10 worst ideas of the week: Sunday, March 21, 2010 

New York cops repeatedly raid wrong house, BART train comes undone under the Bay, students could catch more Z’s, and fake officer picks the wrong driver to mess with.

1. You get the bill

Taxpayers pay $2M for state ­legislators’ air travel  

The details: California lawmakers charged taxpayers for airfare totaling $2 million over a recent 2½-year period, but the Legislature, citing security concerns, won’t disclose the destinations or produce proof that all the trips were for official state business, The Associated Press reports. Most of the cost, about $1.5 million, was for travel to and from Sacramento during the Legislature’s regular sessions January through September. Lawmakers also billed the state nearly $400,000 for other flights within California, and $55,000 for travel out of state.

2. Bad address

NYPD raids wrong house 50 times

The details: Police in New York City have raided a Brooklyn house at least 50 times since 2002 only to find they have the wrong house — and an increasingly frustrated retired couple, the New York Daily News reports. In 2002, five years after Walter Martin, 83, and his wife, Rose, 82, bought the Marine Park house, they began getting junk mail, court documents and arrest warrants for strangers. Police started banging on their door looking for murder and robbery suspects as often as three times a week. Neither the cops nor the homeowners can figure out why — though some speculate it’s a case of identity theft.

3. Disabling cars

Fired auto-dealer worker charged

The details: Omar Ramos-Lopez, 20, who was fired from the Texas Auto Center dealership in Austin, used an Internet service to remotely disable ignitions and set off car horns for more than 100 vehicles sold at his former workplace, police said. He was charged with felony breach of computer security. Several car owners said they had to call tow trucks and were left stranded at work or home. The installed GPS devices can prevent cars from starting. The system is used to repossess cars when buyers are overdue on payments, said Jeremy Norton, a controller at the dealership where Ramos-Lopez worked. Car horns can be activated when repo agents go to collect vehicles and believe the owners are hiding them.

4. BART mishap

Connector fails, train splits in two

The details: There is little room for error when it comes to BART trains and accidents. So when a train bound for San Francisco Airport was zipping through the Transbay Tube during the morning commute and suddenly cracked in half, it was disconcerting. And even though BART officials chalked up the accident — where a connector piece snapped — as a once-in-a-lifetime event, riders are obviously a little more cautious.

5. Latest pitch

SF school official wants to let high schoolers sleep longer

The details: Commissioner Sandra Lee Fewer is pushing the idea of starting San Francisco high school classes an hour later than their traditional 8 a.m. start time to accommodate sleepy teenagers. Fewer said it’s important for younger students to wake up early, since studies show learning is best stimulated first thing in the morning. However, high schoolers learn better later in the morning, she said. The school district said the idea of changing bell hours “warrants further exploration.”


6. Ethical controversy

London giveaway of human eggs renews debate

The details: The Genetics & IVF Institute of Fairfax, Va., offered one free in vitro cycle, using donated American eggs, to a randomly selected participant at a fertility seminar that was held in London, a procedure usually costing $23,000. The giveaway again sparked the ethical debate between practices in the U.S. and U.K. In the U.S., women are paid for donating eggs; in the U.K. they are not, thus there’s a shortage of eggs overseas. Such giveaways are illegal and frowned upon in Europe.

7. Indiscreet affection

Couple faces jail over kiss in Dubai

The details: An Englishman and his female friend were arrested in November after a mother complained her child had seen the two kissing and intimately touching each other and drinking alcohol. They spent a month in jail, were fined and are scheduled to be deported. This is the third time in two years foreigners have run into trouble from strict decency laws in the Muslim country. The pair is appealing their court ruling. The British embassy confirmed the arrest and said it had provided assistance, but gave no details.


8. Ungreat pretender

Arizona man impersonating cop pulls over a real cop

The details: Arizona resident David Word was hanging out on the highway in a black Ford Crown Victoria equipped with lights and a siren, pulling over other drivers and hassling them about breaking traffic laws. But one of those drivers was a genuine police officer on his way to work in his personal car. Matt Lydic said Word pulled him over, told him to slow down, then drove away. The 62-year-old Word was convicted of impersonating an officer of the law.


9. Green graffiti

Ferry worker loses 16 days’ pay for shamrock stamping

The details: A mate on New York City’s Staten Island Ferry was suspended without pay for 16 days because a time clock video showed him decorating surfaces of the boat’s pilothouse with a shamrock stamp. Half-Irish Jared Largo said he just wanted to spread cheer before St. Patrick’s Day and he’d intended to clean off the shamrocks afterward.

10. Oops, she’s alive

Biden blesses Irish leader’s mom mistakenly

The details: Ever play the dead-or-alive game and were convinced someone was dead, only to find out they were still upright? Now imagine Vice President Joe Biden asking for God’s blessing for Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen’s mother during a White House celebration. Biden said “God rest her soul” during a St. Patrick’s Day celebration, only to quickly correct himself to say “God bless her soul” and note that it is Cowen’s father who is dead.

Dim Bulb of the Week

Ron Washington


What: The Texas Rangers manager, when confronted by a Sports Illustrated reporter, admitted that he tested positive for cocaine in July.

Why it is bad: As the leader of a team that includes a well-known recovering alcoholic, Washington is supposed to set an example for his players. Upon further probing, the former A’s third base coach admitted to using marijuana and amphetamines during his playing career.

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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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