News and Blues
by Roland Sweet - Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

1-15-2014

Curses, Foiled Again
Police arrested Ashton Powers, 24, in Tempe, Ariz., for slashing a tire on a police car with the officer in it. “I don’t know what this guy was thinking,” police Sgt. Michael Pooley said. “It’s a fully marked car, the car was running, the officer was inside with the air conditioning on and you could hear the car running. It still didn’t stop him.” Powers admitted slashing the tire but said he didn’t notice anyone inside. (Phoenix’s KNXV-TV)

The New Christmas Story
For the annual “Living Nativity” scene, Baptist Temple Church in Fall River, Mass., replaced one of the three Wise Men from the biblical narrative with Santa Claus bowing before Jesus in the manger. “The true message of Christmas is about Jesus’ birth,” explained Shirley Johnson, whose husband is the church’s pastor. “And you know what Christmas has become for many: It’s about Santa and the gifts. That’s why we’re showing Santa bowing the knee to baby Jesus.” (Fall River’s The Herald News)

Lest We Forget
After movie star Paul Walker died in a car crash, Scottish authorities reported that a car burst into flames during a gathering to honor Walker organized by a group of car enthusiasts. Police charged a 19-year-old man with causing the fire, which began “after revving the engine for 20 minutes in tribute.” (Scotland’s STV)

Out on a High Note
After becoming the oldest woman to compete in the New York marathon, Joy Johnson, 86, returned to her hotel, lay down to rest and never woke up. (Agence France-Presse)

Better Late Than Never
After calling a speech by the president “silly remarks” deserving “a veil of oblivion,” The Patriot-News of Harrisburg, Pa., apologized in a Nov. 14 editorial for failing “to recognize its momentous importance, timeless eloquence and lasting significance.” The original judgment, by the paper’s predecessor, The Patriot & Union, referred to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. (The Patriot-News)

Fact or Fiction?
Costco apologized for selling Bibles in the fiction section of its store in Simi Valley, Calif., after church pastor Caleb Kaltenbach noticed them there while shopping. Two weeks later, newspaper columnist Robin Abcarian was shopping at another Costco near Los Angeles and spotted movie character Ron Burgundy’s “autobiography” in the non-fiction section. (Los Angeles Times)

Double Jeopardy
Ye Mengyuan, 16, a passenger aboard the Asiana Airline flight that crash landed in San Francisco in July survived the crash and was thrown from the plane but died when she was run over by a rescue vehicle responding to the emergency, according to San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault. (CNN)

Respect Your Elders–Or Else
Chinese legislators amended a law to require people to visit or keep in touch with their elderly parents or risk being sued. “It is mainly to stress the right of elderly people to ask for emotional support,” Xiao Jinming, a law professor at Shandong University who helped draft the measure, explained. “We want to emphasize there is such a need.” (Associated Press)

Droning On

  • Amazon.com founder Jeffrey P. Bezos, 49, unveiled a working prototype of a drone that he predicted would pave the way for using drones to deliver packages in as little as 30 minutes. The unmanned aerial vehicle uses a claw to scoop up packages at Amazon fulfillment centers and transport them to customers. Appearing on CBS’s 60 Minutes, Bezos said the technology could be fully implemented within five years. (The Washington Post)
  • In the latest backlash against unmanned aerial vehicles, town officials in Deer Trail, Colo., are considering a proposed ordinance that would grant hunting permits allowing residents to shoot down drones. The permits would cost $25, and anyone who presents evidence of shooting down a drone would receive $100. “This is a pre-emptive strike,” said Phillip Steel, 48, who proposed the measure and collected enough signatures on a petition to require local officials to act on it. “I don’t want to live in a surveillance society.” The Federal Aviation Administration responded that people who fire guns at drones could be prosecuted or fined, but Steel insisted, “The FAA doesn’t have the power to make a law.” (Associated Press)

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)

Odd Accidents

  • Police said the driver of a Ford Taurus that crashed into a sport utility vehicle in Crestwood, Ill., killing front-seat passenger Linda Shattuck, lost control of the vehicle after a cell phone charging cord became entangled with the steering wheel. (Chicago Sun-Times)
  • Tracy Arnold, 40, and Michael Arnold, 36, died when her dirt bike and his all-terrain vehicle collided nearly head-on on a two-lane road near their home in Hernando County, Fla., throwing them from their vehicles. The husband and wife were apparently unaware of each other when they crashed, according to Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Steve Gaskins, who noted that neither was wearing a helmet. (Tampa Bay Times)

Criminal Cuisine

Sheriff’s deputies who arrested Rick Frederick, 22, for resisting arrest for drunk driving and 11 other violations in LaSalle County, Ill., reported that while sitting in the patrol car, Frederick started eating the molding around the door. The deputies added criminal damage to government property to the other charges. (Associated Press)
Nickel-and-Dime Crime
Investigators who noticed a surge in collections after Buffalo, N.Y., switched from parking meters to computerized pay stations accused parking-meter mechanic James Bagarozzo, 58, of stealing $210,000 over an eight-year span, all in quarters. Prosecutors said Bagarozzo, who blamed gambling addiction and Crohn’s disease for his actions, regularly took coins from 70 to 75 meters a day, rolled them and exchanged the $10 rolls for cash at various banks. In the year following Bagarozzo’s arrest and that of a former co-worker accused of stealing $15,000 in quarters, Parking Commissioner Kevin Helfer said parking meter revenue increased by more than $500,000. (Associated Press)

The Eyes Have It
Unfavorable reaction to a Facebook photo of students at Thailand’s Kasetsart University wearing special “anti-cheating helmets” caused embarrassment and stress to the faculty, according to dean Tanaboon Sajjaanantakul, prompting the school to discontinue their use. The picture, posted on the university’s alumni Facebook page, showed the cumbersome hats consisting of a headband with two sheets of blank paper draped on both sides of the head to keep students from looking at their neighbors’ answers. Only about 90 students in one course wore the headgear, which they designed themselves following a class discussion of how to prevent cheating. (NPR)

Wanna-Be of the Week
Firefighters arriving at a library fire in Brooksville, Fla., noticed a man on the scene wearing firefighting gear. When asked for an explanation, the man, identified as Joseph Michael Brannen, 18, said he bought the gear on eBay, heard the call about the fire on his scanner and showed up hoping to help fight the blaze. After further questioning, Brannen admitted setting the fire, which caused more than $500,000 in damage. (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

Mum’s the Word
After an audit by a Virginia homeowners association found at least $73,183.48 in unauthorized transactions, Albemarle police charged the association’s treasurer, Patricia Anne Cuthbert, 43, with embezzlement. The Hollymead Citizens Association advised residents to keep quiet about the incident. “They asked us not to make the audit public and to not even talk about it at cocktail parties,” Hollymead homeowner Paul Moruza said, “because it could lower our property values.” (Charlottesville’s The Daily Progress)

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 Syracuse New Times.
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