NewsQuirks 363

WHERE RUBBER MEETS THE ROADWashington state officials closed two highways repaired with chunks of rubber from old tires after the roads began smoking and oozing a toxic, oily goo that threatened marshes on the Columbia River. In the first incident, the state used the rubber from 1 million old tires instead of rock or gravel to provide 7,000 cubic feet of fill when it rebuilt a 150-foot stretch of state Route 100 at the mouth of the river in October. In December, asphalt pavement laid over the fill began to crack, split and give off wisps of noxious smoke, with temperatures up to 160 degrees. In southeastern Washington, meanwhile, a 350-foot stretch of a Garfield County road began emitting smoke and even flames shortly after another repair job late last year used chipped tires.YO, CANADACanada's deputy prime minister Sheila Copps finally resigned because she was unable to fulfill a 1993 campaign promise to repeal the national goods and services tax. She briefly resisted, saying her promise to resign if she couldn't defeat the 7-percent sales tax was a "fast-lip comment" made in the heat of campaigning and adding she wanted to spare taxpayers the cost of a new election. But after radio listeners began sending in money to defray polling costs, she kept her vow. "I've worked hard to sustain my honesty," she said, "and I want to keep that." After Canadian Indians protested, Air Canada withdrew an advertisement depicting a spear-wielding Indian chief in traditional garb standing next to a passenger in a business suit under the headline, "Sitting Comfortabull?" Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, 62, was formally charged with assault against a protester during a public event. In the February incident, Chretien was making his way through a Flag Day crowd in Hull when Bill Clennett, 44, who was demonstrating against cuts in unemployment insurance, stood in the prime minister's path and shouted in French, "Chretien to the unemployment line!" News cameras showed Chretien grabbing the protester by the throat, wrenching his head and shoving him aside. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police then wrestled Clennett to the ground. "This country's getting too violent," The Globe and Mail of Toronto said of the episode. "You'd never catch an American President doing that kind of thing."DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DOAfter just eight days on the job, Boston's new transportation commissioner, William E. Luster, 36, was fired amid revelations that he had parked illegally in Boston twice this spring, including blocking a handicapped ramp while in town for his job interview. The car was ticketed and towed. In addition, the man in charge of traffic safety and parking already had at least five speeding tickets and three accidents on his record, as well as two arrests for driving with a suspended license between 1989 and 1994. He also had an unpaid parking ticket, which put him on the Registry of Motor Vehicles' license nonrenewal list. Luster's driving record was so poor that he was forced last year to take the remedial road safety course required of the state's worst motorists.WHERE'S THE BEEF?Diane Smith, the Texas Department of Agriculture's assistant commissioner for marketing and agribusiness development, whose job is to promote Texas beef, confirmed that she is a vegetarian and has been for 14 years. "It has nothing to do with my work," she said. "It's a personal preference."BETTER SAFE THAN SORRYAfter former police colonel Robert "The Enforcer" Barbers was appointed the Philippines' top crime fighter, he promised to make the streets of Manila safe from criminals. His first act was to send his whole family to live in the United States.CANDID CAMERAWhen an alarm went off at Naomi's Busy Mart in Buffalo, N.Y., police responded and searched the convenience store, which was closed. Not realizing they were being videotaped by the store's security camera, one of the two officers began "taking snack food and eating it," according to the store owner's lawyer, Glenn Murray, who said that in one scene the officer "looks like he's got a hot dog in his mouth." After the police left, the tape shows two burglars breaking into the store and stealing cigarettes, lottery tickets and other items. The police again responded to the alarm, this time with reinforcements. Again, the camera caught them helping themselves, Murray said. "You see three of them laughing and feasting and drinking."TITHES THAT BINDLinda Siefer, the former church secretary at St. Michael's Roman Catholic Church in Kalida, Ohio, was convicted of stealing more than $411,000 in cash from collection plates over a four-year period. The theft was discovered when bank employees wondered why there were never any $20 bills in the church's deposits. Prosecutor Dan Gerschutz said Siefer took all of them, explaining, "If she hadn't gotten greedy, we might not have caught her."CURSES, FOILED AGAINRandolph Espinosa, an ex-Secret Service agent who protected former President Reagan for 13 years, was sentenced to 16 months in jail after pleading guilty to selling baseballs and other souvenirs with fake autographs. Espinosa admitted selling nearly 300 baseballs with Reagan's signature, explaining that some were forged but some were signed by Reagan as he sat by the pool at his Rancho del Cielo near Santa Barbara. Espinosa also sold bogus signatures of Presidents Bush and Kennedy and former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy. According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Harris, the scam unraveled when a collector noticed that Jacqueline Kennedy's "signature'' was misspelled. Former Newark International Airport baggage handler James Henry Lisk, 49, was charged with taking part in the theft of $650,000 from an airliner several years ago. To avoid prosecution, Lisk pretended he was mute and voluntarily underwent numerous sessions of electroshock therapy. He finally caved in and was convicted in April.Compiled by Roland Sweet from the nation's press. Send clippings, citing source and date, to POB 8130, Alexandria VA 22306. Odd-news hounds will enjoy the latest compilation, "Dumb, Dumber, Dumbest: True News of the World's Least Competent People," by John J. Kohut and Roland Sweet (Plume/Penguin).

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