Originally created 09/09/04

Odds and Ends



AIKEN, S.C. -- A robber who used a rusty pitchfork to stick up a bank got away - and so far, finding him has been like looking for a needle in a haystack.

The man, wearing sunglasses and a mask, entered Security Federal Bank Tuesday morning and threatened employees with the 4-foot-long pitchfork. The man took an undisclosed amount of money.

The robber dropped the farm tool as he ran from the bank through a wooded area to a golf course behind the bank, police said.

Bloodhounds tracked the robber to a fast food restaurant parking lot, where police say the man got into a white van driven by a woman.

No customers were in the bank during the holdup, and no one was injured.

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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Deputies didn't have to go far to find this marijuana: It was growing right outside their Green Bay headquarters.

Green Bay television station WLUK-TV reported Tuesday that it received a tip and alerted the Brown County Sheriff's Department about the pot in a planter on the south side of the courthouse.

Chief Deputy John Gossage wasn't sure of the plants' identity, but a drug officer confirmed the presence of marijuana.

"Obviously, as a prank, somebody planted this or dropped some seeds into the plants," Gossage said.

The drug officer pulled the six small plants, which were to be destroyed.

"It's a good thing it was brought to our attention because someone may have realized what it was and could've taken it and used it," Gossage said.

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- New Zealand Finance Minister Michael Cullen seemed to suffer a slip of the tongue in Parliament Wednesday, announcing an interest rate hike by the nation's Reserve Bank a day early.

The Reserve Bank, which is independent of the government, was due to announce a review of its 6 percent benchmark official cash rate Thursday.

Cullen stunned lawmakers in parliament when he referred to why the bank had raised interest rates "today."

Responding to a prepared question from a government lawmaker about reports on the state of the economy, Cullen noted that a National Bank article had observed good news seemed to be everywhere.

He then added, "Although the Reserve Bank raised interest rates today, it did so because growth is so strong."

Cullen immediately backtracked by claiming he was referring to predictions from market economists - all of whom expect the interest rate to rise 25 points to 6.25 percent.

Cullen immediately denied that Reserve Bank governor Allan Bollard had told him of a rate rise.

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WILMINGTON, N.C. -- A print shop owner is on the spot with city officials who say her dots are a don't.

The officials don't approve of the polka dots she's painted on an oak tree outside her store.

Elle Puritz said she was just trying to protect the tree, as well as spread some good cheer, when she repainted the plain white trunk red, then added dots.

City officials say the splashy paint job violates sign ordinances.

The trunk of the roadside tree had been painted white years ago to make it more visible to cars. When Puritz bought the property in January, she decided to spruce it up.

She chose red paint close to the color of her building, and an arborist gave her sealant to put in the paint to stop it from oozing.

But, Puritz said, she realized the red wasn't very visible, so she added reflective polka dots. It wasn't meant to be a draw for her new business, she said.

Puritz was notified last week that the decor violates the city's sign rules, which define a sign as anything designed to draw attention to a business, zoning administrator John Fullerton said.

Puritz said she was given until the end of this week to get rid of the polka dots and until Sept. 24 to paint the trunk white - an acceptable color because of its utilitarian purpose, Fullerton said.