The Trentonian's Strange But True Page

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Only in Thailand, kids, only in Thailand

BANGKOK, Thailand - Sign language interpreters in Thailand have run afoul of some ruling party supporters by holding their noses to refer to the new prime minister.

Samak Sundaravej, chosen in parliament Monday as the first elected prime minister since a Sept. 2006 coup, has been nicknamed "Mr. Rose Apple Nose" because many claim his nose resembles the fruit.

Thai sign language interpreters often indicate prominent facial features as shorthand for dignitaries, and during a live broadcast of Monday's parliamentary session, they held their noses between two fingers numerous times to refer to Samak.

One interpreter, Kanittha Rattanasin, said this gesture has long been used for Samak but is drawing wide notice only now.

"It is not meant as a nose joke," she said. "We have touched our noses for years to refer to Samak but people noticed this time because we had to repeat the movement over 300 times."

Juthamas Suthonwattanacharoen, another interpreter, said Samak supporters have called the National Association of the Deaf in Thailand to say the sign does not befit the country leader, and the Thai daily newspaper Matichon said the gesture angered some members of Samak's party.

Samak, 72, a combative right-wing politician, easily beat Democrat party candidate Abhisit Vejjajiva, 43, to head the country.

"We refer to a person's most unique physical appearance and for Abhisit, it's his good looks," Juthamas said. "If someone has very long eyelashes, or prominent ears, we use those."

Kanittha said some reference to Samak's popular cooking show might work as a new sign for him. But for now, there are no plans to change it, Juthamas said.

He wins, he loses, he wins

SYDNEY, Australia - An Australian retiree won a $1.8 million lottery prize, then lost it, and then won it again Wednesday through a court ruling.

Werner Reinhold bought the lottery ticket at a newsstand in Australia's largest city of Sydney on Sept. 19, 1995. His original ticket did not print correctly, so he asked for a new one, which turned out to be the winner.

But when Reinhold, now 73, went back to claim the $1.8 million jackpot, he discovered that the replacement ticket had been canceled, not the misprinted original, and was unable to claim the prize.

He sued NSW Lotteries, which oversees lottery tickets in New South Wales state, and the newsstand which sold him the ticket.

Supreme Court Judge Reginald Barrett awarded Reinhold $1.8 million in damages, citing negligence and breach of contract by the newsstand and the state lottery company. Barrett had not yet ruled on what portion of the award each party should pay.

Up next on WFIRE, 'Burning Down the House'

AUSTIN, Texas - A volunteer at a community radio station set fire to the station because he was upset that his song selections for an overnight Internet broadcast were changed, police said.

Paul Webster Feinstein, 24, has been charged with second-degree felony arson for the Jan. 5 fire that caused $300,000 damage to the studios of 91.7 FM KOOP. He faces from two to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine if convicted.

Feinstein told investigators that he was "very unhappy" about the changes to his playlist, said Austin Fire Department Battalion Chief Greg Nye. The songs were intended for an Internet broadcast that occurs when the station is off the air.

"He had a dream of a career in radio and was very disappointed about where it had led him," Nye said.

An attorney for Feinstein could not be reached for comment.

Station president Andrew Dickens said Feinstein had been in a dispute with another volunteer about what kind of music should be put into a digital library for the Internet program.

Feinstein was a jazz fan and his Internet program was called "Mellow Down Easy," Dickens said.

"We knew there was a disagreement, but I would characterize it as a little clash of personalities over types of music to be played and not a big blowout," Dickens said.

Feinstein, who had volunteered at the station for about a year, quit a week before the fire, saying he was going to do other things, Dickens said.

"He seemed like somebody who was young, enthusiastic, had a life, was a professional and was educated," Dickens said.

Nye said Feinstein acknowledged making a copy of the station key and then waiting for the station to clear out on the night of Jan. 5. Feinstein poured gasoline on the control panels in two studios to start the fire, Nye said.

The fire department's trained dog smelled gasoline at the scene, tipping investigators to the arson, Nye said.

Nye said Feinstein had no previous criminal record.

The fire was the third the station has dealt with in the past two years. The first was ruled accidental. The second was caused by a malfunction in a heating and air-conditioning unit of a nearby business and forced the station to move.

This month's fire knocked the station off the air for 19 days. It resumed broadcasting last week in donated space.

"We are kind of worried that people will look at us like a bunch of idiots," Dickens said. "This is really just one of those out-of-the-blue situations. Who the hell would have thought somebody would have snapped?"

Actually, yes, that is a crowbar in my pants

SWEETWATER, Tenn. - A woman has been charged with possession of burglary tools after police said a crowbar slipped out of her pants as she was lurking around a church.

McMinn County Sheriff's Deputy Rick Shadrick pulled into the church parking lot early Saturday morning after he spotted a car parked near the building.

He found Jennifer Hunt, 35, walking from behind the building, where she said she was going to bathroom. When she was walking to her car to get her ID, a crowbar dropped from her pants

The officer also found Hunt had a screwdriver and observed pry marks on church doors. Hunt was being held on $2,000 bond pending a Tuesday arraignment.

Swedish thrills (not that kind)

STOCKHOLM, Sweden - A gang of Swedish criminals was seconds away from completing a digital bank heist when an alert employee literally pulled the plug on their brazen scam, investigators said Wednesday.

The would be bank robbers had placed "advanced technical equipment" under the employee's desk that allowed them to take control of his computer remotely, prosecutor Thomas Balter Nordenman said in a statement.

The employee discovered the device shortly after he realized his computer had started an operation to transfer "millions" from the bank into another account, Nordenman said.

"By pulling out the cable to the device, the employee managed to stop the intended transfer at the last second," he said.

The foiled heist happened in August at a bank in Uppland county, north of Stockholm, police said. They announced it only Wednesday after seven suspects, all from the Stockholm region, were arrested this week while allegedly preparing another heist.

Police did not name the suspects, but said many of them have prior fraud and theft convictions. Investigators did not give other details on the device, or how it was placed under the desk.

No biting!

PITTSBURGH - A high school wrestling coach accused of biting a wrestler in the leg has agreed to resign rather than face possible criminal charges, police said.

Mike Marshall bit the Central Cambria High School wrestler at practice on Jan. 21, Cambria Township police Officer James McGough said.

"The coach was wrestling with him and bit him in the leg, the upper thigh," McGough said.

The bite caused bruising, but did not draw blood, McGough said. The student, whom McGough did not identify, did not want to prosecute and opted to drop the matter if Marshall agreed to resign, police said.

Marshall's attorney, John D. Messina, said the incident was "completely innocent" and not malicious.

"The incident occurred while he was joking around with one of the wrestlers," Messina said. "Certainly it was poor judgment and it cost him his job."

Marshall was expected to resign Wednesday, Messina said.

Marshall, 36, a probation officer in the Cambria County Department of Juvenile Probation, declined to talk about what happened.

"Everything I say gets misconstrued," Marshall told The Associated Press. "I've been drug (dragged) through the mud."

Marshall said he has coached all his life. This was his first season as Central Cambria's coach.

A message left for the school superintendent was not immediately returned.

89 frozen ferrets in the fridge, 89 frozen ferrets...

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Authorities removed nearly 200 animals from a Virginia Beach home, including 89 frozen ferret carcasses. Police spokeswoman Margie Long said animal control agents found more than 100 live ferrets, a dog, a bird and three cats, most of them suffering from dehydration and malnutrition.

Long said the frozen bodies of 89 ferrets, a cat, a rat and an otter were discovered in freezers in the house and garage.

Sixty-one of the live ferrets had to be euthanized because of poor health.

Good thing she didn't try a K-turn

TAMPA, Fla. - Gina Boyd's day already had soured when her 3-year-old daughter began vomiting in her Dodge Caravan. Then she got a traffic ticket.

Boyd, 27, got a $123 citation from a Hillsborough County deputy on Monday after she made an improper U-turn to attend to her vomiting daughter.

Boyd is a stay-at-home mother of three whose husband is in the Army. He is currently serving in Iraq.

Boyd realizes she violated the law but wished the deputy had exercised discretion upon seeing why she had made the improper turn.

Sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said Boyd committed an illegal U-turn and got a citation for it.

Mayor's curse?

NEW YORK - Is there a curse on City Hall? Rudy Giuliani this week became the latest victim of a political urban legend — that New York City mayors who aim for higher office will always miss.

Giuliani's bid for the Republican presidential nomination collapsed after a stunning defeat in Tuesday's Florida primary, where he had pinned all of his hopes as part of his unorthodox strategy of paying less attention to smaller, early-voting states.

The two-term mayor's dramatic slide from the front of the presidential pack renewed discussion of whether the office is under a political spell.

The last New York City mayor who succeeded at ascending to higher office was John T. Hoffman, who won his bid for governor in 1869.

The last mayor to be elected to any office after serving in City Hall was Ardolph Loges Kline, who was briefly mayor in 1913 and later served as a congressman.

The notable losers in addition to Giuliani include John Lindsay, who ran for president in 1972 and failed to win the Democratic nomination. In 1982, Ed Koch made a run for governor but lost in the Democratic primary to Mario Cuomo.

Asked Wednesday about whether New York mayors are forever politically jinxed, Koch blamed it on divine intervention.

"God says, 'Anyone who doesn't appreciate that I've given you the best job in the country, and looks to go higher, I'm going to stop you,'" Koch said. "Why be greedy?"

Mayor Michael Bloomberg — an independent widely believed to be seriously considering his own presidential run — was asked about the storied curse. He seized the chance to suggest that political candidates who haven't been mayor are less prepared to govern.

A mayor, he said, is forced to "make decisions and to tell people where you stand on issues."

"Those who run from other backgrounds have never had to go through that process of explicitly saying on the record what they stand for," he added.

The billionaire was more pragmatic than Koch about the reasons for the defeats suffered by New York mayors, and dismissed the curse as nothing more than mathematical coincidence.

"I just think it's a statistical fluke that mayors of New York City haven't really gone on to other elected offices," he said, "but mayors of New York City continue to go on and contribute."

Always get a second opinion

NORWOOD, Ohio - A woman who had been told that her pains were false labor pains gave birth in the driveway of her home. Charryse Brooks, 25, had gone to a hospital about 2 a.m. Sunday because she thought she might be in the early stages of labor. She wasn't due with her first child until Feb. 22.

Hospital workers told her she was experiencing false labor and told her to go home. She tried to sleep, but the pain increased and her contractions got stronger.

Finally, she insisted that she had to return to the hospital, but it was too late. By the time she got to the car, the pain was so intense, she couldn't open the car door.

"She looked at me, right in the eye, so calmly, too. She said, 'Tim, the baby's here,'" said her husband, the Rev. Timothy Brooks.

He reached to catch the baby, a 4-pound, 3-ounce girl the couple named Mackenzie Nichole Brooks, in the leg of the sweat pants his wife was wearing.

"It was just so fast," Charryse Brooks said. "It was like 'Boom!'"

Brooks, 26, who had been preparing a sermon for the one-year anniversary of becoming pastor at the Norwood Church of the Nazarene, took his wife and baby, still attached by the umbilical cord, to the hospital. His congregants in this Cincinnati suburb had to do without a sermon.

"They just went ahead and sang," he said.

Can't trust those Goodwill folks

SALEM, Ore. - Cody Young parked his bike in the wrong place at the Goodwill store, where the rule is that anything on the floor goes. He didn't have a lock, but friends said they had parked inside the store before. On Sunday, though, the black BMX bike was sold.

But the 13-year-old is going to get his bike back, Goodwill officials said, after the buyer saw a newspaper story about the mix-up and called to make things right.

The buyer got the bike for just $6.99 but will get a $100 gift certificate from Goodwill for coming forth.

It's not the first such mix-up in Goodwill's busy stores, Goodwill spokesman Dale Emanuel said. A janitor once left a bucket and mop on a store's sales floor, and they were sold the next day.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

No word on his shrinkage level

NEW YORK - A man who calls himself a tantric master broke his own world record by standing engulfed in ice for 72 minutes.

