- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 27, 2003


Search for student continues

GRAND FORKS — In a small state that boasts one of the lowest crime rates in the country, Dru Sjodin’s disappearance is as baffling as it is troubling. Authorities believe the 22-year-old University of North Dakota senior might have been abducted while she was talking to her boyfriend on her cellphone.

Even though they have received more than 450 calls to a tip line since Miss Sjodin’s disappearance Saturday, police say they have no suspects or anyone who has any credible information. Grand Forks, a city of about 49,000 people, is a place where people tend to know their neighbors and where the low crime rate is mentioned along with the cold weather.

Miss Sjodin had finished her shift at Victoria’s Secret at the Columbia Mall and had gone shopping at another store in the mall.


Fuel tanker crashes, burns 11,000 gallons

ELMA — A tanker truck carrying 11,000 gallons of gasoline swerved off a highway, rolled over and exploded early yesterday, starting a fire that burned for hours.

The truck driver was killed. No one else was injured, and no other vehicles were involved in the accident. The truck carried one large tank plus a second tank on a trailer. The fire consumed the truck-mounted tank as well as the trailer, one police official said.

The fire was so big that fire crews stood back and waited for it to burn out. The crash happened around 6:45 a.m. near the Grays Harbor County fairgrounds, about 25 miles west of Olympia.

The truck was owned by Reinhard Petroleum. The cause of the accident remained under investigation.


Stolen pooch gets dye job

SAN FRANCISCO — When Casey, a 5-year-old Chihuahua-corgi mix, was reunited with her owner 13 days after being stolen, you could say the pooch was tickled pink. Literally.

The thief had dyed the dog’s fur pink to disguise it from a growing throng of investigators, police and residents looking for the dog. But that didn’t stop Susan Leong from recognizing the doggie that disappeared while she was grocery shopping in San Francisco’s Marina District on Nov. 8.

Witnesses said they saw a man come up to the dog, which was tied up outside. The man patted her on the head, picked her up, and then drove off with her in his car.

Witnesses managed to write down part of the car’s license plate number and got a good description of the thief, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Ms. Leong called police, alerted the city’s animal control department, and even hired a private investigator to help find the dog.


Evacuation order blamed in fire deaths

CHICAGO — An investigation into a high-rise fire that killed six persons last month concluded that an unnecessary evacuation order and firefighters’ failure to search every floor for victims immediately contributed to the deaths.

The city released a summary on Wednesday of its investigation into the Oct. 17 blaze in the 35-story Cook County administration building. The victims died of smoke inhalation and were found in locked stairwells.

The summary points to errors by building managers and fire officials, including the decision by a building employee to order a total evacuation, even though fire department guidelines call for only eight floors surrounding a fire to be emptied. The report also said firefighters had failed to search every floor promptly.

The fire broke out on the 12th floor; all the victims were found in the upper floors. They were discovered 90 minutes after the blaze began, once firefighters had the situation under control.


State books reveal whacky laws

ELIZABETHTOWN — If you move to Kentucky you better be prepared to bathe — at least once a year.

A state law that mandates people bathe at least once in 12 months is just one of many unusual statutes that are or have been on the books.

Another state law, for example, had stated: “No female shall appear in a bathing suit on any highway within this state unless she be escorted by at least two officers or unless she be armed with a club.” The law was later amended: “The provisions of this statute shall not apply to females weighing less than 90 pounds nor exceeding 200 pounds, nor shall it apply to female horses.”

Other unusual laws include a year in prison for anyone who throws eggs, or tomatoes, at a public speaker. It also is unlawful to dye a baby chick, duckling or rabbit and offer it for sale unless six or more are for sale at the same time.

“Sometimes unusual laws have a little sense behind them,” said D. Dee Shaw, attorney for the city. “Sometimes they don’t.”


