Advanced Search



Off-The-Wall   5
Off-The-Wall   4
Off-The-Wall   3
Off-The-Wall   2
Off-The-Wall   1 - Duke Energy Employee Advocate

Off The Wall - Page Two

"If you can remain calm, you just don't have all the facts." - Unknown

If You Can’t Beat Kudzu, Join It

Associated Press – by Jeffrey Collins – January 20, 2003

Weed despised by most is wonderful to artist

WALHALLA, S.C. - Nancy Basket doesn't see kudzu as the pestering green weed that grows so fast that legend has it the vines can swallow up a cow before the poor animal can escape.

Basket sees woven kudzu baskets and brightly colored cards made from kudzu paper. She sees kudzu soap and kudzu jelly. She even sees the day South Carolina becomes known as "The Kudzu State."

"Kudzu is not ugly or bad. It's not right or wrong," she says. "It's here for a reason, and we might as well find a way to use it."

At her studio in her home, she displays baskets made of kudzu. Some are the size of a thumbnail, others as big as a beach ball, but each just as richly textured as the more famous sweetgrass baskets made by the Gullah people along the S.C. and Georgia coasts.

Head into her back yard, and the walls of her studio are made of baled kudzu. On a cold January morning, the gully behind her house is a tangled knot of thousands of dull brown vines, but Basket says by May it will be as rich and green as Ireland.

Then there is her house and studio, in the foothills of northwest South Carolina amid the clinging kudzu vines she harvests for her work.

"That's why I chose the house," Basket said. "There was kudzu growing on the door."

"I had to cut it back last summer, though, before the neighbors started complaining," she says.

But most people think making art out of kudzu -- which is listed in the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's "Weed Hall of Shame" -- is like training a roach for a pet.

The vine didn't always have a bad reputation. Kudzu, native to Japan, was introduced to the United States in 1876 at the U.S. Centennial Exposition. By the early 1900s, Southerners were planting kudzu to shade their porches and to enjoy the purple blooms, which smell like grape bubble gum.

Kudzu continued its popularity in the South as farmers realized it prevented soil erosion and helped keep nitrogen in the dirt in their fields. By 1936, the federal government was paying farmers $8 an acre to plant the vines and was sending the New Deal's Civilian Conservation Corps out to plant kudzu along highways.

"The last thing kudzu needed to get a foothold in the South was all that nurturing," said Bob Polomski, a Clemson University horticulturist.

Herbicides and constant mowing eventually can fight off kudzu, but the plant is resilient and has no natural enemies in the Unites States. "It just grows over whatever plants are in its path and suffocates them," Polomski said.

Basket has heard all the negatives about kudzu. She's seen heads shake and heard the questions when she tells people what she does for a living or that her work has been displayed in the Smithsonian.

"The Smithsonian branded me an eccentric. Can you believe that?" said Basket, who legally changed her name 15 years ago to fit her chosen profession.

Well, Politicians are Bloodsuckers

Reuters – January 15, 2003

BLANTYRE, Malawi (Reuters) - Hundreds of angry Malawians hounded a senior political figure from his house and stoned him late Wednesday, accusing him of harboring vampires. Blantire Urban Governor Eric Chiwaya, a member of the ruling United Democratic Front, was the latest victim of a bizarre rumor that the country's government is colluding with vampires to collect human blood for international aid agencies.

Bearing severe cuts to his face and body, he told Reuters from his hospital bed that a crowd had hailed him with stones and other missiles, chanting "vampire" and threatening to kill him.

Chiwaya said he knew some of his assailants, adding that political opponents were trying to discredit him and the government.

The vampire rumors have sparked several vigilante attacks on suspected bloodsuckers in recent weeks, despite official attempts to stop the rumor. One man was stoned to death, and three priests were attacked by angry villagers in the south.

Political tensions are already high in Malawi. President Bakili Muluzi's attempts to stay in office for another five-year term have already sparked protests, while many face starvation in the face of a regional food crisis.

They're Outta Here

The Charlotte Observer – January 13, 2003

(1/12/03) - Seventeen members of City Council advisory boards, including a top Duke Energy official and a Belk stores executive, have lost their seats for not meeting attendance requirements.

The city requires members to attend at least 75 percent of a committee's regular meetings.

