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As Niagara Falls / Tales of the strange but true

Code name: Niagara

Tech blogs that follow the smart phone industry have been reporting rumors that a new BlackBerry code-named the Niagara is in the works.

The Web site boygeniusreport.com last week gave an unsourced update on the device, calling it "a cross between the Bold and the Curve 8900" -- two popular BlackBerrys already on the market.

Why Niagara? Research in Motion, the company that manufactures the BlackBerry, isn't talking.

But we've noticed Niagara to be a popular name over the years for products with just the thinnest of connections to the famous falls.

To name a few: There's the Dreamline Niagara Jetted Steam Shower, which includes a "rain shower" experience. Cole Haan made a chunky sandal called the G-Series Niagara, and Niagara Spray Starch has been a household favorite for years.

A Google search of Niagara-named products also turned up a pair of underwear being marketed as "Thunderbirds Niagara Classic Thong." For just $14.99, the skimpy undergarment features a picture of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds flying over the falls.

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Behind the curve

At Lockport Common Council meetings, aldermen open the session by making announcements of upcoming community events.

During the work session preceding the public meeting last Wednesday, Council President John Lombardi III canvassed the group for announcements.

Lombardi asked, "Can somebody announce the Winter Fest? I don't have any paperwork in front of me."

"That was last weekend," several aldermen chorused.

"Rip Van Winkle," cracked Alderman Patrick W. Schrader.

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Jury role reversal

If the Niagara County commissioner of jurors can't get out of jury duty, what chance do the rest of us have?

Christopher A. Pannozzo, whose job it is to round up prospective jurors for every trial held in the county, was selected by computer to join the batch of close to 100 prospective jurors for the Niagara County Court murder trial of Paul A. Osborne Jr. and Brandon Dennis, which ended last week.

For a day and a half, Pannozzo went through the jury process as an average juror, filling out the questionnaire, watching the state's video about the importance of jury duty, sitting through lengthy unexplained delays and finally the mind-numbing, repetitive selection process itself.

Pannozzo was drawn with the third panel of prospective jurors that went into the jury box for questioning by the attorneys, but he wasn't picked for the trial jury.

"It might be my previous knowledge of the case. I scheduled it for jury selection once before," Pannozzo speculated when asked why he wasn't chosen for the trial.

And going through the process? "It gave me good perspective on how better to serve the citizens of Niagara County," Pannozzo said. "It opened my eyes to what people really feel. Some feel excitement; some feel anxiety; some certainly feel they can't judge and don't want to be there."

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It don't come easy

Karen Carroll of Park Lane Circle spoke to the Lockport Common Council last week about sewers backing up into basements on her street and several others nearby.

"My husband rescued the neighbor's dog from the basement because the water was coming up into its cage," Carroll said.

Then she asked Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano how residents can go about filing claims against the city for damage caused by sewer backups.

"The city clerk's office has a form," Ottaviano said.

"We do not!" City Clerk Richard P. Mullaney shouted. "We don't want to make it easier for people to sue the City of Lockport."

Ottaviano told reporters later that if there isn't a form, there ought to be.

With contributions from Denise Jewell Gee and Thomas J. Prohaska of the News Niagara Bureau.

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