No Merit to 'Dumb' Suit, Court Says

Two California men may still be "dumb asses," a court has ruled.

The pair, former candidates for the Hollister City Council (search), sued another man for libel in 2001 after he put up a Web site comparing them to mute donkeys.

But a three-judge panel last week found that calling someone a "dumb ass" was a statement of opinion, not fact — and therefore protected free speech, reports the San Jose Mercury News.

"The statement that the plaintiff is a 'Dumb Ass,' even first among 'Dumb Asses,' communicates no factual proposition susceptible of proof or refutation," reads the appellate court decision.

J.J. Vogel and Paul Grannis ran for city council in 2000, drawing the ire of former councilman Joseph Felice, who mercilessly pilloried them on his Web site.

"J.J. Vogel's wanted as a dead beat dad," said one missive. "Paul Grannis — bankrupt, drunk & chewin' tobaccy," read another.

Worst of all was a list of "Top Ten Dumb Asses" — with Vogel and Grannis as Nos. 1 and 2.

The two lost the 2000 election, but then sued Felice, who tried to have the suit tossed out. The appeals court sided with Felice that the suit had no merit.

"To call a man 'dumb' often means no more than to call him a 'fool,'" said the court. "One man's fool may be another's savant. Indeed, a corollary of Lincoln's famous aphorism is that every person is a fool some of the time."

The court also found that Vogel had in fact owed child support in 1990, that Grannis had filed for bankruptcy and that the latter's alleged use of alcohol and chewing tobacco had no bearing on his long-term reputation.

"You can't be sued for opinion," said Felice's attorney. "How could you prove you're not a dumb ass?"

Hollister is about 50 miles southeast of San Jose.

— Thanks to Out There reader Mike Y.

Death, Be Not Proud

NEW YORK (AP) — His name is Death, and prosecutors say he stole from a cemetery.

Donald Death Jr., 60, of Locust Valley was arraigned Wednesday on charges he stole nearly $300,000 from the Locust Valley Cemetery Association (search) on Long Island.

Death, chairman and assistant treasurer of the cemetery association, was charged with three counts of grand larceny for allegedly using cemetery funds for his own purposes, Nassau County District Attorney Denis Dillon said in a statement.

If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.

An audit last summer found Death wrote checks totaling $170,000 from the cemetery association's account to a company he controlled, Dillon said.

Death also allegedly had a cemetery worker do landscaping work on properties he and his father owned, and put a family member on the association's health plan.

The total amount of money allegedly diverted by Death was estimated at $293,070.46, Dillon said.

— Thanks to Out There readers Suzanne S. and Anthony L.

Cop Handcuffs Doctor On Way to Deliver Baby

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A police officer who stopped a doctor for speeding on his way to deliver a baby — and then took him to the maternity ward in handcuffs —has agreed to an unpaid suspension for lack of judgment.

Dr. Anthony Chidiac was driving his motorcycle 10 miles above the 25 mph speed limit last March when he was stopped by 15-year veteran Officer William Lilliston.

According to records released Monday from an internal police investigation, when the doctor explained he was going to a delivery, the officer allegedly asked if he was delivering a pizza and later said, "If you're a doctor, I'm Mickey Mouse or Joe Blow."

Lilliston called the hospital to confirm Chidiac's story, and drove him to the hospital as the baby's head was showing. The officer then asked to see the doctor's driver's license before letting Chidiac change into scrubs.

Chidiac delivered the baby 15 minutes after the handcuffs were removed.

The officer, who said the doctor had been slow in pulling over, later wrote Chidiac a traffic citation.

— Thanks to Out There reader Harley W.

Software Firm Makes Leap in Communication

OSLO, Norway (AP) — Norway's Opera Software ASA (search) couldn't resist the temptation of an April Fool's joke heralding a breakthrough in peer-to-peer communications.

The company said it has developed "a platform-independent speech solution for short- and medium-range interpersonal communication."

In plain language: human speech.

Opera said in an April Fool's release that the so-called breakthrough, "Opera SoundWave," has a range of 100 feet and could be easily tested without special equipment simply by asking someone near you a question, such as "Is today April Fool's Day?"

The statement went on to say that "Opera's patent-pending P2P speech technology uses analog signals carried through open air, enabling users to communicate in real-time without the use of computers or mobile phones."

It went on to say SoundWave was discovered accidentally when an Opera technician said something and realized his colleague understood.

"Like most people, I have used e-mail as my primary means of communication for many years and accepted that it is not always 100 percent effective," said Trond Werner Hansen, of Opera, in the statement. "SoundWave has opened up a whole new world for me, enabling me to get things done faster and more efficiently than before — and it is remarkably easy to use."

Endless Drum Solos Force Deadbeats to Pay Up

HYDERABAD, India (AP) — Tax authorities in southern India have found a new way to handle tax evaders: sending teams of traditional drummers to noisily pound away outside their homes or shops until they pay up.

Tax officials in Andhra Pradesh state's Rajahmundry (search) city said Thursday they had recovered three-fourths of the $1.2 million owed by people there after sending drummers to the doors of tax cheats.

The sense of shame evoked by the racket was enough to make most people come out and pay, said T.S.R. Anjenayalu, a Rajahmundry administrative official.

"The drive has been such a great success that we have had several inquiries from other cities and towns about it," Anjenayalu said.

This year's tax collection in Rajahmundry has hit an all-time high, with nearly 95 percent collected, he said.

Rajahmundry, with 450,000 people, is about 300 miles east of the state capital, Hyderabad.

The city has hired 10 drummers for the collection drive.

No Garden Tools at This School

SNOHOMISH, Wash. (AP) — "Snoho" has appeared without incident in Snohomish High School (search) yearbooks, on the school district's Web site and in the name of an espresso stand, SnoHo Mojo, but the plural form is another matter.

Justin Patrick, 17, a senior, was suspended briefly in February after arguing after he was told to cover up a T-shirt with "SNOHOS" emblazoned across the chest.

He and four friends wore SNOHOS T-shirts mostly beneath coats in a protest Wednesday.

They said the term is merely a self-reference, short for Snohomish, an Indian word meaning "lowland people" or "sleeping waters," and adopted it as the title of a video they made of themselves doing stunts around town.

School administrators, however, say it's all too easily seen as a derogatory reference to prostitutes.

"There's a real difference between the word 'Snoho' and the word 'Snohos,'" Principal Diana Plumis insisted.

"I can't see our boys' football team wearing a shirt that said 'We are Snohos,' can you?" Plumis said. "It's a pejorative reference to women, and I don't want our name to be used to rank on our girls."

In the previous school year, she said, members of an opposing team at a girls sports game produced a sign saying, "Beat the Snohos," and the principal of the other school called to apologize.

The singular form also got the Snohomish girls' dance team scolded this school year. After they made their own T-shirts saying "Snoho" on the front and "mish" on the back, the coach ordered that they not be worn, the principal said.

Patrick said he and his buddies printed their T-shirts two years ago and wore them occasionally to school without incident until last month.

Compiled by FOX News' Paul Wagenseil.

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