McKay Belk was removed from the Airport Advisory Committee and Ruth Shaw, administrative officer for Duke Energy, is off the Auditorium-Coliseum-Convention Center Authority…

Taking It Personally

The Charlotte Observer – January 13, 2003

(1/12/03) - A seemingly innocuous proposal to restructure a Charlotte City Council committee last week triggered a name-calling spat between councilman Malcolm Graham and Mayor Pat McCrory. Graham proposed several changes to the government liaison committee to strengthen it, including having the council, not the mayor, appoint members and making the mayor a nonvoting member of the committee, which he now chairs.

McCrory accused Graham of being "partisan" and "deceptive" for not raising his concerns earlier. The new structure would "change the whole relationship between the mayor and council," McCrory said, threatening to be less bipartisan in future appointments.

"This has nothing to do with you but you made it about you," Graham said. "You got weak in the knees and afraid that someone was out to take your authority away."

Eventually, the council decided to put the proposal on the agenda for Monday. But not before the last bit of sniping:

"Don't talk back to me," McCrory said to Graham.

"No, you don't talk back to me," Graham responded. "I have the floor."

N. C. Continues to Suppress Labor Unions

A Crime to Lose Own Wallet? – January 4, 2003

Couple handcuffed, dog shot to death over lost wallet

Losing your wallet in Cookeville, Tenn., can get you handcuffed on the side of the highway and your dog shot to death by police – at least, that was the experience of a North Carolina family returning from a vacation in Nashville.

James Smoak apparently left his wallet on the roof of the family station wagon New Year's Day while getting gas prior to pulling onto Interstate 40, reports the Cookeville Herald-Citizen.

He discovered it was missing after three police cars swarmed his vehicle in what appeared to be a traffic stop.

But this was no ordinary traffic stop.

According to Smoak, a Tennessee Highway Patrol officer broadcast orders over a bullhorn for him to toss the keys out of the car window, get out with his hands up and walk backwards to the rear of the car. Smoak obeyed and was subsequently ordered onto his knees and handcuffed at gunpoint. Officers similarly handcuffed his wife, Pamela, and their 17-year-old son with their guns drawn.

As the troopers were putting the family members inside the patrol car, one of the Smoak family bulldogs came out of the car and headed toward one of the Cookeville officers who were assisting the THP troopers.

"That officer had a flashlight on his shotgun, and the dog was going toward that light, and the officer shot him, just blew his head off," Pamela Smoak told the Herald-Citizen. "We had begged them to shut the car doors so our dogs wouldn't get out, [but] they didn't do that."

Cookeville Police Officer Eric Hall later defended his actions to the Herald-Citizen.

"A dog, I believe to be a pit-bull, jumped from the suspect vehicle, singled me out from the other officers, and charged toward me growling in an aggressive manner, Hall described.

"I yelled at the dog to 'get back' but it attempted to circle me to attack, so I felt that I had no other option but to protect myself. I fired once at the dog, instantly putting him down," he continued.

Following the slaying of the dog, it was some time before the family learned why they had been stopped. At one point, a state trooper told them they "matched the description" in a robbery that had occurred in Davidson County.

It was a while longer before someone in authority figured out that the officers had stopped and were holding the very family that someone in Davidson County had assumed had been robbed.

"Finally, they asked me my name and I told them my name, date of birth and other information, and they talked by radio to someone in Davidson County and finally realized that a mistake had been made," James Smoak said.

The 38-year-old said the officers then told them they were released and apologized.

"A lady in Davidson County had seen that wallet fly off our car and had seen money coming out of it and going all over the road, and somehow that became a felony and they made a felony stop, but no robbery or felony had happened," Pamela Smoak said.

"Here we are just a family on vacation, and we had to suffer this," James Smoak added.

Beth Womack, a THP spokesperson in Nashville, told the Herald-Citizen an internal affairs investigation is underway and that every effort will be made to "find out exactly what happened and why."

"As I understand it," she said, "a report was made in Davidson County to our officers that this car had been seen leaving at a high rate of speed and that a significant amount of money had come out of the car and someone became suspicious," she said.

An internal investigation is also underway at the Cookeville Police Department.

On Friday, Chief Bob Terry issued a statement stressing the department was called in as back-up by the Tennessee Highway Patrol and the officers' role was "secondary to what the THP termed as a 'felony' stop, a possible car-jacking."

"Unfortunately, during the THP's process of gaining control of the situation, a very rare thing occurred," Terry's statement continued. "The Smoaks had been traveling with family dogs, and one of them got loose. ... it clearly approached one of our officers in a threatening manner. Our officer first tried to call the dog down, but after it kept approaching aggressively and started to circle him, the officer took the only action he could to protect himself and gain control of the situation."

