The Trentonian's Strange But True Page

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Work zone delay incurs $16 bill to Michigan

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - An Ohio woman has sent Michigan transportation officials a bill for the $16 she says she wasted on gasoline sitting in construction zone traffic.
Carol Greenberg tells The Blade there were no signs warning about the work on southbound Interstate 275 where it merges with I-75 near Newport, Mich., about 27 miles north of Toledo.
So, she says she got stuck idling for about 50 minutes on July 23 while trying to get home to the Toledo suburbs with her cat after a visit to a specialty veterinarian outside Detroit. She says her Maine coon cat Sammy disliked the delay and howled the whole time.
In response, the Michigan Department of Transportation wrote her it's unable to reimburse drivers for time, wages, or gas lost in work zone back-ups.
Information from: The Blade,

Fountain of Youth

At the time that Alan Patton, 56, of Columbus, Ohio, made News of the Weird in 2006, he had already been consuming boys’ urine for 40 years, he said, and a 2007 jail sentence has had no apparent deterrent effect. He was arrested in June 2008 (and twice since then), accused of turning off the water in a recreation center restroom and placing plastic wrap inside the bowl to catch the nectar that, he says, enables him to “become part of their youth.” While no Ohio law prohibits collecting or drinking others’ urine, Patton violates his almost-perpetual probation by visiting any public restroom.

LEAST COMPETENT CRIMINAL: In the course of burglarizing Yaakov Kanelsky’s apartment in Brooklyn, N.Y., in July, Victor Marin, 20, accidentally left his wallet (containing ID, credit cards and photos) on the bed. After Kanelsky arrived home and called 911, Marin returned and knocked on the front door. From the hallway, he begged for his billfold back and began shoving Kanelsky’s money under the door, hoping to persuade him to trade. Unfortunately for Marin, $92 of his $217 cash haul was in $1 bills, and the crack under the door was tiny. Marin was still busy stuffing money in by the time police arrived.

THINGS YOU THOUGHT DIDN’T HAPPEN: People would hardly expect a brawl at the Guilford (Maine) Historical Society, but in May, member Al Hunt, who was irate that rare photographs of the town had been loaned to a local restaurant, might have bumped against the society’s secretary, Zarvin Shaffer. According to witnesses, Shaffer then punched Hunt in the face, Hunt’s wife grabbed a chair, and Shaffer’s son yanked Mrs. Hunt away by her hair. In April, the Sycamore (Ill.) City Council voted to quadruple the fine for overstaying a parking meter (from 25 cents to $1). The city’s 360 meters themselves will remain at a penny for 12 minutes, a nickel for an hour and a dime for two hours.

IT’S GOOD TO BE A BRITISH PRISONER: In June, Abu Qatada, a cleric described as one of Europe’s most dangerous terror proselytizers, was released from jail, where he has been awaiting deportation (for three years) to Jordan and confined to his home in London. British courts refuse to deport him because, when Jordan tries him on serious terrorism charges, it might possibly use evidence obtained by torture of Abu Qatada’s colleagues. Thus, he will remain in Britain, under heavy guard (estimated to cost the equivalent of $1 million a year), in his tax-abated home with his wife and five children, who receive the equivalent of about $90,000 a year in welfare benefits. (Abu Qatada himself receives the equivalent of $16,000 a year from the government, for a previous back injury.)

LACKING CREDIBILITY: A U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in July that officials at a junior high school in Safford, Ariz., should not have strip-searched a 13-year-old girl when all they wanted was to see if she was carrying ibuprofen. However, her “right” to privacy carried the day among the judges by only 6-5, as the dissenters pointed out that it was, after all, prescription-strength ibuprofen they were after and that officials proceeded based on information from an “informant.” (The majority apparently holds junior-high-age “informants” in lower regard.)
News of the Weird

France's Fired Hands

Among President Sarkozy’s recent moves to trim the size of the French government was the layoff of half of the 165 physiotherapists at the taxpayer-funded National Baths of Aix-les-Bains. The pink-slipped masseurs warn that the country’s health will be at risk if people are unable to get the mud wraps, thermal baths and deep-tissue massages covered by national health insurance (along with subsidized transportation and lodging for the visits). In fact, 27 of the physiotherapists immediately went on sick leave for depression. Among Sarkozy’s other targets of government bloat, according to a July Wall Street Journal dispatch: figuring out why France employs 271 diplomats in India but more than 700 in Senegal.

MOTHERS CAUSING DRUNKEN DRIVING: Edward Defreitas, 36, was arrested in Toms River in June and accused of causing a three-vehicle collision that injured two men in a car and sent two others (paramedics riding in an ambulance) to the hospital. Defreitas told police that he had been drinking and had decided to drive around until he sobered up: “He (said he) was afraid to go home and his mother finding alcohol on his breath.”

NEEDED STEPLADDER TRAINING: School custodian Anthony Gower-Smith, 73, was awarded the equivalent of about $75,000 in June in London’s High Court after suing Britain’s Hampshire County government when he hurt himself falling off a 6-foot stepladder. Gower-Smith claimed that he had not been properly “trained” on how to use it, despite his longtime experience with such ladders, and despite his signed acknowledgment that he had indeed received training, and despite his having blamed himself just after he fell. (He disavowed the self-blame by saying that, at the time, he was woozy and didn’t remember what he said.)

FLAMING IDIOT: Shannon Hyman, now 24, filed a lawsuit in July against the Green Iguana Bar & Grill in St. Petersburg, Fla., for medical bills and lost wages when she was badly burned four years ago drinking a “flaming shot” of Bacardi 151-proof rum (which normally is consumed without incident, but Hyman had spit out the drink, spreading flames to her head and upper torso). Hyman told the Tampa Tribune: “I’m suing because I should not have been let in (because she was under 21 at the time). If I weren’t let in, none of the events would have happened.”

AHHH, FRESH AIR!: In July, the new smoking ban for bars and restaurants in the Netherlands took effect, but it won’t curtail patrons’ right to smoke marijuana in Amsterdam’s coffee shops (where they can buy up to 5 grams a day to smoke on the premises). And, just as the ban became law, the Dutch special-effects company Rain Showtechniek began selling bars a machine (for the equivalent of about $900) that, for nostalgia, replicates the scent of traditional, cigarette-smoked air (but which does not damage health or linger in clothing or hair).

NOT QUITE REHABILITATED: A prominent anti-drug motivational speaker, who uses his own sordid life story to inspire troubled kids to turn their lives around, was arrested in May and charged with attempted murder after allegedly shooting at his girlfriend and an old buddy from prison following a long evening of alcohol and methamphetamines. Said the prosecutor in Isanti County, Minn., of the rampage by Russell Simon Jr., 45, “We’re lucky we don’t have a multiple homicide on our hands.”

CRUEL & UNUSUAL DIET: Murder suspect Broderick Laswell, 19, filed a lawsuit in federal court in April against the Benton County (Ark.) Jail, alleging that he was being “literally” “starved to death” while awaiting trial, and complaining of “blurry” vision and of almost passing out. As evidence of his plight, Laswell pointed out that, in eight months behind bars, his weight had dropped from 413 pounds to 308.
News of the Weird

Tourist survives 250-foot cliff slide

BIG SUR, Calif. (AP) - A tourist is nursing only cuts and bruises after sliding 250 feet down a cliff on California's coast.

Twenty-year-old Jost Ben of Wilnsdorf, Germany, had been tossing a football with friends Sunday at a traffic pullout perched 400 feet above the Pacific. After a stray toss, he climbed over the edge to retrieve the football.

Monterey County Sheriff's Sgt. Garrett Sanders says Ben "just started sliding." A sheriff's team rappelled down, strapped Ben to a harness and helped him scale the cliff.

Ben was treated for a gash to his face and other cuts. He wasn't able to recover the football, but Sanders noted: "He's lucky he's alive."
Information from: The Monterey County Herald,

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

It pays to go to a public toilet

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - It pays to use a toilet in southern India, as residents are earning close to a dollar a month by using public urinals, a scheme launched by authorities to promote hygiene and research in rural areas.
Dozens of people are queuing up to use toilets in Musiri, a remote town in Tamil Nadu state, where authorities have succeeded in keeping street corners clean with the new scheme, The Times of India newspaper said on Sunday.
"In fact, many of us started using toilets for urination only after the ecosan (ecological sanitation) toilets were constructed in the area," said S. Rajasekaran, a truck cleaner.
The urine was also being collected and tested for its efficacy as a crop fertilizer, an official of the state's agricultural university added.
People relieving themselves in the open is a common sight in India's rural towns and villages, as basic sanitation still eludes millions.
(Reporting by Bappa Majumdar; Editing by Jerry Norton)

People With Issues

NEWS OF THE WEIRD - Since 2004 the Palmerton Area (Pa.) School Board has paid $45,000 for the special education of Rebecca Maykish, 17, who has an apparently devastating fear of "school," dating back to fourth grade. The mere act of spending time in a classroom, her mother says, causes her to cry nonstop for hours. The board, acknowledging her "generalized anxiety disorder," agreed to accommodate her illness by specially funding things broadly educational or therapeutic, and so far that includes not only tutors and software but modeling classes and travel, to build her self-esteem. The Morning Call of Allentown reported in May that, with the board's funds depleted, and Rebecca's continuing to drop out shortly after each school year begins, the government has begun to impose truancy fines on her mother. [Morning Call, 5-18-08]

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Spitzer Scandal Call Girl Ashley Dupré Thanks Fans, Critics

FOX News: Call girl Ashley Dupré is speaking out for the first time since the scandal that brought down New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, thanking her fans and her critics alike.
"Thank you all so much for taking the time to send me a bit of strength and inspiration via e-mail or comment," Dupré, 23, writes on her MySpace blog, in which she calls her mood "Thankful." "Your words have touched me, and I thank you for that ... with all my heart, I love you guys!!! :)"
Dupre gained notoriety in March when it came out that she was the high-priced call girl named "Kristen" named in court documents who allegedly was hired by Spitzer for at least one tryst at a posh Washington hotel. Spitzer, known as "Client 9" in the documents, resigned as New York governor a few days after the scandal broke.
Dupré, an aspiring singer, also left a comment for her critics: "And to all the not so kind words ... I love you too, because it makes me push myself and want it even more. 'Hard times don't last ... only strong people.'"
In April, Dupré filed a $10 million lawsuit against "Girls Gone Wild" founder Joe Francis, claiming that the company was exploiting nude images of her from when she was 17.

Woman finds brand new grenade in backyard

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Canadian military and police are investigating after a package containing a brand new hand grenade, belonging to the army, was found in a suburban backyard, police said on Monday.
A woman in the Western Canadian city of Edmonton, Alberta, discovered the suspicious package on Sunday and took it to her local police station, where officers told her to carefully place it on the lawn.
Police called in the bomb squad, which determined the item was a grenade, still in its packaging and belonging to the Canadian military.
The technicians made sure the package was secure and called
military personnel in to dispose of the ordnance.
"It is quite unusual for someone to find a grenade in their
backyard, especially one that hasn't been spent," Edmonton police spokeswoman Patrycia Chalupczynska said.
"We want to advise people that if they ever do find something suspicious-looking, they shouldn't touch it -- just leave it alone and call police."
(Reporting by Jeffrey Jones; editing by Rob Wilson)

Man in wheelchair charged with drunk driving

CANBERRA (Reuters) - Police in Australia have charged a man for drink driving in a motorized wheelchair after he was found to be six times over the legal alcohol limit, local media reported on Monday.
Police in the tropical northern Queensland city of Cairns said the man had a blood alcohol reading of 0.31, and was so drunk he was asleep at the controls of his motorized wheelchair in a turning lane of a major highway.
"It beggars belief," Police Inspector Bob Walters told the Cairns Post newspaper, adding wheelchairs, bicycles, horses and skateboards were all considered to be vehicles under the state's road laws.
"It's unlawful, it is unacceptable and people should realize it could lead to a fatality," he said.
Other motorists on the four-lane highway had to swerve to avoid the wheelchair, police said.
(Reporting by James Grubel; Editing by David Fox)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Where's the bathroom?

