Gov. George Pataki of New York presides over an almost $90 billion budget and New York state Speaker Sheldon Silver has to vote to approve it. But the two politicians are a bit more frugal when it comes to spending their own money.
Pataki, Silver and comedian Jerry Stiller went on a shopping trip in Lower Manhattan to publicize nine days of sales tax-free shopping, in an effort to spark more retail sales for stores still suffering from a lack of customers since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11.
All sales taxes will be waived on purchases up to $500 below Houston Street through Tuesday, and again July 9-11 and on Aug. 20-22 to draw shoppers to Lower Manhattan.
The trouble is, the three men don't seem to know how to shop till they drop -- even for a good cause.
Silver bought two $17 towels at Harris Levy Fine Linens, a 108-year-old store on Grand Street. Then Stiller and Silver joined the governor at J&R Music World where Pataki bought five disposable cameras and a pair of $29.99 headphones and Silver bought a $9.99 pack of Kodak film.
Stiller, who appears on CBS' "The King of Queens," bought nothing because his wife, Anne Meara, complains whenever he brings home "more stuff."
CAMPAIGN AGAINST KISSING
A former university lecturer is campaigning against Dutch people giving each other three kisses when they meet. Dolph Kohnstamm says it's even worse when the third kiss is on the mouth, according to the Web site Ananova.com.
Kohnstamm says he has distributed more than 200 badges saying, "Twice is enough."
The 66-year-old retiree describes the triple pecks as a terror people have to endure, often at receptions and birthday parties.
Kohnstamm, who worked at the University of Amsterdam, says, "Giving three kisses is a habit taken from the south of the country, but it is useless and without any meaning."
He points out that no where else in Europe, except in the Netherlands and Belgium, do people give each other three kisses to say hello.
"Foreigners are quite upset when they have to give three kisses especially when the third kiss is on the mouth," he says.
Kohnstamm says that by wearing his badges people are showing they only want to be kissed twice.
SIXTH ATTEMPT AT BALLOON TRIP
Millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett is ready for his sixth attempt to fly around the world solo in a hot air balloon.
The former Chicago stock trader and his ground crew arrived in western Australia last week with two tons of equipment for the 140-foot tall helium and hot air balloon.
Fossett hopes to launch the 550,000 cubic-foot "Bud Light Spirit of Freedom" on Friday or Saturday, weather permitting.
"The balloon will be inflated a couple of hours before launch and then a decision will be made based on world weather patterns," said Barry Tobias, spokesman for the mission control center at Washington University in St. Louis.
Anheuser-Busch is putting up about $1 million of the $1.25 million Fossett says he would spend on his sixth try to accomplish one of aviation's most difficult feats. His first solo balloon flight five years ago cost around $250,000.
The 58-year-old Fossett has attempted to the circle the earth five times previously, between 1996 and 2001. Violent storms forced him to land in Bage, Brazil, last August, 12 1/2 days and 14,235 miles after lifting off from Australia. The voyage set a record for the longest solo balloon flight ever.
Fossett hopes to fly the same route -- 18,000 miles to 21,000 miles mostly over oceans in the Southern Hemisphere in a flight -- that would take him over Australia, the South Pacific, Chile, Argentina, the South Atlantic, Africa and across the Indian Ocean landing back in Australia.
(Thanks to UPI's Al Swanson in Chicago.)