Wim Hof, 48, stood on a Manhattan street in a clear container filled with ice for an hour and 12 minutes Saturday.
Hof said he survives by controlling his body temperature through tantric meditation. Tantra is an Eastern tradition of ritual and meditation said to bring followers closer to their chosen deities.
Hof set the world record for full body ice contact endurance in 2004, when he immersed himself in ice for an hour and eight minutes.
Hof's feat kicked off BRAINWAVE, a five-month series of events in New York exploring how art, music, and meditation affect the brain.

She used to look like Willard Scott

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - Brazilian model Angela Bismarchi will dance nearly nude ahead of a 300-person drum corps in next month's Carnival parade, hoping her sculpted beauty as a "percussion queen" will lead her samba group to the championship.

But she has another goal in mind as well.
In preparation for Rio's five-day Carnival blowout in February, she's having her 42nd plastic surgery — closing in on the Guinness World Record of 47 surgical procedures held by 52-year-old American Cindy Jackson, who calls herself a "Living Doll" and now promotes her own skincare line.
"I always was vain," Bismarchi, 36, acknowledges at the medical clinic near Rio where her plastic surgeon husband has operated on her 10 times. "And for carnival, you have to feel especially pretty."
Just days before Brazil's Feb. 2-6 carnival begins, Bismarchi will have nylon wires implanted in her eyes to give them an Asian slant, in line with this year's theme of her samba group, Porto da Pedra: the centennial of Japanese immigration to Brazil.
Bismarchi's unabashed passion for plastic surgery has made her a celebrity in this image-mad country, where even the poor get surgical enhancements on the installment plan. Brazilians see no shame in touching up their bodies, which are routinely exposed at carnival and flaunted on the beach in thong bikinis so tiny they're called "dental floss."
Born poor in Rio, Bismarchi had her first cosmetic surgery in 1992 after her daughter was born. She was just 21, but said she was depressed after nursing caused her breasts to sag. So she had them lifted, adored the results, and became so fascinated with cosmetic surgery that her next two husbands were plastic surgeons.
"I put in a prosthesis and loved it. I was beautiful and sensual again," Bismarchi said, a striking figure at 6 feet — taller in white high heels — with long blond hair flowing over her white minidress.
Carnival has a special place in Bismarchi's career.
She first made headlines in 2000, when police tried to arrest her after she paraded partly nude with the Brazilian flag painted on her body.
"I became famous all over," she said. "The power of carnival is amazing."
Two years later, she paraded with the face of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva painted across her exposed body. Police released her after she explained it was a gesture to Silva's anti-hunger program.
A wardrobe malfunction at last year's carnival put Bismarchi back in the news — when her G-string broke and dangled from her waist, Porto da Pedra was threatened with a penalty for total nudity, forbidden under parade rules. But the resourceful Bismarchi hid from the judges behind the drum section, changed her tiny "sex cover" and finished the parade.
Today, Bismarchi promotes an exclusive line of sexy lingerie, gives beauty tips and responds to the 500 to 700 letters and e-mails she receives each day. To care for her famous figure, she does two and a half hours of exercise daily, takes dance lessons and spends hours tanning on the beach.
"I consider myself quite timid. I'm just a little girl grown big," she said. "I never imagined I would be famous. Things just happened."

Now that's funny

MONTPELIER, Vt. - How many politicians does it take to draw a laugh?
At least one in Vermont, where state Rep. Jason Lorber does standup gigs, produces comedy shows and runs improv workshops when he's not making laws.
"When I first came here, people said `You're the first comedian to come to the Statehouse.' I say `I'm the first PROFESSIONAL comedian to come to the Statehouse,'" he said.
He says legislating and performing are both passions for him.
"Politics is about changing society and trying to make the world a better place. And performing makes me feel so alive. I love the creative aspect of it," he said.
Lorber grew up in California, making him a "flatlander" or non-native to Vermonters. That gives him an outsider's view on things New Englanders take for granted, like coping with winters:
"I have a regimen for keeping warm: I get up, I put on a tank top, T-shirt, flannel shirt, sweater, jacket and scarf. Then if it dips below 50, I put on more clothes."
Or the state's quirky fondness for the good old days:
"I'm used to directions based on what street you're supposed to turn on. In Vermont, directions are based on landmarks that burned down 15 years ago."
He also isn't shy about basing humor on his personal life — he's gay, in a civil union, and has a 1-year-old son.
"The thing about my partner is, he's gay. Which I'm fine with. Growing up, I never pictured myself being with a gay guy. Now, I've come to realize that I could never be happy being with a straight guy."
While standup comedy isn't exactly big business in Vermont — the state has no comedy clubs — some of Lorber's fellow lawmakers have an appreciation for what he's doing.
"Anybody who can stand up in front of a group of people and try to elicit laughter, maybe being a legislator is the easy part of his life," said state Rep. Floyd Nease.

The after-market for crowns is slim

ARLINGTON, Texas - A burglar who broke into a Greek Orthodox bishop's car made off with quite a haul, but fencing one of the stolen items could prove difficult.
Among the items stolen from Bishop Metropolitan Isaiah's car was a jeweled crown of gold and silver, which Isaiah estimated to be worth between $6,000 and $10,000.
Isaiah, who is based in Denver and is bishop for the Northwest region of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, said he was dining with others at a restaurant when the break-in occurred. He said the car was parked in a well-lit spot.
"We came out at 10 o'clock, and the window was smashed," he said.
The burglar also made off with a copy of the New Testament, a veil, a cell phone and a black fabric bag. The bag had special meaning to the ex-Marine because it was given to him years ago by the widow of a fellow Marine.
Isaiah offered a reward of at least $1,000 if the crown is returned without damage.
"That was the first gift I received as a bishop 22 years ago," he said. "I feel lost without it."
At a vespers service Saturday night, he was the only priest with no head covering.
"I just hope and pray that those who took it will have a change of heart," he said.

Playboy models have the same benefits

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Charleston Mayor Danny Jones had a problem as he tried to get through the security gate at a California airport: He had misplaced his driver's license, and the expired one in his wallet wouldn't do.
The guards at John Wayne Airport in Orange County searched his bag, he told the Charleston Daily Mail for a story published Monday.
Then he remembered picking up a copy of Charleston Magazine while on his way to the West Coast for a little rest and relaxation.
Inside was a photograph of him standing in downtown Charleston and an article Jones had written as mayor welcoming visitors to the state capital.
Only then was he allowed to board his flight home.

And he didn't bag his clippings, either

ADRIAN, Mich. - A man was charged with drunken driving after going through two bottles of wine, cutting through a snowstorm on his lawn mower and riding down the center of the street to reach a liquor store, authorities said.
Police found Frank Kozumplik, 49, homeward bound on a John Deere tractor Saturday night, toting four bottles of wine in a paper bag, officials said.
He told officers that his wife had taken their car to work, and that the mower was the only way he could reach the store, two miles from home.
His blood alcohol level was 2 1/2 times Michigan's legal driving limit of 0.08 percent, police told WLEN-FM. They arrested him and confiscated the mower.
Kozumplik declined to comment Monday night.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Make up your mind, eh?

LYNCHBURG, Va. - Charges have been certified against a 72-year-old man accused of robbing a Lynchburg bank, who police say changed his mind and tried to give the money back. A Lynchburg General District judge ruled on Wednesday that prosecutors have enough evidence to send the case to a grand jury.

Duval Alexander Davis Sr. is charged with robbery and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

Commonwealth's Attorney Michael Doucette said Davis entered Carter Bank and Trust on Nov. 29 armed with a gun and told the branch manager, "give me all your money."

According to witness statements, Davis then appeared to be conflicted, handed the money back and told the teller to call the police. He also tried to give her his gun.

I've been waiting to read this for some 50 years

MARSHFIELD, Wis. - It's a novel but it's created a mystery — where has the overdue book been for the past 57 years? "We don't have records that go back that far," said Lori Belongia, director of the Marshfield Public Library. "We don't know who checked it out."

The book "Northern Lights" by Roger Vercel turned up in the book drop about a month ago.

Published in 1948, its most recent checkout stamp reads either March or May 10 of 1950.

The library's policy is to ask for reimbursement for books that become so long overdue that it stops charging overdue notices.

In the 1950s, the overdue fine was a penny a day. Now it's 15 cents a day, with a maximum charge of $10.

Belongia said someone probably reimbursed the library at some point.

"Most likely it was someone who took it home, forgot to return it, probably paid for it," she said.

She said the library doesn't expect to put the book back on the shelf. The fictional work, translated from French, is about the son of an explorer and his challenge of charting his destiny.

"It's in good shape," Belongia said. "To put it on the shelf now that we've automated, it would cost us to put it back. It's not dated information, it's just no longer popular. If it were, we would have bought another copy."

It's no mystery what's happened to book prices.

The library has records that show the book was purchased in hardcover in 1948 for $1.93. Now the average book costs more than $25.

Her Big Wheel was in the shop

SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. - A bank robbery suspect was arrested while waiting at a bus stop to make her getaway, police said. Channel Monae Gaskin, 22, was arrested Wednesday after a police officer saw her waiting for a bus and matched her to the description of the robbery suspect. She has been charged with robbery.

"That just wasn't too bright," Sandy Springs police Lt. Steve Rose said of the escape plan.

A woman went into a bank shortly after 1 p.m. Wednesday and demanded money, police said. She did not show a weapon.

After being given a bag of cash, she ran across a parking lot to a restaurant, where a dye bomb exploded and sprayed orange-colored ink on her and the money, police said.

She left the restaurant and then tried to stash the dye-stained clothes and money in a bathroom at a nearby grocery store, Rose said.

The woman apparently changed clothes and went to a bus stop behind the grocery store, Rose said.

But what made Gaskin think she could escape on public transportation? Police say she told them she had done it before.

Gaskin admitted that on Jan. 15, she robbed a bank in DeKalb County and then got on a bus, police said.

The woman was taken Wednesday to the Fulton County Jail and likely will be turned over to DeKalb County authorities and charged with the Jan. 15 robbery, police said.

Sangria ban to be lifted

RICHMOND, Va. - If you're served a pitcher of authentic sangria in a Virginia restaurant, someone's breaking the law.

Since 1934, the state has prohibited mixing wine or beer with spirits. Frances McDonald, vice president of La Tasca Spanish Tapas Bar and Restaurants, found that out the hard way when his Alexandria location was cited for violating the sangria ban in 2006 and fined $2,000.

McDonald and managing partner Shana McKillop appealed their case to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board on Thursday before going to the Capitol to urge legislators to pass a bill legalizing the red wine, liqueur and fruit concoction.

McDonald said his business received no warning about the ban. He said he was unaware of the prohibition and had he known about it would not have located any of his five restaurants in Virginia. "It's like not being able to serve tequila in a Mexican restaurant," he said.

The Alcoholic Beverage Control Department agent who cited La Tasca even ordered restaurant employees to pour its sangria — about 40 liters — down the drain, said Shana McKillop, managing partner at the Alexandria restaurant.

A ruling on the La Tasca's appeal should take two to four weeks, said Kristy Marshall, a spokeswoman for the ABC Department. In the meantime, the restaurant has taken to modifying its sangria recipe. The brandy has been eliminated and the triple sec replaced with a nonalcoholic orange liqueur.

"It's still sangria but not as authentic as we'd like to offer our guests," McKillop said.

On the bright side, her property tax bill has been vastly reduced

MOSCOW - Returning home after an absence can mean unpleasant surprises — a leaky roof, a pet's mess, even a break-in. But a Russian woman got a nastier surprise when she returned from her country house: her home was gone, torn down mistakenly by construction workers clearing a site, according to a report Thursday on NTV television.

"There was nothing left, not even a log," Lyudmila Martemyanova said, bundled against the cold and standing on a snow-covered lot in the center of the Volga River city of Nizhny Novgorod.

