Between The Lines


October 27, 2003

What a pain

There's a story going around that aspirin was invented in Baltimore, and that the city missed the boat on the aspirin industry because it didn't have what it took to bring the product to market. People are telling the tale lately in connection with plans to build a health sciences research park at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

The park would help turn university research into viable products, so local inventors won't lose out again, supporters say.

"People don't realize Bayer aspirin was invented here in Baltimore, but we did not have the infrastructure" to produce it, City Council President Sheila Dixon said at a Board of Estimates meeting last week, at which the city sold the university 4.7 acres for the park for $1.

Trouble is, the story does not appear to be true.

The Bayer Aspirin Web site includes a detailed timeline on the history of aspirin -- starting in 400 B.C., when Hippocrates prescribed salicin-rich willow bark and leaves to relieve pain, and concluding in 1999 with the introduction of Extra Strength Bayer Aspirin Gelcaps.

There is no mention of Baltimore.

Spokeswomen at Bayer and the Aspirin Foundation of America said they knew of no connection to Baltimore.

-- Laura Vozzella

Seeking the write person

Baltimore County school board members spent at least five minutes Tuesday night discussing all the money the school system is losing out on by not having a full-time grant writer on staff.

Board member Warren Hayman lamented that, every year, the county rejects the board's request to include in its budget money to pay such a person. "We're losing a lot of money that could come our way," he said.

Jean M.H. Jung spoke of overworked staff members who write grant applications in their spare time.

Two other board members had chimed in before Rita Fromm, the school system's executive director of planning and support operations, stepped up to the microphone and got the board's attention.

"We do have a grant writer on staff," she said. "She's been on staff a little over a year."

-- Sara Neufeld

Offering a leg up

Calvert Hall College High School teacher Robert Stastny raised $1,000 last weekend for a new scholarship fund by running in the Baltimore Marathon.

Called the Stastny Marathon Scholarship Fund it will be awarded to a Calvert Hall senior to help pay for tuition, which costs $8,050 this year.

Stastny, 24, of Middle River is a 1997 graduate of the all-boys Catholic prep school and a member of the social studies department on the Towson campus. He came in 303rd, with a time of 3:40:34, and was 38th out of 113 in his age division.

He is already looking forward to next year's race when he hopes to increase the fund to $2,000. He said he will run every year to raise more money -- as long as his legs hold out.

-- Linda Linley

Refusing defeat

Has someone forgot to remind Baltimore City Council member Catherine E. Pugh that the Sept. 9 primary election is over and that she lost her bid for council president?

Nearly two months later, her billboard-sized image still looms over the intersection of Charles Street and North Avenue. -- Doug Donovan

A fitness cover-up

Some Baltimore police officers and detectives are getting into better shape, but their recently increased physical activity has nothing to do with improved training or new fitness regimens orchestrated by higher-ups.

Or does it?

Officials publicly say last month's tropical storm flooded the basement of police headquarters and severely damaged power lines and supplies. The problems have forced police officials to shut down four elevators in the 10-story police headquarters building -- giving employees the choice of walking up stairs or waiting for a freight elevator.

Officers, many conspiratorial in nature, laughingly say there might be an ulterior motive behind the elevator problems, which should be resolved in about a month.

"The joke around here is that this is some new health [initiative] that they have us on to make people get into better shape," said Maj. Antonio Williams, commander of the homicide unit.

--Del Quentin Wilber

Looking for a way out

City Councilman John Cain has a theory about why reporters for The Sun have been writing about nepotism and ethics problems in City Hall: They want to get out of town.

"If me and [Councilwoman Pam] Carter and [Council President Sheila] Dixon go to jail, what a great story that would be! `Man, I could get the Pulitzer for this,' they must be thinking, `and get out of this crappy newspaper and get a job at The Washington Times,'" Cain said during the City Council meeting Oct. 20.

-- Tom Pelton

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