Monday, December 14, 2009

Smurfit-Stone closure "a shock"

Posted By on Mon, Dec 14, 2009 at 2:53 PM

The news that Smurfit-Stone Container Corp. will permanently shutter its Frenchtown mill on Dec. 31 came as "a shock" to the plant's 342 unionized workers this morning, says Roy Houseman, president of the United Steelworkers Local 885. According to Houseman, Smurfit-Stone's Division Vice President Larry Price and Director of Human Resources Jim Sanders announced the closure to employees and union reps at 8 a.m. today.

Houseman says he will represent union members at a Jan. 5 severance package bargaining with Smurfit-Stone officials, where the company plans to begin discussing continued transitional contributions to laid-off employees. How long Houseman's involvement in those negotiations will last is uncertain, as the steelworkers union recently voted Robert Johnson its new president. Johnson will take office on Jan. 14.

Houseman, who was recently elected to serve Ward 2 on City Council, told the Independent Monday afternoon that he plans to continue as a spokesman for the union as long as he is needed. “I’ll be continuing to be the spokesman for the next few weeks," Houseman says, "and I’m really happy that the people out there have given me the opportunity to do so for the last two years.”

Pick up the Dec. 17 issue of the Independent for more on the Frenchtown mill closure.

Extra, extra: In Other News, online

Posted By on Mon, Dec 14, 2009 at 12:35 PM

Your weekly online installment of In Other News begins now.

Curses, Foiled Again
Police captured Juventino Sanchez Jr., 57, who they said tried to break into a bank in Topeka, Kan., but got stuck in a rooftop exhaust vent and had to hang upside-down for as long as four hours. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported that police learned of his predicament when his daughter called to say she received word that her father was trapped from a family member who had reached him by cell phone. Firefighters used ropes to pull Sanchez out of the vent feet first.

When the Do-Not-Call List Isn’t Enough
Police arrested Daniel Adler, 61, for luring a telemarketer to his home to punch in the face. Investigators in Stony Point, N.Y., told WABC News that Adler was upset with being called by Sears Home Improvement telemarketers and reportedly scheduled an appointment, intending to tell them to place him on their do-not-call list. When the victim arrived, Adler cut up the telemarketer’s identification card and then hit him.

Rules Are Rules
Michigan authorities warned Lisa Snyder she faces a $1,000 fine and jail time for watching her neighbor’s three children until their school bus comes. Snyder told WZZM-TV News the bus arrives 15 to 40 minutes after the neighbors need to be at work. She said the Department of Human Services contacted her to say it had received a complaint she was operating an illegal child-care home and needed a license. A DHA official said the agency was only complying with state law.

After authorities in Indiana’s Vermillion County arrested Sally Harpold, her police mug shot ran on the front page of her local newspaper with an article titled, “17 Arrested in Drug Sweep.” The grandmother of three was charged because she bought two bottles of decongestant cold medicine for family members that totaled 3.6 grams. State law limits purchases of medications containing ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, which are used to make methamphetamine, to 3.0 grams per week. The Clinton Tribune-Star reported authorities regularly check pharmacy records and arrest anyone who exceeds the limit because, Vigo County Sheriff Jon Marcel said, the law was enacted “for the good of everyone.”

Vanity Follies
After authorities in Birmingham, Ala., informed Scottie Roberson, 38, he owed the city more than $19,000 for unpaid parking tickets, the Huntsville resident explained he has been to Birmingham only once in the past five years. “Whenever I call, nobody seems to want to help me,” Roberson told the Birmingham News. “One woman said not to worry about it because they didn’t have the manpower to come arrest me.” After a year of receiving notices, he finally heard from city officials that the tickets were issued by mistake because his vanity plate is XXXXXXXX, which is what parking enforcement officers enter on citation forms for illegally parked vehicles without license plates.

After a Welsh newspaper published a mug shot of Matthew Maynard, 23, wanted by police investigating a house burglary, the fugitive sent the paper a better likeness of himself standing in front of a police van. The South Wales Evening Post obligingly printed it on the front page. The police thanked Maynard, saying, “Everyone in Swansea will know what he looks like now.”