WEST BRADFORD, Pa. -- State police are investigating a man’s claim that he was severely beaten after he urinated on a kitchen floor at a party. The incident occurred about 2 a.m. on May 10 in the 1100 block of Jamie Lane, police said.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Trial ordered in alleged assault over chicken bucket

PHOENIXVILLE — Charles Joseph Allen, arrested on felony aggravated assault charges after he allegedly beat up a woman last month, was ordered to stand trial in district court Thursday afternoon.
Allen, 48, of the 1st block of North Seventh Avenue, Coatesville, is charged with aggravated assault; recklessly endangering another person; simple assault; harassment; and terroristic threats.
According to court testimony, the woman, whose name is being withheld by The Phoenix, said she was “man-beaten” by Allen inside her residence along the 200 block of High Street around 4 a.m. April 28.
The victim said she was holding a bucket of chicken when Allen tried to grab a piece. She said when she prevented Allen from getting some chicken, a piece of chicken fell to the ground.
“When I bent over to pick up the chicken, he punched me in the face five to six times,” she said. “My eye began to spasm. He cut my lip and busted up my face. When I covered up, he started kneeing me in the chest and elbowing me in the back.”
The victim testified that she felt like Allen was going to kill her.
“He said he should’ve killed me,” she said. “I have bruised ribs and lower spine injuries. My eyesight is bad and I have a concussion.”
Public Defender P.J. Redmond asked the woman if she had smoked crack cocaine that night, to which she replied, “No.”
Redmond asked the woman numerous times about when she had slept prior to the incident, and what drugs and/or medication she was on.
The woman said she was on medication but wasn’t on any kind of drugs.
Court documents state that the woman told police that the reason she was assaulted was that Allen was upset because she would not purchase crack cocaine for him.
When asked by Redmond how long the assault occurred, the woman said, “How long did it last? It felt like an hour, but it was around 20 minutes.”
Officer Bryan MacIntyre testified he was dispatched to
the 200 block of High Street for the report of an assault around 4:18 a.m. April 28.
MacIntyre said upon arrival, he met with the victim, who had obvious injuries to her face.
“There was a very large knot in the middle of her forehead with red abrasions all around it,” said MacIntyre. “Her left eye appeared red and swollen, and her lip was bleeding. She showed me her three front bottom teeth were loose.”
MacIntyre testified that the victim told him that Allen had beaten her up, but she was able to call 911.
After hearing all of the testimony, Magisterial District Justice Ted Michaels held the charges over for trial.
Allen was remanded back to Chester County Prison in lieu of $15,000 cash bail.
His next court appearance is scheduled for Thursday, May 29, 2008, at 9 a.m. at the Court of Common Pleas in West Chester.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Spray-painted turtle causes neighborhood outcry

NEW YORK - The spray-painting of a Brooklyn neighborhood's beloved turtle has stirred up cries of animal cruelty and calls for justice.
Myrtle, as the turtle is known, was recently found roaming the backyards near Roebling Street and Union Avenue in the Williamsburg section sporting a fresh coat of garish orange paint on its shell.
"To me, it's beyond just being an inhumane act. To me, it's an abomination," said one resident and caretaker of the critter, Meredith Chesney, to a WCBS-TV reporter.
Chesney and other residents speculated that the turtle was sprayed as a prank at a nearby construction site where workers use paint of the same color.
Some bloggers who focus on Brooklyn real estate and development have latched onto the turtle's plight as a symbol of unscrupulous construction in the borough.
"I've probably done a thousand posts about illegal construction and violating regulations with impunity but this probably ticked me off more than anything," said Robert Guskind, founder of the Gowanus Lounge blog, in Tuesday editions of Newsday. "In the grand scheme I know it's symbolic, but it really makes my blood boil."
Chesney said she tried unsuccessfully to remove the paint from the box turtle's shell. "You can't use solvents or paint removers," she said. "That's not good for the turtle."

I want my french fries!

BERNE, Switzerland - The Swiss government has agreed to ease restrictions on the importation of potatoes following fears that Euro 2008 soccer fans could face a shortage of French fries next month.
A spokesman for the country's department of agriculture told national radio on Wednesday that the government would allow an additional 5,000 tonnes of potatoes to be brought in.
The decision follows a request by Swiss potato industry association Swisspatat who warned that supplies were already running low in the buildup to the June tournament.
The association has estimated that 3,000 additional tonnes will be needed to make chips for foreign supporters, with the remaining 2,000 used for other forms of potato.
Switzerland has already been fretting over dwindling supplies of its beloved 'cervelat' sausage following a European Union ban on the Brazilian cows' intestines traditionally used to encase the meat.
Economics minister Doris Leuthard, who is also responsible for agriculture, told the national parliament in March there were enough cervelats in reserve to last at least through Euro 2008.
The tournament runs from June 7 to 29 and will be co-hosted by Switzerland and neighboring Austria.

Men charged using skull as bong

HOUSTON - Authorities in Texas have filed corpse-abuse charges against two men who allegedly removed a skull from a grave and used it as a bong. The Harris County District Attorney's Office confirmed on Thursday that misdemeanor abuse of corpse charges have been filed in the case.
One of the men allegedly told police they dug up a grave in an abandoned cemetery in the woods, removed a head from a body and smoked marijuana using the skull as a bong.
Police found the cemetery and a grave that had been disturbed but are still investigating the rest of the story, officials said.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Sounds like a vacation to me

NEW YORK - A time-lapse video of a man trapped in an elevator for 41 hours has become something of an Internet sensation after surveillance camera footage emerged after nearly a decade.
"After a certain period of time I knew that I was in pretty big trouble because it was the weekend," Nicholas White said Monday on ABC-TV's "Good Morning America."
Video of his Oct. 15, 1999, ordeal in an elevator in New York's McGraw-Hill building was posted online to accompany an article in the April 21 edition of The New Yorker. It can be seen on the magazine's Web site and had been viewed more than 280,000 times on YouTube by Monday morning.
White said he understood why the video has captured people's attention: So many have wondered what they would do if it happened to them.
Edited to a soundtrack of classical piano music, the video shows him pacing, trying to climb the walls, lying down, curled up in a fetal position, prying apart the doors. (He said he relieved himself down the shaft when the doors were open.)
White sued the managers of the midtown skycraper and the elevator maintenance company and won an undisclosed settlement.
He was a production manager for Business Week when he left his office about 11 p.m. Friday for a cigarette break. According to the article, it was never determined exactly why the elevator stalled though there was talk of a voltage dip.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

It's like the Cannonball Run

LONGMONT, Colo. - A discharged patient was accused of stealing an ambulance, then speeding away at up to 100 mph while unknowing drivers yielded the right away was arrested Tuesday after he lost control and crashed.
Another ambulance took the man to a hospital under police guard, police spokesman Tim Lewis said. "We didn't want another ambulance driving away," he said.
Mickey Stevenson Terry, 35, had been released from a hospital in Lafayette when he apparently found an ambulance outside the emergency care department, Lewis said. The suspect jumped in the ambulance while its crew was taking another patient inside the building, he said.
Boulder County sheriff's deputies stopped the ambulance and spoke to the suspect, but he sped away with lights and siren on, driving 80 to 100 mph as other vehicles yielded to it, Lewis said.
The ambulance came within about 2 feet of hitting an officer on foot who tried to stop cross traffic so the ambulance wouldn't hit those drivers, Lewis said.
After officers called off the pursuit, the ambulance came to a clogged intersection on Colorado 119, lost control, glanced the front of a stopped car, left the road, hit a median and landed in boulders and broke an axle, Lewis said.
The suspect fled on foot and was detained by citizens. The suspect had leg and rib injuries and lost consciousness at the scene, Lewis said. He was being treated at a Longmont hospital Tuesday.
Lewis said Terry is from Montana. Lewis did not know his hometown, why he was in Colorado or the possible motive.
He said Terry had originally been taken to a hospital from Weld County on an "unstable mental health hold," Lewis said.

It's like the Cannonball Run

LONGMONT, Colo. - A discharged patient was accused of stealing an ambulance, then speeding away at up to 100 mph while unknowing drivers yielded the right away was arrested Tuesday after he lost control and crashed.
Another ambulance took the man to a hospital under police guard, police spokesman Tim Lewis said. "We didn't want another ambulance driving away," he said.
Mickey Stevenson Terry, 35, had been released from a hospital in Lafayette when he apparently found an ambulance outside the emergency care department, Lewis said. The suspect jumped in the ambulance while its crew was taking another patient inside the building, he said.
Boulder County sheriff's deputies stopped the ambulance and spoke to the suspect, but he sped away with lights and siren on, driving 80 to 100 mph as other vehicles yielded to it, Lewis said.
The ambulance came within about 2 feet of hitting an officer on foot who tried to stop cross traffic so the ambulance wouldn't hit those drivers, Lewis said.
After officers called off the pursuit, the ambulance came to a clogged intersection on Colorado 119, lost control, glanced the front of a stopped car, left the road, hit a median and landed in boulders and broke an axle, Lewis said.
The suspect fled on foot and was detained by citizens. The suspect had leg and rib injuries and lost consciousness at the scene, Lewis said. He was being treated at a Longmont hospital Tuesday.
Lewis said Terry is from Montana. Lewis did not know his hometown, why he was in Colorado or the possible motive.
He said Terry had originally been taken to a hospital from Weld County on an "unstable mental health hold," Lewis said.

And he's not even good looking

COMMERCE TOWNSHIP, Mich. - Police say a man dressed as a woman repeatedly crashed his car into a suburban Detroit lingerie store that had refused to hire him earlier this year.
Oakland County Undersheriff Michael McCabe said Jeremy McIntosh, 27, was arrested Saturday night outside the Intimate Ideas store in Commerce Township, 25 miles northwest of Detroit. Damage to the store was estimated at $3,000.
McCabe said McIntosh was wearing "facial makeup, lipstick, blue Capri pants, red 'flip-flops,' a flowery blouse and a matching flowery women's bra." McIntosh told deputies he is homeless and wanted to go to jail because he had nowhere else to go.
McIntosh remained jailed after his Monday arraignment on charges including malicious destruction of property and reckless driving. McCabe says McIntosh doesn't have a lawyer yet.

A rose by any other name

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Who lost it on Lost Temper Creek? What horror befell the village of Eek? Does it have anything to do with another town being Chicken?
Native traditions and colorful settlers have given Alaska an extra helping of oddly named places. Try Nunathloogagamiutbingoi Dunes or Dakeekathlrimjingia Point, unpronounceable and unexplained other than being of Eskimo origin. Then there's Sagavanirktok, a North Slope river named after an Eskimo word for strong current.
"It just rolls off your tongue — at least my tongue," said Donald Orth, a retired geographer and cartographer with the U.S. Geological Survey. He wrote the book on Alaska place names more than four decades ago, and now that book is getting freshened up.
"Dictionary of Alaska Place Names," published by the USGS in 1967 and reprinted with minor revisions in 1971, is an enormous guide though the mundane and the quirky.
An Anchorage-based publisher plans to create an updated version of Orth's long-out-of-print book. Flip Todd, owner of Todd Communications, hopes to have it out by 2009.
Supplements to Orth's thousand-plus-page monograph were published until 1994, listing additional place names recognized by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.
All place names in the U.S. can be viewed online on the board's Web site, but there's no way to peruse the entire text for the simple pleasure of discovering the stories behind odd or whimsical names.
That's a deficiency that needs fixing as far as Todd is concerned.
"There are still too many advantages in this low-tech device called a book," he said.
In the original, Orth included variant names and sometimes humorous stories behind many geographic monikers.
Mishap Creek, aka Big Loss Creek, is Unimak Island stream named for a lighthouse keeper who stripped naked to cross the water, then tried to throw his clothes to the other side, only to watch helplessly as they landed downstream and disappeared.
There's Chicken, an old mining town established during the Klondike Gold Rush. A detailed history of the name is not in Orth's dictionary, but according to oft-told lore, miners wanted to call the community Ptarmigan after a bird common to the area, but no one knew how to spell it. So they settled on Chicken, since miners also called ptarmigans "tundra chickens."
Atlasta Creek was inspired by a remark uttered by the wife of the owner of a nearby roadhouse after the first building was completed: "At last a house."
Lost Temper Creek, an Arctic Slope stream, was named over a "camp incident." Eek, a western Alaska village, was derived from an Eskimo word that means "two eyes." Big Bones Ridge, in the Talkeetna Mountains, came from the large fossil mammoth or mastodon bones found at the site.
Orth's book came about as a centennial commemoration of the 1867 purchase of Alaska from Russia. He led a team of researchers, but he had already begun collecting place names as a hobby during his time surveying Alaska's Brooks Range for the USGS in the 1950s.
Alaska is the focus of Orth's most extensive place-name work, but he has worked on projects covering all 50 states during his long career. The subject holds no end of fascination for the former executive secretary of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.
"Language, history, geography, all of those things come together," he said during a phone interview from his Falls Church, Va., home. "Place names are part of the language, part of our psyche."
What stands out about Alaska for him are the numerous native names given by the state's indigenous people, besides other influences from explorers and settlers.
Also, Alaska is so vast and wild that a multitude of mountains, lakes, streams and other geographic features have no names, and might never get them.
That's as it should be, said state historian Jo Antonson, who works with the state board that considers new place-name proposals.
"There really has to be a good reason to name something in a designated wilderness area," she said. "The philosophical concept is that wilderness is untouched, unaffected by the technology of man."

Monday, March 31, 2008

Now that's a true fan

PORT ORCHARD, Wash. - A fast-food cook and Seattle Seahawks fan has been accused of spitting on a hamburger ordered by a man wearing Pittsburgh Steelers attire.
Kitsap County sheriff's deputies say the 37-year-old customer was with his daughters at the Port Orchard-area eatery last Saturday. He reportedly traded remarks with an employee about Super Bowl XL in which the Seahawks lost to the Steelers.
When the customer opened his food container, he says there was spittle on the burger. He demanded a refund and called the fast-foot outlet's district manager.
The manager told deputies a 24-year-old man might be responsible. The next day, deputies went to his house and smelled marijuana. The man was released after being booked for investigation of fourth-degree assault and possession of marijuana.

Well, who doesn't like doughnuts?

DULUTH, Minn. - Steven Seagull has returned to the Super 8 motel here, looking for his customary cake doughnut. Year after year, the ring-billed gull has tapped at the lobby's front door until a staff member gives him the doughnut, said general manager Jodi Chambers.
"If it's quiet in the lobby, you can hear him tapping on it," Chambers said. "But if we're busy, he starts squawking like crazy."
Steven returned Wednesday.
Chambers said she's sure it's the same bird because he behaves the same way every year. For one thing, Steven chases away other gulls looking for his food.
"We don't feed them if there's more than one, and he's figured that out," Chambers said.
Leslie Larsen, the education director of the Lake Superior Zoo, said Steven Seagull has learned to respond to positive reinforcement.
"What I do know is that animals, they don't necessarily have to be intelligent to respond to what we call operant conditioning," she said. "Without knowing it or meaning to, they've trained that gull. They've given him a positive consequence to come back."
Whatever the reason, Chambers said Steven is a hit. "The guests love it," she said. "I've had a few come in and say 'We came to check out your bird.'"

