NEWS AND BLUES
by Roland Sweet - Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

News and Blues is compiled from the nation’s press.

Curses, Foiled Again
Samantha Ellen Ward, 24, presented a driver’s license and debit card to withdraw money from a bank in Boynton Beach, Fla., but the teller looked up the account, noted the license had been reported stolen and summoned police. Ward pointed to a Chevy Tahoe in the parking lot and told officers that three black women driving it had given her the stolen identification and forced her to withdraw the money. Officers checked the vehicle and saw it belonged to an elderly white couple. (South Florida Sun Sentinel)

Second-Amendment Follies

  • Authorities said Matthew Coleman, 37, shot his wife through both legs at their home in Windsor, Vt., while trying to show her that a 9-mm gun wasn’t loaded. (Burlington’s WCAX-TV)
  • Police shot and wounded a 16-year-old high school student they thought was a would-be burglar but later learned had fled from officers because he was skipping school. After DeKalb County, Ga., police Chief Cedric Alexander called the shooting “an unintentional misfire,” the victim’s aunt and legal guardian said she wasn’t angry with the police. “If he’d been at school,” Geraldine Lloyd explained, “this never would have occurred.” (The Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Downside of Law and Order
The Dutch justice ministry announced the closing of eight prisons because of a lack of criminals. Crediting the declining crime rate, deputy justice minister Nebahat Albayrak said the closings will result in the loss of 1,200 jobs but indicated the Netherlands is negotiating with Belgium to take 500 prisoners. That deal would net the Netherlands $40.5 million and delay the closing of two of the prisons. (The Huffington Post)

Strange Bedfellows
The National Rifle Association joined an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against the National Security Agency’s phone-tracking program. The NRA’s supporting brief warned that the NSA’s data mining could inhibit people’s “willingness to communicate with the NRA” and “allow the government to circumvent legal protections for Americans’ privacy,” thereby creating an illegal “national gun registry.” (USA Today)

The Price Is Spite
New York’s Suffolk County hoped to get at least $10 at an auction for a lot that’s only a foot wide but runs 1,885 feet from a highway to an Atlantic beachfront. It wound up selling for $120,000, however, because the owners of adjoining lots got into a bidding war. “I gathered one guy really did not want the other one walking over his property to the water,” county property manager Wayne R. Thompson said. Winning bidder Marc Helie now owns two narrow strips on both sides of losing bidder Kyle N. Cruz, who has no direct route to the beach without trespassing on Helie’s property. (Long Island’s Newsday)

When Guns Are Outlawed
Seattle police accused Joseph V. Floyd Jr., 58, of repeatedly hitting a man in a wheelchair over the head with a 16-pound tub of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! Floyd admitted pouring ersatz butter on the victim’s head because he objected to the man’s playing his television too loudly but denied hitting him. (Seattle’s KIRO-TV)

Modern Maladies

  • Sleep texting is the latest side effect of technology, according to Seattle neurologist Dr. Lina Fine, who reported growing numbers of patients expressing concerns that they’re texting in their sleep but don’t remember. “The smartphone has become a common way to communicate,” Fine said. “It’s reflexive to go for something we use the most.” She added that people are engaged with so many digital devices nowadays, “we never really fall asleep.” Sleep medicine specialist Dr. William DePaso said people have to be awake at least 30 seconds to remember. “My son can probably send 20 text messages in that time,” he commented. (Seattle’s KOMO-TV)
  • Scottish health authorities reported a rash of injuries to babies from swallowing laundry detergent capsules. The brightly colored pods attract infants, but their alkaline chemicals can burn throats and prove fatal, according to the National Health Service Greater Glasgow and Clyde. In response, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents launched a safety campaign that includes distributing 16,000 cabinet door latches to all families with 12- to 16-week-old babies to help keep the pods out of reach.
  • In Florida, meanwhile, authorities reported the death of a child in August who ate a detergent pod. The capsules “just became available in the United States last year, and within weeks to months of them becoming available we began to get reports through the poison centers of children ending up in the hospital following exposure to these packets,” Dr. Cynthia Lewis-Younger, medical director of the Florida Poison Information Center of Tampa, said. (Scotland’s STV and ABC News)

Mystery Meat

  • Chicken nuggets contain only 50 percent or less chicken muscle tissue from breasts and thighs, according to Mississippi researchers. The rest is a mix of fat, blood vessels and nerves from skin and internal organs. “Some companies have chosen to use an artificial mixture of chicken parts rather than low-fat chicken white meat, batter it up and fry it and still call it chicken,” said Dr. Richard D. deShazo of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, who reported the study’s findings in the American Journal of Medicine. (Reuters)
  • Two years after concerns over pink-slime prompted Fairfax County, Va., to replace additive-filled hamburgers on school lunch menus with all-beef patties, it’s returning to adulterated burgers because students complained the beef burgers didn’t look or taste right. For one thing, their centers were pink, since the all-beef patties lacked caramel coloring. The old burgers contained 27 ingredients, including caramel coloring and pink slime, a combination of beef scraps and connective tissue sprayed with ammonia gas to kill pathogens. The all-beef burgers contained only beef. The new patties have 26 additives, including the caramel coloring but lacking pink slime. “Students are our customers,” Penny McConnell, the county’s food and nutritional service director, said, “and we listen to them and implement their requests if possible.” (The Washington Post)

