- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 6, 2005

CALIFORNIA

Man fired over pizza wins contest

SAN FRANCISCO — A computer engineer who lost his job because he ate two pieces of pepperoni pizza has been named the winner of an offbeat Internet contest that solicited stories about outrageous firings.

A panel of Silicon Valley judges picked Jim Garrison’s strange tale from more than 1,000 entries submitted during the past month to SimplyFired.com. The reward: a free Caribbean cruise.

The runners-up included a furniture mover who got fired after he and a co-worker were caught fencing with some adult sex toys found in a customer’s bedroom; a worker who misunderstood a manager’s instructions to send some sensitive data to microfilm and e-mailed it to a “Michael Finn” instead; and a warehouse worker found doing perverse things with the prosthetics made by his employer.

What Mr. Garrison didn’t know when he ate two of the six pieces of pepperoni pizza left over from a company meeting is that several other employees had already worked out a plan to take the leftover pizza home with them. When they discovered one-third of the leftover pizza pie had been eaten, the employees reported him to management, ultimately leading to his firing last November.

COLORADO

Court to hear Columbine tapes case

DENVER — Colorado’s Supreme Court has scheduled arguments for next week on whether videotapes and diaries made by the Columbine High School gunmen can be released publicly.

The parents of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris argue that the items are privately owned and not subject to a state open-records law. The Denver Post filed a lawsuit seeking public release in 2002.

Justices are scheduled to hear arguments Sept. 13. An appeals court ruled last year there was no reason to seal the material, but said state law allows authorities to withhold documents if release would be contrary to the public interest.

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office also is fighting the release of the items, which were seized from the Harris and Klebold homes after the teens attacked their classmates on April 20, 1999, killing 12 and a teacher before taking their own lives.

Lily Oeffler, assistant Jefferson County attorney, said in court papers that releasing documents seized from private homes would violate constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

FLORIDA

Faulty Miranda reverses convictions

FORT LAUDERDALE — Gorman Roberts’ manslaughter conviction was overturned because of a single word.

Mr. Roberts, now 20, was convicted of pushing 5-year-old Jordan Payne in February 2002 into a Pompano Beach canal, where he drowned. But his conviction and three-year prison sentence were thrown out in May 2004 when an appeals court ruled the Miranda rights warning he got from Broward County Sheriff’s Office investigators was incomplete.

The warning, which said suspects “have the right to talk with a lawyer and have a lawyer present before any questioning,” failed to spell out that defendants also had the right to an attorney “during” police interrogation as well. It was corrected in November 2002.

Since then, more than two dozen other Broward County cases — including murders, robberies and illegal drugs — have been affected because of the faulty Miranda warnings. Convictions have been reversed in some, defendant statements suppressed in others.

The Supreme Court refused to hear Florida’s appeal in one of the Broward cases, letting the state appeals decision stand.

GEORGIA

Foes plans lawsuit to challenge voter IDs

ATLANTA — Opponents of a new Georgia law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls are planning a federal court lawsuit challenging the measure, which they fear will lower voter turnout.

The bill requires voters to show photo identification at the polls. It eliminates the use at the polls of formerly accepted forms of voter identification, such Social Security cards, birth certificates or utility bills.

A press conference to discuss the lawsuit was set for today, said state Rep. Tyrone Brooks, a Democrat.

The suit likely will echo the complaints that several groups filed in objection letters sent to the Department of Justice before it approved the new law last month.

Under the Voting Rights Act, Georgia and other states with a history of suppressing minority voting must get federal permission to change their voting laws.

Regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit, Mr. Brooks said he believes the issue could ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“No matter who wins at the lower court level, there will be appeals,” he said.

ILLINOIS

Study: Fortified grains combat birth defects

CHICAGO — A U.S. government decision to add folic acid to enriched grain products has reduced the incidence of two devastating birth defects but more needs to be done, according to reports published yesterday.

A review of births in 21 states from 1995, a year before the fortification was authorized, to 2002 found “significant decreases in the prevalence of spina bifida and anencephaly,” two neural-tube defects that result, respectively, in spine and brain damage, one study said.

But the researchers found a racial disparity, with children born to black women less likely to be protected, perhaps because of genetic differences or gaps in education, the study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the University of Alabama said.

Folic acid is a B vitamin found in such foods as leafy green vegetables, beans and orange juice. Enriched grain products include breads and pasta. Women for some years have been advised to eat such foods and also take supplements during pregnancy to avoid neural-tube defects.

The study was published in the September issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, along with a commentary from two physicians who said the current level of folic acid in enriched grain products is still too low.

OHIO

Rent rise closes postal facility

WAKEFIELD — After more than 100 years of service in this tiny southern Ohio town, the U.S. Postal Service suspended operations after it balked at paying $400 more a month in rent.

Landlord Vicki Slone, who has owned the two-story, wood-framed structure since June 2004, issued an eviction notice in early August after she says postal officials refused to negotiate.

Miss Slone defended the rent increase, saying she and her husband spent $3,000 repainting and repairing the roof and windows and need to recoup the money.

The closure affects only about 60 people who had post office boxes at the facility, said Melody Rurik, postal spokeswoman in Columbus. Postal officials have set up roadside cluster boxes across the street from the post office — similar to what apartment complexes have — so those customers can continue to get their mail.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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