A local prosecutor, Nikolai Govorkov, said a construction company tore down the wrong building — Martemyanova's, instead of one nearby that was marked for demolition.

Many Russians have faced what they say are unfair and inadequately compensated evictions from older housing being torn down amid the country's oil-revenue-fueled construction boom.

Martemyanova's case is extreme, however, and she has taken it to court. She refused the builder's offer of money, saying it wasn't enough even to get a room on the outskirts of the city, and has sued.

Court hearings started Thursday. Meanwhile, she's shuttling back and forth between her daughter's and her sister's, she told NTV.

Those are some expensive jeans

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - All week, Sammy Zabib was getting an earful from his girlfriend for forgetting to buy her a pair of designer jeans she spotted in a casino boutique last weekend.

"She was mad," said Zabib, a 42-year-old limousine fleet manager in New York. "We had an argument. More than one."

They're not arguing now.

On a return trip to pick up the jeans and end the grief Friday morning, Zabib won nearly $800,000 playing a slot machine.

He got up at 5 a.m. and drove three hours to Atlantic City, arriving at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa before the boutique, Whim, opened at 10 a.m.

In his pocket was a photocopy of a picture of the jeans that his girlfriend printed out for him, just to make sure there would be no confusion.

With some time to kill, he sat down at a Brazil Slingo slot machine and started playing, betting $4 a spin for about an hour.

"I was just trying to kill time until the store opened so I could get her those jeans," he said. "Then the machine stopped working. I didn't know why, so I called security. They came over, took a look at it, and said, 'You won the jackpot!'"

He called his girlfriend, whom he identified only as Anna, and she started screaming.

"She wasn't mad anymore," he said with a laugh. "She's waiting for me at home now."

After receiving his payout from the casino, Zabib completed his mission, buying the pair of "7 For All Mankind" jeans — Dojo style — that Anna had wanted so badly.

"They're the hot brand right now," said Borgata spokesman Michael Facenda. "They go for $149 a pair."

Zabib doesn't know what else he'll do with his newfound riches.

"Maybe buy her some more jeans," Zabib said.

All in the family

LODI, Calif. - Shoplifting is all in the family for one California clan, police say.

A grandmother, her daughter and some of her grandchildren tried to steal $900 worth of merchandise from a Target store in Lodi, 35 miles south of Sacramento, police Officer Misty Smith said.

The family's alleged shoplifting spree earlier this week was captured by surveillance video, which police say showed them cutting open boxes and hiding MP3 players, digital cameras, DVDs, jewelry and sports equipment in purses, bags and a backpack.

An 8-year-old and a 5-year-old were among the family members detained.

"The 5-year-old actually had a pack of gum. A small item but we could see where her life was heading because she thinks more than likely this is a normal way of life, this is what you do," said Dale Eubanks of the Lodi police.

Linda Robinson, 59, and her 36-year-old daughter, Anna Fernandez, were charged Wednesday with burglary, grand theft, vandalism and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. They were released from jail. If convicted, each could face eight years in prison.

Fernandez's teenage sons, 17 and 14, were arrested on suspicion of grand theft and will face charges in juvenille court, authorities said. Another teen not related to the family also was arrested.

The two children were released to relatives and will not face charges.

It was not immediately clear if the family had a lawyer.

No looking at kissing

BEIJING - Shanghai's subway operator has fired an employee who uploaded security camera video of a couple kissing on one of its trains to the Internet, Chinese media said Friday.

The company has also offered compensation and an apology to the pair, who could be identified from the video, and were reportedly shamed and harassed over its appearance on sites such as YouTube.

The video reportedly showed the couple kissing and embracing.

"We have wrapped up an internal investigation and found the videotape was uploaded by people who had worked for Shanghai Metro," the company said in a statement quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency.

"We made formal apologies and are negotiating with the couple over compensation," the statement said.

Xinhua said the company's probe found three employees had been involved in the incident, two of whom quit last September for reasons it did not explain.

Xinhua identified the dismissed employee as a woman. Her name was not given.

And in this corner, the hissing cockroaches

MARSHALL, Texas - An animal protection group on Friday rescued more than 200 animals, including 26 hissing cockroaches and two bearded dragons, from an eastern Texas home.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said the animals were still being counted Friday night.

The group was acting under the authority of the Harrison County Sheriff's Department and had gone to the property on a warrant regarding medical neglect.

Besides the cockroaches and bearded dragons, the animals included 68 dogs, 16 rabbits, 15 guinea pigs, 13 gerbils, seven doves, two dwarf hamsters, two hedgehogs, an opossum and a pink toe tarantula.

The SPCA said some animals were found in outdoor pens while others were in sheds scattered around the property. Others were in a doublewide trailer living in filth.

The SPCA said many of the dogs were very thin and appeared to be suffering from eye and ear infections. One dead frog and a dead guinea pig were found. The saved animals were to be taken to an animal care center.

A sheriff's department spokesman said he had no information on the raid and didn't know if any arrests were made.

He shoulda stole from a millionaire

PAINESVILLE, Ohio - A Salvation Army worker who was ordered by a judge to spend a night homeless for stealing a holiday kettle containing about $250 returned to court Friday with red eyes and red cheeks.

Nathen Smith who was fitted with a GPS device to track his moves, spent Thursday night ducking in and out of government buildings for warmth, including a stop at the Lake County sheriff's office.

Smith also walked through a park, but did not go under a bridge where many of Painesville's homeless sleep, probation supervisor David Washlock said.

"It's hard to find a spot to go that's warm, unless you're inside," an unshaven Smith told Municipal Judge Michael Cicconetti, who issued the sentenced.

Smith, 28, worked as a bell ringer for the Salvation Army outside a Kmart store in nearby Eastlake on Dec. 17. Police arrested Smith at his mother's house after a co-worker reported that one of eight kettles was missing.

The Salvation Army uses kettle donations to help pay for food, clothing and shelter for the homeless.

Smith, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of theft, still must serve three days in jail, do eight hours of community service, get a general equivalency diploma and find a job, the judge said.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Close, but no cigar

YORK, Maine - A police officer agreed to escort a car containing a pregnant woman to the hospital only to find the car was stolen — and the woman wasn't pregnant.

York Police Sgt. Brian Curtin said officers ran a computer check on the license plate en route to the hospital and discovered the Volkswagen Jetta had been stolen. Charged with receiving stolen property was 23-year-old Richard Saunders of Somersworth, N.H.

Officers initially stopped the car Monday night because a taillight was out, but agreed to escort the vehicle after the driver said his passenger was in labor.

Curtin said the woman slipped away after being checked into York Hospital. He said another woman who agreed to give her a lift to a convenience store later discovered $160 and a pack of cigarettes were missing from her purse.

If only all the politicians were like this

SAN ANTONIO - A candidate for Kerr County treasurer is making a single campaign promise: Elect me and I won't serve. Ed Hamilton, 77, is challenging incumbent Treasurer Mindy Williams for the Republican nomination during the March 4 election. No Democrats are seeking the office.

He said the job is redundant and costing the county money it doesn't need to spend. The duties should be assigned to another county office, Hamilton said.

"I don't plan to do the job," he said. "I won't accept a paycheck."

Hamilton said if elected, he would hand the duties to someone else and petition state officials for a referendum on a constitutional amendment that would allow any county to eliminate the treasurer position if it chooses.

Williams, who was appointed last spring to the $46,000-a-year post, said the job shouldn't be eliminated. It provides accountability on the county's spending, a check and balance that is "essential to county government."

Hamilton says "check and balance" is "a euphemism for duplication of effort."

The grossest thing you'll read today

MADISON, Wis. - Repeated discoveries of human feces in clothing and other items left in an apartment building's basement laundry room led to charges Thursday against a 19-year-old man.

Authorities said Ronnie A. Ballard was arrested after a woman whose laundry had been soiled chased him back to his apartment in an adjoining building.

Residents also reported finding feces in shoes and boots in an apartment hallway and in washing machines where it soiled a comforter, baby clothes and other items that had to be thrown out.

Ballard was charged with three counts of disorderly conduct, three counts of criminal damage to property and one count of bail jumping. Court records showed he also is facing charges of lewd and lascivious behavior in Waukesha and Lincoln counties.

Ballard was jailed in lieu of $1,400 bail.

Good news, bad news

CANBERRA, Australia - A man rescued his colleague from the jaws of a crocodile in northern Australia but accidentally shot the unlucky co-worker in the process, police said Wednesday.

The two farmhands were collecting wild crocodile eggs on a riverbank Tuesday in Northern Territory when a crocodile snatched one of them, Jason Green, by the arm, the Northern Territory Police said in a statement.

"The male colleague shot at the crocodile, causing it to let go of the victim's arm, but a further shot hit the victim in the upper right arm," the statement said.

The two men had been collecting eggs to boost the crocodile population at their farm in the northern city of Darwin. Their employer sent a helicopter that flew Green to a Darwin hospital for surgery.

Police Commander Bob Harrison said Green's injuries were not life-threatening.

"He's going to be very sick and sorry and have a very good story to tell," Harrison told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Police could provide no information about the crocodile's condition.

Kitty comes home

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Some kitty math: How many lives did little tabby Gracie Mae use up when she crawled into her owner's suitcase, went through an airport X-ray machine, got loaded onto a plane, thrown onto a baggage belt and mistakenly picked up by a stranger far from home?

"She's got to be at four or five now," Seth Levy said after his 10-month-old pet was returned Sunday night by a kind stranger who went home to Fort Worth, Texas, with the wrong bag and Gracie inside to boot.

The last time Levy's wife, Kelly, saw Gracie was before she took her husband to the airport. The 24-year-old went back to her house in Palm Beach Gardens late Friday to find the bottom step, where Gracie would usually be waiting, empty.

She tore the house apart looking for the cat, who had been spayed just days before. She and her dad took out bathroom tiles and part of a cabinet to check a crawl space and papered the neighborhood with "lost cat" signs.

Then she got a phone call.

"Hi, you're not going to believe this, but I am calling from Fort Worth, Texas, and I accidentally picked up your husband's luggage. And when I opened the luggage, a cat jumped out," Kelly Levy quoted the caller saying.

Rob Carter said he made it home with the suitcase before realizing it wasn't his — and there was a big surprise inside.

"I went to unpack and saw some of the clothes and saw it wasn't my suitcase," he said. "I was going to close it, and a kitten jumped out and ran under the bed. I screamed like a little girl."

Carter said that he eventually was able to get the cat to come out from under the bed.

"In the morning, I got close enough to see its collar and the phone number on it," he said. "So I called the number and got a hold of the crying wife of the traveler."

The tabby made the 1,300-mile trip home on an $80 plane ticket. Carter said he considered keeping the cat before he knew she had a home.

"We were going to name it Suitcase," he said.

They eat horses, don't they?

AKRON, Mich. - Kristen DeGroat just wanted to sell her horse to another animal lover, but her ad ended up under "Good Things to Eat" in the classified sections of two newspapers. About a third of the 60 or so calls she received were from people interested in buying horse meat.

"It's been enough to turn your stomach," said DeGroat, who eventually sold her 3-year-old mare, Foxy, to a man who wanted a live horse for his grandchildren.

DeGroat's ad, offering the registered pinto for $200 or the best offer, was intended to run Sunday and Monday under the classified ad heading for horses and stables in The Saginaw News and The Bay City Times.

However, human error landed the ad under the food heading in the classified sections of both newspapers. The papers, which have a jointly run classified ad department, corrected the mistake.

"I was pretty outraged," DeGroat told The Saginaw News. "I've owned horses since I was a child. The worst part of all of it, if it had been any other section, it would have just been a mistake."

DeGroat, 25, who lives about 85 miles northwest of Detroit, said she had received dozens of calls from unhappy animal lovers.

"I had a lady call whose friend was just in tears over this thing," DeGroat told the Saginaw paper.

