10 worst ideas of the week: Feb. 14, 2010

Muni fails twice in public, church leader’s troubles are foreign and domestic, blame falls upon a whistleblower, and a groom doesn’t get what he expected.


1. Oops!

Muni bus suffers double whammy of public miscues

The details: Muni is already facing a PR nightmare with more potential service cuts to The City’s public transportation system, but one bus caused two times the embarrassment. A 22-Fillmore bus at Fillmore and Haight streets was unloading a wheelchair-bound passenger on the lift when the person fell off, sustaining injuries that prompted a hospital visit. Twenty minutes later, the bus lurched — with the lift still extended — and the lift sheared off a fire hydrant, sending water spewing 30 feet into the air and causing damage to a nearby business.


2. In or out?

Loopholes exposed in law to free inmates early

The details: A state law that would allow inmates to go free early is leading to protests and serious mix-ups, including some that could lead to violent offenders out on the streets. A Sacramento inmate whose past included assault with a deadly weapon was released 16 days early and arrested just hours later on suspicion of attempted rape. Now, California lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are calling for the law’s repeal.


3. In the red

Retiree health care bill grows

The details: California Controller John Chiang said the state owes nearly $52 billion more for retiree health and dental benefits for state government retirees. Chiang wants the state to switch from pay-as-you-go to full funding, which involves setting aside more money now so the state can use investment income to pay for future benefits. Chiang said the state should have set aside $3.9 billion this year to cover its retirement benefits obligation, but it only provided $1.3 billion.


4. Growing troubles

Church leader arrested in Haiti faces issues at home

The details: Laura Silsby, who led a Baptist group to Haiti to aid children orphaned by the island’s earthquake — resulting in all 10 members of her team being charged with kidnapping — faces legal troubles at home in Boise, Idaho. Silsby is being sued by a former employee for unpaid wages and by a law firm for fees unpaid by her company, Personal Shopper Inc.


5. Student auctions her body

New Zealand teenager sells her virginity in exchange for college tuition

The details: A 19-year-old in New Zealand auctioned her virginity to help pay for her college expenses — and wound up with the equivalent of $32,000 U.S. There were more than 1,200 bids on her body in a country with one of the world’s most liberal prostitution laws. The student-to-be described herself as healthy, fit, attractive and untouched by sexual relations.


6. Poor example

‘Kwedit’ game teaches teens to buy on credit

The details: A new payment option offered through online games allows minors 13 and up to buy items in the games with a “Kwedit Promise,” which can later be paid off with a real credit or debit card or with cash, which can be paid at a 7-Eleven store. The system encourages instant gratification, and parents do not need to give permission for their teens to run up the online debt. While the payment promises are not necessarily legally enforceable, the companies hope that teens’ interest in maintaining a high “Kwedit” score will encourage them to pay up.


7. Whistleblower on trial

Nurse being prosecuted for reporting doctor to medical board

The details: Texas nurse Anne Mitchell warned state regulators that a doctor at her rural hospital was practicing bad medicine. But prosecutors filed criminal charges carrying a possible 10-year sentence alleging that she had filed the complaint maliciously and used confidential information improperly, despite support from the state medical board for her claims. Fortunately, a jury acquitted her this week, but Mitchell has lost her job, and officials fear the prosecution could have a long term chilling effect on hospital employees weighing whether to report malpractice.


8. Ambulance thief

Intoxicated skier takes patient and paramedics on joyride

The details: Madison, Wis., sheriff’s deputies say they arrested a drunken man who stole an ambulance from the Tyrol Basin Ski and Snowboard Area in the Mount Horeb area with the patient and paramedics still inside. The emergency medical responders were treating a patient in the back of the ambulance when a 24-year-old Illinois man got behind the wheel and drove the vehicle erratically around the parking lot until the deputies got him to stop.


9. Wedding surprise

Unveiled bride revealed as bearded and cross-eyed

The details: An Arab ambassador in Dubai quickly had his marriage annulled after he discovered that his bride, behind her Islamic niqab veil, was bearded and cross-eyed. The couple had met only a few times during courtship. When the bridegroom removed the veil to kiss his new wife after signing the marriage contract, he was shocked. In Sharia court, he charged that the “ugly” bride’s family tricked him with photos of her prettier sister. But he didn’t get back the $136,000 in gifts he bought the woman.


10. Down in the Valley

Report claims Silicon Valley may be losing its edge

The details: According to a recent annual report about Silicon Valley, midlevel hiring is down, fewer patents are being filed, IPOs are falling, and venture capital is fading. That spells trouble for the economy of the once-thriving computing capital. And if the valley’s economy stalls out, it may lead to fewer residents willing to put up with the expensive housing, leading to brain drain. Green tech may give the area a kick-start — yet Silicon Valley is not chasing down federal stimulus grants and loans to pursue it, the report says.


Dim bulb of the week

John Mayer

What: The singer-songwriter managed to offend and insult several ex-girlfriends and black women in the course of one whisky-laced interview with Playboy this week. He called pop singer Jessica Simpson “sexual napalm,” put down actress Jennifer Aniston for her age and lack of technology savvy, and then topped off the performance by using the “N word” in a discussion of his popularity in the black community and stating, in crude terms, that he would not sleep with black women.

Why: The interview comes on the heels of a Rolling Stone piece in which Mayer rambled about masturbation, sex dreams and his $20 million watch collection, among other embarassing personal revelations. Mayer, who has acknowledged he talks too much, later apologized for his most recent remarks, saying he needed to “stop trying to be so raw in interviews,” and that it was wrong of him to try to intellectualize the racial slur.


Sinking ship

Toyota Motor Corp., unused to outsiders telling it what to do, has let numerous safety problems explode into a crisis — involving millions of cars recalled — that has shaken consumer confidence in it. Analysts say Toyota’s fast growth coupled with cost reductions to be competitive and a sense of complacency brought the company down, calling it a victim of its own success.

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