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January 2002

10 January 2002

The US Drug Enforcement Administration has announced a ban on all 'beer, cheese, coffee, corn chips, energy drink [sic], flour, ice cream, snack bars, salad oil, soda, and veggie burgers' whose ingredients include hemp seeds or hempseed oil. The Controlled Substances Act forbids any consumption, sale, or distribution of foods that contain trace amounts of THC, the 'interesting' ingredient in marijuana. You have until 6 February to finish that bag of psychoactive corn chips.
The DEA, whose edicts need not pass through any further approval stages, have not yet banned poppy seed bagels.

The St. Petersburg Times reports that an Ocala, Florida, parking space for the handicapped became a hot spot when Norma Lombardo, 77, refused to step out of the spot for driver Richard Stengal. Lombardo said she was saving the spot for her husband so didn't move when Stengel asked. She stated that he said: 'Lady, if you don't move, I'm going to run over you', and so he did. Lombardo suffered minor injuries. Stengal was booked into jail, based on security camera footage. Stengal's vehicle did not have a handicapped tag. We do not know whether or not Mr Lombardo's did.

The New Year's Eve edition of the Chicago Tribune spoke of Marero McKinney, 31, who held a two-year-old boy against a radiator because his crying interrupted an American football game. McKinney tried to cover his tracks by boiling water and spilling it near the child he was baby-sitting, prosecutors claimed. He also applied peroxide to the wounds. When the boy's father returned home from his ten-minute trip to a local store, McKinney said he tripped over a cord and spilled hot water on the child. State's Attorney Lauretta Froelich said the boy, asleep on the sofa, wasn't wet, although the father found burns on his arms, legs, and back.

Employees at the El Dorado, Arkansas, McDonald's restaurant found a dead deer under a sink in the men's loo on Sunday morning. Manager Jeff Moss said the incident wasn't caught on camera and can't believe no-one noticed the deer entering the restaurant. Police Captain Carl Blake said the deer appeared to have been road kill. He said there were no signs of forced entry.

California's Tom Lovecchio 53, led three or so police cars on a 20-minute chase. He eventually pulled his motor home over and surrendered. A camper is 'probably not the best vehicle to get in a police chase with', said Belmont Sergeant Dan DeSmidt. Earlier in the evening, Lovecchio had made two bogus calls to emergency services, in which he claimed various problems at his ex-wife's home. He was booked into jail on the charges of driving under the influence of alcohol, evading a police officer, making false reports of emergencies, violating a court order, and violating probation.

Jack in the Box is once more in the news. The Houston Chronicle reports on Dana Anderson's charges that a night manager beat her unsconscious with an industrial-size broom after she held up the drive-through queue by bumping the car ahead of her, exchanging information with the other driver, and asking to speak to the manager to report that employees at the order window had lashed out at her verbally. Anderson's lawsuit claims that Jack in the Box Number 634's Latricia Milam then came outside and began hitting her, kicking her, and yelling at her. She wants compensation for a fractured rib and pain and suffering.

Mitreben Laboratories of Osaka, Japan, have worked with staff at the Department of Anesthesiology at Osaka Railway Hospital to develop an anus gas detector. The 'hohi kenshutsuki' device is useful 'for physicians to know if a postoperative patient has been farting', said research team member Hideo Ueda, who explained that 'even if the doctor or nurse asks, they might insist that their bowels have not begun to move yet'. The 200,000 yen product is basically a hydrogen detector attached to a tube on the patient's inner thigh. The device is not yet available for use by mass transit passengers.

A Wendy's customer in Tracy, California, was given the wrong order. 'Someone set down the bag. Someone else picked it up', Police Lieutenant Mike Maciel said of the busy restaurant where a customer was given $12,000 in the same kind of bag used for food orders. The customer is now a wanted man and could face charges, even felony charges, if he is caught. So far, he has been captured on security cameras only.

Reuters reports on a slightly less clean getaway. Three robbers were in the middle of a hold-up in Vancouver, British Columbia, when one of their mobile phones was jostled and the redial button hit. RCMP Constable Phil Reid said the number was hooked up to an answering machine, whose owner gave the tape to police. The call, which includes counting the loot, arguing about how it should be split, and telling the victim 'you're being jacked', is probably already available online, as it has been aired on Vancouver-area radio stations in attempts to get the victim to come forward so charges can be pressed.