Duke’s 12 Days of Christmas

Employee Advocate – – December 25, 2002

On the first day of Christmas,
Rick Priory took from me,
My old friend Reddy Kilowatt.

On the second day of Christmas,
Rick Priory took from me,
Two paid holidays,
And, my old friend Reddy Kilowatt.

On the third day of Christmas,
Rick Priory took from me,
Fully paid medical insurance,
Two paid holidays,
And, my old friend Reddy Kilowatt.

On the fourth day of Christmas,
Rick Priory took from me,
My long promised annuity,
Fully paid medical insurance,
Two paid holidays,
And, my old friend Reddy Kilowatt.

On the fifth day of Christmas,
Rick Priory took from me,
My early retirement subsidy,
Long promised annuity,
Paid medical insurance,
Two paid holidays,
And, my old friend Reddy Kilowatt.

On the sixth day of Christmas,
Rick Priory took from me,
Retirement credit for years of service,
Early retirement subsidy,
Long promised annuity,
Paid medical insurance,
Two paid holidays,
And, my old friend Reddy Kilowatt.

On the seventh day of Christmas,
Rick Priory took from me,
A week of paid vacation,
Credit for years of service,
Early retirement subsidy,
Long promised annuity,
Paid medical insurance,
Two paid holidays,
And, my old friend Reddy Kilowatt.

On the eighth day of Christmas,
Rick Priory took from me,
Half of my 401 (k),
A week of paid vacation,
Credit for years of service,
Early retirement subsidy,
Long promised annuity,
Paid medical insurance,
Two paid holidays,
And, my old friend Reddy Kilowatt.

On the ninth day of Christmas,
Rick Priory took from me,
Keeping unused vacation,
Half of my 401 (k),
A week of paid vacation,
Credit for years of service,
Early retirement subsidy,
Long promised annuity,
Paid medical insurance,
Two paid holidays,
And, my old friend Reddy Kilowatt.

On the tenth day of Christmas,
Rick Priory took from me,
Many of my co-worker’s jobs,
Keeping unused vacation,
Half of my 401 (k),
A week of paid vacation,
Credit for years of service,
Early retirement subsidy,
Long promised annuity,
Paid medical insurance,
Two paid holidays,
And, my old friend Reddy Kilowatt.

On the eleventh day of Christmas,
Rick Priory took from me,
All of my retirement health coverage,
Co-worker’s jobs,
Keeping unused vacation,
Half of my 401 (k),
A week of paid vacation,
Credit for years of service,
Early retirement subsidy,
Long promised annuity,
Paid medical insurance,
Two paid holidays,
And, my old friend Reddy Kilowatt.

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
Rick Priory took from me,
My little dab of social money,
Retirement health coverage,
Co-worker’s jobs,
Keeping unused vacation.,
Half of my 401 (k),
Week of paid vacation,
Credit for years of service,
Early retirement subsidy,
Long promised annuity,
Paid medical insurance,
Two paid holidays,
And, my old friend Reddy Kilowatt.

Etiquette for Those with Power

The Charlotte Observer – by Don Hudson – December 11, 2002

Please -- turn down holiday light show, volume on DVDs

(12/9/02) – Dear Neighbor,

Let me put it this way. I'm glad it was you and not me. I'm that selfless. I'm glad you got your power back first. I say, go ahead, Duke Energy. Power up the tired, the cold, the huddled masses. Warm the elderly, the babies and the infirm first.

I am OK. Only a little irritable. Not prone to violence. Yet.

But I do want to pass this along to all you HPs (have powers) from those of us HNPs (have not powers):

Do you have to be so damned smug?

Could you maybe turn down the floodlights? Do you have to turn every Christmas light on the planet on in your front yard? I mean, this ain't McAdenville. Santa Claus will find Charlotte without you planting a candelabra and a menorah on Rudolph's nose.


We know you are in there, warm and wassailing, drinking vanilla egg nog under the mistletoe, playing with your thermostats and rheostats, your Aiwa DVD and your Palm Pilot, recharging your Nokia cellphones while the kids are playing with the Xbox.

Just be discreet about it. We RCA-less are hurting out here.

My first taste of this politically-incorrect behavior was when Tom Sorensen walked way over from the sports department Friday, and announced, to no one in particular, "I just got my power back. I just wanted to tell someone."

He was gloating.

His power was out one night. "One night was kind of fun," he bragged. "Romantic. Pizza and wine by the fire. ..."

Oh, shutup.

You're like that, too, pal. Do you have to yuk at us in restaurants, gawking at our flat hair over your Duckhorn cabernet?