Shooting yourself in the foot (literally)

CHERRYVILLE, N.C. - Authorities said an unsuccessful robber shot himself in the foot ... by shooting himself in the foot. Police said Kelvin Ethelbert Roberts, 28, botched his plans to rob a Cherryville convenience store by accidentally shooting his right foot.

According to an arrest warrant, Roberts dropped a .45-caliber handgun in front of Gasland USA on Sunday. The gun hit the ground and went off, a bullet striking Roberts in the foot.

Roberts faces several charges that include attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon and possession of a weapon of mass destruction. Police said the handgun had been altered to fire .410 shotgun shells.

Authorities said Roberts was in illegal possession of the gun because of his felony cocaine possession conviction in 2002 in Chautauqua County, New York.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

He also gave himself sexy legs

HOUSTON - A mailer from a congressional candidate's campaign contains a photo of his head attached to an image of a different body that makes him look thinner.

The photo is presented as a true image of Dean Hrbacek, a Republican former mayor of Sugar Land. In reality, it is a computerized composite of Hrbacek's face and someone else's slimmer figure, in suit and tie, from neck to knee.

Hrbacek, a tax lawyer and accountant, did not immediately return a call to his campaign headquarters Friday by The Associated Press. He is seeking the nomination to run against Democratic U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson.

Campaign manager Scott Broschart acknowledged to The Houston Chronicle that the image is a fake. Hrbacek has been so busy that he had no time to pose for a full-length photo for the mailing, Broschart said.

"He may appreciate that we took a few pounds off him," Broschart said. "I think the voters ... are more concerned with the issues as opposed to pretty photo shoots."

Republican political consultant Allen Blakemore of Houston, who has no client in the congressional race, said there's no law against the practice "other than the laws of gravity — the negative effect on your polling numbers and popularity when you do such things."

It's the dog's fault

ALICE, Texas - The allegations could bring down the mayor of this South Texas town: a faked death, an attempt to hide the evidence from police, a cover-up story.

And for what? A Shih Tzu.

Mayor Grace Saenz-Lopez was indicted Friday on two felony counts of tampering with physical evidence related to a dog her neighbors say she took from them.

"She loves the little dog," said attorney Homero Canales, who represents the mayor and her twin sister, who was also charged. "She told me that if she were a single woman, she would not care if she went to jail for the rest of her life before she would give the dog back."

According to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and the San Antonio Express-News, Saenz-Lopez had agreed to take care of Puddles while Rudy Gutierrez and Shelly Cavazos were on vacation over the summer. A day after they left, she called to say the dog was dead, but three months later a relative of Cavazos saw Puddles — renamed Panchito — at a dog groomer.

Puddles' family sued and filed a criminal complaint, but the case took a new turn Monday when the mayor filed a police report saying the dog was missing.

A television crew found the dog 10 miles from Alice in Ben Bolt, at the home of Saenz-Lopez's twin, Graciela Garcia. Garcia said a "mysterious lady" had found the dog and dropped it off.

Garcia was indicted on a felony count of concealing evidence, said District Attorney Joe Frank Garza. She and the mayor have been released on bond.

A hearing is set for Feb. 4 in the lawsuit against Saenz-Lopez, where state District Judge Richard Terrell will decide the custody battle over the dog, said DeeAnn Torres, the attorney for Gutierrez and Cavazos.

"We just wanted the puppy back," Torres said.

Canales, who is keeping the dog at his office, said his client "will not give the dog back unless there is a legitimate court order that says she has to."

"The taking of the dog was to save it from certain death," Canales said. "It was going to die. They had left the dog with her to take care of it. She took it to the doctor. She decided if she gave it back it would die."

Convictions on the felonies would cost Saenz-Lopez her office, City Manager Albert Uresti said.

She could lose it sooner; a recall effort is under way.

The tell-tale visit

BALTIMORE - Undeterred by controversy, a mysterious visitor paid his annual tribute at the grave of Edgar Allan Poe early Saturday, placing three red roses and a half-filled bottle of cognac before stealing away into the darkness.

Nearly 150 people had gathered outside the cemetery of Westminster Presbyterian Church, but the man known as the "Poe toaster" was, as usual, able to avoid being spotted by the crowd, said Jeff Jerome, curator of the Poe House and Museum.

The tribute takes place every Jan. 19 — the anniversary of Poe's birth.

The visitor did not leave a note, Jerome said, electing not to respond to questions raised in the past year about the history and authenticity of the tribute.

Sam Porpora, a former church historian who led the fight to preserve the cemetery, claimed last summer that he cooked up the idea of the Poe toaster in the 1970s as a publicity stunt.

"We did it, myself and my tour guides," Porpora, a former advertising executive, said in August. "It was a promotional idea."

Porpora said someone else has since "become" the Poe toaster.

Jerome disputes Porpora's claims and says the tribute began in 1949 at the latest, pointing to a 1950 article in The (Baltimore) Evening Sun that mentions "an anonymous citizen who creeps in annually to place an empty bottle (of excellent label)" against the gravestone.

Jerome invites a handful of Poe enthusiasts to join him inside the church every year but withholds details of the tribute in an effort to help the toaster maintain his anonymity. He said the visitor no longer wears the wide-brimmed hat and scarf he donned in the past.

In 1993, the visitor left a note reading, "The torch will be passed." A later note said the man, who apparently died in 1998, had handed the tradition on to his two sons.

This year's visitor was the same man who has come to the grave site many times in the past, Jerome said.

"We recognize him from his build, the way he walks," he said. "It would be very easy for us, visually, to see if this were a different person."

Poe, who wrote poems and horror stories including "The Raven" and "The Telltale Heart," died Oct. 7, 1849, in Baltimore at the age of 40 after collapsing in a tavern. Next year will be the 200th anniversary of his birth.

Friday, January 18, 2008

He had forgotten about the first incident

PULLMAN, Wash. - Pullman police said a WSU student was arrested twice the same night for smoking marijuana. The 20-year-old was arrested Tuesday night with two other men for smoking in a parking lot, police said. They were cited, fingerprinted and released shortly after midnight.

Less than two hours later, an officer saw three men passing around a pipe in a pickup truck and arrested the student again and the two others for possessing marijuana.

Police Commander Chris Tennant said he hopes the student isn't kicked out of WSU because it seems he needs a bit more education.

If at first you don't succeed

LYNDONVILLE, Vt. - Stacie Warren wasn't satisfied with one husband, so police say she married again and again. Warren, 33, was cited last week on a second charge of bigamy for having three husbands. State police said Warren married Frank Gray last year while she already was married to two other men.

Vermont State Police Trooper Callie Field said Warren married a third time two months after being charged with bigamy in 2007. In that case, both Warren and her second husband were charged with bigamy because the man also was already married to someone else, police said.

Warren apparently married one man, then moved out, and married another without getting divorced, Field said. He said prescription drug abuse may be a factor in the case.

Field said that when Warren's first two husbands learned of the alleged bigamy, 'they pretty much didn't care either way.'

Warren faces up to five years in prison if convicted of the felony bigamy charge.

In the 2007 case, she pleaded guilty in a plea deal and was ordered to appear before a reparative board.

They always come back

BRISBANE, Australia - Boomerangs really do come back — even after 25 years. Officials in an Australian Outback town were surprised when a boomerang arrived in the post. Along with it was a note from a guilt-ridden American who said he stole it years earlier from a museum in the mining town of Mount Isa, and now felt rotten about it.

"I removed this back in 1983 when I was younger and dumber," said the note, according to Mount Isa Mayor Ron McCullough. "It was the wrong thing to do, I'm sorry, and I'm going to send it back," said the note.

McCullough on Thursday gave the contrite thief's first name as Peter but said it would be unfair to release his full identity.

McCullough said the parcel was sent to the location of the old museum, now a paper manufacturing plant and community center, and was then handed to the Mount Isa council. He declined to reveal the value of the donation.

McCullough said the boomerang would be returned to its rightful owner, if he could be found.

Boomerangs were traditionally used by Aborigines as a hunting weapon. A typical returning boomerang can travel up to 150 feet in the air before returning to the thrower.

Name that bear

NUREMBERG, Germany - What will Germany's new polar bear celebrity be called?

Nuremberg Mayor Ulrich Maly has asked a jury to deliberate Friday on a flood of suggestions — which arrived in more than 25,000 e-mails and postcards — for the official name of the 5-week-old white ball of fluff.

The decision was to be announced in the afternoon.

The bear cub rose to star status after being taken from her mother, Vera, on Jan. 8 amid concerns that she could harm or even kill the newborn.

The Bavarian city's zoo made the decision to bottle-feed the cub and not return her to her mother after keepers spotted Vera carrying the cub around in her jaws and tossing it around her enclosure.

Zookeepers provisionally dubbed the cub, born in early December, Flocke — German for flake, as in snow flake.

Proposals have included traditional German names — but among the suggestions are Nibs, Snow White, Aicha and Yuki Chan.

On the polar bear's Internet home page, the zoo thanked all those who participated for "the many creative and original suggestions."

Little more than a year ago, another polar bear club in Germany — Knut — was hand-raised by his keepers in Berlin and became a celebrity after being rescued when his mother rejected him.

Mass-circulation daily Bild already has asked of the new cub: "Will she become Mrs. Knut?"

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Those wacky Germans!

BERLIN - A German man in the northeastern town of Gross Godems was being treated for serious burns Monday after accidentally setting his apartment ablaze when he mixed up a bottle of gasoline with alcohol, police said.

The 56-year-old apparently grabbed the wrong bottle and took a swig from the gasoline flask, then spat it out when he realized his mistake.

The gas hit a lit cigarette, sparking the fire, police said.

The man's name was not released.

Mmmm.... warm sidewalks

MADISON, Wis. - Things are heating up in Wisconsin.

After the second snowiest December on record in the state capital — and with temperatures hovering around 20 degrees Tuesday — the Legislature abolished a statewide ban on heated sidewalks, stairs, entrances and pedestrian walkways.

The bill, which cleared the state Assembly in October and was approved unanimously Tuesday by the state Senate, overturns a law passed in 1980s in response to the energy crisis of the 1970s. Wisconsin is the only state that had such a prohibition in the books.

Supporters of overturning the ban argue that with better technology, and the prospect of using less salt and saving money on snow removal, the ban had outlived its usefulness.

Phyllis Christensen, director of the Marathon City library, said library officials hoped the bill would pass so they could build an outdoor stairway between a new parking lot and the library's entrance, which is about 17 feet up on a hill.

"Trying to keep a staircase like that cleared so it's safe during the winter would be extremely difficult," Christensen said.

The bill now goes to Gov. Jim Doyle, who supports it, said his spokesman Matt Canter.

Please don't kick the photogs

DENVER - The Colorado Legislature launched an investigation Tuesday into whether a state lawmaker should be disciplined for kicking a newspaper photographer.

House Speaker Andrew Romanoff said he will form a special committee with powers similar to an ethics committee, which can recommend discipline ranging from a reprimand to expulsion, against Rep. Douglas Bruce.

House leaders said they were looking into the specific authority they could give the panel, including subpoena power, and whether the meetings would be public.

Bruce, a Colorado Springs Republican, accused the photographer of causing a disruption by snapping his photo during the traditional session-opening prayer on Monday morning, hours before Bruce was sworn in as a midterm replacement.

Bruce refused to apologize and called the kick "just a nudge."

Romanoff, a Democrat, said the committee will be formed with the help of GOP Minority Leader Mike May.

"We both take this very seriously," Romanoff said.

The inquiry must be done by a special committee because an ethics committee can investigate only actions by standing lawmakers.

The committee's recommendations are due Jan. 25. Any action would require a two-thirds vote of the House.

Bruce said he's done nothing wrong.

"I don't think it's unethical to ask somebody repeatedly not to disrupt the prayer and particularly my prayer and participation," Bruce said after Romanoff announced the investigation.

"He didn't have any injury. He didn't fall over, it was just a nudge," Bruce said.