Lawmaking to follow

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. - A 77-year-old Illinois state representative is happy to be alive after a man with a gun pushed his way into her home and robbed her of $7.
Wyvetter H. Younge was not injured in the robbery that occurred around noon Friday.
Younge said she thought her son had knocked on her door and opened it, but instead found an armed man. He told her to get on her hands and knees, then grabbed her purse and ran.
Younge, a Democrat, said she didn't recognize the man, who wore a red hat and red jacket and dark pants. She said she's going to pray for him.
"This robbery and what's happening to this community is the result of a lack of a supportive system for our youth. We need jobs," she said. "This happened in broad daylight at noon. We need a mental health support system. This is further evidence of that."

Crime stoppers 101

LA CROSSE, Wis. - Police in La Crosse are a little red-faced right now.
They're apologizing after issuing an alert about a woman suspected of using a stolen credit card at a convenience store. They also helpfully issued surveillance video images of her.
Someone who works with the woman saw it and recognized her.
"The woman said her co-worker was kind of joking around and said, 'I thought I saw you on Crime Stoppers,'" said Officer Drew Gavrilos. "The woman hopped online and watched the video and found it was her."
But she hadn't done the crime.
Gavrilos said the mistake happened when police matched surveillance video with cash register information, trying to identify whoever used the stolen card.
They didn't realize there were two similar transactions about the same time.
"We had two very similar looking people come to the register about 10 to 20 seconds apart," each buying similar things, Gavrilos said. "It was a one-in-a-million type of thing."
They picked the wrong one for the Crime Stoppers information, and the public service announcement ran for three days before the mix up caused it to be pulled.
"We feel horrible about the mistake and want to do all we can to minimize any inconvenience or embarrassment this woman may have experienced," Gavrilos said.

Good morning

MAGNOLIA, Ark. - Blake Icenhower got a one-ton wake-up call.
As the 19-year-old laid in bed Friday morning at a hotel, co-worker Hoby Armstrong went outside to start his Dodge diesel truck. Armstrong said he started the engine and stepped out of the cab.
That's when the lifted truck roared through the motel's brick-and-mortar wall, pushed aside a bed and went toward Icenhower. Icenhower said Armstrong was able to jump back into the cab and stop the truck a foot away from hitting him.
Armstrong suffered a scrape to his arm.
If the truck had struck two brick support beams less than five feet away, the top floor might have collapsed, motel owner Ken Patel said.

He was really trashed

MUNCIE, Ind. - William M. Bowen woke up after a night of drinking with friends and realized he was inside a commercial trash-collection truck full of waste.
The driver had just emptied a commercial trash bin into his truck and was about to activate its compactor when he heard Bowen screaming.
"He looked up and this gentleman was standing out the top of our truck," said Larry Green, market safety supervisor for the Rumpke waste disposal company. Green said the only thing Bowen said to the driver was that he was cold.
"This gentleman was extremely intoxicated," he said.
Bowen told police he had been drinking with buddies at a Muncie bar until about 3 a.m. Thursday. But he said he didn't recall how he ended up inside the trash bin, and he wouldn't tell police who his drinking pals were.
Bowen was treated for minor injuries.
"I'm just glad it turned out the way it did," Green said. "We didn't have a body that was dead. We had a body that was talking."
There was no telephone listing for Bowen in the Muncie area.

What a cliche

RIVERSIDE, Ohio - Police say a pastor who was reported missing from his home in western New York has been found at an Ohio strip club.
A police officer patrolling the K.C. Lounge parking lot Friday morning in the Dayton suburb of Riverside spotted out-of-state license plates on 46-year-old Craig Rhodenizer's car.
The FBI and New York authorities had been searching for Rhodenizer, who disappeared Wednesday after telling his wife he was getting his computer fixed at Best Buy. He is the pastor of a church in Lyndonville, N.Y.
Detective Matt Sturgeon said Rhodenizer was disoriented when confronted by police and said he felt "emotionally guilty."

Monday, March 24, 2008

An SOS to the world

SEATTLE - Merle Brandell and his black lab Slapsey were beachcombing along the Bering Sea when he spied a plastic bottle among the Japanese glass floats he often finds along the shore of his tiny Alaskan fishing village.
He walked over and saw an envelope tucked inside. After slicing the bottle open, Brandell found a message from an elementary school student in a suburb of Seattle. The fact that the letter traveled 1,735 miles without any help from the U.S. postal service is unusual, but that's only the beginning of the mystery.
About 21 years passed between the time Emily Hwaung put the message in a soda bottle and Merle Brandell picked it up on the beach.
"This letter is part of our science project to study oceans and learn about people in distant lands," she wrote. "Please send the date and location of the bottle with your address. I will send you my picture and tell you when and where the bottle was placed in the ocean. Your friend, Emily Hwaung."
Brandell, 34, a bear hunting guide and manager of a water plant, said many of the 70-plus residents of Nelson Lagoon were intrigued by his find. Beachcombing is a popular activity in remote western Alaska. Among the recent discoveries was a sail boat that washed onto shore last October.
"It's kind of a sport. It keeps us occupied. It's one of the pleasures of living here," Brandell said of the village reachable only by plane or boat that is too small to have its own store.
Brandell tried to track down the sender: a fourth grader from the North City School in the Shoreline School District.
No one answered when Brandell called the school in December so he sent the school district a handwritten letter, which eventually ended up on the desk of district spokesman Craig Degginger.
After some searching, Degginger discovered Emily Hwaung is now a 30-year-old accountant named Emily Shih and lives in Seattle. She was in the fourth grade during the 1986-87 school year at a school building that closed more than a year ago.
Shih said she was flabbergasted by the news and immediately shared it with her Kirkland co-workers.
"I don't remember the project. It was so long ago. Elementary school is kind of foggy," Shih admitted during a recent interview. "I've been getting a kick out of it for a month now."

Dead and loving it

OKLAHOMA CITY - Four months after he was declared brain dead and doctors were about to remove his organs for transplant, Zach Dunlap says he feels "pretty good."
Dunlap was pronounced dead Nov. 19 at United Regional Healthcare System in Wichita Falls, Texas, after he was injured in an all-terrain vehicle accident. His family approved having his organs harvested.
As family members were paying their last respects, he moved his foot and hand. He reacted to a pocketknife scraped across his foot and to pressure applied under a fingernail. After 48 days in the hospital, he was allowed to return home, where he continues to work on his recovery.
On Monday, he and his family were in New York, appearing on NBC's "Today."
"I feel pretty good. but it's just hard ... just ain't got the patience," Dunlap told NBC.
Dunlap, 21, of Frederick, said he has no recollection of the crash.
"I remember a little bit that was about an hour before the accident happened. But then about six hours before that, I remember," he said.
Dunlap said one thing he does remember is hearing the doctors pronounce him dead.
"I'm glad I couldn't get up and do what I wanted to do," he said.
Asked if he would have wanted to get up and shake them and say he's alive, Dunlap responded: "Probably would have been a broken window that went out."
His father, Doug, said he saw the results of the brain scan.
"There was no activity at all, no blood flow at all."
Zach's mother, Pam, said that when she discovered he was still alive, "That was the most miraculous feeling."
"We had gone, like I said, from the lowest possible emotion that a parent could feel to the top of the mountains again," she said.
She said her son is doing "amazingly well," but still has problems with his memory as his brain heals from the traumatic injury.
"It may take a year or more ... before he completely recovers," she said. "But that's OK. It doesn't matter how long it takes. We're just all so thankful and blessed that we have him here."
Dunlap now has the pocketknife that was scraped across his foot, causing the first reaction.
"Just makes me thankful, makes me thankful that they didn't give up," he said. "Only the good die young, so I didn't go."

Sit, Ubu, sit. Now pray

NAHA, Japan - At a Zen Buddhist temple in southern Japan, even the dog prays. Mimicking his master, priest Joei Yoshikuni, a 1 1/2-year-old black-and-white Chihuahua named Conan joins in the daily prayers at Naha's Shuri Kannondo temple, sitting up on his hind legs and putting his front paws together before the altar.
It took him only a few days to learn the motions, and now he is the talk of the town.
"Word has spread, and we are getting a lot more tourists," Yoshikuni said Monday.
Yoshikuni said Conan generally goes through his prayer routine at the temple in the capital of Japan's southern Okinawa prefecture (state) without prompting before his morning and evening meals.
"I think he saw me doing it all the time and got the idea to do it, too," Yoshikuni said.
The priest is now trying to teach him how to meditate.
Well, sort of.
"Basically, I am just trying to get him to sit still while I meditate," he explained. "It's not like we can make him cross his legs."

Tough to be tall

PODOLYANTSI, Ukraine - Leonid Stadnik's phenomenal height has forced him to quit a job he loved, to stoop as he moves around his house and to spend most of his time in his tiny home village because he cannot fit in a car or bus.
But Stadnik, who according to the Guinness World Records is the world's tallest human, says his condition has also taught him that the world is filled with kindhearted strangers.
Since his recognition by Ukrainian record keepers four years ago, and by Guinness last year, people from all over Ukraine and the world have shipped him outsized clothing, provided his home with running water and recently presented him with a giant bicycle.
"Thanks to good people I have shoes and clothes," said the 37-year-old former veterinarian, who still lives with his 66-year-old mother.
In 2006, Stadnik was officially measured at 2.57 meters tall (8 feet 5 inches), surpassing a Chinese man to claim the title of the world's tallest person.
His growth spurt began at age 14 after a brain operation that apparently stimulated the overproduction of growth hormone. Doctors say he has been growing ever since.
While he may appear intimidating due to his size, Stadnik charms visitors with a broad grin and childlike laugh. He seems at times like a lonely boy trapped in a giant's body, even keeping stuffed toys on his pillow.
Stadnik's stature has earned him worldwide attention, but it has mostly a burden to him. He has to battle to lead anything close to a normal life.
All the doorways in his one-story brick house are too short for him to pass through without stooping. His 200 kilograms (440 pounds) cause constant knee pain and often force him to move on crutches.
Stadnik loves animals, but he had to quit as a veterinarian at a cattle farm in a nearby village, after suffering frostbite when he walked work in his socks in winter. He could not afford specially made shoes for his 43-centimeter (17-inch) feet.
But his recent fame has brought him friends from all over the world and taught him not to despair.
A German man who said he was his distant relative invited Stadnik for a visit several years ago. On the trip, Stadnik got to sample frog legs in an elegant restaurant and saw a roller coaster in an amusement park — both for the first time.
Shortly after that, Stadnik came home one day and saw a brand-new computer connected to the Web sitting on his desk — a gift from a local Internet provider. Company workers "sneaked into the house like little spies" to install the equipment, Stadnik joked.
Since then he has made numerous online friends, including several in the United States, Australia and Russia. Stadnik hopes to learn English so he can communicate better with his Anglophone contacts; currently, he relies on computer translations, which he says are often inadequate.
Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko's personal tailor has made Stadnik two track suits and the president plans to present Stadnik with a giant car. Local authorities have also promised to supply gas to Stadnik's village, 200 kilometers (125 miles) kilometers west of the capital, Kiev.
On Sunday, a local organization for the disabled gave Stadnik a giant bike so he can pedal to the grocery store, which is in a nearby village. The group also presented Stadnik with a fitness machine.
"I have always dreamt that my life and the life of my loved ones ... would become more comfortable," Stadnik said. "My dream is coming true."
His neighbors joke that they may also benefit from Stadnik's success. "Of course we are proud of him — we may have gas here soon thanks to him," said Nila Kravchuk, 75.
Since he quit his job, Stadnik has concentrated on managing the family garden and taking care of his three cows, one horse and assorted pigs and chickens. He lives with his mother Halyna, 66, and his sister Larysa, 42.
Stadnik says his dream now is finding a soul mate, just like the former titleholder, China's Bao Xishun, who was married last year.
"I think the future holds that for me," he said.

Friday, March 14, 2008

How cliche

CARROLLTON, Ohio - Amy and Jim Albert's truck handled a special delivery when it broke down on the way to a hospital. A pregnant Amy was having painful contractions when the couple left their home on Wednesday. But they had to pull over about 45 minutes from the hospital when their truck died.
Amy's water then broke, but the expectant mom was prepared. A paramedic, she brought towels just in case.
Jim said his newborn daughter was in his hands before he even knew what happened.
Amy's fellow paramedics soon came along to take the couple and healthy little Erin Nicole Albert to a hospital.

Democracy in action

TAMARAC, Fla. - Every vote counts. But what happens when there are no votes at all? That's the situation city officials in Tamarac are facing. No voters showed up Wednesday night to cast a ballot in an annexation referendum for an unincorporated Broward County community.
There are 68 registered voters in the 200-person Prospect Bend neighborhood. Tamarac officials have proposed annexing the neighborhood.
Details were mailed to registered voters. If just one voter had shown up, that one vote would have decided the neighborhood's fate.
The cost of keeping a polling site open for 12 hours with no voters: $2,500.
City officials could take another approach to annexing the area. One option is a mail-in ballot election.

Should be easy to spot, though

EASTPOINTE, Mich. - Police in suburban Detroit are looking for a 6-foot-tall glass of Guinness. Don't worry, it's work-related. A green, pint-glass-shaped Guinness costume has been reported stolen from an Eastpointe resident's garage.
It's valued at $3,000 and had been flown to Michigan from Ireland to be used as advertising. Eastpointe Police Lt. Leo Borowsky says it is believed to be one of only two such costumes in the U.S.
Authorities say a Detroit beer distribution company loaned out the costume for Halloween. The owner of the home where the costume had been stored found out it had been stolen after the company asked for it back.
Borowsky says to be on the lookout. There's no better time to dress up as a green pint of Guinness than on St. Patrick's Day.

