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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

New York’s Harbor Stash

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Using state-of-the-art sonar, researchers at Columbia University recently made the first comprehensive map of the items submerged in New York City's harbors. Supplementing those findings with historical data, New York magazine reported the inventory’s highlights in May: a 350-foot steamship that sank in 1920, a freight train that derailed in 1865, 1,600 bars of silver from a shipping accident in 1903 and a fleet of Good Humor ice cream trucks, which forms a reef for aquatic life. Of most concern lately, though, is the wildlife: 4-foot-long worms that eat wooden docks and tiny "gribbles" that eat concrete pilings.

 Government in Action

  • E-mails from Smithfield (Pa.) Township Supervisor Christine Griffin show room for improvement in her people skills. Published in May in the Pocono Record, the e-mails confirmed the longtime complaints of critics about her lack of diplomacy. In one official e-mail, Griffin wrote: "Don't you dare waste my time with your (expletive), you lying cheating son of a (expletive), sneaky back door (expletive) nut (expletive) sucker." In another, she wrote: "Reminder: I am the quintessential professional! Decorum and common sense are my bylaws!"
  •   Kim Schroeder, running for vice president of the Milwaukee (Wis.) Teachers’ Education Association in May, promised a five-point program. His first four points referred to the union and its positions toward the school board, but his fifth point was to “make sure that there is…beer and wine available for our monthly Leaders’ Meetings.” (Schroeder lost.)

Fine Points of the Law

 In 2005, Richard Balsavage, 28, pleaded guilty to taking pornographic photos of a toddler in Berks County, Pa., and was sentenced to nine to 23 months in jail. He served that time but, while on probation, continued to possess child pornography. A different judge then sentenced Balsavage to three-and-a-half to seven years in prison. Balsavage asked that judge for a re-sentencing, pointing out that he had not been given a fair opportunity to express remorse in court. The judge relented and Balsavage made a sorrowful apology. It went for naught, however, because the judge subsequently learned that Balsavage had confessed to a history of abusing at least 13 children. If Balsavage had not demanded re-sentencing, he might have been out in three-and-a-half years, but his new term was set at 24-and-a-half to 49 years.

 People Different From Us

 In May in the Kings Creek area north of Lenoir, N.C., two feuding families created a ruckus after a dog killed a neighbor's cat, according to sheriff's deputies. When the cat's owner found out, he shot the dog dead. When the dog's owner found out, he shot the cat's owner and the man's young daughter. Deputies were then called, and when they arrived, the dog's owner shot both of them. One of the deputies fired a return shot, fatally wounding the dog's owner.

 Least Competent Criminal

 Ezederick Jones, 18, was arrested in Memphis, Tenn., for the attempted robbery of the KFC from which he had been fired the day before. Though Jones was masked, his former manager quickly recognized him because the mask had oversized holes cut out for the eyes. Jones fled when the manager addressed him by name.

 Recurring Themes

 The most recent man to injure himself by smashing a bullet with a hammer, George Fath, of Pleasant Lake, Ind., said he wanted to destroy it so it wouldn't harm his kids. Fath told WANE-TV in April that the bullet “went into my belly and knocked me on my butt.”

 Undignified Deaths

 Their Last Words: (1) "A million dollars is a lot of money to pay for a whore": Those were the last words of multimillionaire French banker Edouard Stern, according to his girlfriend, Cecile Brossard, who took offense and was convicted of killing him in June in Geneva, Switzerland. (2) According to a police report, "Shoot me, shoot me, you guys ain't got the…" were the last words of Scott Riley, 25, who was arguing with the gun-wielding Joseph Jimenez, 24, about their game of “beer pong” in Bridgeport, Pa., in May.

c. 2009 Chuck Shepherd

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