News and Blues
by Roland Sweet - Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Compiled from the nation’s press.

Curses, Foiled Again

When long-distance runner Sarah Tatterson, 37, saw a man ride off after stealing her husband’s bicycle from her garage in West Seattle, Wash., she gave chase on foot. The thief saw her gaining on him, so he jumped off the bike and fled while she continued running alongside him, yelling for neighbors to call the police. The half-marathoner said the man asked her to back off, but she refused, telling him, “Look, I was going to run six miles today, but I could probably do 12.” Police who intercepted the pair arrested the unidentified suspect. (Seattle’s KING-TV)

Howdy, Neighbor

Barry Alan Swegle, 51, escalated a long-standing property-line dispute with his neighbor in Port Angeles, Wash., by going on a rampage with a bulldozer-like logging machine that damaged four houses, numerous outbuildings, a pickup truck and a power pole. One of the homes was knocked off its foundation. “It was like a war zone,” said former law enforcement officer Keith Haynes, who lives nearby. (Port Angeles’ Peninsula Daily News)

Can’t You Read?

Florida’s Hernando School Board voted to eliminate high school salutatorian and valedictorian honors, starting with the current freshman class, because the members didn’t fully read the recommendation of a committee. It proposed recognizing the top 10 percent of honor students with cum laude and summa cum laude distinctions, rather than singling out the top two students. The committee, which included school principals, said the competition to be No. 1 can be unhealthy, and other top-performing students should be recognized. The board approved the recommendation, 5-0. “I didn’t notice it excluded valedictorian and salutatorians,” Hernando School superintendent Bryan Blavatt admitted. “I thought this was a way to recognize more kids, not less.” (Tampa Bay’s WTSP-TV)

More Woes

The United Nations is considering a ban on killer robots. Calling them “lethal autonomous robotics,” or LARs, a draft report for the U.N.’s Human Rights Commission by Christof Heyns, a South African professor of human rights law, urges a worldwide moratorium on “testing, production, assembly, transfer, acquisition, deployment and use” of robots that can attack targets without human input, until an international conference can develop rules for their use. The report says the United States, Britain, Israel, South Korea and Japan have developed various fully or partially autonomous weapons. (The Canadian Press)

An End to Doughnut Breaks

Police in Lowell, Mass., agreed to allow global-positioning systems in patrol cars to track officers. The Lowell Patrolmen’s Union had expressed concerns about the GPS devices being used to discipline officers found not to be where they’re supposed to, but the union agreed to their implementation in exchange for a retroactive 0.25 percent hike in base pay. The city pays for the GPS units with money seized during drug arrests. (Lowell Sun)

Things That Go Boom— and Don’t A 19-year-old man carrying what Houston police called a “combustible mixture” intending to “blow up turtles” suffered severe injuries to his hand, lower extremities and face after he accidentally detonated the materials. Investigators said the teenager lit a cigar, whose ashes fell near the pocket carrying the explosive cartridges and ignited them. (Houston Chronicle) Authorities said Leonard Burdek, 50, walked into the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission offices in Salem, Ore., carrying a pressure cooker with wires sticking out and claimed it was a bomb. He told executive director  Vickie Chamberlain and the receptionist that he tried to blow up the agency’s outside sign because of a misspelling (a “d” was missing from “and” in the agency’s name), but the bomb didn’t work. After discussing the bomb’s failure to detonate, Burdek complained that the instructions he downloaded to make it also had misspellings. He left after an employee called police, who found him nearby. Noting the pressure cooker wasn’t a bomb, police Lt. Dave Okada said, “It looks like he was just trying to get attention.” (Salem’s Statesman Journal)

Second-Amendment Follies

Insisting that the Obama administration is buying up bullets so they won’t be available to gun-toting citizens exercising their Second-Amendment rights, Oklahoma lawmakers Sen. James Inhofe and Rep. Frank Lucas introduced a bill that would ban federal agencies, excluding the Defense Department, from buying more ammunition during a sixmonth period if it currently possesses more than its monthly averages during the George W. Bush administration. Not only does the administration deny this conspiracy, but so does the National Rifle Association, which said such claims are designed to “stir up fear.” (Talking Points Memo) Michele Wanko, 42, had been drinking vodka and lemonade with her husband, William C. Wanko, 43, for about six hours when she asked him to show her how to shoot a handgun in case someone attempted to break into the house, according to police in Delaware County, Pa. He obliged and died of a gunshot wound to the chest. “It was a recipe for disaster,” Police Chief John Egan said after Michele Wanko was charged in the fatal shooting, “mixing guns and alcohol.” (Delaware County’s Daily Times)

Reverse Gouging

Husein Sarameh, 51, sold his Super- America gas station in Waconia, Minn., for $945,000 and received a down payment of $203,000, but the check bounced. Meanwhile, the new owner had begun selling gas at a discount and tobacco and grocery products for half price. After collecting nearly $50,000 in cash, the new owner fled. Carver County sheriff’s officials said the investigation includes selling gas at a discount, which is illegal under state law because gas prices are regulated. (St. Paul’s KSTP-TV) Wisconsin authorities launched an investigation after receiving reports that four gas stations in Oconto were selling gas for nearly 50 cents cheaper than other stations in northeast Wisconsin. State law sets a minimum mark-up on gasoline to protect smaller stations from larger companies that may be able to sell gas at or below cost.

(Green Bay’s WBAY-TV)


Compiled from the nation’s press. To contribute, submit original clippings, citing date and source, to Roland Sweet in care of The New Times.