Grinches steal 20,000 spruce tops

MINNEAPOLIS — In a case of the Grinch meets Paul Bunyan, the tops of up to 20,000 black spruce trees were stolen this month from an 18-acre tract of state land 40 miles north of Hibbing, Minn.

State forestry officials suspect that they will be sold as 4-foot tabletop Christmas trees in New York and Chicago. There have been no arrests, but the investigation is intensifying.

“They’re nothing more than thieves, is what they are,” said Brian Buria, a conservation officer for the Department of Natural Resources in Bigfork, told the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune. “This was not a mistake.”

Authorities say the tree rustlers probably took more than a week to remove several truckloads of spruce tops. Gone are 10,000 to 20,000 treetops, valued at up to $80,000. The thieves spared a 50-foot-wide buffer of trees so anyone driving nearby wouldn’t notice anything awry.


Wind chimes ring up high price tag

GRAND ISLAND — It would take a large tree and an even larger bank account to support a set of wind chimes now hanging in a local feed store.

Using a specially made pulley system, possibly the largest wind chimes in the state were strung up from the 20-foot ceiling of the Sundance Feed and Seed barn in Grand Island. The chimes measure 14 feet tall and weigh about 200 pounds.

Made by a company called Music of the Spheres, the larger-than-life chimes produce deep, resonant notes that sound more like a church organ than the tinny tinkling of its small, backyard cousins. The asking price for the chimes: $2,700.Their high-quality sound comes from the metal used and the way in which the tubes are ground on the inside.


State officials in snit over Bush’s slip

CARSON CITY — Nevada’s memo to George Bush: When making a first presidential visit to a state, pronounce the name correctly.

Mr. Bush, in Las Vegas on Tuesday, repeatedly said Ne-vah-da. To properly pronounce Nevada, the “a” should sound like that in “craps.” Mispronouncing the state’s name “sets people’s teeth on edge,” said state archivist Guy Rocha. “He’s the president, and he ought to get it right. Nothing personal.”

State Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus said the mispronunciation shows that Mr. Bush, who won the state in the 2000 election, doesn’t care much about Nevada. “They take such pains to orchestrate these trips and to make sure everything is politically correct,” she said. “You would think the name of the state would be a simple piece of that.”

Assemblyman Lynn Hettrick said Mr. Bush’s message was more crucial. “There are a lot more important things to worry about than that,” he said.


Hotel, library settle Dewey decimal debate

COLUMBUS — A library-themed New York City hotel whose floors are divided based on the Dewey decimal system has agreed to acknowledge in its advertising that a nonprofit library cooperative owns the system.

The settlement also requires the Library Hotel to make a donation in an undisclosed amount to a nonprofit organization that promotes children’s reading. The library overlooks the New York Public Library.

The Dewey Decimal Classification has been used to track books for 120 years, and the OCLC Online Computer Library Center in Ohio has owned the system’s trademark since 1988.

OCLC sued the hotel in September after finding the hotel used the system to divide the building, with each floor dedicated to one of Dewey’s 10 classifications.


Researcher: Turkeys aren’t so dumb

PORTLAND — An Oregon State University poultry scientist thinks turkeys are getting a bum rap. While they may not be the sharpest arrows in the quiver, Tom Savage, a professor of Animal Science, said the big birds aren’t really dumb.

“I’ve always viewed turkeys as smart animals with personality and character, and keen awareness of their surroundings,” Mr. Savage said. “The ‘dumb’ tag simply doesn’t fit.”

Stories abound of how turkeys are so stupid that they sometimes look up while it’s raining and keep staring skyward until they drown. Mr. Savage said turkeys sometimes do cock their heads and hold that position for a minute or more. It’s a genetically caused nervous disorder that he identified in the early 1990s.

Mr. Savage said he knows it’s an uphill fight to reshape the fowls’ image as anything but a big, dumb bird. But he said he’ll keep trying. “I’m an advocate for turkeys,” Mr. Savage said. “Except on Thanksgiving.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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