Originally created 08/19/04

Odds and Ends



NEW YORK -- Dressed in a tuxedo, Simba sat at the front of one of Manhattan's newest dining establishments and nodded at people who greeted him.

Then he yawned, began to roll on the floor and lick his paws.

That's acceptable behavior at the Meow Mix Cafe, a new eatery designed especially for cats and their human owners.

Simba, an 8-month-old kitten, was joined by about two dozen other tabbies, Persians and Burmese for a feast at Tuesday's grand opening of the cafe, which is owned by the Meow Mix Company, a Secaucus, N.J.-based cat food maker.

"Why not take your cat out for dinner?" asked Simba's owner, Leah Thompson, 19. "There's always things for dogs, but never cats."

The midtown restaurant serves Meow Mix packets for its feline customers with corresponding dishes to satisfy human palates. "Deep Sea Delight" mackerel for cats is paired with tuna rolls for cat owners; "Upstream Dream" salmon for felines corresponds with mini crab cakes for humans.

Meow Mix president and CEO Richard Thompson said the feline-friendly restaurant has two main rules: no dogs and no catnip, which must be checked at the door.

"Our goal is to keep cats happy," Thompson said. "The idea is that you can bring them and start socializing them."

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MIDDLETOWN, Ohio -- A suspected bank robber's getaway was abruptly cut short by an unusual witness - his ex-wife, authorities said.

Police accuse Daniel Waggoner, 31, of robbing a bank branch in a Kroger grocery store Tuesday. Police and witnesses said he passed a note demanding money, received cash from tellers and fled.

Detective Frank Hensley said Waggoner's ex-wife later saw him driving on state Route 122, and wondered what he was doing in Middletown.

"She is on her way to the bank at Kroger and sees his truck - it's easy to spot. It's black with a chrome smoke stack," Hensley said.

When the woman reached the Kroger, she learned that the bank branch was closed because of the robbery.

She went to another branch and told the teller that her ex-husband had been in Middletown shortly after the robbery and that he had gotten out of prison a year ago after serving a sentence for bank robbery.

"She said he had no business being in Middletown, then she heard about the bank robbery and put it together," Hensley said.

The ex-wife identified Waggoner from a photograph taken by the bank surveillance camera, and police took Waggoner into custody.

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kids who hit the books this summer in Kansas will soon be able to hit the mall with some extra spending money.

Students who maintained at least a C average in summer school will receive Visa gift cards this week along with those who rarely or never missed a day of school. The gift cards are valued as high as $150.

When the Kansas City School District started offering incentives to students two years ago, students could get $125 for perfect attendance or $50 if they missed a few days.

This year, the district lowered the incentive for attendance to a maximum of $75 while adding the bonus for a C average. The goal: better academic performance during the regular school year.

Some education experts are skeptical of the incentive program, but the district has seen summer school enrollment rise, attendance improve and state funding increase.

During the 2001 summer sessions, before the gift card program was introduced, enrollment was 8,400 and the attendance rate was 79 percent. This year, 14,500 students attended summer school 91 percent of the time.

"We got what we wanted in terms of attendance and now we want the academics," said Sugar Lee Lewis, director of admissions for the district.

The program is not a cheap one. The district has spent $1.4 million this year for gift cards going to 13,000 students.

Charla Braden, whose 7-year-old daughter Brooke earned a $75 card, thinks the idea is a great one. "She's excited about having her own little credit card with her money," she said. "We worked really hard."

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LOS ANGELES -- Banning Silly String in Tinseltown on Halloween? It's a proposal that to some seems almost too silly for words.

The City Council considers the issue no laughing matter, however, and on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to an ordinance banning the discharge of the gooey aerosol string in Hollywood on Oct. 31.

"I know we may think this is silly, but it is not silly to the storm drain system of Los Angeles, or to the ultimate destination, the ocean," said Councilman Tom LaBonge, whose district includes Hollywood.

The council voted 10-0 to approve the ordinance, but another vote is required before it can take effect.