10 worst ideas of the week: March 28, 2010 

1. Early release

Balloon Boy’s father finishing sentence at home

The details: The family that schemes together is back together. Richard Heene, who famously told a Colorado sheriff that his son had floated away in a UFO-shaped helium balloon, has been sent home to complete his sentence. Henne, sentenced Jan. 11 to 90 days in jail, has already completed jail time and a work-release stint. Henne is wearing an ankle monitor. His wife, Mayumi, still must serve a 20-day sentence for filing a false report.

2. Undrinkable

Polluted water still kills millions

The details: The United Nations picked World Water Day to call attention to the world’s biggest killer — polluted water. In a report called “Sick Water,” the U.N. said dirty water kills more people annually than all forms of violence — including wars. With 2 billion tons of wastewater being discharged daily around the world, water-related diseases cause 3.7 percent of deaths annually. The report also said that bottled water in the U.S. results in the consumption of 17 million barrels of oil.

3. Brutal beating

Girl stomped on after text message

The details: Authorities say the brutal beating of a 15-year-old girl at a Deerfield Beach, Fla., middle school was triggered by a text message dispute between the victim and a teenage boy. The boy is accused of punching and stomping on her head with steel-toed boots. He was arrested after the attack on a charge of premeditated attempted murder. The girl remains in a medically induced coma. Prosecutors are considering charging the 15-year-old suspect as an adult. Students from the same middle school were also involved in an attack last year in which a teenage boy was set on fire.

4. Flash mob riots

Two beaten in weekend event

The details: Hundreds of people invaded an intersection in Philadelphia during a massive flash mob over the weekend. Police are searching for suspects involved in at least two assaults. Officers eventually pushed the crowd away, yelling that once curfew passed, they’d start loading up buses. Three men were arrested on unrelated incidents. No arrests have been made in the beatings. Police say they vow not to allow these incidents to repeat. No major damage was reported during this latest flash mob incident.

5. Heated debate

Both sides use inflammatory outburst to raise funds

The details: Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, who yelled, “It’s a baby killer,” during the March 21 House debate on health care reform, is using the incident to solicit campaign donations — and so are Democrats. Neugebauer shouted after Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., agreed to support the bill in exchange for a presidential order banning federal funding of abortion. Neugebauer quickly apologized to Stupak, explaining that he was referring to the bill, not the congressman. Now Neugebauer’s campaign Web site includes a big Donate Today button below the video of his outburst. But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is running an ad on Facebook urging donors to “contribute today to defeat GOP hecklers like Randy Neugebauer.”

6. Stranded cops

NYC police towing its own unmarked cars

The details: The head of the New York Police Department detectives’ union accused the NYPD of towing its own unmarked cars while detectives are on duty, sometimes stranding them on the sidewalk with handcuffed prisoners or witnesses under protection. Detectives may also be paid overtime to retrieve their towed cars from the pound. The mayor and police brass want the towing to continue, claiming there has been widespread abuse of detective parking placards and they should somehow park legally.

7. Trooper DUI

State trooper maybe drove drunk in patrol car

The details: On-duty Colorado State Trooper David Nolan, 48, a 21-year veteran, was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on suspicion of drunken driving in a marked patrol car while wearing his uniform and carrying a loaded gun. Several drivers called 911 to report a patrol car driving erratically on the Denver beltway.

8. Social Security

Payout to exceed pay-in this year

The details: The Great Recession has ruined housing prices, the financial industry and the job market. And the ailing job market has taken its toll on Social Security. The system is going to pay out more in benefits than it takes in through taxes this year, a point it wasn’t projected to hit until 2016 or 2017, the Congressional Budget Office reports. With fewer people working, and more applying for benefits, payments have risen faster than projections. And less workers mean less people paying into Social Security. Worse, when people are coming back to work, it is often at lower wages, so they are paying less into the system than before.

9. Family feud

Sisters go to court over lotto jackpot

The details: They say money changes everything, and in the case of sisters Rose Bakaysa, 87, and Theresa Sokaitis, 84, it wasn’t for the better. The siblings had always gone in together on lottery tickets and other chances to hit it big, but when they and their brother finally did win a $500,000 Powerball jackpot in 2005, long-simmering resentment tore the two apart. Now they’re in court about the money, owing to a dispute over a decade-old contract they’d signed to split all winnings.

10. Didn’t like the outside

Ex-inmate breaks back into prison, gets 15 years

The details: Sylvester Jiles, 25, was sentenced to eight years in prison for manslaughter in the shooting death of Dustin Prouse. He was released on parole but feared retaliation from Prouse’s friends and family, and begged the Florida correctional facility to take him back and give him protection, but they turned him down. So Jiles violated his parole by scaling the prison’s fence to break back in, and was granted his wish of a longer sentence. However, it’s not a happy ending for Jiles, who’s now had another change of heart and wants back out of prison — a request the judge declined.

Sinking ship

For the first time since 2003, America’s fourth-graders failed to make any improvements in reading, according to the newest report of the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Eighth-graders did show a slight rise. Most other achievement gaps remain consistently unchanged — minority, gender, income, public-private schools.

Dim bulb of the week

Who: Dwight Gooden
What: Former Yankees and Mets pitching star Gooden, 45, was arrested in New Jersey on five charges including driving under the influence of drugs. He allegedly rear-ended another car while driving his 5-year-old son Dylan to school. The four-time All-Star right-hander, who won games in three World Series, has struggled against drug and alcohol abuse since the 1980s. “Doc” Gooden spent seven months in jail in 2006 on a cocaine charge.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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