Political rivals talking rubbish
IT is difficult to think of New Jersey without thinking of New York City. The self-styled 'Garden State' does, after all, owe much of its economic base to its residents who work in the Big Apple and its businesses which make their money there.
Although much of the state is rather pretty and far from the dust and din of the big city, to be a New Jerseyite invariably means to harbour an inferiority complex. There is no way for Manhattanites to mention the word 'Jersey' without peering down their nose; and even residents of Queens make fun of the state, which is somewhat cheeky.
Any state which brought the world Bruce Springsteen and Princeton University cannot be all that bad, and at least it is not North Dakota; but its government leaders still feel a constant urge to define New Jersey's identity by its rivalry with the glamorous neighbour across the Hudson River.
Thus it is that some of New Jersey's recent brief moments of glory have come at New York's expense, such as luring its two professional football teams, the Giants and Jets, away from the city to a stadium complex near Newark. It also fought for years to claim ownership of the historic Ellis Island museum in New York harbour, a battle which went all the way to the Supreme Court and ended in an honourable draw with New York keeping most of the spoils.
New Jersey has also tried, rather successfully, to lure shoppers out of New York, lowering its sales tax to make its shopping malls a tempting target for big city folk in search of bargains. And its latest target has been the legendary New York Yankees, whose owner is so desperate to leave the Bronx that he has even listened to overtures from New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman.
Not surprisingly, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has virtually staked his political career on keeping the Yankees out of the hands of his arch-rival, even if it means using taxpayers' money to build a new stadium in Manhattan.
But the latest neighbourly row has New Jersey incensed at New York's plan to - almost literally - dump on it.
What would usually be a quite prosaic plan by Mr Giuliani to find new ways to get rid of his city's 10,000 daily tonnes of garbage has got Governor Whitman crying: 'Not in our back yard'.
The problem for New York is that the world's biggest landfill, on Staten Island, is nearly full; searching for an outlet for seven million people's waste, the city came up with a plan to send most of it over the river on barges to transfer stations in New Jersey, before it is packed and shipped further afield.
But for a consummate politician, personal politics is not Mr Giuliani's strongest point, and his staff failed to notify Mrs Whitman of the scheme until a couple of hours before they announced it. Citing environmental fears of garbage falling from the barges and ending up on New Jersey's beaches - do not laugh, some of them are not at all bad - she has promised to do all she can to block the plan.
This, of course, is only likely to make the mayor as determined as ever to get his way.
'You've got to understand, the politics of garbage is different from the business of garbage,' he explained.
Plastic surgeons remain in one of America's most revered (and busy) professions.
The nation's main cosmetic surgery association records about 700,000 such procedures having taken place last year - a major increase on five years ago, due in no small part to the men and the less well-off women who are turning to the scalpel to solve their self-esteem problems.
But in the blossoming popularity of the industry lurks a dark dilemma for the nation's Doctor Feelgoods - the large number of teenagers who are walking into their offices asking for the knife.
At least 14,000, and probably a lot more, of the plastic surgeries recorded last year were performed on adolescents, many of whom were too young to vote, drive or perform other adult tasks.
The most popular procedures among teenage girls are nose jobs, liposuctions, breast implants and tummy tucks - and most of the time the young patients are doing it with their parents' blessing.
But even though some of the patients may be grossly overweight, there are a good number of girls who have little wrong with them apart from feeling that they are not as attractive as Pamela Anderson.
'With adolescents, their ideas about their bodies change as fast as their bodies do,' Dr Nicholas Perricone, a Yale University professor, told The New York Times. 'They are facing so many issues, so many forces from the outside. We see more neuroses than psychiatrists.' Many doctors claim that, far from being seduced by an easy payday, they are rejecting the kinds of girls who are clearly feeling bad about themselves because of boy trouble, rather than for any real physical reason.
Sometimes, they say, the ones to blame are indulgent parents who let their children talk them into agreeing to a plastic surgeon visit because they do not want to disappoint them.
Now that plastic surgery mania has passed down from society's elite to the proletariat, it only had to be a matter of time before it also broke the age barrier. Ten years ago, parents soothed their offspring's self-hatred with expensive orthodontal work; now it is a US$5,000 (HK$38,650) nose job.
Perhaps there should be child abuse laws to cover this kind of thing.