All carry on mice must be kept in a one-quart plastic bag

DES MOINES, Iowa - A mouse intent on flying to Atlanta prompted officials to ground a plane for more than five hours Thursday in Des Moines. A flight attendant spotted the mouse before passengers boarded the 5:50 a.m. Atlantic Southeast Airlines flight. About 30 passengers were kept waiting at the gate until the plane finally left about 11:30 a.m.
The safety of our passengers is our number one priority," said Kristen Loughman, an ASA spokeswoman. "Our maintenance team was called. They inspected the aircraft, which is why it was delayed."
Loughman said she could not confirm whether the mouse was removed before the plane took off, but she said a safety inspection was required to ensure the mouse hadn't gnawed through anything that could cause safety issues.
Loughman said all passengers were rebooked on other connecting flights in Atlanta.
Atlanta-based ASA runs regional flights for Delta Airlines.
Gary Hagen, a Des Moines International Airport spokesman, said the delay was an airline issue and did not effect the airport operations.
"They went through all the things they had to do according to the situation," he said.
The airport has been extremely busy in recent days as people leave for spring break, Hagen said.
"There's a lot of traffic up there so we're trying to keep that under control," he said.

All's well that ends well, we suppose

FOREST LAKE, Minn. - A Forest Lake woman has her mom's ashes back. Last month, a thief burglarized Michele Siedow's home and stole her mother's ashes. Two days after news media reported the theft, Siedow received the cremains in the mail, in a padded manila envelope.
Siedow says she "just started jumping up and down saying, 'I got my mom back! I got my mom back!' " Then she started crying.
The thief who struck Siedow's home took electronics, tools and everything in a jewelry box -- including a 5-inch velvet bag with a funeral home's name on it. The bag contained some of her mother's cremated remains.
Police are still investigating the burglary and have some leads.

Wish I thought of this

DANBURY, Conn. - Danbury officials have been notified they are being sued by a student who was awakened in class by a teacher who made a loud noise. Documents filed with the Town Clerk, a prelude to a lawsuit, claim that a sleeping student suffered hearing damage when his teacher woke him up by slamming her hand down on the boy's desk in December.
Attorney Alan Barry says 15-year-old Vinicios Robacher suffered pain and "very severe injuries to his left eardrum" when teacher Melissa Nadeau abruptly slammed the palm of her hand on his desk on Dec. 4.
A city official says the matter has been referred to Danbury's insurance carrier.

Do as I say, not as I do

CANBERRA, Australia - Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's new campaign against teenage binge drinking in Australia revived questions Friday about his own drunken escapade in a New York strip club.
Reports of the night he spent at "Scores" in 2003 surfaced while he campaigned ahead of the November election. The bookish and church-going Rudd apologized, and most Australians believed him when he said it was the second time in his life that he was drunk.
Still, the incident resurfaced this week when Rudd launched a $50 million campaign to combat excessive drinking among Australians teens.
"It's a bit rich for a man who got famously stonkered at a lap-dancing club in New York five years ago to be lecturing the rest of us on binge drinking," columnist Miranda Devine wrote in The Sydney Morning Herald.
Rudd admitted Friday he was no "paragon of moral virtue" but told Melbourne radio 3AW he wanted to address the estimated 168,000 Australian teenagers under the legal drinking age of 18 who abuse alcohol.
"I'll take any incoming flak about yours truly, but I've got one target in mind and that is to get that number down," he said.
The campaign includes television, radio and Internet spots to shock young people on the consequences of binge drinking, as well as grants to clubs and community groups to help change the drinking culture. Some sports stars have agreed to appear in the ads.
Rudd and a lawmaker colleague, Warren Snowdon, were taken to the strip club in 2003 by New York Post editor Col Allan, a fellow Australian. Rudd, now 50, was the opposition foreign affairs spokesman at the time. He was in New York to meet with U.N. officials.
Australians are relatively tolerant of excessive drinking. Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke held a Guinness World Record for speed beer drinking during his days as a Rhodes Scholar.

No shoes, no shirt, no pants

YORKTOWN, N.Y. - Careful with that coffee! Police say a man placing an order in a suburban New York doughnut shop's drive-through lane didn't have any pants on.
They say a Dunkin' Donuts worker saw John Greco's exposed genitals in the Feb. 27 stunt and then noted the make of his car and his license plate number.
Police say the 46-year-old Croton-on-Hudson resident was arrested last week and has been charged with misdemeanor public lewdness. He's due in court March 27.
Police released a statement Thursday saying it was "unknown how Mr. Greco took his coffee that day."
Greco says by telephone from his home that he has no comment on the police report.

Saucer for sale

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - A mountainside house being auctioned in Tennessee is perfect for anyone tolerant of gawkers and fascinated with outer space: It's built like a flying saucer.
The home "landed" on a twisting road leading to Chattanooga's Signal Mountain in 1970 — just after television executives grounded the run of the original "Star Trek" series. It will be sold to the highest bidder Saturday.
The circular house — ultramodern when it was built — is ringed with small square windows and directional lights and perched on six "landing gear" legs. It has multiple levels, three bedrooms, two baths and an entrance staircase that retracts with the push of a button.
Terry Posey, an agent with Crye-Leike Auctions of Cleveland, Tenn., said the current owner has had the property only four months and didn't want to comment. Posey posted an e-Bay ad and said he already has a $100,000 bid.
John Kleeman of Litchfield, Conn., an attorney and space culture enthusiast, said he knows of variations of the flying saucer design in Florida, Connecticut and California.
The flying saucer designs popped up about the time of the moon landings. "That's when all the excitement was," Kleeman said.
The Chattanooga home's unusual shape — sort of like two white Frisbees pasted together — poses some interior decorating challenges. The curve of the exterior creates a sloping ceiling and short side walls, but there's also a striking curved bar and a custom bathtub.
The house is larger than the prefabricated and movable UFO-shaped structures, known as Futuro houses, designed by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen in 1968.
"It really looked like a spaceship ready to take off," said realtor Lois Killebrew, who handled an open house at the first sale of the Chattanooga home decades ago.
The late Curtis W. King and his family built the unusual home because "they liked to do unusual things," Killebrew said.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Yep. Garbage smells

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. - A "sniff squad" of trained noses is being called in to root out Northampton's landfill odors. The city has hired specially trained stink-sniffers to help determine whether the dump is too pungent for neighboring homeowners to stand.
Northampton officials signed a $25,000 contract with an Agawam environmental company after state officials ordered independent testing of landfill odors.
Using little more than their own noses, the super sniffers are trained to detect and rate the strength of rotting trash, landfill gases and other unpleasantries.
Rating on a 1 to 8 scale — roughly, from bearable to foul beyond belief — the sniffers also judge the smells against a kit they carry of ready-to-sniff odors of various intensities.
The city could be fined or ordered to make changes if the landfill flunks the smell test.

Save Sparky!

CORE, W.Va. - Life jackets are made for people, not dogs. So, when Randy Earl's small boat capsized while he was fishing with his dog Lacy, a black spaniel mix, he stayed in the water with his life jacket while making sure Lacy was OK.
"When the boat flipped over, I put the dog on top of the boat," Earl told The Dominion Post of Morgantown.
While waiting for someone to rescue them on Mason Lake in northern West Virginia, Earl clung to the 12-foot boat's hull. The water temperature was about 50 degrees, said J.M. Crawley, a senior conservation officer for the Division of Natural Resources.
Another fisherman, Jan Thorn, watched from shore as a state trooper paddled out to rescue Earl and Lacy.
"He asked the state trooper to take the dog first," Thorn said. "It was very touching."
Earl, 53, said Lacy means a lot to him and his wife since they lost both of their children in a car accident 15 years ago.
"That dog is like a child to us," he said.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Danny Boy, banned

NEW YORK - It's depressing, it's not usually sung in Ireland for St. Patrick's Day, and its lyrics were written by an Englishman who never set foot on Irish soil.

Those are only some of the reasons why a Manhattan pub owner is banning the song "Danny Boy" for the entire month of March.

"It's overplayed, it's been ranked among the 25 most depressing songs of all time and it's more appropriate for a funeral than for a St. Patrick's Day celebration," said Shaun Clancy, who owns Foley's Pub and Restaurant, across the street from the Empire State Building.

The 38-year-old Clancy, who started bartending when he was 12 at his father's pub in County Cavan, Ireland, promised a free Guinness to patrons who sing any other traditional Irish song at the pub's pre-St. Patrick's Day karaoke party on Tuesday.

The lyrics for "Danny Boy," published in 1913, were written by English lawyer Frederick Edward Weatherly, who never even visited Ireland, according to Malachy McCourt, author of the book "Danny Boy: The Legend of the Beloved Irish Ballad."

He said Weatherly's sister-in-law had sent him the music to an old Irish song called "The Derry Air," and the new version became a hit when opera singer Ernestine Schumann-Heink recorded it in 1915.

Some say the song is symbolic of the great Irish diaspora, with generations of Irish fleeing the famine and poor economic conditions starting around 1850. Others speculate it's sung by a mother grieving for her son or by a desolate lover. Lyrics include: "The summer's gone, and all the flowers are dying/ 'Tis you, 'tis you must go and I must bide."

"Danny Boy" was recorded by Bing Crosby in the 1940s, served as the theme song of television's "Danny Thomas Show" from 1953 to 1964. It has been performed by singers ranging from Judy Garland and Elvis Presley to Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson.

At least one patron at Foley's was glad to hear the song was banned from the pub for the rest of the month.

The song is "all right, but I get fed up with hearing it — it's like the elections," Martin Gaffney, 73, said in a thick Irish brogue.

Gaffney said Wednesday he looked forward to crooning his own Irish favorites, such as "Molly Malone" — whose own theme is hardly a barrel of laughs.

A sort of unofficial anthem of Dublin also known as "Cockles and Mussels," the song tells the tale of a beautiful fishmonger who plies her trade on city streets and dies young of a fever.

Oh, fudge

SOUTH PASADENA, Calif. - What the @$%#? This community on the edge of Los Angeles has become a cuss-free zone.

So if you're headed to South Pasadena this week, be sure to turn down the volume on that Snoop Dogg CD, and, if the little old lady from Pasadena cuts you off in traffic, don't even think about flipping her the bird.

Not that police will slap cuffs on you and haul your sorry, er, butt off to jail in light of the proclamation passed Wednesday by the City Council. But you could be shamed into better behavior by the unsettling glares of residents who take their reputation for civility seriously.

"That's one of the purposes of this," Mayor Michael Cacciotti said of his city's proclamation designating the first week of March as No Cussing Week. "It provides us a reminder to be more civil, to elevate the level of discourse."

The proclamation will be in effect until Friday, and then the first week of every March hereafter.

South Pasadena, a tranquil city of tree-shaded cottages at the base of a mountain range eight miles north of downtown Los Angeles, isn't the first to try to rein in potty mouths. Earlier this year, the St. Louis suburb of St. Charles, Mo., proposed banning swearing in bars. Last year, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons called for an industrywide ban on racially and sexually charged epithets.

But what's different about the latest push to stop saying in public the words that Jane Fonda and Diane Keaton recently discovered we still can't say on television is that it was proposed by a 14-year-old boy.

"My mom and dad always taught me good morals, good values, and not cussing was one of them," said McKay Hatch, the founder of South Pasadena High School's No Cussing Club, during a recent break between study hall and tennis practice.

"I've cussed before, I'm not gonna lie to you," Hatch quickly added. "But I try not to cuss any more."

He was in junior high school when he became fed up with all the blue language around him.

He understood why his friends use foul language: "They just want to fit in like everybody else and they don't know how. They figure if they cuss maybe it's an easy way to do that."

But it wasn't for him.

"I finally told my friends, `I don't cuss.' And I said, `If you want to hang out with me, you don't cuss.'"

It took a couple of years, but enough friends finally came around that Hatch formed a 50-member club, handed out fliers and called the group's first meeting, held June 1.

Nine months later, the No Cussing Club has a Web site, claims a membership of 10,000 and boasts chapters in several states and countries. Hatch considers his greatest achievement, though, to be getting his hometown of 25,000 to become a cuss-free zone.

Cacciotti, the mayor, isn't surprised that South Pasadena started the movement. He noted that the city broke off from its much bigger neighbor 120 years ago when residents unhappy with the saloon trade in downtown Pasadena voted 85-25 to go their own way.

By midweek, however, it was unclear just how many people in South Pasadena knew about the no-cussing edict.

A clerk behind the counter at Buster's Ice Cream & Coffee Shop just laughed and said, "That sounds pretty funny."

David Salcedo, who manages High Life Burgers, a popular hangout near the high school, hadn't heard of it either.

But, come to think of it, he said, the language among the after-school crowd has been pretty clean lately. The biggest problem these days, Salcedo said, is kids talking too loudly.

"But they're good kids," he added. "They just eat their chili fries and go home."

For his part, Hatch hopes his No Cussing Club will lead to cuss-free zones in other cities. He believes it could be a quality-of-life issue, and that there may be less violence if people behave better.

"You have to start with the little things," he said.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

A postal mystery

STRATFORD, Conn. - Officials now know who wrote a 50-year-old postcard that has intrigued Stratford residents, but they may never solve the mystery of how it arrived at town hall earlier this year.

The cellophane-wrapped postcard, postmarked Aug. 14, 1957, showed up in January, more than 50 years after it was sent from East Sumner, Maine, to Stratford Town Manager Harry Flood, who died in 1966.

"Hi, Enjoying this rather fallish weather. It was 44 degrees yesterday. See you next week. Alice," it read.

Fairfield genealogist Melanie Marks did some sleuthing and concluded the postcard might have been sent to Flood by Alice Staples, the widow of an assistant town clerk at the time.

The two lived on the same street, had the same circle of friends and are buried a few feet apart in a Bridgeport cemetery.

But that wasn't the end of the story.

James Merrill, 85, grew up in East Sumner and was so intrigued that he sent a copy of a Connecticut Post story about Marks' conclusions to his daughter, Jan Merrill-Oldham, a preservationist librarian at Harvard University who lives in Cambridge, Mass.

