City Considers Banning Water

It looks like city officials in Aliso Viejo, Calif. (search), need to brush up on their chemistry after they considered banning foam cups because they were produced with dihydrogen monoxide.

Far from being the toxic chemical they believed it was, dihydrogen monoxide is the benign, common substance known as H2O -- the scientific name for water.

The gaffe occurred when an Aliso Viejo paralegal believed an Internet hoax site describing dihydrogen monoxide as "an odorless, tasteless chemical" that is lethal if ingested.

"It's embarrassing," said City Manager David J. Norman. "We had a paralegal who did bad research."

As a result, the City Council of this Orange County suburb had been scheduled to vote next week on a proposed law that would have banned the use of foam containers at city-sponsored events. Among the reasons given for the ban were that they were made with a substance that could "threaten human health and safety."

The measure has been pulled from the agenda, although Norman said the city may still eventually ban foam cups.

"Our main concern is with the Aliso Creek watershed," Norman said. "If you get Styrofoam into the water and it breaks apart, it's virtually impossible to clean up."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Pet a Dog, Go to Jail

Tamar Sherman gave a dog some water — and now she's got a criminal record.

Sherman, 32, pleaded guilty this week in San Jose, Calif., to trespassing and prowling and was sentenced to 75 hours of community service and one year's probation, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

The whole thing started a few months ago as Sherman walked through her neighborhood and "heard a dog barking and howling from a long way away."

Sherman found a chocolate Labrador penned into a side yard behind a gate. As a member of a national group called Dogs Deserve Better (search), which has as its motto "No Chains!" and also opposes leaving dogs outside overnight, she wasn't happy about it.

"When I came up to the house, I heard the owners yelling and cursing at her," Sherman explained. "I just wanted to find out if the dog was OK."

On a second night, Sherman opened the gate, entered the yard and checked up on the dog.

"There were only leaves in the water bowl," she said.

The following evening, she went so far as to fill up the dog's bowl with a neighbor's garden hose. At that point, the owner of the house came out.

"When I went out there to fill up the dog bowl, this woman was standing in my back yard," said Ron Berki, a local attorney. "My response was, 'Who in the hell are you?' She told me, 'I'm here to pet your dog.'"

Police, called by a neighbor who suspected a prowling burglar, soon arrived.

"I do not think my actions were a crime in comparison with abuse or neglect of animals," Sherman explained after her plea deal, in which she also agreed to stay 100 yards away from the Berki house.

The dog's handlers disagreed that the Lab, called Bailey, was neglected.

"The water bowls are moved in and out of the garage to the side of the house with some regularity," Ron Berki said. "The dog stays in the garage as well as outside on the side of the house."

His son, Steve Berki, who owns Bailey, said the dog sleeps with him every night.

"If Miss Sherman was so concerned about my dog," the younger Berki said, "it would have been easy to come to my front door and speak to me directly."

— Thanks to Out There readers Jeff W. and Don W.

More Fun Than a Drunken Monkey

Chico the monkey bit several people and had to go. But his owner couldn't deal with it.

On Tuesday night, staffers at the Clinton, Miss., Animal Rescue League (search) called sheriff's deputies, who wrote in their report that they'd "found [a woman] drunk and inside a cage with a monkey," reports the Jackson, Miss., Clarion-Ledger.

Kathy Hannah, 39, had slept in the same bed with the 6-year-old Capuchin monkey (search), clothed him in diapers and bathed him in her tub.

But he'd bitten her and a neighbor, and last month the Animal Rescue League decided it was time for Hannah to give him up.

Police and animal-rescue officials came to get Chico, but Hannah allegedly hit a police officer and drove off with the monkey.

On Tuesday, Hannah was finally persuaded to give him up peacefully. Later in the day, apparently inebriated, she came back to the rescue league's building and crawled into Chico's cage.

"Miss Hannah was very abusive to us and the rescue league employees," Hinds County Sheriff's Deputy Anthony Cook wrote in his report. "We tried to get her out of the cage, and every time we got close to her, the monkey would try to attack us."