Bruce was standing during the prayer when Rocky Mountain News photographer Javier Manzano knelt down and snapped his photo. Bruce brought the sole of his shoe down hard on Manzano's bent knee and said, "Don't do that again."

"I think that's the most offensive thing I've seen a photographer do in 21 years," Bruce said later. "If people are going to cause a disruption during a public prayer, they should be called for it. He owes an apology to the House and the public."

Rocky Mountain News Editor John Temple said Manzano had a right to take Bruce's picture. Temple said he would discuss the incident with House leadership.

"The House floor is a place where journalists are allowed to operate. It's outrageous for Mr. Bruce in a public place to assault a photographer," Temple said.

Sounds like a feel-good movie

WELLINGTON, New Zealand - A New Zealand man has been charged with driving a lawn mower while drunk, police said Tuesday. Richard Gunn, 52, was driving the lawn mower down a street in the northern New Zealand town of Dargaville late Monday evening when police stopped him, police spokeswoman Sarah Kennett said.

Gunn's breath alcohol level was at more than twice the legal limit for drivers, police said, and he previously had lost his driver's license.

Gunn said he has been using the lawn mower to get around town since losing his license.

"I thought I was safe," he told TV One News.

Even bicycles went faster than the lawn mower's 5 mph, he said. "I've watched them go past me."

Gunn was scheduled to appear in court later this week on charges of careless driving, driving while disqualified and driving with excess breath alcohol. He faces a potential prison term if convicted.

Police impounded the lawn mower for 28 days.

The bonobos aren't even going to bother

VIENNA, Austria - A chimpanzee cannot be declared a person, Austria's Supreme Court has ruled, activists said Tuesday. An animal rights group had sought to have the chimp, Matthew Hiasl Pan, declared a person in hopes of gaining guardianship of the animal.

The shelter where Matthew has lived for 25 years is going bankrupt, threatening to leave him homeless. Donors have offered to help support him, but under Austrian law, only a person can receive personal gifts.

The Vienna-based Association Against Animal Factories sought to have him declared a person and petitioned to be appointed Matthew's trustee.

But the high court upheld a September ruling by a judge in the town of Wiener Neustadt rejecting the petition, the group said Tuesday.

The rights group said it would take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Matthew and another chimp at the shelter, Rosi, were captured as babies in Sierra Leone in 1982 and smuggled to Austria for use in pharmaceutical experiments. Customs officers intercepted the shipment and turned the chimps over to the shelter.

Organizers said they may set up a foundation to collect donations for Matthew, whose life expectancy in captivity is about 60 years.

But they argue that only personhood will ensure that he isn't sold outside Austria.

Dog save and a beaut

MENASHA, Wis. - An icy rescue of her pet dog Buddy convinced Angie Bray she picked the right place to live when she moved to the town of Menasha two years ago.

"Let other folks retire to warm climates," said the 68-year-old Bray. "I'm spending the rest of my days where the weather may be cold but the hearts are warm."

Bray called 911 after Buddy fell into Little Lake Butte des Morts and was clinging to ice about 300 feet from shore last weekend.

She said Buddy — a "poodle mixed with adorable" — probably darted onto the ice to bark at ducks in the water.

She tried to get to Buddy but broke through the ice on her first step from shore.

Firefighters from Neenah-Menasha Fire Rescue arrived with self-inflating wetsuits and ropes and headed onto the ice.

Firefighter Jason Phillip said Buddy was losing strength by the time they got to him.

"On my way out, it went under the water, and it took a second to come back up," he said. "It was really struggling. If we would have waited an extra minute, I don't know if it would have made it."

Buddy had been in the icy water about 15 minutes.

Bray took the 26-pound dog to the Fox Valley Animal Referral Center in Grand Chute for treatment, including an intravenous therapy of warm fluids.

By late Saturday afternoon, the two were back home, and Bray was reflecting on the firefighters' response.

"That's not their job, really," she said. "They are there to rescue people. The kindness that was demonstrated was amazing to me."

We should do this more often with prisoners

INDIANAPOLIS - A court security deputy was fired and two others suspended after an inmate was left in a holding cell for more than two days without food.

The three deputies were disciplined for dereliction of duties, the Marion County Sheriff's Department said Monday.

Deputy Tucker M. Parker forgot to take James Logan back to the county jail Friday following a sentencing hearing on cocaine dealing and possession charges in Marion Superior Court, said Julio Fernandez, a spokesman for the sheriff's department.

"He completely forgot," Fernandez said. "He just forgot that the guy was in there."

Logan, 21, spent more than 48 hours in the court holding cell, a news release said. The cell had running water and a toilet, but no food was available, the sheriff's department said.

"He told me that he was going to come back and get me, but he never came back," Logan told reporters in a jailhouse interview Monday.

Logan was discovered by other officers Sunday and transferred to the jail.

"This could have been a diabetic who could have been in a coma," said Kenneth Falk, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana. "Obviously, this is a problem that should be looked into immediately."

Chief Deputy Kerry Forestal said deputies now will check each holding cell at 8 p.m. and again after 11 p.m. to make sure they are empty.

Parker was fired, Deputy Richard A. Edgemont was suspended two days and Lt. James L. Wampler was suspended 10 days, Fernandez said. Wampler also will be demoted to sergeant and transferred out of the courtroom security detail, officials said.

"Mr. Parker was really responsible to come back and move this prisoner. The other gentlemen left shift without checking with him and that's where the suspension came about," said Fernandez.

The deputies' home phone numbers were not available in published listings for Indianapolis and they could not be reached for comment Monday.

Logan was sentenced Friday to two years in jail with a recommendation that the time be served in work-release.

Breakin' the law

VANCOUVER, Wash. - A motorist who paid a speeding ticket he got from a state trooper who used out-of-state license plates on his unmarked patrol car wants his money back. "What gives the police the right to drive illegally on the highway?" said Dave Milbrandt, a company finance manager. "Do they have a special exemption?"

Milbrandt told The Columbian newspaper of Vancouver that he planned to see a lawyer about the $247 he paid after Washington State Patrol Trooper Bradford A. Moon, driving an unmarked Dodge Charger with Oregon plates, caught him going 56 mph in a 35 mph zone on State Route 4 in Longview last month.

"Did they write me a ticket illegally?" Milbrandt said. "If they did, I'd like my money back and my record cleared."

Moon, who removed the Oregon plates after the incident came to light, was trying to be creative in catching speeders but should have told his superiors, patrol Sgt. Randy L. Hullinger said Monday.

"It's not typically something that is done," Hullinger said.

"We encourage our troopers to look at innovative ways to catch people," he said, "but it's always good to run innovative ideas past somebody else so we can consider all possible outcomes.

"He went out on his own. He was attempting to use some initiative to solve a problem, which is our job, but in this case it looks like maybe judgment-wise he should have run it by somebody else."

Moon failed to consider that "the first thing the motoring public might think is, 'Is this a police impersonator?'" Hullinger said. "When they see a nonstandard police car, we want people to understand that when all the lights go on ... this is for real — but if there are Oregon plates on the car, there's just that much more concern in the public's eye it might not be a police car."

Moon, who had removed the plates from a personal vehicle after moving to Washington from Oregon, will not face disciplinary action, and the ticket will stand unless Milbrandt is successful in persuading a judge otherwise, patrol officials said.

Moon decided on the tactic after reading on misplace about a boy who claimed he regularly drove 100 mph on Interstate 5 and avoided detection by knowing how to spot patrol cars, relying partly on whether the plates were in-state, Hullinger said.

The young driver was never caught.

Actually, that is a snake, and no, I'm not happy to see you

MASTIC, N.Y. - A man was arrested Tuesday for walking on a highway with a 14-foot python wrapped around his body, police said.

Police in Long Island's Suffolk County say 35-year-old Curtis Dewberry of Wading River was spotted by an officer for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals while out strolling Tuesday afternoon. The officer called police because the python is considered a danger to the public.

Dewberry has been charged with animal cruelty and failure to protect the public against dangerous wildlife. He was being held Tuesday and didn't have a lawyer.


KOKOMO, Ind. - Police say a man accidentally shot himself in the groin as he was robbing a convenience store. A clerk told police a man carrying a semiautomatic handgun entered the Village Pantry Tuesday morning demanding cash and a pack of cigarettes.

The clerk put the cash in a bag and as she turned to get the cigarettes, she heard the gun discharge.

Police say surveillance video shows the man shooting himself as he placed the gun in the waistband of his pants. The clerk wasn't injured.

A short time later, police found Derrick Kosch, 25, at a home with a gunshot wound to his right testicle and lower left leg. He was expected to have surgery at a hospital.

Police plan to charge him with armed robbery.

It just seems like a good idea

RICHMOND, Va. - It's one thing to dangle fuzzy dice from a rear view mirror, but decorating a trailer hitch with a large pair of rubber testicles might be a bit much in Virginia.

State Del. Lionel Spruill introduced a bill Tuesday to ban displaying replicas of human genitalia on vehicles, calling it a safety issue because it could distract other drivers.

Under his measure, displaying the ornamentation on a motor vehicle would be a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $250.

He said the idea came from a constituent whose young daughter spotted an example of the trail hitch adornment and asked her father to explain it.

"'I didn't know what to tell her,'" Spruill said the constituent told him before Spruill vowed to stop such displays.

"I said, 'Sir, I'm going to be a laughingstock, but I'm going to do it,'" he said.

The Virginia General Assembly has some experience with offbeat bills. Three years ago, it drew widespread attention with an unsuccessful effort to outlaw baggy pants worn so low they expose underwear.

Spruill, 61, said the indignity of the "droopy drawers" debate wouldn't deter him. He said he won't hesitate to bring a set of $24.95 trailer testicles with him for a legislative show-and-tell.

"I'm going to do it," Spruill told a handful of reporters after Tuesday's House session adjourned. "I'm going to bring them out here and show them to you till they tell me to stop."

Friday, January 11, 2008

No sandwich snitches here

COLUMBIA, Md. - The reward for information wasn't much: 30 bucks. Then again, neither was the crime: a cafeteria food fight.

A high school principal's offer to get students to name the names behind the flying cheeseburgers was withdrawn after students questioned the propriety of paying students to snitch about something so minor.

"A $30 offer might be tempting, but is it just?" student Paige Eckley wrote in the Wilde Lake High School student newspaper.

No injuries were reported in the December food fight, which led to the suspension of at least two students, officials said.

No reward money was paid to students and Howard County school officials are reconsidering such offers, school system spokeswoman Patti Caplan said.

She noted that it "was not just food being thrown. There were water bottles, trays and utensils."

Cash rewards have been offered in the past for information leading to those responsible for vandalism, graffiti or theft, Caplan said.

The school is in Columbia, about 15 miles southwest of Baltimore, where homemade "Stop Snitching" videos have been distributed on the streets, threatening people who cooperate with police.

And she played 'spin the bottle'... eewwwwwww

OSLO, Norway - A 33-year-old Czech woman managed to spend several months posing as a 13-year-old boy named "Adam," fooling teachers and child care workers in Norway, police said Thursday.

Barbora Skrlova was deported back to the Czech Republic and detained on Wednesday, Czech police spokeswoman Andrea Prochazkova said. Authorities said she was undergoing psychiatric evaluation.

A woman who supplied a Czech passport enrolled "Adam" at the Marienlyst school near Oslo in September. However, authorities say it actually was the 5-foot-2 Skrlova, her breasts bound and head shaved.

"We did react to Adam's behavior. But it's not easy to know. Children at that age can be so different," school principal Ingjerd Eriksen told the Oslo newspaper Dagbladet.

Czech authorities are now looking into whether Skrlova should be charged with identity theft and misleading authorities, police said.

It apparently was not the first time Skrlova had fooled authorities by posing as a child, which in Norway offered her food and shelter. Czech police say she posed as a 13-year-old girl adopted by a woman in the Czech city of Brno.

