minimize the death and injury of marine mammals.”

Americans consume some 5 billion pounds of seafood per year, including tuna, swordfish, shrimp and cod. About 90 percent of that seafood is imported and about half is wild-caught.

The settlement was in the U.S. Court of International Trade in New York on behalf of plaintiffs Center for Biological Diversity, Turtle Island Restoration Network and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Pedal tavern restrictions topic for Common Council committee today

The Milwaukee Common Council’s Public Works Committee will take up a proposed ordinance today (Jan. 29) providing for either the prohibition of alcohol on so-called “pedal taverns” or allowing for tight regulations on alcohol use for the rolling parties.

The proposed ordinance will be heard by the committee when it meets at 9 a.m. in room 301-B at City Hall, 200 E. Wells St., according to a news release.

Citizens can watch the meeting on City Channel (Channel 25 on Time Warner Cable in the City of Milwaukee), and on U-Verse Channel 99.

Online viewing is available by going to www.city.milwaukee.gov/Channel25.

There are two parts to the ordinance — Substitute A and Substitute B — which was authored by Ald. Robert J. Bauman after the state enacted a law that provides an exception to the prohibition against consumption of alcohol beverages in public places for:

• The consumption of fermented malt beverages (beer) on commercial “quadricycles” (pedal taverns).

The statute authorizes a municipality to prohibit the consumption of fermented malt beverages by passengers on a commercial pedal tavern within the municipality upon adoption of an ordinance.

Bauman’s ordinance proposes:

• Substitute A: To prohibit the sale, transport or possession of alcohol beverages on commercial pedal taverns but with an exception that allows consumption of fermented malt beverages and sets a limit of 36 ounces (or three 12-ounce cans of beer) on the amount of fermented malt beverages that a passenger may possess or carry.

Or

• Substitute B: To prohibit consumption of all alcohol beverages (including fermented malt beverages) on pedal taverns within the city.

Under the proposed ordinance, persons convicted of driving a commercial pedal tavern in violation of the regulations would be banned from subsequently driving a commercial pedal tavern and, if convicted of prohibited driving, are subject to a forfeiture of not less than $1,000 and not more than $2,000.

Also, forfeiture penalties are provided for violation of commercial pedal tavern regulations in the amount of not less than $200 and not more than $500 with minimum penalties of not less than $350 if the violation occurs in designated cruising areas between 8:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m.

Under the option of allowing regulated alcohol use to 36 ounces of beer per passenger, the ordinance would require pedal tavern operators to inform passengers about restrictions on alcohol beverages and requires posting of a notice of restrictions in a form and manner to be approved by the city. 

Starbucks to circulate petition calling for end to government shutdown

When customers step into Starbucks to order lattes on Oct. 11, they will be invited to sign a petition asking Congress and the White House to end the partial government shutdown.

The Come Together petition asks federal lawmakers to:

1. Reopen our government to serve the people.

2. Pay our debts on time to avoid another financial crisis.

3. Pass a bipartisan and comprehensive long-term budget deal by the end of the year.

Starbucks chairman and CEO Howard Schultz described the idea in a letter to “Dear Friends” on Oct. 10: “What has become clear to me over these past few days – aside from the continued dysfunction we see from our elected leaders – is the sad and striking realization that the American people have no platform with which to voice their frustration with Washington and the current stalemate that threatens our nation. The fact that the government’s ‘We the People’ initiative website has shut down due to a lack of funding says everything about the irresponsible and untenable situation our political leadership has created across America.”

He continued, “This is one area where we can help put our country back on the right track. Using our collective scale for good, this Friday Starbucks and others will distribute a petition (www.ComeTogetherPetition.com).”

Top chef restaurant concept? A NY village is offering free rent on Main Street

Locals looking to land a buzz-worthy, foodie-friendly restaurant in a village in New York’s Hudson River area are offering the right chef a novel deal: Come to Catskill with a killer concept – maybe farm-to-table, gastro-pub or vegetarian – and get space on Main Street rent free for a year.

The hope is the right restaurant will give the growing number of arrivals from New York City an attractive place to eat. And maybe it will accelerate the kind of gentrification that has revived other river towns.