Supply and Demand
Coupon-dealing Groupon offered its Indian users onions for 9 rupees per kilo (6-plus cents a pound) just as the price of onions skyrocketed to 100 rupees per kilo. Groupon sold 6,613 pounds of onions in 44 minutes and 15,000 pounds total by the time its website overloaded and crashed. Explaining that the promotion was aimed at getting shoppers’ attention, Anur Warikoo, CEO of Groupon in India, said that even before the price of onions tripled in two months, they hadn’t been priced at 9 rupees since 1999. “We wanted to sell it at a price that most of us have completely forgotten,” he said. (Al Jazeera America)

It’s All Happening at the Zoo
A British safari park hired guards to enforce a new dress code aimed at keeping visitors from scaring the animals. The restrictions against clothing resembling the hides of giraffes, zebras, leopards, cheetahs and tigers affect a 22-acre, Serengeti-style reserve at Chessington World of Adventure, where visitors are driven while animals roam free. “Animals are getting confused when they see what looks like zebras and giraffes driving across the terrain in a 7.5-ton truck,” park official Natalie Dilloway said. (Britain’s The Guardian)

Hazards of (e)Smoking
A 3-year-old boy received first- and second-degree burns while riding with his mother in Provo, Utah, after an e-cigarette exploded in their car. Kinzie Barlow said she noticed a strange smell while charging the device, “then there was a big bang, and kind of a flash, and there’s smoke everywhere.” She explained that a white-hot copper coil shot out into the boy’s car seat, where it burned through the fabric, melted the hard plastic and sent flames up the boy’s body. Barlow tried to smother the flames with her shirtsleeve, but it caught fire. She finally doused the flames with iced coffee. (Salt Lake City’s KSTU-TV)

Slick Tricks

  • After a Massachusetts school district canceled classes at all six of its schools because of “weather-related building issues,” Amherst Regional High School Principal Mark Jackson explained that the cause was slippery floors. Noting 22 falls were reported throughout the district, Jackson said the schools’ floors had been waxed during the summer, and high temperatures after schools opened melted the wax, making the floors slick. (Associated Press)
  • Concerned about long-term damage to roads and the environment from using rock salt to deice city streets, Milwaukee’s Department of Public Works announced it will add cheese brine to rock salt. The brine is a liquid waste product left over from cheese making. It has a distinctive odor, but officials expect it to be more effective than the city’s previous deicing experiments: beet juice that turned into an oatmeal-like substance when mixed with road salt, and a sticky molasses-type product that residents complained was being tracked into their homes. (Associated Press)

Tax Dollars at Work
Taxpayers in Arlington County, Va., are paying $13,000 for an electronic billboard sign instructing motorists, “Don’t hit the car in front of you.” Police Lt. David Green Jr. defended the sign, saying that previous signs with more subtle messages didn’t reduce accidents at the location, almost all of which “are rear-end collisions.” (The Blaze)

Slip-Shod Education

  • Mexico’s Education Department acknowledged finding at least 117 mistakes in new textbooks after printing and distributing 235 million of them to the nation’s elementary schools. Although officials wouldn’t release a list of mistakes, an independent review by the news blog Animal Politico found many words had been written with a “c” instead of an “s,” commas had been overused, words lacked correct accent marks, and a geography textbook located the Caribbean resort city of Tulum in Yucatan state instead of Quintana Roo. Officials promised to give teachers a list of the errors to correct textbooks manually. Mexico’s National Commission of Free Textbooks, which prints books that are mandatory for both private and public schools, blamed freelance editors for missing the errors. “The telephone rings, you have to go to the bathroom,” commission head Joaquin Diez-Canedo said. “You get distracted. You miss a word.” (Associated Press)
  • The same day that Georgia state school superintendent John Barge announced his gubernatorial candidacy, his official website misspelled the word “governor.” It appeared as “govenor” until reporters alerted Barge’s campaign staff, which corrected it. (Atlanta’s WXIA-TV)

Shortcomings

  • The International Paralympic Committee declared swimmer Victoria Allen, 19, ineligible for last summer’s world championships because she wasn’t disabled enough. Having won four medals and set a world freestyle record the year before, she “failed to provide conclusive evidence of a permanent eligible impairment,” the IPC ruled on the eve of the 2013 competition. A star child athlete, Arlen developed a neurological condition that led to her spending three years in a vegetative state before she awoke in 2010 with paralyzed legs. She insisted she was being punished because her doctor believes that her condition might improve. IPC official Peter Van de Vliet defended the ruling. “If you’re classifying an amputee, either they’ve got a leg or they haven’t, and in 12 months they still won’t have a leg,” he said. “But when you get to these types of wheelchair athletes, it gets tricky.” (The New York Times)
  • After Jakiya McKoy, 7, won the Little Miss Hispanic Delaware contest, pageant officials took away her crown because of concerns that she wasn’t Hispanic enough. Contestants are required to be at least 25 percent Hispanic, but Maria Perez, president of the sponsoring Nuestras Raices, said the verification the child provided “does not specify she was 25 percent Hispanic or Hispanic at all.” The McKoys protested that the real reason their daughter’s reign was cut short was her dark skin, not the lack of documentation. (New York’s Daily News)

Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time
Ed Gemar decided the best way to eliminate a fire hazard from a storage building in Great Falls, Mont., was to burn weeds and grass away from the part of the building that was brick and concrete. The fire spread to some dry weeds near a wooden section of the building and destroyed the building and its contents, which included vintage automobiles and farm machinery. (Great Falls Tribune)

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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