And elsewhere in British Columbia, thieves called police themselves. As the Globe and Mail reported it on 3 January, two thieves broke into the home of an 80-year-old Prince Rupert man. The pair called police when they found the man dead. Filippo Falcone had, according to police, probably been deceased for at least nine months. He had been undergoing cancer treatments at Prince Rupert Hospital, but no-one there checked on him, angering his Ontario neice, Grace Graham.

Alaska's Anchorage Daily News reported on Saturday that a Texas man flew to Muldoon to visit his mother and left after strangling her, binding her corpse with duct tape, and hiding it in the breakfast bar of the trailer in which she lived. Police said Kenneth Padgett, 37, hoped to get some money from pawning Charlotte Miles's videos and CDs (for which he received a couple of thousand dollars) and by letting her trailer. The investigation started when Padgett was on his way home. Airline employees spotted a shotgun in one of his bags. A more thorough search of his bags revealed women's jewellery, ID cards for his mother, and women's clothing.
The breakfast bar had been sealed in several ways, but the body's location was quickly revealed by a foul smell and fluids leaking from the kitchen area in the trailer. The renter claimed she didn't know there was a dead body in her kitchen until the oozing and smell became obvious on the day the police arrived.
Padgett said his mother's death by asphyxiation was natural and that he awoke to see her die after she had trouble breathing. He said he covered her face in duct tape later so he wouldn't have to look at her before sealing her in the homemade crypt.

Pennsylvania state trooper Robert Valgo called a would-be robber a 'three-time loser' after he failed to rob a convenience store. The masked robber 'had his hand in his pocket, pointing like he had a gun, but the clerk saw the outline of knuckles', said Linney's Sunoco A-Plus part-owner Linda Smith. The robber then tried to lift the cash register but failed because it was tied down, so he started to pound on the keys. When the clerk pointed out the security camera, the robber left and took off with a customer's car. The customer, Daniel Buterbaugh, heard his car start and jumped into the passenger seat. After refusing demands to hand over his wallet, Buterbaugh regained control of the car.
A year ago, another robber fled when a clerk offered a personal cheque instead of the store's cash.

And in news of the petty, Aurelie Brun has demanded that Miss France 2002 beauty pageant winner Sylvie Tellier be measured to make sure she fits the minimum height requirement. Brun, who said she knows people who think Tellier is one inch below the required height, was herself disqualified from the contest in December for being too short as well as taking part earlier in a rival pageant.

17 January 2002

In slightly older news, we hear that the manager of a Billings, Montana, business received a telephone call on Boxing Day from a man who said he was a police detective looking for a handbag supposedly snatched by a female employee. According to police detective Sergeant Ross Adams, the caller asked the manager of the business, which police did not identify, to conduct a strip search of two employees who matched a given description. The manager complied, not wanting police to come and make arrests. Employees became suspicious afterward and called police to report the incident.

Randy Griffin, 35, is accused of stealing two loose diamonds from the Jewelry Exchange in Roseville, Michigan, and swallowing them when police arrived. One diamond has not been accounted for, but and x-ray shows the other to have become caught in a diverticulum in his intestines. Griffin asked a judge to have the gem removed from his intestinal tract. Before breaking down in tears, he said: 'I want to hand this over more than anyone does.' Fearing that the diamond would perforate his intestines, Griffin responded: 'I'll pay for it. Please send me back to the hospital.' The Free Press reports that Judge Joseph Boedeker denied the pleas because he was not shown that diamond removal was a medical necessity.

Former US Secretary of Transportation Drew Lewis was fined and sentenced to 30 days in jail for driving under the influence of alcohol. Lewis, 70, had been drinking before rolling his Lincoln Navigator while pulling out of his Norristown, Pennsylvania, driveway. He was arrested after police freed him from the vehicle. Lewis will be allowed to serve his time at a centre for treating alcohol abuse.

In Alliance, Philadelphia, Frank and Renee Layne's one-year-old girl was taken away by order of Judge Jim James because the couple had not met counseling and other requirements. The couple, who told a social worker a couple weeks ago that they didn't want to pursue custody of the girl, are expecting a 14th child. Six of their children were taken away or put up for adoption before 2000, when allegations arose that the couple sold their eldest boy on the Internet for $300. Although they denied this charge, the pair did admit that they neglected their children. The remaining six were removed at that time.

