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IT SEEMS TO US . . .

WHERE'S THE STRAIGHT TALK EXPRESS?: President Bush continues to ignore the obvious by trotting out low- and middle-income families who will benefit from his tax cut. The truth is, and always has been, that those who make the most and need it least will get the most.

There are those who believe that those who pay the bulk of taxes ought to get the most back. We don't. Regardless, the president would be better off if he stopped playing the percentage game and stopped portraying his plan as a boon for the least well-off among us. They won't get back nearly as much as the upper-bracket taxpayers, and the president ought to stop fostering the impression that they will.

MOVERS & SHAKERS: There is some seriously good news in word that UB will get two National Science Foundation grants totaling $10.5 million to build better earthquake engineering research facilities, and that the state will add another $6 million for the project.

The money will make the UB facility the best in the world and enhance the university's role as a major research center. We're especially intrigued by the design, which involves building a second large "shaking table" and linking it to the existing one up to 120 feet away in ways that will let engineers test big structures, like buildings and bridges, right in the laboratory.

So here's our proposal. Once this thing is built, christen one of the shaking tables "Buffalo" and the other "Fort Erie." Then build a bridge between them, and see if the best research minds in this region can figure a way to get both sides moving in the same direction.

EMPIRE STATE, REDUX: Seen the new license plates yet? Blue and white plates with images of Niagara Falls, the Adirondack Mountains and the Manhattan skyline on top and "The Empire State" printed along the bottom. Even though the motto was resurrected from the Department of Motor Vehicles dustbin -- it hasn't been on New York license plates since 1963 -- the plate still is a vast improvement over the current one, with that inscrutable red squiggle that is purported to be the Statue of Liberty. Still, we can't help but pine for those old orange-and-blue hideousities that once made New York cars instantly recognizable, if not universally welcomed. There's something to be said for ugly.

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