“I don’t know what the actual spark will be, but I certainly think this will help ignite whatever’s going to happen,” said Nina Sklansky, who belongs to a local group promoting Catskill as a funky, affordable place. “If people are going to linger, they’re going to want to eat.”

Catskill, on the west bank of the Hudson about 100 miles north of New York City, has a movie house with a marquee on Main Street along with a columned courthouse and places to window shop. With an average family income of $55,000, the village has kept its humble roots. But like a lot of corners of the valley, the village of 4,000 is changing as city people migrate north or buy second homes.

In the last year especially, local real estate broker David King said he has noticed more 30-something couples with toddlers from Brooklyn. Meanwhile, there are plans to convert an old commercial site into a haven for artisans.

If Catskill is showing green shoots of gentrification, it’s nowhere near the full bloom on display across the river in the city of Hudson. The once-tumbledown city is loaded with antique shops, art spaces and, yes, the sort of restaurants that get described glowingly in The New York Times as “a fever dream of luxury and rural kitsch.”

“God forbid if the place turns into something like Hudson, but a little bit of it would be nice,” Sklansky said.

Sklansky, a copywriter who moved upstate a decade ago, is working on a privately funded marketing campaign for the village with a group of like-minded residents called the Catskill Action Team. She helped cook up the restaurant offer this summer.

Team member Andrea Lowenthal is offering the deal on the ground floor of a building she owns on Main Street, the site of an old luncheonette with a black marble service counter and art deco fixtures. The new restaurateur would have to pay for some capital improvements to get the free rent.

The two women said that they’re open to different cuisine concepts, but that a chef with experience is necessary. To get the word out, they posted an online video promising “we’ve got lots of foodies hungry for something great to eat.”

“There are many people who would like a choice between Chinese and pizza,” Lowenthal said.

There have been more than a dozen nibbles so far, including people from New York City. But they have yet to find the right chef.

Two potential takers are 2010 Culinary Institute of America graduates Allyson Merritt and Andrew Spielberg. Merritt said they moved to Catskill a little over a year ago “to be close to Hudson” and are considering whether Lowenthal’s building is the right spot to pursue their dream of a local-oriented cafe.

“I love the history of the building; it’s amazing,” Merritt said. “We can definitely see our concept fitting into this space, with possibly some changes.”

Catskill already has a bunch of restaurants from Italian to Thai, and not everyone thinks one more is needed.

Peter Di Stefano of Di Stefano’s New York Barber Shop wished the local group luck. But he also took time out from giving a customer a buzz cut to show off a nearby stack of menus from local restaurants like Natalie’s Nook, La Casa Latina and A & G Texas Weiners.

“We have wonderful restaurants,” he said. “What they should be doing is promoting the restaurants that are here.”

Village Board President Vincent Seeley said they want to bring in a restaurant that will draw people – and their money – from far away.

“They’re out there,” Seeley said. “We just have to find the right people that want to make that kind of investment in the village.”

Right-wing group targets Kmart over ‘Ship My Pants’ video

Kmart’s “Ship My Pants” video has drawn protests from the so-called One Million Moms campaign, which in a call-to-action says the online commercial is “ridiculous and disgusting.”

The call-to-action, posted on the One Million Moms website, encourages members to write, call, tweet and post protests against the video, which shows a series of shoppers marveling at the ease with which they shipped products.

One Million Moms, an affiliate of the anti-gay American Family Association, states, “Normally, we do not provide a link since One Million Moms does not want to contribute to this filth being spread around even more, but we made an exception this time to show how ridiculous and disgusting this ad really is. The link to the commercial is provided here for reference only so you will have the information you need to voice your concern.”

The group also conveniently provided the text for the video ad: “Ship my pants, right here. You’re kidding! Ship my pants. You can ship your pants right here. Did you hear that? I can ship my pants for free. Whoa! I just may ship my pants. Yes, ship your pants. Billy, you can ship your pants too. I can’t wait to ship my pants Dad. I just shipped my pants, and it is very convenient. Very convenient. I just shipped my drawers. I just shipped my nightie. I just shipped my bed!”

One Million Moms came together to first protest JCPenney’s hiring of Ellen DeGeneres as the store’s spokesperson and also complained about a Geico commercial featuring a pig on a date.

The AFA also has a One Million Dads group. Neither affiliate has a million members.

On the Web…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I03UmJbK0lA