She quickly recognized the handwriting on the postcard.

"It was the unmistakable handwriting of my mother Alice (Merrill), and I just stared at it and couldn't believe the story was saying it was written by someone else," she said. "I called my father and teased him and said, 'Dad, don't you even know your own wife's handwriting?'"

He took a closer look and realized his wife of 64 years, Alice Merrill, had, in fact, written the postcard.

"I felt pretty foolish when I realized it," James Merrill said.

The Merrills vacationed in East Sumner every summer, and Alice Merrill, now 93, loved sending postcards to Flood and other friends, though she doesn't remember sending that particular one.

"I still have no idea where the postcard has been all these years, or why it showed up now," Alice Merrill said.

Postal officials doubt the postcard has been sitting in a post office for 50 years, but they say they may never know who sent it to town hall.

They said Flood probably saved the postcard and it somehow ended up in the hands of a collector or someone else who dropped it in the mail.

"We had two mysteries here and we've solved one of them, the identity of Alice," Marks said. "But where the postcard has been all this time, whether it was sitting in a post office drawer or in someone's attic, is just so much fun to speculate about. I don't think we'll ever solve that part of it."

The Merrills have had fun with the mystery as well.

"I just never imagined (Alice) would make it into the newspapers and create such a stir this late in our lives," James Merrill said. "When you live as long as we have and are married 64 years, you don't expect something this mysterious to happen."

CAPE MAY, N.J. - Having learned a lesson about the birds and the beach, this Victorian seaside resort adopted a compromise plan Tuesday to protect both by keeping cats away from them.

After nearly a year of conflict that pitted cat lovers against bird lovers in one of North America's prime bird-watching spots, the City Council approved a plan to move feral cat colonies 1,000 feet away from the beach.

The move was necessary to protect endangered shore birds like the piping plover and the least tern, both of which are vulnerable to cats and other predators because they nest on the ground, in ruts on Cape May's popular beach.

Because the birds are listed as endangered species, federal environmental officials had threatened to withhold funds for replenishing Cape May's beach if the city refused to protect the birds.

"It's important to protect our beaches," said Councilwoman Linda Steenrod. "At the same time, it's important to protect life. That means all life. I think we have a good compromise."

About 40 cat lovers picketed outside City Hall before Tuesday's vote, chanting "Feral cats won't go away, revise the plan and let them stay."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had wanted feral cat colonies banned within one mile of the beach — which would have eliminated all wild cats in Cape May, where both cats and birds are popular.

The compromise calls for a 1,000-foot buffer zone between the cats and known bird nesting grounds.

The federal Endangered Species Act prohibits killing, harming or even bothering endangered birds like piping plovers and least terns. Nesting areas are closed during the breeding season.

The city will continue its trap, neuter and release program, which has reduced Cape May's wild cat population from 450 to about 100 over the past decade, but now it will release the animals outside the buffer zone.

Becky Robinson, president of Alley Cat Allies, a national cat advocacy group based in Maryland, said Cape May's cat control program is a worldwide model.

"To hold beach replenishment money over the heads of a city that has done everything right is simply misguided," she said.

Deputy Mayor Neils Favre received 600 e-mails against the cat relocation plan on a single day last month. He said the compromise leaves the door open for either the city or federal or state wildlife officials to revisit the plan if it needs to be changed.

Federal authorities have said they are not thrilled with the compromise, believing it still allows wild cats too close to nesting birds, but are willing to try it for a few months this spring and summer.

Melissa Holroyd, who has trapped 53 wild cats since November and paid to have them neutered, said the compromise is a good one.

"This is such an emotional issue here," she said. "I can feel my heart racing right now, but continuing to trap, neuter and release is a step in the right direction."

How does this not happen every day?

NATICK, Mass. - A child's birthday party at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant was cut short after a fight broke out between two mothers. Natick police said the mom of the 9-year-old birthday boy apparently became enraged because the other woman's son was "hogging" an arcade game.

Sgt. Paul Thompson said Catherine Aliaga, 38, and Tarsha Williams, 33, both of Boston, would be summoned into court to answer charges of simple assault and battery stemming from the scuffle.

Thompson told the MetroWest Daily News that police received a number of 911 calls about the fight Saturday night.

He said what started as a birthday celebration turned into a "birthday melee."

Score one for print media

CONCORD, N.H. - Vern Potter's whereabouts had been unknown since Concord police issued an arrest warrant for him in January. Then a police lieutenant happened to spot a page-one photo of Potter in Tuesday's New Hampshire Union Leader, shoveling snow off the roof of Andover Elementary School.

The photo accompanied a story with the headline, "Up on the roof; shoveling reaches new levels."

Police learned that the Potter, 31, who works for a roofing company, was at the school again Tuesday and arranged to arrest him on an insurance fraud charge.

Potter is scheduled to be arraigned in Concord District Court on Wednesday. He's accused of filing a false personal injury claim following an accident in 2006.

It was broadcast live on "Tool Time"

KEARNEY, Neb. - The couple had their first date at the home improvement store, so they thought it would be a handy place to get hitched, too. Gaylan Whitwer and Francine Brickner-Whitwer of Gibbon were married Friday, standing in a kitchen display at the Menards store in Kearney.

They remodel homes as a hobby.

"This is where we spend on all our spare time, where we spend all our spare money," Gaylan Whitwer told the Kearney Hub. "It's just the right place for us."

They got engaged on Valentine's Day after dating for three years. It's the second marriage for both.

The nuptials were a secret from family and friends. The couple invited only the minister, their two attendants, a photographer and a videographer.

And all the shoppers who wandered by.

Who ya gonna call?

NEW YORK - Something strange going on in your neighborhood? You may want to give Brooklyn Ghost Investigations a call. For $20 an hour, the group of self-proclaimed paranormal investigators offers to go to your house to help chase away whatever goes bump in the night.

"When I was 10 years old, I started to see things — spirits and ghosts," said Sal Cicconi, 27, who formed the group with two other Brooklynites.

The group, which claims to have honed its spooky craft by watching such TV shows as "Ghost Hunters" and "Paranormal State," has one client: a man who said he saw two apparitions in his apartment.

Cicconi and another member of the group, Sergio Ocasio, 20, went to the man's house and waited until 3 a.m. to catch a glimpse of the ghosts.

"I caught something on tape," Cicconi said. "It looked like two lights moving around, like the spirits were playing with each other."

He said they used a homemade Ouija board — often used in seances to supposedly talk to the dead (or undead) — to coax the bogeymen to leave. But it didn't work.

"Sometimes, spirits are afraid to talk or to show themselves to us," Cicconi explained.

Indict Bush???

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. - Voters in this southern Vermont town were deciding Tuesday whether to approve a measure calling for the indictment of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney on charges of violating the Constitution.

The symbolic article seeks to have police arrest Bush and Cheney if they ever visit Brattleboro or to extradite them for prosecution elsewhere — if they're not impeached first.

"Our town attorney has no legal authority to draw up any papers to allow our police officers to do so," said Town Clerk Annette Cappy, "but the gentleman who initiated the petition got the signatures (and) wanted it on the ballot to make a statement."

An identical article was passed at a town meeting in nearby Marlboro, but it isn't binding because it didn't appear on the warning for the meeting, according to Nora Wilson, clerk for the town of 978. The vote was 43-25, with three abstentions.

In Brattleboro, a steady stream of voters paraded into the Union High School gym to cast their ballots on a day when school board elections and Vermont's presidential primary were also on the slate.

Organizers of the indictment campaign were frustrated that the printed ballot ended up relegating the Bush-Cheney indictment article to the back side, which they said would cause some people to miss it.

The 8-by-14-inch yellow cardboard ballot listed the offices and candidates in the local election on one side, and at the bottom in block letters "Turn Ballot Over and Continue Voting."

"Turn Over Ballot and Indict Bush," read a 3-by-4-foot handmade picket sign carried by Kurt Daims, 54, who organized the petition drive and stood outside the school Tuesday.

Voters interviewed after casting ballots said they saw the article as an opportunity to express their frustration over the war in Iraq and Bush's tenure in general.

"I realize it's an extreme thing to do, and really silly in a way," said Robert George, 74, a retired photographer. "But I'm really angry about us getting involved in the war in Iraq and him (Bush) disrespecting the will of the people."

Ian Kelley, 41, a radio DJ, said he didn't vote on the article.

"It's not a good reflection on the town," he said. "Do I like either of them and would I vote for them? No. But I don't think it's cause to arrest them."

Barbara Southworth, a 66-year-old nurse, said she would have voted against it.

"I forgot to vote because it was on the flip side," she said.

The White House press office didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. But a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee denounced the article.

"It appears that the left-wing knows no bounds in their willingness to waste taxpayer dollars to make a futile counterproductive partisan political point," said Blair Latoff. "Town people would be much better served by elected officials who sought to solve problems rather than create them."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Next thing you know they'll be putting shoes on dogs

BERLIN - Police dogs in the western city of Duesseldorf will no longer get their feet dirty when on patrol — the entire dog unit will soon be equipped with blue plastic fiber shoes, a police spokesman said Monday.

"All 20 of our police dogs — German and Belgian shepherds — are currently being trained to walk in these shoes," Andre Hartwich said. "I'm not sure they like it, but they'll have to get used to it."
The unusual footwear is not a fashion statement, Hartwich said, but rather a necessity due to the high rate of paw injuries on duty. Especially in the city's historical old town — famous for both its pubs and drunken revelers — the dogs often step into broken beer bottles.
"Even the street-cleaning doesn't manage to remove all the glass pieces from between the streets' cobble stones," Hartwich said, adding that the dogs frequently get injured by little pieces sticking deep in their paws.
The dogs will start wearing the shoes this spring but only during operations that demand special foot protection. The shoes comes in sizes small, medium and large and were ordered in blue to match the officers uniforms, Hartwich said.
"Now we just have to teach the dogs how to tie their shoes," he joked.


OPATOWEK, Poland - Victoria has no secrets in this Polish town.

In an exhibition that's making some Poles do a double-take, the Museum of Industry in Opatowek has chronicled the evolution of women's underwear from the knee-length knickers and tight corsets of the early 20th century to the skimpy thongs of today.
"Undergarments were pretty much kept well out of sight in the old days," said Ewa Sieranska, curator at the Central Textile Museum in Lodz, which loaned 140 items to the exhibit called "From Pantaloons to G-Strings."
"At the beginning of the 20th century you couldn't show them at all, and later only a little bit, whereas now they're everywhere," she added.
Female underwear evolved as women's role in society changed.
The frumpy drawers of the early 20th century gave way to more modern styles in the 1920s — including garter belts to hold up the stockings of women entering the workplace.
Among notable items on display in this town 150 miles east of Warsaw is a white garter belt with pink hearts and clasps to attach to silk stockings, a style popular before pantyhose were developed in the 1960s.
There are also pantaloons (knee-long cotton underwear with lace fringe), day shirts, night gowns and two-piece corsets.
Nylon rose in popularity in the 1970s, while natural materials like cotton hold sway today.
In the 1980s, when Poland's then-communist regime was staggering from one political and economic crisis to the next, so-called "tygodniowki," which came in packages of seven — a pair for each day of the week — were the standard cotton undies for women.
The exhibition, which opened in January and runs until the end of March, is sprinkled with a few items of male clothing — boxer shorts, robes and a jock strap from the 1930s.
But male underwear has changed little over the years, and the vast majority of the collection is made up of what once was known as women's unmentionables.
"When people came to see the exhibition after it first opened, it caused a range of different reactions," said museum curator Ewa Klysz. "But these items are subject to historical research, and this is a serious exhibit."
Serious it may be, but it is also proved entertaining.
"It's great," said Klaudia Kepa, 15, who visited the museum with her high school classmates.
"You're not just learning about art or something that you can read about in a history text book, but something that's important, well, every day."
The underwear did generate a fair amount of giggling among the three other groups of students that visited the museum on Valentine's Day.
Older visitors, however, tend to take a different spin on things.
"They want to see some things they aren't familiar with, or remember items that they once wore," Klysz said. "Sometimes they say, 'Oh, I used to wear that, or, ugh, those were horribly uncomfortable.'"
A frequent source of such memories: a magenta nylon nightgown with pink frills around the chest.
"Those were terrible," Klysz said with a laugh. "Women hated wearing those things."
And where does underwear style go next? Klysz looked around the room and shrugged.
"Oh, I don't know what'll come next," she said with a laugh. "Maybe a return to what we wore before underwear — nothing."

Talk about your bathroom emergencies

AUBURN, Wash. - An employee of an Auburn nursing home called firefighters for help on Tuesday because the toilets were exploding with steam. The fire department said there was a boiler malfunction at Regency Auburn Rehabilitation Center that caused a minor explosion.
The blast set off the sprinkler system and flooded the floors of the three-story building.
The Valley Regional Fire Authority said no one was hurt, but water damaged electrical systems and the kitchen. So, 72 occupants had to be temporarily moved to five other rehabilitation facilities using ambulances, buses and vans.

A gator for your trouble

DAYTON, Ohio - Dayton police and U.S. marshals called for backup from animal control when they found two alligators instead of the suspected probation violator they were after.
Deputy U.S. Marshal Joshua Hillard said the authorities went to a home Monday morning with an arrest warrant for a man accused of violating his probation in a drug trafficking case. Hillard said people in the house said the suspect wasn't home but invited the officers in.
That's when they found the gators, one about 2 feet long and another about 5 feet. Animal control was summoned, and an exotic animal expert arrived to snatch up the reptiles.
Hillard said the man was braver than he is.
He said authorities also confiscated cocaine tablets, marijuana and a pair of guns. No arrests were made.

