August 6, 2009

Charles Oliver: It couldn't happen here?


Two DeKalb County police officers have been suspended for allegedly using department computers to run a background check on President Barack Obama. The U.S. Secret Service quickly noticed that someone was using the criminal database to look for information on the president and alerted the department.

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Boston police officer Justin Barrett was outraged by all the attention that the arrest of Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates got. So he fired off a letter to the Boston Globe and copied it to a bunch of his buddies in the Massachusetts National Guard. Barrett said that Gates “is a suspect and will always be a suspect.” He further added that suspects have no rights. He also said that if Gates had “verbally assaulted” him “like a banana-eating jungle monkey” he would have given him a face full of pepper spray. He also thought it was cute to repeatedly use the word “ax” instead of “ask” in the letter. Of course, the Globe printed the letter, and the police department and the National Guard both suspended Barrett. Barrett says he isn’t a racist. Oh, and he has sued the police department, the commissioner and the mayor for violating his civil rights by suspending him and promising to fire him.

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The Southwest Florida Water Management District has banned residents from washing their cars and limited other outdoor water use because of a drought. But a local newspaper found that if the utility really wants to reduce water use it might want to start by changing the behavior of one of its members. Board member Jennifer Closshey used more than 500,000 gallons of water last year at her home. That’s more than twice as much as the other five district board members combined. Closshey blamed a broken water main, her large yard and landscaping that she did last year for her high water use.

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Walter Fallica was charged with criminal mischief and resisting an officer without violence after he cut down a Canadian flag outside the Brookridge (Fla.) Country Club. Fallica says he was upset they were flying the Canadian flag the same height as the American flag. Fallica, who claims to be a disabled vet, was apparently unaware that the U.S. Flag Code requires that when the flags of other nations are displayed along with the U.S. flag they are to be flown on separate flag poles at the same height. He apparently wasn’t too impressed when he found out that the club was neither violating the law nor flag etiquette. “Georgia’s looking a lot better. You all have some strange laws around here,” he told a local newspaper.

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Records show that most residents of JoAnn Watson’s neighborhood pay $2,000 to $6,500 a year in property taxes. But last year, the Detroit City Council member paid just $68 in property taxes. Why? Tax records show no house on the property, even though her house has been there since 1926.

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Don Grant, 50, says he and his stepsister have been estranged from their mother, Diana Fichera, for years. In fact, he says, he was raised primarily by his grandparents. But a Pennsylvania court has held Fichera’s adult children liable for an $8,000 bill from a nursing home where Fichera recovered after surgery. Making things even worse, Grant says his mother could pay the bill. Local media report Fichera receives a $1,434 monthly pension from the state but it can’t be garnished by the court.

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British authorities detained Evelyn Talcadrini as soon as she arrived in the country and put her back on a plane to Argentina hours later. Talcadrini, who is of Welsh descent, had been invited by friends to stay with them and try to improve her Welsh. She tried to explain that to immigration officials, but they apparently did not believe her.