10 worst ideas of the week: Sunday, July 4, 2010 

Senator sketches during weighty debate, brothers try to cash in on oil spill, Target lamp delivers the wrong message, and maggots in overhead bin spoil cross-country flight.

1. Mind on the job

Franken sketches during Kagan confirmation hearing
The details: Comedian-turned-U.S. Senator Al Franken, D-Minn., a critic of the conservative right, revealed another weapon in his arsenal against Republicans: He can draw them perfectly. An Associated Press photographer caught Franken sketching a spot-on portrait of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, ranking Republican on the judiciary committee, during the Supreme Court confirmation hearing for Solicitor General Elena Kagan.

2. Vacation crackdown

New York may ban short-term property rentals
The details: New York may make it illegal for any homeowner or renter to sublet for less than a month — a total ban on short-term rentals that are both popular for many budget-conscious visitors and a source of extra income for residents.

3. Carpoolers charged

Bay Area bridge tolls rise for all drivers
The details: Since 1975, carpoolers haven’t had to pay tolls on area bridges, but that ended Thursday when new tolls went into effect. Carpoolers must now pay $2.50 to cross the seven state-owned Bay Area bridges during commute times, and must pay $3 to cross the Golden Gate Bridge. One area of confusion is how casual carpoolers will handle the fees — will riders chip in or stay mum?

4. Unappetizing and more

Food aboard airlines flunks health inspections
The details: During two years of inspections, the Food and Drug Administration found roaches, mice, flies, food stored at the wrong temperature, and employees preparing food with their bare hands in the airline catering kitchens serving major airports throughout the U.S. These kitchens prepare some 500 million meals annually that are consumed on flights everywhere. The companies under surveillance were LSG Sky Chefs, Gate Gourmet and Flying Food Group.

5. Sketchy souvenirs

Brothers selling ‘oil spill water’
The details: Jeffrey and David Shiffman, two brothers from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., are bottling used motor oil mixed with water and selling a two-ounce bottle for $9.99 on oilspillwater.com, hoping it will catch on as a novelty item. Half the proceeds are going to three nonprofits dedicated to cleaning up the gulf oil spill: Relief, The International Fund for Animal Welfare and The International Bird Research Center.

6. Unfair fight

Crossing guard beats up teen who called him ‘fatso’
The details: Off-duty crossing guard Gerald Kelly, 60, was arrested for assaulting a
14-year-old boy who had insulted him during the school year. The middle school student had apparently taunted Kelly by calling him “fatso” and “fat man” — apparently inciting the 6-foot-4-inch, 200-pound Kelly later to kick at the teen, put his foot on the teen’s chest and neck, and cause a lump on the back of the boy’s head.

7. Off-target message

Lamp for children says ‘sex’ in Chinese
The details: Retail giant Target Inc. was selling a child’s lamp shaped and decorated to look like a Chinese food takeout container, but apparently, it was emblazoned with the symbol for the Chinese word for “sex.” This is the second time in recent months Target has been dinged for selling a controversial product — around Halloween, the store carried a costume depicting an alien wearing a prison jumpsuit with “Illegal Alien” emblazoned across the chest.

8. Bad sports

Yankees keep fan’s letter from Mickey Mantle
The details: Lifelong Yanks fan Michael Kovalovsky sent the Yankees a letter he’d gotten from slugger Mickey Mantle in 1959. Kovalovsky had intended the letter to be part of a memorabilia exhibit at the new stadium, but officials told him personal items weren’t accepted. However, he never got the letter back. The retired cop and former minor leaguer says he’ll always be a Yankees fan — but he wants restitution for his missing piece of history.

9. Overbooked

Maggots force plane evacuation
The details: A Charlotte, N.C.-bound flight had more passengers this week than US Airways had anticipated. Maggots had infiltrated the plane by way of a container of spoiled meat, attracting flies to the cabin and falling from the overhead bin — landing in one passenger’s hair. Luckily the flight was still taxing and returned to the gate, where it was fumigated and thoroughly cleaned. It was not apparent why the spoiled meat was brought onboard, as meat is widely available for purchase.

10. Beach closure

Bacteria still polluting popular Baker Beach
The details: Bacteria levels at the mouth of Lobos Creek at Baker Beach skyrocketed this week, prompting authorities Wednesday to post signs warning summertime swimmers to steer clear of the stream and adjacent surf. High counts of E. coli and enterococcus were detected, both types of bacteria that cause human illnesses. The source of the pollution remains a mystery. By Thursday the pollution was found to have washed away, and no-swimming signs were removed.

SINKING SHIP: Only a week after it was reported that California welfare recipients could cash state-paid benefits at ATMs in more than half the casinos and licensed poker rooms in California, it turns out that welfare payments can also be withdrawn at strip club ATMs statewide. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger quickly ordered the strip joints added to the list of businesses where welfare benefits — meant to feed and clothe needy families — cannot be cashed.


Dim Bulb of the week: Mel Gibson

The latest: New audiotapes have caught the actor unleashing a vile tirade of racist, sexist statements directed at Oksana Grigorieva, his former girlfriend and the mother of his 9-month-old daughter. He told Grigorieva that her outfit made her look like “a f------ pig in heat” and if she got “raped”
it would be her fault.

The legal battle: The tapes are part of an investigation in which the 40-year-old Grigorieva has alleged that Gibson punched her twice in the face during a fit of anger, giving her a concussion and knocking out her teeth. The actor says they merely had a loud argument.

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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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