Paging Stalin... Joseph Stalin

HOPKINSVILLE, Ky. - A class of third-grade students got a lesson in civil liberties when an envelope containing $5 disappeared from their teacher's desk.
The students at Martin Luther King Elementary in Hopkinsville were asked to remove their shoes and socks during a search. Some were patted down and had their pockets checked.
Some parents were angered by the Feb. 15 searches, which did not turn up the missing money at the western Kentucky school.
"The way they treat our students is ridiculous," said Zlatko Skuljan, the father of a 9-year-old girl in the class.
The school's principal gave written reprimands to four instructors who had physical contact with the students. The principal, Sarah Newman, declined to comment and phone numbers for the four teachers could not be located Wednesday.
Christian County Schools spokeswoman Regan Huneycutt said the search violated the school district's policy. School employees can touch students only when the student poses a threat to another student or to themselves.
School officials said the search was prompted by the disappearance of an envelope containing $5 for a school function that was on the teacher's desk.
The students' regular teacher was absent that day.

Too punk rock for kindergarten

PARMA, Ohio - A kindergarten student with a freshly spiked Mohawk has been suspended from school.
Michelle Barile, the mother of 6-year-old Bryan Ruda, said nothing in the Parma Community School handbook prohibits the haircut, characterized by closely shaved sides with a strip of prominent hair on top. The school said the hair was a distraction for other students.
"I understand they have a dress code. I understand he has a uniform. But this is total discrimination," she said. "They can't tell me how I can cut his hair."
An administrator at the suburban Cleveland charter school first warned Barile last fall that the haircut wasn't acceptable. The school later sent another warning to her reiterating the ban.
Mohawks violate the school's policy on being properly groomed, school Principal Linda Geyer said. Also, the school district's dress code allows school officials to forbid anything that interferes with the conduct of education.
Ruda's hair became a disruption last week when Ruda arrived freshly shorn, Geyer said. Administrators called Barile on Friday telling her to pick Ruda up from school.
"This was his third infraction," Geyer said Tuesday. "We felt that we were being extremely patient."
Rather than request a hearing to appeal the suspension, Barile said she'll enroll him at another school. Changing the hairstyle is not an option, she said.
"It's something that he really likes," Barile said. "When people hear Mohawk, they think it's long, it's spiked, it's crazy looking, and it's really not."

Peanut butter companies are locking their doors

JERUSALEM - Israeli police are on the lookout for a thief with a super-sized chocolate craving.
The robbers broke into a factory in the northern Israeli city of Haifa late Monday and walked away with nearly 100 tons of chocolate spread.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said such a large heist indicated it may have been an inside job and police were searching the area of any traces of the sweet stuff.
Moshe Veidberg, one of the company's owners, told the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot it would require five large trucks to transport the stolen chocolate, which he valued at roughly $415,000.
He said the company's alarm system was deactivated and its surveillance footage stolen as well, leaving the fate of the creamy chocolate a mystery.

I wish she was my mayor

ARLINGTON, Ore. - The mayor of an Oregon town who once stripped to her underwear and posed on a fire truck has been stripped of her office.
Voters in this town of about 500 voted narrowly Monday to recall Carmen Kontur-Gronquist. The tally was 142-139. City officials said the recall is effective Tuesday.
Kontur-Gronquist said the pictures of her in black bra and panties were taken for use in a contest about fitness, but a relative posted them on MySpace in hopes it would improve the social life of the single mother.
They predated her election, but she said she saw no reason to take them off the popular Web site once elected three years ago. Later, she closed access to them.
Opponents said it wasn't fitting for the mayor to be so depicted. They said they also disagreed with her on issues about water and the local golf course.

Sanke eats dog

BRISBANE, Australia - A 16-foot python stalked a family dog for days before swallowing the pet whole in front of horrified children in the Australian tropics, animal experts said Wednesday.

The boy and girl, ages 5 and 7, watched as the scrub python devoured their silky terrier-Chihuahua crossbreed Monday at their home near Kuranda in Queensland state.
Stuart Douglas, owner of the Australian Venom Zoo in Kuranda, said scrub pythons typically eat wild animals such as wallabies, a smaller relative of the kangaroo, but sometimes turn to pets in urban areas.
"It actively stalked the dog for a number of days," Douglas said.
"The family that owned the dog had actually seen it in the dog's bed, which was a sign it was out to get it," he added.
"They should have called me then, but (the snake) got away and three or four days later, I was called and went around and removed it" after the dog had been killed, Douglas said.
By the time Douglas arrived, all that could be seen of the dog was its hind legs and tail.
The zoo manager, Todd Rose, said pythons squeeze their prey to death before swallowing it whole. The 5-year-old dog would have been suffocated within minutes.
"The lady who was there threw some plastic chairs at the snake, but you've got to remember that this is about 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of aggressive muscle," Rose said.
Removing the half-swallowed dog could have harmed or even killed the python, Rose said, because dogs have sharp teeth and claws that could do the snake internal damage if it were wrenched out.
The snake was still digesting the dog at the zoo Wednesday. It will soon be relocated to the bush, Douglas said.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ummm, sexy?

STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Sweden, a champion of gender equality, plans to introduce unisex underwear for hospital patients in a move designed to save both money and space, the project leader said Thursday.

The Swedish Standards Institute has developed a new style of boxer-style underwear that is considered equally suitable for male and female patients.

Swedish hospitals currently have four different models of underwear: two for men and two for women.

Switching to one model will save money because hospitals can buy greater quantities at a better price, project leader Tuula Cammersand said. It is also an issue of space.

"A lot of people have complained that the different types take up a lot of space because you need all the different models and in different sizes," Cammersand said.

The new boxers are expected to receive final approval in April and be introduced before the summer, she said.

Max the driving dog

AZUSA, Calif. - Doggone it, my truck's gone!

Police said Charles McCowan parked his pickup in front of a mini-mart Wednesday, leaving his 80-pound Boxer named Max in the passenger seat. When he came out, the truck and Max were gone.

McCowan called police, assuming the truck had been stolen. When officers arrived, they found the pickup across the street in a fast-food parking lot but had no idea how it got there.

In security video shown Thursday on KCAL-TV, the truck can be seen rolling backward out of the store lot and across the street, threading its way through traffic and out of view.

Police said that after McCowan left the truck, Max knocked the vehicle out of gear and sent it rolling backward.

Both Max and the truck emerged without a scratch.

Wheeeee! I'm a fireman!!!

MERRIMACK, N.H. - A woman faces several charges after police said she climbed into a ladder fire truck at a Merrimack fire station and refused to get out.

Police said Marque Buckley, 20, got into the fire truck after her car broke down outside the Reeds Ferry Fire Station Wednesday afternoon.

Police eventually got her out, then charged her with trespassing, resisting arrest, assaulting an officer, disorderly conduct and shoplifting from an incident at a convenience store earlier in the day.

Honestly, I've had better days

MOSCOW, Pa. - Police say a Lackawanna County man suspected of drunken driving was released in custody of his sister, who took his keys. But four hours later police got another call. This time it was to a Covington Township intersection where authorities say the man crashed his car into a state Department of Transportation end loader.

State police say Daniel Corbett, 56, of Spring Brook Township, was taken to Community Medical Center both times — about 2 a.m. Wednesday and again about 6 a.m.

Corbett had his blood alcohol tested, but a state police news release does not say what, if any, charges he is likely to face.

State police say following the second accident, Corbett was taken to Community Medical Center with moderate injuries.

A hospital spokeswoman told The Times-Tribune in Scranton she had no further information about him.

They look hilarious in space suits

STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Seventy-two small fish were briefly launched into space by researchers Thursday, hoping their swimming patterns would shed some light on motion sickness.

German researchers sent the cichlids on a 10-minute rocket ride that blasted off from a launch pad in northern Sweden, said Professor Reinhard Hilbig, who was in charge of the project.

"They were very happy, I think they want to have another flight," he said.

The thumbnail-sized fish were filmed as they swam around weightlessly in small aquariums during the unmanned space flight.

The German team will now study the video to see if some of the fish swam in circles because that is what fish do when they experience motion sickness, said Hilbig, of the Zoological Institute at the University of Stuttgart.

He said scientists hope the experiment can help explain why some people experience motion sickness while others do not. The mechanisms involved are similar for both fish and humans.

Hilbig said the fish landed safely and appeared to be in good condition.

Cichlids were picked for the experiment because they are sturdy fish who were deemed to have good chances to survive the stress of a space flight.

"Goldfish are a little bit fat and messy, while the cichlid fish is a well-trained, sporty fish with muscles," he said.

You like my jacket?

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. - He must have really liked the jacket. An 18-year-old man has been charged with stealing clothing from a department store after police said he showed up for questioning wearing a jacket taken months earlier

Felipe M. Medina, of Sheboygan, was charged Thursday with a misdemeanor count of retail theft.

The criminal complaint said Medina took a pair of blue jeans, a black T-shirt and a black jacket from a Kohl's store on Nov. 27 in Sheboygan. Police Capt. James Veeser identified Medina as the suspect after viewing the store surveillance tape.

A detective asked Medina to come to the police station Wednesday. He admitted in a police interview that he took the clothes and was currently wearing the stolen jacket, the complaint said.

He faces up to nine months in jail if convicted.

Runaway bride? Pay up

MEXICO CITY - Runaway brides — and grooms — in Mexico City could get stuck paying for the limo and flowers under a bill proposed by a local lawmaker Friday.

If approved by the city assembly, the law would offer engaged couples a legal contract outlining how much a man or woman can recoup if he or she gets jilted at the altar.

The contract would stipulate reimbursements at any point the engagement is called off.

"What we want is to protect the person who is being hurt, not only emotionally but also economically," Jose Zepeda, a divorce lawyer-turned-politician, told The Associated Press. "Whoever rents a wedding hall, pays for the church, for the cake, has the right to be reimbursed."

Such contracts could "eliminate the culture of fighting," said Zepeda, who proposed the bill.

Laura Gomez, a 33-year-old, bride-to-be perusing a bridal shop in downtown Mexico City, said the contracts were "a perfect idea."

They would "give more security and trust to both people involved," Gomez said.

But Pamela Montiel, a 19-year-old getting married in April, said she would never sign such an agreement. "Things like that are for immature people," she said.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Now that's a HIGH school project

ANN ARBOR TOWNSHIP, Mich. - Students in a University of Michigan biology project had been assigned to grow herbs, vegetables, annuals and perennials. Police are trying to find out whether someone's green thumb also was being used to grow pot.

The Ann Arbor News reports 11 small green plants believed to be marijuana were seized from a greenhouse in the school's Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor Township, near its main Ann Arbor campus.

Police say a school employee found the plants Monday on a table while monitoring the research project.

The plants were mixed in with the project, which involves about 80 students. Samples were sent to the Michigan State Police for testing.

At least he didn't shoot it

ROGERS, Ark. - Police are conducting an internal investigation into an allegation that a lieutenant used his stun gun to shock a cow and shared a videotape of the incident with other department employees.

Police Chief Steve Helms said Tuesday the inquiry began after he received a complaint from the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. A letter dated Feb. 11 from PETA representative Stephanie Bell complained that Lt. David Mitchell filmed himself using the electronic stun device on the cow.

Electronic stun guns are used as less-lethal weapons to subdue people who pose a threat to officers.

Bell said in the letter that Mitchell distributed the video as a joke among friends and co-workers and she notes that animal cruelty is a misdemeanor crime in Arkansas.

Helms didn't immediately return a call for comment on Wednesday. City Attorney Ben Lipscomb said Tuesday that the alleged incident happened 2 1/2 years ago, which would be beyond the statute of limitations for misdemeanors. Lipscomb said there would be no point in pursuing a criminal investigation.

Helms said a captain in the department will conduct the investigation and Mitchell will remain on regular duty.

And the winner in the corruption category is...

LAWRENCE, Mass. - Congratulations! You're corrupt. That was the message on three wooden, gold embossed plaques sent from Puerto Rico to the Lawrence Police Department. The plaques delivered Sunday appeared to be awards, but accused officers, including Chief John Romero, of corruption.

Romero estimated the plaques cost about $200 each to make and $75 to deliver.

Police have dusted the plaques for fingerprints. They say they have a suspect in mind, but did not identify the person.

Police have notified the postal inspector in Boston and the sender could face federal charges for using the Postal Service to "threaten, harass or intimidate."

Fix that leaky faucet

LEXINGTON, Ky. - A Danville family has received an $8,000 water bill for house they say they haven't lived in for more than two years. The granddaughters of Lurlene Gray say they are stuck with the high bill that covers part of January and February.

Sherlene Tucker told WKYT in Lexington that she paid the last bill she received, about $35 to cover the period from October 9 through December 11. Tucker said her mother owns the house, but she went to a nursing home two years ago.

The ground around the home isn't saturated and there are no apparent signs of a leak.

Tucker says she was told by a water company employee that the $8,000 bill was not a clerical error. The water was turned off yesterday, but the family is asking the city for an explanation.

That won't play well on

LONDON - First she waited 45 minutes to place her order. Then she waited more than an hour for the food. Then she saw the bill. Clare Watkin was out with a group of friends Friday at an Italian steak restaurant in the English town of Lichfield, about 125 miles north of London when she found "absolutely disgusting language" printed on her bill, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported.

The BBC Web site carried what it said was a copy of the bill, with the message — a crude invitation to oral sex — printed between the cabernet sauvignon and the fish cakes.

"I think that the way that we've been spoken to is absolutely outrageous," the BBC quoted her as saying.

A spokesman for the restaurant did not immediately return a call seeking comment, but other British media reported it had apologized for the message, which it said was the result of a private joke between members of staff.

Meow, man, meow!

PHOENIX - A cat who took a three-week cross-country ride to Arizona in a storage container is headed home to Florida.

