Originally created 12/06/01

Odds and ends



LONDON -- London's official town crier was silenced after a thief stole his traditional brass bell.

Peter Moore, town crier to the Mayor of London and the London boroughs, said he was giving directions to a foreign tourist when his bell was snatched from his side.

"I've been silenced and it is an essential item for my job," said Moore, who was working in full regalia, including tricorn hat with ostrich feathers, red waistcoat and black thigh-length boots when the $330 bell was taken.

Moore, 59, has held the post of town crier for 26 years and is employed to promote tourism and trade in London.

"The bell has been all around the world with me and I need it to welcome people to our city and gain their attention," he said. "It has huge sentimental value and I can't quite believe it has gone."

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PITTSBURGH -- If memories of the Feb. 11 implosion of Three Rivers Stadium aren't vivid enough, try this on for size: Planned Parenthood is selling condoms commemorating the event.

The Three Rivers Stadium Condom by winning designer Melissa Black features a black matchbook-type cover with a picture of the stadium coming down.

Beneath the picture is a caption: "It Contains the Explosion!"

Called "Stiff Competition: A Hard Look at Local History," the contest challenged Pittsburgh area residents to design condom packaging based on a great - or not so great - moment in the city's history.

If nothing else, the contest has proven that even in the bedroom, Pittsburgh is a sports-crazy town. Last year's winner was named the Pitt Stadium Condom, which was also razed.

The slogan? "Feels Like It's Not Even There."

Planned Parenthood is selling the condoms for $1 each, plus shipping and handling.

Runners-up included a multicolored package that included a new turn on a phrase made popular by Pittsburgh children's television star Mister Rogers. "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" the package asks.

On the Net:

Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania at http://www.ppwp.org

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FRUITLAND, Fla. -- Marie Schulemaster wakes up in the morning to the thumping of footsteps on her roof.

The patter of feet is from a flock of vultures that she and her neighbors say have become a destructive nuisance.

Each day, she and her neighbors watch hundreds of vultures litter the driveways, lawns, boats and roofs of homes in the community on the St. Johns River in Putnam County in northeastern Florida.

"They chew up the newspaper, they chew shingles," said Schulemaster, who described herself as distraught. "One morning I stood out there and cried."

The vultures, a protected species, arrived in June. Government bird experts arrived Wednesday to try to get the vultures to move on.

"Our responsibility will be to disperse them out of the roost," said Michael Avery of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

He said homeowners can try to deter the birds from setting up a roost by constantly harassing them.

"Chase them away by using a water pistol or hose. Make a noise to disperse them as long as it doesn't violate a local ordinance," he said. Ride."

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POMPANO BEACH, Fla. -- Two developers have submitted plans to build two oceanside, 105-story replicas of the Eiffel Tower, but the big idea isn't getting a warm reception.

The $1.2 billion twin towers would hold restaurants, condominiums, a hotel and parking garages. At 1,000 feet high, they would be slightly taller than the original, which stands at 984 feet.

"If I want to see the real Eiffel Tower, I'll take a rowboat to Paris," said Kay McGinn, a city Commissioner in this Fort Lauderdale suburb.

The developers, Fred Zohouri of Flowery Branch, Ga., and George Rethati, a businessman from Pensacola, envision the two towers built along beachside State Road A1A, with one straddling a section of the highway.

However, most doubt the replicas will ever be constructed.

Zohouri and Rethati submitted their plans to the city manager's office and city commissioners have been briefed. But the director of the zoning department, which would give first approval to the project, hadn't heard about the plans.

A real estate appraiser said the buildings would employ 480 people and bring in an annual tax revenue of $28.8 million.

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ERATH, La. -- The red and green lights celebrated here have nothing to do with Christmas. After more than a year of lobbying, this town of 2,200 has a traffic light.

State Sen. Fred Hoyt christened the signal Saturday, breaking a bottle of champagne against its support pole after slipping the bottle into a stocking before smashing it, to keep the broken glass from becoming a traffic hazard.

The state Department of Transportation and Development put up a blinking caution light a year ago while it studied whether the full-dress treatment was merited.

"We always knew the traffic flow warranted a signal here," Alderman John Earl LeBlanc said.

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PITTSBURGH -- An Allegheny County judge said he will hire a former Pittsburgh city councilman and convicted felon as his court crier, after the judge's son turned down the job.

Common Pleas Judge Patrick McFalls said Ben Woods accepted the position over the weekend. It pays $32,577.

Woods, 59, was forced to resign as president of the city council in 1989 after being convicted of racketeering, income-tax evasion, extortion and conspiracy. He had been elected to the council in 1981.

Authorities said Woods accepted nearly $48,000 in bribes from contractors who did work with the city. He served three years in minimum-security federal prisons and was released from a halfway house in June 1993.

State law does not prevent the hire, McFalls said.

"He's one of the finest public servants I've known in my life," McFalls said of Woods. He testified on Woods' behalf during his trial and said he would do so again.

Woods did not return a phone message left Monday night seeking comment.

McFalls fired his three-member personal staff last month and had planned to hire his son, Patrick McFalls III, as tipstaff, but he turned down the job, the judge said.

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TYLER, Texas -- Some Americans want to help a big cat that is caught in the cross-fire in Afghanistan.

A congressman has asked the State Department to help a group save the tortured lion that currently resides in a war-torn zoo in Kabul.

Rep. Ralph Hall sent a letter last week to Secretary of State Colin Powell asking that the safety of the African lion, Marjan, be evaluated. Hall also asked for an Afghan contact so that the Tyler-based Tiger Missing Link Foundation can provide food or money for the care of the lion.

Marjan is missing one eye from when a brother of an Afghan guerrilla tossed a hand grenade at the animal. Taliban soldiers would later visit the zoo to stone the lion.

Brian Werner, director of the Tyler foundation, said Marjan is a survivor.

"They may have broken his body, but I don't think they've broken his spirit." he said.

The Tyler foundation has joined with five other nonprofit groups to feed and medically stabilize Marjan, then possibly move the lion to another location if the zoo permits it.

Hall's office said Monday that they had not received a response yet from Powell's office.

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PARK HILLS, Mo. -- People who collect beer steins tend to be serious about their hobby.

But Jim Wainwright, of the eastern Missouri town of Terre du Lac, was still surprised at his first collectors' show in Des Moines, Iowa. More than 2,000 people waited in line to get his autograph on their steins.

He decided that if people were willing to wait in line for two hours, he wasn't going to leave the table even to eat.

"I sat for eight and a half hours without moving from the table," Wainwright said. "Then we did the same thing in St. Charles."

Wainwright, 66, says post-retirement boredom drove him into going to work for St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch, designing the artwork that adorns many of their collectible beer steins. He has become one of the company's most popular artists.

Each stein fetches $35 or more. Wainwright's most valuable contribution was the 2000 Millennium stein, which cost $800. Only 2,000 of those were made. The stein feature more than 350 illustrations from the past 2,000 years.

Most collectors never drink from the fancy mugs, or else their value is diminished. Wainwright said it wouldn't bother him if people did drink out of his mugs - it just doesn't happen very often.

"People collect them, put them on their mantel and never drink beer out of them," Wainwright said. "Most people won't because they are going to sell them again."