That woman in Brno is now suspected of abusing of her two younger biological sons, and Skrlova is key witness in the case. Facing an investigation, Skrlova left with friends for Denmark and ended up in Norway.

"Not even we have been able to figure out what is up and down in this case," Norwegian police attorney Sven T. Roer said.

Skrlova fled the Czech Republic after being sought by police as a key witness in a high profile 2007 child abuse case believed to involve an obscure religious sect, Norwegian and Czech news reports said.

In mid-December, "Adam" disappeared from an Oslo children's home, prompting police to launch a nationwide search and publish photographs on Jan. 4 of the missing "child." Tips led them to find Skrlova in the Arctic city on Tromsoe.

"It turned out that the so-called missing teenager was a 33-year-old woman," Norwegian police said in a statement.

Those wacky Swedes!

STOCKHOLM, Sweden - A Swedish landlord inspecting a recently vacated cottage got an ugly surprise when she found dozens of dead or ailing snakes, mice, rats and lizards locked up in cages inside the house.

Authorities have started an investigation into animal abuse after the gruesome discovery last week in Gnesta, in central Sweden, animal protection official Monica Angehult said.

She said the landlord found 90 snakes, three lizards and 60 mice and rats inside the cottage. All the lizards and rodents were dead, as were 17 of the snakes, which appeared to be pythons, she said. The remaining snakes, were suffering from dehydration, she added.

"I would guess they have been there since October without water," Angehult said. "The lizards and the snakes were very dried up."

It was not immediately clear who had left the animals inside the cottage. Angehult said a couple that had lived in the building were among the possible suspects. It was not immediately clear whether anyone had been arrested.

Burning $20, see if I care

WATERLOO, Iowa - A man is in custody after police say he set fire to two $10 bills in his elderly father's presence. Authorities said Robert Allen Broderson, 53, of Waterloo, was arguing with his 98-year-old father over the older man's retirement and stock funds Wednesday night.

Broderson got the two bills from his father, then set them on fire and flung them in the air, saying money didn't mean anything to him, court records show. Broderson then extinguished the bills at his father request.

Officials said the father is on oxygen and his air tube was on the table next to him during the incident.

Broderson faces several charges including, reckless use of fire, second-degree harassment, interference and possession of marijuana.

Passing up on the passbook

SALT LAKE CITY - Sorry, George, it's not your money. The Utah Court of Appeals gave the bad news to an 86-year-old lawyer who stumbled across a decades-old bank passbook showing a balance of $150,000.

George B. Handy was named as the trustee on the passbook, but the court ruled Thursday that evidence suggests the account belonged to somebody else who cashed out long ago.

With interest, Handy figures the account would be worth as much as $832,000. He insisted in an interview that his plan always has been to recover any money and then determine the rightful owner.

Handy said he was cleaning out a desk drawer a few years ago when he discovered a passbook to a 1971 account at U.S. National Bank of Oregon naming "George B. Handy, Trustee."

"I was amazed," he said.

Handy said he didn't recognize the passbook or anything about the account. He believes the money was deposited by a client, a now-deceased Utah businessman who wanted it held in trust.

"I couldn't honestly say what it was for or anything," said Handy, who sued when the bank, now known as U.S. Bank, refused to hand over the money.

U.S. Bank conceded the passbook was authentic but said the account must have been closed years ago by an owner whose identity has been lost to history.

Bankers said the lack of a paper record indicated the account was terminated by 1974 when the bank switched to computerized records. If the account still existed, they said, there would be a record.

Handy said he never made withdrawals with the passbook, meaning the account should still be alive. But bankers said the mystery owner could have removed money by showing identification and a matching signature to a teller.

"The money had been withdrawn, obviously," said Jesse Trentadue, an attorney who defended U.S. Bank.

The Utah appeals court said Handy's uncertainty about how or why the account was established undermined his claims.

"Someone had to sign a signature card to open the passbook account, and if Handy did not, the only reasonable conclusion is that someone else owned the account and had the authority to withdraw funds without the passbook," a three-judge panel ruled.

Handy hasn't decided whether to appeal to the Utah Supreme Court.

"They don't have the slightest idea what happened to the money. I had an obligation to pursue it in some way," he said.

You, you and you! Get over here!

ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. - Faced with a shrunken jury pool, a judge resorted to some sidewalk justice in hopes of filling it out. It worked.

Judge Harold Eaton Jr., discouraged when a 34-person pool of potential jurors for a sex case was reduced to 20 people, sent sheriff's deputies into the street Wednesday to summon people to join them.

Caledonia County Sheriff Michael Bergeron and three uniformed deputies stopped people on a sidewalk in front of the post office, asking if they lived in the county. Those who did and were 18 or older were given a summons to report to the courthouse.

According to Bergeron, "99.9 percent were just excellent" about being summoned.

"They were great. We certainly appreciate that," he said. "We hope it won't happen again."

Defense attorney David Sleigh objected to the impromptu jury pool, telling Eaton he should postpone the draw and start with a new pool. Eaton denied the request.

The 12 jurors selected will hear the case of a man charged with two felony counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child.

Plus, his shoes stank to high heaven

DURHAM, N.C. - Dog isn't this man's best friend. Josue Herrios-Coronilla, 18, drove his black Camaro on the wrong side of the road Wednesday and crashed into the yard of man who owns four dogs, police said.

Police found crushed bushes, a damaged fence, an inoperable car — and a fresh shoe print in a pile of dog feces.

Following an odoriferous trail down the street, Sgt. Dale Gunter noticed a white van driving toward him. When he asked the passenger to step out, he noticed the smell of alcohol on the man's breath and evidence all over his shoes.

Herrios-Coronilla was charged with driving while impaired and drinking underage and released on $1,500 bail. He could not immediately be reached for comment.

It was next to some expired mayo

JANESVILLE, Wis. - A Janesville couple are hoping they will be allowed to keep the nearly $12,000 in cash they found in their refrigerator when they moved into an apartment.

"It would be a very big help," said Colleen Mesler, 65. "We've been waiting and waiting, and nobody's called to claim it. Other people have found money and got to keep it."

Mesler cried as she talked about the money she found while cleaning the refrigerator in her apartment in early December.

The previous renters have been charged in drug trafficking cases. Police searched the apartment in February and seized crack cocaine, marijuana, a scale and other materials related to drug sales. They found $1,100 on one of the defendants but no bills with serial numbers matching those undercover agents used to buy drugs.

Janesville Deputy Police Chief David Moore said the city will likely keep the money.

"If it is determined that the money is the proceeds from the sale of illegal drugs, then it would be contraband, and on behalf of Janesville taxpayers, we would seize that money," Moore said. But, he added, that has not yet been determined.

Colleen Mesler found the moldy and deteriorating bills wrapped in tin foil and plastic in the freezer. Her husband told her to throw the tray out.

"I thought it was old meat, stale meat," said Jim Mesler, 55.

"But it didn't smell like bad meat," Colleen Mesler said. "I pulled it apart and found $100 bills. I was more shocked. 'I'm not throwing this away,' I thought."

The couple spent the afternoon warming the bills in the oven and separating them with tweezers.

"About $2,000 of it was torn up, or we couldn't get the mold off it," Jim Mesler said. "I just went and looked in the mirror and thought, 'Nothing like this happens to us.'"

Police estimated the stash at $11,950. A precise tally wasn't possible because some bills were stuck together or had deteriorated, according to a court document.

The couple said they would still turn in the cash if they had to do it over. But with an income below poverty level, they are hoping the money will eventually be returned to them.

What would they do with it?

"Pay our bills," the couple said in unison.

Everybody has got a Web page

BERLIN - Germany's latest celebrity polar bear cub remains nameless — but already boasts a dedicated Web site providing details of its health and giving readers a chance to christen the cuddly creature.

The city of Nuremberg, in cooperation with its zoo, launched the site on Friday — luring viewers with a gallery of photos of the winsome 4-week-old cub.

Visitors also were inundating the site's operators with suggestions for names.

"We're getting 15 e-mails with name suggestions every minute," city spokesman Robert Hackner said. "This afternoon we received over 1,000 suggestion for a name."

He did not give examples. But for now, the zoo's keepers have dubbed the cub, thought to be female, Flocke — German for flake, as in snow flake — because of its brilliantly white and fluffy fur.

Flocke was taken from its mother, Vera, on Tuesday amid concerns she could harm or even kill the newborn, and won't be returned to her. The decision was made after keepers saw Vera carrying the cub around in her jaws and tossing it around her enclosure.

Little more than a year ago another famous polar bear club in Germany — Knut — was hand-reared by his keepers and became a celebrity after being rescued when his mother rejected him.

He delighted thousands of visitors to Berlin's zoo who avidly followed his growth from a roly-poly cub to a full-grown adult.

Flocke's popularity is beginning to look like Knut's, and the Nuremberg Zoo now provides daily news conferences to give updates on its condition.

On Friday, zoo veterinarian Bernhard Neurohr said Flocke's eyes were still closed and the cub was sleeping beneath an infrared lamp to keep warm.

The bottle-fed cub now weighs 4.4 pounds and is about 13.8 inches long. If it cries, a nearby baby monitor alerts its four keepers.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Outhouse construction soared 3000 percent

EUNICE, La. - The mayor of Eunice is ready to flush part of the city's "toilet tax." The town started charging households a $10-per-toilet fee under the administration of former Mayor Curtis Joubert to pay for badly needed improvements to the sewer system. It brings in $350,000 a year.

Current Mayor Robert Morris is calling for a $5 cut in the fee.

The fee was instituted in the early 1990s after problems with the sewer system brought fines from the Environmental Protection Agency.

"The sewer system was built around 1950, back at the time they used clay pipes," Alderman Jack Burson said. "They had to do a lot of repairs on the sewer plant and spend a lot of money on that."

Burson said cutting the fee could have consequences. "If we do cut the user fee, that money is not going to deal with the long term," the alderman said. "We should begin to plan for a new sewer system plant."

Joubert said he believes the fee should be reduced — if it will not affect the town. "(The fee) was not intended to last a lifetime," Joubert said. "It would show good faith if we can reduce it.

If it walks like a politician...

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - A GOP candidate for West Virginia's 16th District Senate race is withdrawing from the election because he mistakenly registered as a Democrat.

Ronald Jean Moltere, 64, of Harpers Ferry recently discovered the mistake he made 10 years ago. He said he never knew he had checked Democrat instead of Republican because he voted only in general elections, not the primaries.

"It was devastating," Moltere said. "I felt like I was shot through the heart."

Moltere submitted his pre-candidacy registration as a Republican in the race to replace state Sen. John Yoder. He cannot run for office if he switches parties within 60 days before the official filing period, which begins Monday and ends Jan. 26.

Moltere said he thought about running for the Senate anyway as a Democrat but said he couldn't do that if he were "to be honest with myself and my convictions."

Three other candidates have announced plans to run for the Senate seat: former state Sen. Herb Snyder, a Democrat from Shenandoah Junction; and Republicans Bob Adams of Charles Town and Archibald Magill Smith Morgan of Rippon.

Let them eat pinkies

PARIS - France's justice minister wants to know why someone sent her a severed finger in the mail, a ministry spokesman said Monday.

A package, containing the finger and a letter addressed to Justice Minister Rachida Dati, was opened by the ministry's mail service after it was received Friday, spokesman Guillaume Didier said. He gave no information about what the letter said.

"The minister asked her services to look into this person's situation, to see what could have driven him or her to carry out this act," he said.

Didier said he could not confirm a report in regional daily Ouest France, which said the sender was a former hair-salon owner in western France with business and legal problems, who had cut off part of his own finger and sent it to Dati. Ouest France did not give a source for the information.

Rock on, Dan

AKRON, Ohio - You can refer to him officially now as Mr. Experience. Daniel Michael Miller II is history. The former Dan Miller, 24, has legally changed his name to "The" Dan Miller Experience. His first name is "The" Dan, with the quotation marks. His middle name is Miller and his last name is Experience.