It's not like old Hebrew law has kicked in, where we lepers did something wrong and deserved to have our power out. Just because your house is lit up like Vegas tonight does not mean you are a better person.

After two nights on the lam, after one shower colder than Dr. Ruth would prescribe, after a guy outside Starbucks plucked a quarter into my coffee cup, I finally gave in. I plucked down $89 for a hotel room Saturday night.

How bad is it?

Even the beautiful people are struggling. I was watching TV in my hotel room, the first time in three days. Mayor Pat McCrory, aka Mayor GQ, was on. Only Hizzoner was having such a bad hair day I didn't recognize him. I asked, "When did James Traficant become mayor of Charlotte?"

At first I was bitter. That I am the one with the dirty blue jeans, wearing a baseball cap everywhere. Now I am at peace. Who am I to question the wisdom of the almighty, Rick Priory?

My only suggestions to Rick: Couldn't one of those guys washing the windows on the Duke Energy building Friday be out on a truck, turning on my power?

And that stupid laser show? Unplug it. At least until we all have juice.

As for you, neighbor.

If I show up at Dowd YMCA, looking like Job, don't complain I am using up all the hot water. And when you go out to get the newspaper in morning, show some respect. Don't wear your Joe Boxers and flip-flops. Put on a parka.


Some Guy Next Door

Don Hudson

Mail From Pitt to Greenspan

The Motley Fool – by Rex Moore – December 4, 2002

The first note comes to us from a Mr. H. Pitt in Washington, D.C., who writes, "I don't understand what all the fuss is about. Why did people get so riled up that I neglected to mention one little detail about William Webster's involvement in a company facing lawsuits over its accounting practices?"

I understand your frustration, Mr. Pitt. But I guess most investors just have this odd notion that an agency designed to keep public companies honest and aboveboard should practice those very same qualities itself. Perhaps that's why many folks were put out in first place that you pushed Webster to head the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board instead of John Biggs, who seemed better qualified to bring reform to the industry.

Also, we saw your list of excuses, and while they were uproariously funny, not one of them mentioned the word "barbecue…"

Now we turn to Mr. A. Greenspan, who writes, "I've been told that I am not an exciting public speaker. Can you help me with my speechwriting?

No problem, Mr. Chairman. Let's start with an actual sentence from your July testimony before the Senate. Speaking about the difficulty of forecasting exchange rates, you said, "The reason that it is so difficult is that an exchange rate is a very complex price that balances, on the one hand, the demand for, for example, dollars stemming from the demand for dollar investments and for U.S. exports against, on the other hand, the demand for foreign currencies by U.S. investors desiring to acquire foreign assets and by U.S. importers of foreign goods and services."

Well, let's see... on second thought, I don't think I can help. The best I can do is provide a translation service for you…

Bush Fails to Meet Moron Criteria

Toronto Star – by Thomas Walkom – December 1, 2002

(11/26/02) - The debate over whether George W. Bush is a moron continues to sputter. Morons are outraged at being lumped in with the U.S. president. Americans, meanwhile, are mildly amused that it has taken Canadians so long to discover the obvious.

The controversy exploded last week when Francoise Ducros, an adviser to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, was overheard at a NATO meeting in Prague saying, "What a moron," apparently in relation to Bush.

Morons say this is an outlandish slur. "We're nice people," explained one. "We don't threaten other countries or use the courts to steal elections. George W. Bush may be a dangerous lunatic. But he's no moron."

Chrétien seems to agree. "He's not a moron at all," the Prime Minister told reporters on Thursday, referring to Bush.

Still, the opposition parties are not content. The Canadian Alliance argues that if Bush discovers he is a moron, this could affect Canada-U.S. relations.

Chrétien, however, says there is nothing to worry about. Bush, he said, doesn't read Canadian newspapers

According to the International Dictionary of Medicine and Biology, most morons are "educable and do not require institutionalization but need some supervision in working at some simple job by which they can become self-sustaining members of society."

Some have argued that this definition fits Bush to a tee. In most matters, they note, he is carefully supervised by Vice-President Dick Cheney, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfield and Attorney-General John Ashcroft.

Cheney and Rumsfield run Bush's wars while Ashworth stifles domestic opposition. At home in the White House, first lady Laura Bush is charged with watching over the president.

"Since the president's inauguration, he's only been left unsupervised once — to watch a football game on television," recalled one expert. "And look what happened. He fell off the couch, choked on a pretzel and hurt his head."