South Carolina's Gina Gantt saw that a neighbour's 400-pound pot-bellied pig had torn down her family's electric fence and was pursuing their 12-pound pig with romantic intent. In the 13 hours that followed, the Gantts contacted York County Animal Control but were told they don't deal with livestock. The Gantts, the larger pig (Pugsley)'s owner, and neighbours tried to separate the pigs, backing off when Pugsley tried to charge them or got annoyed at the smaller pig, who was not in heat.
Someone fired a paintball gun at the pig who was making a mess of the yard. This did not help. Finally, three York County sheriff's deputies showed up and put the paint-splattered Pugsley down. The owner had someone tie his ex-pig to a truck's bumper in order to get it home. Steve Gantt said: 'It was kind of comical, but it's terrible how it ends.'

Houston's Mary LeBlanc has filed suit against a group of Unitarians who, she claims, ousted her after unsuccessfully trying to get her to teach them Wiccan rituals when they had no desire to become Wiccans themselves. LeBlanc said she joined the Unitarian Fellowship in 1999 because it welcomes people of every religious belief.
LeBlanc claims that the group's harassment escalated after she stopped attending its meetings. This included calling her a 'humpbacked [she has a twisted spine], toothless, redneck hillbilly witch' and sending people to her home to infiltrate Wiccan meetings. She seeks $3 million in damages for aggravating a serious heart condition and inflicting emotional distress.
A Fellowship member provided this statement to the Houston Chronicle: 'Some items sent by Ms. LeBlanc have been forwarded to the police department. Let me just leave it at that.'

Since the custom of erecting a straw Christmas goat effigy began in the 1960s in Gavle, Sweden, arsonists have set fire to the creation 29 times. This year the goat was erected inside a building in efforts to save it. Lawrence Jones claims it was in salute to the 29 arsonists that he set light to a single straw he plucked from the 30-foot-high figure after spending the evening of 23 December drinking with a friend at the nearby Burning Goat. But it became 'the towering inferno of straw', Jones said. 'I said "uh-oh" and just stood there' until angry citizens and police arrived, said the 51-year-old Shaker Heights, Ohio, man. Jones, the third goat-lighter to be caught, acknowledged that a Norwegian is still in jail for trying to set fire to the goat last year.
'I don't have the money to pay the fine [the equivalent of $9600], but I will work something out with the city to pay for it, maybe even guard the goat next year', said Jones.

Ross Lucock of Oyster Bay, Australia, said he was told to put shoes on during a 'rowdy drinks night' at the Jannali Inn. As the winner of the meat tray raffle, he chose two pork chops to strap to his feet. This was four years ago, and it was four years ago when Troy Bowron slipped on what seemed to be pork fat on the floor while playing pool there and broke both bones in his left forearm. Bowron, an upholsterer, is suing Lucock, the Jannali Inn, and its licensee for 750,000 Australian dollars, which he says is compensation for past and future lost earnings. The venue is responsible, he says, for its 'failure to remove [Lucock] [...] in the knowledge that he was inebriated and was clad with pork chops strapped to his feet'. Judge Anthony Puckeridge told Lucock, to get legal advice, saying: 'If I was in your position, the red light would be flashing.'

An electrician was carrying out maintenance at the South West Regional Health Authority hospital in southern Trinidad when he found a skeleton in a small room near a patients' ward. Reuters reports that staff are trying to figure out whose body sat unnoticed in the room for months. Police estimates say the body may have been there as long as nine months. Neil Parsanlal, head of communications for the hospital, said he had received no reports of a patient disappearing.

Plans for a Lauderhill, Florida, Martin Luther King Day celebration had a bizarre twist when the wrong wording was used on a plaque destined for guest speaker James Earl Jones, the actor who may be most well-known for providing the voice of Darth Vader. When the city's Martin Luther King task force gave the inscription copy to local company Adpro, it said: 'Thank you James Earl Jones for keeping the dream alive.' Wanting a 'unique' plaque, Adpro had ordered the job from Merit Industries, of Georgetown, Texas. The plaque arriving from Texas was indeed unique: the word 'Jones' had been changed to 'Ray'. James Earl Ray was King's assassin.
Adpro owner Gerald Wilcox said he had a secretary verify that the change occurred in Texas before he rang Merit. Wilcox said the owner of Merit, Herbert Miller, told him over the telephone that he 'was making a mountain out of a mole hill'. Miller eventually claimed: 'We have a lot of people who dont speak English. Accidentally, one of the girls [...] accidentally typed James Earl Ray.'

