- The Washington Times - Monday, October 26, 2009


Bears like minivans as source of food

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK | What’s bigger than a picnic basket and even better in the eyes of black bears that live in Yosemite National Park?

A study published this month in the Journal of Mammalogy says it’s minivans driven by families with children who leave behind a trail of spilled juice boxes, Cheerios and coolers carrying other snacks.

Park scientists have found that the bears tore up minivans more frequently than other type of vehicle. It found that minivans represented 29 percent of the 908 vehicles torn into by bears between 2001 and 2007, even though they made up just 7 percent of the cars that visited Yosemite.

The researchers investigated the relationship after noticing that bears seemed to target that particular vehicle type.


Madoff friend dies; found in home pool

PALM BEACH | Police said Sunday that Jeffry Picower, 67, a Florida philanthropist and a friend of Bernard Madoff for decades, has died.

Mr. Picower was the former New York lawyer and accountant alleged to have extracted billions of dollars from the Madoff investment scheme.

In a statement, the Palm Beach Police Department said Mr. Picower was found at the bottom of his Palm Beach home’s pool Sunday afternoon by his wife and could not be revived by rescue workers. He was pronounced dead about 1:30 p.m.

The police department said it is conducting an investigation into Mr. Picower’s death, as is standard in any drowning.

In the initial aftermath of the Madoff scandal in December, the foundation Mr. Picower and his wife started in 1989 said it would have to cease grant-making and would be forced to close. The Picower Foundation had given millions to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Human Rights First and the New York Public Library. It also funded diabetes research at Harvard Medical School. The foundation, whose assets were managed by Madoff, said in its 2007 tax return its investment portfolio was valued at nearly $1 billion.


Lab workers sick from tainted coffee

BOSTON | Six Harvard University medical researchers were poisoned in August after drinking coffee that was laced with a chemical preservative, according to university officials.

In an internal memo first reported in the Boston Herald’s Sunday editions, the school said the coffee came from a machine near the researchers’ lab that later tested positive for sodium azide, a common preservative used in labs.

The six reported symptoms after drinking the coffee Aug. 26, ranging from dizziness to ringing in the ears, and one passed out. They were treated at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and later released.

The memo, written by Daniel G. Ennis, executive dean for administration, and Richard M. Shea, associate dean for physical planning and facilities, did not say whether officials believe the poisoning was intentional.

“As always, we are mindful of the need to be diligent about laboratory safety and security and the importance of proper management of laboratory chemicals,” the memo stated.

“We are in the process of installing additional security cameras throughout our buildings, and we are strengthening the security systems that manage access to the laboratories during both normal business hours and off hours,” it goes on to say.


How many roaches in one man’s mouth?

LANSING | A man says he expects Guinness World Records to award him the world record for fitting the most cockroaches in his mouth.

Sean Murphy of Lansing said it likely will be weeks until he officially learns whether the 16 Madagascar hissing cockroaches he held in his mouth for 10 seconds will be recognized as a world record, the Lansing State Journal reported Sunday.

Mr. Murphy apparently broke the record of 11 cockroaches Friday night by holding 12 in his mouth for the mandated 10 seconds. Then he sought to extend his unofficial record to 16.

“I’ve never gotten it in one try so that was a big surprise,” he said of his unusual feat.

Mr. Murphy told the State Journal his days of putting cockroaches in his mouth are not yet behind him.

“Let’s see if anyone can match that within the next year and maybe next Halloween I’ll shoot for 20,” the pet store employee said.


Feds interview crew of Northwest flight

MINNEAPOLIS | Federal investigators are interviewing the crew of the Northwest Airlines flight that overshot the Minneapolis airport by 150 miles.

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) spokesman Keith Holloway said investigators were to interview the pilot and co-pilot in person Sunday in Minneapolis. He would not provide additional details, but did say the NTSB would not comment on the substance of the interviews until Monday at the earliest.

Northwest Airlines is doing its own internal investigation, said Chris Kelly, a spokesman for Northwest Airlines’ parent company, Delta Air Lines Inc.

Air traffic controllers tried for more than an hour Wednesday night to contact the Minneapolis-bound flight, which later turned around and landed safely. First officer Richard Cole has said he and the captain were not sleeping or arguing in the cockpit, but he hasn’t explained their lapse in response and the detour.


Transit workers pitch strike threat

PHILADELPHIA | Transit system workers in Philadelphia voted Sunday to authorize their union to strike, less than a week before the Phillies play their first home game of the World Series, but a transit spokesman said he hopes a deal can be concluded before then.

Willie Brown, president of the Transport Workers Union Local 234, said the 4,700 workers voted overwhelmingly to allow him to call a strike if negotiations with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) fail. Talks are slated to resume Monday.

Mr. Brown said he hoped a walkout would not affect the Series, but he said workers have been without a contract since March and have not had a raise since December.

“This is the last week we’re going to work without a contract,” Mr. Brown said, while vowing to “leave no stone unturned” to reach a deal.

SEPTA spokesman Richard Maloney said he hopes an accord can be reached quickly.

“We made a lot of progress last week, and there’s no reason why in the next couple of days this shouldn’t be done,” he said.

Mr. Maloney said the company would have a contingency plan in case of a walkout, but he declined to discuss details.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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