Touch of Class
A new Internet auction site aims to help down-on-their-luck millionaires by discreetly facilitating sales and trades of luxury assets, ranging from art and antiques to commercial properties, businesses and foreclosed homes, “so they don’t have to deal with the shame and or embarrassment of downgrade,” Quintin Thompson, co-founder of BillionaireXchange, told Reuters. “I would say that in the United States market, that’s probably the majority of the types of the transactions that we’re seeing right now.” Thompson said the Miami-based company, which completed a 10-month test phase before officially launching Nov. 9, requires prospective members to have at least $2 million in verifiable net worth. He added it already has 26,000 multi-millionaire members and “nearly a dozen” billionaires, among them professional athletes and A-list actors.

Sticking to the Script
Charged with making 18 bomb threats to schools and hospitals in New South Wales, Australia, James Ronald Condren, 44, insisted his brother had made the calls. According to Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, Condren didn’t help his case when magistrate Kevin Maughn denied him bail by shouting, “There’s a bomb in the courthouse, everyone back away right now.”

It Is Written
Malaysian authorities confiscated more than 15,000 Bibles imported from Indonesia because they call God “Allah.” Both Indonesian and Malaysian languages use “Allah” as the translation for God in both Islamic and Christian traditions, but Malaysia has banned non-Muslims from using “Allah” in their writings, declaring the word is exclusively Islamic.

Cheap Date of the Week
Police arrested Joshua Basso, 29, in Tampa, Fla., for repeatedly calling 911 looking to have sex with the dispatcher. The Associated Press said Basso told police he called 911 after he ran out of cell phone minutes because it was the only number he could dial.

Neither Snow Nor Rain Nor Oodles of Noodles
Marie O’Kelly, 95, called police to report finding letter carrier Kristine A. Pflughaupt, 46, sitting on the floor of her kitchen in Marion, Iowa. “She was in uniform and had mail and a mail-carrying bag with her,” Lt. Steve Etzel told the Cedar Rapids Gazette, adding that Pflughaupt was using her hands to eat leftover noodles, which were running down her shirt. When O’Kelly asked her what she was doing, Pflughaupt didn’t answer. “She just kept eating those noodles,” O’Kelly said.

Litigation Nation
Scott T. Zielinski, 23, currently serving an eight-year prison sentence after being convicted of robbing a party store in Clinton Township, Mich., filed a lawsuit seeking $125,000 from the store, its owner and three employees. After holding up the employees at knifepoint and threatening to kill them in order to steal cigarettes, liquor and $873 in cash, Zielinski claims the store workers chased him, shot him twice and beat him excessively. The Macomb Daily reported that Circuit Judge David Viviano ruled Zielinski could proceed with his suit but only after posting a $10,000 bond in case he loses and has to pay the defendants’ legal fees.

Evil Is As Evil Does
Santiago Martinez, 28, got 50 years to life for killing his girlfriend and then received a death sentence for killing his new girlfriend because she refused to help him dispose of the previous girlfriend’s body. California Superior Court Judge Joan Comparet-Cassani, who sentenced Santiago to die by lethal injection for the second murder, called him “a savage beast” and “the face of evil.”

Friday, December 11, 2009

Black-n-Blue Ball will put girls on wheels

Posted By on Fri, Dec 11, 2009 at 1:00 PM

The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) formed in 2004, and teams have sprouted up in cities across the nation. Enter our own little valley. The Hellgate Rollergirls, Inc. recently became a nonprofit and is still trying to find a permanent space to practice.

Tonight's Black-n-Blue Ball fundraiser serves as one way to get that dream realized. And Rollergirls are doing it the way you might expect for a group of bruisers with a rock ‘n’ roll attitude. Quaint art auction? No way. Easy listening jazz band? Uh, no.

Instead, you’ve got the Hermans (playing their last show—or so they say) and a bachelor/bachelorette auction featuring derby girls and Great Northern Fight Club dudes. No doubt, it’ll be a spicy affair.

The Black-n-Blue Ball kicks off at the Elks Lodge at 7 PM starting with DJs and the Hermans, followed by the auction at 10 PM. $5.


