Thursday, May 28, 2009

The grateful dead

The Australian government has admitted that cash hand-outs aimed at stimulating the economy have been sent to thousands of people who are dead. The money was part of a multi-billion dollar package under which every tax-payer was entitled to a payment of up to A$900 ($700, £440).

About A$14m of the money went to dead people, ministers said, and A$25m to Australians living overseas. Local media have dubbed the deceased recipients "the grateful dead".

Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner said that the money would still help Australia's economy.

"Even where they go to people who are dead, of course they go to the estate," he told local media. The estate typically is going to consist of ordinary Australians who will in turn get the payments, and on balance over time, will spend those payments."

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Banana robbery

Authorities say a North Carolina teen who was thwarted as he tried to rob a store with a banana ate it before they could arrive.

Winston-Salem authorities say 17-year-old John Szwalla held the banana under his shirt when he entered the store Thursday, saying he had a gun and demanded money.

Owner Bobby Ray Mabe says he and a customer jumped Szwalla, holding him until deputies arrived. While they waited, Mabe says the teen ate the banana. Mabe says deputies took pictures of the banana peel. Forsyth County Sheriff’s office spokesman Maj. Brad Stanley says deputies joked about charging Szwalla with destroying evidence.

Szwalla faces a charge of attempted armed robbery. Jail officials say he doesn’t have an attorney.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Pub "research centre"

Barnsley, UK - Enforcement action was expected today against a pub landlady who tried to sidestep the smoking ban by exploiting a legal loophole. Kerry Fenton, landlady at the Cutting Edge in Worsbrough, Barnsley, turned the pub's tap room into a "smoking research centre", where people could smoke if they filled in a questionnaire.

It included questions such as how many cigarettes people smoke, and whether they like a smoky atmosphere in pubs.

The idea was dreamed up by pub regular James Martin, a 40-year-old Sheffield printer, who saw that part two, item nine of the Smoke-free (Exemptions and Vehicles) Regulation 2007 sets out conditions for research into smoking. The regulations state that a "designated room in a research or testing facility" does not have to be smoke-free "whilst it is being used for any research or tests".

But Barnsley Council officials have pointed out that the Cutting Edge is "clearly not a research or test facility" and therefore not exempt from the smoking ban.

Enforcement officers were expected to visit the premises in Bank End Road today and take action, which could lead to a maximum penalty of £2,500.

The ruling will be a blow for non-smoker Ms Fenton, who claims trade has doubled since the "centre" was set up on Friday, May 8. She said: "Before Friday we were lucky to get 10 people in at a weekend. On Friday we had 29, on Saturday 31 and on Sunday 46."

Signs on the door of the tap room, which has its own bar and is completely separate from the rest of the pub, indicate the place is a "Designated Smoking Room."

Ms Fenton, 36, also asks smokers to put 50p in a charity box and part of the money goes to a cancer research fund. The landlady says she has not taken legal advice on the scheme - instead relying on Mr Martin's interpretation of the rules - but she believes that she has complied with the regulations by making sure the smoking room is entirely separate from the lounge.

The "research centre", however, has not found favour with the pub's owners Punch Taverns. A spokesman for the company said: "Punch does not endorse this activity and will not be rolling it out across any of our other sites. Our licensee will be advised against undertaking this activity."

Customers at the Cutting Edge, however, say they are all in favour of the smoking room. Regular Christopher Pick said: "I think it's brilliant. Before this I was standing outside no matter what the weather was like. I don't know whether they can get away with it but there you are."

Non-smoker Rob Hudson, who has been coming to the Cutting Edge for 35 years, said: "I would rather come into a full pub than an empty room. I have the choice of the tap room and the lounge and I come in here."

Moldy old d'oh!

An office worker cleaning a fridge full of rotten food created a smell so noxious that it sent seven co-workers to the hospital and made many others ill.

Firefighters had to evacuate the AT&T building in downtown San Jose on Tuesday after the fumes led someone to call 911. A hazmat team was called in.

What crews found was an unplugged refrigerator crammed with moldy food.

Authorities say an enterprising office worker had decided to clean it out, placing the food in a conference room while using two cleaning chemicals to scrub down the mess.

The mixture of old lunches and disinfectant caused 28 people to need treatment for vomiting and nausea.

Authorities say the worker who cleaned the fridge didn't need treatment - she can't smell because of allergies.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Burrito craving

A suspected drug dealer who led police on a 90mph chase in Indiana was arrested after he stopped for a snack at Taco Bell. Fort Wayne police Sgt Mark Walters said 36-year-old Jermaine Askia Cooper was picked up in the car park of Taco Bell.

He told officers he "knew he was going to jail for a while" and wanted to get one last burrito. He did not get the burrito, police said.

Cooper was held without bail on four counts of dealing cocaine, one count of resisting arrest by fleeing and other charges.

Police say the chase began Tuesday after officers spotted Cooper, who was wanted on other charges. The chase ended in nearby Decatur.