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Syndicated Columns

Newsquirks

By Roland Sweet
Posted // June 11,2007 -

Police in Pleasanton, Calif., reported receiving a call that someone had hit two parked cars and sped away with his horn honking. Minutes later, another caller said that his roommate had parked his pickup truck in the driveway with extensive front-end damage and its horn sounding incessantly. According to Lt. Bob Lyness, the caller said that the roommate, David John Verrow, 46, “was drunk, panicked and had locked himself in his room with an ax and a pellet gun.” When police went to Verrow’s home, the roommate reported hearing “chopping sounds” coming from Verrow’s room. Officers found that the suspect had chopped his way into an attic crawl space and refused to come down. About 15 minutes later, the ceiling gave way, and Verrow came crashing down into the master bedroom, where officers promptly arrested him.



Jury of His Peers



After a Chicago jury convicted former Illinois governor George Ryan, 72, of selling his office and lying about it, defense attorneys attacked the jurors’ fitness to serve, insisting that their client deserves another trial. Two of the jurors had to be replaced during the 11-day deliberations after the Chicago Tribune disclosed that they had concealed arrest records during pre-trial questioning. Three more did not reveal arrests from more than 20 years ago. Another juror was replaced shortly before deliberations began after five colleagues complained to the judge that she had been sleeping during testimony.



School Daze



As part of a two-day project tied to the reading of Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, teachers at a middle school in Apopka, Fla., without warning or explanation, separated the school’s 440 eighth-graders by last names and issued yellow stars to those whose names began with the letters L through Z. For the rest of the day, the students wearing the yellow stars were subjected to various humiliations and denied the use of certain water fountains and restrooms. When some of the students complained to their parents, school principal Douglas Guthrie told reporters that the incident was part of a Holocaust-remembrance project. “Teachers felt that it would have defeated the purpose to tell the students ahead of time because that would have prepared them,” he said. One of the parents, John Tinnelly, didn’t dispute the importance of teaching the children about the Holocaust but took issue with the methods used, explaining, “I tried to talk to my son [about what he learned]. The only thing he said is, ?Daddy, the only thing I found out today is I don’t want to be Jewish.’?



• The principal of an elementary school in Inglewood, Calif., concerned that students would join in Southern California’s student walkouts over immigration, locked down classrooms to keep the youngsters in school. As part of the drill, Angie Marquez instructed teachers to place buckets in the back of classrooms for students who couldn’t wait until the end of the day to use the restroom. When parents demanded an explanation, school administrators defended Marquez but explained that she had misread the handbook governing crisis situations. “When there’s a nuclear attack, that’s when buckets are used,” Tim Brown, director of operations, told the Los Angeles Times.Giveth, Taketh Away



The Federal Emergency Management Agency notified 2,044 Mississippi residents that they must repay a total of $4.7 million in federal Hurricane Katrina benefits. FEMA official Eugene Brezany explained that some storm victims got duplicate or extra benefits because of the agency’s errors, the mistaken belief that secondary residences qualified for payments or “intentional misrepresentation.?



• In January, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi sent a letter to the parents of more than 600,000 newborn babies telling them how to receive a “baby bonus,” worth about $1,250. The letter was mistakenly sent to the families of all newborns, including immigrants, even though the bonus was intended only for Italian babies. Now the Economy Ministry has asked non-Italian recipients of a baby bonus to return the money.



Negative Review



Robert Fink, a musicologist at the University of California Los Angeles, took a dim view of a proposal by activists in Hartford, Conn., to play recordings of classical music to annoy drug dealers and prostitutes at a city park so that they’ll leave. Resident Carol Coburn said that she came up with the idea after reading about similar efforts in West Palm Beach. Fla., where crime decreased by as much as 40 percent in parks where classical music was played. Pointing out that “some of the greatest composers in history are now being viewed as some kind of bug spray or disinfectant,” Fink warned the Hartford crime fighters, “Beethoven is not going to save you.?



What Would Jesus Drink?



The Flamingo Road Church in Cooper City, Fla., offered 150,000 people a $10 gift card to Starbucks to attend its services. The mailing worked, according to pastor Troy Gramling, who noted that attendance at the church this Easter increased by more than 1,500 over last year.



Political Wisdom



School children in Bolivia should be fed coca leaves for breakfast instead of milk, according to Foreign Minister David Choquehuaca, who declared that the coca leaf provides more nutritional substance and extra energy. Speaking before the congressional foreign relations committee, Choquehuaca pointed out that the coca leaf has more calcium than milk and more phosphorous than fish. His remarks are part of an effort by the government of President Evo Morales to remove coca from international lists of toxic substances.

 
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