31 January 2002

Four students at Florida's Olympic Heights High School had an idea for raising money. After drawing up a contract with a 14-year-old female schoolmate, they got off the school bus with her at a West Boca recreation centre car park, went into the men's loos near the swimming pool, and proceeded to shoot a pornographic video. Anyone could have walked in while three of the boys were having sex with the girl. Only 'before' and 'after' shots were captured by security cameras, said homeowners' association president Robert W. Berry.
According to the Sun-Sentinel, the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office found out about the incident after the boys screened the video for a few classmates, preparatory to charging other students to watch it, and the cameraman encouraged the young star to submit it in a contest run by porn magazine High Society. Detective Phyllis Kearney said the case has been turned over to the State Attorney's Office for further investigation.

And in slightly different sex news, Reuters reported on Friday that the first brothel designed for female customers has gone bankrupt. 'If they'd operated like a normal brothel and made sure they got the money before the sex, they would have been all right', said Peter-Georg Biewald, police spokesman in Waldshut, Germany. He said the women only paid what they thought was appropriate. With six male prostitutes in total, the brothel, called Angels, was initially hailed by the media for its service to women.

A man in Bend, Oregon, had similar fortune in his own attempts to get money; that is, he failed. According to the Bulletin, he stole a backhoe from a construction site and went to US Bank, where he laid waste to the car park with the machinery and - more importantly to him - hit the ATM on each pass. When he knocked the ATM over, it set off an alarm. Police Captain Bob Wittwer said the man tried to pick up the ATM in the backhoe's bucket but failed and fled without getting any cash. He abandoned the backhoe nearby, and police believe he then ran to the constructions site and escaped in his car.

Theresa Earl is suing the city of Norwich, Connecticut, because, she says, a police officer took topless photos of her, supposedly as part of an ongoing investigation. Earl, 20, said Lieutenant James F. Daigle, Jr, told her a murder suspect in a recent case was also a child pornographer and that photos of her could be used in that context. Prior to that, she took part in a sting operation, in which Daigle took photos of her to prove she wasn't wearing a wire or carrying identification. In a complaint filed in December, Kristen Ejchorszt said Daigle took nude photos of her for an under-age drinking sting operation for which she had volunteered.

The student's name has been removed from the following story since at least vague doubts have been raised.
A report in the Yale Daily News describes a Yale student visiting the police to find out whether the powder he had allegedly purchased was really heroin. Lieutenant Michael Patten said that the 22-year-old student produced a small bag, which did test positive for heroin, whereupon he was arrested for narcotics possession. He claimed, through a prominent local defence attorney, that 'the last place in the world that a person who intended to illegally possess drugs would go is to the police and ask them to test that substance'. The student's roommate said: 'He probably tried to obtain evidence to give to police to catch the guy who sold him the drugs.'

As election campaigns go, it is one of the more different. Ingrid Betancourt, running for the presidency of Colombia, handed out samples of Viagra to drivers stopped at traffic lights in downtown Bogota. She told Reuters: 'We want our votes to dose Colombia with Viagra, to lift and to firm up the country, make peace swell, by standing up to the corrupt and stiffening our people.' As she darted from one car to the next, the 40-year-old Betancourt was followed by bodyguards and assistants clutching bags of tablets.

York, Pennsylvania, police arrested David Ruppert, 21, when he came to visit a friend at York County Prison. The friend, Robert Haley, is being charged for the armed robbery of a woman making a bank deposit. Now, so is Ruppert. When Detective Jeffrey Shell was checking addresses where Ruppert may have lived, an acquaintance of Ruppert said the wanted man might be visiting someone at the prison. Shell alerted prison officials, who detained Ruppert. Police believe Ruppert was at the prison to ascertain whether or not Haley was going to spill all the beans.

Sultaana Freeman, 34, is suing the state of Florida for suspending her driving licence after officials' systematic records checks revealed that the photo on her licence showed only her eyes and a veil. She refused to show her face for a new photo, arguing that in her interpretation of Islam 'I don't show my face to strangers or unrelated males'. Department of Motor Vehicles spokesman Robert Sanchez said: 'Florida law requires a full facial view of a person on their drivers license photo. We have no choice but to enforce it.' Freeman's ACLU lawyer, Howard Marks, said the law is vague and may not require a photo. Freeman's husband Abdul-Malik, also known as Mark Freeman (his wife is a former evangelist preacher), said: 'It's a reflection of September 11.'
In the last couple months, two other women reported that they were denied their licences for the same reason, but each pulled back her bijah to show a hairline-to-chin view, the most their religious beliefs allowed.

