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Weapons of Math Confusion 

Convention-center backer shoots for numerical superiority.

Pitching for a new convention center on WCPN last week, Greater Cleveland Growth Association CEO Dennis Eckart said that travel and tourism support 65,000 jobs in the area.

His assertion is redolent of claims made more than a decade ago, when Gateway backers promised the creation of all those jobs. In other words, it's bullshit.

The Growth Association attributes the 65,000 to consultants, such as Longwoods International, a Canadian company. But consider that the Ohio Travel Association cites Longwoods as the source for its claim that tourism and travel employ 552,000 people statewide. That would mean more Ohioans work in travel than in government.

Even other pro-tourism research refutes Longwoods's numbers. In February, the Travel Association of America ranked the top states in terms of traveler spending. Hawaii brought up the rear of the top 10, with $15.1 billion. Yet the Ohio Travel Association, citing Longwoods, claims that visitors spent $23.1 billion in Ohio in 2001.

As for Eckart's 65,000 claim, a study prepared for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the Travel Business Roundtable, and the International Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus put the number of tourism employees in metropolitan Cleveland at 33,000. According to this study, neither Honolulu nor San Diego has 65,000 tourism workers.

Opportunity rings

Leave it to telemarketers to turn regulation meant to restrain them into another sales pitch.

The consumer website Toledobuzz.com reported last week on a new telemarketing scam that uses the new national "Do Not Call" list to bilk uninformed customers in Northwest Ohio. A Findlay woman reported that a caller offered to register her for the list. The hitch: it would cost her $380. (The government offers this service for free.)

We can only guess the telemarketer's script: "Hi, I'm calling to offer you an exciting opportunity -- the chance to end rude telemarketing calls such as this one."

Cleveland rocks, Pittsburgh sucks

It warms Punch's heart that a Forbes.com readers' poll once again has declared Pittsburgh -- "Where Love Goes to Die" -- the nation's worst city for single people.

The Steel City was knocked by survey respondents for having too few nightclubs and way too many old folks. Add to that high beer prices, a late '80s fashion sense, and a dwindling population, and it's a wonder that Congress doesn't just abolish the city altogether.

But before we crow too much about our nemesis to the east ranking dead last among the country's 40 biggest metro areas, take heed: Cleveland came in a humbling 37th. Citing our own youth flight and overall unhipness, the website jabbed, "Sadly, some places will never be cool."

At least we're not Cincinnati, which finished 39th. Besides its devotion to apartheid, "Cincity" got slammed for its alarmingly confusing roadways. As one single put it: "You may wind up in Kentucky -- whether you want to or not."

Clinic report: Grip it and rip it

At least since Ty Webb instructed Danny Noonan to be the ball, mental imagery has been a cornerstone of golf. PGA stars -- including Phil Mickelson -- espouse the technique; guru David Leadbetter advises duffers to mentally "'replay' your best shot ever" before each swing.

But now, a team of big brains at the Cleveland Clinic is driving Caddyshack logic into the bunker. A recent study, led by Clinic radiologist Jeffrey S. Ross and chronicled in the current American Journal of Neuroradiology, suggests that golfers who think less about their swing perform better. Six male golfers of varying skill levels were placed in an MRI and asked to imagine their swings; the better golfers registered less brain activation. Though the Journal says that the small test group may limit the value of Ross's research, golfers are free to conclude that an additional Old Milwaukee or two will tack on an extra 20 yards.

When Punch tried to reach Ross for comment, it learned that he was . . . on vacation. Probably field-testing his new theory.

Color bind

Sam Fulwood has abdicated his role as Cleveland's arbiter of matters racial, setting local pundits on a frantic search for the next Voice of Blackness. In his June 26 column in the Plain Dealer, Fulwood limped apologetically for not offering "the black opinion" regarding a May Day brutalization of a young white girl by a crowd of black and Hispanic boys. "I have expressed strong opinions on racial issues in my columns," says Sammy. "I will continue to do so. But I don't rush to find a racial angle in every topic I write about. When I do speak about race, it's only my opinion. I don't -- I can't -- represent all black people."

Fulwood's column always reads in extremes: self-important and irrelevant one week, then Heathcliffe Huxtable-cum-Malcolm X the next. When Sam first arrived, he clinked his glass and announced "I am not a black writer," between shrimp cocktails at one of those hoity-toity journalists' functions. He then proceeded to produce lukewarm copy about donuts, peppered with dry country-club humor, to remove all doubt.

Only in recent years has Sam donned his Afro wig, but whoever said that Sam Fulwood was black, anyway? Tooling around town in his convertible Beemer, eating sushi, and asking passers-by whether they might have any Grey Poupon -- indeed, Punch thinks his blackness has always been rather suspect. No worries, Sam. We have it on good authority that your new platinum race card is in the mail.

Do your duty, or do time

Skipping jury duty is as much a part of American life as not voting. Now, all those yahoos you didn't vote for in the Ohio Senate want to drill you harder for blowing off a summons.

Under a proposed bill, bailing on jury duty would become a third-degree misdemeanor, up from a contempt-of-court charge. That could spell steeper fines and, in some instances, a trip to jail. "It's a duty of citizenship to serve," says Senator David Goodman, a Columbus Republican and sponsor of the initiative.

The so-called Jury Patriotism Act is based on a prototype bill dreamed up by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a D.C. lobbying group that has persuaded almost two dozen states to propose the measure. But while the council touts itself as bipartisan, its membership consists of 2,400 right-wing state lawmakers who lately have been more intent on stripping jurors of power, by advocating tort reform that caps jury awards.

"That they're now trying to get people to participate in the jury system . . . seems awfully strange," one critic told the American Bar Association Journal.

But Ohio lawmakers are also dangling a carrot: The bill would create a "lengthy trial fund" to supplement a juror's wages by $100 to $300 a day, if a trial drags on longer than four days. The fund would be bankrolled by a $20 surcharge added to lawsuit filing fees. In other words, it soon could become both more expensive to sue someone and costlier to skip out on the resulting trial.

Just another reason why the Legislature puts the "ack" in "backwards."

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