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NewsQuirks 642

Curses, Foiled Again

Vermont State Police Trooper Mike Sorensen had stopped a vehicle for speeding outside Dummerston, Vt., when a Lincoln Town Car with two men pulled right in front of the speeder's vehicle. When Sorensen went to investigate, the driver, Herbert Pearson, 72, said they had gotten lost after setting out for Waterbury, Conn., from their home in New Haven, Conn., which is more than 100 miles from Dummerston. Sorensen observed that both men had been drinking a nd said the passenger gave him a false name and told him his birthday was Sept. 31. Suspicious because that date doesn't exist, Sorensen determined the man was the driver's son, Brian Lamont Pearson, 39. A check discovered he was wanted in Connecticut for possession of narcotics and resisting arrest.

Patrick Michael Penker, 54, pleaded guilty in Dallas to money laundering and fraud after bilking credit card companies and gambling casinos out of $900,000. His scheme was uncovered when a banker in Lubbock, Texas, told the FBI he "smelled a rat" because Penker was obtaining cashier's checks made out to some combination of the initials D, C and H or the name "Dewey, Cheatham & Howe," which was a fictitious law firm used by the Three Stooges.

United We Stand

New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik said a Manhattan grand jury was looking into evidence that organized crime families took hundreds of tons of steel and other materials from the ruins of the World Trade Center, even though it is still considered evidence in the Sept. 11 explosion.

In the wake of the attack on the Pentagon, firefighters from Arlington County, Va., accused firefighters from the District of Columbia of trying to take the Arlington unit's expensive high-tech gear, including special goggles that see through smoke and special breathing equipment. The Washington Post reported that the D.C. firefighters were stopped while leaving the scene with the equipment. D.C. Fire Chief Ronnie Few explained equipment mix-ups are common during joint fire operations.

Corporate Response

Kimberly-Clark Corp. announced it is eliminating the cardboard tube in two brands of its toilet tissue used in corporate restrooms. The company said it would fill the space with more toilet paper to help reduce the inconvenience of running out at a bad time.

Acknowledging that rude employees are costing McDonald's Corp. millions of dollars a year in lost sales, the fast-food chain said it is creating "customer recovery teams" to combat the losses. Company documents obtained by Dow Jones News Service did not specify what tactics the teams will take, but they are an integral part of a major domestic initiative to double McDonald's sales within 10 years.

Lowered Expectations

A satellite carrying the cremated remains of 50 people into Earth orbit fell into the Indian Ocean when the launch rocket failed some 80 seconds into its flight from California. Charles Chafer, the co-founder of the futuristic funeral home Celestis, vowed to make another attempt to send fresh samples of each person's remains into space, insisting, "Everyone will fly again."

Honesty Not the Best Policy

After his discharge from the Army, Edwin V. Gaynor, 21, went to Baltimore's police headquarters to fill out an application to join the force. When asked if he had ever committed a crime, Gaynor checked the box marked yes. When asked to explain, he said he had carjacked a woman and then robbed five people in two incidents in Texas. Police conducted a search of Gaynor's house, his mother's house and a storage unit, and found five handguns and two rifles, plus a green-and-white bandana reportedly used in the robberies. "I've never seen anything like this," police Maj. George Klein said. "I guess something just spooked him, and he wanted to clear his conscience."

Brown Gold

Noting the growing problem of animal waste disposal, researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) are testing ways to turn cow manure into products such as plastics and antifreeze. Project manager Don Stevens told New Scientist magazine the process involves separating undigested carbohydrates from the manure and converting them into chemicals. Using manure could also help reduce industry's dependence on oil since most chemicals now used as raw materials for manufacturing are derived from petroleum. The process has already succeeded using by-products from processing corn, wheat, potatoes and dairy products, but the next step poses greater challenges because, Stevens pointed out, "manure is messier."

Wisconsin opened its first cow-powered electric plant this summer. The project at Tinedale Farm uses a chamber with anerobic bacteria to convert 48,600 pounds of manure from the farm's 1,800 Holsteins into 300,000 cubic feet of methane gas. The gas is piped from the chamber to an electric generator, where it is burned, producing a constant flow of 750 kilowatts of electricity, enough to power 250 houses. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that farmer Carl Theunis uses solid and liquid by-products of the process as pathogen-free fertilizer and expects to add treatment facilities to clarify the liquid by-product for reuse as water.

Anger Mismanagement

Police in Hollywood, Fla., arrested Paul Schloneger, 35, after a road-rage incident in which he took a machete from the trunk of his Mercedes and slashed a passenger in the other vehicle in the neck. Saying the wound was ugly but not life threatening, police Lt. Tony Rode noted, "I'd rather it was a machete than a gun."

Sheriff's deputies in Spartanburg County, S.C., said four men were playing golf when three of them asked Victor Earley, 39, to leave the group because of his annoying behavior. Earley rented a golf cart and returned to harass the threesome. The men got into a fistfight between the 13th and 14th holes. At one point Earley tried to hit Paul F. Hughes, 37, with a golf club. Hughes pulled a hunting knife and cut Earley across his chest, leading to Hughes's arrest. "The impression the officers had is that they really didn't like this guy," Lt. Ron Gahagan said, "but they decided to let him play because he is related to one of them in some capacity."

Saucy Seasoning

The health office in Muar, Malaysia, ordered a food stall closed and its owner arrested because he was boiling dirty underwear in pots with food. Although local legend recommends this technique to improve the flavor of food, one health official quoted by Singapore's Straits Times insisted, "This is an untrue belief and must be stopped."

Compiled from the nation's press by Roland Sweet. Send original clippings, citing source and date, to P.O. Box 8130, Alexandria VA 22306.

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