News and Blues
by Roland Sweet - Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

02/19/14

Curses, Foiled Again

  • New Zealand authorities nabbed a Vietnamese man at the Auckland airport trying to smuggle tropical fish into the country after they noticed his bulging pants pockets were leaking. Ministry of Primary Industries official Craig Hughes said the man explained that he was carrying water from the plane because he was thirsty, but subsequent questioning turned up seven tropical fish hidden in two plastic bags in his cargo pants. (Agence France-Presse)
  • Police investigating a break-in at a home in Westborough, Mass., where the intruder used a hammer to smash a fish tank, windows and mirrors, identified Michael D. Turpin, 44, as their suspect after finding blood on the floors. Officers followed the bloody footprints to a home, where they found Turpin “bleeding profusely” from both his feet. (The MetroWest Daily News)

Second-Amendment Follies

  • James Pace Sr., 81, told police he was holding a .22-caliber rifle while sitting by the back door of his home in New Haven, Conn., waiting for a raccoon who’d been annoying him to show up, when he sneezed, fell out of the chair and accidentally shot himself in the shin. (The Hartford Courant)
  • Iowa began granting permits to own and carry guns in public to people who are legally or completely blind. “There’s no reason solely on the basis of blindness that a blind person shouldn’t be allowed to carry a weapon,” National Federation of the Blind official Chris Daniel said. “Presumably they’re going to have enough sense not to use a weapon in a situation where they would endanger other people, just like we would expect other people to have that common sense.” (The Des Moines Register)

Perils of Publicity

When Joseph Derrico resigned from the Hamilton Township, N.J., police force after being indicted on a charge of receiving stolen property, he applied for and was granted a tax-free disability pension of $69,703 a year. New Jersey’s Police and Firemen’s Retirement System board of trustees voted unanimously to revoke Derrico’s pension after he appeared on Bear Swamp Recovery, a truTV cable network reality show about vehicle repossessions by the “baddest towing team in Jersey.” During one episode, Derrico runs after a truck, pulls a man down from the driver’s seat, throws him to the ground and climbs into the cab. Another scene shows Derrico wrestling with opponents. (The Times of Trenton)

Follies of Democracy


Nobody voted in November for mayor and city council in Wallsburg, Utah, and no candidates ran for office because the city forgot to hold the election. The new recorder in the town of 275 failed to announce the filing period or make arrangements to hold the election. By the time someone noticed the oversight, it was too close to Election Day to field candidates and print ballots. “They’re going to have to appoint the current mayor and council for two more years,” Wasatch County Clerk Brent Titcomb said. Wallsburg also forgot to hold an election two years ago, and the council had to be appointed then. “We will remember them in 2015,” Titcomb vowed. “They will definitely have an election in 2015.” (The Salt Lake City Tribune)

Sons of Beaches


Florida’s beaches are running out of sand. Even worse, communities that have replenished storm-eroded beaches by dredging up offshore sand are discovering that there’s little sand left offshore. As a result, beach communities are competing to find more sand. “You have counties starting wars with each other over sand,” Broward County mayor Kristin Jacobs said. “Everybody feels like these other counties are going to steal their sand.” Broward officials are considering a proposal to grind down recycled glass into substitute beach sand. Another option is trucking sand to beaches from sand mines in central Florida. (The New York Times)

Future Farmers

  • Researchers are designing robots that can harvest fresh produce without bruising it by integrating advanced sensors, robotic hardware and GPS technologies. Farmers say the robots are costly, but they ultimately save money, avoid labor shortages and yield a more consistent product. Farm workers counter that using robots results in lost jobs and greater pesticide use. (Associated Press)
  • A Massachusetts enterprise, New Earth Robotics, announced it’s teaming up with Worcester Polytechnic Institute to develop self-powering robots to destroy weeds and harmful pests, rendering herbicides and pesticides obsolete. “The robot’s artificial intelligence will make them able to tell crops from weeds and good bugs from the bad,” the company’s Dean Cook explained, adding that the first step is to raise $65,000 to begin research. (NewEarthRobotics.com)