Arizona Humane Society officials say the 2-year-old gray cat crawled into the locker in Pompano Beach, Fla., while a man loaded it for a move to Phoenix.

The container spent time in a Florida warehouse and on a semitrailer before being delivered to a Phoenix facility.

A worker heard a cat meowing inside the container Tuesday. The cat, named Meatloaf, was hungry and thirsty but unharmed. The man who was moving remembered a similar cat near his old apartment.

Meatloaf's owners had put up posters around their neighborhood. The apartment manager remembered them when Humane Society called.

Officials will give Meatloaf time to recover before flying him home.

What? He should have taken the bus???

ANDERSON, S.C. - Authorities say a man drove a stolen car to the Anderson County Sheriff's Office to demand the return of nearly $2,000 officers seized from him during a drug arrest last June.

Deputies said after they told Charles Chambers, 36, to leave Tuesday afternoon, an officer noticed he got into a car that matched the description of a vehicle stolen about three hours earlier.

Another officer pulled the man over and told him to stop the car. The officer said Chambers stuck a screwdriver in the ignition to shut it off because the vehicle's key switch had been removed.

Authorities say Chambers was charged with possession of a stolen automobile, driving under suspension and a tag violation.

Monday, February 18, 2008

He survived on rats, we guess

NEW YORK - A skittish kitten that scampered out of its carrier on a subway platform has been found after 25 days in the underground tunnels.
Transit workers tracked down 6-month old Georgia under midtown Manhattan Saturday. Police reunited her with owner Ashley Phillips, a 24-year-old Bronx librarian.
After hearing that the black cat might have been spotted below Lexington Avenue and East 55th Street, track workers Mark Dalessio and Efrain LaPorte went through the area making "meow" sounds.
Georgia responded, and they found her cowering in a drain between two tracks.
Georgia had lost some weight and scratched her nose but was otherwise unhurt. She had disappeared while Phillips was bringing her home from a veterinarian visit last month.

Rock n' roll at the library

ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. - Libraries in southeastern Michigan are turning the page on peace and quiet.
Video game events at public libraries are drawing crowds of teens, including about 100 competing monthly at "Guitar Hero" at the Rochester Hills Public Library.
"Getting teens to come to the library is right up there with getting them to go to church: It's not exactly the first place they want to go," Christine Lind Hage, library director, told the Detroit Free Press for a story Sunday.
Hage stocked the shelves with 1,823 games. And the games are hot items, with an average of 1,300 checked out daily.
A competition in Rochester Hills was held Feb. 9, and similar events are being held at other Detroit-area libraries.
Nearly 30 teens play "Guitar Hero" or "Dance Dance Revolution" every few weeks at the Clinton-Macomb Public Library, which offers 300 video games in its collection.
"It's a big social event," said Stephanie Jaczkowski, 17. "I've met a lot of friends there, and they're really good friends."
The Canton Public Library six months ago began offering games and holding monthly tournaments for Nintendo Wii bowling and "Super Smash Bros."
"Many of the games are complex. They're worthy in their own right. They can help build cognitive skills," said Brad Bachelor, teen librarian.

Sounds like the next diet fad

NEW YORK - Spending time behind bars in New York City might turn out to be good for your health.
The overhauled menu at the city's jails includes no sweets, no butter and only skim milk. The Department of Corrections wants healthy alternatives to traditional jailhouse grub.
A breakfast might include fresh fruit, whole wheat bread and wheat flakes. A sample dinner: pepper steak, rice and steamed carrots.
"These people are in our custody, and they don't get to make their own choices," said Department of Correction Commissioner Martin Horn. "We have a moral obligation to make sound choices for them."
That means unsweetened muffins, which are expected to replace the wickedly sweet ones for the roughly 14,000 inmates in the jail system.
"We have no choice but to eat what they give us. It's bland — so I guess that's healthy," said Christopher Alberici, a 40-year-old inmate.
The healthier menu costs the city as much as the previous one, which had included white bread and sweetened drinks, Horn said, adding that it may cost the city less in the long run.
"The cost of an inmate having a stroke or going into diabetic shock is far greater than keeping people healthy to the extent we can," Horn said.

Friday, February 15, 2008

I'd finish this headline, but I'm done for the workwee-

CORSICANA, Texas - A driver who apparently took her work rules very seriously abandoned a bus full of former prisoners along a highway because her hours for the day were over, police said.

The 40 passengers had been paroled or released from the state prison in Huntsville. Some wore ankle bracelet monitors.

They were aboard a charter bus that was headed Thursday to a terminal in Dallas but wound up 60 miles short.

"In 31 years in law enforcement I've never seen anything like this," Corsicana Police Sgt. Lamoin Lawhon said.

Police said the bus was chartered from Greyhound Bus Lines Inc. The driver pulled over in front of a convenience store around 4 p.m. and told the passengers her allotted driving time was up and another driver was on the way.

A clerk in the convenience store called police. Officers arrived to find the former prisoners milling around the bus. Dispatchers exchanged several phone calls with Greyhound and prison officials while Lawhon and two other officers stayed with the bus and the passengers.

Just before 7 p.m., a second bus arrived with three drivers — including the one who had abandoned her passengers in the first place, Lawhon said.

Greyhound spokesman Dustin Clark said company officials were investigating the incident. "It is a very serious matter," he said.

Clark said drivers have to follow strict guidelines on consecutive working hours and rest periods.

Police said there were no incidents involving the passengers while they were stranded.

"Their behavior was exemplary," Officer Travis Wallace said.

Rick James could not be reached for comment

HARRISBURG, Pa. - A Harrisburg teenager might have been well on his way to earning his driver's license if he hadn't hit the brick house. Quenton Gann practiced parallel parking, changing lanes and making turns for months. He says he may need more practice on ice.

Gann and his cousin were on the way to his road test Thursday in a borrowed car. The 16-year-old turned left, hit some ice, and the car landed on its side, wedged between a utility pole and a row house porch.

Christina Sears says her house shook, and "It scared my cat so bad, the hair on his back stood up."

Gann and his cousin climbed up out of the passenger's-side window, uninjured. But the car needed a tow truck. Gann says, "I'm going to leave driving alone for a little bit."

You do not want to know what went on on the honeymoon

GROVE CITY, Ohio - If one bride felt lighter than air in her wedding gown, her groom certainly felt like air itself as 19 couples renewed their vows near Columbus.

Sheila Smith's husband, Bob, had to go away on business and couldn't make the Valentine's Day recommitment service at Grove City United Methodist Church. So friends brought a life-size inflatable doll to serve as a stand-in.

They dressed Blow-up Bob in dress pants, a shirt and tie, and taped on a head-shot photo of the real Bob Smith.

His wife was blown away, because she thought she'd only be serving as matron of honor for four of her friends. After Sheila Smith phoned her husband to tell him about his air-filled alter ego, she wiped away tears as she told how he laughed so hard he couldn't speak.

How to keep the drunks away

KODIAK, Alaska - A man faces assault charges after allegedly spraying bar patrons twice with bear spray. Kodiak police charged Daniel Pement after the incidents Saturday and Sunday at the B&B Bar.

Police said Pement was escorted from the bar on Saturday, but returned 15 minutes later and allegedly sprayed customers. Police talked to him later and took the bear spray, but were called away on a more urgent matter.

On Sunday, police were called to the bar again after Pement allegedly sprayed patrons with another can of bear spray.

Police found Pement walking down the street and charged him with six counts of misdemeanor assault.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

And this is why you always should have a Soduku book in your back pocket

MADISON, Wis. - A sheriff's deputy wound up stuck for 14 hours in an underground tunnel used to move jail inmates to a courthouse because no one was there to unlock the door.
When Dane County Sheriff's Deputy Dave Hafeman entered the 8-by-8-foot passageway leading to the tunnel Friday afternoon, the guard who controls the heavy metal doors on each side had gone home for the weekend.
"This is an area that, again, is secure, and the doors lock behind you as soon as you enter," sheriff's spokeswoman Elise Schaffer said Monday. "And once you're in, you're really at the mercy of the controller to let you in or out."
Hafeman, a 14-year member of the sheriff's department, was not discovered until his wife called police because he never returned from work. Detectives found Hafeman's car parked in the county ramp and traced him to the tunnel.
Schaffer wasn't sure why Hafeman, who was unhurt, had entered the tunnel in the first place.

Why dogs are better than humans, part 382

WINONA, Minn. - Bella, a 3-year-old golden retriever/collie mix who was once rescued as an abused puppy, returned the favor to her owners by alerting them to a house fire. With help from Maddie, a 6-month-old golden retriever, Bella helped get Sue Feuling and her 9-year-old daughter, Mckenzie, out of the house last week. The dogs didn't make it.
Those dogs were without a doubt the heroes," said Winona Assistant Fire Chief Jim Multhaup.
Bella had jumped on Feuling's bed early Friday morning and started barking, and Feuling then smelled smoke, grabbed her daughter and rushed out of the house.
But Feuling couldn't coax the dogs out of the house, even when she tried to run back in to yell for them.
"Bella must have thought Mckenzie was still in the house," Feuling said.
A firefighter who arrived at the scene tried to save the dogs, but it was too late. The Feulings were taken to an area hospital for smoke inhalation monitoring, but were OK, Multhaup said.
The fire, which was caused by an overloaded electrical outlet, gutted the home, Multhaup said.
While an assistance fund was set up, Sue Feuling said she was only thinking about her dogs. "Everything I lost is nothing compared to them," she said.

Where was this guy when I lived in New York?

NEW YORK - Finding your better half this Valentine's Day could be as easy as hailing a taxi — especially if Ahmed Ibrahim is in the driver's seat.
The 53-year-old cupid cab driver, as he refers to himself, has spent the past few years playing matchmaker to lonely New Yorkers, setting up more than 70 dates. Nineteen have led to relationships that lasted more than a year.
Ibrahim planned to decorate his yellow cab with red and white hearts and roses for Thursday.
"I've organized so many dates, and it really makes me feel good about it," Ibrahim said. "I've not had one complaint."
Ibrahim said he offers his matchmaking services to passengers he evaluates by listening to conversations and asking a few questions. He then exchanges phone numbers and e-mail addresses.
"I want to know if they're the real deal or just a player," he said. "If you're a player, then forget about it."
One of his clients, Martin Karamon, said he successfully found romance through the cupid cab's services. The relationship ended after about six months, though the two remain friends.
"I might have to get in his cab again because I just broke up with my girlfriend," said Karamon, 37.

This would be a boon to the New Jersey business owner

JERUSALEM - Some companies request tax deductions for philanthropy, others for restaurants bills. But one Israeli business tried to push the envelope by asking to deduct nearly $860,000 it paid in kickbacks.
A Tel Aviv district court rejected the petition on Feb. 8.
The business, whose name was withheld by the court, asked to deduct the sum for kickbacks that were paid to help spur a business deal. The Israeli daily Maariv reported that the deal took place in an unidentified African nation. The company alleged the kickback was necessary as a part of the local business custom and therefore should be exempted from the Israeli law.
The transaction was carried out in 1999, four years before Israel adopted a U.N. anti-corruption convention.
Judge Magen Altuvia ruled that an Israeli business must adhere to the values of its home nation even while conducting business abroad. The "state's values don't stop at its borders and the petitioner's request damages the bedrock of Israeli law and its legal system," the judge wrote.
The business, however, countered that the business conducted in this particular country did not pose a threat to Israeli business ethics at home or in other nations abroad.

Works with dogs too!

LONDON - England's commissioner for children and a civil liberties group joined in on a campaign Tuesday to ban high-frequency devices intended to drive misbehaving children away from shops and other areas.
The so-called "Mosquito" device emits high-frequency noise which is audible — and annoying — to young ears, but generally not heard by people over 20.
"This device is a quick fix that does not tackle the root cause of the problem and it is indiscriminate," English Children's Commissioner Al Aynsley-Green said.
The campaigners claim that about 3,500 of the devices, made by a Welsh company, are in use.
Aynsley-Green said in an interview with British Broadcasting Corp. radio that the devices do not tackle the real problem, which is that children have no place to gather other than on the streets.
"I think it is a powerful symptom of what I call the malaise at the heart of our society," he said.
"I'm very concerned about what I see to be an emerging gap between the young and the old, the fears, the intolerance, even the hatred, of the older generation toward the young."
Shami Chakrabarti, director of the civil rights group Liberty, supported the campaign.
"Imagine the outcry if a device was introduced that caused blanket discomfort to people of one race or gender, rather than to our kids," Chakrabarti said. "The 'Mosquito' has no place in a country that values its children and seeks to instill them with dignity and respect."
The Mosquito's inventor, Howard Stapleton, has called for agreement about guidelines for using the devices.
"We tell shopkeepers to use it when they have a problem and I would be more than happy to introduce a contract which stipulates to shopkeepers how it can be used," Stapleton was quoted as telling the Western Mail newspaper.
"People talk about infringing human rights but what about the human rights of the shopkeeper who is seeing his business collapse because groups of unruly teenagers are driving away his customers?"

Friday, February 8, 2008

Sounds like a 'Lost' episode

CALGARY, Alberta - A Canadian woman narrowly avoided getting hit by several chunks of ice that crashed through her bedroom ceiling Thursday, likely dropped from a passing airplane, officials said.
The Calgary, Alberta fire department said the woman was in her room and only a few steps away when debris "exploded" through her roof shortly before 9:30 a.m..
Fire crews found several chunks of ice about 6 inches long on the bed, along with pieces of shingles, plywood, drywall and insulation.
Fire department spokesman Jeff Budai said his best guess is that the "frozen liquid" fell from a passing airplane.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is looking into the incident and confirms that a couple of airplanes were in the area at the time.