While the Canadian media have gone gaga over the Bush-is-moron story, Americans seem to have taken it in their stride. "Once again, Canadians have discovered the obvious," editorialized the Wall Street Journal dismissively. "Duh, Canada" riposted the New York Post.

In a lengthy analysis, the New York Times pointed out that Americans have long made a practice of electing dead people to the Senate and morons to the presidency.

"This kind of flexibility is what makes U.S. democracy so vital," the Times went on. "Why should the Senate be denied the wisdom of those who have passed on? Why should the presidency be the preserve of the mentally capable?"

Recent polls suggest that most Americans agree. A stunning 67 per cent of respondents think that Bush is a moron compared with the next largest category, 28 per cent, who believe him to be a space alien.

Yet neither has affected his 82 per cent approval rating.

"He may be a moron," explained one respondent interviewed by pollsters. "But he's our moron. He speaks our language."

Meanwhile, in Canadian journalistic circles, an ethical debate rages over whether the original moron comment should have been printed at all.

Ducros apparently made the crack in private conversation to one journalist (who did not publicize it) but was overheard by another, the National Post's Bob Fife, who did.

Chrétien says that Ducros was actually defending Bush.

"Fife overheard the words accurately," said one senior federal source," but he didn't hear the punctuation.

"Francie didn't say `What a moron!' She said 'What? A moron?' and then stormed out. She was reacting because the reporters were referring to Bush as a moron and she couldn't bear the insult to such a dear friend of Canada."

Still others say that Fife missed the possessive.

"We were all sitting around the briefing room waiting to find out if Uzbekistan would be accepted as a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization," said one scribe. "Francie was doing the crossword in the International Herald Tribune and the clue for six across was a four-letter word for moron beginning with B.

"English isn't Francie's first language, so she asked everyone, What's a moron? Bob just missed the apostrophe s."

However, to some media experts, the actual words said don't matter. For a journalist to report something he heard, they say, could destroy the entire edifice of source-based journalism.

"If political aides think they'll be identified when they badmouth their bosses' opponents anonymously, they'll stop doing it," said one.

"Then what would happen? The media would have no stories."

Still others defended Fife's actions.

"The moron story was a windfall for our members," said an official with the Canadian Association of Columnists.

"Bush as moron? It doesn't get any better. Every two-bit columnist in the country is taking advantage of this baby. They'll all be able to go home early."

Hu’s on First?

by James Sherman – November 22, 2002

(We take you now to the Oval Office.)

Bush: Condi! Nice to see you. What's happening?

Condi: Sir, I have the report here about the new leader of China.

Bush: Great. Lay it on me.

Condi: Hu is the new leader of China.

Bush: That's what I want to know.

Condi: That's what I'm telling you.

Bush: That's what I'm asking you. Who is the new leader of China?

Condi: Yes.

Bush: I mean the fellow's name.

Condi: Hu.

Bush: The guy in China.

Condi: Hu.

Bush: The new leader of China.

Condi: Hu.

Bush: The Chinaman!

Condi: Hu is leading China.

Bush: Now whaddya' asking me for?

Condi: I'm telling you Hu is leading China.

Bush: Well, I'm asking you. Who is leading China?

Condi: That's the man's name.

Bush: That's who's name?

Condi: Yes.

Bush: Will you or will you not tell me the name of the new leader of China?

Condi: Yes, sir.

Bush: Yassir? Yassir Arafat is in China? I thought he was in the Middle East.

Condi: That's correct.

Bush: Then who is in China?

Condi: Yes, sir.

Bush: Yassir is in China?

Condi: No, sir.

Bush: Then who is?

Condi: Yes, sir.

Bush: Yassir?

Condi: No, sir.

Bush: Look, Condi. I need to know the name of the new leader of China. Get me the Secretary General of the U.N. on the phone.

Condi: Kofi?

Bush: No, thanks.

Condi: You want Kofi?

Bush: No.

Condi: You don't want Kofi.

Bush: No. But now that you mention it, I could use a glass of milk. And then get me the U.N.

Condi: Yes, sir.

Bush: Not Yassir! The guy at the U.N.

Condi: Kofi?

Bush: Milk! Will you please make the call?

Condi: And call who?

Bush: Who is the guy at the U.N?

Condi: Hu is the guy in China.

Bush: Will you stay out of China?!

Condi: Yes, sir.

Bush: And stay out of the Middle East! Just get me the guy at the U.N.

Condi: Kofi.

Bush: All right! With cream and two sugars. Now get on the phone. (Condi picks up the phone.)

Condi: Rice, here.

