10 worst ideas of the week: Sunday, March 14, 2010 

Big Ben in trouble again, airlines plan to cancel flights to avoid fines, Sarasota tries to get attention from Google, and a news giant fakes a video

1. Isn’t it ironic?

Palin admits to using Canadian health care

The details: Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who has criticized Canada’s health care system and President Barack Obama’s health plan proposal as being socialized medicine, acknowledged her family used medical care in Whitehorse, the capital of Canada’s Yukon Territory, decades ago. Palin and her family lived in the rural southeast Alaska town of Skagway when she was an infant. Palin’s father said they had little choice but to use the closest medical facilities, and that they probably used it only twice.

2. Once fooled

Bogus Web site tries to swindle Madoff victims

The details: The Securities Investor Protection Corp. warned a phony Web site is masquerading as SIPC, targeting victims of Bernard Madoff’s $1.3 billion Ponzi scheme in an apparent identity-theft scheme. Looking like the real SIPC site, the Web site urges Madoff’s victims to submit claims online, asking for detailed financial information. The SIPC warned investors not to send any personal information to the site. It is working to shut down the phony site.

3. Lock ’em up

Actor wants reporters jailed for calling Chavez ‘dictator’

The details: Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn, appearing on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” said he thinks any journalist who calls Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez a dictator should go to prison. “Every day, this elected leader is called a dictator here, and we just accept it, and accept it,” Penn said. “And this is mainstream media, who should — truly, there should be a bar by which one goes to prison for these kinds of lies.”

4. Airlines fight back

Fines for delays mean flight cancellations

The details: Several major airlines said they will cancel flights rather than pay fines for delaying passengers. New federal guidelines that take effect April 29 allow airlines to be fined up to $27,500 per passenger if a plane is stuck on the runway for more than three hours. The fine for a Boeing 757 full of passengers could cost more than $5 million.

5. Recruiting pipeline

Pennsylvania woman charged with recruiting terrorists

The details: Pennsylvania is a hotbed for recruiting football players, but it is now home to a woman who is charged with trying to lure jihadist fighters via the Internet. Colleen LaRose, known to authorities as “JihadJane,” wanted the recruits to carry out murders and violent attacks overseas, according to an indictment that was unsealed. The woman apparently is a Swedish citizen who was looking to kill Lars Vilks, who drew a Prophet Muhammad cartoon that raised the ire of the Muslim world.

6. Bad Carr

49ers sign underachieving quarterback

The details: Who is the worse No. 1 overall pick — Alex Smith or David Carr? Tune in to 49ers training camp this summer to find out. The Niners signed Carr, selected No. 1 overall by the Houston Texans in the 2002 NFL draft, to back up Smith, the top pick in the 2005 draft. At least the 49ers aren’t paying him top-pick money after he was cut by the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers the past two years.

7. Google Island

Island renamed in pitch for new high-speed network

The details: The city of Sarasota has temporarily changed the name of an island off the Florida Gulf Coast to Google Island. That’s because Google is launching an experimental ultra high-speed network and Sarasota hopes their stunt will get the Internet giant’s favorable notice. Locals are bemused and hope that no more name changes are coming.

8. Wrong note

Serial killer plays violent song as part of defense

The details: Rodney Alcala, convicted and sentenced to death for five murders committed in the 1970s, tried to make a final case against the death penalty in his closing statement. Alcala, who was acting as his own lawyer, told the jury that they too would become killers if he is executed. Then things got weird — Alcala turned on a recording of part of Arlo Guthrie’s song “Alice’s Restaurant.” The verse he played went as follows: “I wanna kill. Kill. I wanna see blood and gore and guts and veins in my teeth. Eat dead burnt bodies. I mean: kill, kill, kill, kill.” Relatives of Alcala’s victims, understandably, got up and walked out.

9. Fake news

ABC rigs shot of speedometer in report about runaway Toyotas

The details: A Feb. 22 “ABC World News” broadcast showed Brian Ross driving a Toyota that was explained to have been rigged to quickly accelerate. For about two seconds during the drive, ABC cut to a picture of a speedometer with the needle zooming forward, giving the impression it documented the actual ride. But instead, for a clearer picture the network induced a short-circuit in a parked car.

10. Save the whales

Sushi bar busted selling endangered meat

The details: A Santa Monica restaurant, The Hump, was accused of illegally selling an endangered species product when undercover agents went in, ordered, and ate Sei whale meat. Marine mammal activists ran up a $600 tab and tried increasingly exotic seafood in order to gain the sushi chef’s confidence before asking for the whale. That’s when sushi chef Kiyoshiro Yamamoto brought out the whale, which the activists pocketed a sample and took to be identified.



Dim bulb of the Week


What: At least one Walmart store in Louisiana was selling a black Barbie doll at just half the price of the exact same white Barbie. A photo virally posted across the Internet showed packages of Mattel’s Ballerina Barbie and Ballerina Teresa dolls hanging side by side at an unidentified store. The Teresa dolls, which feature brown skin and dark hair, were marked as on sale at $3. The white Barbies on the right of the Teresa dolls still carried their original price of $5.93. Aside from their color, the two dolls appeared identical.

Why: Walmart aroused wide criticism for seeming racial insensitivity. “The implication of lowering the price is that’s devaluing the black doll,” said the executive director of Northside Center for Child Development in Harlem.

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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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