About 300 people petitioned the Summit County Probate Court last year to change a name, and Experience was one of the few who was called in to explain why he wanted an unusual name. The Akron musician and rapper did so, and last month the change became official.

"My first reaction was that this guy was going to have some problems with Homeland Security," said Magistrate Larry Poulos, who approved the name change.

"But (Experience) is in the entertainment business, and he seems like a nice kid," Poulos said.

Said Experience: "I like to do little things in my life that amuse me. This amuses me."

So far, Experience said, he has not had any problems with the switch, other than a few laughs when he renewed his driver's license.

Once again, man's best friend

PORTAGE, Ind. - A black Labrador that bit a 13-year-old boy's foot repeatedly, waking him up, is being credited with saving the boy and two of his friends from a house fire. Christopher Peebles said he woke up Friday morning to feel his dog Laney biting his foot repeatedly in the basement of his family's home, where he and two friends had spent the night.

"I thought she had to go to the bathroom, but she never bites me," Peebles said Friday.

He and his friends walked upstairs with Laney and noticed smoke everywhere in the home.

"We came up the stairs and thought it was a dream, but it was cold when we opened the door — then we knew it wasn't a dream," Pebbles said.

Firefighters arrived about 10 a.m. and found the home's garage and eaves on fire. Assistant Fire Chief Mike Bucy said the damage was mostly in the attached one-car garage of the ranch home.

Fire Chief Bill Lundy said the fire, which caused an estimated $25,000 in damage to the home, appeared to have started in an electrical heating unit in the garage.

Peebles' parents, Dave and Vicky Peebles, were both at work at the time of the fire. They said they were relieved that their son and his friends were not injured.

Dave Peebles said that one point after Laney had ushered Christopher and his friends out of the house the dog ran back inside and wouldn't come out until he went in to get her.

Peebles said his son and the dog were "real close."

"She's always been very protective of him," Vicky Peebles said of Laney.

Dumb and dumbest

LAKEHURST, N.J. - Lakehurst police didn't have to go far to make a marijuana arrest. An officer heading home early Saturday smelled pot burning in the police station parking lot.

Authorities said Sergeant Ronald Heinzman asked some other officers to take a whiff. Police said they heard a conversation centered on the irony of smoking pot next to the station from a home separated from the parking lot by a chain-link fence.

Police knocked on the door and arrested Benjamin Gordon, 18, of Farmville, Va.

His name was Midnight

NAMPA, Idaho - A cat picked the wrong place to come in from the cold, and caused a power outage that blacked out more than 12,000 homes and businesses.

The cat entered an electrical substation, snuggled up to a warm transformer and contacted a live circuit, causing a short that blew out nine feeder lines Monday afternoon, Idaho Power officials said.

Service was restored in less than three hours to most customers, including City Hall where the lights came on in time for a City Council meeting, utility spokesman Dennis Lopez said.

The outage also disabled traffic lights in the city of about 77,000 people. Temporary stop signs were set up at affected intersections and about 15 police officers were assigned to direct and monitor traffic. Police Lt. Eric Skoglund said he didn't know of any accidents that could be blamed on the outage.

The short circuit killed the cat.


ST. CHARLES, Mo. - What the ...? A St. Louis-area town is considering a bill that would ban swearing in bars, along with table-dancing, drinking contests and profane music.

City officials contend the bill is needed to keep rowdy crowds under control because the historic downtown area gets a little too lively on some nights.

City Councilman Richard Veit said he was prompted to propose the bill after complaints about bad bar behavior. He says it will give police some rules to enforce when things get too rowdy.

But some bar owners worry the bill is too vague and restrictive, saying it may be a violation of their civil rights.

Marc Rousseau, who owns bar R.T. Weilers, said he thinks the bill needs revision.

"We're dealing with adults here once again and I don't think it's the city's job or the government's job to determine what we can and cannot play in our restaurant," Rousseau said.

The proposal would ban indecent, profane or obscene language, songs, entertainment and literature at bars.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Stay classy, Sheboygan

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. - A man has been charged with sneaking into a toddler's bedroom and stealing $20 from a piggy bank while the 2-year-old girl slept. Authorities say DNA evidence linked Ryan A. Mueller, 30, of Sheboygan Falls to the crime that occurred Aug. 10 in Wilson.

Authorities say the girl's mother was in another room with another child when she saw a light turn on in her 2-year-old daughter's room. She walked into the girl's bedroom and saw a man shaking the piggy bank as the girl slept.

The man fled before police arrived, stealing the money but leaving the piggy bank. Authorities say blood was found on a window blind where the burglar had forced his way into the home.

Mueller was charged Thursday with felony burglary, which carries a penalty of up to 9 1/2 years in prison. His bond was set at $10,000, and a preliminary hearing was set for next Wednesday.

Messages left Friday for his defense attorney, the prosecutor in the case and for Mueller at the jail were not immediately returned.

Somebody needs to tell her FDR isn't on the ballot

CHICAGO - The chairman of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners visited a 114-year-old woman who registered to vote on Thursday. It was also her birthday, according to her family, who cite a family Bible as evidence of her birth date.

Call had voted up until about 20 years ago, when she moved in with her grandson, and did not update her voter registration, family members said.

Call, who sat in a wheelchair wearing a blue sweater and white cap on her head, said little at the news conference, except to ask for more birthday cake and reassure herself that her 82-year-old grandson was nearby.

That grandson, John H. Taylor, said the family would discuss whether Call will actually vote on Feb. 5, but he doubted it, since she doesn't know who any of the candidates are.

The dog didn't seem to mind the wait

UTICA, Ohio - An Ohio University student thought she had a plan for rescuing her dog from an icy pond but then got the two of them stranded in a canoe.

Katie Kiracofe, 21, and her dog, Dudley, had to wait almost an hour for emergency crews to come to their aid Thursday near her family's home in central Ohio's Licking County.

Dudley had run out on the mostly frozen pond and had fallen into the water at a spot where there was no ice.

So, Kiracofe crawled across the ice pulling a canoe. She put it into the water, pulled the dog on board, wrapped him in her jacket, and then sat in the cold, wondering what to do.

Using a rope, her parents were able to get a coat to her but weren't able to pull the canoe in. That's when they called for help.

It worked for D.B. Cooper

SEATTLE - A man who was stopped for speeding nearly evaded state troopers by burrowing into soft ground along Highway 169 and covering himself with dirt and leaves.

Trooper Jeff Merrill said the man, 20, hid for nearly an hour Wednesday and sent a text message to his girlfriend to pick him up. Officers caught him when he scrambled from his hole.

The was jailed in Kent. He had outstanding arrest warrants for failing to appear in court on charges of marijuana possession, harassment and drunken driving.

Well, it does make mountain biking more interesting

FULLERTON, Calif. - Police said they arrested a man who acknowledged digging holes on a park bike trail as payback for nearly being run down by a cyclist.

Warren John Wilson, 52, faces a single felony count of vandalism, police Sgt. Linda King said Friday.

King said nearly 50 holes measuring about 1 foot by 2 feet have been found since June along a trail at Laguna Lake Park, and in some cases attempts had been made to hide them from cyclists. She said some riders went over their handlebars after hitting the holes, but none reported major injuries.

Detectives watching the trails questioned Wilson, who said he had nearly been run over by a mountain bike rider and began digging the holes in retaliation, King said.

Striking a blow for old drivers everywhere

TORONTO - An 85-year-old motorist lost his license and his Oldsmobile for a week and likely faces a hefty fine after becoming the oldest person snagged to date by a new Ontario law aimed at cracking down on street racers, even though he was just speeding.

The man, whose name was not released, was driving on a highway north of Toronto Wednesday when he was allegedly clocked doing 100 mph, 40 mph over the posted speed limit.

"He said he was going to the bank and shopping," said Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Cam Woolley, who noted snow and ice made road conditions treacherous at the time.

Under new provincial legislation, billed last year by Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino as a "shock and awe" campaign, drivers who exceed the speed limit by 31 mph or more stand to lose both their vehicle and license for one week, along with a fine of at least $2002.

While no other drivers were involved in Wednesday's incident, Woolley said the legislation — ostensibly aimed at ridding city streets and highways of street racers — is intended to crack down on all aggressive drivers.

"It got silly — we were getting crashes at high speeds and the defense was, `Well, if they weren't racing someone, then they weren't racing,' even though the consequences are the same," he said.

Police statistics show that more than 2,300 drivers across the province have been charged under the legislation since it became law on Sept. 30, 2007.

Most of those charged have been men in their mid-20s to mid-30s. But in the past three months, 20 drivers aged 65 and older, including three women, have been charged under the new Ontario law.

Somebody get this guy a reality show

NEW YORK - The costumed crook known as the "Ninja Bandit" may have struck again on Staten Island, New York City police said.

A home burglary this week seems to fit the pattern of 18 previous heists attributed to the black-clad, masked thief since May, according to police.

The latest happened between Wednesday and Friday at a home in the Castleton Corners area. According to news reports, the thief entered the home through a sliding door and left with thousands of dollars worth of jewelry.

The "Ninja Bandit" was so named after a the intruder wielded a set of nunchucks when he scuffled with a homeowner in his kitchen in September. Other residents have said they, too, have encountered the burglar but the suspect has managed to escape each time.

Kiss my grits

ORANGEBURG, S.C. - Note to defendants: Don't tell the judge to kiss the body part you sit on.

The South Carolina Court of Appeals has upheld a judge's contempt order against a St. Matthews woman who signed a court document with just such an instruction and told a probation officer to return the document to the judge.

Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein found Judith Law in contempt and ordered her to serve 90 extra days. Law challenged the ruling, saying the contemptuous behavior happened outside the judge's view.

"No matter where Law signed the revocation order, her conduct was in the presence of the judge," the Appeals Court wrote in its decision last month.

In 2003, Law pleaded guilty to grand larceny and burglary charges and was sentenced to five years, suspended to time served. She also was sentenced to three years' probation and ordered to pay $300 in restitution.

In September 2005, Law admitted violating her probation, which resulted in Goodstein reinstating the five-year sentence, according to the Appeals Court decision.

While signing that probation revocation order, Law decided to tell the judge what she could kiss. Typically that document would not go back to the judge, but when this one did, Goodstein ordered a hearing, found Law in contempt and sentenced her to 90 days on top of her remaining sentence.

Not such a marvelous time for a Moondance

GREEN RIVER, Wyo. - The Moondance Diner made it safely through a 2,100-mile trek west from New York City, but it was no match for a Wyoming winter.

Heavy snow damaged the roof and walls of the historic eatery this past week.

New owners Cheryl and Vince Pierce said they'll continue repairs and renovations, and hope to open it later this year in LaBarge, a town of about 500 at the base of the Rocky Mountains, the Casper Star-Tribune reported Saturday.

They bought the 74-year-old diner for $7,500 and trucked it to Wyoming last summer, saving it from the wrecking ball after a developer bought the diner's site for luxury condominiums. It had been located near the Holland Tunnel entrance in lower Manhattan, on the fringes of SoHo.

Before its move, the Moondance, originally called the Holland Tunnel Diner, had become a place where celebrity revelers sometimes showed up for breakfast. It was used as a location for scenes in "Spider-Man," "Friends" and "Sex and the City."

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Granny panties save the day

LONDON - From baggy briefs to the ultimate hotpants: A British woman's underwear saved the day by doubling as an emergency fire blanket when her kitchen caught fire. John Marsey and his cousin Darren Lines were frying bread in Jenny Marsey's kitchen in Hartlepool, northeast England, on Sunday when their meal caught fire.
Lines grabbed the nearest thing from a pile of laundry to put it out: his aunt's billowing, powder blue, size XL underpants.
He ran them under the faucet and tossed them onto the flames, successfully smothering the fire, a spokesman for the Cleveland Fire Brigade said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with department policy.
Lines' swift thinking saved the kitchen — but left his aunt's underwear slightly scorched.
"It could have been a lot worse," she said. "My family could have been in hospital but the knickers saved the day. I'm just grateful to the boys."
The fire official said the general principle of using a large, wet cloth to cover a grease fire was a sound one.
As for using underwear: "Clearly it depends on what size you are — but I don't want to go there."