Bush: Rice? Good idea. And a couple of egg rolls, too. Maybe we should send some to the guy in China. And the Middle East. Can you get Chinese food in the Middle East?

Russia to Monitor American Elections?

The Guardian – by Oliver Burkeman in New York – November 3, 2002

(10/31/02) - Amid the worldwide outbreak of Schadenfreude that accompanied America's chaotic presidential showdown in 2000, senior members of the Russian Communist party sarcastically offered to send election monitors to Palm Beach to help the nascent democracy find its feet. Albanian politicians echoed the joke, as did President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

But the line between jokes and reality in Florida has always been a blurred one: now, America has accepted the offer.

Yesterday, the first international delegation of poll monitors assigned to observe an American election arrived in the US, operating under the aegis of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. And representatives from Russia and Albania were among them.

The monitors are charged with assessing whether next Tuesday's mid-term elections in Florida meet international standards of democracy "with a focus on evaluation of the actions the authorities have undertaken to remedy the problems that were observed during the 2000 elections", OSCE spokesman Jens-Hagen Eschenbacher said in an interview with Radio Free Europe.

Two years ago voting machines malfunctioned and ballot papers left thousands of voters complaining that they had voted against their true intentions.

There were also reports of problems with the Democratic primary election for the governorship of Florida which was held last September.

"It is not the first time that a western democracy has been monitored," Mr Eschenbacher said. "We also assessed the ... presidential elections in France, and we are about to send an assessment team to Turkey as well."

But it is a first for the US, and an event likely to be received with some glee in countries lectured by Washington on their electoral processes.

Dog Shoots Man

Associated Press – October 27, 2002

BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. - Pheasant season took an ugly turn for Michael Murray when he was shot by Sonny, his year-old English setter pup.

The puppy knew something was very wrong when Murray dropped to the ground with blood spurting from his ankle. "Sonny just laid by my side," Murray said. "He knew something was bad."

Murray, 42, was hunting in western South Dakota on the first day of the season last Saturday. He said he was lining up a photo of the seven birds his hunting party shot in the first hour.

A loaded 12-gauge shotgun lay on the ground near the frisky dog.

"He stepped on the gun and it went off," Murray said. "At first I didn't know what happened. I got that blinding flash of pain and I sat down. Blood was pumping out of my ankle."

His brother-in-law, Chuck Knutson of Woodbury, quickly tied a tourniquet above Murray's right boot. The third member of the hunting party was Murray's father, also Michael, of New Richmond, Wis.

"My dad's 75," Murray said, "He was white as a ghost."

The three men climbed into their truck and drove to a relative's house. A half-hour later, an ambulance took Murray to a nearby hospital.

After 15 stitches and a night in the hospital, Murray is on course for a complete recovery.

"It was the most bizarre thing that has ever happened to me," he said.

Murray admits there is a certain amount of notoriety that goes along with getting shot by your dog.

"That's the hard part, talking to people, because you feel like such a fool," he said.

Radioactive Waste Raises Stink

Associated Press – October 27, 2002

WHITMAN, Mass. - A man who ignored a veterinarian's order to flush his cat's radioactive waste down the toilet was hit with a $2,800 bill.

And Bill Jenness said he's happy to pay it.

"I don't feel I was mistreated," Jenness told The Patriot Ledger of Quincy. "It's my cat, my responsibility and I did not abide by the directions I was given."

Jenness' cat, Mitzi, an 11-year-old shorthair, was treated with an injection of radioiodine after developing hyperthyroidism, which is common in cats her age.

The treatment makes the cat radioactive for weeks, so special care is required, including limiting snuggling time, keeping the cat away from children and pregnant women and using protective gloves when flushing the cat litter.

Jenness said he decided to throw the litter in the trash after the waste hardened into abnormally large clumps.

"I was afraid of my septic system being clogged," he said.

Mitzi's mess was discovered at an incinerator in Rochester when alarms detected radioactivity. Workers traced the waste to Jenness after finding mail with his name on it nearby.

The radiation treatment by Radiocat in Waltham and cost of disposing the waste totaled about $5,000. Jenness said it was worth it because Mitzi is doing well.

Radiocat's Web site says the amount of radiation from a radioiodine shot is probably less than the amount a person receives on a long plane flight or a day at the beach.

But Thomas Burnett, a Whitman public works commissioner, said any radiation in trash is too much.

Bird ‘Sings’ Beyond the Grave

Reuters – by Jon Herskovitz – September 5, 2002

Hero Bird May Prove Key Witness in Dallas Murder

DALLAS - A hero cockatoo slain trying to protect its master from knife-wielding assailants may prove the star witness in the trial of its owner's suspected killers.

