Monday, June 9, 2008

Strange News

Lead Story: Crocodile trapped in surf off SC barrier island

Isle of Palms, S.C. - Officials at the Isle of Palms ordered everyone out of the water because of a dangerous animal. But it wasn't a shark this time. Instead, wildlife officials ended up trapping a 6-foot long American crocodile in the surf Thursday.

Steve Bennett of the Department of Natural Resources told The Post and Courier of Charleston that the crocodile likely escaped or was released by someone who illegally brought it from its normal habitat in southern Florida.

But Bennett says it is possible the crocodile could have swum up the coast. Officials say they shut down the beach and ordered hundreds out of the water as a precaution until the crocodile was trapped.

No injuries were reported. Officials planned to send the creature to an alligator park, or to a wildlife preserve in south Florida.

Man, 84, finally gets to attend high school prom

Chester, PA - He arrived in style: a black limo, a sharp tuxedo, a beautiful date and with an adoring crowd waiting for him. Kenneth Smith, 84, attended the Chester High School prom on Thursday night — fashionably late. Decades late.

Smith was drafted into military service 1943, before he could finish high school. He returned home after World War II but never got his high school diploma.

A friend arranged for him to receive an honorary diploma from Chester High School, just outside Philadelphia, and finally go to the prom.

He did — at the Springfield Country Club.

Smith said this prom wasn't just for him. He said it was also for all the other soldiers who couldn't make it to their own.

Police nab man claiming to be Christ, George Bush

Birmingham, AL - A Jefferson County Jail inmate has quite a tale to tell about how he got there. The nude man claimed to be Jesus Christ and George Bush when sheriff's deputies shot him with a stun gun after he ignored their commands.

A motorist spotted the 30-year-old standing nude in the middle of Alabama 79 early Friday morning and called police.

The man struggled with police and was shot with a Taser four times before they subdued him and put him in handcuffs and leg irons.

He told the deputies he was Jesus Christ and George Bush and could break the handcuffs.

Police say he appeared to be intoxicated. The man was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

Stolen Jesus statue returned to Detroit church

Detroit, MI - A Detroit woman has found Jesus ... in an alley.

The pastor of a church in the city says its stolen 8-foot Jesus statue was recovered from bushes in an alley about two blocks away.

Patricia Bowers says she notified the church late Wednesday that she had seen the statue the previous day after she had gotten off a bus.

Bowers says she didn't realize the green-hued, plaster statue had been stolen until seeing news reports Tuesday night.

The Rev. Barry Randolph says the only damage to the statue is a broken hand. The cross it was attached to suffered major damage.

A church member noticed the statue missing Monday. Randolph says thieves may have thought the statue contained copper, which often is stolen and sold as scrap metal.

From bad to verse: Vandals get classroom penance

Middlebury, VT - Call it poetic justice: More than two dozen young people who broke into Robert Frost's former home for a beer party and trashed the place are being required to take classes in his poetry as part of their punishment.

Using "The Road Not Taken" and another poem as jumping-off points, Frost biographer Jay Parini hopes to show the vandals the error of their ways — and the redemptive power of poetry.

"I guess I was thinking that if these teens had a better understanding of who Robert Frost was and his contribution to our society, that they would be more respectful of other people's property in the future and would also learn something from the experience," said prosecutor John Quinn.

The vandalism occurred at the Homer Noble Farm in Ripton, where Frost spent more than 20 summers before his death in 1963. Now owned by Middlebury College, the unheated farmhouse on a dead-end road is used occasionally by the college and is open in the warmer months.

On Dec. 28, a 17-year-old former Middlebury College employee decided to hold a party and gave a friend $100 to buy beer. Word spread. Up to 50 people descended on the farm, the revelry turning destructive after a chair broke and someone threw it into the fireplace.

When it was over, windows, antique furniture and china had been broken, fire extinguishers discharged, and carpeting soiled with vomit and urine. Empty beer cans and drug paraphernalia were left behind. The damage was put at $10,600.

Twenty-eight people — all but two of them teenagers — were charged, mostly with trespassing.

About 25 ultimately entered pleas — or were accepted into a program that allows them to wipe their records clean — provided they underwent the Frost instruction. Some will also have to pay for some of the damage, and most were ordered to perform community service in addition to the classroom sessions. The man who bought the beer is the only one who went to jail; he got three days behind bars.

Parini, 60, a Middlebury College professor who has stayed at the house before, was eager to oblige when Quinn asked him to teach the classes. He donated his time for the two sessions.

On Wednesday, 11 turned out for the first, with Parini giving line-by-line interpretations of "The Road Not Taken" and "Out, Out-," seizing on parts with particular relevance to draw parallels to their case.

"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood," he thundered, reciting the opening line of the first poem, which he called symbolic of the need to make choices in life.

"This is where Frost is relevant. This is the irony of this whole thing. You come to a path in the woods where you can say, `Shall I go to this party and get drunk out of my mind?'" he said. "Everything in life is choices."

Even the setting had parallels, he said: "Believe me, if you're a teenager, you're always in the damned woods. Literally, you're in the woods — probably too much you're in the woods. And metaphorically you're in the woods, in your life. Look at you here, in court diversion! If that isn't `in the woods,' what the hell is `in the woods'? You're in the woods!"

Dressed casually, one with his skateboard propped up against his desk, the young people listened to Parini and answered questions when he pressed. Then a court official asked them to describe how their arrests and the publicity affected them.

"I was worried about my family," said one boy, whose name was withheld because the so-called diversion program in which took part is confidential. "I'll be carrying on the family name and all that. And with this kind of thing tied to me, it doesn't look very good."

Another said: "After this, I'm thinking about staying out of trouble, because this is my last chance."

"My parents' business in town was affected," said a girl.

When the session ended, the vandals were offered snacks — apple cider, muffins, sliced fruit — but none partook. They went straight for the door, several declining comment as they walked out of the building. The next session is Tuesday.

"It's a lesson learned, that's for sure," said one of them, 22-year-old Ryan Kenyon, whose grandmother worked as hairdresser in the 1960s and knew Frost. "It did bring some insight. People do many things that they don't realize the consequences of. It shined a light, at least to me."

Woman accused of setting gas price protest fires

Danville, CA - A Danville woman faces arson charges after she allegedly set fires at two gas stations and a coffee house, saying she was protesting high gas prices. The woman, 64, remained Thursday in a Contra Costa jail on $810,000 bail on suspicion of premeditated arson and burglary.

Police say the woman used a fireplace log and a lighter to set fires in the restrooms of an Arco station, a Chevron station and a Starbucks on Wednesday. No structural damage was reported at the locations.

Police later found the woman at a nearby fast food restaurant with eight fireplace logs with her. She told officers that she was behind the fires and said she woke up that morning wanting to do something about high gas prices.

Police say they don't know why she targeted the Starbucks. Charges have not yet been filed, and it's not clear if the woman has a lawyer in the case.


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