We also have cows

MADISON, Wis. - America's Dairyland wants you to know it's not just full of cheeseheads — and it's taking the mission seriously.
State lawmakers and the Department of Tourism are trying to come up with a new "brand" to explain why they think Wisconsin is a good place to visit, live and do business.
"We are the Green Bay Packers. We are a great agricultural state. We are America's Dairyland," said Rep. Steve Wieckert, a Republican from Appleton. "But we are more than that."
Said Linda Gorchels, a marketing expert at the University of Wisconsin-Madison: "There are certain stereotypes that people have about Wisconsin, and it's very, very difficult to change those stereotypes. Nothing is going to happen very quickly."
Past slogans used in advertising campaigns have included "Wisconsin, life's so good." The state quarter includes a cow, a piece of cheese and corn. A state program allows companies to market under the slogan "Something Special From Wisconsin."

Well tha'ts a pleasant surprise

BAD AXE, Mich. - A lucky couple expecting to cash in their winning Michigan Lottery ticket became a bit peeved when a store clerk turned down their request.
Bad Axe gas station and convenience store owner Eli Kabban said the man and woman showed up Wednesday morning with what they thought was a $150 winning ticket they'd bought Friday.
They complained when the clerk told them they would have to collect their winnings in Lansing, the state capital, 150 miles away.
Kabban said he took the couple into his office and explained the ticket was actually worth $250,000. He says they were "in shock" at the news.
The couple asked that their names not be released, but Kabban told radio station WLEW-FM that they are getting financial advice on how to handle their windfall.

Banned at the buffet

HOUMA, La. - A 265-pound man says a restaurant overcharged him for his trips to the buffet, then banned him and a relative because of how much they consumed during their visits.
Ricky Labit, a 6-foot-3 disabled offshore worker, said he had been a regular at the Manchuria Restaurant, eating there as often as three times a week. But on his most recent visit, he said a waitress gave him and his wife's cousin, Michael Borrelli, a bill for $46.40, roughly double the buffet price for two adults.
"She says, 'Y'all fat, and y'all eat too much,'" Labit said.
Labit and Borrelli said they felt discriminated against because of their size.
"I was stunned, that somebody would say something like that. I ain't that fat, I only weigh 277," Borrelli said.
Accountant Thomas Campo, who spoke for the restaurant because the owner's English is limited, said the men were charged an extra $10 each on Dec. 21 because they made a habit of dining exclusively on the more expensive seafood dishes, including crab legs and frog legs.
"We have a lot of big people there," Campo said. "We don't discriminate."
The argument over the bill grew heated, and police were called. The police report states that the disagreement was settled when the restaurant said the bill was a mistake and, to appease Labit, the meal was complimentary.
Labit said he insisted on paying but was told not to come back. He complained that when seafood on the buffet line runs out, the restaurant only grudgingly cooks more. Campo said the proprietress tries to reduce waste of quality food.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

This is not someone you'd want as a neighbor

BERKELEY, Calif. - Ari Derfel leads a trashy life. He just wants to remind everyone else that they do, too.

The 35-year-old Berkeley caterer said he has saved every piece of trash he has generated over the past year to see how much garbage one person creates. In his case, it was about 96 cubic feet.

The experiment began as a way to examine his own consumption habits, Derfel said, but grew into a statement about consumerism and the environment.

"When we throw something away, what does 'away' mean?" Derfel said. "There's no such thing as 'away.'"

The refuse — including every tissue, receipt, food wrapper and plastic bottle — lies in bins in the kitchen and living room of Derfel's apartment. He composts his food scraps.

Derfel said he eventually hopes to donate his accumulated waste to a sculptor.

Pardon me sir, is that a pigeon in your pocket?

LEWISTON, N.Y. - Border agents pulled four live birds from the pockets of a pigeon collector and a traveling companion trying to enter the United States from Canada.

The pair were stopped Sunday at the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge border crossing, where they told inspectors they were on their way to visit an uncle in LeRoy, outside Rochester, Customs and Border Protection spokesman Kevin Corsaro said.

Inspectors found the pigeons wrapped and taped from neck to tail in pockets of the pair's coats after they asked the men from Uxbridge, Ontario, to remove their jackets.

One man told CBP officers he is a pigeon collector who belongs to a club that trades and sells birds of various colors. He said he was taking the birds to trade or sell to his uncle.

The men, whose names were not released, were fined $1,000 and the case was referred to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and United States Department of Agriculture inspectors for possible criminal charges, Corsaro said.

People bringing pet birds into the country are required to arrange for a veterinary inspection at the border three to five days before entering to protect against the transmission of communicable diseases such as bird flu.

USDA inspectors took custody of the birds.

Next time, just call Victoria's Secret

SANTA FE, Texas - Police arrested a neighbor after a woman reported some of her undergarments had been stolen from her house. Charles Michael Clark, 30, has been charged with burglary and is free on $20,000 bond. Sgt. Eric Bruss said the woman had been out of town when she returned home and found a barefoot man in the living room. Bruss said the man fled.

Clark was arrested Sunday outside his home, a couple of blocks away, police said.

The woman, whose name hasn't been released, reported a bra and some panties were missing.

Clark told KTRK television that he had been doing drugs and was, quote: "stoned and stupid."

Clark also apologized during the television interview.

"I took her bra, but I didn't know nothing about her panties," Clark said.

Police want to know if other women in the area are missing undergarments or other items of a sexual nature.

All right, this kid is just weird

GREEN BAY, Wis. - A boy who hasn't stopped wearing his Brett Favre jersey since Christmas four years ago has finally attended his first Green Bay Packers game.

David Witthoft, 11, of Ridgefield, Conn., traveled with his family to Lambeau Field to watch the Packers' 34-13 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

Witthoft admits he will probably soon have to hang up the jersey, which he got for Christmas in 2003.

"I thought I would keep wearing it as long as I could get it over my head," Witthoft told the Green Bay Press-Gazette after the game. "But I'll probably take it off in the next year, certainly. Then I'll hang it up in a frame or maybe send it to the (Packers) Hall of Fame."

His mother, Carolyn, washes the jersey every two days and has had to mend it.

For sale, sorta

HAGERSTOWN, Md. - Frustrated by a nationwide housing slump, a western Maryland couple is selling raffle tickets for their $390,000 house and hoping they'll sell enough $100 tickets to get the farmhouse off their hands. Dennis Kelly and Karen Crawford put the four-bedroom house for sale for $425,000 a year and a half ago. But they say the housing slowdown means they haven't had any takers. The house is now valued at $390,000.

"We had showings every weekend and we couldn't get a buyer," Crawford told The (Hagerstown) Herald Mail. "It's part of what's happening today."

Crawford read a story in the newspaper about an Ohio couple who offered their farm for sale in an essay contest, and she got the idea for a raffle.

Crawford approached a local charity, the San Mar Children's Home in Boonsboro, about helping in the raffle. Any extra money raised through raffle ticket sales will be given to the home.

"We would be foolish not to embrace this opportunity that has presented itself to us," said Bruce Anderson, executive director of San Mar.

Cynthia Moler, the couple's Realtor, said the raffle has been approved by Maryland gaming authorities.

"This is going to sell their house, and it's going to raise a lot of money for San Mar," she said.

Moler said the raffle offers a total of five prizes. The four-bedroom house will go to the grand-prize winner. Second prize is a 2008 Toyota Camry, third prize is a Persian rug, the fourth is furniture and the fifth prize is $1,000 cash — all offered to raffle organizers by a local car dealership and furniture store.

The winners will be drawn in March at an annual dinner benefiting San Mar, which provides foster care services and teaches school to several dozen students.

Anderson said the proceeds would be used to build a new gymnasium and classroom, plus new housing for some of the students.

Crawford told the newspaper she plans to meet the winner.

"I'm just anxious to see their joy," she said.

However, not all house raffles succeed. In 1996, a Sharpsburg funeral home owner joined with the Williamsport Volunteer Fire Co. to raffle off his pre-Civil War-era building to sell it, plus raise money for the fire company. The raffle fizzled, though, according the former owner, Major Osborne.

"We didn't really have enough interest," Osborne said. "We were told the Civil War people would just love to have a place in Sharpsburg. I think it was $100 a pop ... and I'm not even sure we sold half the tickets."

The Ohio contest that inspired Crawford's raffle has not been decided. However, homeowners Rose and Dennis Wallace said fewer people entered than they thought.

Moler said she'd work hard to make sure the Kelly-Crawford raffle gets enough publicity to turn a profit.

"That was then and this is now, she said. We're going to try to get national exposure to this. ... This is a really good cause," Moler said.

Sometimes, it's just not your day

ROSEBURG, Ore. - A man had bad luck in his choice of stolen vehicles. The Douglas County Sheriff's Office said Ernesto Ponce took a pickup from a Chevrolet lot in Roseburg on Friday, but had to switch vehicles when a tire blew.

Ponce, 19, then allegedly took a Subaru Legacy from a driveway on Lookingglass Road. He had that car for about 15 minutes before the engine overheated, causing it to catch fire at an intersection in Winston.

Jeff Herbert, of Cottage Grove, spotted the blaze and pulled over to help. As Herbert rushed over with a fire extinguisher, the suspect stole his Dodge pickup.

"He jumped in when I had my back to him," Herbert said of Friday's theft.

But the suspect didn't get very far. Spike strips placed by investigating officers punctured two tires, and the pickup slid into a ditch.

Ponce was lodged at the Douglas County Jail on charges of unauthorized use of a vehicle, first-degree criminal mischief and reckless driving.

And the stupidest people award goes to...

CHAPARRAL, N.M. - Getting a tattoo can be a painful proposition, but usually it's just the needle you have to worry about. Two men trying to trace a loaded .357-caliber Magnum as a pattern for a tattoo accidentally shot themselves, the Otero County Sheriff's Department said Monday.

Robert Glasser and Joey Acosta, both 22, were treated at a hospital in El Paso, Texas, after the shooting Thursday evening in nearby Chaparral.

Authorities said Glasser was struck in the hand when the gun accidentally went off, and Acosta was hit in the left arm. Their injuries were not life-threatening, authorities said.

Honestly, the dog could care less

BREMERTON, Wash. - A 25-year-old woman was arrested for investigation of second-degree assault for getting into an argument with her boyfriend over whether his dog should be in the bathroom while the couple were taking a shower together.

A police report said the man, 26, wanted his dog to join them in the bathroom, but the woman objected on Thursday night.

The woman told her boyfriend that if the dog doesn't stay out, she didn't want to be his girlfriend anymore. He replied that maybe his next girlfriend would appreciate the dog more, and called her a name.

The police report said the woman punched him in the face several times and the man dislocated his shoulder after the naked couple grappled. He told police his girlfriend threw a picture frame, which broke and cut him.

The woman was taken to the Kitsap County Jail in Port Orchard. Bail has been set at $50,000.

Hope they left a nice tip

LAKE WORTH, Fla. - A Florida man was about halfway through a plate of steamed clams when he chomped down on something hard — a rare, iridescent purple pearl. George Brock and his wife, Leslie, had been spending a day at the beach Friday in South Florida and stopped at Dave's Last Resort & Raw Bar for a bite. Their find could be worth thousands.

"Few are round and few are a lovely color, so this is rare," said gemologist Antoinette Matlins. "I think they have found something precious and lovely and valuable."

The gems occur most frequently in large New England quahogs, clams known for violet coloring on the inside of their shells. The clams in the $10 plate came from Apalachicola in the Florida Panhandle, said restaurant manager Tom Gerry.

The Brocks, of Royal Palm Beach, plan to have the pearl appraised and said they may sell it if it is valuable.