Save the Cliff

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - A man charged with shooting out a red light camera passed out teddy bears to reporters before a hearing. Clifford Clark's stuffed animals bore the message "Save the Cliff."
During the Thursday hearing, Clark, 47, said he would represent himself. He is charged with felony vandalism and reckless endangerment.
Police said he shot out the camera with a rifle.
Clark was arrested near the scene with a deer rifle in his van.
Clark said he's innocent and set up a Web site that claims he was framed.

Now that's one emu

APPLING, Ga. - Authorities in east Georgia are seeking the owner of a wandering emu that made drivers gawk and clogged traffic on Interstate 20 before it was finally caught.
The three-toed emu — a flightless bird — was spotted by numerous motorists on Wednesday after it appeared in the highway median between the Thomson and Camak exits, said Law Enforcement Capt. Larry Barnard of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
"The biggest concern was the threat to motorists," he said. "Since an emu is technically livestock it doesn't normally fall under our jurisdiction."
Columbia County animal control officers helped capture the bird, said Pam Tucker, director of the county's Emergency Services Department.
"They surrounded it in the median — with a lot of caution because emus will hurt you," she said. "One of the animal control officers grabbed its legs and another grabbed the upper body and another put a covering over its head and they loaded into the truck. It kicked so hard in the truck that the latch on the truck broke."
Tucker said Thursday that a man from Wilkes County said he was coming to see if the emu was his, but he had not arrived.
"We're hopeful," she said. "Emus are a difficult animal. After four more days, we will put him up for adoption."
Emus are native to Australia and are the planet's second-largest bird, behind the ostrich. They are sometimes raised as livestock.

He's training for the NYC marathon

BANGKOK, Thailand - A leatherback turtle has been tracked swimming from the coast of the Papua province in Indonesia to Oregon, researchers said, in what may be the longest trip for marine vertebrae between breeding and feeding sites.

"This is an animal perfectly suited for doing this kind of journey," said Scott Benson, research fishery biologist for the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, who helped track the turtle and presented details of the journey at a sea turtle symposium last month.
The longest distance of nine turtles tagged in 2003, Benson said, was the leatherback that reached Oregon and then headed to Hawaii before the battery on the satellite transmitter gave out. The 12,774-mile journey took 647 days, he said.

He's dead? No wonder why he hasn't gotten off the couch... for eight years

LONDON - Workers responding to neighbors' complaints of a bad smell coming from an apartment in western England discovered a body that lay decomposing on a couch for years while another resident lived there, officials said Friday.
The British Broadcasting Corp. reported that neighbors of the Bristol, England apartment had been complaining for years about the stench and cleaning workers found the body. Neighbor Michael Stone told the BBC he assumed the tenant suffered from poor hygiene and even offered him air fresheners.
A spokesman for Bristol City Council said the body was thought to have been in the apartment for at least eight years.
The identity of the man, who was thought to be in his 70s when he died, has not been released.
Police arrested the apartment's tenant after the body was found Jan. 30, but concluded the death was not suspicious. The occupant, also in his 70s, apparently failed to report the death because he suffers from mental health problems.
Bristol Coroner's Court launched an urgent inquiry on Friday to determine how the corpse had gone unnoticed for so long.
A local lawmaker expressed disbelief at the find.
"How can any of us possibly understand how there could be a dead body in somebody's flat for five years, or maybe even as long as eight years, and nobody know and nobody notices, and life appears to go on as usual," Labour parliamentarian Dawn Primarolo told BBC television.

Naughty, naughty

ELKHART, Ind. - Investigators have decided not to pursue criminal charges against Elkhart police employees involved in the photographing of a woman who climbed on a police station information desk and posed provocatively.
Police said they released security camera video of the November incident since it was no longer needed as evidence.
The woman arrived around 3 a.m. at the Elkhart Police Department in northern Indiana on Nov. 22 after state police arrested the man she was riding with on suspicion of drunken driving. Part of the video released Thursday shows her placing one leg on the desk and then kneeling on it, as a civilian police employee walks around behind her to snap a picture with what appears to be a cell phone camera.
The employee was fired.
No charges were filed, but a corporal resigned, and the department suspended six officers without pay.
Midnight shift supervisors also had to go through ethics training, said Assistant Police Chief Timothy Balyeat.
"It's humiliating, it's embarrassing," he said. "The police station is a secure facility where there's cameras all over the place, and they let their guard down, and they got caught up in the moment and forgot they were working."
Balyeat said the woman was just as much at fault as the officers, but people hold law enforcement personnel to a higher standard.
"When they make mistakes, it has a tendency to impact a little bit more on the community because people are disappointed because they expect more out of their police officers," he said

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Send in the clowns

LONDON - The men and women in white face-paint and polka-dot bow-ties sang hymns and said prayers as one of their number rode a unicycle down the aisle of an austere east London church.

The group was gathered for a memorial service Sunday, but since it was for one of Britain's best-known clowns, the attendees kept things bright, cheery and more than a little unorthodox.

Brilliantly colored wigs, parasols and minuscule hats filled the nave of Holy Trinity Church at the annual service in honor of Joseph Grimaldi, known to many as the father of modern clowning. Roly Bain, the clowns' chaplain, blew bubbles from the pulpit at the service, which also honored clowns who have died in the past year.

The Rev. Rose Hudson-Wilkin, a vicar at the church who helped organize the event, said the clowns had a religious role to play.

"In the Bible, in the New Testament, it talks about us being fools for Christ and in a sense they clown around, they fool around, and they try to help people see the lighter side of life," Hudson-Wilkin said.

"I think from that perspective, that they have a ministry to perform."

Grimaldi was born in the late 18th century, and began performing publicly at age 3. A skilled mime, acrobat, magician and a consummate physical performer, he popularized many of clowning's trademark tricks, including thieving long strings of sausages. Grimaldi, who died in 1837, is credited with inventing the white face-paint and two red triangles that still grace many clowns' cheeks.

The first memorial service was held in 1946 and moved to Holy Trinity in 1959.

"If you're a clown, you know about it," said Albert "Clem" Alter, who traveled to the memorial from Portland, Ore.

Rats are people too!

BEIJING - An animal rights group called Monday for China to treat rats with kindness and respect, as millions across the nation begin to celebrate the coming Year of the Rat.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, said it has asked the Chinese government to consider animal welfare laws for rats used in laboratory experiments. The group also recommended a series of guidelines for animals used in science.

"Rats sing, they dream, and they express empathy for others," Coco Yu of PETA's Asia-Pacific branch said in a statement.

China has increasingly become a place of business for international pharmaceutical companies, the group said.

The country has a shoddy animal rights record. There is little animal welfare legislation, many zoos are poorly run and animal parts are traded for use in traditional Chinese medicine. Activists have called on China to phase out bear farms, where bile is harvested for traditional medicine, complaining that the animals are often raised in inhumane conditions.

The rat is one of 12 animals in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac, which follows the lunar calendar. The Lunar New Year is Thursday.


RIVERSIDE, Calif. - Rooster owners in this Southern California city may be about to get their feathers ruffled.

Measure A on Tuesday's ballot seeks to muffle incessant cock-a-doodle-dooing and crack down on illegal cockfighting by limiting the number of roosters residents can own in rural areas within the city limits.

"It just goes from about 3 o'clock in the morning to 8 or 9 o'clock at night," said Lee Scheffers, who said his neighbors had up to 200 roosters at one time. "There's just a lot of crowing going on. Every one is more macho than the other one."

After he complained to the City Council, code enforcement officers took action — but not until Scheffers had lost a lot of sleep.

The current law allows 50 birds, but the measure would only allow seven and require the birds be confined to an "acoustical structure" at least 100 feet from neighbors from sunrise to sunset.

If the measure passes, those with too many roosters would have to trim their flocks.

Riverside County has strict laws limiting rooster ownership, which had driven illegal cockfighting operations inside the city limits, particularly in rural areas of citrus groves, nurseries and ranches where local law mandates no more than one house per five-acre lot.

"It's a real quality of life issue, but it's also an animal cruelty issue," said Councilman Chris Mac Arthur, adding that the measure is also aimed at stopping cockfighting.

Mac Arthur, a Riverside native, said he favors the measure although it won't directly affect him. The measure needs a simple majority to pass.

"I've lived in this area most of my life, but I do not have any crowing fowl — or any fowl to speak of," he said.

We kind of depend on those, so DON'T STEAL THEM!!!

HURRICANE, Utah - A Washington County Sheriff's deputy thought something looked out of place when he looked in the back seat of a car he had stopped. There was a newspaper stand — one of the coin-operated machines found on street corners — full of newspapers lying on the seat.

"When he walked up to the car he glances in the back seat and sees this enormous Deseret Morning News newspaper stand. It's filling up the back seat of the car," sheriff's Lt. Jake Adams said.

"He thinks this is weird," Adams said. "Long story short, he arrests the guy for DUI and he's got a couple of warrants."

Under questioning, the man said he had stolen the newspaper stand in Beaver Dam, Ariz., and was taking it to Cedar City.

"He said he was going to sell it to a guy," Adams said.

Cop, truck driver, whatever

BIDDEFORD, Maine - Maine state police have charged a man who managed to get free rides on Amtrak's Downeaster by impersonating a trooper. Paul Rumery, 32, of Biddeford, told Amtrak personnel he was a state police sergeant and needed a ride from Saco to Boston for official business, authorities said.

The ploy worked four or five times dating back to November until Rumery was nabbed over the weekend by a real trooper outside the train station in Saco, said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Public Safety Department.

Rumery got the free rides by telling Amtrak ticketing agents that he was a state trooper riding the Downeaster to look for trouble spots along the route, McCausland said. Real troopers don't accept free rides, the spokesman added.

A search of Rumery's vehicle and his apartment turned up no police paraphernalia such as fake identification or badges, McCausland said. Rumery, a truck driver employed by Labbe Construction of Arundel, has never been a law enforcement officer.

No more food for the overweight

JACKSON, Miss. - A state lawmaker wants to ban restaurants from serving food to obese customers — but please, don't be offended. He says he never even expected his plan to become law.

"I was trying to shed a little light on the number one problem in Mississippi," said Republican Rep. John Read of Gautier, who acknowledges that at 5-foot-11 and 230 pounds, he'd probably have a tough time under his own bill.

More than 30 percent of adults in Mississippi are considered it obese, according to a 2007 study by the Trust for America's Health, a research group that focuses on disease prevention.

The state House Public Health Committee chairman, Democrat Steve Holland of Plantersville, said he is going to "shred" the bill.

"It is too oppressive for government to require a restaurant owner to police another human being from their own indiscretions," Holland said Monday.

The bill had no specifics about how obesity would be defined, or how restaurants were supposed to determine if a customer was obese.

Al Stamps, who owns a restaurant in Jackson, said it is "absurd" for the state to consider telling him which customers he can't serve. He and his wife, Kim, do a bustling lunch business at Cool Al's, which serves big burgers — beef or veggie — and specialty foods like "Sassy Momma Sweet Potato Fries."

"There is a better way to deal with health issues than to impose those kind of regulations," Al Stamps said. "I'm sorry — you can't do it by treating adults like children and telling them what they can and cannot eat."

I would not wanted to have looked

OAKLAND PARK, Fla. - Broward County authorities said a grandmother was arrested for hiding cocaine in her bra during a drug raid in Oakland Park. Eight others were also arrested Friday at or near the home of Henrietta Corvin Daise, 62. Many of them were her grandchildren.

Jail records show Daise posted $7,500 bail Saturday.

The Broward County Sheriff's Office said deputies conducted a search warrant on her home and found Daise with powder cocaine stuffed in her bra. Deputies also found 20 crack cocaine rocks, four grams of powder cocaine, marijuana and $1,000 in cash.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Trust us, it's a hole-in-one

CLEARWATER, Fla. - A hole-in-one is rare on the golf course, but what are the odds of a blind golfer sinking one? Leo Fiyalko couldn't see it, but his golf buddies did — a hole-in-one on the fifth hole at the Cove Cay Country Club.

Fiyalko is 92 and has macular degeneration. He's been golfing for 60 years, but his 110-yard shot with a five iron on Jan. 10 was his first hole-in-one.

"I was just trying to put the ball on the green," Fiyalko said.

Fiyalko tees off every Thursday with a group of golfers ranging in age from 70 to 90-plus. He used to have a seven handicap, but now he needs help lining up his shots and finding his golf balls because he only has peripheral vision in his right eye.

Jean Gehring was playing in his foursome and watched Fiyalko's swing.

"I could tell it went on the green, (but) when we got up there I didn't see it. I looked in the hole and there it was," Gehring said.

Gehring said Fiyalko brushed off the feat, and had to be prodded to tell his wife about it at the end of the round.

Fiyalko's friends at the country club presented him with a plaque last week to commemorate the feat.

American cars rule

MEDFORD, Wis. - Frank Oresnik is on the verge of making history driving his old standby — the pickup truck he says is about to pass the 1 million mile mark.

Oresnik took the 1991 Chevrolet Silverado to the Oil Ex-Change Quick Lube in Medford on Thursday for what he expects will be its last oil change and tuneup before hitting the magic number.

He said the truck is 1,200 miles from a million, and once he hits the mark he will retire the vehicle.

"I feel almost like the longtime NFL player as he goes into his last training camp knowing this is the end," Oresnik said.

He credits proper maintenance and a good measure of luck for allowing the truck to rack up so many miles. He said he's had more than 300 oil changes and tuneups at the Medford business, going in every 3,000 miles.

The truck has had four radiators, three gas tanks, five transmissions and six water pumps, but the engine has never been overhauled, Oresnik said.

He bought the Silverado in June 1996 after the original owner put 41,000 miles on it. Oresnik uses the vehicle to deliver seafood in three states, putting on about 85,000 miles a year.