News and Blues
by Roland Sweet - Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Hard News: The federal government overpaid by $86.4 million to provide penis pumps to Medicare patients.

Curses, Foiled Again
Denver police arrested four burglary suspects who tried to sell stolen goods back to their victim. Lacinda Robinson, 24, said that after discovering the crime, she went to a nearby McDonald’s parking lot, where two young men offered her a PlayStation 3 video game similar to the one she lost. She declined, but when another youth approached her wearing a distinctive Washington Redskins jacket “that I believe belonged to me” she realized the men were selling her stuff. She reported the incident to two off-duty police. (Denver’s KMGH-TV)

Slightest Provocation
Authorities charged Ahmed Nur Adan, 27, with felony assault at a Cass County, N.D., jail after he punched fellow inmate Timothy Lowseth, 26. Adan explained that for the past three days, Lowseth had been coming into Adan’s cell, farting and then leaving. Lowseth admitted farting but denied doing so in Adan’s cell. (Forum News Service)

Punctuation Follies
England’s Cambridge City Council voted to ban apostrophes from street names, insisting that the change will clarify addresses for emergency services. “It was decided potential confusion over incorrectly punctuated street names meant we wouldn’t use punctuation any more,” council officer Nick Milne explained, pointing out that the move follows guidelines prescribed by the National Land and Property Gazetteer, where all new street names are registered. “Our understanding was that many data users including the emergency services make no reference at all as to whether an apostrophe is used or not.” The council’s new policy affects only new street names and also bans street names that would be “difficult to pronounce or awkward to spell,” as well as names that “could give offense” or “encourage defacing of nameplates.” (Cambridge News)

Big Break for White-Collar Crime
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has changed its mission, according to national security lawyer Kel McClanahan, who said he noticed the change in December while reviewing a Freedom of Information Act request from the agency. The FBI fact sheet previously stated, “The primary function of the FBI is law enforcement.” Now, McClanahan told Foreign Policy magazine, “The primary function of the FBI is national security.” FBI official Paul Bresson clarified that the agency’s mission “changed after 9/11,” and the number of FBI agents dedicated to counterterrorism doubled between 2001 and 2009. As the FBI focus shifted to counterterrorism, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported a sharp drop in the number of white-collar criminal cases investigated. (MSNBC)

Handicapable
Police reported that Shamal Battice showed up at a car dealership in Ocala, Fla., wanting to buy a car. Salesman Anselmo “Chico” Barreto helped Battice, a paraplegic in a wheelchair, get into a 2009 Pontiac G6, whereupon Battice locked the door and started the engine. He then used a folding cane to press down the gas pedal and drive off the lot. Barreto notified the authorities, and Bradford County sheriff’s deputies arrested Battice at a gas station trying to refuel the car. (Ocala Star-Banner)

Secret Identities
After the New York Times published a story about rising demand for pigs raised in open pastures, the newspaper’s international edition reprinted the story. The Malaysian version included two pictures of the pigs but blacked out their faces. “This is a Muslim country,” a representative from the printing company based in Shah Alam said, explaining that pictures of pigs are not allowed. He acknowledged that the authorities had not ordered the cover-up. “What they have done is self-censorship,” Hashimah Nik Jaafar, secretary of the Home Ministry’s Publication and Quranic Texts Control Division, said, noting that Malaysia has no law prohibiting publication of pictures of pigs. (The Malay Mail)

Passion Fruit
Police investigating a break-in at a gas station in Newington, Conn., said surveillance video showed a station wagon repeatedly backing into the store and breaking the glass doors. The driver jumped out of the vehicle, grabbed a banana from a shelf, ate it and then drove off. Nothing else was taken. (Associated Press)

Always Read the Fine Print
When Christopher Poole, 26, learned that Nando’s fried chicken chain was offering a card guaranteeing chicken for life to anyone who ate at all its worldwide outlets, he embarked on an attempt to visit all 1,031 of them. “I love chicken and eat there a couple of nights a week anyway, so I decided to embrace the challenge,” Poole said. After spending $1,670 and gaining 14 pounds from visiting just the 85 outlets in the United Kingdom, Poole discovered that the competition ended two years ago. “There are now so many Nando’s worldwide that we don’t run the challenge anymore,” a Nando’s official said. He added that if Poole completes his attempt, “we will happily honor our original promise and give him free Nando’s for life.” Poole promptly announced he was heading for Australia, where Nando’s has nearly 300 outlets. (Britain’s Daily Mail)

Sour Note
When Canadian flute virtuoso Boujemaa Razgui arrived in Boston via New York, he found that U.S. Customs officials at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport had searched his luggage, mistaken his 13 instruments for pieces of bamboo and destroyed them. “They told me they were agricultural products,” said Razgui, who made them all by hand from hard-to-find reeds. “And now they’re gone.” (The Boston Globe)

The Next Winter Olympics Event
Quebec inventor Yvon Martel unveiled an electric-powered sled. Dubbed the MTT-136, it weighs about 280 pounds and can haul a person or cargo for 130 miles on an eight-hour charge. (Popular Science)

When Guns Are Outlawed
Ken Birdsill, 56, reported that he was beaten and robbed by a man armed with an icicle. The victim said two men came to his house in Windsor, N.Y., demanding drugs and money. One man punched Birdsill in the face when he opened the door; the other hit him on the head with the icicle. (Binghamton’s WBNG-TV)

Too Big to Care
HSBC bank has imposed restrictions on large cash withdrawals by some of its British customers who cannot prove why they want their money. Customer Stephen Cotton said that when he tried to withdraw £7,000 pounds ($11,695) from his local HSBC branch, the bank declined his request without “a satisfactory explanation for what the money was for” and refused to tell him how much he could have. “So I wrote out a few slips,” he explained. “I said, ‘Can I have £5,000?’ They said no. I said, ‘Can I have £4,000?’ They said no. And then I wrote out one for £3,000, and they said, ‘OK, we’ll give you that.’” When he complained, the bank said the new policy took effect in November but declared it “had no need to pre-notify customers of the change.” (BBC News)

Hard News
The federal government overpaid by $86.4 million to provide penis pumps to Medicare patients at twice the price private providers charge, according to the Health and Human Services Department’s inspector general. The IG report noted that the vacuum erection systems cost taxpayers nearly $175 million during the years 2006 to 2011 and that reducing the Medicare payment for the devices to the level of non-Medicare payers could save the federal government about $18 million a year. (The Washington Times)

Extreme Makeover
Hoping to distance aspiring middle-class Kazakhstan from its low-class neighbors, President Nursultan Nazarbayev suggested eliminating “stan” from its name. The word means “place” in Persian, but Nazarbayev said that it causes foreigners to lump the country with its economically less developed or more politically volatile neighbors. He suggested the name “Kazakh Yeli,” or “Land of the Kazakhs,” and invited public discussion of his proposal. (The Economist)

Unclear on the Concept
Authorities in Mount Vernon, Ill., charged Sammy Kehrer, 47, with stabbing a 37-year-old man to death at a gun club. (Associated Press)

Write About What You Know
Alaric Hunt, 44, won a $10,000 literary prize from Minotaur Books and the Private Eye Writers of America for his crime novel Cuts Through Bone. The award includes a publishing contract for the author, a convicted murderer who has been in a South Carolina prison since 1988. Hunt said he assembled his view of the outside world for the novel from books he read and from episodes of television’s Law and Order. (New York Times)

News&Blues

 

 

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 or email us at snt@syracusenewtimes.com

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