Problem Solved

The way to stop recidivism, according to Maryland’s attorney general, is to give prisoners tablet computers with Internet access. Android tablet, for example, would allow inmates to benefit from e-books, law resources and online learning programs. “It has to work,” Douglas F. Gansler, declared. “It’s common sense that it will work.” Coincidentally, American Prison Data Systems is seeking to sell prison systems tablets that it promises are indestructible and designed so they can’t be used as weapons. CEO Christopher Grewe said tablet and Internet access would cost $500 a year per inmate. (The Washington Times)

Country in Need of a First Amendment

Indonesian authorities detained Broderick Chin, a manager at a vegetable oil company in Riau province, after workers who couldn’t find a red-and-white Indonesian flag to fly on Independence Day complained that he told them, “Just use my underpants. I have red underpants, and my wife has white ones.” National police official Agus Rianto said Chin was charged with insulting a state symbol and faces five years in prison. (Malaysia Chronicle)

What’s Your Emergency?

  • Authorities in Hooksett, N.H., charged Jeanie Dufresne with misuse of 911 after she made 10 non-emergency calls in one month, including one asking for a pen. Earlier this year, Hooksett resident Elizabeth Niemi was arrested for calling 911 to ask for help ordering Chinese food. Police Chief Peter Bartlett said he hoped that holding Dufresne and Niemi accountable would send a warning that the emergency system is “not for something frivolous.” (Boston’s WBZ-TV)
  • Police told citizens of Fairfield, Conn., to stop calling 911 to complain about losing their cable television service after the emergency system was inundated with calls from distressed Cablevision customers. “Misuse of the 911 system may result in arrest,” police posted on the department’s Facebook page. (The Washington Times)
  • Japanese authorities charged Teruo Nozaki, 44, a part-time convenience store worker in Tokyo, with making 28,000 emergency phone calls between January 2012 and June 2013. Nozaki would make as many as 1,500 calls a day. When someone answered, he hung up. After he was arrested, he explained he made the calls “because I was irritated by the fact that I was always watched by police.” (Japan Today)

Revenge of the Dead

A 51-year-old hunter who shot an elk outside Vernal, Utah, was trying to roll the 600- to 700-pound animal over when one of its antlers punctured his neck behind the jaw. Uintah County Undersheriff John Larson said the victim phoned for help and was airlifted to the hospital. (Associated Press)

Better Than Armed Guards

The Glendale, Calif., school district paid a private firm $40,500 to monitor 14,000 middle and high school students’’ posts on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. School officials insist the purpose isn’t snooping but student safety. The contractor, Geo Listening, which has other school clients, searches public postings, looking for possible violence, drug use, bullying, truancy and suicide threats. “We enforce the code of student conduct for every school we serve” by compiling a daily report to send each principal,” CEO Chris Frydrych said. The firm employs 10 full-time staffers and hires freelance workers to work no more than four hours a day, Frydrych said, because “the content they read is so dark and heavy.” The firm intends expanding its monitoring capacity by offering a smartphone app that lets students and parents notify school officials of conduct violations. (CNN)

Deflated Protest

After British police stopped a chartered party bus for carrying nine passengers instead of the allowed eight, driver Bash Ali, 41, objected, pointing out that the ninth passenger was actually a blow-up doll. Lacking money for a lawyer, however, Ali pleaded guilty in Manchester court, which ruled “that the vehicle was overloaded and that they were all human beings.” Ordered to pay $688.86 in fines and cost, Ali declared, “I have no faith in the justice system.” (United Press International)

Alien Sex

Pakistan leads the world in homophobia, according to a report by the American Pew Research Center, and, according to Google, search requests for same-sex pornography. (International Business Times)
An Indian court ruled that adult couples who have slept together should be considered legally married. The verdict in Tamil Nadu state involved a woman who sued a man for alimony after living with him for five years and bearing two children; he countered that they weren’t legally married. “If any couple choose to consummate their sexual cravings, then the act becomes a total commitment with adherence to all consequences that may follow,” Justice C.S. Karnan said. The news portal Firstpost.com called the ruling “groundbreaking,” observing, “It’s not often that a High Court judgment can be used as both a punch line and a pickup line.” (The Washington Post)

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.