Both monkey and owner were eventually subdued. Chico has moved to a new home at an Oklahoma animal sanctuary. Hannah faces charges of simple assault on a police officer, eluding a police officer, careless driving, disorderly conduct and public drunkenness.

— Thanks to Out There reader Matt H.

Just Tossing the You-Know-What Around

An angry husband thought a newspaper was slinging mud at his wife — so he apparently threw something a little more extreme.

The assistant fire chief of Belton, Mo., allegedly threw a newspaper packed with dog feces at an employee of the Belton Journal, reports KMBC-TV of Kansas City.

Dana Marconett may have been upset about an editorial the paper had published about his wife, city alderwoman Wendy Marconett.

"I said she was one of the worse aldermen that Belton had seen in decades," said publisher Connie McCann.

Wendy Marconett couldn't comment on the doo-doo incident, but she did think the editorial slamming her was rubbish.

"A lot of us, we're all pretty sick of reading the things [McCann] writes," she said.

Dana Marconett was placed on paid administrative leave.

— Thanks to Out There reader Joseph W.

Your Ad Here, Thousands of Miles Overhead

MOSCOW (AP) — Orion, the Big Dipper and Andromeda could be joined in the heavens by ads for soft drinks and cigarettes if a Russian inventor's device catches on.

Alexander Lavrynov, a spacecraft designer, said he has patented a device for putting advertising into space that would be seen from Earth, Interfax news agency reported Wednesday.

"Space commercials could embrace huge areas and a colossal number of consumers," he said. "This would literally be intercontinental coverage."

He said the satellites would be visible in the night sky by employing sunlight reflectors, with multiple satellites linked together to create a message large enough to be seen.

"People would be able to see writing in the skies from the Earth no worse than they see the stars," he said.

The Call's Free — The Rest Is Not

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — A public telephone that mysteriously gives free local calls has been given an odd companion — a condom machine.

The dispenser, charging 25 cents per condom, has been installed in a phone booth across the street from Penn State University's main campus.

"I'm just surprised," State College resident Stephanie Morgan said Monday. "There used to be a free phone here, but it didn't have condoms."

Nearby businesses said they did not know who installed the phone, which offers free local calls, or when the condom machine was installed.

A representative from Verizon, which provides local and long-distance phone service in the area, told the Centre Daily Times of State College that it had no record of the phone.

A sticker on the condom machine simply reads: "Because this is a public establishment — and considering the AIDS crisis — management, by placing this condom-dispensing machine, is taking moral responsibility in providing its patrons with a lifesaving choice and is neither approving nor disapproving of any particular behavior."

Penn State (search) student Ryan Manning said he was surprised to see the condom dispenser, but didn't think the machine was needed.

"Usually they have them in bathrooms, and there's a Uni-Mart on the corner," Manning said.

Sweet Victory Will Cost You

DECATUR, Ala. (AP) — A Decatur man arrested during an argument with a store clerk over the price of a cup of ice has won an 18-month court fight.

But he says the dispute that began over a $2.40 cup of ice has left him with a $4,500 legal bill.

Cecil Parker, who was acquitted of a disorderly conduct charge by a jury March 3, wants the city to pick up the legal tab.

Parker's ordeal began in September 2002 when he tried to buy a bottle of Mountain Dew and a cup of ice at a convenience store. Parker and the clerk argued over the nearly $4 cost of the purchase, with Parker saying he was overcharged $2.40 for the ice, which he thought was advertised for 25 cents.

A sign in the store at the time said ice cost 25 cents. But the sign did not specify which size cup was 25 cents, and Parker said he filled the largest size cup with ice.

In haggling over the cost, Parker said he wanted to leave the cup of ice with the clerk and walk out. But Police Officer Tim Burleson told Parker to pay for the ice, and when Parker refused, he was handcuffed and taken to jail for disorderly conduct.

He was convicted in city court but was found innocent when the case went before a jury.

Parker told The Decatur Daily that he spent about $4,500 on attorney fees and court costs. He said he also paid $100 to pick up his vehicle that was towed away from the store where he was arrested.

Parker said he filed a court complaint for false arrest against police.

Compiled by's Paul Wagenseil.

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