Dallas prosecutors showed a grand jury on Wednesday DNA evidence from blood samples found at the scene they say links two men arrested in the case to the home of the bird's owner. The blood apparently came from a wound the bird pecked on the head of one of the suspects, said prosecutor George West.

West expects to receive an indictment this week on capital murder for the suspects Johnny Serna, 22, and Daniel Torres, 30, for allegedly killing Kevin Butler last December over a dispute about money.

According to evidence presented to the grand jury, the two suspects allegedly broke into Butler's home. During a violent struggle in Butler's living room, the white-crested cockatoo named Bird after basketball great Larry Bird, swooped down on the attackers and clawed at their skin and pecked at their heads, West said.

"Bird was valiant," West said.

Bird apparently wounded Torres, but the protective member of the parrot family paid the price for trying to take on two armed foes. Bird has its leg cut off and was found dead in the kitchen of Butler's home -- apparently stabbed to death by a fork in the back.

West said the two suspects, who had been arrested on suspicion of capital murder, denied any involvement in the crime until DNA results of the blood samples came back in July and allegedly placed Torres at the scene of the crime. But police told the court one of the suspects confessed when faced with the DNA evidence.

West said the bird's beak and claws have been checked for blood in a search for additional DNA evidence. Results should come back in about two weeks.

"In my 22 years on the job, I've never seen anything like this," West said. "They did an autopsy on the bird and I never heard of that either. Both of them (Butler and the bird) were brought in on stretchers."

A white-crested cockatoo stands about 18 inches to 20 inches tall and has a beak powerful enough to snap thin tree branches, said Carol Highfill, who runs an Internet site devoted to bird owners.

CEO's Make a Break For It

San Diego Daily Union Dispatch & Telegram – June 23, 2002

Band of Roving Chief Executives Spotted Miles from Mexican Border

San Antonio, Texas (Rooters) -- Unwilling to wait for their eventual indictments, the 10,000 remaining CEOs of public U.S. companies made a break for it yesterday, heading for the Mexican border, plundering towns and villages along the way, and writing the entire rampage off as a marketing expense.

"They came into my home, made me pay for my own TV, then double-booked the revenues," said Rachel Sanchez of Las Cruces, just north of El Paso. "Right in front of my daughters."

Calling themselves the CEOnistas, the chief executives were first spotted last night along the Rio Grande River near Quemado, where they bought each of the town's 320 residents by borrowing against pension fund gains. By late this morning, the CEOnistas had arbitrarily inflated Quemado's population to 960, and declared a 200 percent profit for the fiscal second quarter.

This morning, the outlaws bought the city of Waco, transferred its underperforming areas to a private partnership, and sent a bill to California for $4.5 billion.

Law enforcement officials and disgruntled shareholders riding posse were noticeably frustrated.

"First of all, they're very hard to find because they always stand behind their numbers, and the numbers keep shifting," said posse spokesman Dean Levitt. "And every time we yell 'Stop in the name of the shareholders!', they refer us to investor relations. I've been on the phone all damn morning."


The pursuers said they have had some success, however, by preying on a common executive weakness. "Last night we caught about 24 of them by disguising one of our female officers as a CNBC anchor," said U.S.

Border Patrol spokesperson Janet Lewis. "It was like moths to a flame."

Also, teams of agents have been using high-powered listening devices to scan the plains for telltale sounds of the CEOnistas. "Most of the time we just hear leaves rustling or cattle flicking their tails," said Lewis, "but occasionally we'll pick up someone saying, 'I was totally out of the loop on that.'"

Among former and current CEOs apprehended with this method were Computer Associates' Sanjay Kumar, Adelphia's John Rigas, Enron's Ken Lay, Joseph Nacchio of Qwest, Joseph Berardino of Arthur Andersen, and every Global Crossing CEO since 1997. ImClone Systems' Sam Waksal and Dennis Kozlowski of Tyco were not allowed to join the CEOnistas as they have already been indicted.

So far, about 50 chief executives have been captured, including Martha Stewart, who was detained south of El Paso where she had cut through a barbed-wire fence at the Zaragosa border crossing off Highway 375.

"She would have gotten away, but she was stopping motorists to ask for marzipan and food coloring so she could make edible snowman place settings, using the cut pieces of wire for the arms," said Border Patrol officer Jennette Cushing. "We put her in cell No. 7, because the morning sun really adds texture to the stucco walls."

While some stragglers are believed to have successfully crossed into Mexico, Cushing said the bulk of the CEOnistas have holed themselves up at the Alamo.

