News & Blues
by Roland Sweet - Wednesday, December 11th, 2013


Curses, Foiled Again
Police accused Troy Ridling, 29, of stealing a computer from his former church in Owasso, Okla., after the software tracking company Covenant Eyes alerted a church staffer that the computer was being used to look up pornography. Upon being told that the company had received a call about removing the laptop’s Internet monitoring software, the Owasso First Assembly of God notified police. They traced the call to Ridling, who confessed. (Tulsa’s KRMG Radio)

Horseless-Carriage Follies
An automobile killed a woman and injured three other people when it overturned outside Zion National Park in Utah. The vehicle was a 1915 Ford Model T. “There’s no rollover protection,” said Russ Forstnow, chairman of an international Model T club’s annual outing in which the soft-top vehicle was taking part. Troopers said it went off the pavement, causing the wheel’s wooden spokes to separate, then flipped, ejecting all four occupants. (Associated Press)

Bucket-List Follies
After 44 years of dreaming and 38 years of being overruled by his wife, Barry Strang, 59, finally bought a motorcycle. He picked it up at the dealership in Lander, Wyo., but had driven it just three miles when he collided with a tractor-trailer and was killed. “It was something he wanted his whole life,” Pam Strang said. “It’s like my son said, ‘Dad went out with the biggest smile on his face.’” (Casper Star-Tribune)

VIP Follies
Within months of offering visitors to the Denver Zoo exclusive access to pet and feed a rhinoceros for an extra $60, zoo officials had to suspend the program because the rhino bit the finger of a woman who fed it. After the woman was taken to the hospital, Brian Aucone, the zoo’s vice president for animal care, couldn’t explain the black rhino’s action but insisted it “is a gentle animal” that “has been hand-fed safely thousands of times.” (Denver’s KMGH-TV)

Shirking-Class Follies
Gary P. Bojczak bought an illegal GPS jamming device for his company-owned pickup truck so his boss couldn’t track his movements. When he drove by New Jersey’s Newark International Airport, however, the jammer interfered with a new GPS-based guidance system designed, according to its maker, Honeywell, to “increase airport capacity, decrease air traffic noise and reduce weather-related delays.” Federal agents tracked the jamming signal to Bojczak, who was fined $31,875 and fired. (New York’s WCBS-TV)

First-Amendment Follies
Popular Science announced a ban on online comments on articles in the magazine. “Comments can be bad for science,” an editor explained in a website post, which stated that vicious, insulting or ignorant comments can pollute otherwise intelligent online discussions, as well as undermine public understanding and appreciation of science itself. (The New York Times)
The Los Angeles Times said it would no longer publish letters to the editor that deny the existence of man-made climate change. Pointing out that many letter writers insist “climate change is a hoax, a scheme by liberals to curtail personal freedom,” letters editor Paul Thornton said, “Saying there’s no sign humans have caused climate change is not stating an opinion, it’s asserting a factual inaccuracy.” (The Washington Times)

Second-Amendment Follies
Charged with killing a 5-year-old girl with an assault rifle, Jon Andrew Meyer Jr. explained that the rapid-fire weapon fired accidentally while he was using it as a crutch to help him stand up from a couch while visiting a friend in Grants Pass, Ore. The fully automatic weapon fired out of control; one burst blasted through the ceiling, killing the girl and wounding an adult with her. (Grants Pass Daily Courier)
When neighbors confronted Rhonney Jacobs, 43, for speeding through a community in Norfolk, Va., he left but returned brandishing a gun. Police official Chris Amos said Jacobs then accidentally shot himself in the leg. (Norfolk’s WAVY-TV)
While demonstrating handgun safety at a class in Lancaster, Ohio, instructor Terry J. Dunlap Sr. fired a .38-caliber bullet that ricocheted off a desk and hit student Michael Piemonte, 26, in the arm. Noting that many students in the class were nurses, who helped stabilize him before he was taken to a Columbus hospital, Piemonte said Dunlap didn’t know the gun was loaded. (The Columbus Dispatch)

Avoirdupois Follies
New Zealand authorities declined to renew the work visa of Albert Buitenhuis, a chef from South Africa, because he’s too fat. Weighing 286 pounds, Buitenhuis is at “significant risk” of medical complications, according to an immigration official, who pointed out, “It is important that all migrants have an acceptable standard of health to minimize costs and demands on New Zealand’s health services.” His wife, Marthie Buitenhuis, noted that their annual work visas had been renewed with “very little problem” since they moved to Christchurch six years ago, even though her husband now weighs 65 pounds less now than he did then. (BBC News)
Alan Jackson, the lawyer for Liam Johnstone, 21, pleaded guilty in West Lothian, Scotland, on behalf of his client, who he said was unable to appear in court because he is “too fat” to leave his house. The 560-pound Johnstone was accused of using a stolen credit card four separate times to pay $194 for pizza delivery. (Britain’s Daily Mail)

Techno Follies
A glitch in the Apple Maps app on newer iPhones and iPads directs users to a runway at Alaska’s Fairbanks International Airport instead of the passenger terminal, according to airport official Angie Spear, who noted that twice in September, drivers continued across a runway in use. Drivers assume they’re being properly directed, Spear explained, because they can see the terminal building. (Associated Press)
A Google Street View car hit a bus while taking photos for Google Maps and Google Earth in Bogor, Indonesia. Police said the driver appeared to panic and tried to drive off, but hit a second bus and then a truck. “We take incidents like this very seriously,” Vishnu Mahmud, Google’s head of communications in Indonesia said. (Agence France-Presse)
Earlier this year, Google denied reports that one of its Street View cars ran over a donkey in Botswana. “Because of the way our 360-degree imagery is put together, it looked to some that our car had been involved in an unseemly hit-and-run,” Google Maps official Kei Kawai explained. “The donkey was lying in the path, perhaps enjoying a dust bath, before moving safely aside as our car drove past.” (BBC News)

Alternative-Energy Follies
A wind turbine in the Scottish Highlands was destroyed by 40 mph gales. Two blades were ripped from the turbine and thrown up to 60 yards away. A third was badly buckled. No one was injured, but the incident at Dunhobby prompted calls for authorities to remove all wind turbines from school playgrounds. Stuart Young, chairman of Caithness Wind Information Forum, noted turbines are currently in three school playgrounds. He noted Highland Council officials responded to the incident by insisting the turbines are safe in winds up to 80 mph. (Britain’s The Telegraph)
Linda and Larry Shovan said seven mortgage lenders turned down their application to refinance their home 50 miles outside of Steamboat Springs, Colo., because they aren’t hooked up to the power grid. Instead, they rely on solar power and have ever since buying the property 12 years ago. Pointing out that government-controlled mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac won’t approve the couple’s loan because they live off the grid, one loan officer, Lainey Hamrick, explained, “The guideline is that you have to have public utilities so it would be like trying to sell a home that didn’t have heat by a fireplace and didn’t have a way to have any other heat.” The Shovans said their $30,000 computer-operated solar system “handles any of our needs.” (Denver’s KMGH-TV)

News and Blues is compiled from the nation’s press. To contribute, submit original clippings, citing date and source, to Roland Sweet in care of The New Times.