by Roland Sweet - Tuesday, December 24th, 2013


Curses, Foiled Again
Antoine Jennings covered his head with a Chicago Bulls cap and a skin-tight black skullcap while robbing three suburban Chicago banks of $4,500, but then he posted photos of himself wearing the caps on Facebook, using his real name. FBI agents matched the photos to security camera footage of the heists and arrested Jennings, who pleaded guilty. (Chicago Sun-Times)

How Government Works
Contracting and budget officers at the Defense Department’s Defense Information Systems Agency urged their colleagues to set an aggressive spending timetable to use up all of the DISA’s $2 billion budget before the end of the fiscal year. “It is critical in our efforts to {spend} 100 percent of our available resources this fiscal year,” budget officer Sannadean Sims and procurement officer Kathleen Miller said in an email to their colleagues. (The Washington Post)
Contractors for the Environmental Protection Agency maintained a warehouse containing secret man caves, according to an audit by the EPA’s inspector general. Contractors used partitions, screens and piled-up boxes to hide the rooms from security cameras in the 70,000-square-foot building in Landover, Md. “The warehouse contained multiple unauthorized and hidden personal spaces created by and for the workers that included televisions, refrigerators, radios, microwaves, chairs and couches,” the report said. “These spaces contained personal items, including photos, pinups, calendars, clothing, books, magazines and videos.” The responsible contractor, Apex Logistics, has received $5.3 million while operating under the contract. (Washington’s Government Executive)

Fuel for Thought
Congress reversed a 1996 law eliminating the Federal Helium Reserve, voting to keep the gas now that it is essential to MRI machines, fiber optic cables, computer chips and more. The government began stockpiling the inert gas after World War I when blimps were used in aerial warfare and continued until it was finally declared superfluous. “Helium is not just used for party balloons,” Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) said. “It is essential to our 21st-century economy.” (The Washington Times)

Beaten to the Punch
Tony Gesin, 50, called police in Fairbanks, Alaska, to report that his neighbor had assaulted him. He repeated his story to troopers who responded but then admitted punching himself in the face because he wanted his neighbor arrested. Department of Public Safety official Megan Peters said Gesin and his neighbor are engaged in a civil dispute about property. (Fairbanks News-Miner)

Do the Math
Several students at Virginia’s George Mason University signed a petition urging the legalization of fourth-trimester abortions “so that women have a choice,” according to Dan Joseph of the conservative Media Research Center, who circulated the petition. (

You Be the Judge
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Karen Nudell ordered Arman Samsonian to stand trial for manslaughter in the deaths of two women who tried to rescue him after he crashed his sport utility vehicle into a utility pole and a fire hydrant. Irma Zamora and Stacey Schreiber were killed when they stepped into a pool of water that had been electrified by 4,800 volts from the fallen power line. Nudell said Samsonian, 20, “was definitely driving negligently,” but defense attorney Andrew Flier argued that his client couldn’t have foreseen the “intervening acts” once he crashed and that the victims should have known the dangers created by downed power lines and standing water. (Los Angeles Times)
Tennessee Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew was listening to the parents of a 7-month-old baby who couldn’t agree on the child’s last name, but when she heard that the boy’s first name was Messiah, she promptly ordered it changed to Martin. “The word Messiah is a title and it’s a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ,” Ballew said, explaining that her decision is best for the child, especially while growing up in a predominantly Christian community. Meanwhile, according to the Social Security Administration, Messiah ranked fourth among the fastest-rising baby names in 2012. (Associated Press)

Incendiary Devices
A fire broke out in the basement of a home in Bucksport, Maine, when Lucas Ashmore, 16, tried to start a riding lawn mower, and it backfired. Fire chief Craig Bowden said the fire “did extensive damage in about one-half of the basement.” (Bangor Daily News)
A New York City woman tried ridding her two-room apartment of insects by setting off 40 foggers, or bug bombs. According to Robert G. Byrnes, the city’s chief fire marshal, she failed to turn off her oven’s pilot light, and the resulting explosion blew out the back wall of the apartment and caused a partial collapse of the building. It also ignited a fire that injured 12 people, three of them critically. (The New York Times)

Cursive’s Last Gasp
Two German entrepreneurs invented an ink pen that recognizes misspelled words and bad handwriting. Its name is Lernstift, German for “learning pen,” according to Daniel Kaesmacher, co-founder of the company that spent 18 months developing the digital pen. It’s a regular pen with real ink, but also contains a tiny motion sensor and a battery-powered Linux computer with a WiFi chip. “The pen will have two functions,” Kaesmacher said, “calligraphy and orthography mode.” In the spelling mode, the computer compares words it writes to its language database; when it doesn’t recognize a word, it vibrates. If it senses bad letter formation or messy handwriting, it also vibrates. The company intends testing the digital pen with a whole school class before selling it, for 130 to 150 euros ($170-$200). The device will work with smart phones and tablets eventually, but its “basic functionality is all in the pen,” Kaesmacher said, pointing out “there’s no app needed” or special paper. (ABC News)

When Guns Are Outlawed
Detectives investigating the death of an inmate at Florida’s Pinellas County jail concluded that the victim’s cellmate, Scott Alexander Greenberg, 28, had murdered the 48-year-old man by shoving wet toilet paper down his throat. (South Florida’s Sun-Sentinel)
Pizza was the weapon of choice in two incidents. Cody Sebastian Parsons, 25, denied assaulting his 19-year-old girlfriend with pizza at their home in Wilkesboro, N.C., but police found “pizza sauce on the back of {the victim’s} right rib cage,” and “there were pieces of pizza all over the living room floor, as well as on the wall behind the front entrance door to the apartment.” In Fort Mill, S.C., police arrested Jimmy Ray Poage, 47, for assaulting his 40-year-old girlfriend with a pizza slice. Poage claimed the woman threw pizza at him first, but, according to a York County Sheriff’s report, her clothing was splattered with sauce, whereas his were “clear of pizza or pizza sauce.” (The Smoking Gun)

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.