"No, not the fort, the car rental place at the airport," she said. "They're rotating all the tires on the minivans and accounting for each change as a sales event."

You Asked For It; You Got It

Associated Press – April 7, 2002

MENTZ, N.Y. - Town officials wanted a fence, so junkyard owner Gene Crandall gave them one to remember - a quarter-mile long chain of junked cars, stacked three and four high.

Mad about a 3-year-old order to fence his auto junkyard and local officials' efforts to shut his business down, Crandall put up the chain of junked cars.

The fence features a colorful assortment of makes and models: pickups, convertibles, vans and sedans, most without tires.

Town officials aren't pleased.

The town's attorney said the crushed cars violate local law and create a health risk. The newly elected town supervisor said he just wants the feud over with, noting that the town has paid more than $40,000 in legal expenses.

Enron: A Nest of Dirtballs

Miami Herald – by Dave Barry – March 10, 2002

(2/3/02) - If you're an average layperson, your grasp of high finance consists of knowing your ATM code. So you're probably bewildered by this scandal surrounding the collapse of Enron, which had been the seventh-largest corporation in America. (The sixth largest is the guys who go ``WHASSSSSSUP!'')

So today we're going to explain the Enron story in the Q&A format, using simple financial terms that you can understand, such as ``dirtballs.''

Q. How, exactly, did Enron make money?

A. Nobody knows. This is usually the case with corporations whose names sound like fictional planets from Star Wars. Allegedly, Enron was in the energy business, but when outside investigators finally looked into it, they discovered that the only actual energy source in the entire Enron empire was a partially used can of Sterno in the basement of corporate headquarters. Using a financial technique called ''leveraging,'' Enron executives were able to turn this asset into a gigantic enterprise whose stock was valued at billions of dollars.

Q. What does ''leveraging'' mean?

A. Lying.

Q. Why didn't Wall Street realize that Enron was a fraud?

A. Because Wall Street relies on ''stock analysts.'' These are people who do research on companies and then, no matter what they find, even if the company has burned to the ground, enthusiastically recommend that investors buy the stock. They are just a bunch of cockeyed optimists, those stock analysts. When the Titanic was in its death throes, with the propellers sticking straight up into the air, there was a stock analyst clinging to a railing, asking people around him where he could buy a ticket for the return trip.

Q. So the analysts gave Enron a favorable rating?

A. Oh, yes. Enron stock was rated as ''Can't Miss'' until it became clear that the company was in desperate trouble, at which point analysts lowered the rating to ''Sure Thing.'' Only when Enron went completely under did a few bold analysts demote its stock to the lowest possible Wall Street analyst rating, ``Hot Buy.''

Q. What other stocks are these analysts currently recommending?

A. Mutual of Taliban.

Q. Doesn't Enron have a board of directors whose members are responsible for overseeing the corporation?

A. Yes. They are paid $300,000 a year.

Q. So how could they have allowed this flagrant deception to go on?

A. They are paid $300,000 a year.

Q. But didn't Enron have outside auditors? Why didn't they discover and report these problems?

A. Yes, Enron had one of the most venerable auditing firms in the nation.

Q. What do you mean by ``venerable?''

A. We mean ''stupid.'' As a result, Enron executives were able to deceive the auditors via slick and sophisticated accounting tricks.

AUDITOR: OK, so you're saying you made $600 million in profit.


AUDITOR: Can I see it?

EXECUTIVE: Sure! It's right here in my desk! UH-oh! The drawer is stuck!

AUDITOR: Wow! Just like last year!

Q. What should be done to punish the Enron executive dirtballs who, knowing the company was in trouble, cashed in their own stock, and screwed thousands of small investors?

A. In the interest of putting this ordeal behind us, we believe they should receive only a slap on the wrist.

Q. Really?

A. With a hatchet.

Q. Isn't that a pretty severe punishment?

A. Actually, it has been deemed harmless.

Q. By whom?

A. Wall Street analysts.

The Real Dirt

Employee Advocate – - January 23, 2002

The Enron debacle has been hogging all of the headlines, but there is more foul play afoot. The Associated Press has spilled the beans.

It seems these dastardly deeds were perpetrated by Winnie the Pooh and Walt Disney Co! And yes, the destruction of evidence was involved.

Last year, Walt Disney Company was fined $90,000 for destroying evidence concerning a case involving royalties from Winnie the Pooh merchandise. The documents were unsealed Friday.

Now, back to Enron.

Off The Wall - 1