Extra, extra: In Other News, online



In this week's installment: Increasing numbers of Arizona residents are painting their lawns green to avoid high water bills and fines from homeowners associations that can amount to thousands of dollars.

Curses, Foiled Again
A surveillance video showed the man who stole two 24-packs of beer from a convenience store in Lake Wales, Fla., making his getaway. Before he made it to his car, however, his sagging jeans dropped, causing him to fall to the ground and sending cans of beer rolling in every direction. He got up and jumped into the vehicle and drove off empty-handed. (Lakeland’s The Ledger)

A man handed a note to a bank teller in Okeechobee, Fla., demanding a sack full of cash. When the teller said she didn’t have a bag, the would-be robber, who was also bagless, left empty-handed. The Okeechobee County sheriff’s office said the suspect fled the scene on a bicycle and was apprehended within seven minutes, thanks to bank personnel’s good description of Joseph Price, 61. (United Press International)

Grass Is Always Greener
Increasing numbers of Arizona residents are painting their lawns green to avoid high water bills and fines from homeowners associations that can amount to thousands of dollars. An average-size lawn costs $200 to spray with a vegetable-based dye that lasts three months before turning blue. Although painting lawns keeps the grass green, it still needs watering so it doesn’t die. Besides fear of citations from homeowners’ associations, the biggest boost to the grass-spraying business has been the housing crisis, which prompted real estate brokers to find cheap ways to enhance the curb appeal of available properties. (The New York Times)

Speedy Trial
After a jury in Hampden County, Mass., needed only three hours to find Charles L. Wilhite, 27, guilty of first-degree murder, his attorney, William J. O’Neil, moved to have the verdict set aside, pointing out there was so much evidence against his client that the jury couldn’t possibly have considered it all that quickly. (Springfield’s The Republican)

Grievance of the Week
After Scranton, Pa., Police Chief Dan Duffy made an impromptu drug arrest while off duty, the city police union complained to the state Labor Relations Board because Duffy isn’t a member of the collective bargaining unit. Noting “the work of apprehending and arresting individuals has been the sole and exclusive province of members of the bargaining unit,” the complaint states that the city failed to notify the union the chief would be “performing bargaining unit work.” Despite the grievance, police union president Sgt. Bob Martin said the chief is “morally and legally obligated” to act if he witnesses a crime and to make an arrest if necessary. “It’s not against the chief,” Martin explained. “The action is against the city.” (Scranton’s The Times-Tribune)

Worthy Opponents
Investigating loud noises shortly after 4 a.m. at Florida’s Osceola County Jail, a guard checked security cameras and discovered a bed sheet had been used to obscure the view of a cell occupied by Hector Luis Campos, 22. A search found broken brick near the doorframe, leading to the conclusion that Campos had tried to escape by “punching the brick,” sheriff’s official Twis Lizasuain said. “And his hand is very sore right now.” (Orlando Sentinel)

After a housecat attacked a man at a home outside Cleveland, Texas, both the cat and the man were injured by a knife the man was holding. The man was severely injured. (The Cleveland Advocate)

Pre-Firing Bonus
A review of disciplinary hearings involving New York City teachers found that even when investigations confirm wrongdoing, the city’s Department of Education might take several years to dismiss teachers, who continue receiving pay. The review cited as an example Bronx teacher Barbara Lee, who DOE investigators confirmed in August 2005 had helped students cheat on their state math tests the previous May. Lee fought her termination, and the case dragged on until May 2010, when the city finally terminated her. During those five years, Lee received nearly $360,000 without teaching a single class. Indicating that suspended teachers have every incentive to drag out the process because of a shortage of arbitrators and the backlog of cases, Jay Worona, chief counsel for the New York State School Boards Association, acknowledged, “The whole system is very, very flawed.” (New York Post)

Identity Crisis
Search warrants executed by members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force disclosed that Joseph Jeffrey Brice, 21, who was critically injured when a bomb he was making exploded at his home in Clarkston, Wash., had opened email and PayPal accounts using the name of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. (The Seattle Times)

State police stopped a man at Pennsylvania’s Lehigh County International Airport who identified himself with a Texas driver’s license. Troopers wrote down the information and then asked the man to repeat his date of birth. When he got it wrong, he ran off and tossed a wallet into some shrubs. Police caught the man and recovered the wallet, which contained 12 counterfeit driver’s licenses. Unable to determine the man’s real name, they booked him as John Doe. (Allentown’s The Morning Call)

Big Future for Drones
The increasing use of remotely piloted, armed drones will lead future decision-makers to “resort to war as a policy option far sooner than previously,” according to a study by the British Defense Ministry. Noting drones are becoming increasingly automated, the study said that with minor technical advances, a drone could soon be able to “fire a weapon based solely on its own sensors, or shared information, and without recourse to higher, human authority.” (The Washington Post)

First Things First
When police Officer Courtney Vassell tried to stop Roberta Spen, 64, for having faulty brake lights, the Coral Springs, Fla., resident instead headed for a McDonald’s drive-through lane and ordered lunch. Vassell pulled up behind her and told her to pull into the parking lot, but Spen got her food and drove off. When Vassell finally stopped her, he said she “rolled her window down one inch and said she was not speeding and she would not roll her window down.” Spen refused to hand over her driver’s license and drove away. Other officers joined Vassell in pursuit of Spen, who finally stopped for a red light. After failing to box her in there, officers finally succeeded in trapping her. She refused to leave the car, however, so they broke the driver’s side window and removed her. Police found no indication that Spen, who had no criminal record, was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and she wouldn’t explain her refusal to stop. (South Florida Sun Sentinel)

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