Don’t know anything about rollerderby? Here's a taste of the culture:

Baucus story gets worse

Posted By on Fri, Dec 11, 2009 at 11:50 AM

In addition to this morning's Missoulian report about Melodee Hanes' role in Max Baucus' divorce proceedings, Politico.com is reporting that Baucus gave Hanes a $14,000 raise while they were dating. He also took her on a romantic vacation taxpayer-funded trip to Southeast Asia and the Middle East, though foreign policy was not her specialty.

More from Politico:

Around the time when her relationship with Baucus reportedly “intensified” in the summer of 2008, Hanes’s salary jumped $13,687, according to public documents covering the April 1-Sept. 30, 2008, period, to among the highest on the senator’s payroll.

In a statement to POLITICO, Baucus’s office argued that “virtually our entire staff” saw their salaries rise during the period, saying the raise was on a par with the legislative director’s and less than the chief of staff’s.

“In fact, during that period, Ms. Hanes’s salary increased by the exact same amount as our legislative director and less than our chief of staff,” said a statement from a Baucus spokesman.

Indy employee: SOL

Posted By on Fri, Dec 11, 2009 at 11:10 AM

A certain member of the Indy family e-mailed talk show host Craig Ferguson with a desperate plea for help, and that e-mail just happened to lead off one of Ferguson's segments during Thursday night's show.

So now, for your viewing pleasure, we present the unlikely confluence of Hannah Montana, Craig Ferguson and an Indy employee on national television.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Breaking news: Former Sen. Burns in hospital

Posted By on Thu, Dec 10, 2009 at 12:21 PM

According to Rep. Denny Rehberg's office, Conrad Burns suffered an apparent stroke last night at his Virginia home and is currently in intensive care. The full release here:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Montana’s Congressman, Denny Rehberg, at the request of Montana Senator Conrad Burns and his family released the following statement. The following is from Garrett Burns, the son of Senator Conrad Burns:

At approximately 9 pm last night, Senator Conrad Burns was found disoriented by his wife Phyllis at his computer in their home in Arlington, Virginia. Senator Burns was taken to Virginia Hospital Center. Subsequently, he was transferred to a Washington, D.C. hospital where he remains in intensive care. Doctors indicate he suffered an atrial fibrillation and had a stroke.

“The encouragement and support we’ve received are a tremendous comfort to my dad and the rest of the family. Right now, we’re focused on getting Dad healthy.”
The Burns family will try to provide an update within the next 24 hours.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Open Government Directive: Better late than never

Posted By on Wed, Dec 9, 2009 at 12:00 PM

When President Obama took office, he promised a government with increased "transparency, participation, and collaboration." Only today has he followed up on the pledge.

Obama sent the head of every federal department and agency an "Open Government Directive" on how agencies should achieve his goal. Watchdog groups are reportedly "cautiously optimistic."

Unfortunately, Obama's announcement includes this awkward, 36-minute web video. I don't recommend it, and yet the sheen from the jacket on the far right is strangely mesmerizing and the initial stumbling by the guy on the left is mildly amusing. It's also interesting to watch how uncomfortable the guy in the center gets when it becomes clear that he's not going to talk until, approximately, the 10-minute mark because the stumbler won't shut up. But, hey, open government!

Tester bill vetted online

Posted By on Wed, Dec 9, 2009 at 11:20 AM

A coalition of conservation organizations launched a new website today dedicated to detailed analysis of Sen. Jon Tester's proposed Forest Jobs and Recreation Act. At first glance, there's some pretty interesting stuff on the site, including how Tester's mandated logging stacks up with historical logging numbers (not well) and a line-by-line look at the bill.

Continue reading »

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cobell v. Salazar suit finally settled

Posted By on Tue, Dec 8, 2009 at 11:00 AM

The Department of the Interior announced today a $3.4 billion settlement in a landmark lawsuit over federal mismanagement of American Indian trust funds. Elouise Cobell, a Browning resident and member of the Blackfeet Tribe, has spearheaded the suit—believed to be the largest ever filed against the government—since litigation began in 1996.

Continue reading »

Your future, a little early

Posted By on Tue, Dec 8, 2009 at 9:00 AM

One of the Indy's most popular syndicated columns is Rob Brezsny's Free Will Astrology. Now it's available online, right here, and a few days before it hits the printed version of the paper. We predict you'll like this perk.

Continue reading »

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