The Associated Press report that Judge Natalie Finn was wrong to revoke Timothy Wagner's concealed handgun permit, according to the Alaska Court of Appeals. The court cited the 1998 elimination of mental illness as a factor the Department of Public Safety can consider in processing the permits. Wagner had been convicted for not mentioning his gun until an officer asked if he was armed. The original incident involved Wagner entering Anchorage's Alaska Mining and Diving Store, where he told an employee he needed to soak out the chemicals that had been injected into him.

Texas's Lubbock Avalanche-Journal tells us of high-school student Justin Latimer, a member of the Crosbyton High School band. After Latimer wrote a letter to the local newspaper in which he described being 'deeply saddened by the fact that the band was not allowed to play "Amazing Grace" [at an American football game] in honor of those who died in the recent terrorist attacks', school superintendent Larry Morris pulled Latimer from class to tell him that the letter had hurt the school and Morris. He told Latimer he couldn't write letters to the editor without either the principal or band director's permission. Latimer's attorney is seeking a temporary court order preventing Morris from restraining the student's speech.

Calgary's Cheryl Toole was somewhat unnerved after a man robbed her at the Shell petrol station where she works. Two days later, she saw the same man on a bus, recognising his distinctive scar. She said that 'he was wearing the same clothes as he had on when he robbed me, and when he saw me he wrapped a scarf around his face - the same scarf he wore when he robbed me'. She saw him the next day on a train. And, one week after the robbery, she returned to work, where she was robbed again, this time by a man in drag. The cross-dresser, who bore that distinctive scar, fled after complaining about how little money there was. Police Sergeant Ken Poley said: 'It's a little odd.'

It isn't just hospitals in Trinidad (see Clippings from earlier this month). Vancouver Hospital couldn't find an 80-year-old patient with dementia. Well, a second search a month later succeeded. His body was found in an isolated room in an area off-limits to patients. The man, Allen Goulding, had left his stretcher in the emergency department's hallway and wandered off. 'We are saddened that this event has occurred', said Dr John Shepherd, executive director of medical affairs.

North Carolina's Winston-Salem Journal reports that Virginia Phillips failed her driving test after examiner Mary Evans asked her to back up and circle a car park. Witnesses saw Phillips quickly back up eight metres, over a kerb and into nearby grass, whereupon Evans told her 'the road test is over' and asked her to find another parking space and return to the DMV office. Evans said Phillips did not appear upset. Then, four witnesses said, Phillips drove around the car park, nearly hitting several parked cars. When she hit an embankment, her car jumped into the air and struck a small wall. She then backed up.
In backing up, her car hit a traffic sign and entered the road, crossing two northbound lanes, crossing the median, and entering the southbound lanes as cars slammed on their brakes. Officer D.B. Pilcher said: 'She managed to dodge all of that traffic.' The car then hit a floodlight, a small tree, and finally a 2002 Ford pickup truck. Sergeant T. Golding said Phillips suffered minor injuries.

Donald S. Guthrie, arrested for burgling a coin-operated laundry, couldn't pay his bail bondsman. So, knowing his cheque would bounce and wanting to stay out of jail, the 27-year-old man tried to get the money by robbing the M&T Bank in Avis, Pennsylvania. Guthrie, with $9000, fled the scene of the crime. When his car hit a tree stump, he got a ride from a passer-by. Officers caught him after seeing his image on the bank's surveillance tape. Guthrie confessed to the crime, for which he can now add felony armed robbery, theft, and receiving stolen property to his charges.

According to AP reports, a jury awarded $290,000 to two women who claim they were deceived by the True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of the Saints of the Last Days. Kaziah Hancock and Cindy Stewart allege that church founder Jim Harmston promised them, among other things, membership in heaven's highest circles and a chance to meet Christ on Earth, all in return for just a few donations. As conditions of membership, Stewart had contributed $20,000 from her retirement plan, and Hancock gave the church 67 acres of her farm and shares of water rights for distribution to church members. Harmston's wife, Elaine, said: 'God's people have always been persecuted and right now is no different.'

Hi, Mom!

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